As a political scientist, how would you assess democracy in Nigeria?
Our democracy is still very young. We call it nascent democracy in the academic circle. We got independence in 1960, but we began uninterrupted democracy in 1999. Before our democratic system begins to be consolidated it will be after the first 30 years.
What we have been doing since 1999 is what we call democratic sustenance. After that, we will move to the level of consolidation. So, looking at it from that perspective, we can say the system is still performing very well. Despite corruption, election rigging, electoral violence and other electoral frauds, we are still getting it right.
Looking at the history and the evolution of developed countries, not many of them could reach where we are in less than 60 years of their independence. But the military must be kept at bay. On no account should the military be allowed to interrupt our nascent democracy. Let politicians continue to fumble. The system will correct itself. The electorate are getting wiser on a daily basis.
What are the implications of the quit notice issued across ethnic groups in the country?
It is very unfortunate. It portends a very great danger for stability of Nigeria’s convoluting federal system. As a federal scholar, to me, it shows that since 1954 that we started classical federalism in Nigeria, all efforts at national integration are in futility. It means that all integrating mechanisms like the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) are not really achieving their primary objectives. If the youth are now asking for disintegration, it is not worth it.
I want to tell our leaders who are the national policy makers and those in charge of implementing government policies, that our federal arrangement needs a quick review. Anything short of that could be very dangerous, because if all major ethnic groups and opinion molders are not satisfied with the system we have been practising, that means we need to review the system rather than going to war. It is a failure of national integration.
Why did you say it’s unfortunate that people from the South-East have been agitating for secession?
Even if the easterners are asking for secession, it is better to allow the system to run itself. If there is going to be secession, let there be an arrangement through referendum, not war.
Should the South-East secede, it is still not enough for the Arewa youth to ask easterners to leave. There’s no where you go in the world that you won’t find foreign nationals. So, even if easterners secede, it doesn’t mean that the Igbo won’t be found in the North. In this century, it is better we learn how to live together so that we can develop.
You said there’s a need to review the system. Do you support the agitation for restructuring?
Yes, we need restructuring. For now, we are not running an ideal federal system of government. To some of us in the academic field, there is no true federalism. Federal arrangement should be tailored to suit the purpose of any society that opted for federalism. Our federal system today looks more like a unitary system because it is the most centralised of all federal countries in the whole world. We should allow devolution of power, and when you want to devolve power to the lower level, you are restructuring.
Do you think the governor of Oyo State has fulfilled his campaign promises?
I want to make bold to say that a kind of silent revolution that is going on in Oyo State justifies the second term of Senator Ajimobi. Let me tell you, in the South-West, people are politically conscious and enlightened. If you are in the office for four years and you cannot perform, they won’t return you. For him to have returned, he had done very well.
He is running a government that believes in spatial development – development in all the zones of the state: water project in Ibarapa, dualisation of roads in Oyo, Oke Ogun, Ogbomoso and Ibadan. He has flagged off the Ibadan circular roads, which will ease traffic in the city of Ibadan. He has opened up housing estates in new GRA here in Ibadan and Saki. The Technical University, which is not a conventional university, is a good idea of Governor Ajimobi.
He has also established a free trade zone, with more than 100 investors from China attracted. He has laid the foundation of about seven companies. The companies will begin their operations by December this year. He has done a lot, such that overtime, posterity will judge him well.