Chief Bisi Akande, served as deputy governor of the Old Oyo State in the Second Republic and was at the beginning of the Fourth Republic in 1999 elected governor of Osun State. He subsequently emerged as national chairman of the Action Congress, and the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, one of the political parties that merged to form the All Progressives Congress, APC and served as the new party’s interim national chairman before he voluntarily bowed out.
On the occasion of his 77th birthday last Saturday, he spoke in an interview on several issues of national importance. Excerpts:
What is your reaction to the continuous defection of politicians from the PDP to APC?
The situation is like bringing together two pieces of wood to make furniture. If the wood is weak, the furniture will not be strong enough. It is true that we put the party (APC) together in a hurry and we put it together by merging political parties but before it became a political party, and glued into one, election had come and we seemed to be more concerned with election than the making of the party.
Duty of elders
Immediately after the election, indiscipline set in and definitely, with such a situation, there will be bickering from here to there. It is the duty of elders including myself to remove the bickering and bring the party together in a stronger form and we are going to achieve that.
It seems the president put the budget together in a hurry?
The party and the government are not the same thing. The government is a product of the party and it’s like a factory making a product, once the product gets to the store, you don’t ask question as to how the product is made.
The party has produced the government, I don’t know what goes on in the government because I am not a part of the government, so, as to know whether the budget was put up in a hurry or not, I wouldn’t be able to tell you but, you would know that budgets are departmental product and there are numerous departments in the federal government.
If you look at what they call budget, it’s a paper of about 300 pages or more or even thousand pages, because a budget of a department can be about 15 or 20 and about 1,000 departments, you are having about 1000 pages, so how does it get missing? I don’t want to go to that because to me, it’s a peripheral issue. The main issue is, is the government doing it in the right direction and which is the right direction?
The government promised three major things which are: the government promised that it was going to fight corruption, it was going to confront terrorism and it was going to reduce unemployment. If there was no peace, you can’t do anything so, the government started by removing terrorism and creating peace, which is the right direction.
If there is corruption, there will be no infrastructure, if you give out money, three billion to go and make a road, if the money is stolen on the way, you won’t have roads and there will be unemployment.
So, the government followed immediately by confronting corruption, the beginning of solving the problem of unemployment is the result of the budget, the budget was placed before the National Assembly no matter what the peripheral stories as to which paper got lost and which did not.
What particular thing would you put in place to make a difference in Nigeria should you have the opportunity of leading the country?
So, if I were to be president of Nigeria today, I will look at the circumstance and the situation on the ground but I think as an observer and as a leader, what I think should be done is to concentrate on how Nigeria will feed itself. If its by force, I am ready to join the army of people that will go back to the farm, enough of riding Okada all over the streets, we must all go back individually to make sure that we are able to feed ourselves.
In the olden days when we were young, the patriarch of a home, as soon as a child becomes of age and ready to marry, they give him a portion of land where he would start cultivating, from the first harvest, he will start feeding his family, no more taking from the father.
Do you still believe Fiscal federalism and how can it be attained in Nigeria?
Well, I belong to the old school which never believed in 36 states. The old school which I belong believes in maximum of 18 states and minimum of six. In other words, the whole Yoruba states will be one state because I believe in the creation of state according to cultural unity of the people and the strongest element of culture is language.
If you are talking about fiscal federalism, I don’t know, one way or the other, merging would start because I will support it anyway because fiscal federalism means living according to your earning, live within your means and every state will have to find money to manage its own self and it won’t be wrong then if my state is having three commissioners.
Your own state might have seven, the next state might have ten and the other might have fifteen; it’s just like when you are getting money from federal government because the idea of fiscal federalism came because of the sharing of the crude oil money, I don’t believe in that, I believe in sharing money by derivation; whatever I contribute from my state into the federal treasury should come back to me.
There are insinuations that Buhari is trying to edge you and Asiwaju Bola Tinubu out of political reckoning?
As for me, I know that I am in the best of terms with Bola Tinubu and I am in the best of agreement with Buhari. What Buhari is thinking about me is a question you have to put forward to Buhari but as at last Monday, I was still talking to the presidency.
Idea of fiscal federalism
So, I don’t feel marginalised and I don’t think anybody is marginalising me but whether anybody is planning it or not, is a question you are going to put to the right quarters.
Do you support the agitation for Biafra?
Well, those who were born when the idea of Biafra was first muted would be in trepidation seeing anybody talking about Biafra today. If Nigerians want to disintegrate and they can do it by negotiation, well, what can anybody do about that? But if Nigeria would try to separate the way Biafra demanded between 1967 and 1970, it might be too bad. I was alive then. I was wise enough to know that war was not good and I will not pray that what befell the first Biafra should befall the new Biafra.
What’s your reaction to Abike Dabiri’s comment that the spate of defection from PDP to APC being shameful?
You know, in a country where most leaders are parasites, a parasite, when it kills the original host, it will have to go to another host and kill it. Only we in the APC should be careful, the defection is not a strange thing but I know it’s always done by parasites. I have always remained in one line of politics. I wasn’t a politician before, it was Baba Ayo Fasanmi in 1977 who took me to Chief Awolowo and introduced me to him. If I would use his words and the words of Chief Awolowo, Chief Awolowo said he was rejected in Ila before that time, and he had not been in Ila since the beginning of the military and that he wanted to come back to Ila through me, he wanted me to be his friend.
I felt flattered and humbled and I didn’t know how to reply him but I put some questions to Awolowo which he answered satisfactorily, and from that time, I came back to Ila to work very hard to see that Ila people accepted Awolowo and I am happy that Ila people have accepted Awolowo since then and they still accept Awolowo till today and that is why I belong, to the Awolowo school of politics. Since that time, I never defected and I will never defect, I will remain in that progressive school of politics.
But those who are defecting from one party to the other, by nature, they are political parasites, they have killed the original hosts which was PDP and they are now coming to APC which is the new host, and it’s for APC to guard its own loins and prevent the parasites from killing the party because a parasite has no root of its own but feeds on the little food that the host is having.
So running away from PDP to APC, APC must be careful in dealing with those parasites. But, that may not prevent true democracy because it depends on how we define democracy, the type of democracy in Nigeria is not anywhere in the world, it’s a moribund democracy.
Would you advise the Federal Government to implement some of the recommendations that were made during the 2014 National Conference?
I don’t know what is in the report of the conference and I don’t believe that the way the conference was set up was Nigerian. That conference never included APC which is at least the largest party as shown by election; so, if the largest party is cut out of a conference, the result of the conference to start with, is not tenable but I don’t know what the report says, therefore I cannot tell you if the report should be implemented. I refused to read the report because I didn’t believe in the setting up of the conference.