At 89, Senator Ayo Fasanmi, politician, nationalist, elder statesman and Afenifere leader, still has a brighter and colourful hope for Nigeria. His major hope for the country is to see a nation free of corruption and bad leadership. He has seen it all on the nation?s political scene, having served as a councillor in his native Ijero Local Government, in Ekiti state, before independence, member, House of Representatives in the first republic and senator in the Second Republic on the platform of the defunct Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), led by the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo. He believes in Awoism and vowed to die as an Awoist, saying nothing can change his believe in Awoism. In spite of the current security and other challenges, he feels Nigeria still has a brighter hope but which can only be realised when a progressive minded politician takes over the helm of affairs of the country. This, he said, would be made possible with the emergence of an All Progressive Congress (APC) President, who will take over from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). In this heart-to-heart exclusive interview with MICHAEL BAMIGBOLA, Chief Fasanmi, a renowned pharmacist, x-rayed the nation?s political situation since the colonial era and made projections for the country?s future. Excerpts:
Nigeria has celebrated its 54th independence anniversary as an independent nation; as an elder statesman how would you describe the journey so far?
We thank God for the journey of Nigeria from its independence to date. Nigeria has been a blessed nation but our leaders have been the major problems of this country. If you look at various aspects of our national life, especially economy and politics, one will feel very much disappointed. Talk of education, employment, security, social infrastructures, they are all comatose. The most worrisome of all the aspects of our national life is security. There is insecurity in the country, especially the northern part of the country. Any leader or political party that cannot guarantee the security of the people is not fit to be in power. Our infrastructure has gone into ruins and our educational system is nothing to write home about. We have a lot of university, over a hundred of them, but the education standard is falling each day. The standard of education is very low now compared with what it used to be. Now, a graduate cannot speak or write correct English. If you ask a graduate of accountancy to multiply seven by five, he will be silent for a long time before he gives a wrong answer. We all know what is happening in the country, especially in the South-South, South-East and the North. We are fortunate in the South-West in terms of security. There is crime in the society now and criminals roam the streets of our cities every day.
There is massive corruption at the top. The issue of corruption in Nigeria has taken a terrible dimension. However, in our own active days, there was nothing like this high level corruption. I could remember when I was a councillor in Ijero Local Government Area of the then Western region and now Ekiti state, we were doing very well. We didn?t allow money to entice us. Also, when I was at the House of Representatives and the Senate, we were doing very well. Of course, as of that time, we were operating parliamentary system of government and later we went to presidential system of government, which is the most expensive system of government in any country. Today, we get so much money for development but some people pocket it. The judiciary, which is supposed to be the last hope of the common man, is another corrupt area. The whole system is corrupt now and that is why a single person could take away money meant for the pensioners. Any system that creates a gap between a few microscopic people and the masses is not helping the course of democracy by any way, and that is the exact thing we are experiencing in the country today. Any government that encourages mass unemployment of people is not helping the society and that is why there are so many criminals in the society. Nobody is safe again in Nigeria, even in broad day light we are not safe.
The issue of power is another challenge confronting the nation and the leaders at the centre are not doing anything on it. There is epileptic power supply in all parts of the country. There are places where there is no electricity for a whole month. In some places, there is no potable water and some children do not have access to education. The journey has been so terrible and no one feels happy with the situation of things in the country. However, with the development in the South-West geo political zone, by the coming on board of those I will describe as political Daniels, one feel elated and happy. I?m saying this not because I am a member of the APC, because the APC governors in the South-West are revolutionists, who have come to give us hope and also tell us that the country still has hope. Look at what is happening in Lagos state. Anyone, who gets to Lagos now, will see the wonders Governor Babatunde Fashola is performing. The Governors of Ogun, Oyo, Osun and until recently Ekiti states are also doing similar things. They are all performing wonders and there is a wonderful transformation in these states, hence the need to commend them. One thing that gladdens my heart since the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) was founded is that there is no governor of the APC-controlled states that has been prosecuted by this anti-graft agency. This is because of their transparency and accountability. What will you identify as the cause(s) of the problems confronting the country? The simple answer is poor leadership. Once the leadership is corrupt and those at the top cannot do what is right, then there will be a problem. Our leaders lack transparency and they are not ready to serve the people, but they are in office to enrich themselves, they only want to pocket what is meant for the generality of the people.
Also, the presidential system of government being practised in the country cannot help us. We should also ask ourselves if truly we are operating a federal system of government. There are certain things the federal government should not look into, if we are operating a true federal system of government. The federal government should only be concerned with the concurrent lists. Must we continue to make the police force a federal agency, in a federal system of government, that we claim to operate and deny the states the opportunity to have their own police force? The system has to be re-examined. We put so much prominence on money in Nigeria and people don?t care where you get the money. What do you expect from a country that gives state pardon to a criminally-minded person? Honesty and dedication do not matter again in Nigeria. You will see people in party ?A? today, tomorrow they are in party ?B?, all because they want to make money. This country has to be redeemed, especially at this crucial time, when we want to transit to another democratic government. Do you think the different interest groups in the APC will not affect the chances of the party.
One day during the days of the late sage, the only political hero that Yoruba people worship and that we shall continue to worship, Chief Jeremiah Obafemi Awolowo, we were at the leaders conference in his home town, Ikene, Ogun state and it was agreed that all progressive folks in the country must come together, if this country must progress. Today, we are doing a similar thing. The progressive elements must come together to salvage this country from political marauders. That is the best way to take over the government of this country from the PDP. As a strategically important country in Africa, everyone in this continent look forward to seeing this country setting the pace for others and that can only take place when the progressives take over. Those who love this country should pray for APC to come on board. Those who prefer darkness to light are those who do not want APC to be in power, but I can see light at the end of the day. I am happy that the leadership of the party are men of integrity. They are principled men, who cannot sell their conscience for a plate of porridge. My wish is that the revolution in the South-West can also happen in all parts of the country. What can you suggest as solution to the activities of the Boko Haram sect in Nigeria? As a Christian, I believe so much in forgiveness after repentance. If these people can repent, the President can give them amnesty. If a sinner repents, God teaches us to forgive such a sinner. However, we need to ask what these people are fighting for and who they are. Some people say they are faceless, but I don?t believe that because some political leaders in the country and members of the Senate have been arrested for allegedly sponsoring them.
The question we now need to ask ourselves is: ?are these people repentant and are they ready to come out from their hidden places?? If they are repentant, the idea of amnesty can now be taken seriously. These people have destroyed many lives. Churches have been burnt and lives have been lost to their nefarious acts. Are these people prepared to lay down their arms and attend a round table conference to express their grievances? Do they want to continue to use religion as instrument of war? The insecurity has affected our economy as a nation, because it has driven investors away. Nigeria would have been better than this, economically, but for the problem of insecurity. Nigeria is a very beautiful country and we need to maintain our beauty and return to God as the prodigal son did.