Governor of Ekiti State and Chairperson of the Nigerian Governors Forum, Dr. Kayode Fayemi has officially declared his intention to run for President in 2023 on the platform of All Progressives Congress in Abuja recently. In a session with reporters shortly after his statement, Fayemi gave an overview of the various challenges plaguing Nigeria and offered some strategies to stabilize the federation. Gboyega Akinsanmi brings you session details
Oith your statement for the 2023 presidency, what do you see as Nigeria’s most difficult issue?
In all political regimes, impunity is a very serious problem. There are several dimensions to the impunity that reigns in our country. I always say something that as a leader it is not enough to be competent, especially in Nigeria. Moreover, as a leader, it is not enough to be engaged and compassionate. What is also lacking in Nigeria is leadership and the courage to do what is right. Some people consider themselves principalities and people who believe that they are the owners of this country. These people believe they can do whatever they want. Moreover, they believe that the law cannot catch up with them. We will not be arbitrary, but we will be very, very sneaky about upholding the rule of law and access to justice for all Nigerians.
How then do you intend to fight against impunity in the political space if you are finally elected?
There are different levels of impunity. We must also ensure that we do not leave our people tempted to do the wrong thing under the guise of religion, culture or ethnicity. We must at all times be defenders of citizens’ rights and responsibilities. Because when you have rights, you also have duties as citizens of the country. We must defend this value and live according to it. Impunity reigns because our judicial system is paralyzing and because the entire judicial system of our country is problematic. If we look at the journey from the investigation of the crime to the conviction of the crime, you would have forgotten that the person actually committed the crime. I think the prompt delivery of justice, access to justice, accountability in society are areas that we need to pay attention to. We must also support our judicial officers, so as not to encourage them again to resort to other abuses because the State has not assumed its own responsibility in terms of remuneration, support for judicial officers.
In a few weeks, the political parties will organize their primaries to allow them to nominate candidates for the various elective positions. Even if the electoral law recommends consensual, direct and indirect modes of primaries, which mode will you favor the most?
Under the Constitution of the All Progressives Congress (APC), the model for primaries can be direct or indirect or consensual. Now, we now have an electoral law that says that in order for us to have a consensus, all the actors must sign. For me, yes, we have a lot of people who have shown interest. I think we have to commend the party for being so popular in attracting this caliber of Nigerians offering their services to the country. I think, for me, Nigerians who also want to contest for the President of Nigeria must be citizens of the country. I believe from all my travels across the country over the past month, I believe both inside and outside the party, the sentiments will seem to be anything but consensus. It’s because people want to have a say and remember we have a president, who has been an advocate of bottom-up political practices. President Muhammadu Buhari is known for his passion for every member of the party to have a say in the decision that affects the party, so in that sense I have no problem calling for a primary process, be it indirect or directly. I don’t have a problem with that.
Almost all the geopolitical areas of the country are insecure and dangerous despite the various initiatives taken to address this challenge at different levels. What did the government not do?
The government does a lot of things it can’t talk about sometimes. There are also obstacles that we must tackle quickly. Our senior officers in the security sector, given my experience that I have spoken with, have shared with us some of the challenges they face. I am still talking about Egypt and this country was able to recruit urgently in 1967. It went from an army of 10,000 to 250,000 in the space of a year. Today, there are all sorts of bureaucratic obstacles that do not allow us to increase the number of men and women we have in the armed forces and in the police. Now we have to do it quickly. If we are not able to do this as soon as possible, eliminating the windows of bureaucratic obstacles, we must embark our reserved elements, which are still in service. Our soldiers, even retired, are in service: division generals, colonels and brigadier. They are everywhere. Many of them would like to serve and help solve this problem probably as soon as possible because it is, in the first place, the problem of men. We don’t have enough people in uniform, and even the ones we have, they do police duties. There isn’t a single state in this country today where you don’t have military officers and soldiers patrolling homeland security matters. This is not a soldier’s job.
Given your view of the military’s constitutional mandate, what explains the military’s involvement in dealing with internal security issues?
Sometimes you may need soldiers to act within the civil authority. These are exceptional circumstances. We need to populate our security agencies. Egypt is no match for half of our population. We are told that Egypt has a million policemen. In Nigeria, we have, we always tell ourselves that we have 350,000 police officers. But 150,000 of them do VIP homework. So not only do we have to expand and transform our schools during the holidays into training centers, because part of the problems we have are the training centers. We may have to turn our schools into training camps during vacations to enable us to train more men and bring them to the task of defending Nigeria. By considering this approach, we can have more men in the force.
Given the unconventional nature of the security challenges we face as a people, do we need a new strategy to combat banditry, insurgencies and terrorism nationwide?
As I was talking about operating in a new environment, a new order of battle, a new force posture must be developed by our military because we are not fighting conventional warfare. As you said, what we are dealing with now is unconventional. More often than not, you don’t even see the people you’re fighting. So you need to design counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism measures that will go beyond infantry and other extreme approaches to warfare. We are at war. What happened on the train is an indication that we need to take immediate action. In the suburbs of Abuja, I hear some of these things are also starting to happen. We really have to watch. I believe the president you know is not a man of many words. It does too many steps that some of us may not be able to talk about. He also prevents a lot of things they can’t mention and says we stopped the bandits’ attempts to destroy this particular community yesterday. The securing task is in progress. It’s continuous. It is a work in progress. You really have to have confidence, but you have to take the right steps in terms of intelligence, better recruitment and equipment to solve the problem.
Electricity is still a huge challenge crippling businesses and economic activities in Nigeria. What is your approach to ensuring a stable electricity supply?
I think the solution is simple. This requires changing our strategy. It’s time to get rid of a national network. We now need to start looking seriously in the direction of zonal or regional grids or even micro or mini-grids outside of the formal national energy grid mainstream. This is the only way to solve this problem. We should also focus on new energies, especially renewable energies. This national grid is completely broken and fixing it every day is a problem that we cannot easily tackle.
The unemployment rate is indeed appalling. According to the National Bureau of Statistics, it reaches 33.33%. What can be done to break this vicious circle of unemployment?
To me, it’s not the government’s job to start focusing on jobs. However, it is our duty to provide an enabling environment for private sector development. It is our duty to encourage the agricultural sector to prosper. It is our job to enable the infrastructure sector, which will have to create jobs. There are so many jobs related to these various critical segments of our economy. That’s what we need to do in addition to addressing the issue of skills. Because we talked about jobs, the majority of young people don’t have the skills to do the work that is needed. We need innovation. We need creativity. We need technology. We need skills in addition to providing an enabling environment for this to happen.