Oseni Olajide Ahmed, a business mogul and philanthropist was a candidate for the Lagos State House of Assembly in the 2019 election and former aspirant for the House of Representatives in 2015. In this exclusive interview with INIOBONG IWOK, he speaks on the state of the nation, restructuring and why zoning has become imperative for Nigeria, among other issues:
What is your take on the spate of insecurity in Nigeria?
Actually, the state of insecurity has become alarming; if you look at the killings, the Fulani herdsmen, banditry you would realise that it is an abnormal issue that needs to be addressed or it would lead to tribal crisis.
You can see the attempts of Sunday Igboho to retaliate against the killings of his people by herdsmen in the Southwest here, you would see that the majority of the people don’t understand what the constitution is saying, which can lead them taking the law into their hands. I think the Muhammadu Buhari-led administration should deploy more security agencies across the country to resolve the crisis. There should be special settlement for grazing of cattle, because what led to clashes is their trespass. When you have farm land and the cattle go and eat all your produce, nobody would be happy. In some cases, they rape the women; they go beyond their boundaries and take over the farm land.
There are people that hide under the canopy of the herdsmen to operate to commit crisis. What is the relationship between cattle rearing and kidnapping? During the recent #ENDSARS some security officers were killed, they are scared of doing their job; that is why security officers are not safe. Then who is going to do the job? The present security situation calls for concerted effort; the right thing should be done. If that is state police; fine, let’s have it.
But the President just changed the service chiefs. What is your take?
They were due for retirement; so, all of them should not be in the service anymore; so the change is not about reforming security. So, I see it as just trying to restructure the service so that lower cadre should step up and those who are due to retire should go.
So, it is not as if they are trying to restructure the security situation in the nation; so I would not expect anything new because the same policy guiding the people going out would be the same policy guiding the people coming. There would be limitations to their activities.
There have been agitations for restructuring as a solution to the security crisis in Nigeria. What is your take?
Restructuring in a country like Nigeria where we speak different languages and there are different tribes is very important. We need to consider our regional differences, because what may favour a particular ethnic group may not favour the other. The population density of ethnic groups is not the same; it may favour an ethnic group against another.
But it is necessary to restructure so that power would be decentralised. Everybody can have power and contribute to the central and they would have their own sovereignty.
It is not a bad thing, if they are not biased about it but when people are being sentimental in their advocacy toward restructuring, then it becomes a dangerous advocacy for the nation at large.
Amendment of the 2010 Electoral Act is on, INEC plans to use electronic voting for subsequent elections; would that help to sanitise the system?
It is the way forward to ensure accuracy in the counting of votes. But electronic voting can also be manipulated if care is not taken to allow for an unfair system because we are full of manipulation as Nigerians. Either by electronic or not fraudulent act could still be conducted. It is someone that would manage the cyber. Look at the Donald Trump election in 2016; there was an allegation that the system was hacked. This happened in a developed society, what would happen in a developing society like ours where people are out for corruption? How do we manage it to check fraud? You can go to the polling unit and the system does not recognise you because of fraud. So, my question is; if we shift to that how fair would it be? So how would they manage it that it would not be manipulated?
You are a grassroots leader; what is your take on local government autonomy?
Giving autonomy to the local government is very important, because the local government manages funds; they are the executive arm; they were elected into office to execute projects within the jurisdiction of the local government. But what happens is that they just go and mismanage it. Because when there is influence from the upper hand of the government they tend not to have enough funds to execute projects. What they need now is autonomy to generate their funds and manage it and generate their money.
But a check and balance system with upper hand of government loopholes would be blocked. But with a federal system that we are operating, you need to account how you spend your money. How many of them give account of their federal allocation? They should be able to do that. But autonomy and an upper hand that decide how the fund is managed is important checking them. Let inspect and see what you used your funds to do.
What is your view on zoning; amid the raging agitations for power shift to the South in 2023?
We have to look at examples of countries where true federalism has been practiced; if we look at the country where we copy our democracy from you would realise that zoning is not in the constitution; that is why we could not incorporate it into our constitution here. And since it is not in the political parties’ constitution, it means we should know that we would realise more on competence rather than zoning.
The case of Nigeria is peculiar, with multi-ethnic groups, over 100 languages, different tribes, landmarks, regional differences we should be careful, because our nature as Nigerians we are very sentimental in our thinking.
An average Yoruba man makes decisions to favour his people. An Igbo man does the same. There is some section of the federal civil service where you go and meet only one tribe of people there. If they have to produce a director you would realise till kingdom come a particular tribe would continue to be there. There are some places that would never produce a president of Nigeria no matter how qualified their people are. To allow a fair game they could apply the zoning system. But how does it work? If my party decides to use the zoning system and another party does not, how would that aid their electoral victory? For a fair game, zoning a system is more preferable so that any region would not be marginalised. So that everybody would have the feeling of one Nigeria.
Why did you venture into politics after success in business?
A school of thought is that you don’t condemn people in anything you don’t participate in. The leadership of the country is our hand and we all have to take part in making it reach where we want it to be. In a case where you choose not to, then you don’t condemn the people who chose to go into the national or their community development.
Why must you condemn somebody that he is a bad representative when you did not take part in the voting process? If you had taken part and voted against such a person may be, he or she would not have been elected.
That is where participation should start from; sometimes, a few things are not done well. You can come out and change things. There should be a process of representative; someone should come to manage if he thinks the person there is not doing well.
Our communities are suffering a lot but how many people would come and save the people? Selfish people have come in, not because they want to serve but because they want to enrich themselves. I want to come and serve and achieve what people think is not achievable. I want to make differences. Let’s contribute to national development so that young ones would be able to go back to school. We have resources to do that. But we have bad leaders to manage the resources; if we have bad management I have decided to come out and prove my point.
What was the brain behind your foundation?
Hope for the Masses Foundation is all about how to take care of the poor. In the last few years we have turned around the children of the poor who are supposed to be in school but have not been able to do that. We have helped donate bag, books to them. We have also constructed educational facilities in some communities. We have empowered widows; these are people who have no support.
We sponsor sport programmes in schools, people who have no educational support. We help graduates to get jobs, we do community project construction, we do that in collaboration with communities CDA’s a lot of things I can even remember.