How Nigeria’s Problem started with Tafawa Balewa’s assassination—Sen. Bucknor-Akerele + Why APC Govt. is a disaster

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Senator Kofoworola Bucknor-Akerele, Former Deputy Governor of Lagos State

Senator Kofoworola Bucknor-Akerele is the former Deputy Governor of Lagos State (South West Nigeria) during the first tenure of Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu between 1999 and 2003. She resigned from the cabinet on December 16th, 2002 after a political misapprehension between herself and her boss snowballed into a larger crisis that warranted her resignation when loyalists of Tinubu in the State House of Assembly moved motion for impeachment against her.
The impeccably gifted woman of style and oratory decided to take a bold step; she resigned from power and put the government to shame in her own remarkable effort. Her successor, Mr. Femi Pedro, a banker was given a worse treatment as he was equally sacked in 2007 by the same assembly that made a move to impeach Bucknor-Akerele. Therefore, she became the first political office holder at her level, and in a state like Lagos to resign her position without recourse to any political gratification.  
Senator Bucknor-Akerele  who is a former Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is also a member of the Pan Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere and a distinguished member of the Yoruba Unity Forum founded by late Chief Mrs. Hannah Idowu Dideolu Awolowo and late Ooni  of Ile-Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuade (Olubuse II).
In a rare exclusive encounter with your Africa’s Number 1 Celebrity Encounter blog Asabeafrika, Senator Kofoworola Bucknor-Akerele shared her pains on Nigeria, the political elites and the ruling APC government with us.  Enjoy the excerpts…

As a veteran in the political industry, can you say you are happy with the present state of Nigeria?
A sad Nigerian appears in the Distinguished Senator and former Deputy Governor of Lagos, Kofoworola Bucknor-Akerele
Well, I am very sad at what is happening in Nigeria today. Never in my wildest dreams would I ever imagine that some of the things that are happening in Nigeria today would happen in our country.
Recently I interviewed General David Jemibewon in Ibadan and he expressed same view of anger and disappointment, and to some extent he expressed the views that his generation must have disappointed this country. Do you really think your generation has failed the country?
The GDA meets Senator Kofoworola Bucknor-Akerele
Well, I wouldn’t say our generation failed Nigeria. I think what failed Nigeria was the military because it was when the military took over that our problems began. And we have been in it ever since.
Analysts believe it was the political class who messed up and gave the military a chance to strike and eventually dominate the polity. Looking back at the political incidences of the 1st and 2nd republic, and even now in the present republic?
Sen. Bucknor-Akerele....'I refuse to agree that the political class gave the Army the chance to take power by force'
I don’t think the political class gave a chance for the military to intrude and mess things up. I think the military came in and messed things up. Because in any country, there is always power struggle in politics and usually the politicians manage to resolve it one way or the other. But with the military intervention, it seems to have cancelled the growth of Nigeria and has taken us way, way, way back. And if you look at it, in the 60s (with our kind of political development) we should have been like one of the Asian tigers by now but we are not, why? Because the military came in and if we are saying they messed up, yes, of course, they messed up. They were no better than the politicians; they were just politicians in Military uniform. 
I interviewed Chief Ezekiel Fatoye the Co-Founder of Multilinks Telephone last year and I asked him when did Nigeria started to derail into a state of abysmal corruption and underdevelopment and he said it all began under General Murthala with the sacking of the federal civil servants and that led to a culture shock that eventually made new generation of civil servants began to enrich themselves abnormally. Do you share this same view? Where did we get it wrong?
Late Tafawa Balewa....His ills lies in his assassination by the mutinous army
I think we got it wrong with the assassination of the Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa and the Sardauna (Late Sir Ahmadu Bello), and which led, of course, to the civil war. That is where we started to get it wrong. I am not saying General Murthala didn’t make a mistake by sacking so many of the civil servants. But he, I think, meant well but he might have been misguided and he as a military man didn’t fully understand the workings of the civil service in government.
You think Nigeria started having her crisis right from the killings of Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa, Ahmadu Bello and the rest?
Late General Murthala....his mistake was breaking the rank and file of the civil service
Yes, the first coup was when Nigeria started deteriorating because that was the first time I saw a car drive off a one way road and it was a military vehicle.
So, what did that do your psyche at the time, as a young girl growing up in Nigeria?  
Of course I was shocked but then, this spoke of impunity; and lack of regard for the rule of law has persisted and what we are getting now is as a result of that. We are having Boko Haram, we are having Badoo, we are having militants, kidnapping, armed robbery, everything is just getting from bad to worse.
Let’s even talk about the many symptoms you raised, we now have an eastern Nigeria under the voodoo manifestation of one Nnamdi Kanu asking for a Republic of Biafra, we have a Niger-Delta that has mastered the art of kidnapping and even imported it to the South West, we equally have a vicious Badoo cult group that go into people’s houses in Lagos State to break skulls and draw blood and there in the northern part, we have Boko Haram and the Herdsmen palaver. Don’t you think we need to go apart like Lord Luggard advised in his 100 years
Sen. Bucknor-Akerele to Asabeafrika...'I don't believe we should go apart'
treaty?
I personally don’t think that the country should disintegrate. What I believe is that we can actually have devolution of power for the state, because the constitution which we had at independence dissolved power to the various regions as they were at that time and I believe we should go back to that because our leaders at that time sat down with the British who were our colonial masters and tried to figure out a way where Nigerians could live together in harmony. And we were living together in harmony but the unfortunate thing of course was that the British favored the north because they realized that the north were not challenging them in the same way as the south was.
Sen. Bucknor-Akerele 'The British favored the North against the South because the South was too intelligent to stoop low'
We in the south were challenging them educationally, we were saying ‘I go to the same university as you so why should I really cow-tow to you, why should I get less paid, I am equal to you. My brain is equal to yours in many cases and even better than yours’; and the British saw that and then decided that it is better to put people who are ready to cow-tow to them in charge of Nigeria and this is where we had a huge northern region with the living space less to the south, not taking into consideration the problems in the Middle Belt because the middle belt people are not the same as the Hausa Fulani of the far north.
But after the predicted 100 years by Lord Luggard, do you think it make sense that we go apart since we are now talking about re-structuring?
Sen. Bucknor-Akerele....'The North is afraid of restructuring'
Well, restructuring is not for people to go apart. Restructuring mean that we should change the political set-up of Nigeria and the administrative set-up in the country; you know we had a conference in 2014. I was a member of that conference and we came up with a document that has ideas of what should happen but unfortunately the APC government has confined the result of that conference to the archives. They have not decided to look at it; until the recent window dressing by the lawmakers at the Senate and the House of Assembly. That is not exactly what a re-structuring is all about. Restructuring is going back and devolving power back to the states. In that document, we made recommendation that the state has the powers which they had as independent. We said that states that wanted to join together should join together.
Sen. Kofoworola Bucknor-Akerele to Asabeafrika....'2014 Confab Report has many brilliant options for Nigeria'
We said that we could have our own police force in the state because ‘how can you bring somebody from Maiduguri who doesn’t speak a word of Yoruba and you put him in Iseyin and you expect him to be able to police the place, it is not possible’. There are various things in that document which were recommended, that in fact, each state should have her own justice system; after all we have various states in the United States. Each state in the United State has its own parliament, they have their own law, they have their own courts and this is what we are recommending for Nigeria. And we are saying that what is absolute is that we should then contribute to the central purse, the Federal Government should be in charge of foreign policy, defense and one or two other things. But it appears that some people that are benefiting from the current set-up don’t want restructuring to take place. I will give you the example of Lagos State; we have 20 Local Government (Councils), we have the same population with Kano state. I think when Kano was on its own, it had 42 (LGAs). Now, Jigawa was carved out of Kano, now they have 70 and Lagos State has 20.
So Kano & Jigawa has 70 LGAs
Senator Kofoworola Bucknor-Akerele explaining a point to the GDA
Yes, combined. Is that a fair narration? Then, take the Niger-Delta area, the Niger-Delta people have never been in charge of the oil that is pumped out of their soil. In fact, they are suffering, their land is being devastated and the government has made promises that they are going to clean it up and it is going to take 20 years but from what I understand, they have not even started in 20 months. So, you see where few of the problems are hiding and I think we have to sit down, look at that document of 2014 and decide and say ‘alright, how are we going to manage this (problems) that we can all live together and feel that we are having a fair share in this stage of our growth as a country’.
Let me ask you this; because when President Buhari came on board, he boldly said the 2014 National Conference document is only beautiful for the archives. Do you think the APC government is afraid of that document and what do you think are the fears?
The Senator speaks with the GDA

Of course the APC government is dominated by the north. Although they were helped by the South West to get into power; so I see APC really as a northern party and the north as a people are afraid of this re-structuring and I don’t know why they are afraid because they have so many mineral resources in the north which is a blessing. The north will probably become wealthier even than the Niger-Delta Area.
You think Northern Nigeria has more mineral resources compared to the Niger-Delta area?
Sen. Bucknor Akerele to Asabeafrika....'Northern Nigeria has more mineral resources than the south'
Oh yes! They have all sorts; they have gold, they have precious stones and all sorts of (mineral) resources.
So, why should they be afraid of restructuring?
It is because they are benefiting from the status-quo and they are not ready to exploit what they have.
If you must be sincere, do you think this government has done well in the last two years. Do you think we are really on the path to glory?
President Muhammadu Buhari....Has his regime turned around people's lives? Sen. Bucknor-Akerele disagrees
Sorry, I think this government has been a disaster, a complete disaster. If you look at it, people are starving, I think (late) Umaru Dikko said Nigerians were not eating from the dustbin but Nigerians are now eating from dustbins in order to survive and that is a tragic situation. Because I think they have got it all wrong economically.
But where did you think the whole thing went wrong because hope was strong during the campaign?
Minister of Information Lai Mohammed, Sen. Kofo Bucknor-Akerele knocks the government
Well, I don’t think anything went wrong. I felt we got false promises. They knew that Nigerians were gullible people and Nigerians always want something for nothing and so they promised heaven and earth when they knew that heaven and earth could not be delivered. This is really the thing; this is a government that is not honest with the people. They promised that the Naira would become $1 to 1 Naira. How do they expect to do that when at that time it was about $165 to 1 Naira, I don’t know how they expected they were going to be able to do it, and especially at that time when oil prices had already fallen. Oil price did not fall during Buhari’s time, oil prices have already fallen during Jonathan’s time.
Let’s even visit the Jonathan era, with the kind of information coming out every day in the newspapers, blogs, radio and television about high level corruption by officials of the Jonathan’s government especially the former minister of oil, Dieziani Alison Madueke. How do you feel about that regime?
Ex-Oil Minister under PDP's government, Dieziani Madueke....A thief or not a tief?
Well, as far as I am concerned, until somebody is prosecuted and convicted they are being presumed innocent. We know a lot of politics is involved in some of these revelations that are being made. So I will like that those who are making the allegations prosecute the people and make sure there are convictions, then we will know.  Then, when we are talking about probe, all the people in APC, have anybody investigated them?
You mean all the people in APC?
Yes. Have anybody bothered to investigate them; people know that the faults are there in APC, APGA and all of this various political parties. It is just that because APC is in power at the moment, they feel that they can use that to try and disseminate the ills of the opposition.
Let’s quickly go to the issue of 37% affirmative Act for Women in politics which was shot down last week by the Nigerian senate under the leadership of Mr. Bukola Saraki. That bill was shot down due to lack of moral force from the senators, as a former senator and a woman administrator, how did you feel when you heard it?
Senator Kofoworola Bucknor-Akerele....Angry with Senate President Bukola Saraki?
Well, I was very disappointed with that; but on the other hand I wasn’t disappointed because I think the men in Nigeria are backward. They should go and look at what is happening in other countries, in South Africa, in Uganda, in Tanzania, you see that affirmative action is taking place in those countries and the women have a share. After all, women are 60% if not more of the population. So why should they be excluded; and you know what the disadvantages of women are. Because they are home makers, they do not have the capacity to go out and sought for business and make the kind of money men make. Let’s face it, if you want to go into politics you need money and which is why other countries have affirmative action which we have refused to adapt in our democratic space.
As a former Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria if you are chanced to speak with Senator Bukola Saraki and his senate, what would you tell them?
The Senators speaks as the GDA listens with rapt attention
I will just tell them that they should stop portraying Nigeria as a backward country that is still living in the Middle Ages and not living in the 21st century.
So you think they (senate) should re-consider that item?
Oh, definitely.
And the Nigerian women should be given their 37% affirmative Act?
Yes, definitely.
Do you ever think that a woman will one day become a President of Nigeria?
I hope so, maybe not in my life time but I hope so
(Cuts in) That a woman will become a President in Nigeria?
Yes, why not. I mean, let’s face it. Are any of the men who are there now better than any of the women who are in politics today or who are in the various professions? They certainly are not; a lot of women are far better. They have better brains than they (men) have.
(Cuts in) But analysts will also see the Dieziani Madueke and Stella Odua examples and feel bad with Nigerian Women. They will not also agree that Okonjo Iweala did well as a finance minister?
Sen. Kofoworola Bucknor-Akerele to Asabeafrika....'I don't know if Okonjo Iwealah did so poor but her economy was not as worsts as the present economy'
I don’t know whether Okonjo-Iweala didn’t do well. But at least, the economy was not in the same shambles that it is now with the man in charge. Which kind of country do you have about five different rates of exchange and they are just encouraging round tripping, and that is what is shutting this economy down. Then, look at the current interest rate charge and you expect people to start businesses with that? When America had their problem, they lowered interest rates to 1% at one stage. And that was how people were able to borrow money and do businesses. But you have made it difficult, you say you want to create jobs but you have made it difficult for people to do business and therefore they have all gone to places where the atmosphere is more conducive for doing business.
 Even while driving down to your place this morning, we saw a lot of empty buildings with ‘To Let’, ‘ To Lease’ etc hung on them yet with no one living in there. Is that also a sign of the bad economy?
The Senator explains the distress in the economy to the GDA
Yes, because most of the companies are folding up. People who are running the businesses are no more in business so you cannot find tenants in those buildings. Especially in Apapa and maybe in this area (Victoria Island) we have majority of them as expatriates, company employees who live in some of those properties. But if the companies have folded up, then where are you going to get the tenants? So the economy is in a deep mess.
 It appears to me that your former party Alliance for Democracy is almost getting back on the scene with the kind of efforts the party made in the last LGA elections in Lagos State. Do you think there is hope for AD’s return?
Well, I am not sure AD can come back and be strong but one can never tell. It all depends on how they can birth the right system.
It appears even Afenifere your group has broken into two with the renewal group by Yinka Odunmakin and co, and the old group. It seems there is an atmosphere of disunity and you are also in the Yoruba Unity Forum (YUF) what is the problem with this Yoruba groups?

Sen. Bucknor-Akerele....'There is no division in Yoruba but greed of interest by few'

No, no, no it seems you don’t know something. The Yoruba Unity Forum (YUF) is the umbrella body formed by Chief Mrs. (HID) Awolowo and the late Ooni of Ife (Oba Okunade Sijuade) to bring all the Yoruba organizations under one umbrella. So Afenifere is a member of the Yoruba Unity Forum. There is Afenifere Renewal Group which was a group founded by Tinubu when he wanted to break up the AD (in 2008) and that is another group all together.
You mean people like Yinka Odumakin are actually working for Bola Ahmed Tinubu in one instance?
No, Odunmakin is in the Afenifere proper which a member of the Yoruba Unity Forum. It is the Afenifere Renewal Group that is at the moment outside. But they are trying to bring them on board.
So, what do you think is the real problem with the Yoruba race, you as a proper Yoruba woman and elder stateswoman, why do you think there are divisions among the Yorubas and what is the panacea?
Sen. Bucknor-Akerele to Asabeafrika....'I don't know if Buhari loves Yorubas but i know he loves Hausa-Fulani'
Well, I am not sure there is a problem with the Yoruba. But I think there are some people within Yoruba who because of their personal interest, are not thinking of the overall interest of the Yoruba as a group. And therefore they have come our way and are working with other groups outside the Yoruba.
Do you really think President Muhammadu Buhari loves the Yoruba from your own perspective as a leader?
Well, I cannot know whether he loves Yoruba or not. All I know is that he loves the Fulani and the Hausa-Fulani.
Analysts have described the 8th Senate as one of the worst in history especially with the antecedent of some of the leading lights of that chamber. As a former Senator of the Federal Republic and a political juggernaut, what is your perception of the 8th senate?
The GDA introducing 'Nigeria: Beyond Divorce' to Senator Kofoworola Bucknor-Akerele
Well, all I know is that when we were in the senate, the senate was always full. But now, when I look at the television I find out that people are not in the senate. All the seats are empty—three-quarter of the seats are empty all the time. I just wonder is happening.
Oh, you mean they are lazy and never show up for their duties?
Yes.
Do you support the view that their work in the chamber should be limited to part time?
The GDA Presents General Sam Momah's Book 'Nigeria: Beyond Divorce' to Senator Kofoworola Bucknor-Akerele
Well, personally I believe that they should be part time; because from what I am seeing, I don’t think it is a full time job. I don’t think it is full time jobbing those who there are doing.

(Read Part 2 of the Senator Bucknor-Akerele Exclusive titled “Atiku is the Reason I fell out with Tinubu & How APC rigged LGA elections” on this blog shortly)

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