People should accept that Nigeria is here forever

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Former Minister of Steel, Mines and Power, Alhaji Bashir Dalhatu, Walin Dutse, is a lawyer who served in the government of the late General Sani Abacha. In this interview with STEPHEN GBADAMOSI and ADAMU AMADU, Dalhatu bares his mind on some contemporary political issues in the country. Excerpts:

AS a former minister, how would you compare what is happening in the country today, in terms of economy, security, politics and provision of amenities, with what obtained when you were in government?
Nigeria is not a static country. It is dynamic; it is moving forward. Things are happening, but unfortunately, sometimes, we make progress in the right direction; at other times, we retrogress; we move back again.

Now, it behoves people of goodwill to join hands together and make sure that this country moves in the right direction for the right reason, so that the people of the country can enjoy the benefit of governance. But the problem is that every day, government has to confront one problem or the other and it has to tackle them decisively. There are problems existing in Nigeria that are problems of all time. It is the system that is required to take care of them permanently that we need. And we need people of goodwill to support government; to support the society and to support good cause, so that all of us will act in unison to take care of the problems confronting the security and unity of Nigeria. We are in a very difficult time now, but we have seen much more difficult time before. We had been in a civil war, but we survived it because there was goodwill. There is still goodwill in Nigeria; we are going to survive the existing problems and come out a stronger, more united country, insha Allah.

After over 50 years of existence now, though military incursions are said to have drawn the country back, Nigeria has been in democracy again for 12 years. When do you think it is likely for the country to get it right?
We have already made a lot of progress. We have now achieved 12 years without military intervention. This is the first time since military started its incursion into political matters in Nigeria. These 12 years of democracy raise the hope that permanently, Nigeria has become a democratic country. This in itself is a tremendous achievement in progressing, but it comes with a lot of problems, for democracy is very amenable to criticism, different opinions and different positions. People see things differently and they voice them. And democracy allows freedom of speech and freedom of movement. Therefore, we have a brand new programme at the advent of democracy. This is different from the military regime where it was the unitary system; it was a very regimented system. This is a loosened, free and more democratic system that is also more amenable to economic development.

Therefore, democracy will continue to thrive, while we take care of the problems that will arise as we go along. The important thing is that people should accept that we are here as an indivisible country forever and ever.

You talk about flexibility of democracy. Now, which would you back between the federal and state government over the argument over revenue sharing formular?
I totally accept that part of the problems around is revenue sharing formular. It has to be looked into again. It has to be just, fair and ensure that the people benefit more from the resources of this country. They have the right to feel as Nigerians. I accept that the current government should be able to lose part of its percentage of the revenue sharing formular in favour of the state and local governments. That way, we can have development from the grassroots up, instead of now that it trickles down. So, I accept the revenue sharing among federal, state and local governments must be looked into. I also propose that revenue sharing formular among state governments should be looked into to make it much fairer to those that are more in population, but get less in revenue.

Are you in essence saying that the idea of derivatives being enjoyed by oil producing states be jettisoned?
Not jettison, but look into it to have a fairer arrangement, because the question of population and land mass should be given more than what attention it gets now in consideration of revenue sharing formular, so that when you look at those who get more money, you still look at those who do not, but are able to take care of their people and state in much more effective way, so that they can put in place proper foundation for the economic development of their respective states.

So, I accept, believe and propose that the revenue sharing formular is now far more lopsided towards the oil producing states. People have said the Boko Haram that we have now is not the original one. Do you agree that the real Boko Haram has left government and its establishments they were attacking alone, and that what we have now is political?

I accept that the advent of Boko Haram presented opportunity to very many criminally minded people to commit crimes of various types, under the guise of Boko Haram.

But the essence is that Boko Haram must have come because of the very hard and harsh economic situation of our poor people. And so, government should look at it as an economic problem that needs immediate attention, rather than relating it to religious uprising. I also think there are now different types of Boko Haram. Anybody who wants to commit crime does so in the name of Boko Haram. But I hope that whatever Boko Haram is here now will soon be a thing of the past, insha Allah.

What is your assessment of the current Sule Lamido-led administration in Jigawa State?
The truth is that, in the political since, since the last 12 years, Jigawa State has not enjoyed governance whatsoever, until the coming of Sule Lamido. When he came, he brought governance, development and progress. He has initiated so many people friendly projects that have positively affected the lives of the people of this state. People are very happy, and they hope he will continue to bring projects that will set Jigawa State in the forefront of state that are economically viable. Lamido has laid the foundation and he is doing very well. Most of us are very appreciative of his efforts.


In : Politics

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