Prof. Banji Akintoye Second Letter To General Buhari

December 25, 2014 6:13 pm

General:  I closed my first
letter last week with the following words: “I know you have what it
takes to change and save Nigeria. I wish you luck in your election – and
I wish Nigeria luck”.

I mean those words sincerely. Your record in our country’s service
shows that you honestly hate public corruption, and that you can
sincerely wage war on, and suppress, public corruption. I have also read
your manifesto and I am persuaded that you sincerely mean all you have
outlined in it. Though I have ceased belonging to any political party
for a long time, I believe it will be good for our brutally vandalized
and tottering country if we voters choose you as president at this
critical time.  

Our mutual sincerity encourages me to utter the following pleas and
words of advice. Certainly you are aware that many Nigerians are
concerned and even fearful about the persistent claims by some of the
Hausa-Fulani political leadership that their Hausa-Fulani nation must
dominate Nigeria as a sort of colonial overlord. You know as much as
anybody that that thorny fact has been one of the factors in the making
of our country’s disunity, conflicts, and instability. Usually, people
do not accuse you personally of sharing in that mentality; but since you
are Hausa-Fulani, and since some of your people perpetually noise that
claim and make efforts to achieve it, it is a large though mostly
unspoken factor in the coming presidential election. It would be a pity
if this should cause serious problems for such a good candidate as you
at this time.

Therefore, I urge you: use your best capabilities to put an end to
this terrible tradition – in the interest of our country. Realistically,
no single one of our nationalities can dominate all the rest of us. It
is impossible. How can one nationality, even if it is larger than all
the rest of us put together, dominate all the rest of us  in any full or
lasting sense? And we do not have any numerically dominant nation like
that. Our three largest nationalities (Hausa-Fulani, Yoruba and Igbo)
are very close in population size, and each of them is a minority in
Nigeria. How can the Hausa-Fulani succeed in subduing and dominating the
large and capable Yoruba or Igbo – not to talk of all the nationalities
of Nigeria?  Talking about domination and trying to achieve it has only
bred hostility, crookedness, and instability in our country. It is time
we remove that obstacle from the path to our country’s stability,
progress and prosperity – and you can lead us to do it. Please sincerely
strive to do so. Let it be one of your immortal  gifts to our country.
Nigeria is a country in which we all can prosper – and together build a
world power.

That leads me to another but related subject. The reason most of the
Hausa-Fulani elite are forever angling for a bigger, more powerful, and
more resource-controlling Federal Government, is that they believe that,
by having that kind of FG and ensuring their own control of it, they
will be able to subdue and dominate all of Nigeria. But it is a nebulous
and disruptive venture. Yes, they have contributed much in pulling
power and resources into the hands of the FG, but has their homeland or
anybody else gained anything from that? The most important result of
massing power in the FG is that the FG has become a podgy, ponderous,
incompetent and repulsively corrupt monstrosity, a constant manipulator
of elections and other vital processes across our land, a destroyer of
development and progress in our country, and a disgrace to our country
in the wide world. You acknowledge almost as much as this in your
manifesto. As matters have developed under Jonathan (and even under
Obasanjo before him), whoever controls the FG tends to use it as a
personal estate, to be used for his own aggrandizement and the
disproportionate benefit of his own nationality (or his favoured
nationality). Recently, the elder statesman, Alhaji Maitama Sule,
lamented that the people of the Arewa North are suffering serious
discrimination today in Nigeria, and leaders of the Arewa Youth went out
protesting about the same thing – and Yoruba people are crying out
about the same too. Is it not absurd that we have created a system that
makes it possible for such major segments of Nigeria as Arewa North and
the Yoruba Southwest to be marginalized and discriminated against by
anybody controlling the FG? How can our self-respecting nationalities
love to continue to belong to a country that is disrespectful and
mismanaged like that?

The FG’s obstruction to development is hurting all parts of our
country. For instance, our Northern Region saw a great deal of
development and progress under the Regional leadership of the late Sir
Ahmadu Belo. Since all the power and resources for development have been
gradually pulled together at the federal center, has the North not
steadily declined in economic progress? Is the same not true of the East
and the West? Obviously, the answer is to take away much of the
ponderous powers of the FG, reenergize the different parts of our
country, and thus bring development close to our people again. Empower
the elite of our various parts to handle the development of their
people, and our country will pick up again. Moreover, leave each part to
elect the local men and women who will handle their affairs, and stop
the destructive assumption that those who control the FG have the
prerogative to choose rulers for all parts of Nigeria. Flush corruption
out of our elections. These are things you are capable of leading us to
accomplish. If you sincerely promote them, most of us will ardently
support you.

Then, because I am sure and happy that you will fight and kill
corruption, I wish to offer some counsel concerning your fighting
corruption. Our country’s experiences show that  prosecuting and
punishing  those who have been corrupt is a problematic approach,
potentially capable of generating division and even conflict. This is
because, in a country in which ALL public servants (politicians, civil
servants, judges, and all) have descended into the culture of
corruption, punishing some people tends to degenerate into a process of
selective justice. Groups that feel that their own leaders are being
punished selectively cannot be blamed if they feel bitter. For instance,
even though I hate public corruption as a destructive evil and fought
it passionately throughout my time of service to Nigeria, it displeases
me to remember that, among today’s generally corrupt Nigerian
leadership, prominent kinsmen of mine (like Bode George who was sent to
prison, and Bola Tinubu against whom  the FG started a vindictive case
some time ago) were selected  for punishment. If punishment is one of
the weapons you decide to employ against corruption, please make sure
that the process is transparent and even-handed. In trying to kill the
worms in the baby’s tommy, let’s take care not to harm or kill the baby
himself.

In addition to whatever weapons you are thinking of using, let me
suggest one that I have seen some countries use to good effect. Let us
make a federal law demanding that all former and current Nigerian public
officials who have money in any form or shape in foreign countries
should bring it back to Nigeria within a specified time and invest it in
Nigeria. They can do it without any questions asked, and the consequent
investment will be theirs. The big gain for our country will be that
the money becomes active in building our economy (generating businesses
and economic activities and providing employment) instead of building
the economies of the countries where it was formerly hidden. Those who
do not comply within the specified time will be subject to criminal
prosecution and punishment. (Tracing and following money stolen and
hidden abroad by public officials of any country is now quite easy.
Sophisticated international agencies do it, actively supported by the
governments of many powerful countries). Some young friends of mine tell
me that one practice among our corrupt leaders these days is to bury
large tomes of their stolen public money in the ground!  I don’t know
how you will force such people to exhume and declare such money, but you
must come up with a way.

Finally, my brother, remember what I said in my first letter about
restructuring our federation properly. Fortunately, your manifesto says
much the same. Also, remember what I said about investing heavily in our
people – to create skilled and reliable workers, entrepreneurs, small
modern businesses and inventors, attraction of foreign investors and
businesses, high quality exports, and modern farmers.  Your candidacy is
generating much hope among our people. Again, I wish you luck; and I
wish Nigeria luck.

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