Former Chief of Army Staff and prominent member of the defunct National Democratic Coalition, Gen. Alani Akinrinade (retd.), in this interview with BAYO AKINLOYE, talks about restructuring Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari’s protracted illhealth and agitation for an independent state of Biafra
Can the country succeed without restructuring?
I do not see us going far at all under the regime (of President Muhammadu Buhari) we have put ourselves. We have put decision-making and responsibilities in the wrong places – that’s why corruption is so widespread. It is refreshing hearing some prominent politicians talking about restructuring. Governor Rauf Aregbesola and Atiku Abubakar are founding members of the All Progressives Congress and restructuring is in the party’s manifesto. The APC ought to have a forum where its members could debate the party’s performance and what they can do better, going forward. Unfortunately, they have not done that yet. They should live up to what they promised us that they are going to do. In a good country, we would run them (APC government) out of town in the next (2019 presidential) election. That’s what should be. But who’s going to do that? Where will you get the money to start a veritable opposition party?
They have made the rules of engagement in (contesting) political elections to be too stringent so that the masses cannot set up their own political party. Where will they get the money? The political elite have manufactured roadblocks and put them in the constitution to ensure that it is almost impossible for people to challenge them. Whether they (the ruling party) want to look at the 2014 confab report or they don’t want to do so, the President had said he would throw that document into the archives anyway. The political elite do not want to review the constitution because they want to keep benefitting from the morass that is going on. If we have honestly debated among ourselves in this country, there won’t be 36 states. Nigeria cannot boast of being larger than three states in the United States of America. There are many documents (in which the issue of restructuring has been addressed), it is not just the confab report alone that spelt out how Nigeria can move forward and make great strides.
President Muhammadu Buhari is said to be in the stranglehold of a cabal operating from inside the presidency, taking undue advantage of his poor health. What is your view?
It is very ironic. Why is Nigeria so unlucky? It’s not once; it’s now twice. Suddenly, President Muhammadu Buhari is missing in action. I have been in the same position with Buhari – we had all lived together when we were junior (military) officers. We played hockey together. He was a very taciturn person – he was not a loud individual; not a show-man. But certainly, he was serious about his work. The way people see him within the populace is almost the same way we see him in the Army: a man who is straightforward, always dutiful. He is always willing to do something about anything that is necessary. To be president of Nigeria is not a tea party; it is not a joke. It is a very serious matter. He finally succeeded, not just succeeded by himself but by bringing together a whole amalgamation of all sorts of politicians. All those efforts and the time span (leading to his emergence as president) could have afforded him the opportunity, not only to see where the country is in the stream of time, but to explore a lot of ideas about what he wants to do if he won. I don’t think he could have tried that hard (to become Nigeria’s president) if he thought it would be business as usual. Continue Reading from source