A former governor of Ogun State and chieftain of the ruling All Progressives Congress, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, spoke to BBC Yoruba on the state of the nation.
excerpts of the interview below
What do you make of the growing Japa trend or phenomenon, with the mass emigration of talented young Nigerians abroad?
I have heard about it and the reports are scary. All our youths and young talents are travelling out of Nigeria, seeking greener pastures, and the prospective countries are deliberately giving them visas to leave the country, without putting the origin country into consideration.
What scares me most in all this is the proliferation of emigration. Foreigners will not fix our nation for us if all our citizens should leave the country. I am seeing the countries granting visas to our youths as wicked because they are not considering the origin nation, from which their prospective labour force are coming from. If you ask our people leaving the nation for greener pastures, they will tell you that they are not planning to return to Nigeria. If you look closely at the situation, you would see that all our lawyers, accountants and most especially medical practitioners make up the largest chunk of the people leaving the country. We cannot blame them however; insecurity is one of the major problems pushing our people out of the country. You will agree with me that our people are not lazy and are always willing and ready to work diligently. Most of the migrants are forced to leave the country as a result of bad governance, unstable economy, insecurity and other challenges. I am sure Nigeria will be great again, but the reports of migration recently have been disheartening for me.
Who is to blame for the current situation of Nigeria?
We are to be blamed, not God. When Nigeria came into being, other nations were also created and by now majority of them are already developed. We are really enjoying the grace of God in this part of the world. When I was studying abroad, some nations were called emerging nations, emerging markets; countries like India, Malaysia, Nigeria and others. But now, you would see that these other countries have left us behind. Therefore, if not for the grace of God, we wouldn’t be where we are today. Hence, I would emphasise that we are at fault; but, we must be thankful for where we are.
I must also reiterate that the setbacks in Nigeria are the faults of the politicians and public office holders. We all know that the military men and civilians have been in government since our independence. Since we, the civilians, are the ones who said we do not want military government anymore in our country, then, the onus of governance of the country largely rests on the civilian government. On this note, you would agree with me that the politicians have a larger chunk of the blame.
It is generally believed that politicians get too much money; do you agree?
Well, I would say it is partially true because they are mostly responsible for policy formulation and execution in the country, hence, they are the voice of the people. However, I would say the politicians are not the only ones involved because several civil servants and government workers are also involved. There is an adage that says when the head is rotten, other parts of the body would be affected. This means that if all the previous governments had done it right, the country wouldn’t be in this situation.
There is a school of thought that believes that the job of National Assembly members should be part-time instead of full-time. Do you share this view?
If we say we should make it a part-time job instead of full-time, I would say I agree with it and I am happy that I have been privileged to be a senator between 2003 to 2007, and returned in 2019. I have seen the system and I’d like to say it isn’t as easy as it seems.
It seems as if the money lawmakers collect is huge but, it isn’t exactly like that. You cannot compare the lawmakers of Nigeria with the lawmakers of other countries because Nigerian lawmakers are expected to provide basic amenities, such as water, power and others, for their constituencies. We are also being looked upon to cater to the welfare of many of our constituents. In fact, many of us barely have time to be with our families as a result of serving our country, therefore, we tend to spend a lot to carry out our daily activities. Therefore, if you take a cursory look at these things that the politicians do, you would see that the money lawmakers collect is not enough to even handle all these expectations. In fact, what lawmakers collect is not even up to half of a trillion, looking at it from the perspective of the budget that was just presented by the President.
Many of the lawmakers are the representatives of their states and there are responsibilities and duties conferred on us as lawmakers, in terms of attending meetings in various distant places and giving charity to the people who come seeking help to feed or educate their children; there are also community projects we undertake. Due to the challenge of economic instability and insufficiency of funds, you will see people flooding lawmakers’ houses to beg for money, which is not supposed to be if the country is truly independent and things are working.