By Abdullateef Abubaker Jos
An elder statesman Alhaji Tanko Yakasai has described the election of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo as President in 1999 as a mistake.
The nonagenarian who clocked 95 two weeks ago stated this is an exclusive interview on Straight Talk, a Solacebase TV program anchored by Abdullateef Abubakar Jos.
Q: With your assessment of the political situation in Nigeria since 1999 when we returned to politics, would you really say we have fared better where we are presently?
A: I will always say that we made an effort under the circumstances but I think in 1999 we made a wrong start from the beginning. Wrong beginning because 1999 was the year that this country was transmitting from military rule into a civilian rule.
The unfortunate situation was that instead of getting a pure politician, civilian, to drive the entry into the civilian regime, we started with a retired military officer, Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo, right from there the deviation started. Not that a military man cannot be a politician, there had been some successful military people who transmitted into politics. But a lot of them who succeeded underwent a transformation process not just overnight from one stage to the other.
This is the unfortunate situation that happened to this nation. Obasanjo was a committed Nigerian but he was not a politician he was a military man. Therefore you cannot change his military mantra from that of a military person into a democratic leader.
This is where we got it wrong till today that is exactly why we did not put it right.
Because if somebody is going to drive a situation, even if it is a vehicle, you need someone who is familiar with the trend to drive you where to and where not to go.
Where somebody is not familiar with the situation, he will miss the road right from the beginning
Q: As an elder statesman, a major challenge bedevilling Nigeria presently is insecurity, we have Boko Haram in the North East, we have banditry and kidnapping in the North West the South West is not any better than the South South and the South East in terms of security how do you think we found ourselves in this situation?
A: Is the same problem, I know some people, particularly those who have military background, will think I am too critical of them. No, I’m not, I am just speaking, just expressing my own opinion and also related to my own experience in life. Military man will be in a position to tackle insecurity in a society. But when you are talking of security, national security, there are so many segments of the forces that can tackle the security problem of a nation. You have the police, you have the security, you have the Air Force, you have the others. But you needed somebody who is prepared to consult, hear the opinion of different people, including the security people, the civilians, the traditional rulers, religious leaders, elders and others to be able to come up with a composite program to be able to drive you to the promised land.
Q: If you look at it from that perspective now, what led to the fall of the President Jonathan’s administration, why a lot of people were against it and he lost the 2015 election due to the insecurity, would you say the Buhari administration has faired better?
A: I don’t think you should expect this answer from me, you should be able to answer this question yourself without bothering to ask anybody else.
A: Because you can take statistics of the security challenges that this country has underwent through from 2015 to date.
During Jonathan, the major issue of insecurity in the country was the issue of Boko Haram. Today, that problem has extended to kidnapping and ransom taking to insurgency in different places in the North West in Katsina, Sokoto, Zamfara and you have the issue of the IPOB, if you remember, was also a problem, it is also part of the security problem of the country. This is apart from the little, little security problems we are having in some parts of the country.
You see, there is a type of insurgency which the military cannot handle.
If you are talking about what happened in SARS protest, when the military got there, what happened? One of them mistakenly opened fire.
When the protest started it was relatively peaceful. Right from Lagos Mainland to Lagos Island, to Victoria Island to Ikoyi and from Victoria Island to Lekki. Now at the entrance of Lekki that this unfortunate incident happened that somebody shot a gun and the whole situation changed to worse.
If you probably go and take the amount of time that the whole process took, from the beginning of the protest to the time when that incident happened at the toll gate at Lekki. You will find out that from the beginning to that time it was peaceful all over because it was the police who are handling the situation. The police are trained to handle this kind of situation not the military. It is only when the situation gets out of hand for the police to handle that you need the military to come, not that the military have no role to play. They have a role to play, but their role should be at the time when the police ability is exhausted.
Q: As an elder statesman, would you say the administration had failed in that?
A: I think everybody in this country has said that. The only people who do not say that are people who are really benefitting from the administration. But they themselves in their own heart of hearts know that the thing has failed. Because, why should the insurgency go to Sokoto, why should it go to Zamfara, why should it go to Katsina, why should it go to North Central why should it go to South East and so on and so forth?
Q: In this situation now can you advise a way out?
A: You require a collection of different experts to work out a trajectory on how to get out of this mess. Is not a one-man affair.
Q: Assuming as you are now the present administration consults you based on your experience, how do you solve the problem?
A: I have just given you, I have just offered to advise. I will tell the President to gather people from different aspects of insurgency to sit with him or without him, work out a program, a plan of action and present it to him and that will be a composite opinion from different angles of insurgency.
If that will be done, the President will be able to know what to do to address the situation or what not to do.
Q: As a politician, 2023 is close by and is knocking on our door, vis-à-vis the issue of political zoning, in your own opinion, where do you think that the president should come from in 2023 considering our configuration?
A: I was among the founding fathers of NPN, over 40 years or I will say 50 years when NPN was formed. Right from the beginning, the leadership or the founders of NPN decided on rotation and zoning. Why? Because they looked at the nation and they found that the nation is made up of different groups. You have the Igbo’s, you have the Yorubas, you have the Hausa/Fulanis you have the minorities there and here, so the idea of adopting zoning and rotation that each of these segments will be able to taste power in a presidential system of government. That idea was accepted wholeheartedly by the country, but unfortunately a few years into the system the military truncated the effort, the initiative.
We have North East, North Central, we have South East, we have North West half we have South-South half. The only two areas that have completed their own are the South West and North West.
So the vacant areas are the North East, North Central, South East and also half of South-South.
Q: Thank you very much Alh Tanko Yakasai for giving us your time.