Senator Buruji Kashamu represents Ogun East Senatorial District of Ogun State at the National Assembly and he is Vice-Chairman, Senate Committee on State and Local Government Administration. At an interactive session with some journalists in Abuja, he spoke on a wide range of issues, including the ongoing anti-corruption campaign of the Federal Government.
How would you assess the present government?
A new government just came on board and it is barely eight months old. So, it might be too early to rightly assess it. But, given that it is generally said that the morning makes the day, the concern and disapproval that are being expressed over some activities of the current government are understandable. But, we also do know that history is replete with those who had a wobbly start and ended well, and vice versa. For instance, we had the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN) and Otunba Gbenga Daniel (OGD) who were elected governors of Lagos and Ogun states respectively. Despite the challenges they had at the beginning of their administrations, they did so well in their first tenure so much that the masses began to call for their re-election which they got.
Nigeria as a member of the global community is challenged by a number of socio-political issues that are largely influenced by happenings internally and externally. Some of these happenings are sudden glitches that are wildly beyond the control of the government. In my recent contribution on the state of the nation, I underscored the fact that governance is collaboration between the leadership and the led. It requires the unreserved resourcefulness of the leaders and the led for the desired results to be achieved.
Although I am a leader in my own right, I am also a man under authority. So, this time I am speaking to the masses as a leader who shares their feelings and yearnings. I was not born with a silver spoon. I know what it means to be hungry. I have experienced lack of the basic necessities of life. I have felt the pangs of denial, subjugation and oppression. I know from experience and interactions with the masses what they feel. That is why I consider myself as one of those who can talk to them in the language they will understand, and see reason with me.
A few honest columnists and commentators have shown genuine concern about the state of affairs in our country and also offered credible alternatives. Yet, a good number of the other comments are driven by primordial partisan interest. Those who criticize must do so with a deep sense of responsibility, just as those who govern must do so with the fear of the Almighty Allah.
The task to comply with the policies and directives is one that must be done by all Nigerians. Government succeeds through compliance. And the compliance must be spontaneous or lawfully negotiated if need be. This is because in the past, brilliant policies failed not necessarily because they were faulty but because compliance was not spontaneously given or lawfully negotiated.
It is for this simple reason that I want to reiterate the need for well-meaning Nigerians to offer ideas that will enhance the efforts of the government at making life better for the generality of the people. Criticisms without progressive ideas lend credence to what a US politician, James Clarke, said about politicians when he said, “A politician thinks of the next election; a statesman (thinks) of the next generation”. Once a politician is elected, he is no longer the leader of his political party. He becomes the leader of the people within and outside his party. He becomes the leader of those in the ruling party, those in the opposition and non-politicians alike. The elections and campaigns are over. Now, we must creatively solve today’s problems in a manner that creates a sustainable future for our children.
By the grace of Almighty Allah, I will continue to support initiatives that will move Nigeria forward despite being a member of the opposition party. For the past 16 years, our political space has been dominated by office holders who literally emasculated the party once elected. They equated themselves with the party and literally became the party such that the platform was subjected to their whims and caprices. Therefore, the party could not be held responsible for whatever the person did or did not do.
Truth is, we are at a crossroads and we must decisively choose the path that encourages inclusiveness in governance because that is the only way to effectively fast-track the much needed development. The people must participate and ultimately own the process that will lead to national recovery and growth. Rather than rue over our situation, we all must light our candles and illuminate our various corners for the progress and success of our dear country.
What is your take on the anti-corruption campaign so far?
We should be patient with the government and perform our civic responsibilities as patriotic citizens. For instance, I endorse the ongoing anti-corruption campaign. It is one effort that must be supported by all and sundry irrespective of ethnic, religious or political affiliations. My support for the ongoing anti-corruption campaign is neither meant to rubbish anyone, curry favour from any quarters nor join the ruling party. My support for the anti-graft campaign is borne out of my genuine desire to stand up for what is right, just and equitable in order for the masses to weigh whatever I say and be able to take informed decisions rather than being brainwashed. For, as Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
Naturally, the current anti-corruption campaign would affect a lot of those who played active roles in the immediate past administration, especially at the federal level. Therefore, it is only normal for the government of the day to first clear the Augean stable before settling down for the onerous task of governance. In the course of doing that, if anybody’s name is found in the books, the anti-graft agencies have a duty to do their job. But, such a job must be done, according to the Rule of Law. It is only the court that can say whether someone is guilty or not. Indeed, it is an aberration for a creation of the law to violate the law.
Yet, if the truth must be told, within the short time that this anti-corruption campaign began, there are positive results to show that the government is on track. The President rode to office on account of his integrity and goodwill. No matter what anybody says his integrity is intact. He is a focused President whose body language is making treasury looters shiver and return their loot to the government’s coffers. Put simply, his anti-corruption record is infallible. In view of the dwindling oil revenue, we need all the money we can get to fix our infrastructure and develop our economy.
What is you assessment of the power sector?
Another contentious issue that people have sought to make a heavy weather out of is the increase in the tariff of electricity. The choice before us as citizens is either to give the Government the benefit of the doubt by accepting to pay a little more for electricity supply in the hope that things will improve or remain where we are without any hope of improvement. I make bold to say that with the benefit of hindsight and our experience in the telecommunication sector, the first option is better. With time, market forces would force the operators to adjust as it was in the telecoms sector when the cost of SIM card and the method of billing changed for the good of the masses and the economy.
What is your take on the activities of Boko Haram, has anything changed?
Under the immediate past administration, I had consistently argued that the issue of Boko Haram should not be used to judge the performance of the government. I still maintain that view under this government. Terrorism is a global phenomenon. It requires the concerted efforts of all Nigerians and friends of Nigeria. Let us not localise or politicise it. Perhaps we should be reminded that we now have the cooperation and support of our neighbouring countries. We might have forgotten that hitherto Cameroun, Chad, Niger and other neighbouring countries refused to support the immediate past government in the fight against Boko Haram. We are now witnesses to how the uncooperative disposition of these countries has given way to a more aggressive onslaught against Boko Haram – all thanks to the untiring efforts of the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. He has provided the much-needed leadership and inspiration to the men and officers of the nation’s security agencies.
On the Chibok girls, as a parent, I empathise with the parents of the abducted girls and pray that they are found. However, we must be thankful to the Almighty Allah for victories won so far. Our territorial sovereignty remains intact. While the agitation for the Chibok girls remains legitimate, we must see the proverbial cup as half full instead of half empty. The Chibok girls are symbolic of efforts to rescue every Nigerian held captive in socio-economical shackles. We have recorded appreciable victories against the insurgents. Many women, girls and children have been rescued, restored and reunited with their families. The other day I saw over 200 of such girls already rescued on the internet. Although most of them had been put in the family way, they can still be rehabilitated and made to live normal life yet again. All these have shown that our security situation has improved tremendously.
Culled From Leadership Newspaper
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