Hon. Shakirudeen Olofin is the New Nigerian Peoples Party (NNPP) Chairman in Lagos State. In this interview with EJIKEME OMENAZU, he spoke on President Muhammadu Buhari’s new cabinet and Nigeria’s rising debt profile among other crucial issues.
How would you react to the recent conviction and the pronouncements made against Justice Walter Onnoghen, the former CJN, by the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT)?
The conviction of former CJN is a legal tussle in which Justice Walter Onnoghen was found wanting in some aspects as required by the law for one occupying such an office. He has appealed the decision of CCT. So, it has becomes a legal issue. Therefore, we leave it at that for now.
However, the judiciary needs to up their game as they are the last hope of the masses. The CJN’s position is so crucial that anyone occupying that coveted seat should be of high moral conduct. Again, all arms of government should not witch-hunt each other as the integrity of the nation is at stake. There should be checks and balances, as well as mutual working relationship between them.
What is your take on the power play going on so far over the Ninth National Assembly leadership? Do you think that the APC can whittle down the power of the opposition in the election or selection of the NASS leadership this time around?
Politics is always about interests and number. The party that controls majority of members in the National Assembly, especially the Senate should be careful and remember the 2015 experience. Whittling down the influence of the opposition depends on the openness of their members to allow for party supremacy. I foresee APC clinching the principal offices at the upper legislative arm.
The Senators and House of Representatives members should put the interest of the nation above their individual interests. They are voted to represent the people of Nigeria. They are not there for their own interests. The people should come first in all decisions and collectively we will march on to glory. They should realize that they are playing a major role in the development of the country as whole. Thus, a lot depends on their decisions. The Ninth National Assembly members should ensure they have functioning constituency offices in their various areas.
What is your take on the allegation of the APC that Abubakar Atiku, the PDP presidential candidate, is not a Nigerian, but a Cameroonian?
It is all politics. To say that a former Vice President, a Presidential candidate is not a Nigeria does not add. The political class should learn to be civil in their conduct. That someone that has occupied the highest position in the country is now being referred to as persona non grata is amusing and childish. But, the law is there to clear all ambiguities.
What is your view on the rise in Nigeria’s debt profile, which stands at N24.3 trillion, according to the Debt Management Office (DMO)? How do you think the nation will come out of this debth burden?
Debt is not something that is strange in this nation. We need a drastic Industrial revolution to come out of debt. We all saw that the ongoing agricultural revolution is yielding positive results. We need to declare an emergency on the power sector. No serious country comes out of debt without adequate power supply and waivers on some import materials. We should learn from what is happening in Ghana now.
We need a lot of technological advancement in our education. Debt situation of Nigeria is not scary. We have the capability to whether the storm. We just need to move from a consumer nation to a producing one and we would be better for it. We have the population and market.
With the lobbying presently going on over President Muhammadu Buhari’s new cabinet, do you think he will have the political will to do away with the current set of ministers and top aides in place of technocrats?
Although I am an advocate of continuity, but the President must do an honest and holistic evaluation of all the ministers and his aides. Their score cards should determine their level of performance. Anyone found wanting should be replaced with a more competent hand. In a country of more 200 million people, I am sure that we are blessed with more than enough capable hands. The electorate is eager for the economy to turn around. This is not the time for mediocrity. All lucky appointees should be up and doing in giving very good account of themselves. The president should ensure that appointments are spread to the nooks and cranny of the nation to create a sense of belonging. Also, round pegs should be in round holes.
With the Coalition for United Political Parties (CUPP) experience, some politicians are thinking of another arrangement, Alliance for the Masses Political Alternative (AMPA) aka Take It Back (TIB) Movement towards the 2023 generalelections. How successful do you think this move could be bearing in mind that Nigeria’s politics now seems to be between APC, PDP and few others like APGA and Action Alliance?
The alignment of ACN, CPC and the rest brought about what we all know today as APC, and that alignment wrestled power from PDP. This is an indication that if we have serious and mindful synergy, the outcome may be different in 2023. APC and PDP are the dominant political parties in the nation. But, we all saw some newly formed parties winning elective positions. It speaks volume.
Political parties coming together under alliances would be very strong. Obviosly such alliances will emerge for the 2023 general elections. But, they need to take along the lessons of 2019 for successful showing in the 2023 elections. Major successful alliances were observed in 2019. They can be taken further in 2023.The dominance of major political parties in the nation would dwindle come 2023, as the centre would not hold for many of this dominant parties.
Would you say that younger presidential candidates who took part in this year’s election would stand better chance if they contest again in 2023?
Rome was not built in a day. The young presidential candidates should not relent, but should take their efforts further. The experience of Abraham Lincoln is a good tonic of inspiration. They have registered their presence in the minds of the average Nigerians. They should build on it. Though election in Nigeria is highly capital intensive, but they should all device a means to scale this hurdle. With the right manifesto and stern leadership quality and experience gathered over the years, they are good to go.
They should not be four-four year customers. The preparation for next elections should started immediately after the recently-concluded general elections, if they really want to make positive and lasting impact.
How do you see the recent commissioning of some projects initiated by Gov. Akinwunmi Ambode by President Muhammadu Buhari, some of which were not completed?
Well we see things from different perspectives. The outgoing Lagos State governor started the projects. If he felt that it was his right to commission them, so be it. I can decide to name my child from the first day my wife conceived, or I may decided to do it after the child sex is known. Different strokes for different folks.
Let me use this medium to wish the outgoing Lagos State governor, Mr Akinwunmi Ibidapo Ambode, the best in his next endeavours. Gov Ambode is trying to show the world what his administration had achieved in four years. However, some of us may be of the opinion that he should have first completed some of the uncompleted projects before commissioning since the Governor-elect, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, is from his party.