State Governors Must Be Stopped From Completely Destroying LG Administration In Nigeria – Adebayo Shittu

    Barrister Adebayo Shittu, right, with Olayinka Agboola during the Radio Show on Splash 105.5fm, Ibadan recently... (Photo: Kunle Ogunsola)
    Barrister Adebayo Shittu, right, with Olayinka Agboola during the Radio Show on Splash 105.5fm, Ibadan recently... (Photo: Kunle Ogunsola)

    Barrister Adebayo Shittu, a lawyer and former Minister of Communication was our guest on our Radio Show, Parrot Xtra/Ayekooto anchored by Olayinka Agboola on Splash 105.5FM, recently. During the interaction, he shed light on why former President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration could not build repair the country’s refineries during its eight years of administration and the highhandedness of the state governors in the administration of local government among other issues… Excerpt:

    It is often assumed that masses are the reason why leaders in high-ranking positions do not perform because of persistent demands; while serving as the Minister for Communication, did you encounter any sort of disturbance from the masses?

    There is no one who will be in such an office that will not encounter disturbance from both the poor and rich people in the society. The poor will want to seize the opportunity of your position in government to eat out of the national cake while the rich and greedy ones will also want their wealth and properties to multiply because you are there.

    The public has been indicting former President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration about Air Nigeria and misadministration of public funds. As a minister under the same administration how does this make you feel?

    I know Buhari fairly well, and I can say that Buhari as an individual was superlatively incorruptible in the four years that I was with him, I never saw him change his dresses into new ones or his shoes.

    After becoming Nigeria’s president, he was entitled to salary as a president and pension as a retired General, but he decided that he would not be taking two entitlements from the same government over the same period, that he would suspend collecting his pension, he would forgo the pension and only be collecting his salary as president. In Yoruba language we have what we call “Alhal” and “Haram”, the difference between “Alhal and Haram” is that; Alhal is what you deserve, while Haram is what you don’t deserve, both his pension and his salary as a president is Alhal because he worked for the two and deserving of both but didn’t take both at the same time.

    Now tell me, the one who refused to take Alhal can he now be the one to collect Haram?

    I can vividly say that he was not involved in collecting or receiving Haram. However, the thing is, no one is perfect in all ways, while his strength lies in him being incorruptible his weakness lies in his inability to effectively monitor those under him. I am saying this not to shade him but to report his exact nature; if you are working with Buhari and you don’t meet to report to him in a year, he won’t bother looking for you and when he eventually meets you, he won’t be angry that you refused to show up, that’s a weakness.

    Political office in Nigeria is mostly embraced by people because they want to satisfy their ego, not really because they are fit or competent, most people file up for public offices because of the money they will embezzle and for popularity’s sake. Most of them don’t have any valuable or substantial contributions to good governance and this really is a weakness in our politics in Nigeria. You will notice that in developed countries, before you can become a president, you will perhaps at one time have to be a commissioner, a member of the House of Representatives, the House of Assembly, or as a minister, you just have to start from somewhere.

    It is just like an apprenticeship journey from the basic level to advanced level in order for the individual to gain experience and be known by the public for who he/she is, but it is quite unfortunate in Nigeria that some people we elect into public offices are newbies, people who suddenly rise like dawn and want to rule.

    Such individuals fight to become the president or governor, without prior experiences and this happens most times because such an individual is rich and has money to spend, even though he doesn’t have any track-record. The people will take his money and vote for him, it is until he gets there that they will discover that even though he might be a business tycoon, he is more of a political moron who is administratively incompetent.

    In President Bola Tinubu’s nine months’ administration, what has he done that you are proud of?

    In Nigeria, governance started decades ago, either in the form of military or democratic government. During the military regime, once you attain the rank of a colonel you have the probability of being appointed as a governor or a minister, this is not because they are experienced when it comes to public administration or have experience in any public office prior to their selection, it is just based on something else.

    No wonder when they get there, they misbehave, mismanage public funds, apply for needless loans for their pockets’ sake and approve projects that do not benefit the masses and it is a pity now because as it was during the military regime, so is it now during democratic government.

    The debts and corruption eating up our nation did not suddenly start because of the election of President Tinubu, in fact, it has only escalated, and as a courageous individual and experienced political administrator, he said we could not continue this way.

    I saw his readiness to make needed corrections and reformation even though it will be costly. If you have a dilapidated building, almost crumbling to the ground, the best thing to do is gather the courage to collapse the building and rebuild from the foundation without having a second thought. Leaving an ‘about to collapse’ building is inviting destruction with casualties and this is what President Tinubu is courageous enough to avoid.

    In 2015, we promised to revive the refineries but the Buhari’s administration did not achieve it- which was a flaw of the past administration. During the electioneering campaign in 2015, we promised to reinstate the four Nigerian refineries within our eight years of administration, which we did not do, and this was a serious source of regret for me personally. This is because I know that the reactivation of the refineries is needed because of the process involved in changing crude oil to PMS, which is done outside the county – after mining crude oil in Nigeria, we transport it abroad with dollars, refine it with dollars there, and then transport it back to Nigeria with dollars after refining.

    At that time, if the worth of it was 100 naira, by the time, it goes through the refining processes abroad in dollars, and transported back to Nigeria the price would have grossly been escalated, is it still possible to sell it at 100 naira then, no?

    Also, in order to subsidize the amount PMS is sold without adding those extra costs, the Nigerian government has been borrowing to cover those expenses and then selling PMS at subsidized cost to Nigerians, which has left the nation in so much debt.  When Tinubu came into power, he thought this mode of operation is like living on borrowed times and postponing the evil days, which will eventually come, hence the removal of fuel subsidy.

    Why exactly was it so difficult for the past administration in which you served as a minister to rebuild any of the Nigerian refineries after being so loud in your promises?

    Let us assume that we have thirty ministers in an administration, every minister has their own office and sector. Buhari himself was the minister of Petroleum resources and he had a minister of State who reported to him. Any issue that is not brought into the cabinet meeting was none of my business to probe, it was another man’s work/office. During my (4) four years’ service in his administration, this particular issue was never raised or discussed and that was solely Buhari’s responsibility to remember because of his  promise to Nigerians.

    Since what was discussed at the cabinet meeting was determined by the issue a sector minister brings, however Buhari never brought any issue of such from the petroleum ministry even though there was always a budget for the petroleum ministry every year. Like I said earlier, this issue can be traced to the fact that there was no effective supervision in the sector causing nothing to be done in the eight years of the Buhari administration. If that had been solved, the difficulties we are encountering now would not have surfaced.

    There was this rumour that during your tenure as a minister that a particular mobile network provider brought dollars to your office as a bribe, can you shed light on it?

    There was nothing like that at all. In Nigeria, there is too much politics in play and honestly, many Nigerians are blackmailers. The only person who gifted me a car when I was serving was Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo state and after that, nobody else gifted me a car or brought money to my office.

    Why will anyone even do that, what errand do they want me to run for them? That I was minister of communications did not even mean I would have a direct deal with any of the network providers in Nigeria; they have direct dealings with the NCC. It was only once that MTN officials visited me, and what they brought as a gift was a phone and nothing more, neither did they attempt to bribe me with dollars.

    Barrister Adebayo Shittuexpressing himself during the live Radio Show in Ibadan the capital city of Oyo State Photo Kunle Ogunsola
    Barrister Adebayo Shittuexpressing himself during the live Radio Show in Ibadan the capital city of Oyo State Photo Kunle Ogunsola

    Is it possible for us to be bad people and we go ahead to produce good leaders?

    Our main problem in Nigeria is what we call “The Nigerian Factor” which many promote even without knowing the meaning. The meaning of this term is corruption, greed, selfishness, cutting-corners, and lack of patriotism. For instance, many people have been advocating that the federal constitution be restructured and more powers be given to the governors; the same governors who have refused to allow local government function in their own office or the governors who take 90% of the allocation of the local governments and impeding effective administration at the local council levels.

    Before thinking about restructuring, we need to restructure the local government administration first by giving them independence and strengthening them to operate at the local government level, not only as a government but also as a local institution.  The situation where someone will sit in his office in Ibadan and determine the chairman of Saki LGA or the secretary of Ogbomosho south LGA needs to stop, that is not right. Governors must be stopped from completely destroying local government administration in Nigeria. Are we supposed to restructure the constitution or change the mentality and behaviors of the citizens, no matter the restructuring of the constitution if the citizens cannot find a leader who will lead by example and insist that the right things be done nothing will change.

    Why is it that almost 95% of past governors embezzle public funds while they were in office, and after leaving office, they are always trailed by the EFCC? We know some past governors who after leaving office, EFCC is chasing them about for stealing 40 billion naira…what did they want to do with such a huge amount of money?

    They turn public funds meant for providing social amenities to theirs because of their greed and selfishness, which in the end tarnish their image and destroy their future. We who call ourselves progressives, how many of Awolowo’s programs are we even implementing now? Without petroleum money and federal allocations, Awolowo provided free education with the money derived from cocoa production. Now, we cannot provide anything, not even free education, free health care or provide jobs and we are thinking of restructuring.

    While still talking about search for good leaders, where do we start from?

    The contribution of the masses cannot be overemphasized in the search for a good leader but it is unfortunate that no matter how good and qualified you are as a leader who is vying for a position, if you can’t give them money they won’t vote for you. They are ready to sell their vote to anyone who is ready to buy.

    They won’t probe you to know your manifesto. All they will ask during the campaign is “What do you have for us”? They sell their votes for stipends, for what won’t last even for a week.  To get a good leader, the general public needs to change their mentality and fight for good leadership, even if they will lose out on those stipends. They need to place value above perishable things. Awolowo once said, “If you fail to educate the children of the masses/poor, they will ensure that your own children cannot sleep with their two eyes closed”. Isn’t that what is prevalent in our time now, banditry, kidnapping and all sort, these are vises perpetrated by the uneducated children of the masses…

    Concerning the restructuring of the Nigerian constitution that you mentioned earlier, can you shed more light on it?

    I am a progressive minded person not because I am a member of APC, I am just naturally progressive and naturally objective. There is a current outcry and agitation for devolution of power from the federal government to state government, a move to do away with federalism. On the devolution of power, people who agitate for the devolution of power from federal to state must first ask themselves what will be the fate of local governments in the hands of state governors. The state governors have virtually killed the local government system, the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 amended talks of a three-tier government system, the federal, state and local government. How will the state governors feel if the federal government was to be compromising their own independence and financial authority?

    Unfortunately, the governors have ensured that when money comes from the federal government to the local governments, 90% of such monies are seized by state governors and they just give the remaining 10% to the local government which they can’t even probe. Most of those local government officials are not independent because most of them are handpicked by the state and the National assembly members who should rescue the local government from the stronghold of the state governors are unfortunately impotent.

    This is very evident because before you get the ticket of your party from the state to contest to the National Assembly or the State House of Assembly, you must get the approval of your governor who is the supposed leader of your party in the state.  It is very difficult for the people in the National Assembly to really stand up and fight for the local governments. They are also talking of changing the constitution from federal constitution to unitary government, which is really a dangerous thing; this will bring a lot of instability because if you have a parliamentary system, once there is a vote of no confidence on the Premier or Governor, he is gone.

    In the forth-coming local government election in Oyo State, the APC has made it known that if BVAS is not deployed in the election process, they won’t partake? What is your opinion on this sir?

    Truthfully, the organization of local government elections is always subpar considering it is a preparation made by the state government, which is inappropriate. Local government elections if possible are supposed to be conducted by INEC, since the general elections only take place once in four years rendering the INEC officials jobless (with pay) and election equipment useless as well for another four years, why not engage them in these local government elections. At least INEC is more reliable than OYSIEC and other state electoral commissions.

    Without being sentimental, the failure to use BIVAS in the local government electoral process will render the election unreliable, unsafe for the voters and unconvincing.

    It is common knowledge that you aspire to become the governor of this state one day, do you still wish to give it a shot come 2027?

    Everything is in the hands of God. I have contested three times without winning but I believe so much in the knowledge God has given me through learning politics directly from late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the greatest political leader we have ever had in Nigeria. This is a plus and a great privilege for me, which others don’t have and that is why most of the political agendas of Awolowo that transformed the lives of the Yorubas without its replication in any other part of the nation are not in place today.

    I have talked about free education, free health services, integrated infrastructure and development and food employment, how many of our present time governors are talking about all these?… – the more reason why there is no change in governance.

    So, let us leave everything in the hands of the Almighty, but if God intends to shower his love on the people of this state, he will give people like us the opportunity to do administration in a way that will make life easy for the masses, but if He doesn’t, I will never lose sleep.

    What is your sincere advice to politicians and Nigerians?

    What we all need to know, which is very important is that, the God who has created us did not create us to look after ourselves only, he has laid down the way of living in this world. Anyone who does evil amassing public funds into his own pocket should remember that God is watching and he does not chase one before he catches one. God is not evil and it is an abominable thing to do evil in His sight. As politicians, we should always fulfill the promises we made to the masses and never put our interest first above the interests of the public, because there is a reward for everything.

    author avatar


    Please enter your comment!
    Please enter your name here