Dr Tunji Abayomi is the Chairman, Governing Council, Adekunle Ajasin University Akungba Akoko. He spoke in this interview with the team of editors on what the APC led federal government is bequeathing to the nation and his grievances on the last primaries conducted by the party . Excerpts:
We want to know your vision for Adekunle Ajasin University.
One of the reasons we are not competitive in the world as a people is because of deficiency of knowledge.
The first thing to be appreciated is that all knowledge is acquired, no knowledge is inherent. The capacity to acquire knowledge is inherent, but knowledge itself is a product of effort. And a whole lot of advancement in human evolutionary progression is as a result of the effort of the people to acquire knowledge.
Take aircraft for example, which is the conception of the Wright brothers, Americans, and from that initial conception, they kept thinking and dreaming.
As a matter of fact, there is nothing the mind thinks long enough about, there is no problem that man thinks long enough about that he cannot resolve. So what is my vision of AAUA? It is to lift the university up to become a 21st century centre for knowledge, a university that can interact, that is respected, that represents, I would say, the bold faculty of the people of Ondo State, primarily, and then the people of Nigeria. That is my vision for Adekunle Ajasin University.
Why is it is so difficult for you to implement the decision of the panel set up by the state government. We understand that the report have been submitted, but it appears that the university community is not so comfortable with what they consider as foot-dragging on that particular…
(Cuts in) No. There was no foot dragging. A white paper came to the council for the first time at the last council meeting. And that was just two weeks ago. We looked at the white paper, looked at it, every aspect of it, and there was no problem at all.
Most of the issues that were raised don’t pose a problem for the university. There are one or two issues that posed some concerns for the university community, particularly the academic community. For example… “the retirement age of 70.” As at today, the retirement age under the law governing the university is 65, but the academic community wants it to be moved to 70 and most institutions retire their academics at 70. The problem, however, is that the white paper did not accept that proposition, it merely stated that it is “noted” and when the white paper says that it is noted, that means no decision has been taken over it.
There are other issues, but these are not issues that cause a problem. We have looked at every aspect of it. What is executable, will be executed, and what is not executable, will be “noted” in the words of the white paper. So there is absolutely no foot-dragging. As a matter of fact, it is impossible to have foot-dragging in anything that I preside over. I can tell you that categorically.
I want to ask a question further: was the report doctored?
Report doctored? I would not know about that. What I know is that in my capacity as the chairman of the university council, I got a white paper which was distributed to all members of the council, and we looked at each of the aspects that were raised.
I think the anticipation, the expectation of a lot of people is that the white paper will be earth-shaken, and that perhaps the vice chancellor will go, this will happen and so on and so forth. (We have the tendency to expect disaster.) But that was not in the white paper at all.
Let’s look at politics generally. In 2015, your party, APC, deployed the “change” mantra to curry the favour of the electorate and the party was massively voted for. What has fundamentally changed?
I have always maintained all along that the greatest neurosis of this nation is corruption, and the tragedy of corruption in Nigeria is like…corruption in Nigeria is like a wasting disease. At the early state it is difficult to detect but easy to cure, but it has gotten to a late stage, it has metastasised. It is now easy to detect but difficult to cure.
It has become a culture that has infused even the minds of Nigerians. It has become a normative. It’s not like the government of APC has conquered the battle but at least it has started because until that government came into power, with a leader, a respectable personality, Buhari… because regardless of how you look at him, you have to respect him at least in this sector.
A man who became everything important and notable in the annals of this nation. He has held major offices, yet you cannot find him having petrol stations, you cannot find that he has an aircraft, even any serious vehicle.
I was in an event when he said that when they were contributing money for APC, it was Tinubu and Akande that helped him contribute his own money. A man with that level of contentment is good for a nation. So to that extent I believe that confronting Nigeria’s greatest neurosis – corruption – is one of the major contributions by the party and the people at the leadership level have made to this nation.
Going to the party primaries, certainly you are not impressed, do you think that with the way the party has managed the party primaries, the party will benefit when it comes to the 2019 election?
The management of the party primaries was the worst effort the party has made. In fact, it is sad because it is a self imposed injury of some kind and I believe that the party will have to face the consequences.
So what are these consequences?
The consequences is what you are witnessing now- the crises everywhere within the party. There is intolerance, there is antagonism among members, there is ill-will, there is disaffection and there is defection.
I will give a simple example. I contested for governorship in this state three times, and I lost three times, but each time I was quite okay. Because, for me, what is essential is that the winner won fairly and the lost loses justly. As long as that takes place, I believe that we can reach unity within the party, when everything is according to due process.
But if I look at what has happened today… now I am contesting for senate. Naturally if you lay out your laws, your rules as a party that we should buy forms, after buying forms, we go for screening, after screening, appeal, after that you have primary and so on and so forth…When you publish that you have essentially established a contract between you and the people, and they can justly rely on what you have published. But the party has not followed its own proclamation.
Just look at the situation of the primary, the constitution, if you look at this constitution which I have here, it says categorically that “a candidate”.. I will read it to you. It says, “candidate means any person who has been nominated in a primary or party election to contest the general election.”
To be a candidate you have to be nominated in a primary election. You cannot be a candidate unless you have been nominated. And then it goes on in section 20 which provides the types of primary election that can nominate… it says the kind of primary election that can nominate from the local government chairman, to all the other offices, including, the president, “shall be through direct or indirect primary election to be conducted at the appropriate level.”
So if you cannot even obey your own laws, your own rules, as a political party, how can you be respected? You must first of all inspire those who are within your party. When you inspire them, they will now transmit that inspiration to the general public. If you cannot do that, how can somebody like me respect you? I cannot respect you. I can only condemn you, if I really want to be sincere.
You now said that you have automatic ticket for certain people, for one reason or the other. You gave all sorts of reasons … because they want to impeach the president.. those are all nonsensical.
The president has only one job under the constitution and that is to execute the laws and the constitution. He has no other job. So he has the duty to execute the law guiding the political party just as all the other leaders of the party.
If you cannot execute that and you now say you have automatic… which does not exist in a democracy, how do you expect to maintain unity within the party? It is not possible, and you turn round to say “party supremacy.” What party can be supreme over the rights of citizen. I do not understand the thinking of the leadership of the party.
With all these you have said, is it true that you are dumping APC?
I have not dumped APC as at now. But if APC becomes dump-able, I will dump it in order to assert the rights of the people.
My view is that every state has its own character. In this state we the people of Ondo State, our character is that they don’t like undue process, we don’t like cheating, we don’t like imposition, we don’t like disrespect, we don’t like dishonour…we even fight one another on those things.
The governor of Ondo State sometimes ago, with his own party chairman.. they tried to impose and we fought him.. he is our man.. but we fought him to a standstill. I fought him on that issue, If he tries to impose anybody and I am sure other people fought.
That is the character of the people of Ondo State. Every state have its own character and our character is that we will not allow imposition. So they now decided that all they want to do is to impose people on us.. sit down in Abuja and tell us who will represent us at the senate from Ondo State? That cannot be acceptable.
When this same governor was imposed on us in 2012, they met in Lagos and decided that he was going to be the candidate. I stood against it firmly. For three hours, Asiwaju Tinubu was appealing to me to support it. I told him the sentiment of our people would not accept that.
You cannot be studying for an exam and before you enter the hall you declare somebody first, that is inequitable and the people of Ondo state don’t like iniquity and so I made it clear, it would not work, he would not win, and I did not support him.
In the same vein, I supported him firmly and I fought for his right in 2015, because there was due process, and now you wanted to impose somebody.. first of all, a friend of mine, Segun Abraham, you wanted to impose him, I said no you can’t do that…if you want to impose my brother from the same womb on the people, I will fight against you. People must respect due process and the rights of people to justice. So I stood against him in 2012.
Now after he won in a primary in which I participated as a candidate… my friend Olusola Oke was sitting next to me in that hall, as we waited for the result, we agreed that whosoever won will be supported.
After Aketi won, you said that the thing was padded. If you knew it was padded why didn’t you say it in the hall? I believe a man must stand for something or fall for anything, just anything. Once you give your word you stand by it.
So I stood by him (Aketi) and I confronted Tinubu who is also a friend of mine. The same principle against imposition that made me turned against him in 2012 is the same principle against imposition that made me support him for 2015.
There is this issue of godfatherism in Nigerian politics, what is your view about it it?
There is nothing wrong with god-fatherism, as long as it does not taint due process. As long as it does not tilt the scale unjustly towards somebody. For example, if I need money to run and I come to you, then you may become anything, you may become godfather; if I go to a woman, she can become goddess-mother. You understand what I mean?
The point is that the problem of leadership in our country is the disrespect for the wishes of our people. Democracy is government of the people by the people and for the people, but the tendency of our leaders is to make democracy government of leaders, by leaders and for the privilege of leaders, that is what I stand against as a person.
I believe that leadership should work hard in order to ensure respect for the rights of the people, because in my view in this nation, our people .
The only thing they really have, the most important possession, is the right to vote. That is what people like us want to change because we know that if they use this power to vote, if they use it effectively, they can raise their children who have compassion for them and bring down the oligarch, the pitiless corrupt oligarch, who have no regard for the people, only preoccupied with approximating the wealth of the nation for himself and offsprings.
If they have that power and use it properly… I believe what leadership should do is to encourage them to use this power very well.
Afenifere recently suspended Chief Iyiola Omisore. In your own assessment, will you say the Pan-Yoruba socio-cultural group has outlived its usefulness?
Yes, for suspending Omisore because of his political involvement. Is Afenifere a political party or political organisation? I’m surprised that it preoccupies itseif with politics of support, in my view it is totally improper and embarrassing, I don’t think Afenifere Pan-Yoruba group is relevant, if it is relevant, I will be a member.
We have some lawyers forging judgements to obtain SAN award, what is your view about this?
Well, there may be some but very very few, and when those lawyers are identified, disciplinary action is taken. My view about SAN is different from those who considered it to be important, people like titles and are free to run after it, for me I consider it irrelevant to your performance and production as a lawyer. Moreso, I also see it as a form of professional oligarchy which is unfair to the development of law. The other issue I have is what is SAN,? Is it an award? If it is an award, then, it should be independent of the awardees. Or is it a promotion, if it is a promotion, people should just sit for the same exam. And because of its subjectivity people struggle for it. I cannot lobby for it, those who think it is important can run after it, as for me I cannot run after anything unimportant and I consider SAN unimportant.
Are you comfortable with the federal government management of the Shiite’s crisis?
No, I’m not. The tendency of doing same thing the same way, that is one of the reasons we have failure in managing this unusual organisation. You remember the tragedy of the Boko Haram, the level of mismanagement at that stage led to a number of things. I will make a simple example. I told them in my university when they were saying ‘secret cults, secret cults’ that every organisation is secret to a certain extent, in as much as there are rules and regulations which you have to abide by. So, we should stop being disturbed by ..why can’t we ask these organisations to register instead of calling them secret cults? When you call them secret cults you gave them power, let them register, if they want to drink blood as long as they don’t drink human blood , when they register you can now tell them they cannot violate the law, as long as you can curtail people through interaction, you will be able to manage them. But the problem is that we got hyperactive, the security apparatus, the only thing they know is violence on people. People can be different, people are diverse, the society is made up of people of different mental conditions, and different thoughts, you have to find a way, and sometimes abnormal people make great achievement. I’m not satisfied with the way it is being handled, government should have engaged this people, and make friends with them, and then settle how they can operate, you cannot violate the law in a State . But when you now begin violence, violence begat violence.
What is your assessment of Nigeria’s constitution?
You might have heard my position on and on, I don’t think Nigeria has a constitution. First and foremost there are two principles of constitutionary theory, the first is that it is never a government that gives a nation a constitution, it is the constitution that gives a nation government. The second principle is that, it is not a content of a constitution that validates it, it is the procedure of making a constitution.
Therefore, if one single man writes a constitution for Nigeria, and it is the best constitution, it is invalid because it doesn’t carry the appropriation of the people. However, if the people meet in a conference and they agreed on the terms and conditions of a government and they input it into their constitution, even if that constitution is nonsensical in content, it is a valid constitution because the procedure of making that constitution is correct. In the case of Nigeria, the Constitution was forced on the people by the military oligarchy. That constitution told a lie about itself, it says ” We the people…” But we didn’t, and that is part of the organic problem of this nation. A lot of people have been talking about it, from Awolowo until now. What a nation should do is to meet and agreed on how they want to be governed. First, it is important that we understand that we are not one people ,we are many people. Nigeria is made up of nations divinely, not just a mere construction. For example, the Yoruba people are in the south west, the Ijaw/Ibiobio are in the south south, the Igbos in the southeast, the Jukuns, the Fulanis etc naturally, provincially situated in different locations, so we are different people, and if different people are to form a people, it makes sense that they should sit together and agree on the terms and conditions of their unity, but in this nation it has never happened. Under the British, it was like a Written of Summons, we were summoned to Lancaster and then told the type of constitution which basically befit the interest of the colonialists.
Why is it that Nigerians have not deemed it fit to challenge the illegality of the constitution?
Very good, to challenge the illegality I have once gone to court on this issue. But this is not an issue of law, is an issue of politics, if you see what happened in America, America started with confederal constitution, and they realised that it was producing an imperfect society , they met in Philadelphia to come up with a federal constitution. What should happen is that the national assembly ought to come up with a law to enable the people of Nigeria to give to themselves a constitution, setting out the perimeters of that constitution. People have asked me if you say there is no constitution, how can the national assembly come to do that , is very simple, the national assembly will be exercising the authority of the electors , because if you look at Britain, Britain doesn’t have a constitution, it is a government validated by the people, therefore, because they have been given delegated power by the electors, they can exercise that power rightly to enable the people to have a constitution, but because the people at the national assembly are not very serious about Nigeria, they are more pre-occupied by powers and the wealth, they are not looking at the organic issue, that is the foundation of disorder in this nation and we will not have peace,order, good governance until this Nation finds an appropriate terms and conditions for its unity.
Let’s take a look at the way things are, will you say people have forgotten PDP 16 years misrule?
I think the problem is the economic pain of the people, a hungry man doesn’t understand the language of persuasion, when people are in pain they can attach themselves to anything, it is like road to Obasanjo at a time when they were talking about saboteur, if you don’t want saboteurs then meet the needs of the people. If you don’t want people to celebrate the wrongs of the past , then you should remind people how good you are by your performance. As at today, the government of Nigeria at all levels need to do more to meet the material conditions of the people of Nigeria, government need to do more if you don’t want them to remember the horrible past, make sure you remove the horror.
What is your take about restructuring ?
A nation must have structure before you restructure it. Nigeria has no structure because there is no constitution of the people by the people and for the people. Until you have that, the only structure is the structure that you agreed upon. If you have people that are talking about restructure, ask them to define it, it cannot be operationalize. The only structure we have today is the Constitution called unconstitutionally and illegally, I said unconstitutionally because it lacks legitimatimacy and appropriation of the people. I said illegally because even the decree of the military didn’t give it power to give us a constitution, it only gives it power to give us laws like national assembly, when it realised that it cannot give us a constitution, it called it Decree 24 of 1999. It is only Nigerian’s constitution in the entire world that is a Decree, and a constitution is not law, it is an agreement by the people on how they want to be governed. A law on the other hand deals with only one issue passed by the national assembly, maybe it wants to deal with environment or water, and it is passed and assented to , but a constitution is never assented to by anybody, so it is different.