A nationalist, an orator and advocate of a better Nigeria, Yussuf Olaolu Ali is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN). He spoke with KEHINDE AKINPELU, on the President-elect, the recent elections and other topical issues. Excerpts:
It’s a new dawn in Nigeria, many have said; how do you feel about the change?
The only constant thing about life is change itself. Every one appreciates change especially the one that they believe would be positive. So change is always welcome.
Nigerians expect so much from the new administration, what are your expectations?
My expectation is that this country needs to be fixed and healed. All challenges facing this country would have to be addressed squarely and the people should be carried along as they move on. There must be transparency in governance. The government should let the people know what exactly is involved in every problem they intend to solve, so that their effort can be appreciated. People would ask what government is doing about what. The problem of unemployment, insecurity, poor road networks, non functional hospitals, water supply, power, housing and I mean all the problems. So government must communicate effectively with the people on what they intend to do and what they are doing.
Looking at the last elections, the pattern of voting sent a message about Nigerians, what is your view?
From my own analysis, South-West, North Central and North – East are the places one can say immediately that the candidates had real contest; in the North West, South-South and South –East, it was like to your tents O’ Israel. A pattern that ‘Oh this is our son, we must vote for him. These are the areas that we must address as this country moves on. This king of hegemonic voting pattern is not ideal for a country like Nigeria but I believe it will be addressed at the fullness of time.
It appears Nigerians need reorientation about attitude to religion, ethnicity and tribalism in this new world order, what is your take on this?
Nigerians do not have any problem when it comes to all these issues; it is the political elites that promote all these divisive tendencies. So the appeal is to the political class that they should leave out these base sentiments during campaigns. Winning an election does not require all these. There is a purpose for having more than one religion in the world and God has a purpose of allowing things to go that way. It pleased God to distribute us into different ethnic groups, so if a politician comes in and during campaign is emphasizing those things that are natural, it’s a sign of not having something to say. So in essence, the people want to know what the plans of the political class are for them; how they would put bread and butter on their tables.
There were myriads of criticism against the President-elect, General Muhammadu Buhari bordering on his certificate, health and age. How would these issues not come up again during his administration?
Those who are talking of ageing, every one ages, when I first met you, you were younger than this, so who does not age or what were they talking about? And when it comes to health, everybody has his or her own health challenges; no human being does not have one issue or the other on health to contend with, some health challenges are debilitating, which holds one down while others are what one can manage. So I don’t see any point in those issues on his health or age. As for the certificate scandal, let those who made the allegations come out to prove that the man never went to school, but like I said earlier, those points are immaterial, the people wants to know what plans of a better life for the people.
Did you go out to vote on Election Day?
I went out to vote, not only that, I was an election observer, I went to several poling units here in Ilorin and I can confirm to you that elections here in Ilorin was free, fair and transparent.
Some people are of the opinion that the President-elect should not engage in probing any activities of past or outgoing administrations, what is your take on this?
Let the new administration hit the ground running; I didn’t say that where it is necessary people should not ask about the past, because if you don’t know about the past how would you plan for the future? But the fact is, the government need not set up an elaborate committee for probe. It will consume time and energy whereas people want to see improvements as proves for change. What you are able to do for the people in a short period is of more interest to the people.
Looking at the general conduct of the elections, what do you say about the INEC chairman, Professor Atahiru Jega?
So far, he has done very well, especially in the use of the card reader, he has added credibility to the conduct of elections in Nigeria to the extent that the US ambassador remarked that voting in Nigeria is more advanced than that in United States. The Chairman of INEC proved to be a principled person, he stood firm even in the face of daunting challenges and odds.
The Outgoing President is now a statesman what is your view on it?
Yes, naturally that’s what it should be. The Presidency of Nigeria is not a titular chieftaincy, not limited to one family or a set of people. When you go to a contest, you are either in or out, so he has done well for himself and for posterity.
On the last elections, events in Rivers State have been generating some discussion, would you add your voice to it?
Election is about allowing the people to express themselves by votes to make their choices; Rivers should not be an exception. Quoting from what Professor Jega said on the investigation he ordered into complaints about happenings in Rivers on the elections, he did not say there was nothing wrong with the election he only said the allegations were not substantial enough to cancel the election. The people of Rivers should be given the opportunity to freely elect the leaders of their choice.
As we anxiously await the inauguration of the new regime of General Muhammadu Buhari what message do you have for Nigerians?
Nigerians should be patient that is my first plea. There is no magic in governance; Things that have taken many years to be run down will take longer years to resuscitate, so let’s give the incoming administration ample time to settle down properly, articulate its policies, see the problems on ground and we should not stampede them, either for personal reasons or for whatever reasons. Governance is a continuum and no government acts like God, it’s only God that decrees thing to happen and it happens immediately, humans cannot do such. So lets be patient with our leaders and give them benefit of doubts.