Young people need to stop playing victims- Opeyemi Oriniowo
Adetunji Adeniran (YNAG convener) engaged Opeyemi Oriniowo, a development consultant and technical adviser to APC committee on True Federalism in this exclusive interview on the report submitted by the committee and what is in it for young people.
We would like to know more about you especially your role as it relates to the committee’s work?
As you already know, my name is Opeyemi Oriniowo. I am a Development Consultant on Poverty Alleviation, Inequality and youth engagement. I worked with APC Committee on True Federalism more as an outsider. I was the technical adviser to the committee responsible for facilitating engagement with youths and civil society organisations (CSOs). I also assisted the committee in the compilation of memorandum and final reports submitted by the committee chairman, Gov Nasir El-rufai.
I am not a card-carrying member of APC, so my work majorly was to advise the committee and give credibility to the work done by the committee.
In simple terms, can you please take us through the work done by the APC True Federalism Committee?
First of all, I want to commend the committee led by the chairman, Gov. El-rufai because they went through a rigorous process before arriving at the final report. Let me boldly say that the report is not the view of the committee but the views of over 8,000 organisation that represented Nigerians at each session. Before any paper work was done at all, the committee advertised to the public through major national dailies inviting all Nigerians- individuals and organisations to submit their views to the committee. So, there was an open request which makes it different from 2014 confab which was just a selection of people from different geopolitical zones.
The committee also recognized major areas of issues that currently form part of our discussions in the country today- Resource control, power devolution, Fiscal Federalism, Independent Candidacy, Land tenure system and so on. These issues were extensively discussed at different regional consultation forums before the central forum in Abuja. Like I mentioned earlier, over 8,000 organisations participated in the discussions. Although, this number is small compared to our population of over 180 million. It only means that if you’re a Nigerian and a good citizen, you need to belong to one or two organisations.
The major focus of the committee was to ammonize the voices of Nigerians as regards True Federalism and restructuring.
In your opinion, what is True Federalism and what is the ideal structure for Nigeria?
In my opinion, True Federalism is the consensus where people of different regions, states, communities come together with their interests and agreed on their terms to move together. It is a borrowed system from the United States and it’s a process. The USA has gone through their own process where the states came together and decided to form a United Country on the terms of each states. It is embedded in their constitution as we also have in our own constitution. However, the difference is that we had a break in transmission through all the military interventions that we went through. The military wanted to keep the country together at all cost irrespective and this was the birth of our problems. In fact, it is an aberration to say that our coming together is not negotiable. Everything in life is negotiable including our coming together.
If we look at the country as a whole, we are better together economically. The greatest issue is rooted in the fake federalism that we currently have where we cannot produce what we consume. Take the Indian for example when Mahatma Ghandi had to ban importation of used textiles in India and the people were forced to start making their own textiles. India today has the largest exportation of textiles in the world.
So, we need to get to the point where the government has to live on the people unlike what we have now that the people live on the government. True Federalism entails each state sustaining itself while they pay tax or royalty to the federal government. In this way, you bring the government close to the people.
Resource control is a big issue in Nigeria today, what is the committee’s stance on this?
First let me correct an impression. There is nothing in that report that is the sole view of the committee. I worked with the committee who put the report together and what we have there are the sole views of Nigerians. That said, on the issue of Resource control, I think the report is fair enough to present the yarning of the people especially at the community level. In fact, people of Ijaw led by Chief Edwin Clerk paid a courtesy visit to one of the governors in the south-south and supported the committee’s report. You’re aware that majority of the south-south states are controlled by PDP.
In the report, every state and community have the absolute power to control and develop resources in their states and just pay tax to the federal government. The same for other minerals apart from oil. The ministry of mines and resources is already working on a framework that gives states jurisdiction on mining. The federal government’s work will be to intervene and help but the ownership lies with the state governments.
As more young people get involved in politics, there would be need for fresh ideas, does the recommendation take this into consideration?
(Laughs) There are always rooms for fresh ideas. I think what is needed is that young people need to stop playing victims. We need to stop putting ourselves at the mercy of the old people. Go and check history, nothing is given on a platter of gold. Young people need to come out and demonstrate that they have the capacity to be involved and be heard. Also, young people need to start speaking with one voice. Enough of different people coming up with different organisations and we cannot work together when it matters most.
What does the committee’s report say on independent candidacy and how can this be expedited?
Independent candidacy was a part of the committee’s topical discussion and I stand to say that what people now called #Nottooyoungtorun was started a long time ago and I was involved. It has now become a movement and everyone can lay claim to it either by tweeting or by ensuring their legislatures in different houses attest to it. Without mincing words, independent candidacy is not our major problem right now as young people. The current leaders also understand this and that’s why it’s not a threat to them passing the bill. The bill alone cannot take us there. Apart from the bill, every young person going into elective positions needs to understand the political terrain. How much do they know about the people? What resources (money and people) do they have? It is not easy for a young person to come out and contest against the current establishment. An example is Gbadebo Rhodes (GRV) who went to contest with limited resources but he was able to get the support of a few people who understood him.
My advice for young people planning to contest is to think long term. 2019 is already tomorrow, so I don’t know if anything can still be done. But for 2023, 2027, young people need to start having long term strategy. People need to know your thinking process and why they should have you as their leader.
The committee recommended that Local Governments be removed from the federal constitution, will this not mean giving too much powers to governors?
I will answer this question in two parts- My personal opinion and based on my involvement with the committee.
My personal opinion is that the government needs to come closer to the people. This is the reality we have found ourselves in Nigeria, so the task is for us to manage them. Our States Houses need to be strengthened so that people will know that they are voting someone who would represent their ideas and interests. Government itself is a social experiment, there is no perfect government anywhere in the world.
On my involvement with the committee, decentralization has come to stay. I think when we get to the bridge and this is dependent on the adoption of the report, we would cross it. But like I said, the legislative arms in each state has to be strengthened and people vote the right person to represent them.
On a final note, #YNAG2018 is around the corner and you are a panelist, what should the younger people be expecting?
(Laughs) Everything I have said. I would never say anything outside of what I believe in.
The participants should expect sincerity of opinions. They should expect to hear the truth as I always tell the truth to power irrespective of who is involved. If I don’t stand for something, I don’t go after it. So, they should expect sound opinions and value.