Group Captain Salaudeen Adebola Latinwo is a retired Airforce officer and specialist in aviation technology and management, as well as a security and communication expert. He is former Governor of Kwara State during General Muhammadu Buhari regime and highly disciplined. He maintains a very high standard of academic, security and economic professionalism. He was a key player during Buhari/Idiagbon administration. In this interview with GILBERT EKEZIE, he spoke on the state of the nation, political development, 2015 elections and way forward for Nigeria. Excerpts:
How do you assess the state of the nation today?
I would say that Nigeria is in what is called a, ‘High Equilibrum trap’. It could hardly produce enough food to feed its citizens. The essential infrastructure are completely decayed. The health sector is non-existent. Our roads are not motorable and there is non-availability of electricity. Also, the education system is in a completely collapsed state. Lives are very tough for many Nigerians. Also, the certain facts that are known to us and the international community is that we must accept that Nigeria is a deeply divided country and that there exist inter-civilization, disunity, massive corruption, political instability and serious economic problems. There is the Muslim North and the Christian South civilization division, which had divided Nigerian politics for decades, stimulated one major war of secession, religious conflicts, many coups, riots and other violences. The open and perhaps obvious situation is that Nigeria political leaders are locked in a bad marriage that they all dislike, but dare not leave, because it is impossible to reverse the situation. Moreover, Nigeria undoubtedly, is plagued by weak leadership, divisive ethnic politics, decayed government institutions, an oversized and ineffective bureaucracy, weak judicial system, lack of respect for the rule of law, weak security system and geographic constraints that may be unable to engage the international economy sufficiently to reverse it. Also, we have timid and weak private sector, negative capital flow a non-existing market for long term funds and abysmally low saving ratio and purchasing power which have made misery and poverty the companion of most Nigerians. Every warning indication in the cockpit of the Nation is flashing Red. We cannot pretend as a nation that these problems do not exist. But if we are determined to address them genuinely, we will definietly find a lasting solution.
There’s anxiety all over.
The less understood aspect of violence in Nigeria is the everyday threat that an increasing number of citizens are facing. Nigeria may continue to become far more dangerous as the supply of machine guns, rocket propelled grenades and mortars become easier to access. The increasing number of unemployed and impoverishment of the people will in turn increase the level of crime and general insecurity. Indeed, there is no reason at present to believe that the police and other security services will become more adept, especially given the funding, crisis and the level of training and commitment presently with the Nigerian police and the Nigeria Armed Forces.
So, urgent decisions need to be taken fast, in order to save the ship of this nation from sinking.
What then should be done to save the country from sinking?
I believe that the most important function of government is to provide security for the lives and property of its citizens. In addition to that is the provision of infrastructure, like roads, health care, education and others. Nigeria will not sink anymore, if the government is more assertive, committed, disciplined and employ positive approach to issues, with adherence to the rule of law, human right, fairness and justice, creating a society where everyone will have equal opportunity to social upward mobility. Meanwhile, the decisions taken by past and present governments, the presence of trained professionals, strengths of civil society promoting democracy, capabilities of the Nigerian Armed Forces, Police and other security agencies have potentials to enhance better performance of the country and shape its future. Significantly, Nigeria is poorer today than she was at independence. But, if we are determined to live, work and suffer together, we will in no time, overcome all those difficulties. Reform efforts will continue to be complicated by structural obstacles, such as neighbourhood effects, covering cross boarder and spill over conflicts with other sub-Saharan African countries. Also, the path to greatness is peace, love, unity and accomodation. So, we need leaders who will see the country in the right courage to greatness. We have the potentials and ingredients to greatness, but it must be harnessed through purposeful leadership.
Could you rate the Nigerian political institution?
The political institutions in Nigeria have lost capacity, flexibility and legitimacy. Social and economic problems mound in the face of the state. Corruption, ineptitude, crime, violence flourish and fear poliferates. Some authorities wither and people retreat to informal areas. We are in a country where political power and national wealth become monopolized by increasing narrow elite, which substitutes force for dialogue, barganing and legitimate authority. Mass constituency becomes more alienated, angry and embittered. Contending elites manipulate ethnic, religion and religious cleavages in the struggle for power. And incidents of deadly conflicts escalate in number and scale.
And the fight against corruption; is it yielding results?
I will advise that the government should show and don’t tell-tracking corruption making reform real. No matter which syndrome of corruption reformers confront, at some point, they must assess the scope of trends of corruption problem and estimate the effect of their reforms. They must show political backers, officials, citizens, business people and potential wrongdoers that reform is for real. They also need sound evidence to decide which problems to attack, in what specific parts of government and using what tactics. If corruption control is to be sustained by citizens defending their own interests, the links between reform and the problem of daily life must become more than an abstraction. And, if those connections are not clear, collective action problems and low levels of trust, will likely inhibit reform. So, those seeking to check corruption need valid and reliable measures of corruption vulnerabilities and the effect of reform.
From your experience as a security expert, why has it been difficult to check the excessess of Boko Haram?
Well, Boko Haram or terrorists group that the government cannot properly or effectively deal with are described as non-state fighters. The appearance of non- state actors on the national scene have brought rapid growth of quasi-private armies and wild card military formations who consider armed conflict as legitimate business. Undoubtably, this means that new threats appear over the horizon, acquiring new military dimension. For the activities of the Boko Haram insurgents to be curbed, there should be conventional military strategy. The military is saddled with the responsibility of fighting external aggressors and not internal ones like the Boko Haram. The insurgents live among the people and are difficult to be fished out and attacked and that is why the Nigerian military have not succeeded in confronting them. However, the issue needs a different approach. The military must, therefore, re-group, reorganise, retrain and re-strategise to face the new threat to our nation. I am happy to learn that our military formations have already commenced action in this direction, what is left, and that which is important is for the civilian population to give their full support and assistance to the military, cooperate in all manners and provided useful and enlightened information to the military and the entire security operatives. Undoubtedly, the military is up to the task, and with the new approach, proccedure, tactics and strategy, they will overrun the insurgents. But, they need the full cooperation and support of the civilian populace. Also, we must realise that that terrorism cannot be eradicated by means of force alone, non-military means to control its feeding grounds should be explored. Such ground is provided by social and economic cataclysm; poverty, large-scale unemployment, armed conflict, organised crime and drug traficking and illegal and uncontrolled arms trade. Terrorism can only be fought by comprehensive means and in joint efforts. No nation on its own can secure its homeland or counter the threats of modern terrorism. But with concerted efforts, it will be easier.
What are your expectations for 2015 elections?
With the conduct and outcome of the recently concluded party primaries across the country, I expect that 2015 elections will be better than the ones we had in the past. People are beginning to understand the need for transparency and fair play in the political scene. One major thing I know is that Nigeria needs a new and authentic leadership in 2015; people of highest integrity, honour and commitment in building an enduring and organised society; leaders who have the courage to build industries, institutions and other establishments to meet the needs of all their stakeholders. Most importantly, those who recognise the importance of their service to the society. The destinies of Nigerians are in their hands. So, I expect Nigerians to rise and effect the necessary changes by voting for the right candidates during the 2015 elections.
As someone who has worked with General Buhari, how would you rate his administration as Head of State?
It was good. In fact, the coup against his regime is frequently inserted into a narrative of regrets, nostalgia and loss. The significant problems that we faced cannot be solved with the same level of thinking that created them. There was war against indiscipline, hoisting of flag, recitation of national anthem, environmental sanitation and agricultural programmes. Buhari’s regime was synonymous with war against indiscipline and Nigerians are aware that the country was well managed. Discipline, law and order were strictly maintained across the country.
Could you highlight some of his pedigrees?
In almost every nation, culture, religion and philosophy of effective living throughout the world, do what you say you are going to do, is recognised as an important value and a significant measure of trust-building behaviour in interaction with others. Your credibilty can only be built over time. And, it is built from the history of your words and actions. The Buhari I know is a man to trust at all times. Of course, trust is like an oxygene for a business. When it is in short supply, the effect for employees and customers alike could be like a loss of cabin pressure in an aircraft and never has the danger being higher than it is now in the viral condition of the twitter age. He is a true nationalist, an epitome of truth and firm in his decisions. Obviously, General Buhari is also courageous and believes in himself.
Do you think Buhari is capable of giving Nigerians better leadership?
Yes, he is. You see, when a handshake is given, it must be honoured at all costs. Though bargaining occurs only before a deal is agreed to, when you shake hands, the negotiation is over. As I rightly said, Buhari’s word is a great assest. Honesty is his greatest virtue, and with him as President, Nigeria will be better fixed.
Your advice on the way forward for the country.
For us to live as one, we need to show love between one another. The love must base on understanding, creativity, redemptive, goodwill for all men, irrespective of colour, tribes, religion and class. The love will seek nothing in return, rather an overflowing love. We must refuse to do anything that would bring down another individual or a group of people. Hate for hate only intensifies the existence of hate. And evil someone must have the belief and strong conviction to cut off the circle of hate and inject the very structure and powerful element of love. Nigerians need to be disciplined because no society and organisation can work effectively without applying discipline and orderliness as guiding principles.