PRofessor Femi Mimiko, is the Vice hancellor of Adekunle Ajasin University,Akungba, Ondo State. He is also one of the three nominees of the Ondo State government in the ongoing National Conference. In this interview he rebuffed insinuations that the insurgency fueled by the Boko Haram Islamic sect is a result of the failures of the federal administration saying it is the result of bad governance over the years. He also ventilated his ideas on how the federal system could be better operated. Excerpts:
By JOSEPH ERUNKE
Are you satisfied with the recommendation of the Committee on Devolution of Powers that the status quo be maintained at 13% for derivation?
I thought it would have been a good thing to increase that percentage beyond 13%, if not for any reason, the shared magnitude of the economic and ecological damage attendant upon the crude oil extractive industry.
Now for me, the argument of whether they are spending what they get appropriately or not is not really an argument. If a particular incumbent is not doing that today, another may do better tomorrow, but I think basically, it will be fair to allow more funds to go into that region because of the consequence of the extractive regime that is in place.
And so if we get to plenary, it will not be out of place for a delegate like me to support a higher figure and I think that is the direction that we should take.
So, would you say you are disappointed by the decision of the committee on this issue?
No, it is not a question of disappointment because I know as a political scientist that democracy is a negotiated thing. It is also a game of give and take. If you have an argument that is resounding enough, from persuasive you would be able to get others to buy your perspective, so it is not a question of disappointment.
I guess I would be disappointed if for instance, we don’t accomplish the degree of devolution of powers from the centre to the federating units, if we don’t accomplish the degree of devolution of resources from the central government to the state government.
I would be disappointed if for instance we don’t get the federating units to be able to set up and administer their own police systems in the light of the very, very challenging security situation we face.
I would be disappointed if for instance, at the end of the day, delegates vote to retain local government in the constitution which for me doesn’t make sense in any way.
Are you okay with the decision of the Committe on Security to reject calls for the establishment of state police?
Absolutely not, I think it will be a monumental error if we deny the need for state police and the arguments are so compelling. Number one, the nature of the security challenge we face should suggest to us that we need a new thinking in terms of our security architecture.
Number two, policing is about intelligence gathering and sharing. A situation in which we deploy police officers that know nothing about their communities, they simply will not be in the position to carry out intelligence well and when you don’t have intelligence, you can’t have effective policing.
Number three, the trend across the world is to have community police, local police and even university police. Even universities in America have their own police formations. Nigeria, for me is perhaps the only federal republic that has a single police structure, I don’t know of any that has something that is completely comparable to Nigeria.
It is also necessary for us to know that the state governments today do a lot in terms of funding of this federal police that we have, so if they are able to fund this federal police so much, you cannot argue that they don’t have resources to fund their own police.
I have also argued that it is important to take into cognizant the fears of those who are opposed to this project.
People have said that they could be misused in the electoral process, I remember I argued when the Southern Leaders Summit held in Calabar a few months ago that we can set up very rigorous eligibility criteria if you will, that for instance will not allow state police to be involved in elections.
You can make a framework in place that will determine the top number that you must have. You could say no state police formation should recruit more than ten thousand officers. It is also possible to put control over the weaponry system that they will acquire so that at any point in time, they will not be able to stand as a threat or a challenge to the federal police. Can you imagine the impact it will make on the employment situation for instance, if every state now has the approval to recruit ten thousand men to the state police?
That will be ten thousand in 36 places immediately; you know what that will imply in terms of mopping up people from the employment market.
So these are some of the arguments. And so for me, it would be a monumental error if at the end of the day we rise as a conference without recommending pointedly the need for us to have state police.
I am sure you know that they have even advocated the right to keep and bear arms because I believe that the security situation we have today is such that every Nigerian that is responsible, that attained the level of education, that has a verifiable means of livelihood has the right to keep and bear arm for self protection.
I believe a situation in which they all have weapons except the ones kept by the security forces, all the weapons out there are in the hands of criminals, put true people like us who have chosen to be on the right side of the law at a disadvantage.
So this is one thing I have advocated and sent a memo to the Committee on National Security on it but I am not sure it was favourably treated.
I hope that I will still be allowed in the plenary to push a motion a motion to see how the delegates will see it. That is from point of view but I know that severally, delegates have spoken to me that this is something they will like to support.
Do you support the recommendation by a committee for the creation of only one additional state and that in the Southeast?
Well, as a political scientist, I don’t really see the need for any state in the context in which resources are dwindling, in the context in which all the states we have are virtually insolvent, in a state in which we use so much money for statecraft rather than to development, I am not a big enthusiast of state creation.
If people push the idea that additional state should be created for the South East, you can count on me that I will not vote against it. But I don’t think that should be something that should be our priority attention.
But you don’t see the need for it?
I don’t see the need for an additional state. Talking of the federal structure in which you have very weak 36 states, there is no way the federal; the central government would not have overbearing influence on time. Well, anything that will move us closely in the direction of federalism is what I support, anything that will take us in the direction of centralism which has proven to be disastrous for this country I would not support it.
What is your take on the escalated insurgency by Boko Haram and the foreign intervention in Nigeria?
I think what is going on in the North East is quite unfortunate. It is a manifestation of several years of governmental neglect if you will. That is why for me, what you are seeing is not the consequence two or three years of neglect, but a cumulation and a critique of governance in Nigeria.
I am not talking of the current government; I am talking of things that have piled up for several years. And therefore, when people seek to blame the incumbent president, I think they are being in mere disservice.
I also do believe that the military; the Nigerian Armed Forces are doing a great job and I think the responsible thing to do is to support them. It is not to criticize them, to abuse them, to drag them in the pool of politics; partisan politics, I don’t think that is what they deserve.
In other jurisdictions soldiers are celebrated, especially when they are in very difficult situation like.
I also endorsed completely, the decision of government to invite support from abroad, that is the right thing to do, there is no nation that is strong enough to stand alone, not even the United States of America.
That is why a country as compelling as the US still shares intelligence information and so, those who are criticising the president for seeking foreign assistance just missed the mark.
Are they suggesting that Nigeria is so big and so powerful, so formidable that it does not need support? I think it is just a share sophistry on the part of such people.
So by and large, I think broadly, the leadership is doing well. For instance, I have spoken against the penchant of politicians to see this as an opportunity to take political advantage.
When a nation is in such a difficult situation, what leaders do is to band together, there is a need for a new level of bonding. In some climes; in some jurisdictions, everybody will come into the government of national unity for all of us to join hands to tackle that national challenge, thereafter, you can go your different ways and begin your partisan enterprise.
But when a nation is at war, which is what Nigeria is; Nigeria is effectively at war, when a nation is at war, you don’t go out calling the president’s name, abusing soldiers that are laying down their lives. These are not things that are done in more appropriate climes.