Why restructuring is only option for Nigeria —Senator Folarin

after Ramadan, you will begin to see things move apace. It is not slowing down at all.
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Senator Teslim Folarin

Senator Oloye Teslim Folarin of Oyo Central in the 9th Assembly, during a self-hosted breaking of the Ramadan fast with some constituents in Ibadan, raised some issues bothering the nation. 

Read some of his thoughts below:

Your party the All Progressives Congress (APC) is regrouping and re-strategising. How would you describe the outlook for the party in Oyo State after the registration exercise and reconciliation?

It has been very positive. It’s been very good. Am I surprised? No, because the people know that the only way to salvation is APC. 
Personally, I’m overwhelmed because even political platforms such as the ZLP are collapsing their structures into the APC unconditionally. This has never happened before. 
So, it’s been very good. APC, for me, is the party to beat, not just in Oyo State but nationwide.

What would you say is the figure you could put your membership at? Is the registration still ongoing?

No, the registration is not ongoing. It has been concluded. On the people who registered with us in the state, I would be surprised if we did not record about two million. 

I don’t have my facts, but from the reports we are getting, we should be close to two million.

This figure is surprising because even at the national level, President Muhammadu Buhari has not done well enough to encourage the kind of mass enrolment as APC members we are hearing.

In what respect?

Even you know it, sir. Insecurity, poverty, inflation, and many other things that have held the masses down are not being addressed.

Let me explain things to you as I see it and I will be as honest as possible. The president came in at a very difficult time and I think no one is happy that the country is like this. I will not say that everything is honky-dory. No! There is so much poverty; insecurity has reached an unacceptable level. Yes! But we have to trace why we have all these problems and I am surprised nobody is talking about it: It is COVID-19. 

The Coronavirus has brought the world economy almost to its knees. Nigeria cannot operate in isolation from the world economy. For those who travel a lot, and I happen to travel a lot too, I know what happens in these countries. 

In western countries, their economy is being driven by small and medium enterprises. Go there now, most of their businesses are closed, but there is a difference. The difference is that they are more organized. They know how many people live in their country. 

So, in England for instance, let’s say you earn 50,000 a month for argument’s sake, and they say ‘stay at home and we will give you 20,000 or 30,000 for staying at home and that is because they have a record. 

We don’t have such records. So, what you are seeing now is a knock-on effect of COVID and whether we like it or not, the truth of the matter is that if the western economy is still ‘sick’, we will remain ‘sick’. That is the truth of the matter. Our mainstay is oil, during this COVID, there was a time oil fell to as low as $20 per barrel, almost below the cost of production. 

The aviation sector of the economy, a major user of fuel, is almost grounded. People don’t look at these things. I’m not making excuses, we’ve always had our problems but if you add these to it, this is what you get.

How do we now link this to insecurity, banditry?

That is what I’m saying… I was speaking to someone who sells cars only a few days ago. I asked: ‘how are you coping in your business’ and he said ‘oga business has collapsed’. He cited the exchange rate and with this currency exchange rate, how is he going to bring cars? 

So, if you have ten people selling cars and they are out of business, they can’t feed their families; I’m not saying it is right, but maybe five of them would then be lured into illegal things. I’m not saying it is right, but that’s the way it is.

Some people are clamouring for Oduduwa Republic, some people are clamouring for Yoruba presidency while some people are clamouring for restructuring. As a senator, where do you belong to?

I belong to the restructuring school of thought. Thankfully, I am a member of the constitution review committee. What we need to do is to restructure. 

There is something in the constitution called the “exclusive list”. We need to get rid of that. Once we get rid of the exclusive list, we are home and dry. What it means is that every state would then have to develop at its own pace and then we will begin to hold our leaders accountable. 

We say we operate federalism, of course, we don’t. In America, all the states are independent. If you go to Miami for instance, the tax is very high. 

So, if you like you go, if you like don’t go. If you go to Boston Massachusetts, they are known for education; if you go to Texas, they are known for oil. 

Let everybody develop their own natural resources and then we pay tax to the federal government. I think with that we will be okay. Nigeria is a beautiful country in its diversity but that is only if we get it right. 

This one-size-fits-all cannot work. It has not worked. Let the Yoruba develop at their own pace. Ekiti could be the Boston of Nigeria. 

Every state in Nigeria has a lot of natural resources, the sort of natural resources we have in each state is unbelievable. 

I was talking about ‘exclusive list’ under which you then go and say the land in which these things are found belong to the federal government. It won’t work. 

So, we will do our best. Whether you have Oduduwa or others, I don’t believe in them. I believe in Nigeria. It is a beautiful project we should all support only if we restructure.

In essence are you saying that the federal government that we have now is too strong, that we should reduce the powers of the federal government?

That is what I am saying. Absolutely, that is what I am saying. I’m saying it is not sustainable for states to go cap in hand every month to Abuja and they share money to them and they come back. It breeds laziness. 

Oyo State for instance is the largest producer of cassava. It used to be Edo, Oyo State has overtaken Edo. If you look at a country like Thailand, the mainstay of their economy is cassava – the ethanol that they get there; and we know for sure that the ethanol we get in our own cassava is even better than that of Thailand! 
Breweries can use ethanol, you can use it for bread, you can use it for animal feed, you can use it for garri, and so on. 

It is only in Nigeria that you see cassava poured on the roads, these are things we can get money from but we are not utilizing the raw materials. Let us free every state. 

In this present constitution amendment, we are even saying where two states feel they want to merge, so be it. If Oyo and Osun want to merge (which I don’t think will happen for obvious reasons)

why not?

But the constitution amendment seems to be dragging... It is not dragging.

What point are we, where are we at the moment?

It is not dragging because when COVID came, it came out of the blue. It is novel; no one expected it and it shut down the whole world. 

So, that slowed a whole lot of things down because when you want to do a constitutional amendment, you will have to interact with people. 
Now, we were due to have public hearings but because Ramadan came and we Muslims argued that it’s Ramadan and it is not fair that we do it during Ramadan. 

So, after Ramadan, you will begin to see things move apace. It is not slowing down at all.

Between April 1 and May 1, there have been two invasions of markets in Ibadan. On April 1, customs from Lagos came to Ibadan in the middle of the night and raided Bodija Market. On May 1, the same custom raided another market, in Orita Merin. Where do we go with these kinds of arbitrary invasion of markets?

It is something that I am bitterly against. When I heard it, I was not happy. Because Customs is a federal agency, what I intend to do is to raise it, I am going to speak with the leadership of the Senate. 

We are not happy. It calls for a motion for us to invite them to come and explain their actions. They cannot be doing that. If you are going to arrest people, go and stay at the border. 

So, if I have rice that I want to share with people now, or if I have okada like they came the last time, they will now burst my house? It is not done, it is uncivilized.

Senator Teslim Folarin