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Exclusive: Democracy Has No Benefit If Political Leaders Are Billionaires, With Pauperised Masses – Prof. Olufunmilade

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Prof. Femi Olufunmilade

A Professor of International Relations and Strategic Studies at the Igbinedon University, Okada, Edo State, Femi Olufunmilade has bared his mind on the worrying trend of military coup in Africa.

 

Prof. Femi Olufunmilade

Recall that few days ago, Gabonese soldiers overthrew President Ali Bogo just about two months after Niger military junta seized power in the West African nation. This is in addition to earlier military take overs in Mali and Burkina Faso, Guinea among other countries in Africa.

 

 

Professor Olufunmilade, who is the Director, Buratai Center for Contemporary Security Affairs, Igbinedion University, Okada, Edo State while speaking to Njenje Media News said it is stupid telling a suffering people that a civilian autocrat who cannot be removed through a free and fair election is better than a military junta. He noted that the people in the affected countries themselves called on the military to strike.

 

“What’s the benefit of a democracy in which political leaders are becoming billionaires while the masses are pauperised and conditions of living are now worse off today than in 1999 when the so-called democratic rule began?

 

“The cliche that the worst form of democracy is better than the best military rule is a lie in our case”, he surmised.

 

 

Prof. Olufunmilade went back memory lane as he said he was among those actively fought against military rule in the 1980s through the 90s.

 

“As an undergraduate, I was one of the executors of the 1989 anti-SAP riot that nearly toppled the Babangida administration.

 

“I was fearless to a fault then. That was why Uncle Bola Ige fell in love with me and we did covert work together. I knew Abacha would die in June 1998. I was returning to Ibadan from Lagos on a foreign asylum exploration trip on 8th June when he died.

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“I became a friend of General Abdulsalami Abubakar as Head of State because I was in the camp of those supporting his transition programme to return us to democratic rule. We are friends till date. Our friend, Pastor Emmanuel Akpan, when we stayed together at FODACIS in Ibadan, once received General Abubakar’s direct call, whereupon he ran to my room in surprise and excitement that the Head of State wanted to talk to me.

 

“I’m saying these rather private things to let you know I’m not the right person to be admonished on the advantages of democracy over autocracy. ”

 

He revealed that he was the person who delivered Tinubu’s cash support to the not-too buoyant Lam Adesina towards the gubernatorial election of March 1999. 

 

“I was the one who took custody of the original draft documents of the Alliance for Democracy conceived and registered by Bola Ige.”

 

On how the Alliance for Democracy (AD) was registered, he said:

 

“AD wasn’t qualified for registration, going by the criteria of national spread. But we used our connection with General Abubakar to get a presidential waiver!”

 

“I was one of the brains that started Congress for Progressive Change with General Muhammadu Buhari. He used to personally sign any letter assigning me any role in the party then. That he got 12 million votes in 2011 was the product of our brainwork. Our entire campaign budget was about N800 million at a time the PDP had allocated N3 billion per state to win the presidential election. All we had was N800 million for the whole country and we could have won then, if we had a strong politician from the South as Buhari’s running mate.

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Olufunmilade, a former SDP Presidential aspirant also revealed that he was one of those who conceived the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

 

“Yes! In fact, I authored two sections of its manifesto and was on its Presidential Campaign Council. ”

 

“Of course, I’ve been also a presidential aspirant since 2018, helping to bring SDP into limelight.

 

“So, I’m not just a politician, I’m a democrat. Above all, I’m a Professor of Political Science.”

 

He said with his stated background, it is a food for thought if he’s now warning on the caricatures of civil autocratic rule masquerading as democracy in some African countries and now collapsing, one after the other.

 

“I saw these coups coming. They are inevitable. If President Biya dies today, we are likely to have a full-blown civil war in that country, except there’s some deft diplomatic intervention”, Olufunmilade said.

 

“None of the countries where the coups are taking place in West Africa and now Central Africa is a democracy in the true sense of the concept. They’re civil autocracies where one man or one family in one party rules indefinitely, with election being a sham ritual to legitimise the illegitimate”.

 

He warned leaders in power in Nigeria to better sit up and lead in an exemplary manner, noting that the country’s problems got to this excruciating point for the suffering masses, due to the recklessness of the political class, who loot mind-boggling sums of money daily without consequences. He warned that the people are watching.

 

 

 

“We had a good economy running in 1979 when General Obasanjo handed power over to civilians.

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“By the time the military struck four years later, we had no foreign exchange left in our treasury to import basic items. That was why Essential Commodities became a critical agenda of the military administration that threw out Shagari.

 

“Today, compare the value of the Naira in 1999 when the military surrendered power to civilians and the cost per liter of fuel and commodity prices across the board to what they are now! The rise in crime has been directly proportional to the rise in economic hardship.

 

 

He averred that Democracy is an ideal form of government due to certain assumptions.

 

“For example, it is assumed that when the people’s votes truly count, the leadership will work for the people. But do votes truly count in the countries where the military are taking over?”, he asked.

 

 

He however advised that rather than wail over the useless leaders being thrown into the garbage dump of rotten history, Africans should be interrogating the pathway to democratic systems that will, indeed, work for the good of the majority of citizens.

 

“Each country has to look into its peculiar circumstances and evolve a system that will work for it, rather than swallow the Western model of democracy hook-line-and-sinker.”

 

“Countries like Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso, Guinea, and Gabon, have a great opportunity to go back to the drawing board, gather their best brains in an inclusive manner that brings all groups and stakeholders on board, to evolve a democratic system that will lead to good governance and the stability that goes with such”, he added.


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