Professor Eyitayo Lambo was a former Minister for Health in the former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration.
A card carrying member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), he was a lecturer of Health Economics at the University of Ilorin bofore moving to the World Health Organisation (WHO) from he got appointed as Minister of Health by President Olusegun Oxasanjo in 2003.
At a social function with some Journalists, he bares his mind on the 2015 elections, the American Intelligence Agency’s doomsday prediction about Nigeria and several other burning issues. Thegazellenews.com’s ABIOYE OLANREWAJU was at the no hold barred interview and here are the excerpts:.
Can we meet you sir?
My name is Professor Eyitayo Lambo, a former minster during President Olusegun Obasanjo’s second term in office.
As a former cabinet member in the federal executive council, what can you say on the state of the nation?
Well, things are not all that okay but it could be better. There are a number of challenges; I can name them. Number one is insecurity. Number two insecurity. Number three insecurity and after that I want to say as number four, state of our roads in the country. This is a big challenge. Another challenge is power. After that, it is corruption.
Though government is doing something about these challenges, we still have a long way to go. If we must move forward especially in our aspiration to be among the first 20 nation in the world by year 2020, if we don’t do better on these, I would say we are just joking about our aspiration. If we must get to the promise land, a place where we are counted as one of the first 20 nations in the world, we must address those problems not by cosmetic approaches but by fundamental approaches.
When you have fundamental problems, you require fundamental solutions. I recognize the fact that the government is pursuing a transformation agenda in the various sectors of the economy but this transformation agenda would have performed seriously perhaps, in another five years things would have been crystallizing and then we could say we were on the path to becoming one of the greatest nations in the world.
The year 2015 is not too far from here. What is your view on the President Goodluck Jonathan and the PDP continuity music?
Well, I won’t say anything about any person particularly but what bothers me in this country is that we would not have finish an election before people start talking of another one.
We had the last election in 2011, a day after the results were announced, people started preparing for 2015 elections, I am totally against this. It is nauseating and unacceptable because instead of elected office holders to work out how to address the problems and fulfil promises made to the electorate, without even spending a day in office doing what they were elected for, they start thinking of the next elections. In civilized countries, it is what you do, your performances while in office that would determine whether or not you are to be given another chance. Here in Nigeria, things are not like that perhaps because they already know that votes don’t count. They are not accountable to anyone.
If I may tell you this, I am very much afraid of 2015 and I say that with all seriousness because of the signs that we are seeing now. Some people are very desperate; if you play the tape back to 2011, you will recall all kind of threats that, some said if they are not elected they would make Nigeria ungovernable and since 2011 you can see all manner of breach of peace, I am not saying that certain people are responsible for all these and I don’t know who is behind them and what every body is talking about is that Boko Haram people that are causing insecurity in the country; so what I am saying is that there were threats in 2011 and today, we can see it materialize. Now people are making another threat towards 2015.
Going by the level of insecurity, the pronouncements made by some people if we are not very, very careful, 2015 may be a turning point in our history as a nation. Let it not be said, I heard of a statement credited to an American agency, CIA or whatever, saying that by 2015 the would be no Nigeria, well the point is, if we allow all that is happening right now in the country to continue, I am afraid that we may give credibility to what was predicted or prophesied about Nigeria. If people go to elections in 2015 with this kind of desperation that “I must contest and I must win, if I don’t win then there will be hell on earth”, then I am afraid, ‘the future may not be as futuristic’, like an old school teacher of mine would say; But I pray and like children of God are also praying but we must match our prayers with actions, they say ‘heaven helps those who helps themselves’; we cannot be in sin, we cannot just say we want a bright future for our country and yet we are doing things that will make us take many steps backward, so I am fearful about 2015, so I have joined others in praying so that the prediction of the west would not be fulfilled over our country.
You mentioned issue of voter’s apathy and the fact that votes don’t count, can you tell us when last you went to a voting centre to cast your vote in choosing a President of Governor?
I am happy you asked this question; I would confess, this is an open confession and I have no regrets in making this confession. My confession is this; the first time I voted in my life was in 2003. Whenever there was going to be an election, I arranged with my family and travel abroad; I did this because votes don’t count. I remember in my second year in the University of Ibadan as a student. There was to be an election in the western part of the country and a prominent politician said on TV that whether people voted for their party or not they are going to win and it happened, since then I said if I was qualified to vote I would not vote. The first time I voted was 2003 and look at the irony of life, little did I know that I was going to be part of that government, it was my wife who coax me so to say. I said that I cannot queue, so she went there and queued.
After casting her vote she ran to my office and begged me to come and do same, so luckily, I didn’t have to queue for more that one minute, I have serious apathy myself, I must confess to you; I voted not because I want to be part of government, I was not a politician, I was invited to join government. I don’t know if I am going to vote in 2015, it all depends on the kind of utterances that usher us into 2015. I think rather than waiting for the time to vote I would rather spend all my time from now praying for the country, the country needs a lot of prayers and I think children of God should continue. I always say that I don’t think there are many nations that pray like Nigeria; then I wonder what could have become of Nigeria if we don’t pray as much as we do for our country. In spite of our entire prayers look at what is happening. I think that it didn’t get worse than this, it is because prayers.
You just confirmed that elites don’t usually vote in elections but there is this adage ‘the wise who fail to rule or take part in ruling would suffer the reign of fools’, what advise do you have for elites in this country?
That is a wrong question, I just told you about my own apathy, the truth is that even if all the elites go out to vote, elites are in the minority, people, the larger population of voters are poor, giving them five hundred naira (N500) for that moment makes a lot of difference in their life; that money means momentary solution to their poverty for that moment so they vote for the money coming from the giver. People don’t vote for the personality of the person giving them money, they vote for their money. It means that even if all the elites that constitutes the minority cast their votes as long as the voter sell their votes, their conscience.
So I would urge people who are not as bad as me or who are not pessimistic as me to go and vote but I tell you, the votes of the elites don’t matter, it is the act of educating the populace that matters, talking to these people who can be easily bought over with money. At the local levels, we organized and I participated in enlightening the people against selling their conscience and votes for money, it depends on the people but you will find out that overnight, politicians come visiting with money bags and before you know it, a wrong person is there again. So rather than talking to the elites, I would advice the populace. When money bags come to you, accept the money that they brought for you, in fact the money they are giving to you is not their own, they stole it from us, take their money and then vote for someone the trusted person, who can do good for our society, one who know will deliver on promises and take them away from bondage.
Do you see any prospect in the on going reconciliation effort by PDP to unite warring factions?
I carry PDP membership card, which I started carrying since 2003 when it became imperative that as a minster, I have to join the party in power but I have not been active playing politics as a member of PDP. The truth is that PDP has problems, if you like call it our party, PDP has problems and they have to sit down to tackle the problems because if this is not done, APC is coming with a sweep, what is going on is even good. When you have a strong ruling party, a strong opposition party will make for better government, not a situation where you have a strong party and other mushroom parties in opposition. If the party in power knows that there is a formidable opposition party that can force them out of power, they would sit down and do what is right. That is why I said PDP has problems and sitting down to solve these problems is the only way out and these can only be done by very honest people who will be frank to apportion blames to deserving persons; otherwise, I may not be able to say what could be the end of this crises that is going on.