INTERVIEW: The death of Prophet T.B Joshua has left a hole in my heart —Dr. Olusegun Philips Alonge

 Dr. Olusegun Phillips-Alonge is an Akoko born civil engineer and industrial economist through education and professional practice. Nonetheless, he embraces and enjoy his  roles as a people-oriented grassroot organizer, community and polity developer. A  visionary leader  and civil rights advocate. He is  also  a politician in the real sense. He speaks with The Focus Magazine Publisher  on some national issues and many more. Excerpt

How can you assess our democracy in the last twenty-two years ago?

If I have my way, I’ll suggest we defer this big question for now. Be it as it may, I will start by saying becoming a democratic society is the right step in the right direction. However, our democracy directly reflects who we are as a people, race, culture, and nation. Democracy is still new to us, and we are yet to grasp the fundamental principles of democracy fully. For the most part, we are still grappling with institutionalizing democracy because the tripod on which democracy is founded (civil rights, equality, and accountability) is not a natural component of our culture. Like every beginner, we have made and continue to make our mistakes, which can be good or bad depending on if we can learn from these mistakes. In many respects, twenty-two years is more like a second in history. It will take a while longer before democracy as an emerging cultural element achieves seamless blending with our society's more prominent cultural bedrock, the framework of which is as diverse as we are as a people. We can only experience and expect the fruits of democracy only when we reach this homogenous and consistent cultural meshing point.  

Would you say we have achieved much, and if not, what do you think we can do?

While we have made a great deal of progress toward assimilating democracy as a critical cornerstone of our culture and society, but much work needs to be done.
We have the impossible challenge of rooting out corruption and impunity that typifies our democracy. We have to turn the corner in running people-first and public security-oriented policies that can lead to economic liberation.

 Above all, we must end loot-o-cracy in the form of lack of accountability on the parts of the elected officers and political appointees who convert public resources for their benefits or in the form of vote-buying. None of these is democracy. Over and above all, we have a tremendous amount of work to do on ensuring the guarantees of civil rights are no longer tramped on as we see in the areas of police brutality, freedom of speech, separation of power, freedom of gathering, the rights to dissent, and religious tolerance. Just cast your mind back to the EndSARS fiasco, the Twitter brouhaha, and the oppressive connotation that comes with being an officeholder in Nigeria. We must learn that leadership in democracy is a public servant contrary to the above the fray and Lord of the Manor connotation of leadership in our traditional systems. There is too much basal impunity woven into our culture, and it makes it hard for us to respect the will of the people; it gives the officeholders a sense of entitlement and the free pass to flout the rules without consequences. I guess equality is a better antidote to this sort of basal impunity. Democracy is all about egalitarianism, and we are not there quite yet. Credible, free, and fair elections are the cornerstone of an enduring democracy. 

Unfortunately, our elections are too marred in violence, impunity, suppression of the people's will, vote-buying, and corruption to produce any credible and effective leadership. 

You have traveled far and near, what is your assessment of governance in Nigeria?

It is not fair to assess the governance in Nigeria with the same yardsticks as those of western nations. However, on an objective basis, considering the accomplishments of our forebearers. I will rate the leadership and government in Nigeria since independence a solid failure, a total disappointment and an abject deviation from the norm. The personal political and economic agendas of individuals have so trumped the public interest and the collective good of the people. 

The bad governance of today is a result of officeholders pursuing political promotion and personal accomplishments instead of delivering effective public service. 

The government system has become so corrupted and abused to the point that the country is self-destroying. Nigeria has reeled from one self-inflicted injury to another and is now crippled by a retrogressive government system. 

A lot of people have been clamoring for restructuring of the country, how do you see the agitations?

There are no other workable alternatives. Restructuring is what we should have done from the onset of democracy in 1999. Our population is just too much to be governed from a very distant and disaffected center. I have always believed that the most effective way of solving societal problems is to empower the people affected by the issues to provide the best solutions that fit their cultural, socio-political, and economic framework.
We need to shift resource management and issue resolution back to the people at the grassroots. 

Devolution of power will be a tremendous help, and it will undoubtedly spur positive growth and change the narratives of government negligence to that of care and support. 

Do you welcome the agitations for the local government autonomy, how?

Yes, local government autonomy is long overdue. We should even be operating autonomous city and community government until no just independent local government is in time. Unfortunately, we are too far behind. We need to hasten up and get back on track by doing the needful by devolving power and governance to the lowest community levels.  

Recently, Mr. President tackles the state Governor's for not justify the security funds they are being collected to fight insecurity in their state. How do view it?

It is still the same sixth and sixpence. So, why give security allowance to the governors? Why not directly to every city and local government authorities and the local security outfits where accountability and transparency will be much easier to achieve. If you arrogate that much power to a single individual, they indeed will abuse it. The federal government is as culpable as the state governments it tried to throw under the bus for precisely what the Federal government should have envisaged and prevented. 

He also said that they destroyed the local government system by collecting the money due to them and at the end of the day given them little amount to operate, what is your comment?

That does not make any sense. Give the money to each local government. The President just agreed with my assertions that we still do not fully understand how democracy works. What stops the federal government from directing the Central Bank to credit each local government directly? Aren’t the local governments supposed to be a government agency? Even if you say we operate a single unitary account system, each local government should have its cost center numbers and charge codes that are only accessible by the duly elected local government leaders. The state governor cannot access or use the funds in the local government purse.

 Our idea of democracy is still the Kabiyesi system, a lion controlling the jungle kind of thing. The idea of the state electoral body just filling the local government positions with the Governor’s handpicked yes men must end if we must have a virile local government system capable of solving our issues. 

One of the serious problem confronting the country now is the issue of insecurity, what do you think we can do to tackle it?

It is such a shame that the simplest of all the issues is what troubles us the most. Keep the federal police where it belongs, in the national capital and their local buildings. 
Let every community be  self-police, the police force as it is today, is just too weak, too antiquated and honestly too small to secure our communities effectively. 

A lot of problems is facing the people of the Ondo North Senetorial district, do you think those that have been representing us have done enough?

I am just one voice. But, if election results are the yardstick for performance, I think the people of Ondo North answered your question without any doubts. 
However, I know differently. So whatever I say will be very subjective because I ran for office against one of the people currently representing us. It is my observation and conclusion that the Ondo North has not received any fair shake at the Senatorial level for the past decade. 

 Recently, we lost one of our illustrious son in person of Prophet T.B Joshua, how do you feel about it?

You just touched a very sore point in my heart, and it aches me badly. While the world may be mourning the loss of a prophet, I am so heavily saddened to have lost such an irreplaceable brother and benefactor.

 The world and perhaps Akoko Land more precisely, has lost a critical pillar of hope. It is hard to remain the same again; the death of Prophet T. B. Joshua has left a gaping hole in my heart and has taken a beacon of hope from all of us in Akoko Land.

 I will forever love and miss Prophet T. B. Joshua so much. May his humble soul find eternal rest with his maker. May God, in His infinite mercies, raises for us another beacon of hope in Akoko Land, Amen. 

What lessons do you think  our people should learn from him?

For the most part, I learn from him an unwavering dedication to duty; he built himself and his empire purely on hard work and reliance on God’s help. A deep sense of belonging to the greater good of Akoko Land and our fatherland Nigeria, I can feel his passion for the betterment of his homeland every time I visited or have a telephone discussion with him. He was always looking for a way to make things better and help, so his humility, selflessness will forever inform my pursuit of the greater good of all. You know godliness and contentment is a great gain. These are the things that separate the Prophet T. B. Joshua from the other clergies, and it is worth emulating. 

How do you see your party PDP,  do you think they still stands as opposition party?

I will only answer one part of your question  and the other part remains moot. The PDP to me is a family, a big tent of protection for people’s empowerment  and a unified Nigeria. 

What is your words of advice for members of your party PDP?

Be steadfast and be prepared; there is opportunity in adversity. This present pendulum of power will swing back again. We need to band together and work hard to catch the swing and regain the ability to be  the difference-makers for the people of our land. Thank you!