Founder of Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC), Dr. Fredrick Fasehun, in this illuminating interview with ASST. POLITICS EDITOR, Daniel Kanu, speaks on the state of the nation, President Goodluck Jonathan’s leadership, Boko Haram menace, South West integration and the MKO Abiola mystique among other national issues.
What is your take on the consistent bombings in the North
It is unfortunate especially as it is carried out indiscriminately. We have had relative insecurity in the North, but insecurity in the land in recent times has taken over our national life, nobody feels safe anymore. You are not safe no matter where you are, whether in the church, mosque, on the road, in the hospitals, in schools, in the market, in fact nowhere is anybody safe now. It is a terrible pervasive situation. We deceive ourselves by the method we have been adopting to tackle problems of insecurity. Why are we insincere? Nigeria belongs to all of us. Every Nigerian is a stakeholder, therefore we should all be interested in the future of the country. No country has a future where insecurity is pervasive, where peace is absent. Where you don’t have peace and security you cannot nurture democracy, which is why I said we are deceiving ourselves. We think we have democracy? No, we have civilianised government. We don’t have democracy yet. We are lucky that we have some individuals in our national life that have sworn to provide good leadership that will usher in good government, but Nigerians themselves have not allowed peace to rein. People have been threatening the polity that if A wins election B will make the country ungovernable for A. If elections come and it is not in our favour then there will be bloodshed. You don’t put on such air, more so that this frightening statements are coming from national leaders. These frightening statements constitute a looming threat to the polity and this is why Jonathan should adopt the security operatives to do their work. If anybody makes a statement that undermines the integrity of the country let us ask the person why he made such statement, that is where security operatives come in. No one individual is greater than the nation. The country is greater than all of us. If all of us keep making flippant and exciting statements where will Nigeria be? In a situation where individuals feel bigger than the country, insecurity is its fruit.
Do you think that President Jonathan is doing enough to tackle this menace?
No. That is why I said Nigerians are insincere with themselves. We are not doing anything proactively to curb insecurity. Now look at the Boko Haram issue, members of the group are Nigerians and if they have been found to have posed a looming threat to the present and future of their country can’t we invite them to talk with them. Let us ask them questions on why they have taken up arms against their country, against the citizens of their own country. But we have consistently said there will be no dialogue. We dialogued to settle the South-South problem, we dialogued to end the civil war. If we have the experience of dialogue that have provided peace why can’t we adopt that method to guarantee peace for our country?
But the Boko Haram sect is faceless unlike the Niger Delta militants?
Who said Boko Haram is faceless? Are they spirits from the outer planet? Did the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, not make donations to some of their victim’s families? He is a national figure, we can ask him how he can help. We can ask him whether he has more information and there is nothing about it if it provides the solution for peace. Why are they concentrated in Borno? We need to know. Let the security operatives do their job well, but they are not doing that. How can anybody call them faceless? That is part of the insincerity. How honest to Nigeria’s citizenry are the security operatives? If our security operatives can uncover armed robbery, assassination, kidnapping etc, why are they finding it difficult to say we have found the leader of Boko Haram? This is a group that makes statements, we read their statements in the newspapers, on the Internet and through different media communications so how can anybody say they are faceless? It is gross insincerity.
You are looking at the neglect of the people or perhaps injustice in the land as reasons that created the Boko Haram monster but many believe it’s more of a Jihad war against the Christians
Were they born Jihadists or the society turned a Jihad on them? Look, a hungry man is an angry mind and a hungry person dies gradually. A suicide bomber dies suddenly, so he sits down to determine which one is better, dying slowly and gradually or make a point and die suddenly. It is the society that will now convince both not to die by feeding the hungry ones and assuaging their anger and also persuading the one that wants to die a sudden death that there is future, that there is hope. Nobody is doing that in Nigeria, Nigerians are left on their own and you do what you like with your life. The death of a new baby in the United State will be investigated, it doesn’t matter where the person is from. But here people die just like that and nobody cares. Government will even be saying let them die that they are too many, so we go on killing ourselves like flies. There should be a system that should say there is hope, let us work together, let us allow peace to reign so that insecurity may be minimised and democracy will be nurtured and all this must come through good governance, but nobody is doing that.
Are you not really bothered about the fear that Boko Haram may gradually creep into the South West and then south East as they are gradually spreading their tentacles of violence?
I am not bothered because Boko Haram has no territorial ambition. If they have territorial ambition it is then they will come to the South West or South East or Chad or Libya. They said they are angry because nobody cares for them, that nobody takes them into consideration in the scheme of things. I know Boko Haram will not come to the South West. People have asked me the question several times. What are they coming to do in the South West? The South West is not interested in annexing an inch of another people’s land and nobody should aspire to acquire an inch of our territory.
But what of if they dare?
I don’t want to speculate, but I know they will not. Nobody will dare.
You have always condemned corruption. What do we really need to do bearing in mind that we also have anti-corruption agencies?
We have anti-corruption agencies that do not make use of our anti-corruption laws. Don’t we have security operatives? We do. Even our statutory books are full of anti-corruption laws. There are some times that the judiciary embarrasses itself so the security operatives must be sincere to its duty. Insincerity in high places is the bane of the Nigerian society. Though we swear during oath taking to serve in honesty but immediately after that they will begin to do the opposite. There have been leaders of security operatives that have been punished for doing their work the right way and the society has not been asking questions. We revere money, nobody reveres integrity anymore, whereas in the past it was integrity, good name, good family and our people believed then that with integrity money will come. He that runs after integrity money runs after the person but now people run after money any day and nobody cares about our past culture. That is why Nigeria has become virtually a cultureless society. Culture is not just dancing and singing, it embraces moral attitude. Not many people can boast of their moral standing now, so until we start inculcating the characteristics of that moral attitude Nigeria will not change.
Do you see any hope in the South West integration?
Those who split the South West into states had no reason to do so. What was their reason? It was purely political, they wanted to disintegrate the South West so that they could control them. They saw the South West a giant that had to be tamed – a political giant, an economic giant, cultural giant, etc. We must reintegrate because we speak the same language, we have the same ancestor, and we share various other things so why disintegrate us in the first place? Now that the opportunity is showing its face that we had no reason to have been disintegrated we have to integrate because it is in our best interest.
Don’t you think we are going back to our First Republic structure of regionalism?
Who says regionalisation was anti-Nigeria? No. We are nostalgic about the first republic. It provided ground for healthy competition that had development as its focus; it had Nigeria as its aim. We were fractured, why were we fractured? We have since discovered that it was unfair to the black race, the greatest, and the biggest black man’s pride. It is part of the mistakes that led to where we are now. We did not have oil at that time, we had agriculture and the products of agriculture and we were in the vanguard of development in the black world. But the moment we discovered oil, oil became a curse. Now oil is responsible for 95 percent of our economy. Why should it be so? What about the minerals in Nasarrawa? What about the palm oil in Imo, the tin in Jos, what about the cocoa in the South West? The coal in Enugu, we have abandoned all that. Why are there no groundnut pyramids? No more cocoa mountains, all that we do is to rely on oil. It is sad that the oil that is supposed to be a blessing is pauperising us. We need somebody to show us where we are coming from because we don’t know where we are going. If you don’t know where you are going and you don’t know where you are coming from then you are doomed. We know where we are coming from but we don’t know where we are going. Nigeria is at a crossroads.
The South West and indeed some other progressive minds are insisting that the late Chief Moshood Abiola must be recognised as elected president as a better way of immortalising him?
I share in that position. It is a sentimental issue. Somebody contested an election and won, but instead of allowing him the dividends of the victory we arrested him and killed him, so it becomes a sentiment of every Nigeria of goodwill. Now we waited for about six years for the electoral commission to speak and the commission has spoken that Abiola won that election. But even if we declare him the president now is he going to occupy Aso Rock villa? No, but there is the need to declare him to clear our conscience. Why are we shying away from declaring him president? Why have they refused to do it?
Given your status in the country Nigerians think you must know the reason?
The powers that be, having committed that atrocity against the people of Nigeria and there are still many of them around, don’t want to be pointed to as people who contributed to Nigeria’s failure to democratise. The fact that we have failed to democratise is affecting us badly. What created OPC, MASSOB, MOSOP, Egbesu, Arewa Youths etc? These are results of failure to democratise and it emanated from the failure of June 12 and the death of President Abiola. We had the best president that didn’t govern Nigeria, we should have the president that was good for Nigeria but was not allowed to govern Nigeria. Let Nigerians start calling him President Abiola. Nobody can arrest us for that.
The Federal Government just named the University of Lagos after him but people are kicking against it
I do not see that as befitting for Abiola. There are many national monuments that could be named after Abiola. What about the national stadium in Abuja. He was a pillar of sports in the whole of Africa. Why can’t we build a massive hall in UNILAG, you can call it the Abiola monument. Much as I believe on many policies of President Jonathan, I don’t see eye to eye with him on renaming UNILAG. There are people that have graduated from UNILAG and they are emotionally attached to that name, so why do you give them emotional discontentment? There are many things the FG should have done to immortalise Abiola. Why not immortalise Abiola on our currency?
When you assess the nation’s democracy, what do you see?
I do not see democracy. If Nigeria was a democratic country we won’t be in so much mess. Nobody can sleep with his eyes closed again. Nobody is safe any longer, so does democracy grow out of chaos and confusion and insecurity? No. Does democracy grow out of pervasive discontentment? No. my own definition of democracy is pervasive contentment under the rule of law. People wake up and they are assured of basic things of life like food, clothing, shelter, good health security, job, good education, name them. We are just deceiving ourselves by saying that we have democracy. We have Goodluck Ebele Jonathan a civilian President. We will continue to pray for him that God in his mercy will guide him aright to introduce democracy into Nigeria.
Do you believe that President Jonathan is slow in his approach to governance?
People have forgotten that Jonathan is an intellectual and he has to look before he leaps. Nigeria is a very difficult and complex country to govern. The truth is that we do not expect Jonathan to fix the country in 100 days in office or overnight. These are problems that have accumulated over decades through mismanagement by various governments. Jonathan is not a magician, he needs time. But what we are saying is that he must be seen as doing the right thing. If he leaps and makes a mistake, Nigerians will shout so for me let him do the right thing and the development will follow suit.
What is your reaction to the scandal involving House of Reps subsidy report committee chairman, Farouk Lawan?
I think every Nigerian should be worried. The presumed war against corruption must be fought to a conclusion nationwide and we thank God that this thing did not surface during the protest against subsidy. If it had surfaced that period it will break Nigeria to pieces. This is a question of being holier than thou and, as we know, what goes around comes around. Patricia Etteh was probably the most innocent person that went through that House going by latest developments but see the way she was forced out and who was instrumental to her exit? It was Farouk Lawan who was then preaching holier than thou through the Integrity Group. We now know that the Integrity Group is far from having integrity because when the head is bad the body is rotten. So, to who will Nigeria turn to for good leadership? The things happening are as changeable as the British weather. So which do we now take the original report or the one that has now re-introduced somebody else’s name? Where is the credibility of the report of that committee now? I think if you ask me it’s gone.
There are still very strong voices that say the report must be implemented despite the indictment on the committee chairman?
I can assure you that there will be people that will ask which of the report do we implement. The one that didn’t contain Femi Otedola’s name or the one that contains his name. Where is the credibility of that report? For me the best outlet for the government is to dismiss the report and for the committee chose credible Nigerians who are not in the House and spice them with people from the National Assembly. We are all Nigerians, we are all stakeholders and there is the need to look beyond the lawmakers to get out something more meaningful as solution.