Why I am trying to step into Awolowo’s shoes, by Fasheun

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Speaks on his rejection of Jonathan’s offer of appointment

Dr. Frederick Fasehun, leader of the newly-registered Unity Party of Nigeria and founder of the O’dua People’s Congress, OPC, is not a new face in the Nigerian socio-political arena. He has seen the good and bad times in Nigeria in his bid to push through his own idea of a better society and is still plodding on with the registration of his party, which he says is to be used to galvanise the Yoruba race and bring about good governance in Nigeria.
In this interview, Fasehun talks about his relationship with President Goodluck Jonathan and why the birth of his party became imperative barely ten months to the 2015 general elections in the country.

By Soni Daniel, Northern Region Editor

Chief Awolowo

Chief Awolowo

Can we say that the Unity Party of Nigeria just registered by INEC is the same with the one that the late Pa Awo founded and used to mobilise Nigerians to participate actively in politics?
Basically, I would say yes! The vast portion of the new UPN is in consonant with the old UPN. We are talking about absolute free education, full employment, rural-urban integration and free health. But we have expanded the programmes to make it more relevant to the current time. Free education, like I said, will be totally free from the primary to the highest level that one can attend.

And even when people graduate, they will no longer graduate into unemployment because we are going to encourage full employment in that the government will  serve as employment bureau. The government will encourage employers to generate jobs for the Nigerian people. The provision of social standard for the Talakawa will be so high that there will be joy in even being a Talakawa. People without employment will receive social benefits that will sustain their feeding, transportation and accommodation.

It appears that the new party is coming at a time that most Nigerians are fed up with more parties.
No, Nigerians are not fed up with more political parties with non-performing political parties and politicians that are not involved in democracy but in what I would call selectocracy, which is undemocratic. If you want to engage in democracy, why then do you embark on selectocracy. Democracy is a grassroots affair; let the grassroots determine its leadership. As you can see from the Ekiti result, it is truly a democratic decision by the people. Democracy is a government of the people, peopled by the people   and working for the people; and that is what you have just seen in Ekiti.

But some people criticised the process leading to the election, saying an atmosphere of fear, intimidation and harassment was put in place by the ruling party at the centre in order to snatch victory with the gun, which made a free, fair and credible election impossible.
It was free and nothing more, as it introduced enhanced security to the process. Which one would you have preferred if there was electoral warfare in Ekiti after the election? So, the tool that is available to you is what you use to secure yourself and the people.

Was it also right to stop some APC governors from attending the rally of their party?
If any governor, no matter how rich or how powerful, was going to undermine security in the course of the Ekiti election, it was absolutely appropriate for security agencies to stop them.

For instance, Governor Oshiomhole’s helicopter and Amaechi’s convoy were stopped from entering Ekiti on their way to attend the APC rally. Was it also right to have stopped them from going to Ekiti so as not to compromise security?
To be honest with you, I don’t have the report. I did not see the security report as to what gave rise to stopping them from entering Ekiti and I am not in a position to know what the cause was.

The situation in the South-west has changed politically and some of the politicians are not helping it to achieve the kind of hegemony that gave it a voice and identity in the days of Pa Awo. How are you going to bring back the unity and cohesion of the people of the region?
People of the South-west are culturally democratic. Recently politicians have come trying to introduce one-party system in the zone and the people are kicking against it That is what we are seeing and it is not that their cultural situation has changed. What they are kicking against is an attempt to introduce one-party dictatorship through one man. It is the same people that are occupying this space that were occupying the space in the time of Awo , nothing has changed politically and culturally. But what the people are kicking against is the introduction of one-party and one-man dictatorship into the culturally democratic environment.

Are you not afraid that the atmosphere has changed and that the people of the South-west may not readily accept you as they did to Awo?
I am not worried because the journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step. We will go into it and then see what happens. I know that I don’t fit into Awolowo’s shoes; but the shoes must be worn anyway, whether. they fit or they don’t fit; otherwise nobody would be   able to do what Pa Awo did. If he was alive, he would still be striving to make things better for Nigerians. So it does not matter that a new person is coming in to improve on the lifestyle of our people.

There are so many people contending to emerge as the political leaders of the South-west and by extension, the leader of the Yoruba race. Don’t you think that the leadership struggle by Yoruba leaders has the capacity to weaken the people and divide them along political lines?
The unity and stability of the South-west will depend on the educational standard of the people; that is why we are coming in at this time to prove that the people had been hoodwinked and intimidated by sheer ignorance and mischief. The quest for education will open the eyes of the people the more.

One of the slogans of the UPN is: “The veil has been removed from our eyes”. Some years back, our eyes were covered and you had various people selling themselves to the people, no longer as the Asiwaju of Isale-Eko but the Asiwaju of Yorubaland, the Asiwaju of Africa and the Asiwaju of the world and we are still waiting for the Asijwaju of the PDP and the Jagaban of the UPN. So, instead of serving the people well, you see people trying to intimidate and dominate the people.

Even in the days of Pa Awo, as erudite as he was, he did not seek to dominate the people. He gave honour to whom honour was due. He paid particular attention to the monarchs in Yorubaland but now the monarchs are nowhere because the Asiwajus have taken over and they are relegating the monarchs and even scoring them. If you don’t score high marks with the Asiwajus, you are not seen as a monarch.

That is not how to serve the people: if you are serving the people you pay particular attention to service by giving the people what they need most and allow them to rise and become the Asiwajus of their respective localities in Nigeria. This is the difference between now and what happened in Pa Awolowo’s time.

If I may ask, what is the difference between the UPN headed by Fasheun and the APC headed by Ashiwaju Tinubu?
APC is creating a dynasty; UPN wants to serve the people and our slogan is ‘’Peoples first.” Every political platform in Nigeria is now progressive. In time past, we had sinners in one camp and saints in the other.  But all of a sudden, saints started mingling with sinners and sinners were embracing the saints and before you know it, ideologies were thrown away. So, political parties in Nigeria are no longer ideological but continue to hoodwink the people and continue to intimidate and loot the treasury of the people.

Do you believe the National Conference can change the things that are holding back this country?
I am one of the eleven people that started the agitation for Sovereign National Conference in Nigeria and that was one of the reasons I did not attend the conference because what I have been saying for years formed the contents of the National Conference. If I may ask, what am I going to say at the conference that has not been said in the past other than robbing the youth of the opportunity to take part in it?

So, what I want Nigeria to be, I have said it in the past. I want Nigeria to be democratic and truly people-oriented but through honest, true leadership that will say ‘do what I do and not what I say’. I want a democracy that puts three square meals on the table for all Nigerians; and we don’t want people to go about hungry as it is the case today. The Igbo people believe in hard work and commerce, but look at them now.

The Yoruba were never a hungry people but today they are hungry. That is what we want to change. In a country that is so blessed with huge resources but bedevilled with bad leadership and leadership that has no integrity, that is why UPN has come. It is ideological, egalitarian and based on social welfare and social democracy.

Are you not afraid that the UPN is coming a bit late with just about a year to the next elections?
Unlike other political parties and politicians, UPN is not just looking at the next election but the future of Nigeria. To others, their past time is the next election but, to us, our preoccupation is the future of this country.

Fredrick Fasehun

Fredrick Fasehun

You are being described by some people as a mole of the Presidency by setting up the UPN to divide the South-west vote and pave the way for the PDP to make an inroad into Yorubaland. Have you heard such allegation directly before?
Yes, I have heard it. Some are even saying that Dr. Fasheun set up UPN to cause mayhem in the South-west. But I think those who are saying that have warped mentality. If anybody was going to cause mayhem in the South-west, the last person to do so would be Dr. Fasheun. What I have been doing all my life is to make sure that the South-West is absolutely secure. So, for people to now wake up and say that Dr. Fasheun is setting up UPN to cause mayhem is irresponsible.

If I may ask, when people set up ACN to push out PDP of the South-west, did they cause mayhem? If I was a disciple of Jonathan, who would have stopped me from joining PDP? Should I have gone through all the problems of forming another political party? I would take the easiest way by finding my way to PDP rather than going to found a political organisation that would become an auxiliary to the main party. I would never do a thing like that.

So what is your relationship with President Jonathan and what is your view on how he has so far administered the country?
I have no special or unusual relationship with President Jonathan. He is the President and I will give him his constitutional respect as the leader of this country, but that is the end of it. I am happy that my people are here and can testify that I was invited about a year ago to come and take up a board chairmanship and I turned it down. It is not even a year now. I am going to be 79; I don’t need any public office anymore.

Why are you not keen on taking up public office? Are you more interested in remaining a kingmaker than a servant of the people?
Not so.  It is because public service in Nigeria is associated with lack of accountability and I am a very accountable person. I believe that once I mingle with those in power who are even mistakenly being dubbed as corrupt I would also be dubbed as corrupt after so many years of crusading against corruption. I won’t like such an experience. That is why I refused to take on that responsibility. I believe that the youth should also be given the opportunity to run this country. What am I going to do in the public service? To earn a salary, build a house or buy a car? Let a younger person  render service to the people.

Given what you have known and seen in Nigeria, is there anything that now worries you about the nation?
What worries me about Nigeria is the high level of insecurity, instability, impunity and corruption. These are the things that worry me about Nigeria and once you remove impunity, law order will come in and corruption will fizzle out.

But the government says it has done enough to tackle corruption and impunity in Nigeria. Are you satisfied with the corruption fight being waged by the administration?
Don’t confuse personal traits with natural occurrences. Are there no statute books in our land to tackle the problem? We have enough laws to tackle the challenges starring us on the face. It is the people that execute the laws.

But some readily blame the leadership for the failure?
The leadership is not the judge, the warder in prison, the policeman on the road and the lecturer in the classroom. That is why I said earlier that the leadership should be the type who can say ‘do what I do and not what I say’.

Look at the man who stole pension funds in billions but asked to pay a few thousand Naira and he was left off the hook.
Was he not defended by a lawyer? Was there no judge in the court? These are the issues that make me say that Nigerians are the cause of most of their problems.

Where is OPC at the moment?
OPC is there waxing stronger and stronger.

Waxing stronger with two leaders?
No, this is always the mistake by the media over OPC. You don’t have two leaders in OPC: you have the founder; you have the president and the coordinator. The president is not a coordinator, the founder is not the coordinator and coordinator cannot be the founder and the president. That is the situation. We have achieved the core values of the group. We thank God that the South-west is doing well in terms of peace and stability as a result of the intervention of the OPC.

What is your honest advice to the president to govern Nigeria given the way things are going?
I would ask him to look at the programmes of past leaders in the country and build on the foundation of those leaders and avoid their weaknesses. Government should be a continuous thing and not continual. If a leader has left a legacy but has some shortfalls, copy his legacy and forget his shortfalls.

All we want is to have security, good standards of living, rule of law, good governance and so on. So, Jonathan should stick to the good things that our past leaders have done and forget about the bad ones so as to build a good future for the people.

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