By Ishola Balogun & Florence Amagiya
Like a straight arrow that knows its target and ready to pierce without missing, Dr. Frederick Fasehun, the founder of Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC), replies his critics on several allegations reported in the dailies recently. As his voice rang heavily through the tape in this interview, the Chairman of the committee for the resuscitation of Unity Party of Nigeria, UPN, reveals how the idea of the new UPN was mooted and why he has not involved some stake-holders in the region in the current arrangement.
He says the contract to protect the pipelines in the South-West which he proposed to government has not been awarded and that no amount was quoted. He bares his mind on how Nigeria can end the menace of pipelines vandalisation among other issues. Excerpts.
Recent development sets you against the ACN; as a a stakeholder in the South-West, what is the bone of contention?
Sharma Mao of China once said: ‘Let a thousand flowers blossom’ and because a thousand flowers blossomed in China, it was a good time for China socio-economically and politically. I have no personal differences with any progressive group. I have always been saying that I love Nigeria,but I love my people more. Anybody that says otherwise is a bloody liar. You first love your people and then love your country.
This is because there is no country that is mono-ethnic. All countries have ethnic building blocs. Even our colonial masters, they have Scotland, Wales, Island in Anglo-saxons, but they call it United Kingdom. It is a federation.
There, you have the Labour Party and the Conservative Party. I have nothing against the ACN and I want to believe ACN has nothing against me. But why are we thinking Dr. Fasehun has brought UPN to disorganise the South-West? Did the ACN disorganise the South-West when it came and took the South-West from PDP? It is not right to lie to a big country like this.
I didn’t form the Unity Party of Nigeria for any personal interest; I am not intending to take any elective position; but I see a lot of failures in the system. Nigeria would have been a great country but for the people.And why must you institutionalise lies, bogus propaganda just because we have political differences? For some time now, people have been telling various lies about me just because they are jittery over the resuscitation of the UPN.
This is the party a lot of Nigerians have been waiting for. Do you want the whole South West to sleep and face the same direction? In a polity that is aspiring for democracy, it is not done. People have lied against me saying I have taken hundreds of millions of naira from Jonathan.
I told one person who hinted me about it that I can’t do such a thing. I told him that I am a straight arrow but if anyone still hold the belief that I collected money from Jonathan, then that person should go and collect his own. A few days later, they said I am being sponsored by the PDP to disorganise the South-West with a contract to protect the pipelines in the South-West. One thing is that it is the duty of every citizen to protect the pipelines because it is the economic life-line of the country which has been subjected to indiscriminate bunkering.
On the 20th of November, 2010, OPC sent a proposal to the Federal Government that ‘we are capable of procuring and providing security and surveillance along the pipelines if you give us as a contract. Is Lai Muhammed saying six million members of the OPC don’t qualify for the award of contract from our country; moreso, that we are fighting unemployment?
If we put in about 35,000 people along the pipelines, it is not only the 35,000 persons that will benefit, their families also would benefit. So, why are people criticising Dr. Fasehun even when the federal government has not approved the contract? So, I began to wonder, where did Lai Muhammed get his figures from? I have no apologies to make on that.
But what was the actual figure you quoted in the proposal?
We did not even quote any figure in the proposal. Because we wanted to work for the government, we believed that it is the federal government that will say: ‘okay we will award you this contract; what then is the cost or this is how much we will give you;’ but we have not reached that level of discussion. So, Nigerians should find out from Lai Muhammed where he got his figures from.
You mean you did not quote any figure?
I can show you the proposal, we did not. I don’t know why they are jittery over a new thing that has come to be and that might see the end of what shouldn’t be. Nigeria must change. I thought Lai Muhammed was a friend. I had seen him as a leader but leaders must be role models. So, if Lai becomes a liar, then, it is very unfortunate for the youths of this country because they will see role models as liars and we will see liars as role models. The contract has not been awarded.
Now, how did you come about the resuscitation of UPN, did you carry the Yoruba leaders, elders and other stakeholders along?
I was carried along. South-Westerners in Europe and America got together and said no, Nigeria must be saved from the brink of collapse. They took a decision that a political party that had no smear of bad records and an organisation being viewed with nostalgia is UPN and they would want to resuscitate it. So, to have a new and national party, they pointed at UPN. Having taken that decision, it became the responsibility of finding somebody to limp it, somebody to match the ideals of UPN and they chose me. I was not there, a delegation was sent to me here (his office) and they gave me the news.
I told them that I had sworn not to be in partisan politics because politics is not a sincere game here, but a game of cash-and-carry, a game of the-winner-steals-all, not only the winner takes all and that is why Nigeria is where she is. So, I told them to give me some time to consider it and they said they were to fly back and I insisted I will communicate my decision to them by telephone.
They resolved to wait and they waited. I gave them my words of acceptance the third day, after I have consulted with my own group which agreed that we have been the foot soldiers of these politicians, we have been their tugs, we have been monitoring their lives and that of their children, now we should be part of the politics. It was then I told the delegation that I have considered their request.
How about funding?
I told them I don’t have money to match the Nigerian politics and they assured me that I don’t need to buy an envelope for the organisation. That is why I said I was recruited. I came into the thinking in England and America.
So, it was mooted by Nigerians in the Diaspora?
Yes. They met and decided we should resucitate the party.
What is the stage of its registration now?
We initially got information that INEC was charging N100,000 to buy the form but later we got another conflicting information that it was N1million.
Then a good Samaritan said even if it will cost N1billion, we have to get it. He provided the money and we rushed to the bank and we sent somebody to Abuja. The person got to INEC office and met a lady (name withheld) who put some stumbling block in the way of purchasing the form. I have been told she is a mole there, that she scuttles the ambition of new political parties. Of course she will not be able to do this. I said, no problem, we will re-strategise.
But the following morning, it was splashed in the newspapers that INEC rejects UPN. That is not politicking but a deceit. When I read through the story, people don’t know that children will only fail exam when they have only sat for it. You don’t fail an exam you have not sat for. If she refuses to do her duties, we will go above her because it is our legitimate right.
What is the role of Gen. Adeyinka, Pa Fasanmi and other Afenifere bigwigs in the whole of these?
They are all my political fathers, but have you forgotten that a group of people disorganised the Afenifere. These are the characters that are true leaders of Yoruba, the Ayo Adebanjo, Pa Jakande, Pa Fasoranti, Olaniwuns, the Olu Falaes, Babatopes and the Awolowo family. Before I accepted to be in the leadership of the UPN, I went to the Matriach of the UPN and she prayed for me, and if I had seen Mama, I had seen the Awolowo family. Now, if you involved the others without doing the hatchet job, you will be exposing them to the ridicule of the ACN. I was not going to expose them to such thing, they would have read it in the newspapers, some of them have gotten in touch with me.
The only person among them that I have visited is Jakande; and I know nobody can ridicule Jakande. These characters have a way of destroying leadership, I will not subject the Yoruba leaders to the ridicule of these urchins. I know there have been roots, there have been stems, branches and leaves of the UPN, when the party is registered, I will take the certificate to them and say this is your organisation. And you see, people have been giving their support. There is only one state that has not register its membership with the party and that is Zamfara.
What about the royal fathers?
There are some of our fathers we do not want to involved in politics, like the Ooni, the Alaafin, the Olowo, the Alake, the Awujale and many others. I can swear that I did not mention it to them but it is basically to shield them from partisan politics but the day we are registered, we shall inform them of the new party.
And you hope they will give their blessings?
By the grace of God.
What is your view about the amalgamation of the opposition called APC?
I dont believe in this amalgamation. An amalgam is a mixture of various elements, each component is allowed to maintain its attributes and composition and tendencies. That is why I don’t believe in the merger. Where are the previous mergers we have had in the past? What we need now is sincere leaders and nationalistic patriots that will put us in the path of righteousness.
We will not be nationalistic if we merge political platforms. Manifestos, programmes and ideologies are from the right, left and the centre. So, where have Nigerians found sixty ideologies? When you are given the opportunity to serve your country, it is the greatest opportunity. We are nostalgic about Awolowo, Nnamdi Azikiwe and Saduana. Where are their international hotels, where are their mansions and monuments, where are their airlines and shipping companies and banks? These are great leaders. PRP founded by Aminu Kano has been woken up, and if NAP by Tunji Braitwait has been resuscitated, we have no fear that UPN will see the light of the day again.
Is it only a resuscitation of name or the ideals of the party as it were those days?
It is not the cap, or the spectacle, but the ideologies that is expressed in the welfarism and social democracy of the people. That is Awoism.
Now, how do you intend to secure the pipelines from the vandals if the contract is awarded?
You’re asking me to reveal my method to the criminals? If OPC is given the opportunity to protect the pipelines,within one year, bunkering, vandalisation will go into history. We have outlined only for the South-West which covers 5,260kilometers radius.We expect the NNPC to give the South-South to MEND; the Volunteer Force and the South East to MASSOB; the Delta area to Anioma 911; the Middle Belt to Middle Belt Congress and even the core North to ACF. We don’t want to continue to be tied to the apron-strings of the politicians as their foot soldiers. ‘Don’t give me fish, teach me how to catch fish’.
How do you intend to combine the two responsibilities should the government award the contract as your UPN sets for politicking?
I have been managing the OPC now for 19years. In that span of time, I must have acquired some management technique and integrity to be able to keep 6million youth together for 19 years. I hope to use that experience. It is nothing but self-discipline and integrity.
Don’t you think people might see OPC in the garb of UPN and vice-versa or how do intend to strike a balance between the two?
OPC is set to defend our people and ensure that justice is done and that is what we will continue to do. Again, we are not going to practice the politics of hostilities, conflicts and confrontations. Certainly not. I have spoken earlier to debunk the lies against OPC and my person. I don’t need billions of naira. We will go on manifesting politics without bitterness and at all levels and to all parties and at every forum.
Based on what the country has witnessed in the last few years, what is your idea of leadership in 2015?
Whoever that emerges as the president must be in charge. He must be able to say no, we won’t give amnesty to those who have killed toddlers, who have burnt churches. Amnesty in the Nigerian context has a definition which was provided by Yar’Adua. You must first submit your arms, veils and come to table. That is why amnesty is succeeding. Some of our leaders unfortunately want a blank cheque to be written in the name of Boko Haram as amnesty.
I have also told the President that those who are seeking for amnesty for Boko Haram must also know where they live, must know their names. It is not proper to just give out money for their representatives to distribute amongst them. They must first answer to the definition of amnesty. Let us also take a look at the records of the dead. Why are you considering amnesty for ghosts without the records of the dead ones. Is it fair?
Going by the reports that Boko Haram members have been traced to Lagos, do you have any fear that these terrorists will invade South West and if you do, what will you do?
I don’t have any fear they will come to Lagos and I don’t believe these rumours making the rounds about Boko Haram in Lagos. They did not go to Alausa, Ikoyi or Victoria Island or the GRAs, they went to Badia. They don’t operate like that. In any case, when security operatives want some money from the government, they scare the government and they begin to panic.
We are Nigerians, we know what is going on. So far, they have limited their operations to the north, because that is their territory. What reason will they advance to the international community for attacking the South-West. Again, you asked a hypothetical question, (long pause) we will not run into the bush. South-Westerners will not run into the bush.
I didn’t say that, but we will not run into the bush. We will defend our territory. I hope you understand that in warfare, every method is right.