By Chioma Gabriel, Editor Special Features
Founder of Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC) and National Chairman of Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), Dr. Frederick Fasehun, in this encounter talked about the state of the nation including the economy, corruption, the clampdown on judges and alleged marginalisation of the entire south among other things.
The economic situation of the country is getting worse, there’s so much hunger in the country. What do you think is the way forward?
It was a long time ago, when the military took over that it all began. The military is not trained for governance; they were trained to protect the government and the people. But when they discovered they could use their powers to get into governance, they went back to their barracks and came back to rule Nigeria and we accepted them.
With the military changing the primary assignment of protecting Nigerians to ruling them,some Nigerians who challenged them ended up in detention and they governed the way they did and in the process, they messed up the economy, they messed up everything including our culture and that is where we got it wrong. If people think that the civilians that came after the military did the damage to our economy, they are wrong. The damage they did is minimal compared to the one done by the military. It will take us a long time to recover from the damages the military did to us.
But even as damaging as military rule was, we didn’t go into recession. Now we are in recession and we are picking loans all over the place.
We recovered from the loans taken by military regimes only a few years back during the time of Obasanjo. We thank God for Okonjo Iweala and Obasanjo who did all they could to remove shame and a huge debt from us. Now, we are back to square one. The citizens can no longer eat well, they cannot afford a triangular meal a day let alone three square meals. Parents can no longer pay their children’s school fees.
Some men could no longer care for their families. Everything has gone bad and yet, we think that we have a government. And the government goes on intimidating people all over the place. The naira has gone down. I don’t reckon with Naira as a currency because I am sure the worth of the naira is less than that of the other competitors. And we don’t seem to have a government that cares.
That is a terrible thing. The price of rice is now very high in the market. The price is above N20, 000 in some cases and the minimum wage is N18, 000. Anybody who has a minimum wage of N18,000 cannot afford to buy rice in this country. Even a Derica is costly. And the government keeps encouraging us to endure that it will soon be better. And the people are enduring. I am yet to find out the more enduring people than Nigerians. Nobody cares but we are still enduring. This is not what government should do.
They should place adverts in the newspapers
nnouncing to those who are holding up to the government money to pay up. I know that most of them would have voluntarily come up to pay. They would have gotten the peoples personal data that will show if they owe government and inform them to pay, otherwise, security operatives will come after
them. Now, many Nigerians cannot pay their children’s school fees, pay their accommodation and others. They cannot afford triangular meals, not to talk of a square meal. Happily married people are divorcing and man must understand the call of nature. We have been in this country and things have never been this difficult in the past.
So generally, we have not fared well; Nigeria should not have gotten into recession. Things were not this bad but if you do anyhow, you will be taken away and dumped in the barracks.
Many have been pointing at Jonathan’s administration as the cause of all these problems. Would you blame Jonathan or the people that worked with him?
Didn’t we have some level of corruption before Jonathan came? Now it is very unfortunate that Jonathan himself has not been vindicated. He accepts every insult. Jonathan is not the only culprit. Maybe the government should look elsewhere. They should stop talking about Jonathan all the time. Where did Jonathan keep the mansions? Where are his airlines, shipping lines? Where is the headquarters of his bank? Jonathan did not commit the atrocities that he is being accused of committing.
But for the first time EFCC is probing Jonathan indirectly because when they probe his wife, they are indirectly probing him and this is the first time something like this is happening.
If you are probing Jonathan’s wife, all first ladies and previous first ladies must be probed. Jonathan should not be the only scapegoat. Before now, things were not this bad. Children were going to school and their parents were paying their school fees. And Naira had value. Despite Jonathan’s perceived bad governance and perceived corruption, Nigerians were living well. So, why the terrible situation now?
Every bad situation is being attributed to Jonathan. There were people who have ruled this country long before Jonathan came and we had corrupt people then. The government should long have made a public announcement that if you know you are keeping anything, be it money or property belonging to Nigeria, come and pay it before the security operatives start running after you.
People are saying that some corrupt Nigerians are hiding in the Buhari government and they are accusing him of fighting corruption partially.
I have always said that Buhari is fighting corruption with corruption and the end result will be corruption. There are people in his government that are not worthy. And if these Nigerians who should be cleansed are not, then Buhari should look at them. We are all Nigerians and corruption is not only found in the opposition.
What is your take on the clampdown on Judges by the DSS?
It has never happened before and I think they do not need to destroy the credibility of the judiciary. The judiciary must be seen to be credible otherwise, law and order will suffer. I am not saying they are not human beings but they have the Nigerian Judicial Commission, NJC. There are three arms of government as recommended by the constitution and they have their powers.
So you do not send the state apparatus after the judiciary. NJC is there to do its work. If the NJC has done a certain work, then the state may say, why don’t you look at this place or that? But to clampdown on the judiciary is not good. At the end of the day, the confidence of the people suffers. Our judges have been embarrassed, we could do better. Moreover, the Nigerian constitution does not make the executive the watchdog of the Judiciary.
I condemn this gestapo-style invasion of the private homes of Nigerian judges. The invasion is invidious, infantile, illegal and unconstitutional; it smirks of a scripted and premeditated operation aimed specifically at intimidating the Judiciary and giving judicial officers a bad name to devalue their reputation.
Moreover, the invasion represents an unjust clampdown on the Judiciary, a clear violation of the rule of law, due process and commonsense, and it should never happen again.
Those serving in the Judiciary are apolitical and the Judiciary is the last hope of the common man. This is why it is disheartening, heartrending and troubling that the Judiciary has been placed under this brazen assault and it forebodes danger for the nation’s democracy. Today, it is rather unfortunate that President Muhammadu Buhari represents the worst threat on our nation’s democracy.
In as much as we recognise the harm that corruption has inflicted on our development, and we subscribe to the current war against corruption, relevant institutions and agencies must follow due process and the rule of law.
Concerning the militancy that is happening in Nigeria, we keep hearing of military intervention. Is that the solution to what is going on?
The government is not democratic enough. A democratic government must govern according to the rule of law and this government is not governing according to the rule of law. So there is so much impunity, corruption and impunity will cause lawlessness, corruption. We have been fighting corruption for years now and yet we have not conquered that. So, lawlessness will continue.
When you see is that lawlessness has become the symbol of Nigerians, nothing good comes out of it. If you don’t have the opportunity to steal from the government, you will play politics to enable you steal Nigeria’s money. And when the government forgets that it pretends to be a democratic government and it is not governing according to the rule of law, you will have impunity. Impunity is what is causing it; people will just wake up and start doing something else. So let the government govern the country with the rule of law.
What do you have to say about the militarization of Niger- Delta?
People have worked for Nigeria but impunity has made them refuse to pay. I am telling you because I am one of those who suffered under this impunity. Now, we secured the pipelines, you wrote the contract, signed the contract. You said you were going to be paying so much to the people. People did the work and they were not mobilised, and at the end, they were not paid kobo.
We finished that job in almost two years now and eventually when we demanded to be paid, we were not paid. We have to go to court. The government is not seeing anything there because they caused it. That is impunity and it is unfair and ungodly. And those boys who did the job, you do not expect them to come to us for their money? The government officials have been asking us to renegotiate and take 40% of what was contained in the contract. Now the job has been done, do I have the audacity to go to the boys to tell them that the government is asking us to negotiate how much you get?
So, if such happened to people who do not believe they should be kept under a spring, they can decide to take the law into their own hands. Those who do not want to take the law into their hands are waiting for the court to intervene. Of course, we are fighting because we might not even have the courage to wait for the court to intervene because the government has chosen to intimidate the judiciary.
Is it that the legislature is not aware that we have not been paid for a job well done and yet they have not mentioned it? Or are they no longer the representatives of the people? It is not in order at all. You see that the moment the government falls in line with good governance, some of these things will stop. Those asking for negotiation outside the court are even offering far less than what was agreed upon in the contract we signed.
There’s this perceived marginalisation of the south by the Buhari regime. Do you see it as real or imagined?
The marginalization of the south, especially the Yoruba in President Muhammadu Buhari’s government is real but the Southwest geo-political zone may use their votes to punish the president and the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the 2019 general elections, unless there it is redressed. You don’t need to look far before you can see the difference. Look at all the key appointments the president has been making since coming to power.
The north is favoured more than the south. It is only inconsequential positions that are being handed Yoruba and other ethnic nationalities. Key appointments and influential positions are given to the north, and it is very unfortunate that some people would always find justification for the president’s action, but Nigerians can’t be fooled. The Yoruba must have learnt a bitter lesson from the way they are being treated by the present leadership under President Buhari.
You know as the saying goes, words of the elders are words of wisdom. Not only that God used some elders including myself in the run-up to the 2015 general elections, that we should not only raise alarm, but also warn Yoruba about going into any romance or alliance with General Buhari.
When we were raising that alarm, it was not that we had personal hatred or harboured any grudge against Buhari, but our opposition against Buhari was hinged on the fact that this man was in power before and we all knew how he marginalized other sections of the country, promoting only the northern interests.
People complained that time against his style, but Buhari refused to budge. Under Buhari’s military leadership then, Nigeria was almost turned into Animal Farm where some animals were more equal than others.
As the saying goes, a leopard can’t change its spots, and that was why we warned Nigerians that time, especially the Yoruba, that helping Buhari to get political power would amount to nothing but political suicide. Voting for Buhari or helping Buhari to get political power is like riding on the back of a tiger, and if you are not careful, you end up in the belly of that tiger. This is exactly what is happening today. Buhari has not changed a bit. He has only changed his military garb for civilian attires, but the man still remains the same, stubborn and a biased leader.
Forget whatever his supporters and media handlers are saying. Buhari is pro-North 100 per cent, and he doesn’t care about the feelings of other sections of the country, especially the South. Buhari is not a national leader, it would be wrong for anybody or any genuine patriot to describe Buhari as a national leader.
However, it is not only the Yorubas that Buhari has marginalised, he has marginalized the entire South. Buhari is Nigeria’s president, but from his actions, he doesn’t behave or act like a leader who sees the entire nation as his constituency.