…How politicians destroyed the polity
….hey are no longer 10 percenters but 100 percenters
…Nigerians should be involved in primary selection
By Chioma Gabriel, Editor, Special Feature
Founder of the O’dua Peoples Congress, OPC, Dr Frederick Fasehun in this interview laments the lack of leadership in the country and urged Nigerians in the face of the coming elections to right the wrongs of the past by choosing a leader who will improve the standard of living of Nigerians, build infrastructure and actualise the on-going clamour for the restructuring of the country.
The elections are drawing closer and the problems of Nigeria are increasing by the day. Killings are still going on, kidnappings are happening and lately, political assassination attempts are being alleged. What seems to be our problem?
Our problem is leadership. There is no leadership. The general impression in Nigeria is that nobody is in charge. If anybody is in charge, the lives of almost 200 million people will not be like this. This is why whatever is happening now is provoking Nigerians to be more assertive in their choice of leaders. That is why some of us are particular about who comes on in 2019 and the type of leadership we want for Nigeria. If Nigerians had paid attention to the quality of leadership and made the right choices, things wouldn’t have been as they are.
Before independence, we had resonating wishes and promises were made and kept. Politicians promised us good roads, electricity, free education and we enjoyed some of these things till a few years after independence. But then in 1966, the military struck and things never remained the same. We have never recovered from the damage. Politicians have been coming and promising so many things: road construction, improved power supply, improved quality of life. But they have not been keeping these promises.
As a matter of fact, the politicians use the country’s resources for their personal aggrandizement. The politicians are no longer ten percenters in terms of their own cuts; they are now 100 percenters. They no longer use the nation’s resources to improve the standard of living of the people. They use everything for themselves and for their families. The nation and its people suffer while the resources are in the pocket of politicians. We have not been able to correct this. That is why this time, Nigerians should get deeply involved not only in the elections but in the political party selection process at various levels,even to the grassroots.
Like you said, in the First Republic, the politicians kept promises but now, they don’t and they don’t care. What do you think happened along the line?
The people became this bad after the resumed democracy was installed. The truth is that, there is no democracy in this country. We should stop deceiving ourselves. We have bastardised that concept. We cannot claim we have democracy. There is nobody in charge and those who are running the country behind the scene know this truth and they are deceiving themselves. As long as Nigerians are not participating in the selection process at political primaries levels and candidates are being imposed on us, there is no democracy. Nigerians should insist in having a hand in the selection process. When primaries are being conducted by political parties, the people should play a role in who emerges candidate.
We have two major political parties: the All Progressives Congress, APC, and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. Since the APC primaries at different levels, there have not been peace. The party is scattered across states and in some states, they don’t have candidates. The PDP has its own issues. The parties have been factionalised in many places and these are the parties Nigerians are expecting will continue in 2019.
There are countries that have just one political party. Even these countries manage their affairs. They are not as bad as Nigeria. If Nigerians are left with one or two parties to make their choices from, they should still be actively involved. But there are many political parties in Nigeria. APC and PDP are not the only parties to choose leaders from.
There are others and like I said, Nigerians should be wiser this time. We cannot stumble twice over the same stone. We can no longer have leaders imposed on us. We should be able to choose our leaders and we have the opportunity now that elections are coming up. Nigerians should know what the parties are promising us. The state of infrastructure across Nigeria is bad. The roads are bad. The schools are poorly funded by the Federal Government, many children are out of school. What are the political parties telling Nigerians?
Which of them are promising free education, better state of infrastructure, good roads? Which of them have written manifestoes so that Nigerians can cross-check and see how they have fulfilled their promises to the people. How many unemployed Nigerians do we have today and how many will be employed after a political party comes into office?
Verbal manifestoes should not be acceptable to the people. Let the political parties distribute heir written manifestoes with their party logos to Nigerians so the people can judge them after they have assumed office.
Politicians are known to promise and fail and even deny some of the promises they made. Nigerians should watch out for these and do things right this time around. We should not let those who have deceived us come again and deceive us. When we have their written promises, we cross-check their performances so they don’t come back and deceive us if they don’t keep to their promises. If we must fail again, let it not be a failure that will be replicated . If you deceive the people, let them mark it against you.
In the South-West, block-voting is highly practised. When they want to support a party, they massively vote for that party. Do you think it will happen again in 2019?
Once bitten, twice shy. If you lie to us the first time and you come back to us the next time, we will not be deceived or we will set a trap for you. Your lies will work against you. Yes, people do block-voting but after an experience with the persons you voted for, you cross-check their performance and decide what next to do.
APC is a major political leader in the South-West and Asiwaju Bola Tinubu tends to get things done his way and as long as he remains in APC, that means the southwest will continue to vote for APC.
I have not seen any political party having sole ownership of a people. As much as we respect Bola Tinubu, we have appreciated the good things he did but I don’t perceive a situation where people of the South-West will say because Tinubu is in APC and therefore APC we all go. No. Things don’t happen that way. APC can get majority votes but there are others in the South-West with other political ideologies. Not everyone is APC. I am UPN for instance and others are in other parties other than the APC. We have seen the APC government in power and I can tell you that we in the South-West are not ready to put all our eggs into one basket. If it happened before, it will not likely work like that again.
Do you think the PDP stands a chance in the South-West when there is Osinbajo in APC as the Vice President?
I have said this before. Atiku Abubakar has the required qualities and experience to defeat incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
PDP has done the very needful by giving Nigerians a formidable opposition candidate who not only is capable of giving the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) a good fight at the general elections but also stands an enormous chance of actually winning the coming presidential poll.
The task to enthrone a truly democratic government of Nigerians, by Nigerians and for Nigerians will not be an easy one and all hands must be on deck to give Nigerians a government of their dream.
The PDP convention demonstrated that the party remained the country’s foremost custodian of democracy and a party with an unbroken consistence in maintaining internal democracy.
The task to enthrone a truly democratic government of Nigerians, by Nigerians and for Nigerians will not be an easy one and all hands must be on deck to give Nigerians a government of their dream. I got familiar with Atiku Abubakar in the Third Republic when we were both leading figures in the Social Democratic Party (SDP). The Atiku I know is an experienced businessman, a detribalised Nigerian and a conscientious politician who, given the chance, is capable of taking the country to greater heights in the areas of the economy, education, security and infrastructure.
So, to your question, much as the Yoruba people acknowledge the presence of Osinbajo in APC, you should know there are other groups in the South-West who have other interests. Not everybody in the South-West is in APC. You should know that too. I don’t think other groups will abandon their groups to vote for APC because of Tinubu or Osinbajo. It does not happen like that.
A top member of APC did say that even if PDP wins, APC will not hand over to the party. What does that mean?
What excuse will APC have for not handing over if it loses? What then is democracy? If it happens, it means that APC is not a democratic party but is more interested in power and not in democracy. We have rule of law in this country and APC came to power because of the rule of law in place. What would APC have done if PDP had refused to hand over to them in 2015.
It is because of the rule of law that the APC is in power today and if it says it cannot hand over to PDP or any other party in 2019 even if that party wins, then it is something else. It is no longer democracy because it means the rule of law is being jettisoned for power. That will not be acceptable and I’m sure the APC understands that. The peoples wish is supreme and that is what counts in a democratic regime.
What difference do you think Buhari’s victory in the 2019 election can make?
Power intoxicates. Politicians make promises but once they taste power, everything changes. And we cannot stop him from re-contesting. It is his right. If he thinks there are things he still ought to do which he wasn’t able to do the first time, he can seek re-election but it is for the people to decide whether they want him back or not. Nigerians are wiser. They know what they want. If you deceive them the first time, you cannot succeed in doing that again. But does he have the right to seek re-election? Yes. But whether he wins or not is for the people to decide at the polls.
Buhari should remember his promises to the people and use the remaining time he has to address some of these promises. He cannot come back to us to vote for him again when he has not kept the promises he made the first time. So, let him use the remaining of the time to address the issues and fulfil his 2015 campaign promises to the people.
You are amongst those clamouring for restructuring. What manner of restructuring do you think Nigeria needs?
We need to go back to the federation we once had where the regions operated independently with a limited recourse to the centre. We need to go back to resource control of those days where the regions kept most of the resources generated from them. You don’t rob Peter to pay Paul. Communities where Nigeria oil is being generated from are living in squalor and abject poverty. Their farms are gone. The fishing communities lost everything and the oil you generate from them is being diverted to develop other places. That is no longer acceptable and this has to change. That is why we need to restructure Nigeria.
The APC promised Nigerians restructuring during its campaigns but it never did that. It deviated from the promises it made to Nigerians and that is serious. Buhari should use the remaining time he is in power to restructure Nigeria in a way that it will benefit each geo-political zone we have today.
There was the 2014 constitutional conference and the deliberations of that conference would truly have addressed Nigeria’s problems but that was jettisoned when the current administration came in. We must restructure Nigeria if we seriously desire this country to survive. Power should be devolved to the zones. The regions should control their resources and pay their tokens to the centre. We need to rebuild Nigeria for our children and the future generations.
Next year is election year. What do you have to tell Nigerians as they prepare for elections?
Nigerians should insist on true democracy. They should not necessarily vote for those who have paid for their votes or those who have enticed them with money. Even if they collect the money, they should not vote for them. Next year presents another opportunity for Nigerians to put things right. It’s another opportunity for us to rebuild Nigeria and choose leaders who will not deceive us or empty our treasury into their pockets. It doesn’t matter where the person comes from. We should select a leader who needs to be truly in charge.
If Buhari wins again in a free and fair election, it is the wish of the people. That is democracy. If he wins again, that means he is promising that he will do better and if he wins, he should fulfill his promises and address all these issues plaguing the country: killer herdsmen, Boko Haram terrorists, religious extremism. He should disallow ethnic jingoism, clannishness and see the whole Nigeria as his constituency and not just the North. He should address the economy and listen to Nigerians and their complaints. Power belongs to the people and they count. So, anybody that wins should be able to address these issues and other issues that have plagued Nigeria.
Do you trust INEC? Many alleged that in 2015, Jega sold the presidency to the APC
I was part of the election. UPN is still hurting because of what INEC did. I want to believe that INEC should do better. It has done so many things wrong. Could you believe that INEC on its own changed the leadership of Unity Party of Nigeria, UPN, and introduced somebody else as the party’s chairman. Up till today, the UPN is still in court over this. The last time I got notice of court was two, three weeks ago. INEC is a legal umpire but it should be a good umpire. UPN is not taking part in the elections next year because INEC installed an entirely new chairman in the party. It did not even consult us and that is not acceptable to us.
Why did INEC do it?
We don’t know. But what else other than corruption. INEC claimed it has its reasons based on its rules and regulations and who will query the almighty INEC? So, UPN is in court over what INEC did to the party. The situation where the secretary of the party becomes its chairman is not acceptable.
So, UPN is dead?
No, its not dead. I’m not dead. I’m still alive. We still meet. It’s just that INEC imposed a stranger on us and that is not acceptable to us. So, we rejected him and we are in court over this.