By Olalekan Bilesanmi
Comrade Olufemi Aduwo, a human rights activist, is President of Rights Monitoring Group. In this interview, Aduwo explains why corruption is difficult to tackle despite the efforts of President Muhammadu Buhari.
As an indigene of Ondo State, are you bothered about what is happening in your state especially in the political arena where the governor there is on suspension from APC?
Of course, I am not happy. You cannot be happy if you truly you are from there and love the state. I think what is playing out in Ondo is supremacy battle. Governor Akeredolu is my good friend; even though he knows I don’t like his party, his party and national leaders have made a mistake on his suspension. Ondo does not believe in god- fatherism. By suspending him, you make him more popular. By this action of his party, he is going to win second term if he seeks re-election. Akeredolu is doing well. There was no light in my senatorial district until Akeredolu was elected. He is constructing roads as well. These are some of his campaign promises and he has so far delivered on them. You can’t dictate to the people of Ondo on who should govern them. I learnt he was suspended because he was said to be involved in anti-party activities. Well, if there is anyone to be suspended for such offence, they are those who sponsored Olusola Oke against Akeredolu in the last Ondo governorship election. Bola Ilori, who is former Governor Aregbesola’s associate, was the Director General of the Oke Campaign Organization. Oke was Alliance for Democracy, AD, candidate in that election. Meanwhile, Akeredolu has made some mistakes on some of his actions which I believe are going to bounce back on him. As soon as he became governor, he increased school fees in the state.
As an anti-corruption crusader, are you impressed so far with the fight against corruption by the Federal Government?
Many things are on life support in Nigeria, including politics and economy. I don’t see any difference from what we had before 2015 and we have seen so far. And the coming four years won’t be different either. Fighting corruption isn’t the only thing you should be doing as a government. There is corruption everywhere in the world. But putting systems in place to deter corruption is the way to go. Nothing has since changed since 2015. This government is not fighting but monitoring corruption. I helped Ibrahim Larmode when he was Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, to uncover a fraud of six billion naira. Instead of this so-called fight against corruption, why not have processes that can detect corruption before it is committed? Fighting corruption is not by word of the mouth, it must be action-backed. For example, when government talks about procurement policy and adherence to its laws, I just laugh. A car you can buy from a dealer for N10m, they will tell that based on procurement law, it is awarded to a contractor and who will supply it for N24m. That procurement policy is one of the biggest avenues for corruption. Are you saying that all the officials in this government, including ministers and governors, are above board? We are not fighting corruption, we are just monitoring corruption. You know that you cannot have N100m in your account, your bank will tell you that you cannot access the money; they will tell you that the EFCC is monitoring you.
What happened when some PDP members emerged as principal officers of the National Assembly in 2015 seems to be playing out again as APC lawmakers appear to be set to go against the order of their party that everyone should queue behind Ahmed Lawan for Senate President and Femi Gbajabiamila for House Speaker.
It is not in the Constitution that the ruling party must produce the leaders of the National Assembly. Yes, it is beautiful when the majority party produces the principal officers but it is not a must. It is just a convention. APC Chairman Adams Oshiomole said the party does not need the PDP to produce the principal officers. I guess he forgets that PDP has about 44 seats in the Senate. How can there be any election of any principal officers without the support of the PDP, how it can be done? Oshiomhole is making a very big mistake, politics is not about giving orders; it is not a union. It is about dialogue, it is about diplomacy. It is about give and take. I thought the normal thing for them to have done is, since you said the Senate President has been zoned to the North-East, why not allow senators-elect from the zone to have a mock election where they can choose among themselves who will represent them instead of narrowing it down to one particular person in the name of Ahmed Lawan? Ahmed Lawan will lose. PDP is coming with bloc vote. PDP is not vying for the Deputy Senate President but they will make sure that all those the APC put down will not win the election. In fairness to Buhari, he doesn’t care who wins. Forget about the celebrated Villa dinner, he never endorsed anybody. However, my concern in all of this is that, in the spirit of equity and fairness, why not zone the speakership to the South- East since the Vice President is already in the South-West?
How did you get into activism?
The late Chief MKO Abiola made me join activism. I was influenced into activism by the injustice meted out to Abiola. I was returning home from France in 1993 when I was picked up at the airport under Decree 2 and taken to Shangisha on the grounds that I was a gun runner. They said I went to France to get guns for NADECO. I told them that gun runners, to my understanding, are very rich. I was not. I was detained for six months under Decree 2. One year later, I discovered I was no longer safe in the country, so I travelled abroad. I returned in 1999 after a new civilian government had been ushered in. Since I came into activism and saw the inequality and injustice going on in the system, I made up my mind that I will do nothing but activism. Today, by the grace of God, my NGO is one of the few NGOs in the world that have representatives at the UN. I am a returnee of the World Bank, IMF Board of Governors meeting since 2012. We have representatives in Geneva, Vienna and the UN in New York. So something must be unique about my NGO to be so recognized by the UN.