WOULD you say the National Conference achieved the aim for which it was originally convened?
I don’t really know, because right from the beginning I’ve always had a lot of respect for the mind of the President,
Goodluck Jonathan and more, he is a big hearted Nigerian. A man who wants peace, equity and fair play, you know that especially coming from a background of military dictatorial past and fact that the immediate president after that was a bit dictatorial in his attitude, being a military general. A lot of people were not used to his attempt to stick within the confine of the rule of law and this may appear to some as being weak, however the reason why many people are now considering him to be not too weak, I don’t fully subscribe to, partly this impeachment gale blowing across Nigeria.
No credible or viable alternatives, the belief is that if the president deserves a second term, it behooves his party to give it to him, but no alternative yet within the PDP?
If in 2011, when it was said that oh! some insisted that this thing be zoned to one area, we had people from other areas vying and even in 2007 when we are saying it is not zoned to certain areas, we had people from those areas contesting and the … skill won, even in this present dispensation we have a lot of people, saying he doesn’t have a right to run again, now if you do not want him to run, tell us who would you like to run in his stead. We were the ones who helped as Nigerians during the Save Nigeria Group as a vehicle, primary vehicle, we were the ones who said we wanted President Jonathan to assume office as acting President, when we Nigerians were able to say we want something more open, less confined to President Jonathan, so that we would allow for a better candidate if any to come up as some would say that he has not being the best manager of Nigeria, so far, well who can be a better manager, show him to us, if we as Nigerians believe that this man is better, the party is made up of Nigerians so the party, will be able to influence itself, so as to change its candidate, anyway he has not even declared but then if he has not said he would run, the campaigns had not supposed to have even started, but we are seeing all kinds of bill boards, even in Abuja, it is an interesting thing, Nigeria has an odd way of doing business but that odd way is not new, it did not start with Jonathan and I don’t think it will end with Jonathan. So far the PDP has not shown any attempt to bring out any alternatives.
Do you think the PDP would have the gut to do that, this is a very powerful president, I’m not sure if there can be opposition within the PDP, we’ve seen how the new PDP tried to emerge as a strong body within that original PDP?
You see, it is interesting, the tone of this question really intrigues me because, up to about two months ago, I didnt hear anybody talk about Jonathan as having a strong presence in the polity, so I’m surprised at this jolter phase and of all … taking to now attribute power or authority extra-ordinary to him, I think that he is a man, who believes enough in democratic principles, who could have, if somebody throws himself out publicly to serve as alternative, it would be fool hardy of anybody including the president to try to repress that person or try to exclude him from the process, because the eyes of the world would have been focused on him, right now the world is interested in Nigeria, to know who and who is going to be interested in managing the affairs of this country from 2015, nobody has indicated poise for that.
So in your opinion what factor will be the deciding factor in 2015 election, do you think ethnicity or religion will play a role?
Ethnicity always played a role, I think that was one of the benefits of the National Conference, we’ve got to see very clearly that we have got strong ethnic cleavages in this country and also religion would play a role, especially in the northern part of Nigeria with all due respect to my brethren from the north. Most of my friends are from there. The southern Nigeria is a bit more cosmopolitan or egalitarian, in attitude; it accommodates dissenting views for example with better mien, the north by it cultural concession is a feudal state, so it is an authoritarian culture, a culture takes direction from top down and so it can say this is the position and we don’t want anybody to dissent to this position.
I believe that even ethnicity and religion will only play so much of a role in these new Nigeria because if we take the fact that Boko Haram, which is now a key factor in Nigeria, now alienated both Christians and Muslims from Islamist tendencies — note that by the word Islamist I am not referring to Muslims and Islam but to extreme fundamentalist violence tendency– now those tendencies are making more people look outside of their box and when you identify that now the Almajiri Schools are becoming more popular, and the abduction are becoming more rampant, we are even talking of the Chibok girls we forget the fact that even before the Chibok girls, over 640 girls have been abducted by this same groups, since the Chibok girls over 70 girls have been abducted by Boko Haram and even beyond that over a thousand boys have been abducted by Boko Haram, we should not be talking about the Chibok girls but the abducted people, boys and girls, now we have the spate of bombings being carried by women too, they have said to us that they are not the Chibok girls, but more importantly how do we know that they are not abductees that have been converted into bombers, even against their will, they could be drugged, brainwashed, coerced. We heard the news of a ten years old girl who was strapped with a bomb and they found that out too. We now live in an environment where a group now put a bomb on a child, it has gone beyond the pill, whether they had noble objectives, what they are, they are seen now as evil. Now that on its own is going to force people to start re-accessing the realities and climax that will fall out of the whole this will have gone beyond religion and ethnicity.
In other words people would now be able to see possibly that President Jonathan has not been allowed to govern properly because of the security situation in the country?
I have been claiming that point for the past three years that it is very difficult for me to assess President Jonathan to say he has been given a fair playing ground, because he has been spending most of his time combating terrorism. I laughed when I hear people using word insurgence, militants. These are terrorists, they are not bound, I told people to stop thinking that there is a north-east if we do not take care, and really care can we take, we have heard explosions in Lagos, they have caught people in the East, they can get anywhere, they can operate anyhow, in anywhere they can reach, they can operate and once terror is planted, it is difficult to uproot. It is planted; the government now has to contend with both the security forces to use for legitimate purposes and having to compete with news. If government does something positives it has to compete with the news of the bomb blast now people are going to react to the story on bomb blast and ignore of positive news.
How viable an opposition is the APC as yearned for by Nigerians and can it defeat the PDP in 2015?
I saw the coming of the APC as a good development because I believe there has to be a viable opposition to keep any government or administration on its toes because a tendency where there is no opposition the possibility is for you to seat back and believe you have got it right and do the wrong things most of the time, unfortunately by time the APC fully evolved, it was nothing more than just a mirror of the PDP, just as the PDP now is becoming made up of the members of the APC, so I really do not see much of a difference between both parties, we could hardly talk of internal democracy not being fully alive in the APC well I do not know how alive it is in the PDP, so I am not so concerned about the parties as parties. However I’m concerned that the party APC, now whether inadvertently is being miffed with violence, if members of the party continue to say there will be violence, then I do not think they are saying right anybody that wishes Nigeria evil or wishes us ill, or wants us to die because of their politics will not gain the support of Nigerians.
The Presidency has said that no president has done more than President Jonathan had overtime and thus feel he is home and dry come 2015, if he is coming out just based on his performance but due to the situation in country security wise, can that erode any potency linked to performance?
Yes because a lot of people are not aware that President Jonathan has done anything at all and I lay the blame at the door step of Mr. President’s image makers a lot of them are friends, I think they are doing enough, there is something in management principles called the Peter Pittsburg that you get promoted based on the level of your competence, that you are a fantastic journalist does not make that you will be a good production manager and that you are a good public relations manager, does not make you a fantastic image re-molder, because there is a new act to upgrade people and invent them. President Jonathan has been re-inventing himself and I think his handlers has failed to help re-invent him as much as he could have or portray the real, true, new Jonathan, this not the same Jonathan of 2011, he has not been able to invent those changes in the right manner, it is not enough for you to compare him to Mandela and Obama because sometimes it may even be negative, you end up throwing him up against people who have attained such status globally so you are now asking us to compare him to them, no that is not image re-invention.
But you are a friend to Mr. President, knowing all these, why have you not told him, why is the president sticking with incompetent people not having a team that could be said to be handling his perception properly?
The president is a politician he is a leading member of a political party, I can influence him only as often as I see him, then most times I talk with the President, I talk with him on social elements and not an adviser to him, let me make that straight from today I do not advise Mr. President.
You warned that if we do not succeed in creating a brand new constitution for the country, if we do not bring about a fully holistic and thorough re- engineering of this nation, we shall not see 2015 as one country. Does this imply if we didn’t vote for this man we might not be one together again?
If that is the case let me clarify it, I am speaking as first of all a Nigerian, a very patriotic Nigerian and by patriotic I mean a concerned Nigerian who has paid blood and time to help pull this country together to help it move forward, a Nigerian who push for National conference and who saw right from the beginning of the conference the arrogances that were displayed, there were secessionist in nature, for example the Lamido of Adamawa gets up in the very first week and said, I could lead my people out of Nigeria, many misunderstood that statement to mean that they would walk out Nigeria no, he would lead them what they would do is say our land mass now belongs to Cameroun, we would have seceded from Nigeria, right now there are claims even some people have come to clear the air, being involved in such actions and they are the same people scuttling the reports of the national conference now looking at all these and the fact that this country is based on a foundation of falsehood, cheating at least so we in some areas even some in southern Kaduna believed, we cannot have Nigeria continue going down the hill and we expect that we will not get to the bottom of the hill we are going down the ill and it is only insanity for us to expect to continue doing the same thing and expect different results, as we had wanted the south west said we want regional autonomy or nothing, the south-east also said the same thing so also the south-south and the whole regions to a large extent said so and we had that issue swept under carpet, why? Because there was a bid to not be seen as rocking the boat, that thing you swept under the carpet would rock the boat, it is not the issue of derivation or south-south but a question of equity, quality, justice, fairness. There has been no fairness.
I remember at the conference, the president and the senate president said that the unity of Nigeria is not negotiable perhaps they should have let the issue open, everyone would feel at ease to discuss whether or not they wanted to remain together?
The President or the Senate President cannot but say that because leaders of the country and as supposed statesmen cannot afford to talk about what could divide the nation but it is impossible for you to stop anybody from introducing what he feels or says, as you allow him to talk live on TV, he is not just addressing the conference but to Nigerians, the Lamido of Adamawa was not just addressing the conference but talking to the world. So the words have been uttered and is irretrievable and once the leadership of the conference did not stop him at that time, I lay the blame at the door steps of Justice Kutigi, because he could have called the Lamido to order and say that your royal highness with all due respect sir, the President in convening us told us that that is a no go area please desist from continuing in that vein, if he had done that that would have influenced the whole of the conference, the moment he lost control of it there, he lost control of the whole of the conference.
Do you still want Nigeria to remain one?
Oh! Yes there can nothing better than having the country remaining as one strong united Nigeria, that is what I want and hoped for, but I do not think we’ve got there.
Is that why you said, “I do not think we Niger-Deltans will be happy with 18% derivation. We wish to control our resources through Federalism. There is the likelihood that we will shut down production for our existence and survival sake and not for political or economic reasons …We shall not die for the rest of Nigeria to live”?
No we shall not; the issue of derivation should not have come up at all, we should have been discussing federalism, in federalism we emphasize wealth creation not the wealth sharing, in federalism we talk about where constituent units own their resources both human, natural, material etcetera and then pay a tax to the centre, that is what obtains in the 1960 and 1963 Constitution and Nigeria has not developed better than then, that was when we flourish, when we had the ground nut pyramids, the cocoa growing house and we had real leaders.
Why didn’t the conference talk about federalism?
Because I believe that the composition of the conference was not the best, People were not adding value for example the youths that were chosen most of them are just dead weights; many did not attend plenary sessions.
…Maybe because they felt there was a proliferation of the old people, the average age of those we saw in the conference were old people?
In 1973, when we fought my generation, my class in the University, when we fought against the imposition of NYSC for two years they named some ridiculous amount during the military era, the youths stood up and opposed the government, if the youths in the conference would had being dynamic like say Toyosi Akerele, I could name many of them, they could have come together and form a bloc and that bloc could have been listened to, interestingly there were one or two of them that were there that were persuasive and influential, unfortunately they were mostly concerned with ethnic issues, the people that contributed that we can mention are the elders, they also impacted on the conference but it was not impressing enough, however it behooves the youths, because they are the ones who a future Nigeria really should matter to the most so they should have taking control power is not given, it is taken, if I were in their age I would have demanded and change could have happened if I got on that floor and even if I did not get to that floor, you can influence what is happening in the National Assembly, from Lagos, Abeokuta and Uyo, youths did not do what they were supposed to do other than grumble.
And you and a lot of people say that there were a lot of dead woods; in the national conference can we say it didn’t achieve anything?
Oh! It did, for example they achieved two basic things, they achieved one, that every state has the right to run its own Constitution.
When we see Osun State has its flag, it would be vilified?
It is out of ignorance, people that vilified them know nothing about history, most of the people that vilified them are young people and most young people in Nigeria today are not educated, they’ve not realized that in Nigeria at one particular time, every region had a flag, had an anthem, had a constitution when you don’t know where you are coming from you can start judging wrongly where you are, now any group of states can for example write in their constitution that we the following number of states wish to integrate and cooperate and form a region.
But the issue of derivation is directed back to the President?
They totally misunderstand their mandates, if you want to move the nation forward, derivation is not a principle of federalism, for you to have a federal structure it must be based on equity and fairness, we have to return to a federal or confederal system where everybody produces according to his or her ability up to pay tax to the central by law the state has the right to develop at its own pace, the northern region in the old federal republic constitution in 1963 could develop at its own pace as the revered Sadauna of Sokoto design it and the development was very fast, the western region under Awolowo developed, he set up a TV station, first in Africa and then you have Okpara set up a TV station and say second to none they were competing healthily so Nigeria is still developing healthily, it was healthy jamboree but now it is political no nationalism just Nigeria with business.
What wrong with the north demanding for a little percentage of the fund for intervention if the Niger Delta states could have an increase in derivation?
The north has the right to demand and request for anything if they feel nobody is recognizing their rights, if they are aggrieved they protest and ask for what they want but what they ask for, what they agreed on in the conference was a national integration fund, now national … the north east, north west said but you know that Kaduna… so does it mean that as if nothing wrong with the roads that get spoilt in Apapa daily by the extra weight of the tankers and the trucks and the fund does not apply we have it in Lagos as well the fund should be extended really once people recognized me as a Niger Deltan, I do not want to be tied to that.
On Niger Delta you’ve also said ‘a more equitable just and fair Nigeria will help us that is the Niger Deltans to see a way resolving issues of Niger Deltans suffering caused by massive and irresponsible oil and gas exploitation with its concomitant environmental exploration that is now threatening to sink our communities’ what do you mean by that?
In the recent past, there had been five land tremors in Rivers and Bayelsa, Bayelsa had three, Rivers had earthquakes because when we had measurement system when it doesn’t get to a certain on rate of scales they say it’s a tremor now they carried out urgent investigations and found that it is because these multinational companies has been extracting oil without re-injecting gas in the vacuum left after taking out the oil, but they had not been doing that just as they had been flaring gas and other things filling oil and caring, but even our leaders are part of the corruption in oil so they have not been concerned about what happens in the eco system, it has now become very glaring that if we go on this way for about six month exporting we are going to have a major earthquake in the Niger Delta, now that is the reason why we are talking about shutting down the oil sector, it has nothing to do with derivation or politics of federalism, we want to shut down so as to let these oil companies and government get involved in re-balancing the eco system so the thing is that in my Island, Opobo, water is going all over the edge and a lot of houses like my brother’s own is flooded often, water is everywhere because it’s the middle of the town and we are below sea level if there is any tremor in our vicinity we are submerged, we cease to exist and don’t forget that when there are these big flooding in other countries helicopter getting people off, you see boats and the likes, do we have rescue systems in fact it should not be just our land mass ceasing to exist it might be the extension of tens of thousands of people.