Dr. Frederick Fasehun, National Chairman, Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), Founder Oodua People’s Congress (OPC), decried rising impunity and lawlessness in the country, blamed the President for the Sambo Dasuki travail. He expressed no confidence in the new ministers appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari. SUNDAY ODIBASHI met him in Lagos.
THE Senate raised alarm over N25 billion paid to System Spec on transfer of government funds from commercial banks to Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on the Treasury Single Account policy (TSA); the CBN Governor said N8.6 billion was recovered from the payment; do you perceive elements of corruption in the transactions?
We have been fighting corruption with corruption. First, I believe in the TSA. It is good for the government but for a private company to be used as an intermediary in financial transactions of government funds between commercial banks and the Central Bank of Nigeria, to collect N25 billion, as revealed by the Senate or even the N8.6 billion the CBN Governor admitted, is astonishing. You can’t find a bigger corruption than that. To have recovered N8.6 billion is self-indicting. The TSA funds belong to us as a country and we noticed that a non-governmental company should be acting on our behalf and collecting N25 billion in less than a month, for doing what? If that is not corruption, then, there is no corruption anywhere in the country.
So, are you supporting the Senate to probe the TSA transfer commission?
The Senate should investigate the matter properly. If they don’t investigate what we think is corruption, then, their oversight function is sidelined
Do you consider the agitation for Biafra Republic necessary at this point of political transition in the country?
Agitation will always occur when people’s rights are being violated. If the agents (leaders) of Biafra feel that their rights are being trampled upon, I don’t think they will waste much time demonstrating all over the place. The views of the majority guide the democratic process. I’m not saying anything should break up Nigeria but in subjecting Nigeria to a situation that make a section miserable cannot be condoned. Actually, the Ibos have not been given their right of place in this country. If ours is true federalism, then, every group inside the federation must be treated equally and with justice. I have seen that the Ibos are not feeling justice.
Have the Ibos not been getting federal appointments?
What exact significant appointments have the Ibos got. Of the key 16 appointments made by the current administration, there is no single Igbo person. If every unit of the federation is treated equally, each unit must have a person in every federal appointment, not just ministers. That is why the Biafra agitation erupted. MASSOB had remained rather quiet for years and this unfairness has agitated them to wake up from their slumber. So, instead of saying the military should do anything to fellow Nigerians, let us first confront the Boko Haram and end that menace. Boko Haram is a greater danger that MASSOB. The federal government should not contribute to the awareness of the present surge by MASSOB. We have been in this country and Nigerians were beginning to forget about MASSOB until federal government arrested Nnamdi Kanu which agitated the situation. So, the best thing to do is for government to pay greater attention to where danger is and not attempt to blackmail Biafra agitators.
Like Gowon’s directive to use Police Action to crush Biafra in 1967 snowballed into civil war, are you saying that the plan to use minimum force by the army may get out of control?
Of course, it could. I have always believed that to get peace in this type of situation, either of the two sides will be peaceful so that peace will confront peace and peace achieved. But what we are beginning to witness is violence wanting to confront violence before peace is achieved. It doesn’t work that way. I will rather expect that the federal government should handle the matter of Biafra protest with some measures of thoughtfulness; the Ibos are Nigerians. And you don’t declare war against a section of the country except you are prepared to dispense with their presence in the country. Let us apply rules and responsible methods to handle the agitation and keep the correct process. You arrested somebody and the people are saying release him otherwise we will protest; and you refused to release that person, that means you are encouraging protest. Apparently, the federal government is encouraging agitation for Biafra.
Retired Colonel Sambo Dasuki, National Security Adviser to former President Goodluck Jonathan, has been indicted by the Federal Government for $333 million illegal arms contract; this was after he had been granted bail on self recognition in a case of treason and after the Directorate of Security Service had defied court orders to let him travel; do these reflect the workings of democracy and the rule of law?
I don’t believe Nigeria is operating democracy yet, otherwise, it would have been observed glaringly by the citizenry. We also cannot believe there is rule of law because there is lawlessness and brazing impunity all over the place; So much lawlessness and impunity that the judiciary is fast losing its significance in our democratic process. The government, though civilian in making or existence, is actually governing with impunity and seeming tyranny. Where a court judgment has been given and the President flouts the court order, how can you claim change in the democracy, except change from democracy to autocracy, as we are seeing now. Democracy is the rule of law. Not only that, we also noticed that we don’t actually commute anybody for treason without actually looking into the circumstances for his being a suspect. And you must set up a committee to look into his activities, why you want to charge him for treason. Treason is the most grievous offence a citizen can commit against the country. So, for the government to charge a citizen for treason, it wasn’t prepared to show the result of investigation leading to the discovery of that offence. It requires a handsome figure to bail anybody charged with treason; and granting bail on self recognition is not particularly, pleasant; such treason charge is not believable, not credible. So, what we are getting all over the place is payback time. Because the treason charge wasn’t sustainable, they created the committee that indicated Dasuki to find acceptable legal basis to accomplish their asset agenda. So, Buhari is merely on payback mission against Dasuki.
Dasuki was the NSA; he performed several duties relating to the security of the country, including supervising the purchase of arms and ammunition, essentially, to fight the Boko Haram insurgents in the North East. So, who is to purchase arms, is it the woman in Jankara Market in Lagos? It’s unfortunate.
One would have expected the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) to speak up, throw better light on the situation. You don’t wait until somebody’s rights have been trampled upon before you start shouting. You don’t close the door when the horse has bolted away. This is the time to guide our democracy. If the NBA believes that the rule of law is what we call democracy, and they are custodians of the rule of law they should then enlighten the country and the citizens whether the rule of law permits state authorities to flout orders of the court of law with impunity. The NBA must be seen to be correcting the situation and the judiciary also that is an equal arm of government must rise to the challenge. The picture being painted goes to show that the other arms of government are not equal with the executive. So, there is only one arm of government in this country and the judiciary is not equal to that arm of government. That is not constitutional. The judiciary, the legislature and the executive are arms of our democratic government and it you violate the right or suppress the power of one arm; you violate the rights and suppress the powers of the others; that gives room to injustice.
Would you consider the ministers and their portfolios as round pegs in round holes that can bring change?
Well, President Muhammadu Buhari said he was going to do the right thing and if he feels some people are square pegs being fixed in round holes, then, it is not the right thing to do. We thought he has spent a lot of time looking for the good people, the decent people, in the country. To come out with suspected desperate aspirants for ministerial appointments is a waste of time. If these are the best he could get from a population of about 170 million in five months, then, the holes are not round or the pegs are not round.
Are you saying the ministerial appointments fell below public expectations?
Of course, yes. We know the President; and they say birds of the same feather flock together. We expected him to get people of his plumage. After all the waiting period, we thought he was going to look for technocrats. How many technocrats are in that cabinet. Nigerians don’t think that will him.
There have been complaints of APC shifting campaign promises; do you think that threatens public confidence in the APC change agenda?
Well, a political platform that is fed with propaganda, that has been saying what it cannot do or fulfill, is deceptive. We will have free meals for school pupils, and in no time, the free meal became an expensive meal. Actually, I am not worried; I know they couldn’t do it. Free meal for every child in this country is a huge burden. Out of a population of 170 million, we have at least 25 million in schools where you have to provide free meals daily; that is not achievable with the present state of our economy. I never believed them and I said so at that time. I said look, these people are lying to Nigerians. Not just that, they said they were going to provide free education, N5,000 monthly allowance for the unemployed, they ended up increasing school fees to the sky.
Unfortunately, rather than helping pupils and students from the primary schools to the university, governors started asking federal government for bailout and the President approved bailouts without asking the governors what they did with the allocations from the Federation Account collected over the years. So, they have deceived the people but a good government tells the truth, let the people know what to expect and what not to expect.
Again, fuel scarcity is back, does it mean government is losing control over petrol supply?
APC did not want to be in control, they just wanted power to be in government. The two are different. Buhari would have led this country out of the doldrums but the crisis generated by the executive, the power tussle in the party, will not allow Buhari really do the right thing. I like to believe that Buhari means well for Nigeria but the advisers around him are on different mission.
Are you saying APC leaders are misleading the President?
Yes! If they are not misleading him, why will anybody promise N5000 to Nigerians youths not employed, millions of them, where is that coming from. Which part of the budget is that coming from, or are we running the country without a budget. Even those children didn’t believe they are going to get N5000 monthly and many of us asked questions about the feasibility of that promise.
Buhari came into government, he said he met empty treasury. So, where will you find N5000 for 25 million unemployed youths monthly? The government was blackmailed into providing funds for the bailout by governors. The federal government should have asked the governors questions, you collected federal allocations, what did you do with them, especially, those who diverted funds into buying bullet proof vehicles. If they were serving their people with honesty and truthfulness, you will even keep your vehicles open so that you wave to your people and they will respond, cheering you. But because you looted your state treasury, leaving your people in abject poverty and hunger, you seek confined protection. When you travel with entourage of 30 to 50 flashy cars, people are seeing what is going on. They may not talk but you live in fear.
PDP was a very powerful government but when the people decided to change, they changed it. Power belongs to God and the people. Power doesn’t belong to you except you want to abuse the people’s right. At a moment, you start exercising power without the interest of the people at stake; then, you are running the democracy with impunity. It is antithetical to change.
Are you advocating that people change the change agents?
There will be no revolutionary change. We have to wait for the next four years. We don’t want the military to bring forceful change again. Those of us who spent months and years in the trenches wouldn’t want the military to return to our national life. So, we will endure until true democracy demands a change, and that will be in the 2019 general elections.
Now, what is the true position of the Unity Party of Nigeria?
UPN is fully active in the business of partisan politics just that INEC, due to its character, introduced impunity and attempts to destroy our party. I am the National Chairman of the UPN and INEC, I understand registered some other persons as party leaders without sacking me or end the tenure of the existing executive. I learn somebody is mimicking himself as UPN chairman yet I don’t know him. But I understand INEC is now finding difficulty to comply with its own regulation. I have in my possession the certificate of registration and all documents that recognize the UPN as a political party. These documents are in my custody, yet, INEC says somebody whose name is advertised in the online and other media publications, has been carrying on as chairman.
Are you insisting you are UPN Chairman?
I remain the national chairman of UPN until I get INEC letter that I’m no longer UPN chairman. I will not just comply with INEC dictation; I will go to the Inter Party Advisory Council (IPAC) for verification. The IPAC should be stronger that the INEC in coordinating political parties affairs. INEC is just to organize elections. IPAC is responsible for the integrity in the relationship among and between the political parties. IPAC is to direct and correct INEC, unfortunately, INEC seems to be dictating the pace for IPAC, it shouldn’t happen. It is IPAC that should tell INEC this is what the Council wants you to do. It is not for INEC to dictate to the political parties and if they are going to dictate to the political parties, such must conform to the rules and regulations propounded by the Electoral Act and the Constitution. We have characters in INEC, if they don’t like your face, they go on undermining you.