June 12 should not be hypocritical adoption to satisfy political ambition, says Agbeyegbe
Lawyer, writer, activist, and chieftain of National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), Mr. Fred Agbeyegbe, told ANOTE AJELUOROU (Head, Politics) and EMEKA NWACHUKWU in this interview that June 12 must mean the embodiment of what MKO Abiola stood for and not just a hypocritical adoption for getting votes. Excerpts:
Eventually the campaign for the recognition of June 12 has finally come to pass. Are you happy?
Yes, I have no right not to be happy. I am happy in the chancing of an issue that has become unnecessarily controversial. But I am sad that it did not transpire as a result of the agitation for it to be given recognition. It happened as a result of what I call political gimmickry; that is to say, Mr. President was looking for everything to put his stable right for electioneering purposes and he stumbled upon that item, and that’s why to some extent, something that would have ordinarily made everyone happy also delivered shock. The shock being, can that be true? What is it that I have just heard? But all the same, we thank the good lord that it happened?
Now that it has happened, what should necessarily follow for the joy of June 12 to be fully realised?
All the expectations for which the people of Nigeria voted for MKO Abiola, who really is the subject matter of June 12, should follow it. It should not be just a hypocritical adoption of what the populace want having satisfied the political ambition of those who used it to get votes; it should go beyond the fact of its utility value to them and the fact of having achieved their own objective. He should go to the root of the matter and the root of the matter is that MKO stood for democracy; he was the choice of the people of Nigeria, whatever the colour of their politics, ethnicity, and so many other colours that was ongoing at that time.
What exactly was June 12? What were those values that MKO Abiola stood for that this Democracy Day should now reflect in the lives of the Nigerians?
Nigeria has been operating a system different from the one that those who fought for independence stood for. It was to be a federation, and federation has a meaning. It is today called a federation but there is no doubt in anybody’s mind that we are operating a unitary system. The federation with which we went into continuing the British experiment called Nigeria stood on the basis that in federation you have a number of constitutions reflecting the makeup of that federation. For example, at that time you had the constitution of Eastern Nigeria, Western, Northern and Mid-Western Nigeria. Those were the four constituent parts of that federation. Then the federal and the legislative programmes of those five entities were liberal enough for each to legislate on what concerns its own management of its area of domination. The federal had its own, because why there was need for federal was a platform standing upon which all the people called Nigerians managed those affairs that made up the federation, including defence, currency, foreign affairs, etc.
And what went with that was that the resources in those areas were left to the owners of those areas to manage and do the business of the people that were members of their own society. But what we have today, although it is called federation, it is unitary in as much as 68 items relating to the welfare, well-being, comings and goings on of the people of Nigeria are handled at the federal level and common items of security , administration and taking particular interest by way of healthy competition between the constituent parts. It allowed those who were better informed or better gifted by God to be able to use what they had to their own advantage while contributing what you can call taxation to the centre so that the centre can manage its own affairs. All of that has changed along the lines of the military rulership of Nigeria as at the time they poked their noses into the business of administration and has remained so in the manner in which there is first class citizenship, second class as government policies however much they pretend and however much they resort to so-called definitions of federal character and what have you.
So, back to true federalism should be a follow up of the adoption or recognition of June 12 in Abiola’s term.
The president, after criticising those asking for restructuring, eventually said perhaps true federalism is the way to go and last week the present seemed amenable to state police as well. Are you optimistic that he will implement these?
It is difficult to say in the event that we have heard and seen a lot of contradiction in governance and by those in government and it must be admitted that there’s an element of surprise there because he is no longer looking for votes. So, you can’t say here we go again, but contrary to the impression he has given, not just impliedly but also expressly, that the whole idea of the national conference, a programme to look into how to govern ourselves, but he had said in the past that it is a waste paper basket material. Is it that he was reacting to being fed up of being called names that came with the absence of security, his inability to deliver on stemming the onslaught of Boko Haram, which we were told in 2O15, was going to disappear no sooner he was sworn in? Then you hear from the same government how difficult it has been to deal with Boko Haram; you hear from the same government that the corruption he wanted to end next minute he took over is fighting back.
All you hear are about what government wants to do or what the government is doing, but surely they all have terminal points and in the first four years we saw nothing of it. In the new term that has started, is it his declaration for state police that’s going to solve the problems? We have to wait and see. But I have to make a point here; many years ago, I think it was Sonny Irabor who had a programme at which I appeared often enough to talk about the issue of state police. All the Northern politicians were against state police, and like I noticed too, sometime thereafter, the idea of strangers appearing in other people’s backyard, farms and forests started when the issue of state police was in everybody’s mind. And they were opposed to it and I always say that the police force that we have is a spy and a spying arrangement where the police you find in your locality knows nothing about that locality and the result is that they cannot enforce security. Also the fact that the governor of the state is meant to be the chief security officer, but the commissioner of police who is head of security in his domain has neither loyalty nor allegiance to him. Instead, it was to some authority in the Federal Government.
Now that we have seen the worst of insecurity in Nigeria, which has been almost singly an issue for the Buhari administration; it is the advent of such incredible insecurity that we have never seen in this country before. Maybe, that is why the president is somersaulting in his views and policies?
Twenty years after our current democratic experience, we are having two military men presiding over our affairs, those who put Nigeria in the mess it is today. Where does that leave us?
Well, it leaves us where I was telling a friend in discussion about a week ago, that maybe one of the lights in the tunnel, in terms of being able to have and maintain a stable society, is that Buhari might be the last of the militia that have been ruling us. I had to draw the man’s attention to the fact that we are still under military rule. To start with, all those ideas of how President Buhari has become a libertarian or a democratic student or implementer of democracy have not been true.
The military, since they got out of power, has been very visible anytime there is need to have a new head of state. I wonder if my fellow citizens have bothered to look into why this is so. Championed by former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who would come out and beat his chest to everybody how he has been very active in ensuring who the head of the state is, have Nigerians sat down to analyse why? If you go to the constitution that Gen. Abubakar Abdulsalami (rtd) let left us, Section 66, C and D says you can’t bring any action on any matter concerning what the military did to the court. Those who are to determine whatever wrongs people would have suffered and want to get relief upon, they make them unjusticeable and unenforceable. They are snooping around to see whether there’s one Flt. Lt. Jerry Rowling (former military dictator in Ghana turned democratic president) in one corner or the other: the Nigerian Rowling must never emerge because it’s a danger to those military men who robbed us of our rights and denied us all the things that God left us.
Just imagine, even today we have a so-called Peace Committee; they managed to take in one religious icon into their midst but who are the other two? They are a Commodore in the Navy and the same Abdulsalami, who gave us a constitution we didn’t take part in formulating, and on the side, like Obasanjo would put it, him, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, and Gen. Theophilus Y. Danjuma are the ones who have been choosing the president and because they have chosen, he is the best, he will be good. And no sooner that president, whoever it is, stops to do Obasanjo’s bidding, he becomes no longer good.
We were all here when Obasanjo, for his own reasons, decided to make an Ijaw man the president of Nigeria. He did not as much as consult the Ijaws; he didn’t, for as much as I know, consult anybody else. He brought Jonathan. Would the Ijaws have given him Jonathan if asked? Was Jonathan the best icon for presidential position when he made him president? That didn’t stop him from saying what Jonathan did while he was president would be to the disadvantage of South-South for a long time. He made the choice, put the man there, came out to announce that his people will suffer the detriment of his own choice, and that’s how he has gone about it every time. Again, he was in the forefront of making Buhari president. Needless to say that they have the responsibility, particularly Obasanjo, because he also said that the Abiola that the whole of Nigeria wanted should not be (president) because he was not the Messiah that we were looking for. In so many ways, he has put himself forward as the Messiah but was he rlrely the Messiah?
That’s why I believe a lot of people were very happy not, because they wanted Buhari back as such, but in as much as he is now the president against the wish and will of Obasanjo, people are able to say that the demystification of Obasanjo is complete.
Would you like to pay tributes to some of the people who sacrificed so much for the struggle for the realisation of June 12?
Well, I would not like to preempt what NADECO is doing. I would not like to jump the gun. Of course, I would love to pay tribute any day, but I can give a secret. I don’t mind it being an open secret even if my people will criticise me for it. I can tell you that the right tribute is on the way (shows a book). It would rule the waves!
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