Why Nigerians are yet to enjoy dividends of democracy, by Oko
Third republic national lawmaker, Moses Oko, who represented Ogoja Federal Constituency in Cross River State, spoke with ANIETIE AKPAN on why Nigerians are yet to get dividends of democracy and why crisis in Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) persists.
How will you assess 23 years of unbroken democracy in Nigeria?
We are not learning much and this is why we are sinking and drifting. It is like a mirage, you will always think it is there but nothing is there and we are not getting anywhere. Only few people realise this situation, every other person appears to be carried away by that euphoria of thinking Nigeria is a large country and so, we are always thinking that nothing will happen, but the people who know the truth, know that we are drifting because of the misdemeanour of our politicians, people who know that it is only the wrong way that can get you somewhere.
There are sincere people who know things are wrong but people laugh at you when you want to do the right thing. People start mocking you and suggesting mischievous ways to get things done. That is why you see educated people who are supposed to be the torchlight are the ones who are so misled.
Do you see any hope in the whole process?
It is difficult to talk about hope because it is built around religion and those people are becoming even more political now because of the economic benefit. The judiciary is worse now than politics, even all these pastors want to be heard by proclaiming what God did not tell them, just because of the perks of office. So, the hope that would have come immediately is being pushed behind because those who would have championed it are also caught in the web. There is hope but it will not come immediately.
What is the way forward for Nigeria?
The way forward is that like in every rotten situation, there are people who would definitely want to stand for evil to thrive. Definitely, when the few good men begin to percolate, there would be things in the neighbourhood of revolution happening. Looking at the socio-political setup in Nigeria, the suffering in the North is much but ordinary man there does not understand what good life means because rich men carry him along and he is satisfied. In the South, everybody has opinion and wants to be independent. They understand what good governance is all about and they are not happy with the system. But revolution cannot easily happen where there is no consensus among ordinary people to change the system. When you want to have a revolution, it is a general thing that sweeps across but it should be anchored somewhere. You understand it here but do they understand it over there? Those are the factors of delay.
How would you compare the activities of the current National Assembly to what happened in the third republic?
The National Assembly has been compromised. In the days we were into politics, people came to lobby us and beg us just to say yes. They will even want to give you money, you say no. That sends a signal to the candidate to know that you need to be good before you can get there. The National Assembly is tied to the apron strings of the executive because the power to go there came from the executive. When they got there, they know they are there only because of these governors, who make them do their bidding.
Some say National Assembly should be unicameral and members should work on part time basis, what is your opinion on this?
I wrote a book titled: “Politics Without Bitterness,” stamping on what the late Alhaji Waziri Ibrahim said. One of the things I suggested was making politics less attractive. Today you see a situation where medical doctors and others abandoned their professions and run to politics because of the huge financial attraction instead of developing their professions. My mother died because doctors in the hospital left for politics and the Indian doctor around did not know what to do.
How does a new Constitution come into play in this kind of scenario?
When we were young there was nothing like secret cult. What we had was activities that would mould your character. The opposite is the case for the youths of today because the educational background we had is no more there. So, it is a character thing. Character is what transforms leadership and makes everybody. It is not the Constitution but the character and we have left all that.
Do you think revolution can address these issues?
Before revolution comes, there must be a state of utter disenchantment and it is something that must be felt across the entire country. If it happens in just one section, then it would not work. All the revolutions I have read of were not circumstantial and sectional, they swept across the country. For Nigeria, we always have the fear of talking about such things but we hope that eventually that stage must come, whether now or tomorrow. Even when they are eating crumbs, they will reject the crumbs and revolt.
How would you assess the present government in Nigeria?
It is laughable but that is the problem with Nigerians. These political parties and lines that divide us, people take it seriously and it is so bad that when people meet, they do not see each other as persons but as parties. That polarisation is there because something must be there as an excuse to divide us. As Nigerians, we need to be serious and know where we are coming from and going to, which is why I said in the beginning that we are drifting. The idea of everybody is that you are in politics to make money, because we made it that way. Even those with good intentions, upon getting there and discovering that everybody is like that, do not have the strength to stand strong and they find themselves bowing out. That is why I always talk about Peter Obi and when people say he is good, I ask how long they think he can withstand the pressure, because the evil on ground is unbearable. If he wins, what is the guarantee that his cabinet would adopt his principles? The next thing is that he will be criticised and called the worst man in Nigeria.
What do you think would be the implication of the crisis between Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and Nyesom Wike on the party come 2023?
The PDP crisis would have been avoided but certain people think they are too big, that they can do anything and go free. From the beginning, PDP almost crashed when APC emerged. We watched the governors not coming up, we watched the party going down but Nyesom Wike stood up for the party and did so much in spending and encouragement when everyone, including Atiku ran away but Wike stayed behind and tried to create a bridge to the North by using Governor Aminu Tambuwal. Immediately they saw the party stabilising, they all came back. One bad thing about being a strong man is that sooner or later, you will be fought.
Honestly, it is not the time for the North to produce a President. Atiku used Tambuwal and caused problem, otherwise Wike would have defeated Atiku. Even after winning, there were no kind words from Atiku. Instead, he wanted to crush Wike but Wike gave them surprises. That is what they do if they notice you are someone who is stubborn and speaks the truth, they will want to silence you. Wike is a man who is able to read the times and situation fast. What really pained him was the fact that there was a committee of very eminent persons set up and everybody knew the committee will come out with Wike’s name but through the back door, Atiku and Ayu abandoned Wike and justified it by saying Wike, who painstakingly built the party is not a competent person, which was very painful. Ayu was away in Benue State, Wike and Ortom had a relationship and it was agreed that Ayu should be taken but unfortunately Ayu was silently working for Atiku, the same thing Secondus did.
If you look at history, you will discover that is exactly what happened in the past. People in the PDP believe in their wealth and they do things with impunity. In Jonathan’s time, five governors went away but the party did not mind, which was why PDP lost and APC won. It should have been a lesson to them but now they want to repeat it with Ayu, these are the problems. So, you prefer to keep the chairman of the party instead of the President? So, what are we fighting for now?
Wike is a phenomenon and I have a book on him titled: “Wike’s Diary and his Troubled Populism.” That is self-explanatory. If you are somebody interested in historical facts, you will know that people from the Niger Delta have some degree of wanting to express themselves at all cost. Trace it from King Jaja of Opobo’s resistance and draw it nearer to Isaac Boro, a student who broke out of the university with some boys and fought, also to Ken Saro Wira and now to the one contemporarily happening before us in Wike. He is doing just like others before him, it runs in the blood. What Wike is doing is not because of ambition but it is something inexplicable that lives with him.
You are an admirer of Wike, who many consider too domineering and overbearing?
Yes. Taking into consideration political development as concerning 2023. My problem is with politicians with no modicum of integrity that believe everything goes. Imagine all governors from the South meeting over and over again and publicly proclaiming it must be a southern President after Buhari in 2023.
But after the conspiracy and manipulation that threw up Atiku at the PDP presidential primary, everybody seems to have forgotten that resolution by the southern governors.
Wike has stood up for the south. I admire his persona and politics. My perception on Wike’s adventure in Nigeria politics cannot be exhausted here. Some people regard him as agbero. I just laugh at them. It is simply mischief because they just can’t understand where he gets the courage to stand-alone for what he believes in and never shirks responsibility. Southern Nigeria should be thankful they have a Nyesom Wike at this time of our political conundrum.
What advice do you have for Atiku?
I do not have any advice for him. We have the hawks and doves in politics. Opportunists are the hawks, who do nothing but wait and cash in on the labour of the doves. Most of the people advising Atiku now are the hawks, they admire and fear Wike’s might but they do not have his capacity and would prefer he is not there. They will never advise Atiku in such a way that Wike can come back, and if he does not come back, I assure you that PDP is wasting its time. Wike is not joking. Does it not strike you that four governors joining Wike continue to say we will not go? So, is that not enough to say Ayu should go? It is like hunting with the hounds and playing with the rats. They talk about the Constitution but they came through the back door as aspirants and now the one of Ayu cannot be abandoned. That is why I feel it is an ordained situation that PDP may not win at the national level if they keep going like this.