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‘Why the president should be stripped of powers to appoint INEC chairman, IGP’

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Activist, Prince Deji Adeyanju, who regained his freedom after 78 days in prison, relived his prison experiences and what transpired between him and Charly Boy. He spoke on the country’s future in this interview with Eniola Daniel when he recently visited The Guardian

What were your experiences in Kano prison?
It was very stressful, but it was also very impactful. One of the things I learnt is that half of Nigeria’s problems is reflected in the prison. Kano prison has about 3,000 inmates and most of them are young people; you cannot see any old man there. And the issues that took them to prison are societal issues, issues about the poor economy, and unemployment and things like that.

Majority of the young people in that prison also suffers from drug abuse and the most pathetic thing in Kano prison is that no reform is taking place there. The people I sympathise most with are the first-time offenders; they go there and become more hardened. The prison is a breeding ground for criminals. So, I believe that we should begin to look beyond being punitive for people who commit crime but how to reform their minds. Because if the essence of sending people to prison is for punitive and corrective measures, then we fail if we achieve punishment alone and refuse to reform them. What I will personally look into is how to engage in prison reform and transformation of the inmates. That is one of the issues my NGO wants to focus on.

I genuinely believe that the future of our country lies in the way we treat our citizens, and there should be no citizen, convicted or free, who should be treated less than a human being. Even someone on death row has certain right. The way our prisoners are treated is unacceptable.I spent most of my time reading and writing my book. I’m on chapter three already. I am documenting my experiences and interaction I had with these young people in prison. I believe that the future of Nigeria lies in the hands of the youths, but Nigerian youths are being trained by the older ones to be even worse than the current set of politicians and the leaders. So, we need not wait for the leaders to come help us; we need to salvage our country and the destiny of this nation by ourselves.

In Nigeria, people only preach what they don’t practice. We need to get Nigeria to the level where people live their lives and not say what they are not. We have a situation where there is no role model in the country. Who can you look up to in Nigeria today as a role model? We worship wealth. People at the earliest chance compromise, collect kick-back, make deals behind the scene. So, in a situation where there are no longer role models in the country, can you blame young people for committing fraud, going into arm robbery?The acquisition of wealth has become the new morality in the country. People want to buy private jets, build mansions; so, this generation does not have mentors they can look up to. We need to focus more on morality as a nation and as a people.

In your experience so far, do you think Nigerian youths are serious?
They are not. Many of the youths are worst than the leaders they criticise. A situation where young people register political parties just to get money, for instance; I know someone who registered nine political parties and he was praying that INEC should exclude one of his parties on the ballot so that he would negotiate with politicians. Many of them were all over the place to collect money from politicians. Until we get to the position where everything is about the fear of God – not houses, cars but the country, we are not going to get it right.

The minister of Interior, Abdulrahman Dambazau, said Nigeria spends N14,000 daily to feed each prisoner. Does that reflect in Kano prison?
The food a prisoner gets is worse than the food you give to your dog. The food that a prisoner gets is not worth N200 meal per day; no human being in his right senses will eat that food. They treat these prisoners less than dogs.

The reason why this continues to happen is because some people loot all the money and they tell lies to the country. We have a lot to do and the citizens are aloof; they are not concerned about the welfare of inmates. They have this kind of attitude: ‘In as much as I can survive, the country can go to hell!’
When I talk about activism, people always get it wrong. Activism is not the exclusive right of anybody; everybody should be an activist. The prison warden should be an activist if he sees corruption in the prison. The pastor, imam, market women, police, journalist should all be activists. That is the only way we can get Nigeria back on track.

This spat you have with Charly Boy, were you offered or did you demand any money from him?
God forbid. Charly Boy won’t even dare to offer me any money. When I confronted him, he was begging me to sit when I got up to leave. He granted an interview and what he said was actually different from what he told me. He told me that Festus Keyamo came to his house and they discussed my issue, and he said Keyamo asked him to support him and he supported him but he made a 360 degree turnaround in his interview and said that Festus watched his video dishing Atiku Abubakar and decided to buy it, and he told him that whoever wants his intellectual property must pay for it.

I wish Charly Boy good luck; he initially said that I demanded money from him but go and watch the full interview; he said I never asked him for any money. I leave him to God and his conscience. There are so many people like him in this country; they are heroes to so many people.

What’s your perception of TraderMoni?
TraderMoni is vote buying. The people that are doing it know that it’s vote buying. If not vote buying, why did they stop it? They know it’s a bribe. How can you be going from one market to another to share money, money for what purpose? Can you give me the list of people that got TraderMoni? That is a scam. We need to strengthen our institution because that is the only way we can get Nigeria back on track.

How do you see the 2019 elections and what can be done to reform the electoral system?
What really played a role was the use of security agents to rig the elections and buying of votes; you can’t really call the 2019 election an election. It was a coup. They are not being elected; they are just taking power by force. The electoral act should be signed. By signing the act, we will be getting closer to having a better election.

The president should not appoint the INEC chairman and national commissioners. If you appoint people, you can appoint your in-laws or brothers. By so doing, the electoral process is compromised. So, we should have a situation where the people in INEC who have served the country meritoriously can move up and occupy the position. Same thing applies to the police, Chief of Army, and DSS. The president should not retire Deputy Inspector-Generals of Police because he wants to appoint somebody from the lower rank, who is loyal to him as the IGP; it should be loyalty to the country.


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INECPrince Deji Adeyanju
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