…Calls for release of Kanu, IPOB leader
By Daniel Kanu
Comrade Alex Omotehinse, activist and public affairs analyst, is the President, Centre for Human and Socio-Economic Rights (CHSR).
In this chat with Sunday Sun, he speaks on the Nigerian condition, President Bola Tinubu’s 100 days in office, which he says has severe negative impact on the people, and the need to release Nnamdi Kanu from detention, among other sensitive issues. Excerpt:
Looking at the country today, what is your candid assessment of the 100 days in office of President Bola Tinubu?
The 100 days of the present administration under President Bola Tinubu cannot be said to have brought or recorded any significant progress, we have not seen any positive new development apart from what we have been witnessing from the last administration. One can even say and correctly too, that in most areas things are even getting worse than it used to be. In the area of security, we have recorded even an increase in the area of incidences in insecurity in the Northwest, North-central as well as in some other regions. Sometimes in the last administration, the president said they have won the war against insurgency and we saw there was a reduction before he left, but for some weeks now we have witnessed increase in violence in North-Central, Northwest etc, which shows that in the area of security you cannot score this administration a pass mark because they have not done well in that area. It is obvious and in the news too that the economy is on its knee. You see, this administration came in with threats to Nigerians by announcing on the first day the removal of fuel subsidy, which is the only benefit Nigerians are getting from its government. With the removal you can see that the level of hardship has increased, transportation rate has increased and becoming unbearable, inflation in food prices, the bashing of the naira is getting funny and this shows that this administration has not encouraged Nigerians and a huge disappointment for those who voted for Mr. President. In their imagination, those who voted for the president believed that being an experienced politician there was going to be a shift in government approach to governance from what we had under the previous government of President Buhari administration. But that does not seem to be so. I have been saying it time and time again that Nigeria has been pushed to a stage whereby we now use a present administration to praise a previous one because every coming administration introduces new hardship that will make us see a previous administration as better. In terms of the naira exchange rate you can see where we are dangerously heading to. The Nigerian state in the last 100 days, you cannot point to one or two relevant things that have been done by this administration to impart positively on Nigerians. The performance so far is unsatisfactory, it is woeful.
Some critics can also say that 100 days is not enough…?
(Cuts in) One can do much in 100 days and that is the reason for its importance. You can preempt what a government can do using its first 100 days. We have witnessed somebody who has commissioned over 52 projects within the scope of 100 days. If 100 days is nothing, why did Mr. President not wait until after four years before he removed subsidy? What they should know is that playing politics with the lives of citizens is a dangerous game. Former Ekiti state governor, Dr Fayemi made a revealing statement recently at a book launch that their agitation to remove subsidy in 2012 under the President Jonathan administration was political. All these statements coming out from APC chieftains, I doubt, if the party itself is not what the members are, playing politics with sensitive issues, not minding the negative outcome. If Obasa made his statement some days ago and Fayemi, a two-term governor of a state is coming up again to say it’s all politics which means they know the truth, so what matters most for them is the politicking not governance. So, 100 days is long enough to make a visible impact or execute a significant project that could be pointed to. Look at the negative effect of a speech that was made on the first day in office by Mr. President, likewise a speech on the first day, a policy statement could also have ushered in positive effect, visible evidence of a promising era. We have had 100 days and you cannot point to one single project that Mr. President can point to successfully and you are telling Nigerians to have patience when you refused to open the borders, and you are removing fuel subsidy without making arrangement for adequate palliatives. If you want to open the border for cars, which one is more important, cars or food stuffs? So, it’s only those who have money to run the car business that such opening of the border can benefit?. What is the fate of those petty traders who rely on imported goods like rice, groundnut oil etc, which we are not producing enough here despite the propaganda that we are producing what can feed even the African continent. What I expected Mr. President to do on the day he announced the subsidy removal was to declare all border open. Then go into serious consultations. They never consulted. Before you remove subsidy, you must consult. Before President Jonathan removed subsidy in 2012, in fairness to him there were consultations at different levels. Some of us were privy to be in one of the consultation rooms at the Muson Centre Onikan, Lagos. And despite that Nigerians said no. My advice to the human rights community, our civil society now has been politicized because some of them are now at the other side with politicians. They are now card-carrying members of a ruling party. It is the reason we are witnessing the slow movement and withdrawn body language of activists on critical issues. It is as if activists are no longer existing in the country. That is why some people are asking “where are those that occupy Nigeria in 2012?” The answer is that some of us have crossed the line and moved to the other side and then the few of us that still remain, we are under serious threat almost every time. Can you imagine that after our press conference on the dropping of the commissioner nominees by the Lagos State House of Assembly, we were being attacked on social media and we know those that instigated it. They called us names, but the public knows what we stand for and we cannot compromise our defence of truth and the public good based on justice and fainess. We don’t need your money to tell you what you have done wrong or right. When you do well we will commend you and when it is time for us to condemn you we will also not hesitate to do that. That is the essence of a good leadership, you accept commendation and see the condemnation as a way of re-appraising and correcting yourself so as to do better. Both the commendation and condemnation is to put you on check, to put you on your toe as a servant of the people. We can never give up in this struggle to salvage Nigeria. And my message to Nigerians is that we should keep up the spirit of the struggle, we should not relent until victory is assured and achieved. Politicians are game masters. Every politician now is projecting ahead of 2027, they are not concerned about these four years because they believe they have secured this tenure, so Nigerians must also project ahead to strategise on how to stop those who did not perform when 2027 comes.
How do you also see the new cabinet of the president and if it inspires hope?
I have said it that there is nothing new in what we are seeing today. The cabinet of every president is made up of individuals they believe they can work with. So, it’s not usually in the interest of the electorate or citizens. What Mr. President has in his cabinet to the best of his knowledge are those he believes he can work with. Look, if Nigerians continue to rigmarole and believing in these our politicians, we will continue the movement from frying pan to fire. This reminds me of the Lagos assembly issue. Few weeks ago, against all odds we rose against the decision of Lagos State House of Assembly where the governor presented his list of commissioner-nominees and the Speaker, Hon. Obasa who believes he is a king in his own jurisdiction who can do and undo, and to our greatest surprise rejected lists of nominees not less than 17, most of them have served the state well to the knowledge of Lagosians. Look at the commissioner for Health, for instance, how can anybody reject such name looking at what he did during the COVID lockdown. I don’t know the man in person, but he performed outstandingly as a Health commissioner, so why reject him? He was a super boy, the poster boy, the face of the state given his commitment. Why reject the Commissioner for Information, Mr. Omotosho? When you are dropping such people Lagosians will need explanations, not flimsy explanations, but cogent reasons why they must be dropped despite their performance. We were surprised that Mr. Speaker went on air to reply us that he has taken the decision and that it is final and that there is nothing anybody can do about it. He said that they are concerned about their party and not about Lagosians. Can you imagine that? Such insinuation or language is enough for APC to be disappointed in whom they presented as their Speaker in the Lagos State House of Assembly. In an ideal society that language being used by Obasa is enough for his impeachment or for Lagosians to call for his removal. How can you say that you are after your party? It means that your qualification, your performance, your experience etc, do not matter to them. It is a slap on the collective intelligence of Lagosians. That language shows he is in contention with Mr. Governor and that should not be our business because the elections are over and what the people expect is governance not politics again. Let’s set this message very clear, governance is about the people and not about the party. Once you are elected you become the representative of the people within your constituency and no longer representing your party. This idea of Obasa saying that what they are after is their party not Lagosians is questionable, Lagosians must ask questions, the party itself (APC) if they really mean well for Lagosians and for Nigeria as a whole, they ought to have questioned Obasa for such careless utterance.
What do you think is the way forward for Nigeria?
It is like this marriage is not working. They should allow those who want to go their separate ways to go peacefully. Allow those who want to secede to do so and those who want to stay to stay. Let Mazi Nnamdi Kanu who is agitating for the sovereign state of Biafra be released because his agitation is constitutional and it is their fundamental human rights. If we are going this way thinking we can build a united country, we will be deceiving ourselves.