Foremost Nigerian human rights activist and lawyer, Ayo Opadokun, has said that the insistence of the President Goodluck Jonathan government to stick with the removal of fuel subsidy, in spite of the widespread protests by Nigerians, is a step towards doom. Opadokun also blamed the senseless killings by the Islamic sect, Boko Haram, on the failure of the Federal Government to deliver the dividends of democracy to the Nigerian masses. He called for the convocation of a sovereign national conference.
What’s your take on the removal of fuel subsidy?
Those who the gods want to destroy they will first of all make mad. They have overspent the blank cheque that Nigerians have given to them. I knew that people would react and Nigeria Labour Congress is leading the people to reject such evil policy. Let me tell you, I have done a lot on this so-called subsidy. You remember that in 1994, Obasanjo wanted to increase the price of fuel; the NLC did a thorough job, a lot of research; they went to several oil exporting and producing countries; they were able to gather the unit cost of producing one litre of refined oil; they went round and found that no oil exporting country is importing oil for its local consumption, except Nigeria. And then the question you ask yourself is why should this happen in the eight largest oil exporting country? How can a country that exports the eighth largest crude oil rely on fuel importation? How can?
There is no basis for Nigeria not to have built a new refinery since 1984. Is it that they don’t have the money? The money that they have spent on turn around maintenance, which they have done more than four or five times now, could have financed one or two new refineries. Why is it that they failed to do so? Because they have unfairly refused to build new refineries, there are other alternatives. One is that there are idle refineries in Ghana, Senegal, Portugal and Angola just to mention a few.
What stops Nigeria from taking its crude oil to them, refine them on arrangement and bring back to our country? They are not willing to do so. And to make matters worse, the only avenue through which this imported fuel will get to the Nigerian soil is through the Atlas Cove jetty. It is the only one that has been there for more than 25 years now. They knew that fuel consumption in Nigeria was increasing, as a result of the expansion of the economy. So they ought to have either done a new Atlas Cove or expanded that one, so that they could have multiple means for the oil. Now they say they have surcharge for fuel still on the sea. Is it Nigerians’ fault? Again, they claim that it is because Nigerian petroleum products are cheaper, cheaper than soft drink that people take it across the borders. Who is controlling the Nigerian borders? Is it not the Nigerian government? So you can see that there is nothing like subsidy. They are just dishonest.
Again, on oil importation, it is only the NNPC that has been licensed to import oil. Why can’t they give licence to individuals who wish to import? That is to tell you that there are questionable deals in it. Some of their friends are benefiting from the thing. They also keep on lying to the country that only a few people are benefiting from the subsidy. It is difficult for government to pay workers N18, 000 minimum wage. Now the prices of everything, from transportation and foodstuff, have sky rocketed. So it has an overbearing general effect on the Nigerian people. They know the truth, but they don’t want to say it.
Let’s talk about security. Book Haram has bean a thorn in the flesh of Nigerians, with the series of bomb blasts. What do you think?
I thought I had said much about Boko Haram. However, let me go back to give you an up date. The background to this matter, from all intent and purposes and from the investigations and consultations we have made from distinguished personalities from the North eastern part of the country, is this: They told us a long time ago that Boko Haram has resolved to confront an evil system that denies them their basic rights as citizens of Nigeria. Those who emerge as governors collect huge sums of money from the federation account, as trustees of the people, yet there is nothing to show for it; no development in the land, no job, no serious education; nothing is happening; so people are reacting, using their own method to vent their anger on the political operators in that part of the country. They have said that they don’t want western education. They said they don’t want western system of governance because that is evil to them. They preferred to be governed by Sharia law. Their resolve is that if you don’t listen to them, they will make it impossible for those in government to govern.
Now, how many people from that part of the country have come out to condemn them? They want to be governed in the Islamic way. In a federal structure, the constitution appreciates the fact that it is a multi-cultural, multi-linguistic, multi-religious, multi-customs and traditions. In a federal system, each unit governs itself independently, but coordinated at the centre. As the Boko Haram is dong their own, the Egbesu boys in the South South are saying they want to administer oil. Asari Dokubo started it all. Look at the Igbo guys, MOSSOB movement. They have been producing their own national flags, Biafran currency, and the money is being spent in some enclaves in Igbo land.
In the first republic, the regions were independent, but coordinated at the centre. But the problem is that everything Nigeria touches we bastardize it. The Yoruba boys, the Afenifere, the Oduduwa, and OPC are saying, let us live here. Don’t let anybody dictate to us; we know how to govern ourselves. The best thing, in this circumstance, which I have said over and over, is for us to call for a national conference, sovereign national conference; each nationality knows how to nominate their representatives. In the conference discuss and decide how to operate the federation
Why do you think successive governments shy away from convening a sovereign nation conference?
They are not true democrats. They are representing particular platforms that don’t want Nigeria to develop. It is for their selfish gains that the situation remains as it is today. They are the greatest beneficiaries. The system in Nigeria is terrible; no matter who you bring to preside over this current system, he would fail. And they don’t want that system to be properly established. Whatever system allows the Nigeria people to vote for a person and then a motley crowd of soldiers representing this evil platform can just annul such election. It is a terrible system that ought not to be tolerated. For example, those who schemed Jonathan into office want to continue to rule Nigeria in perpetuity, from cradle to grave. So, now if you want an arrangement that would prevent continuation of such evil regime, they will not be happy and would not support it. They will frustrate it.
You remember that the 2005 conference that Obasanjo called was because of the pressure. Instead of responding properly, he did an arrangement meant not only to undermine the clarion call but also to bend it for his own selfish interest. They don’t want Nigeria to escape from where we are today. They have held us down for over 51 years. I keep on saying that they have already overplayed their luck. My fear is that if they imagined that Nigeria is immune from the Arab spring, they will be shocked. The poverty in the land is too much.
The removal of Mrs. Farida Waziri as EFCC chairman has been interpreted in many ways. What’s your position?
We saw the sack of Mrs. Farida Waziri coming. The American Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, came to Nigeria and spoke very strongly that the fight against corruption had been stalled and the enthusiasm and the momentum had reduced substantially. Some of us felt that was a dividing line to tell the Nigerian rulers that their repeated commitment to the fight against corruption is not being taken seriously by the outside world. So we thought that something would happen. I would say that Waziri had been sacrificed to please the western nations and certain people in the Nigerian political circle who are still influential in the scheme of things.
Farida Waziri was brought in by a very unholy and very subversive group led by the former governor of Delta State and the then leadership of the Governor’s Forum. As soon as their candidate, Alhaji Umar Yar’Adua became president, it didn’t take time for them to dislodge Nuhu Ribadu from office. And at that time, those who cared to know, including journalists, would remember that both James Ibori and Bukola Saraki were virtually the landlords in Aso Rock. So they got what they wanted. If an officer of the state came in through that compromised arrangement, there would be no tears to shed for her when she was dislodged.
I saw the thing coming; that Waziri would be sacrificed one day. So, for me, what happened wasn’t accidental, and it will continue to happen. Whoever takes over even now, I am sorry for him, because the Nigerian government does not have the determination to fight corruption. They don’t. They are mouthing it. They are deceiving Nigerians. They know what to do; there are too many cases of corruption against the executive, legislature and the judiciary.
Since two chief executives of that body have been sacked in this messy circumstances, I dare say that it will continue. For it to stop, they must review that act, the EFCC Act of 2004. It should not give the president the right to sack the chief executive of that kind of a body without the input of the legislature. For now, whoever is there is under the mercy of the political leader. And if you don’t want to lose your job, you already know what to do. I don’t see President Jonathan fighting corruption. It will be impossible. I don’t see him confronting the platform that produced him. He remains a product of very perverted and corrupt platform. Look at what is happening in his own state, how can he be a decent person? Since Dickson has become the candidate, it follows that he would be awarded the election. How do you imagine that such a fellow would be willing to defend and promote the rule of law, equity and justice?
Now that you have mentioned Bayelsa PDP, what do you think about the crisis relating to the governorship election?
I thought that it was an inglorious manifestation of a political brinkmanship that the sitting governor of state was physically held up in the Government House, as if he was in solitary confinement, to prevent him from participating in the primaries of the party that sponsored him into office. And that is the state of the president of Nigeria. By that, we were exposing the underbelly of crude politics that our people play. I never imagined that in this 21st century, we will still be engaged in such perverted political arrangement. All that has been exposed here is the fact that the highest authority in the land has strongly undermined the normal procedure of party politics.
What then should Sylva do?
He is a product also of a perverted system. He is not innocent. Sylvia is not in any way better off than those who are humiliating him. If he has the gut, let him pursue the matter to its logical conclusion legally.