DAVID UGOLOR, human rights activist and Chief Executive of Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ), in this interview with Benin Bureau Chief, FRANCIS ONOIRIBHOLO, talks on the on-going merger talks among some political parties, Jonathan’s 2015 presidential ambition and the face-off between Rivers State governor, Rotimi Amaechi and Niger Delta Minister, Godsday Orubebe, among other issues.
Would the Civil Society be comfortable with two-party system, which the country is likely to experience if the merger talks among opposition parties succeed?
Well, it is not whether we will support or be comfortable with two-party system. I think for any democracy to thrive, opportunity for people to form their own political party and to associate on a specific ideology should not be denied. That was why, when INEC decided to scrap some political parties, I kicked against it for obvious reason that you are denying people of their fundamental human rights to associate and form their own political party.
Political parties are not necessarily formed to win election; it could be for a particular policy, program or initiative and you need a platform to champion it but in terms of winning power, you need to form alliance to leverage each other in areas of strength. I think that is what some of the political parties are currently doing. If that necessarily has to mean that they have to fuse to use one particular name to contest an election that does not necessarily mean it is a two-party system. That is what we should understand.
Would it be in the interest of the civil society and Nigerians if two political parties are to contest an election?
You see, in the outward you will perceive it as a two-party system should ACN, CPC and other political parties now fuse together but really you will know that internally it is not two-party system. They are not the same political party even if they fuse together. It is just like you saying if you put oil and water together, you mix it up, you cannot say it is oil alone or water alone. They have their different perspectives and ideologies. What they have now decided is to build consensus and common goal on the need to checkmate the overwhelming power of PDP because they have now realised that none of them can do it alone. So, there is nothing wrong for both of them coming together to establish one political party that will engage the current power and make sure that they win the election.
So, my take about it is that it is win-win for Nigeria and Nigerians. If those political parties can come together and become one and be able to engage the PDP, it provides enormous opportunity to put a check to PDP rule in Nigeria, because you will agree with me that PDP rule in Nigeria has brought a lot of pain to Nigerians. Nigerians are already yearning for alternative. So if these people can put aside their ego and come together and form one formidable opposition party to engage PDP, why not, it will be a big celebration, a welcome development in the political terrain of Nigeria.
What reasons do you have in alleging that PDP has failed Nigerians?
You don’t need to be told whether PDP has failed as a political party. Obviously, you will agree with me that it is just in name that PDP is a political party, in the real sense of it, if you are to judge PDP as a political party, it has failed. Unfortunately, the leadership in PDP is not affected; the members are busy packaging themselves. I would have not been surprised if former President Obasanjo came out publicly and told Nigerians that he had failed as a leader because having been the former Chairman of the Board of Trustees of PDP one would have expected him to be very humble with the way he goes about talking on Jonathan. Is Jonathan the problem of Nigeria?
He is not the problem with Nigeria. The problem with Nigeria is that we have leaders, political elite who see their own private interest more than the interest of the country. Jonathan is not the problem of Nigeria, I can tell you anytime any day. Some of us we are not fans of Jonathan. Don’t hide from the fact that some militants from the region are saying they are no longer giving backing to Jonathan. Perhaps, you would know that party line contract is not being renewed, pecuniary interest is not being renewed, like I heard the other day that some people are now championing that the oil derivation money should go to the communities. It is unreasonable for anybody to conclude that the 13% Oil Derivation should be sent to the Communities directly. You need a framework on how those resources should be used that will impact on the people’s lives at the community level. I can assure you that with the way the structure of the governance system is in Nigeria today, the state is in a better framework to actually disburse that fund. The only thing we see in it is that we have always been saying there are challenges of capacity problem within the state. There is corruption no doubt but this corruption is not just about the governors alone; it is not the governors that steal the money. So when you say there is stealing, there is corruption at the state level; it is an entire industry.
That brings me again to another reason why I said PDP has failed. You can see the extent of what is happening between Godsday Orubebe and Governor Rotimi Amaechi. Orubebe doesn’t need to be told that he should be ashamed of himself. If he can stay at the podium and hide under Jonathan to be throwing stone to Amaechi who has been perceived to have delivered, it is shameful.
Are you saying the issue inability to find solution to corruption and security problems are not weighty enough to support the accusations?
I am not a fan of Jonathan but you see, I criticise with the whole idea to make a change. As an activist who has been working on governance reform in the country for the past 15 years, when I am criticising, the whole aim is if Jonathan can make a change so that he can improve on governance.
For instance, when he visited the Police College, Ikeja and knew the situation, one would hope that with such information at his disposal, he would use it to drive the reform in the Police we are all calling for. At least, that would end the culture of impunity in the police. Beyond that, the issue of insecurity as raised quite clearly is a big problem and that is what we have been saying that the insecurity in the country is as a result of culture of impunity. People do things, government officials commit crime and nothing happens; money allocated to Police College is stolen by Police hierarchy and nothing happens. That is impunity.
Like the insecurity problem, look at what has happened to the Emir of Kano. That is one of the outstanding traditional rulers of the northern part of the country. Not just the Emir, two of his sons were victims of the insecurity in the north. You think the northerners are happy; you think we are happy? Today it is the Emir, tomorrow it could be any person.
Today Jonathan is the President of Nigeria; tomorrow he will not be the President. So, whatever precedent that is set now, will haunt them.
So, I am saying very clearly to Jonathan that he should rise up to create a perception of a leader; a leader that is able to decide. If he fails to do that he is only creating problem for his regime.
I think the area of insecurity in the nation is the problem of PDP. That is why I said PDP has failed. Instead of PDP as a political party to be devising means to overcome this challenge the leaders are busy fighting one another over contract, over who becomes the NPA Chairman, who becomes member, Board of Trustees. Do Nigerians care who becomes the Board of Trustee member, when not one single policy that they told Nigerians when they were campaigning for the Presidency of this country, has not been passed into law, like the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB)?
If you recall, when Jonathan and his colleagues were campaigning across the entire country they promised Nigerians that Petroleum Industry Bill would be turned into Law but today are they not, PDP governors are now fighting themselves.
Don’t you think this PIB issue, if not properly handled could lead to unintended consequences?
We have just played into the hands of the Multi-national Oil Companies. Currently, the investment in the oil and gas sector is declining as a result of other competing countries that are around us who are able to create a regulatory environment that is friendly to business and attracting direct foreign investments.
Unfortunately, Oil & Gas Sector business is not a Cassava business where you plant Cassava this January by December you start reaping. Oil & Gas business is a long term business. As a long term business, it requires a regulatory system that will give confidence to investors to come and invest in your country. So, not passing the PIB into Law has created uncertainty in the environment. No investor goes to an environment that is very uncertain. So, it is in the interest of our leaders to understand the implication of what they are doing with PIB. As a matter of fact, I think this is the reason why some of the people are also saying that Jonathan has failed completely. It is surprising that Jonathan is actually leading one of the biggest political parties in the country, who really has over 50 percent of the governors of this country, almost 70 percent of those in the National Assembly, all the important areas in the country and it is not able to pass one single bill into law. It is a shame to PDP. There is no better way to judge that PDP has failed as a political party. Indirectly you can say that Jonathan has failed.
The complexity of being a President in Nigeria requires some level of consensus within the elite to push the country forward and that, I am telling you is lacking. You should remember when Jonathan said that, “I even have Boko Haram in my government”. You should not also take away the fact that there are really challenges we should not discountenance. We must know very clearly that until we begin to really put it into consideration that taking this country forward is not Jonathan’s alone, what we require from Jonathan is leadership and that leadership that is failing. That is why some of us are criticising him and that is why we are saying that Jonathan must speak out particularly on the areas of impunity in the anti-corruption agency.
For instance the EFCC, why do you think EFCC is not able to embark on fighting corruption? How can he fight corruption when those who are involved in corruption are thicker than EFCC? They are able to contract the services of Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN) that EFCC is not able to contract and they hide under technicality to delay the justice process, plead for plea bargain. You steal 20 billion naira, do plea bargain and release only 20 million; thereafter you go scot free. That will never happen in a decent country where Rule of Law takes place.
Would mega-party bring the best alternative?
Well, that is another issue. Nigerians should also be conscious of the fact that PDP has failed. We should be very cautious and be wise not to allow the opposition parties take us for another ride because it would amount to double tragedy.
Read more at: http://dailyindependentnig.com/2013/01/2015-why-jonathan-shouldnt-be-censored-ugolor/