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Saturday, July 2

Nigerians, you voted for change, Don’t complain about hardship – OPC Founder - Fasehun

Nigerians have been told to stop complaining about the present economic hardship in the country and accept their fate with equanimity.
Giving the advice in an interview with TUNDE THOMAS, the founder, Oodua Peoples Congress, OPC, Dr Fredrick Fasehun stated that since it was Nigerians that voted for change, they should be ready to endure whatever comes with their choice. He also spoke on other national issues.

HOW would you assess President Muhammadu Buhari’s administra­tion in the last one year?
Let me say that we are watching like some people would say, may be it is too early to judge or comment on this government. Let’s give him more time, but I will say that Buhari needs to buckle up especially on the power issue.
Power supply has not been encour­aging. Many industries are closing down while millions of jobs are be­ing lost to erratic power supply.
Many Nigerians that are self-em­ployed including artisans like weld­ers, hair dressers and others who depend on efficient power supply to sustain their small scale ventures have been rendered jobless as a result of poor power supply. This has been a big minus on the part of the admin­istration. Increasing unemployment and job losses occasioned by poor power supply should be a source of concern to the president and his team.


That means the adminis­tration has not met your ex­pectations …?
Cuts in… They are far from meeting my expectations. What are we talking about? Democracy and governance is about delivery of dividends of democracy, but I have not seen this government do­ing that. Where are the dividends of democracy?


That means you are on the same page with those who believe or are saying that hardship is on the increase in the country?
I totally agree with them. Hard­ship and suffering have increased. Many Nigerians today are hungry and angry. Even now, the rich also cry. The bad economy has wors­ened the situation with many Ni­gerians finding it increasingly dif­ficult to survive. The situation can’t continue like this, government must find a remedy.


What is your assessment of efforts by Buhari’s adminis­tration to tackle corruption?
Tackling corruption is a noble idea. Corruption for long has held Nigeria down — it has been cancer­ous vice which has permeated our society’s fabrics, and everybody agree that there is a need to tackle it.
While Buhari’s government de­serve kudos for taking the bull by the horn, however, the efforts be­ing made to tackle the vice should be seen to be transparent. There should be no room for doubts or impression created that the fight is one-sided.
Already some people have made the observation that those being in­vestigated and charged to court are mostly PDP members. Are we say­ing that APC is a party of saints?
Investigation and trial of corrupt people should go round. It should not be limited to a particular group. Nobody should be seen to be above the law. Nigerians would believe that Mr President is sincere with his fight against corruption if the whole thing can go round. Cor­rupt people should not be shielded because they belong to a particular political party or because they are related to somebody. The whole exercise should be devoid of bias.


The arms fund scan­dal otherwise known as Da­sukigate has been gener­ating so much controversy with the revelations of mind-boggling looting and how money meant for arms pur­chase was shared among individuals, what is your view on this?
It is really unfortunate that mon­ey meant for arms purchase was diverted, but I believe true probe should be carried out because most of the people alleged to have col­lected the money have claimed that they don’t know what the money was originally meant for. They claimed that they were told that it was for election purpose. EFCC should do a diligent job on this is­sue so that innocent Nigerians are not unnecessarily punished.
I will never condone corruption or encourage it, whosoever is found guilty after a transparent investi­gation should be made to face the music.


The issue of whether for­mer President Goodluck Jonathan should be interro­gated or not over the ongo­ing probe into the arms fund has been generating contro­versy, where do you stand on the issue?
I believe we should tread careful­ly on this issue. I know a lot of peo­ple out there would like to ridicule the former president, especially his political opponents. But for me, I think we should treat this man with dignity and respect. This is a man that saved Nigeria from a possible civil war by admitting electoral de­feat even when collation was still
going on. With that singular action, he earned global accolades.
Nobody is above the law, but EFCC and those in government now should look at the issue very well to determine whether it is absolutely necessary to question Jonathan. National interests should override political interests.


Your organization, OPC and other militant groups that were awarded contract to protect oil pipelines by Goodluck Jonathan’s ad­ministration were reported to have been mobilized with bil­lions of naira, yet, the groups, including OPC have been claiming that the Federal Government is owing them and that President Buhari is being vindictive by not pay­ing them, what is your take on this?
It is true that the Federal Govern­ment is owing us and I can’t under­stand the reason for this other than political vendetta.
Contrary to the wrong impres­sion that the contract was given to us as a kind of political patronage to entice us to work for Jonathan’s re-election, I make bold to say a cat­egorical NO to this.
A job was given to us to secure the pipelines from attacks by van­dals, and we undertook this job, and did it to the best of our ability until President Buhari decided to revoke the contract after he was elected president.
But before he took over, we were being owed outstanding sums of money which were to be paid to those people we recruited to guard or secure the pipelines.
Those people deserve their wag­es. For instance, I recruited over 11,000 personnel to secure oil pipe­lines under my own jurisdiction.
Is the federal government say­ing that our claim is not justified? Are we demanding for something unusual by asking that money we are to give to our workers to be paid to us? Even the revocation of the contract was unilaterally done with­out consulting us. We were render­ing national service by protecting those pipelines, but for reasons best known to Buhari, he revoked that contract. I bear him no grudge or malice but the Federal Government should pay money being owed us. We deserve it because we worked for it.


But some people believe that OPC and other groups’ leaders collected billions of naira from the Federal Gov­ernment during Jonathan’s tenure and that you people should rather keep quiet in­stead of making noise?
Me collected money from Jona­than? Never! I challenge anybody that has proof of such to come for­ward and expose me.
I’m a very careful person. Since they have been making all their rev­elations about who shared this and that, has my name ever come up? I have no skeleton in my cupboard, and I have nothing to fear or hide. I’m holding talks with my law­yer on the next line of action to be taken if federal government and the NNPC refused to pay us our money. I will drag federal government and NNPC to court over this issue if they remain adamant.

Tongues have been wag­ging over your recent ro­mance with Major Al Mu­stapha, the Chief Security Officer to late Gen. Sani Aba­cha, a man that sent you to jail for some years for joining the protest against his dic­tatorial regime, and under whose watch, several cases of assassinations of promi­nent Nigerians took place. It is alleged that Al Mustapha has ‘settled’ you with a large sum of money and that is the reason you have decided to embrace him, how true is this?
That is an insult. It is very pro­vocative. Mustapha settled me? Haba! At over 80 years of age, what am I looking for again? I know a lot of Nigerians are still bitter about Al Mustapha role in Abacha’s brutal government – I was a victim myself — I was tortured and sent to jail — I almost lost my life.
I’m a Christian, and my Bible teaches me about forgiveness, I de­cided to forgive Al Mustapha and that is it. I didn’t collect a dime from him. Again, if anybody has proof that money changed hands between us, they should come forward with evidence. Mustapha is still alive, you can also ask him the question.

Is it true that both of you exchange visits?
Yes, Mustapha has become a regular face in my house and I have also gone to Kano to visit him. Mu­stapha is a nice young man who re­spects elders.


What will be your advice to Nigerians who are eager to enjoy the dividends of de­mocracy?
Nigerians voted for Buhari. They voted for change. The hard­ship and suffering they are going through now is part of that change. They should not be complaining.
Instead of complaining, they should be praying for Buhari. Ni­gerians should pray for him, and for Buhari himself Nigerians were cheering him initially but now they are getting despondent. Buhari should not wait until Nigerians start jeering at him as a result of failed promises.

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