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. The Sun