Posted by News Express | 16 February 2015 | 3,925 times
Dr. Fredrick Fasehun, founder of O’odua People’s Congress (OPC), is also the National Chairman of the resuscitated Unity party of Nigeria (UPN. In this interview with some journalists in Lagos, he speaks on his party’s adoption of President Goodluck Jonathan , threat of war, INEC’s preparation and other issues. SENIOR CORRESPONDENT, AUGUSTINE ADAH was there. Excerpts:
Recently, UPN adopted President Jonathan as its candidate in the forthcoming presidential election, what informed your decision?
Well, UPN is a registered political party and major stakeholder in Nigeria politics, and because we were registered very late you remembered for months, we were going in and out of INEC discussing why UPN should be registered. It took INEC months to register the party. At last, we were registered and we started recruiting membership all over the country. We thank God that we were able to demonstrate that we are a major political stakeholder in the Nigeria project. But we got registered only last year, some of the parties we are competing with got registered about 16 years ago, so they have been on the field for a long time and there is no way a participant that comes to the field a few hours will compete effectively with somebody who has been on the field for many years. So we didn’t have our presidential candidate. And because we have to participate in the elections, we compared what was available and we chose the best and we think the best is that one that has the experience. We are not talking of the quality of the personality; we are talking of the experience that will do Nigeria good. There is a popular adage that says ‘the devil you know is better than the angel you didn’t know’. It is true we have known Buhari, but if now we are saying we didn’t know him in his true colour is a different thing but we have experienced him. We knew him as a military person and if we wanted a military person to govern us we wouldn’t have drove the military back from the scene. We drove them back to their barracks so as to give room for democracy although we have never had a true democracy in the country but we hope and pray that one day we will stumble on true democracy. So somebody who has been giving us a sense of democracy, symptoms of democracy may be, should be the one Nigerians should follow because they have experienced him for four years. I believe somebody will say let us continue with Jonathan experience for the next four years instead of Buhari’s possible eight years in office . That is why UPN decided to adopt him as its presidential candidate because he is an individual we have known his dos and don’ts for the past four years. What UPN did was not a merger because UPN will not go into merger with any political party; it is just a corporation to assist in ushering democracy to our land.
But immediately the announcement of adoption, a group came out from UPN to discredit the action. What can you say about that?
Those who went against the adoption are fast jumping over the bandwagon now to say they adopt Jonathan. Those early critics have become late admirers. As a matter of fact, many of them have been saying I have done a good job and they have been commending me for the foresight in leadership. As a chairman of the political party, I suppose to lead and show you the people the right way, if you are a good follower then you keep quiet and listen to the leader, but if you don’t want to be a good follower, you criticize the leader and regret it later. That is what happened and I am not going to mention names because it is a media affair. I remember when I applied for the pipelines security job people went to criticize me that I have received N2.8bn from the federal government and I didn’t say a word. But now the same people are jumping on the band wagons just because they saw a wind that the contract may be awarded five years after applying for it.
Is it right to say that the party is now speaking with one voice?
Yes. We are back on the same page, the presidential election is drawing nearer and many eligible Nigerians are yet to collect their PVC. Don’t you think it is an indication that INEC has failed in its assignment? Yes, it is true that INEC has disappointed millions of Nigerians. Professor Attahiru Jega is very highly discipline and respected individual but I hope he would have said that much to his subordinate and it doesn’t matter. The bulk of INEC stopped on his table, Unfortunately, four years is enough to prepare for the forthcoming general elections but like most Nigerians, we take things for granted. It very unfortunate that people did not realize the importance of general elections, should it fail, Nigeria will be in trouble, should it be postponed, Nigeria will lose credibility, should it be shifted, Nigerians will lose interest. We hope and pray that even now at the 11th hour, INEC will be able to do something to resuscitate the credibility of INEC and the interest of Nigerians.
Do you think holding a general election at this time is necessary considering the activities of Boko Haram that has created a general insecurity situation in the North–East of the country?
Every country has its own level of insecurity, it is just that our own is much above the normal. I wouldn’t recommend what we should do at this late hour, but I think Nigerians should turn to their constitution. What does the constitution prescribe for the interval between the election and the swearing in? This is where the constitution should be resorted to. Does the constitution says four months to the swearing in or 30 days to the time? If the constitution says just 30 days to the swearing in, it means we are going into the election too early. If we go to the election too early without adequate preparation, then it is dangerous for the country because a lot of Nigerians would have mutual suspicion. If anything happens to the election and such a thing emanate from the north, the southerners will think the northerners have gone in to rig the election and if it is the other way round, the northerners will say the southerners have gone to rig the election. Now what I expect INEC to do is to summon as usual does the party chairmen, stakeholders and put it in front of them asking what do we do? Because a tree does not make a forest there are 28 registered political parties, these are major stakeholders and they are the one INEC should put the decision across to, not Dr. Fasehun, not to Chief Balarabe Musa, not to anybody. After the political gurus have made their own suggestions, he may listen to these other stakeholders who are also major stakeholders. That is my own advice, because anything we do to ensure that the election is free, fair, principle and honest, Nigerians should be prepared to accept. Why are we rushing into the elections four or five months to swearing ceremony, is it because somebody’s term of office is due sooner than the swearing in? I think the headship of INEC is due for retirement in March, but let us be honest, Nigeria is more important than any Nigerian.
The way things are going, do you have confidence on the ability of INEC to deliver?
Anybody who has failed has no credibility. That is why I will always say that INEC should apologise to Nigerians for their failure to make the PVCs ready before this time. They should apologise to Nigerians and do the little they can contribute before the elections, Nigerians will accept.
What do you have to say about the peace pact signed by the presidential candidates last month in Abuja?
I was at that meeting and I didn’t see the sincerity of the leaders. While you are acknowledging peace and parting at the shoulders and instead of smiling you are gleaning, then there is no sincerity. It is purely psychological. You either laugh or smile but don’t glean may be I saw it as a doctor, but to be frank with you I don’t see any sincerity in that exercise and I am open to any criticism on that. Moreover, have we not seen violence after the accord? The Nigerian constitution is silent on those who want to plunge our country into flames and it is unfortunate.
Asari Dokubo, Tompolo and some militants has come out openly to say that there will be war if Jonathan did not win the 2015 presidential elections, what is your reaction on that?
Asari Dokubo is somebody to listen to in this country. He has said his own but people have been practicing their own and Nigeria is still going on. Nobody found fault when somebody said he will make Nigeria ungovernable if an individual win an election but you are now finding fault with Dokubo who just ventilated his own feelings. I think Dokubo is talking within his constitutional rights; he has a right to express himself because there is right of free speech.
You think he has right to the extent of calling for war if an individual loses an election?
No, he has not declared war; he has made it a condition.
You think that kind of condition is good for this country at this time?
I disagree with you my friend, do you want Dokubo to fold his hand and say ‘throw out Jonathan? We are all Nigerians and we have the constitution to comply with, what did the constitution say about the person who is in office for four years, the person has the right and option of continuing for another four years. If he fails to win the election, he return to his village but don’t deny him of the opportunity because it has a repercussion, perhaps we are not seeing it. Denying the constitutional rights of an individual has a repercussion. Let us not wait for the repercussion but let us comply with the constitution, good or bad let us comply with the constitution so that we can have a lasting peace.
How do you think his rights are being denied?
We voted for Jonathan for first term of four years and the constitution says he can enjoy second term of another four years and some body is saying he cannot do that. That is why I am saying we must obey the constitution and allow him to go for second term as president. If we deny peoples constitutional rights left, right and centre, then the constitution will not be able to clean the rights of anybody. Jonathan won an election and has almost completed his first four years, he has the constitutional rights to go for another four years and Nigerians have the constitutional rights to vote for him or not.
But the threat to unleash terror if Jonathan fails to win, don’t you think it is against the constitution of the country?
Is there no precedence, somebody said if Jonathan wins the 2011 elections he will unleash terror and terror has been with us for four years. Do you know how many Nigerians have died as a result of that terror? For God sake don’t take what Asari has said out of context, he is a major stakeholder and has to warn the country that if anybody pushes us into the kind of violence we have been experiencing in the past four years, then you know that no Nigerian has the monopoly of violence.
But what if the election is conducted in a free and fair manner?
What he is saying is that if anybody rig the election to come to power there will be violence. You don’t need to be told that if you rig an election to get to power, the people will take the law into their hands.
Do you know that Jonathan has promised to retire to his country home if he loses the election?
We have God to thank for Jonathan. This is the place somebody said he would mix the blood of dogs and baboon, Jonathan has said that his ambition does not worth the blood of any Nigerian. So if somebody is so gently, so godly, so humane as to say that and some of his disciples are opportune to listen to some comment that is hostile to the stand of his principal, should he not give warning? To be forewarn, people say is to be forearmed and may be Nigerians will listen and say let us take precaution, we were warned last four years and see what we have gone through, this time around let us warn ourselves.
PDP and APC cancelled their rallies in Yobe State because of Boko Haram attack. What do you understand from that?
It is unfortunate that Nigerians are getting more violent and they are getting away with it. I believe that political groups and association have their own security and why should you be appealing to people to vote for you without putting your own internal security to protect you just in case?. Nigerians are not practicing politics, they are preaching violence. Why should I abuse you in a campaign rally? What will be your reaction if I abuse you, you will retaliate and when you retaliate, it gives room for mutual hostility that we seeing among our politicians and their supporters. Have you listen to any UPN member abusing anybody? We have made a policy even though we see things that we don’t like that we will talk on issues. There is no government without opposition but the opposition does not need to be hostile to the government in power.
•Culled from Daily Independent. Photo shows Fasheun.
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