President of the Centre for Convention on Democratic Integrity (CCDI) Inc, Comrade Olufemi Akinbule-Aduwo, in this interview with the Editor, FOLORUNSHO HAMSAT, speaks candidly on the state of the nation. The permanent representative of the CCDI to the United Nations and President, Rights Monitoring Group, shared his views on germane topics which include the army’s engagement against insecurity, the last End-SARS protest and related buck-passing, President Buhari medical tourism, among other subjects.
What is your position on the realignments going on in the two dominant political parties, APC and PDP?
There is no clear difference between APC and PDP. The only difference is the names. Nigerian politicians have no shame. I told a former governor, OGD, that, sir, I am ashamed to see you together with Dimeji Bankole who as House of Reps speaker fought you publicly and dragged the bus’ steering wheel with you at a commissioning ceremony. Let’s even take it from this aspect; Nelson Mandela played politics, Barack Obama played politics. These are decent people with decent politics. But when dirty people enter politics, politics then becomes dirty. Most of these new entrants in APC came in just to guarantee that their fraud cases are suspended. The only two that are real APC people are Buhari and Tinubu. They are the only people that can talk about the PDP years in power. Others like Rotimi Amaechi and Ngige can move elsewhere at any point in time.
President Buhari left Nigeria on medical vacation abroad at a time the doctors went on strike and NNPC was saying that fuel can no longer be sold at N162 per litre and at a time the nation is extremely gripped with banditry, kidnapping and other challenges. What is your view about this?
I also bought fuel at N212 per litre in Ondo State. We then heard from the minister of state for petroleum that the marketers, PPPRA, just increased the fuel price without informing the government. And I wondered if PPPRA is not part of the government. PPPRA is a government agent. So, I told people that, watch it, in a few weeks the government will increase the fuel price. And a few days later, NNPC came up and said it could no longer sustain the fuel subsidy. Yet in 2011, President Buhari before he became president, said that subsidy is a fraud and anybody who pays it is a thief. He has not withdrawn that statement. Nigeria has 400,000 barrels daily for local consumption. If we refine, we would get our oil and the by-products. So, how much does it cost to produce a barrel? It is about 40 US Dollars to produce a barrel. When you produce a barrel, you can get about 150 litres of kerosene, diesel and others. Even if you sell a litre of petrol for N50, you are still making a lot of profits. So, this is about monumental fraud, which the president might not even understand. Subsidy indeed is a fraud. If my Lord Jesus was even opportune to rule Nigeria, I’m sure he would feel confused. Before Buhari was elected president, we were convinced things were going to work, refinery was going to work, and other things; but this is the sixth year of the government, nothing is working yet.
There is the agitation for the breakup of Nigeria by some sections of the country. Do you see that coming into effect any time soon?
It does not work that way. They are noisemakers. To break a nation is not like breaking a cake. Nigeria, especially, is difficult to break. No one can break Nigeria in peace, we must go to war. Unless the powers that be agree to sit and discuss. For instance, apart from the one Nnamdi Azikwe and Tafawa Balewa did to create the Mid-West from the old Western Region, which was meant to reduce Obafemi Awolowo’s powers and influence, no civilian government has ever created a local government in the history of Nigeria. They have no such power. All the states so far were created by the military. Our Constitution does not give room for referendum. The current Constitution is a product of the 1979 Constitution which was mid-wifed by the military. They only amended a few sections. However, if governors, senators and other leaders today come up and say look, let’s review this Constitution, we would have no choice than to review it, and we move on. So, not until the powers that be agree to discuss.
Would you like to speak on the Covid-19 vaccines and government’s management of the situation so far?
Yes, we are hearing about Covid-19 Vaccines being donated to Nigerian government. But we are also hearing the government talking about billions of Naira being spent to get these Vaccines. At the end of the day, you are going to hear Nigerian government saying they have spent trillions of Naira on procuring these Vaccines, which average Nigerians already know were given free. So, the problem with our leaders in Nigeria is lack of transparency.
The United States of America just released a report literally absolving the Nigerian army from the Lekki EndSARS protest killings. Do you think that report did justice to Nigerians’ expectation?
During the Lekki EndSARS saga, I visited Lekki three times to give support, with my NGO. On the day of the incident, I left Lekki Toll Gate around 4 o’clock in the morning. I was not told, I witnessed what happened there. When the army came around 6.45pm I was there. I am a father and everybody knows that I’m not a friend of the ruling APC. So, I’d be stupid and silly not to say exactly what I know about that incident. When the army left and the police came, I was there. The fact is that the local report of the Lekki incident was blown out of proportion. From the report of that lady, DJ Switch, you would see that the soldiers were shooting in the air. Then you wonder what purpose those bullets in the air would serve. Were they trying to catch people in the air? As I have said earlier, when a soldier carries one magazine, it contains 60 bullets. With that, at 20 meters distance, a soldier would kill about 100 persons. When the army left and police came, there were shootings by Mobile Police but no one reported that. So, imagine a lady telling us that she recorded the army activities right from when they left Bonny Camp and that she even confronted the soldiers.
With the US report on the matter, did you as a right activist take any step regarding the veracity of other claims?
We have met with the United Nations on this issue. I have no other country, Nigeria is my only country. I have attended the UN Human Rights Council and tendered some documents. My organization and a partner organization are organizing a seminar in Geneva very soon where people are expected to tender more documents, including why the American government should even do more to help the Nigerian military in the fight against Boko Haram. Now, what the American government has said about the Lekki shooting is what everybody already knows, it is the truth.
But Governor Sanwo-Olu admitted that people died at Lekki…
…(cuts in) Yes, the Lagos State governor said that two people died. But the Amnesty International gave some figures that they could not verify. The only area I am concerned about is that the Lagos State government has to admit that there was an error in handling the matter. I am worried about the way the state government declared the curfew. The curfew was declared to take effect at 4pm and the governor said he would be addressing the press at 6pm on the curfew that was already in effect rom 4pm. For God’s sake, how is that proper? So, the fault should be placed on the governor’s table. This was a protest that lasted for two weeks. The soldiers were everywhere, they never abused anyone. It has to do with communication gap. When the Lagos State government set up the panel to probe the incident, I told Barrister Ebun Olu-Adegboruwa, a pastor and an Ilaje man from my state, to pull out from the panel. I told him that the panel would not achieve any result because the governor cannot sack the police or the army because he didn’t employ them. And what has come out from the panel across the federation?
What difference do you think it would have made if the federal government had set up the panel?
If the federal government had set up that panel, the story would have been different. But for a state government to do it, it would not give any result because you can only fire who you hired, a state governor can’t fire even a police or army sergeant. Besides, the government had been indicted. Can the governor attend the panel? No, because he has immunity. A panel is more or less a quasi court, so the governor can’t appear. The panel is about four months old now, what did we get from there? Nothing. It only literally allows the boys to eat.
Does your account mean that the American report has set aside the fact that people were killed at Lekki Toll Gate?
There was a commotion, just like the governor said. During the protest, a lot of people died across the country, not only in Lagos. A lot of people were killed, not by soldiers; perhaps, by police and in some parts of Lagos not in Lekki. Governor Sanwo-Olu did say there was commotion and people were running helter-skelter, meaning that anything could have happened in the process. You cannot rule out stray bullets.
What is your reaction to Garba Sheu’s comment that President Buhari didn’t start medical tourism abroad when he became president in 2015?
Mr President is out of the country now. He should be the only president in the world that patronizes foreign hospitals. If the clinic in Aso Rock cannot be functioning, that shows that nothing functions in our system. That shows that Nigerian medical system is just a mess. Yes, presidential spokesman, Garba Sheu, said that President Buhari didn’t start the medical trip abroad when he became president. That is not correct. President Buhari, since he left government as military ruler in 1985, has never gone abroad for medical treatment; quote me anywhere. In fact, I doubt if he has ever performed an official Hajj since he left power as a military man. One thing I can vouch about Buhari is that he is a liberal Muslim, not religious bigot.
Asiwaju Bola Tinubu has not declared for the 2023 presidency but the momentum is already high across the country. In fact, some are already organizing campaigns for him. What is your opinion about this?
On the issue of Asiwaju Tinubu, I have nothing against him. The June 12 1993 saga brought a lot of interests together; the good, the bad and the ugly, to fight the then military president, IBB. They came together for different reasons. People like former governor of Edo State, Chief Odigie Oyegun and Professor Bolaji Akinyemi were very vocal. Then a lot of people came to join these people for different reasons. Somebody like Tinubu was mentioned that he was scheming to be minister of petroleum but Abacha refused him. It was when Abacha refused him that he ran away. Tinubu was only detained for two days by Abacha before he ran out of Nigeria. I spent months in detention under Abacha, am I a politician? Many people who were not politicians were thrown into detention under Abacha. They were only protesting for the actualization of the June 12 election of MKO Abiola. We understand the game. In politics, two plus two is not four. Politicians would tell you that they are not fighting to get any reward but they know they are fighting for just what to gain.
So, you think Tinubu actually wants to be president in 2023?
The signs are there and they are clear. All the same, my advice is that Tinubu should study the terrain well because many things are going to work against him. Religion is going to work against him. He is a Muslim. What happened during the Abiola election when Muslim-Muslim ticket was allowed by IBB was for a purpose. It can’t happen again in Nigeria. Nigeria today is divided along religious lines more than ever before. And anyone contesting as a Muslim president dares not pick a Christian northerner as his running mate because such ambition is as good as dead.
But Tinubu had his birthday in Kano and he seemed to enjoy a warm reception among the Muslim Northerners. Isn’t that an indication there won’t be a problem for his ambition?
When Tinubu marked his birthday in Kano State, we understood the game. His calculation was that Kano is where the highest votes come from. He gave Katsina market fire victims N50m, why did he shun Shasha market fire victims in Ibadan? He gave Kaduna N200m to build schools, what happened to Lagos schools where he is the landlord? Is he not aware? It is politics. Chief Bisi Akande has said what was going on in APC where Tinubu is a leader gives a lot to worry about. The fact is that the powers that be are handing over the structures of APC to anti-Tinubu elements in the ruling party. How many ministers does Tinubu have in Buhari’s government today? None. Sunday Dare, the minister of sports, Tinubu is not the one that recommended him. Sunday is a candidate of Oyo State. Buhari does not want Tinubu to succeed him. That is the truth. If he does, it costs him nothing to hand over the APC structures to him without stress. Tinubu himself is only testing the waters, he knows it will not work.