Dr. Fredrick Fasehun is the National Chairman of the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) and Founder of the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC). In this interview with SEYI TAIWO-OGUNTUASE, he speaks on the last general elections, the use of the card readers, and other issues. Excerpt…
What is your assessment of the last general elections?
Well, the end result of the elections obviously misrepresented the people’s voice. The people wanted democracy; I don’t think they got democracy. They wanted a general election to usher in democracy but unfortunately the elections were held, but I personally – from what I observed and what I saw – it was more of an exercise in rigging than electioneering.
But the election was adjudged free and fair by observers within and outside the country, why are you now saying it misrepresented the people’s voice?
The international observers don’t have the commitment of Nigerians. Nigerians are critical in their own elections; the international observers have come as strangers and some of them are only visitors to the country. They only observe. This is a big electoral zone and I did not see any international observer around here in Oshodi-Isolo, so why should I listen to the comments of observers when I did not see them in this area?
Looking at the issue of the card reader, how will you assess the use of the card reader which some people have commended?
Whether people commended or condemned the use of card-reader, it wouldn’t matter. The election has come and gone and people have acknowledged victory and people have acknowledged defeat, so the people’s honest comments will not make a difference.
Still on the card reader, would you say it has added anything to the nation’s democracy?
We are always looking for ways to improve our electoral system and the card reader this time des not do much to improve our electoral system, which was the main objective of INEC. At the last bus stop here, people queued till about 2pm without a card reader. The card read was just to disenfranchise lot of Nigerians. In various parts, the card reader failed, either the people who are going to manipulate that thing was not available or that the machine was performing wrongly. Even some of the operators do not know how to operate the thing. When the card reader eventually got here, they said it was malfunctioning and they needed to take it to Oshodi for repairs and the elections should end by evening. I don’t see how you can get a democratic election with the vast majority of the people disenfranchised through introducing technological methods into the system. One would have taught that INEC would have done better if they had adopted A4. Option A4 would have done much better, the people will queue. It was obvious to everybody, it was a simple counting in the clear presence of everybody. If INEC would be honest to improve on our electoral system, it should find a way of improving on option A4.
What is your assessment of Jega, would you say he has performed well or average?
Well, Jega has a pedigree that made it difficult to access his foreign contributions, we knew him to be a human rights activist, a believer in democracy and that is why the nation turned to him and said, ‘come down to Macedonia and help,’ but Jega is not just INEC. He is just a symbol of INEC and he has many people, many subordinates, working with him and while he was adopting his righteous method at the top, some of his subordinates were doing cunning cunning style. It wasn’t Jega, he was not a card carrier. He wasn’t the certificate releaser. I personally think what we got from INEC we got through Jega, but did we all say kudos to INEC? So, if we didn’t say kudos to INEC we did not say kudos to Jega.
Your party adopted President Goodluck Jonathan at the elections as your presidential candidate, how did you feel when Buhari was announced winner of the elections, didn’t you feel disappointed?
No. I didn’t feel disappointed. I am used to the electioneering system in Nigeria; Nigeria belongs to all of us. We know the shortcomings of Nigeria, we know when righteousness is reigning and we know when lies have taken over. There are 170 million Nigerians and all of us are qualified to become the president of Nigeria and if the onus has fallen on Buhari for the continuity of the country, we admit, unless we want to make too much of quiver but the whole thing will be turned upside down; after all, our democracy is just for four years and four years in the life of a nation is very short. We accept him so that peace will reign and so that we can have another election in four years.
What is your opinion of the man Buhari, do you think he will disappoint the people?
People say the leopard doesn’t change its skin, but I know big serpents do remove their skin and that is my expectation of Buhari’s regime. We have called him various names: autocratic, undemocratic this and that, and it is up to him to convince Nigerians that what you think I am is different from what I am going to show you. I am going to be democratic, I am going to be fair to all Nigerians, I am not going to polarize the place, I am not going to islamise the place. I just want to run the country and make sure that nobody is aggrieved, nobody is starved, nobody is marginalized, and nobody is angry, and the services provided will be acceptable to majority of Nigerians.
As an elder statesman, if you are to advise Buhari, how will you advise him? What do you think should be his priority?
Priority for him should be security and how to unify the people, how to feed them, and educate them, and make them free from illiteracy. That will be my advice to him. Even if he has to pretend that he is a democratic man he should present himself to the people as a democrat. He should pretend to be an addicted democrat.
Some leaders of ethno-cultural groups were said to have received contracts on pipeline monitoring from Jonathan, what will be the fate of the contract now?
I did not receive any contract fromJonathan; I received the contract from the Federal Government of Nigeria, and we are Nigerians, we are qualified to enjoy contract from our government, and when you remember that those who are on the line now, working for the Federal Government system, are Nigerians – thousands of them who have their families, fathers, mothers, uncles, children, wives – you will see that those four thousand on the line are not the only one enjoying all the ripple effect of the contract. So, anybody that is complaining against that contract is doing Nigerians a disservice. He is denying some Nigerian people their human rights; he is virtually disenfranchising Nigerians. So, we are qualified. We have no apologies to make. We applied for that contract since 2011, almost 6 years ago, and if we had been given during Obasanjo’s regime, that would not portray us as receiving contract from Obasanjo. It was from the federal government, and if we had been given during Yar-Adua’s regime, it did not mean we collected it from Yar-Adua. And if now, during Jonathan’s time, Jonathan did not pay for the contract from his own pocket, there must be time appreciated with the award of the contract. if it was during Buhari’s regime it did not mean we have taken contract from Buhari; the contract we have taken is to serve Nigeria and make sure that nobody disrupt our economy’s lifeline and that is the wish of every Nigerian. A system that will promote the security of lives and property of what belongs to all of us, our commonwealth, and that is what we have done. We are not looking at the award as if it was given to us by Jonathan or Buhari or anybody; we have a duty to perform for this nation and we shall perform that duty.
How is UPN trying to reposition itself, given the recent conflict in the party?
There is no UPN faction; some people could not comply with the rules and regulations of democracy and they had to leave, we didn’t begrudged them, we don’t know the party they are in now, but they are not in UPN.
How is the party preparing for 2019?
Well, the party is going through the process of rebranding. It is going to be a party of the people, for the people, put in place by the people. It is not a party of money bag; it is going to be a highly disciplined party whose activities and actions and principles will be supreme – supremacy of the party that will make it exemplarily democratic. We have studied the history of perceived democracy in our land and we see that politicians have been deceiving the people, and this time, UPN is going to place itself in a position where the people will say this is our party; we own this party and nobody will be able to buy his way into the party, because there is no room for money bags. The people will make their own contributions to democracy and recommend the members of the party to go for electoral reposition and the party will place itself squarely where he who pays the piper dictates the tune. If the party says go and represent us, then the party will be responsible for making you get there, and if you get there and you are misbehaving the party have a way to say come back, we are not pleased with what you are doing, through the supremacy of the party. And the introduction of non-corrupt democracy, that is what UPN is going to do.
Is there any hope of reconciliation with Gani Adams’ faction of OPC?
I don’t believe there is any faction in OPC; if there was faction in OPC, it means that faction is not man-made, because if it is man-made it would have expired. The government realised that OPC is OPC, and we probably want to acknowledge the presence of faction, that is why they didn’t award a contract to OPC; they awarded a contract to a company belonging to me and Gani Adams.