Politics

Jega Is Okay but His Surbordinates Are Saboteurs – Fasehun

“I have no apology to make to those who are criticising the contract awards.”

That’s Dr Frederick Fasehun, founder of the six million-strong Odua Peoples Congress (OPC) replying his critics over the newly signed Federal Government contract for his ethnic nationality group to safeguard pipelines.

Slight of build; almost, but not frail, the 74-year-old looks so harmless; at first glance, you could almost let your gaze graze over him in a crowd of potential antagonists. Yet he mobilised thoroughbred Yoruba sons and daughters to take on the military junta when it mattered most.

Now he sits fielding questions from journalists at his Century Hotel in Okota Lagos as Nigerians of all tribes trickle in and out of the expansive edifice. He‘s responding to criticisms that his support for the second term of President Goodluck Jonathan is fuelled by hopes of getting a pipeline protection contract from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).

“That is totally false”, he says. Rather, he says, it is his concern for the economy of his motherland and the thousands of jobs the contract will create.

“The NNPC loses about N7 billion every month through vandalisation of the pipelines. Our application to NNPC started since 2010… Well, if the problem is now at a peak why shouldn’t NNPC take steps to correct the situation?

“I don’t think that there is any Nigerian that wants the economy of this country to collapse. The economy of this country is based on oil. If oil is losing that much every month for God sake, how long can we sustain that?”

Fasehun however, explains that the contract is awarded not to the OPC as a group but to his security company, New Age Global Business Nigeria Limited formed about eight years ago as a solely security firm. But of course, he will involve OPC members in the job.The contract, he adds, is not permanent, but depends on the performance of the company in the first three months.

Justifying the contract, he says: “Let us say we put about 40,000 people on the pipelines earning salaries every month. Does that not affect unemployment statistics? Does that not feed people, their families, their children, and wives? That is the ripple effect. Unfortunately, the opposition, although they are shouting free education, free meals, etc don’t believe in providing employment to at least 40,000 people in a group. That is paradoxical.”

He continues: “I, as an addict of democracy, will want unemployment cured. Nothing we do in this country should sustain unemployment. We should work and make sure that unemployment comes to a dead end.”

He denies any role in the recent anti-Jega protest. According to him, those behind the protest may have their reasons, but in his opinion, “Jega is not somebody you put in office and you remove like jiga. Jega is not jiga.

It is not that Jega has not done well. But I wish I could say that for his subordinates. I have interaction with the subordinates and they are the most unreliable subordinate staff anybody could have. Jega is a decent person. You couldn’t have found a better Nigerian for that job. But his subordinates are saboteurs.”

He narrates how instead of N100,000 registration fee, Jega’s subordinates allegedly made him pay N3million just to register the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN).

But the OPC leader remains staunchly pro-Jonathan even while admitting that corruption remains one of the major challenges of Nigeria. The bastion of corruption, he says, has been gathering strength for years and has grown so formidable now that it is unrealistic to expect Jonathan to vanquish it in just one term.

But is that why Jonathan should not fight it at all and allow it to become so brazen, so transparent? The pension fund scam, the oil subsidy scam, crudeoil theft. A fellow found guilty of stealing billions was fined N750,000 and simply went the boot of his car to bring it out; he went home a free man. A Maina accused of misappropriating billions was going round Abuja with government security detail despite calls for his arrest by the National Assembly. And when finally an ultimatum was issued to the presidency over the arrest, Nigerians were told the cock-and-bull story that he had escaped from the country. A government that allows such to happen is sending signals that with the right connections, you can go ahead and commit murder and get away with it?

Fasehun grows still. His expression? Is it a mixture of sadness, sorrow and dilemma? That of a doting father whose beloved son is clearly caught on the wrong side of propriety? Does a father abandon his son? The septuagenarian’s response, when it finally comes is measured, and… cryptic.

“It would be foolhardy of Jonathan to confront the principalities of corruption frontally; he has to be tactical… strengthen the judiciary, and anyway, but Buhari is not the alternative…”

Why is he so critical of Muhammadu Buhari, the APC presidential candidate whose major selling point is his anti-corruption stance? This time his response is fast and sharp:

“Because I do not want to commit suicide. I remember the political history of this country. Have we forgotten people sentenced to 30 years imprisonment for being politicians? Have we forgotten people at the age of 74 (e.g. Pa Adekunle Ajasin) being sentenced to 30 years imprisonment? Have we forgotten that somebody, after committing a terrible offence (coup) against democracy, came out and announced that politicians go to the nearest police station to submit themselves?

And some of those politicians didn’t come back to our polity with their vision. Many of them went blind. Have you forgotten that Ambrose Ali came back almost blind and died soon after? For God’s sake and somebody is turning the truth upside down and telling us this is the best material we have in this country. If Buhari is the best material we have in this country, then all Nigerians must be bad. He shouldn’t come back to our national life. Has he forgotten what he did to fellow Nigerians? It doesn’t matter the level of the truth you had to write about, you couldn’t publish the truth. If you published the truth against the government, you would end up in jail. Sometime, ago he was still defending that position on the BBC. The BBC man said: ‘If journalists publish the truth, will you still deal with them?’ Buhari said ‘Yes, anybody that publishes the truth that embarrasses government will go to jail.’

“I was surprised that the newspapers were not screaming the following day. What is the duty of the press? Truth may be embarrassing but truth is truth. Would you be a democrat without believing in the truth? I don’t have anything against Buhari in person, but he misruled us.

Does Fasehun think Buhari is going to misrule again?

“Leopards don’t change their spots.” But snakes do, he is reminded.

“They don’t. They only remove their skin for a new one.” Is he saying that Buhari cannot mend his ways? “He wouldn’t have answered the British interviewer on BBC that he will not accept the truth that is embarrassing to the government.” Does Fasehun foresee postelection violence?

“The way it was going, there would have been post-election violence, if some of us didn’t stand up at the INEC meeting to say ‘no let us shift this thing’. Some of us who thought Nigeria should remain a country got up and said that we had listened to the advice of the security operatives … So we advised, ‘let us comply with the advice of the security operatives’.

“It was on that basis. Why were we in a hurry? What the constitution recommends is that there should be at least 30 days between the end of the election and the swearing-in. Why did we want to do the election in February and wait till March, when we knew that the country will get into trouble? If some of us did not speak up, history will not forgive us…”

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Ihesiulo Grace

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