By Daniel Kanu
Social critic, renowned legal expert, and human rights activist, Comrade Femi Aborishade who was in the trenches with the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi (Senior Advocate of the Masses) in the fight for the nation’s democracy is dissatisfied with the abuse of governance in the country.
In this encounter with Sunday Sun, he told Nigerians that both the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) do not have what it takes to lead the country in 2023.
He expressed apprehension on other critical national issues, including PIB, e-transmission of election results, restructuring, among others. Excerpt:
Let’s know your take on agitations by different groups in Nigeria, particularly the Sunday Igboho, Nnamdi Kanu saga?
I do not support secession calls or agitations, but I defend the right of those advocating it. Provided they agitate without violence, they should not be repressed or suppressed. In 2014, the Scots had a referendum to remain within the UK or become independent of the UK. Majority voted against being independent of the UK. Article 72 of the former USSR Constitution expressly provided for the right to secede. The African Charter on Human and People’s Right which Nigeria has domesticated as a law passed by the National Assembly under Section 12 of the Constitution, recognises self-determination struggles as a democratic right. But I do not support or advocate secession because I know even if Nigeria is broken up into one thousand republics, the problems being experienced in Nigeria today, particularly insecurity and other economic poverty induced problems would merely be replicated in each of the emerging republics, so long as there is no paradigm shift in the pro-rich philosophy of governance that governs Nigeria at the present time.
Most critics say that the government is romancing bandits, but hard on agitators, do you share in this view?
It is worrisome that this is the reality in Nigeria today. Government should address the root cause of secessionist agitations, which is poverty, and stop going after individual agitators. Individuals may be arrested, caged, or even killed. However, for as long as hunger, diseases, unemployment, physical insecurity are not resolved, other people would arise to continue the same agitations. An idea becomes a material force, beyond individuals, when objective conditions make the idea to grip the mind of wide layers of the society. An individual may be removed from the public space, temporarily or even eliminated permanently, their ideas may not be eliminated if the context of daily life experiences fertilizes their idea. Secessionist agitation is not the child of Sunday Igboho or Kanu; it is the child of socio-economic cum political exclusion felt by wide layers of the society who seek to escape from a collapsing house created by collapsed governance system.
How would you react to the controversy surrounding e-transmission of election results?
The vote against electronic transmission of election results by the national assembly shows that the APC, which has the majority of the legislators, is not interested in free and fair election. The party has realised that having failed ordinary people in all issues of welfare, the downtrodden are hungry and angry and would never vote APC in any free and fair election. This does not mean PDP automatically becomes the electoral choice of the masses. PDP hardly exists as a contender for power as most of the “who-is-who” in the party have all defected to the APC for fear of being prosecuted for corruption. They know APC is a safe haven for the rotten and corrupt politician. This does not mean everybody in the APC is corrupt. Far from it. We are, however, concerned about the general tendency, which does not rule out exceptions being found. The APC is scared of the People’s Alternative Political Movement led by Jaye Gaskia, Femi Falana, SAN, Prof Omotoye Olorode, and other radicals who are likely going to have an electoral alliance with organised labour-backed Labour Party and the PRP, if the Labour Party is rescued from being a bought and sold commodity for the conventional politicians and the PRP overcomes its internal divisive challenges. Without electronic transmission of election results, Nigeria is doomed under the APC as the pilot of Nigeria. The electorate should reject the APC in any future election just as the APC-dominated National Assembly rejected electronic transmission of election results, in spite of the declaration by the INEC that it has the capacity for electronic transmission of results.
What is your view on PIB especially the three per cent to the host community?
The problem with the PIB is beyond three or five or 10 per cent to the host community. The real problem with the PIB is that it is a neo-liberal piece of legislation that has now legitimised the privatisation of the NNPC, which ordinary people and radical organisations have been resisting for decades in this country. It should be noted that within six months of the operation of the PIB, after it has been assented to by Mr. President, a commercial and profit focused NNPC Limited shall, mandatorily or obligatorily, be incorporated under CAMA. Its ultimate goal is to take over the assets and interests of the NNPC, to facilitate sale of shares or privatisation of the assets. This means the PIB is nothing but a piece of legislation to rob or steal the wealth that belongs to all and hand over to the private sector people, legitimately, or “according to law”. In that context, ordinary people in the host communities and in Nigeria, as a whole, have been dispossessed or robbed through the PIB. Organised Labour, the People’s Alternative Political Movement (TPAPM) and all other radical forces should resist the PIB.
Some people have argued that Nigeria no longer need restructuring when there is a rotation principle in the system…?
(Cuts in) Restructuring is not the ultimate solution to Nigeria’s socio-economic problems, but there is nothing wrong with restructuring. The making and/or remaking of a nation-state is work-in-progress, it is never a final product achieved once and for all times. The existing structure of Nigeria, as a federation of 36 states and 774 local governments, is a product of continued restructuring. Restructuring cannot be juxtaposed with the notion of rotation. Rotational principle applies to individual political parties in terms of their elitist distribution of offices within the party or share of elective positions and/or political appointments. They are completely two different concepts. However, there is the tendency for the operation of the two concepts to serve only elitist goals. For example, that President Mohammadu Buhari is Fulani does not mean his government has policies and programmes that serve the interest of ordinary Fulanis who are poor, uneducated and have to trek thousands of miles herding cattle on a daily basis. Similarly, that former President Obasanjo is Yoruba does not mean his government served the interest of the ordinary Yoruba people who remain poor, frustrated, uneducated, ill, homeless and unemployed till today.