No alternative to restructuring
Celebration of May 29 as democracy day in the country has been described as a fraud and an aberration. Making this declaration in an interview with TUNDE THOMAS, an activist and National Coordinator, Ijaw Monitoring Group, Comrade Joseph Evah described the celebration of May 29 democracy day as a mockery.
According to him: “June 12 is the real democracy day in Nigeria. It is an aberration, a mockery to celebrate May 29 as democracy day. May 29 has no relevance and a place in our nation’s history compared to June 12. Without June 12, there would never have been a May 29.” Evah also spoke on other national issues.
The issue of which day should actually be celebrated as democracy day has become a controversial issue with opinions divided between May 29 and June 12, what’s your take on this?
For those of us who are involved in the struggle to enthrone democracy in this country, we believe that June 12 is the real Democracy Day. May 29 which has been declared, as Democracy Day is a mockery of the real democracy day, which is June 12. Without the struggle of June 12, without the sacrifice made by many activists who struggle to enthrone June 12, there can never be any May 29 to celebrate. June 12 is the day millions of Nigerians spoke with one voice, and made their decision, and voted for true democracy but that election won by late M.K.O Abiola was criminally annulled by the military.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo foisted May 29, which Nigerians are being forced to celebrate as Democracy Day, on Nigerians. May 29 is not the choice of millions of Nigerians, but June 12. What Obasanjo did was not right at all. It was done in bad faith. There were some things Obasanjo did that were not good, and one of these is the declaration of May 29 as Democracy Day. Declaring May 29 as Democracy Day is a big insult to the memory of late M.K.O Abiola. It is a big insult to those of us that fought the military to a stand still in order to enthrone democracy. It is also a big insult to the memory of late M.K.O Abiola and thousands of other Nigerians including Abiola who lost their lives in the struggle to enthrone democracy. May 29 is not acceptable to us. May 29 is a counterfeit Democracy Day.
Myself and some other activities are planning to send a bill to the National Assembly to revert Democracy Day to June 12 because May 29 is not relevant at all when compared with June 12. May 29 has no relevance to democracy, which we are enjoying today.
Abiola should have been immortalized. The National Stadium in Abuja should have been named after him. I also appeal to President Buhari to name the National Stadium after M.K.O Abiola. Obasanjo had opportunity to do so but he failed to do so despite the fact that he, Obasanjo, was biggest beneficiary of the struggle for the enthronement of democracy, which led to Abiola’s death.
Obasanjo was the major beneficiary of the crisis that led to Abiola’s death yet he refused to immortalize the man. To me, that is bad politics. It is a big shame not only on Obasanjo but the entire Nigerian political class that in our 18 years of unbroken democracy, .K.O Abiola has not been immortalized. It is a big shame. The only leader that tried to do something was former President Goodluck Jonathan, he had good intention but he was not well advised in naming University of Lagos after M.K.O Abiola. Some of us advised him against it that such an action would provoke crisis which eventually happened following protests by some people and groups who kicked against Jonathan’s action. I advised Jonathan that time that he should name Abuja National Stadium or even Eagle Square in Abuja after M.K.O Abiola, but his selfish advisers didn’t allow him to listen to my suggestion. If Jonathan had named National Stadium in Abuja or Eagle Square Abuja after M.K.O Abiola he would have been well applauded, and Nigerians would have poured encomiums on him instead of uproar and protests that followed his announcement of UNILAG as MKO Abiola University. Abiola deserved to be immortalized. He was the real hero of our democracy. It is unfortunate that Jonathan had good intention to honour Abiola but some evil forces in Aso Rock manipulated him to take a wrong step.
How would you assess the last two years of the APC led Federal Government?
Two years of APC? I don’t think it is proper to do an assessment now. Let’s still size them some time before rating the performance of the government. May be in the third year, one can now say you are now approaching the end of your four year tenure, then we can do assessment. I believe many Nigerians share my opinion, I believe that to give a candid assessment, we should give APC more time, and then we can assess the government.
There have been renewed calls for restructuring, but as usual opinions are divided, what’s your own view on the issue?
There is no alternative to restructuring. Until Nigeria restructures, there won’t be peace. In Nigeria today, injustices pervades the polity, and where you have injustices, you don’t expect peace because there will be agitations, and until those agitations are addressed, there won’t be peace.
For instance, when I recently read about some northern delegates to 2014 Confab disowning the conference and further called on President Buhari to dump the Confab Report and Recommendations, I laughed. These northern delegates making such unpatriotic calls are enemies of democracy and this nation called Nigeria. To me 90 percent of that confab report and recommendations is fine and excellent with the call for restructuring being the one I admire most.
Anybody, group or individual that love this nation must support restructuring because that is the only guarantee for enduring peace, unity and harmony in Nigeria.
How can they (Northern delegates) say that we should not restructure? Where is justice in Nigeria today? Imagine the state I come from, Bayelsa State, has just only 8 local government areas and Kano State has 44 local government areas, and yet it is Bayelsa State among other oil producing state that produces oil from which revenue is got which the entire nation shares. Is it not an insult and a big cheating that my state which produce oil has only 8 local government areas and Kano that doesn’t produce oil has 44 local government areas, and also Jigawa State with about 44 local government areas also now collect more revenue than my state which produce oil from which money is got to be shared among states, You know revenue sharing is based on the number of local government areas, and not only that only that there are other benefits which are shared based on the number of local government areas in a state. For how long will I continue to lament while my state is being cheated? To rub salt upon our injuries, while these states enjoy money got from our oil, oil producing communities are the ones that suffer the effects of oil pollution, and environmental degradation which occurred as a result of oil exploration and production – so, why should I agree with somebody that say we should not restructure?
It is the same thing with the Census issue, which is inflated to favour some areas to the detriment of others. In some areas, they count cattle and cars as part of human population – that is why I will challenge another census exercise, which they say they are planning to conduct again.
If cattle and cows are counted as part of human population in some areas, we Ijaws should also be allowed to count fish as part of our population. We Ijaws are going to count fish as part of our own population. They use nomadic education to count cows as part of human population, and that’s why during the last census exercise, I petitioned that census we conduct in this country is fake and fraud. If Ijaws now count fish and those people are allowed to count cows, we will then see which population is higher.
But some of these issues you are referring to, can’t political leaders in the Niger-Delta take them up with higher authorities with the aim of having them resolved amicably?
Who are political leaders in the Niger-Delta? Are they not supposed to be our state governors? But the irony of it is that our governors in the Niger-Delta are cowards – they are just like zombies. Since the advent of President Muhammadu Buhari’s government, governors in other geo-political zones have been meeting regularly, governors from the Northern region, South-East, and Southwest have been holding regular meetings to discuss issues that will promote the cause of people but it has not been so with our own governors in the South South geo-political zone. South South governors have been afraid to meet, we don’t know why. They are always afraid. They can’t even collect tenement rates from oil companies that even operate in the area. Whether their problem is spiritual I don’t know. Perhaps we need eminent clerics to conduct deliverance prayers on South South governors.
In spite of President Buhari’s state of health, some of his aides and supporters are already saying that he would seek reelection in 2019, what is your own view? Should the President run for another term in office?
It is the President’s wife that is in a better position to advise him – she is a woman I respect – I like the way she dealt with those cabal in Aso Rock, and I believe she will still deal with them if they don’t change from their evil ways.
After God, it is Mrs. Aisha Buhari that is in a better position to advise or take a position on whether the President should run again or not. I believe Mrs. Buhari is a genuine woman who will give the President the best advice. Like I said earlier, we should all be praying for Mr. President that God should grant him quick recovery from his present health challenges.