By Willy Eya
Former Secretary-General of the Petroleum Energy and Natural Gas Senior Staff
Association of Nigeria (PENGASAN), Chief Frank Kokori acknowledges that the nation’s economy is currently not doing well but he believes that Nigeria has the potential to survive the turbulent times. His advice is that despite the situation, the people should still be patient with President Muhammadu Buhari. In this interview, the activist and social crusader spoke on various national issues.
Following indications that the nation’s economy is in recession, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) recently called on President Muhammadu Buhari to resign. What is your take on such a call?
It is comical. Those who managed the economy for 16 years are still gallivanting, oppressing Nigerians with stolen wealth. So to me, it is comical. I think the people calling for the president to resign are not serious. I think President Buhari should be given some time because they destroyed the economy and if they destroyed the economy, obviously it takes time to revive it. Let me tell you something; when a country is down like this in recession – it has happened to China, it happened to India and at that stage, they locked up their country for more than 20 years; the Chinese Yuan, the Indian Yuan for more than 10 years. They just decided to be in; they were not importing anything. India grew and China grew. After some time, they brought their country up. It got to a stage in the world where the Indians could not feed themselves; some of you were young by that time; they even flooded Nigeria – our schools at that time. We are passing through the same stage in Nigeria today.
He (President Buhari) is the only man who can save the country and he is the only person who can save the country because the country is in dire need of leadership. What brought us to this stage? Leadership! And if you, no matter how you are an antagonist of President Buhari, you cannot take it away from him. The man who is still there and tells you to be diligent, don’t be corrupt, myself, I would not be corrupt. If I am corrupt, disgrace me. So we just have to follow him. The monies are being found everywhere; under the mattress, under the septic tank, everywhere. So, let us give him time to retrieve these monies. It is painful, yes! Everybody is suffering. For Nigeria people to really come out of this, is by what we call painful surgical operation because there is no way you can do a surgery without pain. I think Nigerians, we have been too quiet for a long time and because of that, leaders took us for granted. I am not a fanatical supporter of President Buhari but I just believe that the country was so bad and battered that we really need a surgical operation. We need to work hard. There was so much money but we did nothing with it. So, we should give President Buhari sometime; there is nothing anybody can actually do about it. And for anybody to call for Buhari’s resignation, it should not be from the PDP, a party that was in power for 16 years. The PDP is already in great factional trouble. So, such a call coming from the PDP, that is an insult.
What is your reaction to the impression in some quarters that those who make up the President’s cabinet cannot lead Nigeria out of the woods?
You see, these are things that are laughable because when you say your economic team, who is really the economic team? We have a minister of finance, is she not part of the economic team? We have people like former governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Fashola who within eight years turned his state around; we also have people like Ibe Kachikwu in the administration. So, when you talk of economic team, the people are there, it is just that the economy is down, the oil is dancing, a lot of things are down, it happens. Nigeria is not the first. The oil you are depending on, $140 per barrel, they are all caged down today. The production level at 2.4 mbpd going down to almost 1.2mbpd, what do you expect. So, do you need any professor to come and tell you that the economy is bad? It is bad. We have to stick to the ideas; we have a good team, let them put themselves together.
As a statesman and from your vantage position, how do you feel about the obvious division among ethnic nationalities since President Buhari’s administration came on board. Are you not worried over the level of division in Nigeria today?
No! Those things come up at a time in our lives. Are you really sure that those people who call themselves Biafra, they are really serious that they want to get Biafra? No! It is just that people like Ralph Uwazurike who are my junior comrades, at a stage, they wanted to gain attention. You can’t tell the Igbo not to live in Nigeria. Who owns Abuja? Who owns Lagos? You want to leave Nigeria. You see these are childish people who just want attention. The case of Nnamdi Kanu is the same; he wants attention. If you take a real secret ballot referendum, people will not vote for Nigeria splitting because it is not possible. So, a Northerner, can he go back to the North? We Niger-Delta, you just want to have the oil in your creek area; can you survive without every other part of Nigeria? These are just things that happen. So, forget it. These things are result of hunger. People want a lot of attention; if not, nobody really wants to do that. We agree that Nigeria governments have not been impartial, they’ve not be very objective. When people come to power, they tend to favour their area and this entrench other people in the sense that when you favour your area more than the other area, you put governance before you put people. This is a question of having good detail and good leadership. I think that is what we have as a problem. How can you talk of breaking Nigeria when America, that Texas and California are almost the size of Nigeria didn’t allow any country to leave not to talk of a small Nigeria! Everybody wants to have its own. If you allow it like that, people in Igbo land, the Anambra people will want to get their own, the Enugu people will want to get their own; we Deltans, the Urhobos will have their own, the Itsekiris will have their own, the Ijaws will have their country. Who is Delta here? The Urhobos, the Itsekiri’s, the Ijaws; you see, they are happy to live together. They will say they want to have their own and if you run the nation like that, then there will be no peace; that is the problem we have in Nigeria. We just need good management and good leaders. That is all we need.
Are you comfortable with what is happening in the oil industry? First, look at the price of fuel in Nigeria, in your active days, fuel was one thing that most Nigerians were always kicking against when the price is increased. How do you feel with the price of fuel today and the effect on the economy generally?
No the economy is bad because fuel price in Nigeria for now, if you imagine that the dollar is selling at the parallel market for four hundred and above, then one hundred and forty-five naira is not much. But these are that the whole pains we are having because we have so much unemployment.
Because when you don’t have a job, no matter how many pricing you give to oil, that is not your business. So it is we, the poor masses that suffer.