Chief Olusegun Osoba, former governor of Ogun State and a veteran of Nigerian journalism although currently savouring his role as one of the frontline leaders of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) does not support the social media bill. He has thus asked the press and well-meaning Nigerians to resist it with all their strength.
In this interview with Sunday Sun, the politician who clocked 80 last July speaks on critical issues, including the 2023 presidency, Nigeria’s debt, election rigging, among others. Excerpt:
What is your take on the social media bill that the Senate seems to be passing in haste?
We must fight it, we must fight with all the strength that we have in the media. Secondly, it’s a terrible waste of time on their part in a digital age as we have it today in Nigeria, you cannot control the airspace. If somebody stays outside the country and starts writing or speaking out, can the Nigerian law catch the person or they will take the person to the International Court in the Netherlands? It is an exercise in futility, but we must fight it so that we avoid the misuse of such illegal Act. I am opposed to it. All my life I have always fought against gagging the press and have always stood for freedom of expression. Well-meaning Nigerians should resist it.
How would you react to the continued security challenge in the country, against the backdrop of lives that are being wasted?
Well, it’s all over the world; no country hasn’t got its challenge. It is just that we must do counter-suggestions, rise to the challenge and ensure you tackle it head-on. You will look at the best strategy suitable for your situation. For example, I believe in community policing, if you have community policing where the police system is localised, there will be better security reporting. A community that is well knitted together and security conscious when managed through community policing always produces good results. This is because those that police the area are conversant with the people, they know who is who in the community and can easily track down any bad egg or criminal. Remember that the criminals or those that foment troubles are not ghosts, they live among the people and it is always easier looking at our political and social environment to tackle issues of insecurity through community policing.
The last two elections held recently in Bayelsa and Kogi states, as usual were marred by massive rigging, ballot snatching and all manner of electoral malpractices. Don’t you think we’re due for electronic voting?
It is overdue, totally overdue. If Ghana can do it, if Kenya can do it…we are pretenders if we think that that the type of election that we are conducting in the country is still fashionable. Look at Google…goggle map has every hamlet, every village in the world, we are pretending if we continue to say we are this number or that number forgetting that Google has a satellite map of the whole world. In a digital age, we cannot ever, ever withdraw electronic voting.
The zoning challenge as regards to where the presidency will go to in 2023 has started raging. The North is insisting it must remain in its zone in 2023, but the South is kicking against it. What is your position on this?
It is the right of every Nigerian to want to contest and they will fight it out; as far as I am concerned we will fight it out. I believe that the South should have it.
When you are talking about the South, to which zone in particular?
Me, I am Southwest…let the Southeast fight their own fight. I will fight for my own Southwest (laughs).
The Southwest is believed to be speaking from dissenting voices on issues among their different socio-political and cultural groups. Does that bother you?
We, the Yoruba have always been democratic even in our family systems; those that I sustain their stipends regularly every month when we get to the family they will be the first to tell me that we are equal. They tell you that we are equal in the family and I dare not impose my view, so within my micronucleus family everybody will say his mind, that’s the culture of the Yoruba.
The fact that we have different groups and views on issues is part of the democratic nature of the Yoruba. And when you talk of voting…voting in Yoruba is the cleanest in entire the Nigeria, I can boast about that and everybody knows it. This is because, at elections, we keep surveillance on one another. So for us, our different view on issues is also our area of strength, the beauty of our democracy. We also know when and how to harmonise those different views to the advantage of the majority.
The nation’s debt has continued to rise and many believe nothing much has been fixed by the government, which incidentally your party is controlling?
Well, we will continue to ensure things get better. We will continue to make better plans to ensure things are better. Brazil collapsed and recovered, Argentina collapsed and recovered, and so many countries collapsed and are recovering. I am sure it will get better, but the thing is that: we the elite, we are the ones eating Nigeria; we are the ones using heavy-duty vehicles that are consuming the fuel that is subsidized, the electricity that is subsidized, we the elite are the ones using air conditioners in the villages, many villagers are using well-ventilated windows not even fans. So, we the elite, minority and just a minute per cent of Nigerians, we are the ones that the government is subsidizing, that needs to be looked into.
But do you think that the government is on the right track in terms of their economic positions and the accompanying hardship?
I am an APC chieftain; you won’t expect me to complain in the open even if I have reservations. This is because I have access to the leadership of my party and can give them my suggestions. I can pass my views on the party level; we had a caucus meeting last Thursday, so I won’t come to the public to criticize the government of my party. I have access, I have a wide opportunity to express my views and make suggestions where necessary.
How do you feel going by a report that Nigeria has become the poverty capital of the world?
How can we be the poverty headquarters of the world? I do not believe it, but in any case, the elite has to wake up because if we continue like this one day they (the poor masses) will surround us and that will be dangerous. I am part of the elite, I should show concern and I am doing that.
But do you think that the elite has really shown enough concern?
I will only talk for myself. I am not the spokesperson of the elite. I know it is not I alone that is showing concern; many elite are also showing concern.
Do you really have fears for Nigeria as it is today or none?
I have no fears, no country will collapse, it is just that we must not just give up, to become despondent is to give up, we must not give up, we must continue to fight, the country will survive, but we must fight to make it survive. No country dies. We must have the focus to fight for a better Nigeria.