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Why National Conference Recommendations Cannot Solve Nigeria’s Problems –Afoegba

FredAsegbuPost
Posted: Apr 8, 2016 at 2:44 pm   /   by   /   comments (0)

Comrade Fred Afoegba is the Chairman of Ijaw Youth Council’s (IYC’s) National Employment and Human Capacity Building Committee, which functions in collaboration with Niger-Delta ex-agitators. In this interview with EJIKEME OMENAZU, he speaks on the state of the nation and the possible return of militancy in the Niger Delta, among other issues.

How do you see the current socio-political situation in the country?
Nigeria is still largely divided along ethnic and regional lines. This division seems natural among the people although outwardly and falsely too, Nigerians present themselves as united and one. This is truly a contradiction of what a true federation should be.

Would you then trace the country’s challenges to nepotism?
Surely ethnic nepotism is one big challenge in Nigeria. It rears its ugly head in almost every sector and government institutions formed for good governance and development of the nation. This is exhibited in the appointment of heads of such government institutions and the list persons who also bag appointments.

As an activist, how would you describe President Muhammadu Buhari’s anti-corruption war?
Well, I see President Muhammadu Buhari’s war against corruption as being lopsided. In as much as I agree that the people that are supposed to be culprits are those in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) since they had being in power for the past decade, the question is: Why are those PDP defectors in the All Progressives Congress (APC) not arrested and tried for corruption, even when they are known and proven by established panels.

Would you agree to the notion that the anti-corruption war is mainly targeted at the Ijaw?
I am not convinced that Buhari’s anti-corruption war is targeted at the Ijaw. It is targeted at government institutions of significant importance to the economy of the country which require accountability. It will be unfortunate if the Ijaw man is the head of any such institution.

What is your view on the travails of High Chief Government Tompolo in the hands of EFCC?
What EFCC is doing is normal. There is nothing wrong in anti-graft institutions calling on anybody that had transactions with government to come and explain such transactions. The unfortunate thing is that government is not transparent in its dealings in this regard, on the one hand, and has huge influence on the proceedings of such agencies on the other. Again, government often times has ulterior motives due to regional and ethnic bias and sometimes is pushed to accept or compromise in certain areas. This is unfortunate for our democracy.

Do you foresee a return of full-scale militancy in the Niger Delta?
I do not see the possibility of the return of militancy in the Niger Delta region, despite the recent actions of pipeline vandals, who I term imbecilic saboteurs. We have accepted amnesty and we are now non-violent people who believe in the rule of law. Our approach towards any issue affecting us will be non-violence.
So far, do you see a reflection of true change in Buhari’s administration, especially as regards the development of the Niger Delta region?
Well, I perceive his desire for change, especially when he called on the Shell Petroleum Development Corporation (SPDC) to clean up Ogoniland. This is something his predecessor could not do. Again, the appointment of General Paul Boroh as the Amnesty Programme Coordinator is a plus to the Buhari administration. I say so because General Boroh understands the people and the terrain of the Niger Delta. This has enabled him carry out his duty perfectly. So, I wish to say yes, I see a true change.

Would you say you have confidence in Buhari’s leadership style?
No, I have my doubts on that.
Do you agree with those who say that the implementation of the National Conference recommendations would address the challenges facing the nation?
I do not agree. This is because the representatives from the different regions at that conference were not mandated by the people from such regions. They were politically selected.
Would you say that the greatest change Nigerians need at the moment is being able to hold credible elections?
I concur 100 per cent with you. Credible elections will lead to true representation given by the mandate of the people. Indeed, credible election gives the true definition of democracy. When people see their mandate as being from the people, it gives them a sense of thinking about the people than thinking of the godfathers.

What are your programmes for the youths in terms of employment?
I have confidence in General Paul Boroh, the Special Adviser to the President on the Niger Delta Amnesty Programme. I also salute him for the good work he has been doing in the region by partnering with our committee to give people in our communities free medical care which is very imperative.
The programme I have for the youths, especially those that have been trained, is to secure jobs for them in both multinational and servicing companies, government and non-governmental organisations. We do this by writing to the authorities of these organisations; hold meetings with them, pleading with them to engage one or two of these persons. So far, so good, some have responded favourably, while some have been so recalcitrant believing in the use of the Armed Forces as shield.
Indeed, we have blacklisted the names of these recalcitrant organisations operating in the region. At the appropriate time, we shall write to the government and the companies engaging them and their contractors on why such organisations should not be allowed to operate in the region so that the relative peace we enjoy presently will not be disturbed. The simple reason for this is because they are not community-friendly in their operations.
This year, on March 28, to be precise, the National Employment/Human Capacity Building Committee of IYC held a sensitisation that involved both community leaders, IYC clan chairmen on the environmental effect caused by social vices. During the programme, we said ‘No’ to pipeline vandalisation, ‘No’ to kidnapping, ‘No’ to sea piracy and educated them to know how it is affecting the region and Nigeria as a nation. There was also a peaceful protest against multinational and servicing companies which have refuse to engage our trained youths.

What should government do to ensure that the ex-agitators do not return to militancy?
The government should engage them directly or indirectly; partner or collaborate with ex-militants to ensure protection of lives and properties, especially when they have been given stipends. So far, the government has not failed their own part of the deal, because, training is still going on. To disabuse the minds of the ex-agitators should not bet left for the government alone. The multinational and servicing companies in the region should engage them once they have been trained, because an idle man is the devil’s workshop.

Do you think the government put the interest of the ex-agitators into consideration in its programmes?
Government is doing its best to see that the Amnesty Programme is sustained. At this junction, our committee is passing vote of confidence on General Paul Boroh, the Special Adviser to the President on the Niger Delta Amnesty Programme. We salute him for the good work he has been doing in the region by partnering with our committee to give our people free medical care which is very imperative to our communities. I urge the government to be transparent in its dealings with the people. There must be accountability in governance.