Sunday, June 23, 2024

Nigeria: Buhari's Ministers Were Most Powerful Nigeria Ever Had, Yet They Failed – Kokori

Speaks on rogue officers in security servicesON OIL SUBSIDY SCAM: Tinubu has two years to name, shame perpetrators’President will betray the South, M/Belt if he abandons true federalism’Says NDDC underdeveloped Niger Delta’Why I rejected Peter Obi as Labour presidential candidate’

Chief Frank Kokori is a former General Secretary of the Nigerian Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG, and a notable and vocal figure in the struggle for June 12. In this interview, Kokori speaks on the removal of petrol subsidy, insecurity and expectations from President Bola Tinubu among other issues of national importance. Excerpts:

You have been a strong advocate of true federalism in the country. What do you expect from President Bola Tinubu in this regard?

After a year, he should start thinking seriously about it. Nigeria should go true federalism. Actually, that is one of the anchors of Afenifere. If Tinubu does not do that, then he has betrayed the people and he will lose his base in the South-West, South-East, South-South and even the Middle Belt.

People who don’t know him are youths who felt every old man is a thief in Nigeria, so Peter Obi took advantage of it. I always tell people, Peter Obi is not a socialist; he is not even a liberal socialist. Peter Obi is a capitalist, so how Labour nominated a capitalist to be their flag bearer, we don’t know. Nigeria is a strange country.

Insecurity has continued to be a challenge in the country. Having appointed new Service Chiefs and IGP, what further steps do you think the President should take to tackle the problem?

It is actually a shame that Nigeria is passing through this horrible security situation for the past 15 years; it has been bad since 2010. Some of us believe that government can wipe out security promoters like bandits, herdsmen, unknown gunmen and criminal elements but it is a pity that Nigeria government has not taken the issue of security seriously.

I always shudder whenever l hear that 120 Nigerians were killed in a village, 200, 300 school children carted away by bandits into the forests. You move with 300 children, satellite won’t trace you, security people won’t trace you, nobody will trace you and Nigerians will be looking for them for two years.

Some of these things are unbelievable and most Nigerians believe that there is connivance between these criminal elements and rogue government officials. In developed countries, when one policeman is killed, they will fish the person out, but here, you hear 10 policemen killed, 20 policemen killed and nothing happens. That does not happen in civilized societies. Nigeria’s President is one of the most powerful Presidents in the world; you can’t ever get close to where he is, so much security for the President, so he is out of this world.

Even the governors, you can’t get to them, so they are safe but other Nigerians are dying, so we believe that our government has failed us woefully. Nobody is going to tell me that we have not spent enough money to fight insecurity. We have spent more than enough compared to our GDP, but our security agents and people in authority have not measured up to standard, so, some of us have become disillusioned, those of us who are patriotic, nationalistic Nigerians who have lived our lives making sacrifices right from when we were young.

I believe that this new government of Bola Tinubu understands, but let us give him two years to see what he can do about security, I am sure he will do it, because Tinubu, at his age, l don’t think he is looking for bribe, stealing of Nigeria’s money. God has blessed him and has been so good to him, so let us watch him.

You have been very outspoken in accusing former President Muhammadu Buhari’s of not doing enough to fight corruption. What is your advice to Tinubu in this regard?

Buhari came under the mantra of anti-corruption, but we were surprised that he failed Nigerians. When he, as a young man, and Tunde Idiagbon ruled as military leaders for a short time, Nigerians saw what is called discipline and everything was moving in the right direction. That record was what Buhari used and he was living a frugal life, but his second coming as a civilian, he loved luxury and wastages. Nigeria’s President is very powerful, so, if anybody who is there cannot use his powers properly, he lets down the people. Former President Goodluck Jonathan failed Nigerians. At his age and academic background, we thought he will bring glory to Nigerians, but the young man failed our country.

That was how Buhari just came, swept everybody off their feet and got victory, but for eight years we were waiting and waiting and Nigeria, instead of progressing, was retrogressing, so, all you see on the faces of Nigerians was frustration. The standard of living started dropping until now that it has dropped to its lowest ebb, so let us hope this new government will do better. I think those who shielded him, the so-called cabal should be ashamed of themselves; they actually destroyed Nigeria. Some of us felt there are some basic things a government can do, but they couldn’t do it. They became so stinking rich and most of the wealth became obscene.

Every dedicated man can wipe out corruption. Tinubu has come with big promises and he has so much goodwill in him. If a man is not involved in corruption, he can fight corruption. When you are disciplined, your children and your wife will be disciplined, but if they see that you are morally bankrupt, they follow the same path. Buhari was just mouthing anti-corruption, fighting against insecurity, but he could not even punish his officials, the rogue people in the security services. He could not do anything, a Minister will be there for eight years doing whatever he liked, no checks and balances. His Ministers were the most powerful that Nigeria has ever had. Nearly all of them were there for an average of six years to seven and a half years. It has never happened in this country.

Former President Muhammadu Buhari was quoted to have said that he delayed subsidy removal to enable APC win the presidential election. What is your take on this?

Actually, the issue of subsidy removal is like hot potato in Nigeria and l say that it is the easiest way of mobilizing Nigerians masses against the government, so no labour leader or government wanted to touch that. But for the past eight years, we saw the damage it has done to Nigeria and it got to a stage where we now service our external debt with almost 80 percent of our income, no government can take that. He (Buhari) couldn’t have removed subsidy in the last minute like what they did with the naira swap. He could have done it more than four or six years ago.

Even (former President) Jonathan could have done it, but l don’t blame Jonathan much because he was not in firm control of the government and he was doing things to please people from the North and South so that he could get a second term, but Buhari was in firm control of the government, nobody got close to him. He should have done it successfully, but that is by showing example, by living by example.

When people see their leaders making sacrifices, they follow their leaders. Buhari let Nigerians down; he was like a recluse, he never received people, he did not have third party advice, it was him and his close cabal and those people actually destroyed Nigeria. So, when l talk about Buhari, maybe he chose to be on the wrong side of history.

Subsidy removal has no doubt worsened the hardship of Nigerians with the World Bank saying additional 7.1 million Nigerians could be pushed into poverty. How best do you think the Federal Government can use the savings from subsidy removal to better the lives of Nigerians?

The World Bank, for more than 30 years, has told Nigeria to remove subsidy when the effects wouldn’t have been as strong as this. I remember when l went to prison in 1994, pump price was N2.70 kobo and, within six months, Sani Abacha increased it to N11 and that percentage was more than 500 percent. This one is just about 2.75 percent. Before the struggle for June 12 in 1993, fuel was sold same pump price all over the country and it was available, but now, it became a racket and the so-called subsidy was going into private pockets and is why you see Nigeria, they call it a poor county, capital of poverty, but no, Nigeria has some of the richest people in the world and the poorest too in the world, so the story of Nigeria is a very sad story. I think Tinubu has a team and Tinubu is a man who speaks and he does what he talks. He was in the trenches with us and what was the struggle of the progressives during the military era? It was to get an egalitarian country and Tinubu was part of us.

What about the so-called subsidy cabal? Do you think it is necessary to identify and bring them to book as some people are telling the President to do?

If the government is serious and wants the backing of the people, they should do this publicly. They should prosecute these people publicly; they should name and shame them. The security people know them, most inner circles of government know these people but they were just covering them because most of them gain from them. Tinubu has told us that he will not take a kobo from them, so, as long as you don’t do that, nobody blackmails you, so you fight for your people. Let us watch him for the next two years, but if they are not brought out and shamed, that will be a minus for him.

The other day, ex-militant leader Asari Dokubo accused the military of being heavily involved in oil bunkering and all that and he got some rebuttal for this. What is your take on this?

Asari was right. Bunkering became a business of the people; even the small Dick and Harry are involved and the military knows about it. It is a very powerful cartel and you cannot dare them.

Some bad elements in the military who became rogue security officers collaborated with them and this made it more difficult to fight them. A serious government should have crushed and shamed them.