Comrade Debo Adeniran, a veteran activist and public affairs commentator, is the Chairman of the Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership (CACOL). He spoke to EJIKEME OMENAZU on the failures of 2021 and the expectations of 2022, as well as other crucial national issues. Excerpt:
How would you assess activities in 2021?
As far as 2021 is concerned, it was a year of rhetoric. There was nearly nothing new done by the government that was not predictable. People’s expectations were not met. The hope that there will be better infrastructure, better welfare and security will be dashed. The economy plummeted, conditions of service became unbearable. A lot of people lost their jobs. Some businesses could not operate. Crimes and criminalities, like kidnapping, mass murder, banditry rose to unprecedented level in different parts of the country, especially the North West, though they still exist in North East. Killings by unknown gunmen reached a crescendo in the South East.
Agitations for ethnic nationalism got to the peak. Those agitating for Biafra Republic and Yoruba nation became louder and had to be subdued by the federal authorities. It was a year without any flavour, a year no one hopes should come back. Different variants of Coronavirus (COVID-19) emerged, vaccines and booster shots were introduced. Leaders publicised their vaccination. Nigeria has not been able to develop its vaccine. No security against COVID. Vaccination does not reduce morbidity.
But, governments are trying to force people to take vaccines when it has no proof of efficacy. It is unfortunate that the government has not done anything to relieve it. Yet, people are readjusting to cope with the situation.The investigation panel on #EndSARS reports did not bring any relief. Police have remained bestial. There is nothing to cheer about in 2021. But, we shall continue to hope for a better tomorrow.
Would you say 2022 would be better?
The government will remain in power till 2023. It is the people who are absorbing the shock of this devastating moment that will adjust well. A lot of people are returning to the farm. Food security may be better enhanced in 2022. People are adjusting to non-pharmaceutical remedies for COVID.
Vaccination should be by conviction and not by force as people seem to have safe guarded themselves. People do not really come down with COVID fully. People have subdued COVID.
Insecurity has gone down in the South West, South South. South East is already tackling the issue of unknown gunmen, which was also attributed to IPOB. The unknown gunmen were not as bold as they were before. It is believed that they will be caged.
So, there is hope for a better new year. National economy may improve if there is no fear of bandits. Issue of bandits and kidnapping is going down. The IPOB has suspended its sit-at-home. The activities of the unknown gunmen have reduced.
Trade and commerce will improve in those places. It is in the North West that insecurity still abounds. People in Kaduna, Niger are in fear. But, once it is tackled, there will be improvement.
With continued crises in the APC in several state chapters, indicating widespread factionalism, some people are afraid that the party may witness an implosion before the 2023 general elections. What is your take on that?
I don’t know why people put so much premium on APC. It does not matter if there is an implosion in APC or not. What is important is good governance for the people. APC has not been unable to put its house in order because it is made up of strange bedfellows. The gain of its victory was a surprise to them. So, they were unable to manage it. It has crises in 16 states and has parallel executives in these states.
We should wait for INEC to tell us the parties that are fit for elections. It is not how neatly a party is run. It is how expeditious the government will tackle the welfare of the people. We will do our due diligence when candidates emerge. It does not mean that APC will run the next government. PDP is not a better alternative. The parties are made up of racketeers who want to corner public resources for the benefit of few people. That is why we are canvassing that any political party should have its ideology, develop its mechanism for social inclusion so that no section will feel cheated. We are not canvassing that the old folks be pushed away because their wisdom is needed in whatever party.
What is your view on the emergence of the New Nigerian Movement being championed by Mao Ohuabunwa and few other members of the intelligentsia for the next general elections? Are you part of them?
The New Nigeria Movement is not new. What they have not done is to put themselves on a strong pedestal. The arrow heads have run or participated in one organisation or the other, or in one agitation or another, but they were unable to sustain their efforts. I doubt if they can command respectability among the people.
Some of the organisations and civil societies they run are not membership based. They are elitist and rely on social media. That is why they do not improve on strategies that will take them to the grassroots. Such an organisation without grassroots structure is bound to fail when they get to election. If they succeed in participating, they may not win grassroots support. Most of the arrowheads had been involved in some parties and ran in some elections.They remain elitists. Their campaigns are run in the media. They are a group of elitists who speak to the elites.
I cannot join such an organisation with the type of rudderless political structure they have. It will be difficult for people to take them seriously until the situation changes and the group becomes people-based. That is why I cannot join such an organisation.
The recent National Judicial Commission (NJC) hammer on three High Court judges is still reverberating. How do you see the development?
I think that is a step in the right direction by the judiciary in trying to sanitise itself. Such judges that turn their calling into merchandise should be punished. That is the least we expect from the NJC. Any judicial officer that does not fulfil the minimum standard should be punished.
This was not really the first time that judicial officers were punished. The judge involved in Aregbesola’s case was disciplined. Same was a former judge involved in a case of an indicted former governor. He too was also disciplined. These things happen in trickles. If the NJC does its work well, some judges and magistrates will be de-robed. Several lawyers will also be punished.
Some lawyers do not deserve to be Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs). Some of them buy the position. That is why they turn justice to merchandise and many people cannot access justice.
How far has CACOL gone in its voter education programme which it started last year?
Talking about our successes, we cannot score ourselves yet because we have not got to the end. When you are doing capacity building and you have not tested your effort, you cannot beat your chest. But, the capacity building is well received and people feel better equipped to tackle electoral issues. They have shown enthusiasm in sanitising their communities of corrupt elements with a view to stop such elements from corrupting the serenity of the environment so that the young ones will not see corruption as beneficial. They have now learnt to ask their representatives questions. A lot of people we have built their capacity are already asking questions in the existing structures in their areas to safeguard their interests.
We are waiting for the Osun and Ekiti governorship elections to see how well they will perform. We have taught people how to identify corruption, tackle corruption and ensure that corrupt elements are not allowed to continue. But, we need more cooperation and support from the media for us to do better in the coming years.
We did capacity building in Lagos and Osun states. We hope to expand, if we have support. There is no way we can succeed without such support. We need to source resources and logistics to these states to be able to increase and expand the capacity building to other states to ensure that all the states in the federation are involved.