|Hon. Wale Osun|
Hon. Wale Oshun, is the chairman of Afenifere Renewal Group (ARG) and Chief Whip of the House of Representatives during the aborted Third Republic. Oshun, in this interview speaks on the ongoing controversy over bribery allegations between Mr. Femi Otedola and Hon. Farouk Lawan. He also speaks about the controversial June 12, 1993 presidential election; South-West integration; Edo State governorship election and other issues. Excerpts:
What is your view on the on-going bribery allegations between Hon. Farouk La-wan and Mr. Femi Otedola over the fuel subsidy probe?
The case of Lawan and Otedola is still unfolding and we don’t have all the infor-mation surrounding the matter. But I am of the view that the incident has shown that corruption has risen to a very high level in Nigeria. Corruption is at all lev-els and it is not limited to the National Assembly.
Of course, the argument should be that the National Assembly should provide some measure of leader-ship in confronting corruption. If we are talking about decline in corruption in other places, what we have in the Nation-al Assembly is increase in corruption.
It is so visible and you can even touch it. So, talking about the Otedola and Lawan case, I would say that for now we don’t have all the information. Let us wait, but I am sure it will rock the system. You find the National Assembly touching the most crucial part of the economic nerves of the country….
If the corruption in that sector is being probed and there are insinuations regarding the conduct of that probe, then there is a problem. So, let us wait; I think Nigerians need to be patient to know all the facts surrounding the bribery scandals.
What would be the implication if the claims by Otedola are true?
If they are true, it then means that we have all the while been making noise over corruption without making any im-pact in the fight against it. It will also show that people “fight” corruption only when they are not directly benefitting from it. What the Lawan and Otedola’s case may portend, if it is true, is that we only pay lips service when we are not in the direct corridor that can provide our own fund. Once you are there, you are also likely to get entrapped.
That is the danger because it means people will come to judge when the time comes. If you refer to the way Mallam Nuhu Rib-adu was removed from office as EFCC chairman, attempts were made to bribe him but they were unable to do so, and because he appeared to be doing the cor-rect things, they could not wait to throw him out. It means that if you are fighting corruption and you are not corrupt, you will easily be thrown out.
In the last 13 years, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has been dominating the political field. Now, there is an ongoing merger talk be-tween the Action Congress of Nige-ria (ACN) and the Congress for Pro-gressive Change (CPC). What is your position on the merger?
I think what is important now is for Nigerians of like minds; people who be-lieve in the same basic tenets to come to-gether. Governance is about policies and there are always option to help in achiev-ing some growth and development. It is the process of taking this measures that differentiates one party from another. What one can then say is that Nigerians of the same political belief should come together to wrest power from the PDP. But then, a lot depends on what they in-tend to do with that power.
In the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and National Republican Convention (NRC) days, two parties were forced on Nigerians but be-cause of the internal self-contradiction in having people of different views and shapes to operate together, you discov-ered that you had an election won by SDP and the chairman of the same SDP traded it away.
So, first and foremost, you must be bound by the same things. Those com-ing together must be bound by the same objectives. If political parties are cooper-ating, they must cooperate on certain ba-sic values. People have to be careful and ensure that it is made up of people of the same views and beliefs, especially when it comes to economic and political issues.
Why did you believe that the SDP chairman traded his party’s victory away during the controversial June 12, 1993 presidential election?
He traded it away because he was a non-progressive in a progressive party. You cannot have a marriage of inconve-nience in a party. Once you have a mar-riage of inconvenience, they don’t stand the test of time and they don’t stand the trials that every party must face.
Why is there no co-ordination in the celebration of June 12? One finds different groups with different pro-grammes on that day.
People have cultivated the idea of cel-ebrating June 12 in diverse ways because June 12 touches people in diverse ways. If you would recall, June 12 led to the emergence of what we call self determi-nation groups. So, in a way, many people and groups are likely to celebrate it from different angles. There is no official rec-ognition of June 12; market women rec-ognise it in different ways because they were looking forward to a more buoyant economy.
The fact that Abiola won made the prices of commodities to drop within one week. Lagos is too big and complex for one activity for June 12. There are so many other states where you have differ-ent ways of celebrating. However, one thing that runs through them is that peo-ple acknowledge that Abiola laid down his life so that democracy could strive in Nigeria.
What is your view on the contro-versy surrounding the renaming of UNILAG after Abiola?
My group, Afenifere Renewal Group (ARG), has placed an advert advising the government on the matter. There are also issues of illegality, processes, consulta-tions and many other things in the re-naming of UNILAG. So, rather than tak-ing the assiduous task of going to amend the University Act and many other things there are so many ways to honour MKO Abiola. There are many things to do with democracy to honour Abiola. We can have June 12 named Democracy Day in honour of Abiola.
That will require just the understanding of the National As-sembly. And naming the Eagles Square after MKO Abiola, for instance, requires no bill. It may just require the approval of FCT Act or the council in charge. These are things that can be negotiated without necessarily going to changing the name of an established institution.
There is also the issue of localising the martyrdom of Abiola. Abiola laid down his life for the people of this country and for democracy to thrive in Nigeria. So, if that is the case, whatever is being named after him would be in the national capital of the country like the Eagles Square and National Stadium in Abuja. It must be something that is national.
What can you say about the South-West integration?
What we have had in Nigeria are frag-mental states and some of the states can-not even survive on their own because of the political system that we have. Many states rely on the centre because they are not even allowed to control their own productive system and to generate their revenues. It is somebody that usually comes to collect all the revenue and that raises the issues of derivation principles. People have said that every area should be allowed to generate its own resources, whether natural or physical and pay tax to the federal government.
It should not be the other way round where the federal government collects all the money from the ports and other areas and distributes it in a way that does not take into consid-eration the contribution of the contribut-ing area. These are some of the issues, and until you get to that point where deri-vation principle is given a serious goal in the management of the national income process, we will continue to have the kind of problem we have been having.
But some people see the South-West integration initiative as an ACN agen-da.
The initiative is because of the size of the South-West and the need to collabo-rate because there are many productive ventures, which each state on its own may not be able to address as proficiently as possible. Take the issue of transport for an example, if you need to have a fast train from Lagos to Akure, you will need collaboration. If you want to have a good coaster road to bind the South-West, let say from Lagos, Ogun and Ondo, you will need to have a collaboration. I
f we need to have a common policy on educa-tion for the purpose of the teaching of students at the early stage of five or six years, there will be need to collaborate to harmonise all the states.
So, integra-tion enables the collaborating states to identify their individual priorities. And where the priorities are similar, they can be collapsed into one, to facilitate the size of the economy that they can apply to ensure that delivery is more service efficient in term of delivery, cost and hu-man resources. These are all the param-eters that go into managing integration. The integration is also in respect of all the western states meeting together. So, it is not the question of just the ACN as a party, the Labour Party governor was there and he was part of the process.
How prepared is ACN for Edo State governorship election?
Governor Adams Oshiomhole is not leaving any stone unturned and he is not giving any chance. His campaign has been effective and in any case, his con-duct and performance in office speaks for him. The people of Edo State have seen what he has done in the state during his first tenure. Even those of us who are not from Edo State have visited Edo State when PDP was ruling and we have also visited the state under the watch of Gov-ernor Oshiomhole and we can see the dif-ferences.
The differences are very clear; you can see the road network, drainages and many other remarkable achieve-ments of Oshiomhole’s administration. So, the people of Edo State know which party has served the state’s interest and of course, Governor Oshiomhole, apart from campaigning very well, has worked very hard. There is no doubt in my mind that we will win that election.