The presidential candidate of the African Action Congress in the 2023 presidential election, Comrade Omoyele Sowore speaks on sundry issues regarding Nigeria while celebrating the 4th anniversary of RevolutionNow in this interview. Enjoy the excerpts:
What are your views on the activities of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu in the last four to eight weeks?
I have made it very clear that the 2023 elections were a charade. One in which the Nigerian people were once again taken for a ride and their rights to free, fair elections were once again denied. Having said that, what I have witnessed in the last 4 to 8 weeks of the Tinubu administration has been that of a government that is unprepared to rule or govern. Major policies like foreign exchange deregulation and fuel subsidy removal were rolled out without planning or preparation. The resulting effect has been skyrocketing inflation. The naira has lost almost half its value in just 8 weeks. In the midst of all this economic pain, school fees for federal secondary and tertiary institutions have more than doubled, while worker’s wages have remained stagnant. The list of Ministers that was just released was full of the same characters that have failed Nigeria and Nigerians and demonstrated conclusively that for this government, it will be business as usual.
What is your take on the removal of Emefiele, Bawa, service chiefs from office? Will their removal improve the security situation, the economy and the fight against corruption?
The proof of the pudding is in the eating. Has the security situation materially changed? Is the economy back on track? Does the government appear to have a clear handle on how to tame inflation, better manage our exchange rate woes and put in policy to grow jobs and address unemployment? Does a government that appoints people with known and active corruption cases seem like they are serious about the fight against corruption? The answer to all these questions is obvious. That context answers your question – beyond the theatrics, what has substantively changed? I have been critical of Emefiele in the past. I still think he was a corrupt and inept CBN Governor. However, he is also entitled to due process. If the government has a case against him, then let them fully lay it out in court. For the 30 plus years that I have been involved in the fight for true democracy in Nigeria, I have been a victim of government’s excesses. I do not wish that on any Nigerian, regardless of our political differences.
What are your views on the removal of fuel subsidy?
My views have remained the same for over 30 years; that the subsidy as it was being run was the public welfare program for the elite, and that the Nigerian people were really not being subsidized as claimed. The argument every regime -military and civilian-have tendered over 30 years now are the same. One is that subsidies encourage corruption, second is that they would save money being used for subsidy and invest it in public infrastructure, education, health and create employment. If the removal of subsidies was intended to make life better for Nigerians, the facts playing out before our eyes show that this is not the case. Costs have increased almost three fold, and this has led to price inflation across many sectors. What is being done to address the pains that this is imposing on the Nigerian people? Why are we punishing the victims of the corruption in the implementation of the subsidy program? We keep hearing about elites who corruptly benefited from the program, yet this government has failed to produce even one person who is part of that elite. They are yet to prosecute anyone for the unconscionable crime perpetrated against the Nigerian people of stealing $10 billion annually.
You have been a student activist. Is the students loan bill signed into law by President Tinubu in order?
You could tell that they didn’t even understand the concept of students’ loan. They rolled out a student loans program with so many conditions that it was clear almost no one would qualify for it. After great uproar, just this week, they are now saying it is loans without conditionalities attached to it. It is important to let Nigerians know that loaning funds to get educated could only lead to literacy without education. It is an additional burden that Nigerians youths don’t need. A government must invest in its youth. How much are we spending on education? What is the justification for allocating a national assembly with just 469 people a budget of N70 billion – just for repairs, that is N149 million per person, while almost 100 million Nigerian youth are allocated an educational budget of N1 trillion – which amounts to just N10,000 per student. As for these loans, how would the students even pay back, when unemployment remains in double digits and it takes about 4 to 5 years for graduates to find jobs? It is interesting that those who are defunding Nigerian education and advocating student loans have all stolen Nigeria’s money and have used it to educate their own children overseas. Are their own children taking student loans in their universities in the UK and the US? No. Nigeria’s stolen funds is paying for their loan free schooling.
Are you satisfied with the performance of INEC, particularly in the last general elections? If no, why?
I was telling the public before, during and after the election-both in 2019 and 2023 that INEC no longer conducts elections but “selections”. INEC failed the Nigerian people by conducting a flawed election.
Are you of the view that the INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, be shown the way out?
You are asking those who appointed INEC Chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu to fire him for doing exactly what they hired him to do? I have no expectations that INEC will be reformed. I doubt that those who benefit from the inefficiencies in a system will have any real interest or desire to drive for change or reform to that system.
Some parties are challenging Tinubu’s victory. What are your expectations?
I have no expectations. The electoral process was flawed, but the judicial system is also ethically and morally challenged. I don’t have any issue with those who choose to go to court.
Are you okay with the performance of the election tribunals so far?
Honestly, I haven’t paid much attention to tribunals for the very reasons I stated above – there isn’t much justice to be expected from a flawed electoral process that generates cases for an ethically and morally bankrupt judicial process.
What are your thoughts on government of national unity.
Nigeria’s concept of government of national unity is a government that appoints or accommodates non-members of political party into govt. In real terms, a government of National Unity should be the one that appoints citizens to organize credible elections. A person who is a beneficiary of electoral theft can’t set up a government of “National Unity.”
Security challenges have resumed after a brief lull and has continued unabated in Kaduna, Benue, Plateau, Zamfara. Why the fresh killings again?
There was never a time when security issues or challenges stopped. What happens in Nigeria is that the merchants of violence generally go on election duties too, so, militants, terrorists, cultists, ritualistic, kidnappers, even computer hackers go on election duties, elections are over and they too have resumed back to work.
What is the permanent solution to the challenges?
We will not see any change in the security situation until and unless the fundamental issues driving insecurity are addressed. The sponsors and protectors of those causing insecurity must be dealt with, and the underlying economic, socio-cultural, ethnic, religious and land rights issues underpinning most of these conflicts needs to be constructively addressed through comprehensive restructuring. In essence, we need a clinical revolution! One that permits a complete review and reassessment of our terms of engagement as a people and as a nation.
What’s your view on El-Rufai’s bombshell on Muslim-Muslim ticket across Nigeria for 20 years?
Nasir El-Rufai is working hard to take over the political leadership of Northern Nigeria from Buhari. He’s a very cleverly sinister person, if you know him. He’s understudied how Buhari rose to power, deceiving northern Muslims. He’s just building his pathway to national power.
In what ways did the policies of the Buhari regime aid the insecurity in the Kaduna and Middle Belt and South East?
Buhari didn’t pretend that he’s a sectional head of Nigeria, he actively ruled like a sectional head. He ensured that his promise to conquer Nigeria in the interest of his primordial beliefs were undertaken to the fullest. His inaction in glaring cases of insecurity in Kaduna and the Middle Belt and his heavy handedness in the South East worsened the security crisis.
The elections are over, but the disunity in the country continues. How can the government unite Nigerians?
No one could unite Nigeria with incompetence, mediocrity and brutality. Only justice could achieve that objective, so long as you unjustly select Nigerian leaders, and starve its citizens, treat them with disdain and create divisions to enable you rule over them, you can’t unite Nigerians. It is a no brainer.
What are your thoughts on allegations by Asari Dokubo that military officers steal 99 percent oil in the country?
Asari Dokubo knows this, my issue with him was that in total naiveté, he took the matter of reporting oil thieves to the Chief thief’s house. I always thought he knew better.
What are your words of advice for Tinubu and the new governors?
I am not in the business of advising the government. Ironically, they’ve become a blessing in disguise for the citizenry, by exposing how bereft of ideas and concern for the well being of the ordinary people of Nigeria they are. If Nigerians are seeking a genuinely revolutionary future, where the welfare of the people is paramount and a Nigeria that works for all is birthed, these crop of leaders will make it happen fast. They came loaded with impunity, the type that would trigger a mass revolt.
After your defeat in the 2023 polls, are you done with politics or should we expect you as contestant in 2027?
Ideas cannot be defeated. My commitment to Nigeria is non negotiable, and I do not believe in the use of words like winning, losing or defeat when it comes to the critical matter of working towards making our nation great and save it from thieves and wolves, who are here to steal and devour the commonwealth. Whatever happens in 2027, you will find me on a consistent path – working tirelessly for the Nigerian people, fighting for the rights of the underrepresented and the less privileged and advocating tirelessly for my ideas about the need to radically restructure Nigeria and ensure that the nation works for all 200 million of us, not just a few