Revolution of civil disobedience, the only way out of the current mismanagement —Ariyo
A former All Progressives Congress (APC) political aspirant, Chief Robinson Ariyo is a public analyst, lawyer, vocal activist and peacemaker in the Niger Delta. He talks with EBENEZER ADUROKIYA about the seven years of APC government rule, among other things.
What is your APC roster over the past seven years?
In fact, we expected too much based on our dissatisfaction with the Goodluck Jonathan administration and the promises made by the government, and our impression of President Muhammadu Buhari during his administration of the war on terrorism. indiscipline (WAI) in 1983. We felt that indiscipline was a major problem and bringing in someone with a pedigree to deal with it was the way to go. And so, everyone expected a lot from him. All the promises made, if you put side by side the manifesto, point by point, the realities on the ground, you will discover that the government has failed in practically all areas. If you consider the issue of power generation which was one of the main issues they addressed President Jonathan on, Minister of Works and Energy RajiFashola had said that any serious government should be in able to solve the electrical problem in six months – that was the extent of bragging they had before they got into the saddle. In fact also, President Buhari himself said that, given his experience as a former oil minister at the time, any claim by Jonathan’s government to subsidize fuel was a fraud. He followed through on that statement that there would be working refineries. He painted a picture that he was going to solve the oil subsidy problem and make us more self-sufficient. But he failed on that too. I talked about energy, the oil sector, which are critical sectors.
The primary duty of any responsible government is the welfare and safety of its people. Here again, he failed miserably. This country has never been as dangerous as it is today. And global indices for the ease of doing business have plummeted. The ease of doing business in Jonathan’s time was much higher than it is today. There have been many small and medium enterprises that have flown to neighboring countries to such an extent that even Nigeria at one time traveled to neighboring countries to refine crude oil and bring it back to Nigeria. So the electricity, the oil sector, the security and the infrastructure – the roads are terrible. Now, it is almost impossible for Nigerians to travel safely by all means of transport. Trains are at the mercy of terrorist attacks. Is it religious unrest in the country? The country is now almost in turmoil. There doesn’t seem to be any respite in sight as to how to resolve this blockage. We thought things would be much better now, but we were wrong. In education – the other time Buhari described Jonathan’s government as irresponsible in the face of the ASUU strike. Buhari’s government made several agreements with the ASUU which it never honoured. And that is why we have a situation where our schools have closed and this has drastically affected the quality of education in Nigeria.
In the area of the economy, things got worse. Today, the rate of naira per dollar is N610. All empirical indicators point to abysmal failure – completely below expectations. Find out how high profile economic criminals convicted by the EFCC are granted state pardons. What message is Buhari sending to the younger generation? Are you talking about those accounting generals accused of stealing billions of naira from a government that prides itself on being an anti-corruption crusader? This is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to corruption in this government. In the past week, we are talking about more than 500 billion naira stolen by just two people – the Accountants General of Rivers State and the Federation. Do you know what this amount will do regarding the ASUU strike? Imagine the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, the man who sits on the financial policy of a country harboring presidential ambition and grandstanding while in power and claiming that a group of people bought him a presidential form of 100 million naira? We have become the laughingstock of the world! I don’t think any government can be worse than this! It’s as if we had no leadership in the country. It is a state of anarchy. We have returned to the state of nature!
How do you critique the standard of living of Nigerians over the past seven years?
We cannot talk about the standard of living without talking about the cost of living. Our revenues have not improved in any way for the past seven years. The rate of inflation is unimaginable. See prices for a pack of Lipton, sugar, etc. How much were they sold then and now? Price of electricity, transport, gas pump, rents, foodstuffs, electronics, everything has increased. That’s why crime has increased and people are so desperate now. People resort to different measures to survive, including ritual killings. If your income is down and the cost of living is up, what happens next could be unimaginable!
Are you saying that this government has been more of a curse than a blessing to Nigerians?
Absolutely yes! Especially since when you don’t expect someone to perform, you won’t be disappointed. Expectations were high. They came up with the critical concept of a breath of fresh air. They understood our state of suffocation, but they plunged us deeper into this toxin we were in. Every promise they had made, they had failed. Where are the refineries? Where is the abundance of life? Today, we are less secure than when they arrived. Is the grant still a scam as Buhari described it at the time? Hasn’t he constantly continued to pay it over the past seven years?
What are the issues?
Unfortunately, we have an electoral system that has been hijacked by the oligarchy.
What do you mean by “oligarchy”?
The ruling class at the federal and state levels. Those who are privileged are those who are favored by the government. Those who stole money and are not favored by the government are prosecuted by the government through the EFCC. I understand that the wanted Rivers State Accountant General won the PDP gubernatorial primaries in the state. How can this happen in a country where people are hungry and someone who is accused of stealing billions of naira is declared a candidate for governor? If you look at those emerging as gubernatorial candidates in certain states and compare them to the aspirants they have quarreled with, you will understand the rationality behind these oligarchs. What we practice is the government of a few oligarchics, by a few oligarchics and for a few oligarchics. If you look at all the primaries, you will see that there is a trend. A Nigerian president who buys a form of 100 million naira for a job of four years less than the legitimate salary of 50 million naira, isn’t that madness?
What is the path to the current seven-year mess?
There is really no way out of this quagmire, because it is those responsible for the transitional and electoral system who benefit from the system. The solution is radical change through a revolution that will sweep these people away and clean up the system. People make laws and they are the true beneficiaries of the same law. People need to come out in droves. For me, there should be no election. People should go out and solve the problem first. When you do something over and over again in a particular way and expect a different result, then you have to examine your head. The scaffold we produced Buhari with is still the same scaffold available to produce the next set of leaders. The type of revolution that I prescribe is the type that occurs in all civil societies. Why can’t we adopt the direct primary in our political parties? This will weed out all those incompetent candidates emerging in our states. Let people choose who they want. But they have created a system that weeds out quality applicants in favor of lesser quality ones.
What type of revolution are you calling for?
Within the legal framework, there is what we call civil disobedience. It is one of the tools with which you challenge government policies. For example, the fall of the dollar is enough for us to occupy the streets to reject certain political orientations encouraging the difficult situation. To this day, the country is dangerous due to religious intolerance, ethnic intolerance and insecurity. Thus, civil society is supposed to mobilize the population against these tendencies to ransom this country as it did during the EndSars debacle. Why can’t we have direct primaries as opposed to indirect primaries? The real election is the primaries that they hijacked for their friends. Already, citizens have been deprived of their rights. Look what happened during the PDP primaries in Delta State? Look at the quality of the contenders who challenged? If it was a direct primary, the person who emerged would not have emerged.
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