...Excerpts from his interview... ...
I think with the death of Chief Gani Fawehinmi, the death of Dr BekoRansomeKuti, the death of Chima Ubani, there has been progressive decline in the protest of the civil society to engage the government in terms of pressurising it to achieve the aims of nationhood. But the role was different under the military.
Our role was combative, but with the return to democracy, most of the civil society activists have dissolved into the system. They are now engaging the ministries of Transport, Health, Works, among others, and through this kind of engagement they have been subsumed into the system and would find it very difficult to raise their voice against injustice, against anti-democratic activities, because they have been taken as part of the system. That is the major problem and a very serious one.
However, we still need a vibrant proactive civil society that would put the government in check. I was reading a press statement recently by a shadowy group and they threatened that they were going to recall me because I have been critical of government policies and programmes and I refused to be a politician and still see myself as an activist criticising policies and programmes and for that I should be recalled. I was so happy with that because it is a compliment in the very sense that it would have been very wrong for anybody to tell me that since I took over office, I have lost the comradeship and the spirit and the fire in me have died. That would have been very painful thing to me. But I think with the claim of that group, it is quite good for me.
There are complaints of suffering by the citizenry under the present administration. What do you think the government has not done right?
There are a good things the present administration has done since Buhari came in he has restored peace, confidence and security. However before Buhari there were bombs flying around the country in Abuja, Sokoto, Kano and Jos, among others. Today, he has been able to stabilise and for that we need to commend the gallantry of Nigerian Army which has done a fantastically good job in securing this country.
And secondly, he has also been able to fight corruption not just fighting corruption but sending a clear message to all Nigerians that time of corruption is over and we will not tolerate, endorse, embrace any act of corruption in this country. But there are a lot of things that could have been done right, which is the economy.
When we took over, even before the hand-over, there could have been a very strong economic team that would forecast the economic weather and make necessary amendments that would cushion the hazards and prevent it from falling flat on our heads. That was the mistake that was made. That is on the economic side and the hardship. People are actually suffering so much. There is so much poverty, so much hunger.
There is so much disappointment in the hearts and minds of our people. But I think we need to understand that as a government we can't hold this for so long. This government has enjoyed the longest degree of patience from the people in the history of Nigeria: in the sense that Nigerians are still not in the streets protesting, not going on strike. There is no disobedience campaign against the President or the Federal Government.
As you can see, even critics of this government are carefully measuring their words when it comes to criticising the government. But we have up to May 29 next year, which is just a few months ahead, for Nigerians to pass a final verdict of whether we have been able to deliver our campaign promises.