A human rights activist, Comrade Amitolu Shittu, in this interview by OLUWOLE IGE, speaks on the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari vis-a-vis the state of the polity. Excerpts:
What is your assessment of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration?
President Buhari is facing a lot of crises. Notwithstanding, there are a few things that the president needs to fix urgently, among which is power generation. Everything revolves around power. The ordinary people depend on energy. Without electricity, those who have grinding machines cannot work. The cost of petrol to power their generators is killing. Buhari should see power supply as a priority. Also, our dwindling economy which has affected the value of our currency in the international market is worrisome.
Buhari should be pragmatic in his approach to tackling the problems in the health, energy and education sectors. To prevent the people rising against the government, Buhari should address all the problems hampering their well-being. The recent increase in the price of petroleum was uncalled for and inhuman. The government failed to engage or consult the people before taking such an action. How can you just increase the pump price of petrol from N86.50 to N145 per liter? It is unfair. The situation has affected all sectors of the economy, leading to increase in the prices of goods and services. Prices of food items have gone up. Why is the government making suffering a way of life in Nigeria? I will continue to disagree on the increase in the price of petrol. Measures must be taken to mitigate the effect of the satanic increase in the price of petrol on the people.
Although he has come at a very tough time, he should try to do something to reduce the suffering of the masses. Things were difficult initially in the country under the late General Murtala Mohammed but within six months, he fixed the economy. If Mohammed could fix the economy within six months and Nigerians were calling him the messiah, in a democratic setting, we should be able to do better than that. When Buhari was the chairman of PTF, he performed very well. Then, there were drugs in our hospitals and the roads were good. If he could do that under the military government, I believe he can do better now that he is a civilian president. He should strive to deliver dividends of good governance to the doorsteps of Nigerians. But we commend the president on the issue of insurgency in the North. He has been able to subdue Boko Haram terrorists. I expect the environmental crusaders to condemn the implications of what the Niger Delta Avengers are doing in the South-South. Destruction of oil pipelines will wreck the soil. The destruction their activities will bring to aquatic life cannot be quantified. Environmental activists should rise and make the militants realise the impacts of their activities. The Niger Delta Avengers are destroying the future for generations yet unborn through their economic sabotage. If the late Ken Saro Wiwa and Adaka Boro were destroying oil pipelines and bombing oil facilities, nobody would remember them today. The militants are not fighting for the cause of the Niger Delta.
There is the belief that if the government can dialogue with the Niger Delta Avengers and other militant groups, destruction of oil facilities will stop. What is your take on this?
When you want to explore dialogue and some miscreants are hell-bent on killing people and causing problems for their kinsmen, then the dialogue option would suffers setback. The bombers are not living in the midst of the people in the Niger Delta. Boko Haram terrorists are not Muslims. Those who claim to be Niger Delta militants are not true Niger Delta militants. You will not set your own house on fire. Outsiders are helping them to bomb their homes, just like what is happening in the North. But the law and instrumentality of office are there for Buhari to explore. The constitution empowers him to do certain things. I don’t subscribe to his sluggish way of handling sensitive matters. Buhari is a corruption fighter and he is ready to lay down his life in fighting corruption.
Some people are given to the view that his anti-corruption fight is selective and targeted at the opposition.
It is nonsensical to conclude that Buhari’s anti-corruption war is selective. How do you describe what the former National Security Adviser, Colonel Sambo Dasuki (retd) did with arms funds? President Buhari has a lot to do. I am in support of his anti-corruption crusade and I am ready to put my life on the line for it. My fear for him is the types of individuals who surround him. There are some of his ministers who do not share his philosophy and ideas. That is where the problem lies. Your ministers must be on the same page with you. The United States president, Barack Obama, was able to achieve so much because he has a team that believes in him and shares his ideology. Therefore, I will disagree with Buhari for listening to his minister of power to increase the electricity tariff. The cost of living in Nigeria today is high and embarrassing. The present government is underestimating the power of the civil society.
During the last demonstration against fuel price increase, there were reports that you were disallowed from addressing the protesters and some people planned to attack you. Can you explain what actually happened that day?
I am a product of the streets and the streets remain my territory. I engaged former President Ibrahim Babangida on one street together with my leaders like the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi. We barricaded the streets and fought him. When Chief M. K. O. Abiola was in prison, we were on the streets. Streets remain my territory and nobody can take me away from them. Only death can do that. I want to say emphatically that nobody dares attack me on the streets. Nobody can do it in this country. Nobody can intimidate me. If a government gives priority attention to the welfare of the people, that is my government.