Chief Ovie Frank Kokori, a former secretary general of the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) and current stalwart of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Delta State, is worried by the rate of unending corruption, insecurity caused by herdsmen and kidnappers and issue of restructuring among others. He speaks with EBENEZER ADUROKIYA.
This is the fifth year of President Muhammadu Buhari in government. Are you satisfied with his performance, especially as regards corruption?
I’m not satisfied with his performance in fighting corruption. I can give just 65 per cent. Before, I was very confident that he would be able to fight corruption. But he leaves the government too much in the hands of his subordinates. I think that is why the corruption monster is still going on the way it used to go. The way we knew Buhari before, the Buhari of 1984- 85, by now he should have wiped out corruption. Corruption should have been less than 10 per cent in this country. But corruption is still over 60 per cent. I’m giving him that 65 per cent because of his person. He is growing old and being a young man in government is easier than being an old man. He should not leave so much of his governance in the hands of his subordinates. Nigeria is a big country. The people had confidence in you and gave you the mandate. He should do according to the will of the people that gave him the mandate.
Besides corruption, are there other specific areas you’re not satisfies with under the administration?
A lot of things are going wrong. Like in the security of the country, he is not doing very well on that; like Boko Haram is over 10 years old. To me, Boko Haram should have been wiped out in the third year of his governance. That is what he promised us. And now, herdsmen and bandits have been added to the woes. Herdsmen with AK47 are hiding in the bush and you say you can’t flush them out? Even the governors should do more. The governors themselves should be able to encourage and finance their community security like vigilance groups. Vigilance groups should have good references among stakeholders in the society. Some vigilance group members are thieves and they compromise. So, the governors and local government chairmen should do more in the security status of their states. It’s not really in the hands of the president. Herdsmen killing, kidnapping are dangerous things ongoing in the country.
Do you think that restructuring the country will be the best solution to that in view of the fact that the governors are afraid of the Exclusive List that puts the security architecture in the hands of the Federal Government solely?
The South-West people who formed Amotekun, are they not backed up by their Houses of Assembly? If the whole region is on one side, they would pass through. We are not doing much on these bandits and herdsmen issues. Whether they come from Benin Republic or Chad, whether they are from Nigeria or neighbouring countries, we don’t want to know; it’s the responsibility of the government to protect its people.
In spite of the interstate lockdown, some Almajirai and other northern youths are flooding southern states. What does this development portend to Southern Nigeria?
That is what I was talking about earlier. You can’t stop a Hausa man or a Fulani man from travelling from Kano to Lagos. Apart from the fact that the government said there should be lockdown, that is why they have the effrontery to be stopping people! But if there’s security, why should we be afraid of our country men? Because of the issue of insecurity, that’s why I said vigilance groups should be armed.
The Commissioner of Police in Delta State, Mr Muhammed Inuwa, recently addressed the press and alleged that some traditional leaders in the South-South, especially Delta State, collected money from Fulani herdsmen to give them land in their domains. What’s your take on this?
The commissioner is a security man. He should not only alleged; he should mention their names. All these came out after I called the governor and told him that South-South governors were not doing their duties. If a traditional ruler is doing that, then he is a criminal. Those so-called traditional rulers should be arrested and locked up, if found guilty.
Back to the issue of restructuring, this is the fifth year of the APC government that has it as part of its agenda even though it has denied it. How can this be accomplished?
If the governors of this country, the 36 of them, want restructuring, they will get restructuring within the next two years. So, Nigerians are not ready for restructuring. If the 36 governors are united on the issue of restructuring, the president cannot fight them. This is democracy. So, the governors are not serious. If two-thirds of the governors come together and say they want restructuring, they will get it.
The COVID-19 problem in town keeps rising. But a section of Nigerians is afraid that it’s much more of politics. Having observed all that has been happening, what will you say about the way it’s being handled in the country?
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) is doing its best; it’s almost impossible to close down Nigeria’s domestic activities. No country in the world, even the US, can do it; so, the people have to live with it till when we get a vaccine. So, people should be careful and follow the NCDC directives. That’s all I can say about it because Nigeria does not have that kind of social welfare system for the people. If you say people should stay at home for months, like what is done in Europe and the US, hunger will kill the people as government cannot do it and the people you hand over the business to are all not serious people. So, they will take out of the money; they can even take three-quarters of the whole money and those people the money is meant for will not get a kobo.
But there’s even this skepticism that the virus is not in existence, particularly in Delta State. What would you tell them?
It exists; everybody knows about it, the poorest of the poor know about it. It has been killing people. No scientist in the world has been able to know so much about it, even the biggest scientists and their laboratories; so if any cure comes for it, we in the tropic are lucky. That’s why the rate of death in Nigeria is so low compared to other people in the US. We need to appreciate all the medical personnel and others helping the NCDC to curtail the pandemic in Nigeria. It’s not easy to put one’s life on the line. It’s a great sacrifice they are making at their own risk.
You’re an elder statesman and you’ve being a secretary general of NUPENG. COVID-19 brought about a crash in the international oil price. The Nigerian government has to reduce the pump price of petrol to N125 from N145 per litre and some persons are still clamouring that it should go down to N70 per litre. What’s your view on this?
It should have gone down, less than N125. We in the labour union have said it that we are not impressed, because very soon when the world starts moving again, one day, they’ll come and tell you that the landing price is N220, then they will now have to sell it at N250. So, let us leave it like that, so that when the machines start working again, oil will go up again and then landing price will become high and government will tell you, you were enjoying N70 sometime ago.
Shouldn’t they allow the refineries to start working again because the IPMAN in Warri is not even happy over that?
That’s the main problem we have in the county, because we thought by now, the refineries would start working and we should have got one or two ground refineries, these are the things we expected from the Buhari led the APC government.
IPMAN in Warri said there’s nothing wrong with the Warri refinery; that there was an order from above that they stop producing…
That’s a lay man’s talk; that’s not a mechanical stuff. There must have been something wrong with it. And they normally do a lot of maintenance which I know, but we thought Buhari will stop all this, but I’m more of an activist than a labour leader so that’s why I say all this. The ordinary active people can’t talk the way I talk because I was brought up in that sphere of philosophy of equity and justice and that’s how we were trained to be more concerned about the people and not yourself. So even though I belong to the party, I know when the party is going wrong. We expect the APC to do more than what they’re doing. In every organisation, we are supposed to have some good men so that Buhari would be able to monitor all these things. I don’t think he’s monitoring all these things. That’s why people are talking about this cabal or that, although I think it’s dying down gradually. From now on, I think there will be improvement in the government; we still have three years to go, I believe that by the end of the three years, the APC must have kicked off and would have gone back to being the darling of Nigeria. So let us be optimistic about that.
What’s your view on the appointment of Professor Ibrahim Gambari as the new Chief of Staff to Buhari?
It is okay; no problem. I’m in support of the appointment.
Even in the face of accusation of ethnic sentiments against the president?
Normally, it’s obvious that the president gives appointments to close allies, more to people he knows than people he does not know. If you like, call it nepotism or tribalism, but that is his style. He has been doing it and any president can do it. But Gambari is a Yoruba man.
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