Public Affairs analyst and top social media influencer, Olusoga Owoeye, is a serious minded individual with zero tolerance for trivialities among patrons and critics of government. In this exclusive interview with the AbujaCityJournal team, he warns Nigerians against resorting to self-help and unholy local or international alliances in tackling insecurity. He also points out the weaknesses of Buhari’s administration and cautions social media users to tread with caution in their desperate attempts to attack the government.
ACJ: Issues relating to insecurity of life and property are currently on the front burner of the nation’s national discourse. What do you think is a way out of the logjam, and what is your view about the activities of various combative groups springing up to protect people against kidnapping and other criminal activities in the South?
Ans: Of course, my position is that you cannot police a country as big as Nigeria from the center. It will not work. That is why I see the entire crisis we have been facing as having little to do with criminality, but more with absence or lack of enough police to adequately provide protection for people of the country.
Besides, in a Federal system like Nigeria, each community needs to have its own police. Even some of us who grew up in the villages are familiar with local policing which is catered for through communal system and in a way, the system keeps the communities safe. For instance, my mother at close to 80 still pays N500 monthly for such service in my community. What I’m saying in essence is that we cannot police Nigeria centrally from Abuja. It will be a fruitless effort. It cannot work.
ACJ: But there are fears in some quarters that state police could be hijacked by politicians and influential persons to protect self-interest or create tension during election. Don’t you consider this?
Ans: We have laws which can be strengthened to take care of all these. We tailor our democracy towards the American and till date, some emerging trends in the country still call for reform.
Today, America has 18,000 police agencies, ranging from departments with two or three officers to tens of thousands. While federal policing guidelines exist, each agency, under local or state jurisdiction, has its own standards of practice that can vary dramatically from others.
To avoid misuse of state policing, laws can be deepened to control and regulate state policing. These laws can be made and can also be amended frequently. For instance, if Amotekun is a state police, it may be regulated that its officers cannot oversee political matters and issues relating to elections. Therefore, all issues concerning electoral process may be an exclusive forte of the federal police and outside the jurisdiction of the state police. If a politician attempts to rig election, Amotekun, in this case, will not be a tool because its men will not be seen near polling booths.
Again, let’s look at it this way, what is the ration of politicians in a state. In most states, I don’t think the number of active politicians can be more than few thousands in a population of millions of people. In that case, there is limit to what an individual can do to subvert people’s wish if we are resolute.
To unravel all the knotty areas, we need to make laws and continue to amend it. America is about 300 years old and still confronts policing challenges that often call for review.
ACJ: Buhari administration appears to be the most criticized in the history of Nigeria as a result of what the critics described as the administration’s inability to proffer necessary economic solutions, tackle insecurity and infrastructure challenges among others. What is your personal view about the administration and its achievement in this direction?
Ans: Except people who are born in 2010, who are just attaining the age of voting or political consciousness now, any individual who has been around before then and fully politically conscious and still shares such sentiment is mischievous. Categorically, it is a fact that in the last 30 years, there is no government in Nigeria that has made investment in Economy, Insecurity and Infrastructure like Buhari. It is not a debatable issue, it is statistical. A global body that measures countries’ security strength last year released a result of 108 countries measured and Nigeria's position jacked up to either 33 or 35. With the position, we have moved 8 points. It was a good development considering where we were in the past years.
Also, Nigeria today is the 4th most powerful military in Africa –Egypt, Algeria, South Africa and then Nigeria. Again, if one is keen and compares this to Nigeria’s position in 2015 and 2016, it is indeed a great progress. Under this administration alone, Nigeria acquired about 28 Aircraft in 6 years. Interested Nigerians can check the records and see how many were acquired between 1999 and 2015. It was then a clear case of insensitivity. These are things that are measurable. Let’s look at the infrastructure aspect. When Buhari came, oil was down to about 28 dollar. During the COVID crisis, it went down to as low as zero.
But look at what Buhari has been able to deliver despite the odds. In the South West alone, where one would crack the brain to know what was done by the previous administrations, there are many infrastructural projects, both completed and ongoing. For the first time in almost 25 years, I drove from my house in Ikeja to Ibadan under one hour, five minutes. This was made possible because of the progress made on Lagos-Ibadan Express road construction which is now about 60-65 percent completed.
The Benin-Ijebu Ode-Ore road is virtually completed. The Tincan-Oworo-Oshodi-Ojota is also approaching completion. Ilorin-Ibadan road has remained a death trap for years and has been awarded I think since 2001. For about 15 years, it remained a pipedream until this administration came on board. I travelled by road to Ilorin in December and I saw how far the work on the road has gone. Also in South West alone is the Ikorodu-Sagamu road which is also ongoing. Besides, we now have the Lagos-Ibadan rail and for the first time after many years, Apapa Port has been linked to a rail line. Now, let’s look at the recent economic rating. If you watch the global economy, especially after the pandemic, you will discover that Nigeria is doing well. It has also been established that Nigeria has the biggest social investment in Africa today. These are indices that have been globally confirmed with relevant statistics.
Therefore if anybody is complaining about poor governance, the question to ask such person is that what business is he/she was doing before 2015 that collapsed under Buhari Administration. Between 1999 and 2015 almost 105 companies closed down in Nigeria, including Dunlop and Michelin. Today Nigeria has overtaken Egypt in the area of rice production; employing thousands of people. That was why we didn’t feel the impact of COVID-19 outbreak last year. Food was available during the lockdown unlike other countries. No one can compare that to what was happening in South Africa or US, where people were queuing for as long as about 5 kilometers to collect food.
In 2016, I spent at least N20,000 on diesel per month but the reverse is the case now. As I speak, we are in the second month of the year 2021 and I’m yet to buy a liter of diesel. This is so because Buhari has also made sure that investment in power is going to be given a special priority by government, whereby the investment gets to government. In that case government now pays more attention to rehabilitation of transmission and distribution because that’s where the money is coming. There is also periodic revamping going on to improve services.
ACJ: But despite all these achievements you highlighted, Nigerians read and see every day social media reports that speak volumes of the administration’s poor performances! What exactly is happening and what’s your view about social media regulation?
Ans: Two things are happening and they bother on contradiction. What I’m trying to say is that this administration has a lot of contradictions. One, they are working but they are not talking about it. If you are working but not talking, then you have given detractors room to treat information the way they want. If you are not blowing your trumpet, who do you think will blow theirs in your favour? Today, those who are defending Buhari are not necessarily those in government or those parading APC cards, but passionate Nigerians who don’t want the country to fail, because their families are here and they are also aware some people are out there being paid to destabilise Nigeria. Unfortunately, people in the last category have their families abroad.
ACJ: You sounded so sure of the fact that some people are being paid to destabilise Nigeria. What informed that confidence?
Ans: It will interest you to know that I’m not the only individual who is aware of this, but many ardent and progressive Nigerians with hindsight and foresight. For instance, some of these influencers - from Kanu to Sowore to Sunday Igboho don’t have their wives and children in Nigeria. They are what the Yoruba people call; ‘Igi da, Eye fo’. Some of us don’t want anybody to bring bloodbath into the country because we believe in the country and we have families and investments here. That’s why sometimes when we get tired, we reinvigorate and keep fighting because we don’t want the system to be disrupted by the 5th columnists. It will also interest you to know that most of the influencers are paid by the opposition. If we are not sure of any scenario, that of #EndSARS protest and its fallout are still fresh. The protest simply pointed out how desperate the oppositions were to cause havoc in Nigeria. Meanwhile, findings during and after the ugly incident have also revealed that the opposition we are currently combatting has both local and international dimension. For reasons best known to some powerful nations like US, Britain and France, they don’t want Nigeria to progress and be peaceful. Britain is providing support for Kanu and his IPOB movement in the South East/South-South and now looking at the South West. The truth is that Nigeria's growth is perceived as a threat to their global interest so they want to truncate it. No, they will not support us to break but they want to make sure we neither have peace nor experience meaningful progress. If Nigeria's breaking down is going to affect them, they will make sure we are so strong that we will not break, but very unstable to make progress.
The issue is left for government to be accountable and invest well in intelligence gathering. It will shock many Nigerians to know that some local and foreign bodies paid the influencers millions of naira to tweet wrong information during last year’s #EndSARS protests. I can confidently state here that the least amount collected by some individuals was N5million to feed the world with wrong information. Influencers were paid based on the number of followers they parade on twitter, that’s why some of them collected as much as N10million for the information shared. Even after confronting them with the evidence that they were paid to cause havoc, they couldn’t summon the courage to pull those things down because it was a contact. What is currently evolving in Nigeria is what has developed into big crisis in India, Venezuela, Iraq, Syria and other places, no thanks to these so called super powers. In conclusion, the west cannot allow Nigeria to be stabilised except we have a leader who has foresight to understand the risks involved. To avoid break down, all hands must be on deck. We must be ready to do away with petty politics and personal interest.
ACJ: You recently tweeted about the alleged connection between the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), and some elements in the South…
Ans: Yes, I did because what we know about the Indigenous People of Biafra is that they are working with the anti-fulani elements in the south-west and providing technical support for them. Funnily, let me also tell you that Mr. Sunday Adeyemo, otherwise known as Sunday Igboho who is leading that movement here doesn’t know. He’s just being used because he doesn’t understand the undercurrent. On this note, in my personal opinion, Igboho is nothing but what we can call a ‘useful idiot’.
A ‘useful idiot’ is a man who is leading a protest with perhaps a genuine and legitimate intention but got his intention subverted by the 5th columnist for personal interest. In political jargon, a useful idiot is a person perceived as propagandizing for a cause without fully comprehending the cause's goals, and who is cynically used by the cause's leaders. That is the case with Mr. Igboho, as he’s now a ‘useful idiot’ for a few people who are making use of his good intention to achieve their evil aims.
What we are going to see in the next few days is what we have seen in the early days of Igboho. The narrative was that igboho went to Igangan but recent findings have revealed that he was not even included in the burning of that Fulani man's house. Was it then a coincidence that less than thirty minutes after the place was burned, there was a Twitter handle registered with his name? After tracking, it was discovered that the twitter handle was registered in 2015 with Igbo name. Another shocking revelation is that the tweeter handle was tracked to be following some websites that has a secession agenda.
Now, we have been able to track two of those websites and realised they are linked with IPOB. There is a grand plan to use Igboho to cause havoc because the promoters of IPOB believe that the Yoruba people are the ones frustrating the actualisation of Biafra. It has also been tracked that the IPOB promoters have registered about six twitter handles for igboho. Of course, we have all seen igboho coming out to say he is not on twitter. The question to ask now is: who is tweeting on his behalf?
Another pointer to the game plan is that about three weeks ago, a meeting was held with Kanu on zoom and about 21 people attended. At the meeting, they discussed issues related to anti-fulani. Then on the second day Igboho went to Igangan, BBC was broadcasting Obasanjo's message of 2019 where he was accusing Buhari of promoting criminal herdsmen to distabilise the country. This was followed by Dele Momodu sharing a video that was done in 2017 that buhari gave Fulani people N100 Billion. It was made to look like a recent video. We also saw Nnamdi Kanu on the same day congratulating Igboho.
If you now consider the agenda of the meeting they held earlier, you will know that it’s a planned movement. It is true that Yoruba people have a genuine anger against criminal Fulani herdsmen but a larger percentage of the Yourba (elites) know we cannot allow the south west to be set on fire - we can settle this matter peacefully. Our belief that IPOB is involved is heightened by the discovery that those who are providing the logistics for recent virtual meetings of the anti-Fulani elements have connections with Yoruba secession groups abroad, who also have connections with IPOB.
At this stage, I want all of us to put on our thinking caps and be vigilant. We shouldn’t allow our region to be turned to a battle ground. Much as I admit that some evil Fulani men are kidnapping and killing, I will never support self-help. There is nowhere in the whole world where self-help has resolved crisis. As recently painted by a top newspaper editor, it’s never sustainable and in most cases, it gets out of control. The legitimate way to go is to put pressure on constituted authorities to be more proactive rather than hand power over to individuals with no constitutional licenses. Such move will only lead a monster that will consume us all.
ACJ: And what will you say about social media regulation?
Ans: My position has always been that there should be responsible government and responsible social media users. Much as I support free press and freedom of information, I frown at fake news because it’s criminal and no nation allows criminality to triumph. Of course, we all witnessed what happened before, during and after the US election. Twitter blocked Donald Trump and most of his supporters for abuse of the platform. Someone tweeted something against the US election, he has been arrested two weeks ago. If it can happen at that stage, it means no sacred cow anywhere.
India has been experiencing riot for the past 30 days. Just 3 days ago, India locked the internet in the region when the farmers’ riot was becoming violent. Uk is coming up on social media regularisation. France has brought out laws after the violent protest of 2019. Democracy is not done in a way that allows criminal freedom to operate. Unfortunately, we have criminal NGO’s in Nigeria who take money from foreign hands to promote useless freedom in Nigeria the government must intervene. It may also surprise you that there is even no Wikipedia in Turkey. My question is this: how, for God’s sake, can you destabilise your country all in the name of freedom? Government must take the issue of regulation of the social media serious.