Mr. Ochi Emmanuel Ode, is the Chairman, Middle Belt Traditional Council (MBTC) in the South-West and the Oji Kpururu 1 of Ibilla.

He spoke to SIMPLE IKEM on the nationwide protests called by the Coalition for Revolution (CORE) for a better Nigeria, the continued arrest and detention of Omoyele Sowore, the African Action Congress (AAC) National Chairman and Presidential candidate, the Convener of the #DemocracyNow protests, among other issues.

TNE: Comrade Omoyele Sowore, the African Action Congress (AAC) presidential candidate for the 2019 election was planning a nationwide protest to mobilise Nigerians to demand for good governance from the leaders and was arrested and kept in detention by the Department of State Security (DSS). How would you react to his arrest and continued detention?

On the arrest and continued detention of Omoyele Sowere, I have tried to assess what he said on the planned protests. The language he used was a direct confrontation to the government. To me, I would have preferred a mild language to drive home his points. His group is covered by law to undertake a civil protest to showcase the grievances they have against government. To me, he should not have used foul language which can be considered as direct confrontation against government. I knew that was going to happen because the current government is very intolerant to any dissenting voice and the rule of law.

TNE: How do you see Sowore’s call for a ‘Revolution’ to sanitise the political system, which the Federal Government said amounted to treasonable felony? Do you think the political system needs to be sanitised, if so how?

In Nigeria of today, we are not practising democracy, but autocracy and gansterism. So, there is the need for us to depart completely from what we are practising now to true democracy. But, there are better ways to do what he had planned to do. Sowore should have directly called for civil protests without using words that could be seen as being directly confrontational.

TNE: Could you explain Labour’s attitude towards the #RevolutionNow nationwide protests?

Labour as of today is an appendage to the powers-that-be. I don’t see them protecting the interests of the Nigerian workers. That is why till date, the new national minimum wage implementation is stalled and the Labour Movement and the Labour Centres have not called the attention of the labour leaders and their unions to the fact that government has not fulfilled the promises it made to workers. It is quite unfortunate. The Nigerian Labour Movement itself needs to be sanitised. A patriotic call like the one being made by Sowore and his group should have received the backing of Labour because things are not in order in the country.

TNE: What would you say is the way forward to the #RevolutionNow protesters?

Because of the selfishness of the so-called leaders, everything that is being thought of that will better the lives of the masses will be tampered with and misdirected to favour specific interests. So, the issues surrounding the protests have one way or the other been crippled by the so-called interest groups. That is why a move that will make government to be more accountable to the people are always subverted by the same group who are ready to do anything to protect their selfishness.

TNE: Since his arrest on August 3, Sowore is being kept by the Department of State Service (DSS). How do you see this development?

The DSS should release Sowore immediately or be formerly charged to court.The era of keeping suspected offenders indefinitely without trial should be a thing of the past. The government should obey the rule of law in totality, not selectively. Sowore’s intention was let loose by his pronouncements. So, the government has every reason to believe that he has the capacity to actualize his intention via the pronouncements. So, what the government did was to nip it in the bud. Even at that, the government knows that his grievances are down to earth with the truth.

TNE: How do you see the way the government stopped the protesters on August 8 and had been preventing them from meeting or doing anything in a way people may see as harassing and persecuting the group?

It is a case of testing the will power of government. So, the government is always trying to show that it has the power to subdue the protesters. But, the government and its security agencies should take cognisance of the provisions of the rule of law.

TNE: What is your take on the court bail recently granted to the Shi’ites leader, El-ZakyZaky and his wife after over four years of detention and government’s disobedience of court orders on his previous bails granted him?

Indeed, I think what the court has done is not new. The courts had granted El-ZakyZaky bail several times, but the government disregarded the orders. I think they are now yielding because of the public outcries which have presented the government against the popular will. It is better the government immediately yield to the court order to release him and his wife unconditionally to take care of themselves. Government should not forget that if ZakyZaky dies in detention, it will bring about unimaginable calamity. That is why one wonders why the government took him to India for treatment under a situation he felt was suspicious. Instead of ensuring that he was treated, the government returned ZakyZaky to Nigeria and straight to detention.

TNE: How do you see the classification of the Shi’ites group as terrorists by the government?

I have always said that there is a way to display your displeasure without provoking the government to action. The Shiites Movement was becoming lawless. What brought the fight between them and the establishment is the urge to resist authority. What the movement was doing was a direct confrontation against the government and there is bound to be reactions. The proscription of the group could be seen to be in order.

TNE: What is your view on the clearance of President Muhammadu Buhari’s 43 ministers by the Senate?

The clearance was just a formality. The National Assembly of today is a rubber stamp. Nigerians should not expect any vibrant leadership from the current Senate and House of Representatives.

What is your view on the suspended RUGA settlement project of the Federal Government?

With the coming of Muhammadu Buhari as the President, he has realised that he failed to bring light to his Fulani nationality in the Nigeria’s historical platform of ethnic nationalities. People see Hausa, Yoruba and Igbo as the main tribes in Nigeria. But to him, it should be Fulani, Hausa, Yoruba and Igbo. In his second term, Buhari wants to institutionalize that. One of the areas is the botched RUGA settlements. He wanted Fulani to be indigenes in every state in Nigeria, including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

When you talk of Fulani, by the RUGA standard, Fulani will be indigenes of every state in Nigeria and the FCT and will be accorded with all the benefits of indigenisation. The last is yet to be heard of what plans Buhari has to actualise this orchestrated plans.

TNE: Nigerians and the government seem divided over the role of former President Olusegun Obasanjo in national issues. Would you say he is playing the role of a statesman well?

The place of ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo has always been misinterpreted by a cross section of Nigerians. But, if you listen to him carefully, he speaks out of deep knowledge of Nigeria. Therefore, if Nigerians or the Nigerian government carefully, examine his steps, Nigeria will be better for it. Why most people do not like his mode of approach is because he is raw in speaking up his mind and grievances.