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2011:NIGERIA'S FACING A DISASTER – OLA BALOGUN

By NBF News
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Dr Ola Balogun is the Lagos state coordinator of the Door to Door project, a group determined to ensure that every Nigerian understands the manifesto of President Goodluck Jonathan.

In this interview, the foremost filmmaker, author and musician speaks on the project ahead of the forthcoming general election and other national issues. Excerpts…

How do you see the state of the nation ahead of the 2011 general election?

We are facing disaster because election is not the issue. The constitution is not the issue. Voters' registration is not the issue. What we have to start from is to know the type of nation we want. Our problem is that Nigeria is still colonized.

What has happened is that the Nigerian elite took over the colonial project from the British. So, as the British were going, the Nigerian elite colonized the people of Nigeria. The elite I am talking about include the Army, Civil Servants and the Business class. Nigeria is yet to be decolonized because the elite I am talking about are ruling Nigeria in place of the British. They do not accord any rights to the people. Even the British were better.

The British were exploiting us alright but they did not want to kill the goose that laid the golden eggs. When our own people are sick, they go abroad but when the British were here, they had standard hospitals that could compete with ones anywhere in the world. The British did not go back to their country for medical treatment because they made sure that the hospitals here were standard. They made sure that we had the basic things like roads, power, water among others.

The task ahead of us is to first of all create a Nigerian nation in which the people of Nigeria would have their rights respected and they can have a say in how the nation's revenue is to be used. For now, our democracy is a charade because some people would just declare themselves elected. Nobody votes but somebody is declared elected.

With all these challenges facing the nation, what is her future?

We have to go back to the drawing board. Ask yourself: what is the political project of Nigeria? How should Nigeria be governed? After all, we had a history and traditions before the British came. We knew how we used to come together as one people in the villages or even in the larger polity and how we reached consensus on issues.

When a traditional ruler would tell you I have decided, he has not decided anything but what has happened is that, for instance at the village level, people have discussed and come to a consensus; and the village head has gone to a higher meeting of the advisers to the traditional ruler and they too discussed and come to a consensus and they go upstairs to the Council of Chiefs that advises the traditional ruler. They talk and the traditional ruler would only listen.

After that, the consensus is announced and the traditional ruler would say this is what I have decided. So, our history did not start with the British or the French or the Americas or Germans. We are the descendants of the people who built the pyramid of Egypt.

We are the descendants of the founders of the Mali empires, of Songhai, Bornu, Benin, Oyo etc. So, we have traditions of governance. Why can't we understand those traditions and build our political system from that? The British told us that we have no culture or history and that they came here and discovered Nigeria.

You came and discovered a place existing before you? Is that possible? But if we know our history, we can develop a political system that is appropriate for us. The parliamentary or presidential system has not worked because none of them is rooted in our consciousness or culture. The political parties when they are transplanted into Nigeria become either a gang of people interested in how to loot the nation or a tribal association. It is not the type of political party you have in Europe that is based on ideology and a tradition.

You cannot say that in the type of parties we have here that any meaningful leadership would emerge. It is only accidental that you can have a Fashola in office here. And even the man who put him there does not want him there again because the governor is not playing ball or delivering. That is the grouse that they have against Fashola. He tries to do something honest and reasonable but the person who put him there has a different agenda.

Somebody would stay in Abuja and say he is a Senator or member of the House of Representatives. It is not true because nobody elected him. You have been there for many years and you cannot boast of doing anything that would favour your people and you say you are representing them. Not that you would stay in Abuja and say that so much money has been given to build more hospitals or for universities.

As you are sounding, it seems you do not believe that the next election would be credible?

That anything meaningful would come out of the next election is an impossibility. They say that a mad man is somebody who keeps doing the same thing and failing and goes back to do the same thing again. That is what we have been doing in Nigeria. Since 1960, we would say we are writing the constitution, we try the British parliamentary system, the American presidential system, another one is a little to the right and a little to the left. All that failed.

If all that failed, the reasonable thing to do is to go back to the drawing board and start from the scratch. I pity my colleague, Jega. He is a man of probity and integrity and a highly trained intellectual but he has been given an impossible task. A very brilliant man who has served as a governor, Donald Duke came boldly to explain to us why the elections never work. Every Nigerian should thank Donald Duke for revealing the secret of rigging elections in Nigeria because many people did not know the details of how all these things were done. Look at this people who have come out to contest election; none of them has come out with a project for Nigeria.

But the supreme insult is Ibrahim Babangida coming out to say that he wants to contest presidential election. I want to say that this man buried Nigeria in a coffin, nailed it and put it inside the grave. Does he want to exhume the corpse of Nigeria to feast on the remaining bone or what? Now a man, Arisekola who I have never met in my life came out the other day to say that Abiola told him that IBB advised him not to contest election because of ill health; That is a lie. It is a very big lie.

I can give a personal testimony to the contrary and I am sure that hundreds of thousands of Nigerians can do that also. I happened to have been one of the people whom Abiola called to say that he had a presidential ambition. It was in Kaduna and he called me to his bedroom in the hotel and told me everything he wanted to do and subsequently he invited me to so many meetings in his house here and that in London. He had a Polish housekeeper and I even learnt some polish from her because of the meeting with Abiola in London. So, I can say that I was privy to a lot of things.

At that time, when he told me that he had decided to contest the presidential election, I am not a politician but a student of history and politics; I asked him the man there now, are you sure he wants to leave and he told me that Ibrahim Babangida has endorsed his candidacy and is supporting him to take over. I said how can that be? There is no example in the world of somebody sitting on such a comfortable seat and making as much illegal revenue as the Nigerian President that would voluntarily hand it over to somebody else. I asked him are you sure and he said he was sure because Babangida was his closest business partner. He said again that he personally funded all the coup d'etat that Babangida carried out.

He said that they are so close that they could be in the bedroom and that even if he is naked that IBB could come into the bedroom and that they can discuss women, their wives and every intimate details of their wives and that sometimes, some women used to send him photographs of themselves naked so that they could choose; that people believed that if he impregnated a woman that time and she gave him a child, he would open an account with N1 million and buy her a house. He said that women used to send letters of application with the pictures of themselves naked and that he and Babangida would be looking at the pictures and laughing. All these things Abiola told me.

The one he told me that Babangida was his closest business partner, I am sure that so many other people have heard it also. Babangida is alive today and he can talk. What Abiola said was that if he takes over from Abiola, it is business as usual because they are already in partnership; that Babangida would have no difficulty handing over to him. I told him that it does not happen like that and he told me that you are ignorant; you are an intellectual and you do not know about these things.

In the end, our parts separated because one day, Abiola called me and said look, you think you know too much; you are always trying to give me advice. Other people are telling me I am the best thing that would happen to Nigeria. He said one man called him and laid on the ground and said Baba, work on top of me, I am for you. And some of my colleagues, I would not mention names, joined in that praise singing of Abiola and made his head to swell. He did not know again who and who are his allies and opportunists to him.

You are coordinating a movement known as Door to Door for the re-election of President Goodluck Jonathan. What is the reason behind it?

Let me confess that I have never in my whole life voted in Nigeria because I had always believed it is a waste of time. So far since independence, people only declare themselves elected. There had never been any proper election in Nigeria apart from June 12, 1993 which was eventually cancelled by Ibrahim Babangida. But this time is different. I believe that with the reforms that are going to be introduced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), there is reasonable chance that votes would actually be counted and I think it is my duty to come out not only to vote but to mobilize for Jonathan as many people as possible. Why? Because I believe that the country is in a very serious danger.

The people who did the October 1 bombing in Abuja are the same people who killed Dele Giwa. These people are so ruthless and power hungry that they are prepared to destroy Nigeria for their selfish interests. And these people have nothing to offer us. They are going to destroy what is left of Nigeria because their greed has no bounds. They do not do any constructive project. They did not do it when they were in power before and they would not do it now.

Nigeria is virtually on its knees and if these people are allowed to come back to power, it would be worse. Normally, at 65, I am on my way out of this world but I have children, grandchildren and there are generations to come and we cannot allow them to continue to be deprived of their birthrights. I believe that the best way to block the root of these adventurers is for those of us who are aware of the situation to put ourselves behind Jonathan and ensure he is re-elected. I am not doing that because of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) because I am not a supporter of the party but I believe that Jonathan means well and he is a good man and that if he could be surrounded by people who could give him more ideas, he can do well for Nigeria.

In fact, I am not ideologically or party oriented because in Lagos, I am in support of Governor Babantude Fashola. In Lagos, I am campaigning for Fashola but at the national level, I am campaigning for Jonathan. I am not concerned with their parties. I only want what is best for Lagos State and Nigeria. What is best for Nigeria given the circumstances we find ourselves is Jonathan. It does not serve those of us who are progressives to go to be forming small parties. The real showdown will be between the PDP and the smaller parties. So, once we can ensure that Jonathan is nominated by the PDP, we can cope with the party later. The door to door campaign which we are organising for Jonathan is a novel concept in Nigeria. It was inspired by Obama's campaign style and we are actually going to mobilize everybody.