By NBF News

Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), a human rights and pro-democracy activist is one man whose voice rings a bell in Nigeria. He does not sit on the fence when it comes to issues of national importance. The Agenebode-born legal luminary was in his elements recently when he spoke to Sunday Sun on a wide range of issues including the just concluded primaries of the different political parties. Excerpts…

With the primaries of virtually every political party over, how do you feel ahead of the forthcoming general election? Are you comfortable with the conduct and outcome of the primaries of the various parties?

Obviously, there is no perfect democracy. Democracy even has its shortfalls because it brings out a representative government in which some people are elected to represent the generality of the people. When you look at the National Assembly that is bicameral, you have 365 members of the House of Representatives and 109 members of the Senate.

That number cannot adequately represent Nigeria which like the United Nations estimation is about 153 million people. But with all that shortcoming, we have agreed that democracy as defined by Abraham Lincoln centuries ago is government of the people, by the people and for the people. And one way of achieving democracy is by going for elections and it has pleased the political parties and the electoral act to say look, we want to see you conduct primaries to choose people who will go for the general elections against other candidates. Before these people are chosen, they are called aspirants and once they are chosen, they are called candidates. That is where we take off and we now begin to look at the performance of the various political parties.

Of the entire primaries so far, whether they like it or not, the most transparent and responsible is still that of the much vilified Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Do you know why? The entire North even met although I still believe it is not the entire North but 11 of them who arrogated to themselves the collective voice of the whole North. They were making a mistake and the result showed that they were men of yesteryears, forgotten in the past and consigned to historical oblivion.

They met and agreed on a consensus candidate in the person of Atiku Abubakar because they wanted to battle one man chosen by God, Jonathan Goodluck. Do these people build God in whatever they are planning? Have they looked at Romans 9:15-18 where the lord made it clear that I will show mercy on whomever I will show mercy and I will show compassion on whomever I will show compassion? It is not he who willeth or runneth but it is through the mercy of God that we achieve anything. I think by now they would have seen the finger of God in Job 8:13-18 in that guy's life. So, these political spent-forces met and said they were adopting Atiku as a consensus candidate. Yes, Jonathan was alone, Sarah Jibril was alone and they were at Eagle square at Abuja. I did not sleep that night as I was calculating the result state by state to see the power in every candidate. It was so transparent.

Their agents were present. The security agents were present. The candidates all sat and they were showing their faces now and again. At the end of the primaries, they preferred Jonathan Goodluck who had 2,715 and Atiku's 805 votes. That was not just landslide, it was mudslide and 'skyslide'.

It was transparent. Can we say same of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). In the case of the ACN, Attahiru Bafarawa is the person we have been hearing about for more than one year that he wanted to be president on the platform of the ACN and not Nuhu Ribadu who joined the party two or three months ago.

There are people who believe that they are the owners of the ACN. The party is owned by some people. The party is owned by not more than three people. So, whatever they have been criticizing in the PDP is even worse in the ACN as a political party. At least, the PDP is behemoth and elephantine and not owned by anybody but owned by everybody.

But the ACN is a political party which is the proprietary right and patented for few individuals that are not more than two or three. You cannot say that of the PDP. Nobody owns the PDP to the extent that even a chairman like Okwesilieze Nwodo with all his clout could be eased out like a wall gecko from the crevice of wall. But in the ACN, people sit like the way witches and wizards sit during a coven and take a decision for the majority. And Bisi Akande, the National chairman dared to defend their stand. He said yes, in ACN, they have their own culture. Their culture is that the leaders sit down and look at the candidates and take a decision on behalf of the vast majority because according to him, the leaders know what is best for the people.

Thank God my good friend and comrade, Adams Oshiomhole came out powerfully to say well, he cannot be a party to such an abused philosophy.

So, the ACN therefore breathed down the throat of Attahiru Bafarawa to step down for a young neophyte and inexperienced Nuhu Ribadu. He has no experience in governance other than that he headed the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) almost like in a Gestapo strategy-like manner. So, the ACN primary was not transparent and responsible. But for the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), we already know that Muhammed Buhari got frustrated from the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) where they have been in a tug of war since 2003 when he contested the presidential elections.

He contested again in 2003 and he found that even the chairman of the political party, Hon Edwin Ume-Ezeoke was not even supporting him. So, to thine tenths oh Israel. He had to dump the political party where there was nothing to show for it any longer and he formed his own. So, Buhari equals the CPC and the party also equals Muhammadu Buhari. When they were going for their primaries, what were you expecting? Was there any other candidate who could stand up and say he was running against Buhari? So, that one was also not transparent and not responsible.

We saw that of the ANPP where Shekarau emerged as its presidential candidate. I do not know how they held that one because I did not see it on television. May be I was the one who did not watch it but in a situation where only one candidate has been saying I want to be the presidential candidate and he actually became the only presidential candidate shows that the party is just like the ones I am talking about.

What about the mega party of which my good friend, Prof Pat Utomi is a presidential candidate. Yes, they did their own in their own little way and the best way they could do it with their limited resources and Utomi, an energetic, ebullient, highly cerebral professor emerged.

I do not know whether we have seen that of the National Conscience Party (NCP) where Dele Momodu who they almost brutally edged out from the Labour Party (LP) emerged. They told him in the Labour Party that he did not have the money and he had to run to the NCP where they would probably not ask him for money as the sole presidential candidate.

I also know that Pastor Chris Okotie who formed the Fresh party is also the sole presidential candidate. So, in all of them, we can therefore say that the much vilified PDP, the most abused and traduced PDP is still the only party so far that has shown transparency and responsibility in the way and manner they organized their primaries which was televised live for the whole world to watch as the morning they say, tells the day.

To the extent that even though Atiku has not formally congratulated President Jonathan Goodluck, and I hereby advise him to show that he is a good sportsman, even Ibrahim Babangida who was edged out by Atiku has since congratulated Jonathan. That is how sportsmen should behave.

Are you not worried over the lack of coordination among the opposition parties considering that a vibrant opposition helps to strengthen democracy?

I am worried in the sense that from the way things are going, the PDP if it is allowed to go on like this, it would rule like Prince Vincent Ogbulafor predicted for the next 60 years. This is because the opposition has shown itself as one without liver, heart, cohesion and cooperation. And without a virile opposition, the party at the centre would continue to rule. Now, all the attempts for the opposition parties to fuse together have come to nothing.

The question will then be: Which is the egg and which is the chicken? Would Buhari step down for Nuhu Ribadu or would Nuhu Ribadu step down for Buhari or for Pat Utomi? Or for Dele Momodu or Chris Okotie who would tell you that he has looked at the crystal ball and God has assured him that he is the next president? So, we find a situation where the political parties continue to see themselves as the only one that can win the presidency against the PDP. But they forgot that the PDP is so entrenched and so deeply rooted with tap roots extending to over one mile into the ground that they needed to come together and not just carry axes but caterpillars, bulldozers and excavators to uproot the tap roots. But what the opposition has been doing is treating a serious disease like leprosy with ordinary ointment meant for eczema.

With that, they will not succeed in removing the PDP from power because they would continue to share the votes among themselves while the PDP would be taking the larger chunk. I want Nigerians to put down today my permutation. The PDP would win the next elections square down whether the northern consensus people decide to line up behind Buhari or Ribadu. I can assure you that the PDP via Goodluck Jonathan would win the next election hands down because the opposition has no coherence and no one voice. So, it does not in any way endanger democracy.

It simply means that in Nigeria's democracy, there is only one big political platform and that is why anybody who fails primaries in the PDP runs to the ACN. I would have expected the ACN to be an ideologically based party in the mould of Awo's Action Group, in the mould of Awo's Unity party of Nigeria, of Aminu Kano's Peoples Redemption Party but no, their own is anything goes. Apart from Tinubu and former governor of Ogun State, a few of them and Akande himself who emerged from the Alliance for Democracy, there is no other person in ACN who did not have his first political flirtation in the PDP. So, ACN is more or less an offshoot of the PDP, albeit the disgruntled elements, angry elements and those who were pushed out and who felt cheated out of the party.

They are the bulk of people who formed the ACN to the extent that anybody who loses primaries in the PDP, the next day, he is in ACN and he picks the ticket effortlessly without any challenge. The ACN is giving us the impression that they are not a viable alternative to the PDP. They are giving us the impression that their party is made up of second eleven, third eleven and fourth eleven players while the first eleven players are those in the PDP who actually won the primaries. That gets me also worried.

Do you agree with those who insist that President Jonathan is too weak to lead Nigeria?

I challenge such people to provide a leader that Nigeria has been hoping for in all the other presidential candidates. Pat Utomi, a great guy, good, but he does not have the financial resources and the political structures to win the presidency. Nuhu Ribadu, the erstwhile EFCC czar who was detaining people at will using bulletproof vehicles to carry legislators who have earlier been quarantined either in Lagos Ikoyi Office or in Abuja and to carry them to the state to go and impeach a governor as we saw in the case of Dariye when six legislators impeached a governor in a House of 24 which should be tw`o third, 14. And we saw in Ekiti in the case of Ayo Fayose who was brutally removed by the legislators who were also carried in bulletproof armoured vehicles.

And we saw in the case of DSP Alamieyeseigha who was forcefully removed in the so-called impeachment in my presence and as K.O Mbadiwe would put it in my 'very before' on December 9, 2005. And where the legislators who had been first quarantined on the Awolowo road, Ikoyi and then in Abuja were blackmailed by Nuhu Ribadu's EFCC over constituency projects to sign the impeachment notice against Alamieyeseigha while they were in detention.

The panel that was set up headed by S. Dokubo, a barrister never one day sat because I was in Yenagoa to defend Alamieyeseigha over the impeachment. The panel was still looking for a venue when in the dark recesses of their hotel room, they wrote the report. While they were still looking for a venue, they sat in the dark recesses of their hotels like witches and wizards in a coven and wrote a report purportedly indicting Alamieyeseigha. It was in that milieu that Nuhu Ribadu got all the members who had been quarantined in Abuja ferried to Yenagoa in bulletproof armoured vehicles and in less than one hour, the entire proceedings were concluded and thus Alamieyeseigha was removed as a democratically elected governor.

What did that show? It showed that Nuhu Ribadu though was a very charismatic and hardworking czar of EFCC had no mind of his own. He was being used by Obasanjo against his real and perceived enemies to the extent that some governors that were actually corrupt were left alone because they were in his good books while those who were transparent were haunted like hunting dogs to an antelope in the forest. That is the person you want be our president?

Dele Momodu Bashorun, great guy, intellectually sound, world-acclaimed journalist and very enlightened and exposed but neither him nor his NCP has the structure on ground. I know that the chairman of the NCP, Femi Falana is very close to Nuhu Ribadu and he may likely go with Ribadu. Then Chris Okotie? Aside his God-given musical talents, knowledge of the Bible and highfaluting grammatical jargons, does he have the structure and the money to run a presidential race in 36 states and 774 local governments in Nigeria and win? Muhammed Buhari, the 'Koboko' wielding war against indiscipline czar, more famous for decree number 4 which penalized truth.

The more a statement was truthful, the more it was heinous and criminal. It was under that decree 4 in which Nduka Irabor and Tunde Thompson were jailed. They think Nigerians have short memory. No, Nigerians have graduated with the primaries of the PDP where Atiku was beaten black and blue in his backyard in Adamawa and Taraba, both of which were states created from the old Gongola State and Bauchi and in all the states of the North except four of the North West, Niger Sokoto, Zamfara and Kano. Don't forget that Sokoto and Zamfara were formally one state. So, that is a leader that has national acceptability. He is also humble. He is not arrogant. He is not swashbuckling. He is not grandstanding like Obasanjo and is more intellectually grounded.

A Phd holder in geo-physics, former Deputy governor, former Acting governor, former governor, former Vice President, former Acting President and now president, former lecturer and head of department in the University. What is more? He is also from a minority, the forgotten, Franz Fanon's retched of the earth, those who nobody had ever given a chance that they would ever rule Nigeria because they are minorities.

Never mind that up to 95 per cent of the entire wealth of their country is taken from their soil. Do they think that the God we serve is a God of injustice? No. The God I know is a God of justice and He wants to show Nigerians this time that He is the I am that I am, Job 3: 13-15. He wants to show that once He has taken a decision, there is no appeal against it. He wants to show that He is the same yesterday, today and forever. He wants to wipe out the tears of the marginalized South South people. By the way, even in age, he is of my own generation. President Jonathan is struggling to just be 33. He is still a young man. He has experience on his side and also the youthful age and exuberance, effervescence, nerve and verve.

You show so much bias for the candidature of President Jonathan. Is it because you are from the same South South zone with him?

I am not from the core Niger Delta in that sense of the word. I am from the South South, Edo but not the core Niger Delta. I am from the arid area of Edo. That is the area you call Edo North, Agenebode to be precise.

We have a common boundary with the River Niger, dividing us from Idah in Kogi State. I have always spoken as an objective nationalist, a patriot and a human rights activist. I have always spoken as one of those who fought for the enthronement of democracy in Nigeria, suffering 11 detentions in the process. I used the best part of my youth to fight for the enthronement of democracy. I am one of the founders of the Civil Liberty Organisation (CLO), the first human rights body to come out of Nigeria which we founded on October 15, 1987.

I am one of the founders of the Campaign for Democracy (CD). I am one of the founders of the Joint Action Committee for Nigeria (JACON) then headed by Chief Gani Fawehinmi, I was the Vice chairman. I have been a pro democracy campaigner for more than 30 years. I can no longer be speaking except in the larger interest of Nigeria and for the country to move forward. For now and from the entire data on the table, if you want Nigeria to move forward, it has to be through Goodluck Jonathan. And the young man has shown enough humility, hard work, dexterity, enough knowledge of the enormous challenges facing Nigeria.

Whether you like it or not, can anybody deny that there is no improvement in power supply in Nigeria today? Is he not the one who anchored that great programme of Yar'Adua, may his soul rest in peace, one of the greatest friends of the Niger Delta, the Amnesty programme? Do you not know that it was Jonathan who anchored it as Vice President? Do you know that it was he who continued with the programme after the unfortunate demise of Yar'Adua which has really given us some peace and respite in the Niger Delta with Nigeria reaping bountifully in the area of oil production? Are you not aware that there is more peace and civility in Nigeria at least for the breakdown of ethnic and religious barriers in the country through his primaries? It is exactly like what happened in 1993 when Chief M.K.O Abiola ran with Babagana Kingibe on a Muslim/Muslim presidential ticket.

They won even in the military and Police barracks before IBB unfortunately and mindlessly annulled the election. It was that same spirit Nigerians displayed on February 13 when they trooped to Eagle square on the PDP platform to go and elect their candidate. Did you not see the transparency? Nobody has so far complained that there was some unorthodox or untoward actions in that presidential primary.

What some people were saying was that the delegates were compromised before they got to the Eagle square. The only person you can deny that for is Sara Jibril who only voted for herself.