LESSONS FROM OSUN TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION COMMISSION -SECRETARY
The Osun Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) recently concluded its public assignments after over four months of public sittings. Secretary of the commission, Mr. Nurudeen Ogbara, expressed optimism that the recommendations of TRC would bring a lot of institutional reforms to the state and a good lesson to the people of Osun State and other neighbouring states.
He spoke exclusively with AKEEB ALARAPE in Osogbo, on the activities of the commission and its findings. Excerpts:
How has the response of the public to your commission been?
We have rounded off our public sitting by the grace of God. The public has been very wonderful. They have co-operated with us extensively. We received a total number of 685 petitions and extra 11. That is roughly 700 petitions and we are attending to them.
Already, we have classified those petitions into eight thematic areas consisting of political victimization, police brutality, chieftaincy matters and declarations, economic and social rights abuses, consisting of acquisition of property legally or illegally or destruction of property.
We also have civil service matters or what we call administrative injustices, both in the civil service and other institutions we are attending to.
Then, of course, we have those against government actions and inactions and we have issues that are purely declarations, chieftaincy declarations; misunderstandings and so on. We received a number of petitions and we are attending to them accordingly.
So, the fact that we received about 700 petitions is conclusive evidence that the public in Osun State is really very interested in the commission and holds the commission in high esteem.We had a lot of presentations and we are sure the commission will not disappoint them.
What were the reactions of the respondents?
They really responded well. They also filed responses. In fact, there were more counsels representing respondents than counsels representing petitioners. That is the experience we had. And the responses were also interesting. Of course, the commission is up to the task. We are looking at them (petitions).
Sometimes, we found out that some of the responses were questionable. For instance, there may be objections that a matter is pending in court and, therefore, the commission should not look at it. So, we look into it and look into our terms of reference. For as long as we think it is not in conflict with our terms, we look into it.
Fortunately, we have a very knowledgeable jurist as the chairman of the commission in person of Justice Uwaifo, who is well-known for his wisdom, experience and charismatic leadership and that has actually guided us a lot.
We also have a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Yunus Ustaz Usman, who is well-grounded in law and procedures and has a lot of compassion and very humble and understanding. We have a distinguished professor of Law in the person of Professor Ayo Atsenuwa.
You need to see us when we go to conferences and arguments come this way and that way. At the end of the day, what is important is justice for the people; devoid of any undue technicality and that has been very marvelous.
Do you think there will be positive impact or change after the commission's sitting?
I am very sure that at the end of this commission's work, a lot of improvement would be made. It is like an institutional audit of the various arms of government in Osun State in the last eight years.
A lot of laws are likely to be reviewed positively; a lot of institutions are likely to be re-organized; a lot of responsibilities and responsiveness will now be imbued in governance; a lot of sensitivities and a lot of rule of law and due process will be ensured. These are basic things that we think were seriously disregarded in the last eight years.
So, once these institutional securities, are put in place, the life of the average person in Osun State will be better. Government will be more sensitive and responsive to the wishes and aspirations of the people of Osun State and I am sure other states will also borrow a leaf from this experience.
From your personal experience, which of the issues that were looked into was more tasking to the commission?
Honestly, the importance of all the issues cannot be over-emphasized. Undue political victimization loomed large. If you look at chieftaincy declarations, there are some petitions that you will not even believe that the issues raised in it took place in Osun State talkless of Nigeria.
It cuts across thematic areas, even, injustices. The way and manner an editor, for instance was removed; the way and manner some farmers were not allowed to farm; the way and manner some lands were acquired and not being used for public purposes. Some people were not even compensated for their land.
It cuts across board such as political victimization, economic and social right abuses, administrative injustice; all of which are very sensitive. At the end of the day, it is the disregard for rule of law and due process that has led us to that situation.
That was why I said there is going to be a lot of institutional reforms that will follow recommendations that the commission will submit to the government and I trust the government to handle it well.
What lesson do you think the public itself, I mean the people, must have derived from the commission?
Certainly, the lesson the people will derive mostly is that of doing away with ignorance; it is that of awareness, education, public enlightenment and the fact that ultimate power belongs to the people and that if an injustice is done, you don't take it lowly, you must do something about it.
What you will do may not necessarily be by way of violence, but you should do documentation, get it video-recorded and seek redress. No matter how long, injustice will be redressed and injustice will be exposed. The just will eventually be vindicated. That is the greatest lesson for our people; that darkness is never forever.
What next after the public sitting?
After the public sittings, we will now sit down, review all the petitions one by one, make our recommendations and submit our report to the governor. And that is going to be very soon because that is where the bulk of our work lies. We have to put the recommendations together and submit.
We have limited time, so, we have to work seriously and assiduously and make sure that even though we have limited time, proper work is done and recommendations submitted so that we can move on.