Fuel Hike Price: Sorry, I Won’t Be at Ojota

Yinka Odumakin


|  By Yinka Odumakin  |

WHILE I join other well-meaning Nigerians to condemn in the strongest terms, the recent insensitive,wicked and punitive increase in the price of petrol to officially N145 per litre, I have to tell all those who have called on me to be part of providing leadership for resistance to the measure to perish the thought.

My heart is with the conned people of Nigeria as they fight this unpopular act of government but my body will not be in their midst. Having spent 30 years of my life in the struggle against the manipulation of the people on this issue of “fuel subsidy”. I am fully persuaded that I have to deploy my energy to a nobler cause.

I have to take public stand in view of the various calls, messages, and verbal requests that have come to me since the Federal Government decided to sentence Nigerians to more hardship by increasing the pump price (don’t soak the “deregulation” lie). My provoking encounter with a gentleman 2I never knew at an intersection in Abuja on Friday whom I asked for direction is the last straw. The man entered his car and offered to lead me to the road I asked for and then said “Mr Odumakin,please we are waiting for your leadership against this fuel price regime. Help me tell Madam too…”

The 1986 Ife protestin I recall vividly December 21,1986.Then University of Ife was to have its convocation and the Military Head of State, General Ibrahim Babangida was expected as the visitor. He was not there physically but sent the Chief of Naval Staff, Patrick Koshoni to represent him. The convocation arena at Oduduwa Hall was filled to capacity before we marched at the gate to start protest songs against Babangida’s regime and demanding especially the release of then Nigerian Labour Congress, NLC, President , Mr. Paschal Bafyau and some of his officials who were detained over Labour’s opposition to the plan by the military junta to increase pump price of petrol from 42kobo a litre to 70k.

It was called “subsidy removal”, a prescription from the the International Monetary Fund, IMF. Such was the protest that by the time the convocation was over, Koshoni had to escape in the car of then Military Administrator of Oyo State, Col. Tunji Olurin abandoning the helicopter that brought him at the sports complex. Security details in their convoy shot teargas into the air with protesters ‘replying’ with pebbles.

The Students Union was under ban at the time.The following day, the University Management under Prof. Wande Abimbola took the names of the ten editorial members of PETALS, the fiery campus magazine I edited with two other students for suspension accusing us of being the brains behind the protest.We were suspended indefinitely.

The legal firm of Mr. Alao Aka-Bashorun assigned Mr. Femi Falana to tell the court that the University rule book empowers the Vice-Chancellor to discipline any student who has been “found guilty” of an offense but that we were not tried not to talk of been found guilty.The judge agreed and asked us to return to school armed with a “perpetual injunction”. After leaving school, I have participated in so many protests against “subsidy removal”.

I recall the days of Obasanjo when Adams Oshiomole as NLC President would ostensibly have agreed with the government on pump price and they would fix something higher. The demagogue would then led the country to protest.Whenever it was time to decide on strike,he would allow us radicals to speak without inhibitions but after two or three days of protest he would go for “negotiation”.

By the time he summons the meeting to call off the strike to accept the offer from government,he would ensure that only his henchmen are allowed to speak in favor of strike “suspension.”The most memorable of the anti-fuel hike protests for me was “Occupy Nigeria” in 2012 when the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan increased pump price to N140 per liter on New Year day.

Pastor Tunde Bakare who joined us on the street for the first time in 2010 when he convened the Save Nigeria Group,SNG, to rattle the cabal that would not allow power transfer to Jonathan in spite of the incapacitation of President Umaru Yar’Adua had asked me to call a meeting of the fighters. We met at the SNG secretariat with Femi and Seun Kuti, King Wasiu Ayinde Marshal, Ras Kimono and Dede Mabiakwu in attendance. We agreed to have a rally at Ojota on January 9,2012.

January 12, 2012 protest:

We expected good turn out based on the mobilisation we carried out but the turn out surpassed our expectations.The second day doubled the first day.The third day spilled out of control. The fourth day communicated to us that a stampede was in the offing if we did not do something .We had to ask the crowd to go home for the weekend on the fifth and return on Monday. Our suspension allowed Labour to cut a deal and Ojota was taken over before we could come back on Monday by troops. A lot has been written about Ojota and how Fashola and Tinubu “funded” the big movement.The truth is farther from that lie.Pastor Bakare and I met Fashola once during the protests where he appealed that we should not allow a breakdown of law and order so that the Federal Government would not declare an emergency in Lagos.

We didn’t take a dime from him.We had no interaction with Tinubu in anyway. A Nigerian billionaire who lived abroad who offered to support the movement was told by Pastor Bakare that we could afford to sponsor what we were doing. All we spent for the five days that shook the world was N7.5million and not one kobo of it came from any external source. Dysfunctional system It was a moment that proved clearly that social mobility is not frozen in Nigeria, if the right leadership is provided . It was clear to me after that movement that we were not going to get out of this bind of a dysfunctional system where we have to engagie in these useless battles on fuel price in a country that is the sixth largest producer of crude in the world.

It was crystal clear in my mind that we have to restructure Nigeria to be able to solve any of the problems confronting us as a people. At the 2014 National Conference, I warned this country about the crises we would get into if the price of crude were to crash in the international market. It was with deep conviction I took the position in 2015 that no “change” would come to Nigeria either from Jonathan or Buhari if we fail to change this structure.

I would not have voted for either if it was all about “change” and “transformation”. I backed Jonathan who made commitment to implement the 2015 confab report.

It was the same position that made me support Buhari in 2011 when the Buhari-Bakare manifesto had restructuring of Nigeria as the first item,although it was only Bakare who raised and spoke to that manifesto. All hell was let loose . A lot of intimate “friends” became instant foes! But when you are listening to a distant drummer your dance steps would be different from the folks around. A man of deep conviction would not flow with the mad crowd.

It is now one year after and All Promises Cancelled is the name of the game and there is now gnashing of teeth. However like Lisabi of Egbaland, I will stay on my lane. Lisabi worked in a thrifty arrangement that involved working with members in any chore of their fancy. When it became his turn he asked all to sharpen their cutlasses as he takes them to where they would work for him. It turned out that all he wanted them to do was to severe the heads of the tax enforcers terrorising the Egba.That was the only battle he fought that made him their hero till tomorrow.

A man should learn to choose his battles and that I’ll do henceforth. I insist the battle we must fight to solve all these problems is to restructure. If we devolve powers to the federating units, there won’t be any Kachikwu or PPPRA forcing these pills down our throats from Abuja. Some sections would get their refineries right while those who can’t may buy from such zones at reduced costs.Until we get to that point,the strikes this week may force the regime to back down a bit but it is a present continuous.

A terminal crisis! …Adegboruwa and corruption of anti-corruption war WHEN a friend sent me the “breaking news” from Sahara Reporters that Lagos lawyer, Ebun Olu-Adegboruwa had been arrested by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, over some fraud allegation, I had trepidations on what would make Big Sam whom I had known for over three decades become a financial criminal overnight. I frantically called his line but didn’t get any response confirming that he was already cooling his heels in detention .

It took about 36 hours after before I received a mail from his chambers detailing what happened. A client of his owed a man from his village some money and the cheque he issued bounced.The creditor reported the matter and a criminal charge was filed. When Adegboruwa’s law firm got involved,they mediated between the two parties and agreed that the debtor’s house be leased or sold to offset the debt. A property belonging to the debtor was therefore leased and the creditor and the owner of the house paid.

Adegboruwa got only N2.5 m as professional fees. The creditor was asked to withdraw his criminal charge upon payment which he did and Justice D.O Oluwayemi was reported to have dismissed the criminal case. But the EFCC is claiming it has an interim order on the property upon which it has been collecting double rent from the client who leased the property. The legal firm insists this legal transaction of 2013 has now been turned into a criminal act in 2016 because the anti-graft agency is uncomfortable with Adegboruwa criticism of the present administration and his standing as counsel for Tompolo and Aziabola Robert.

Familiar lines in Abacha days

I spoke with Adegboruwa on phone on Saturday and what he told me is a clear indication of the present danger in the land. “I WAS TOLD TO CONTINUE WHAT AM DOING IF I LIKED BUT SHOULD KNOW WE ARE BACK IN THE ERA WHEN PEOPLE CAN DISAPPEAR WITHOUT TRACE AND ANYBODY CAN BE FRAMED FOR ANYTHING” Those were familiar lines in Abacha days! Some were taken down but most survived him. Abacha is a sad history today. While we wait for the court to determine whether the interim order EFCC claims over the property is superior to an order of the court quashing the criminal charges, we are worried how a section of the media is cooperating with this scheme of damaging citizens reputation in the name of anti-corruption. This is corruption in itself.

At this point, I have to call out my friend Omoyele Sowore, the publisher of Sahara Reporters to exercise some restraints in allowing those bent on tarnishing people’s reputation on the flimsiest ground to use his platform. He should be careful with people who have only one public life like Adegboruwa when smear artists are unleashed. Those of us who cherish his rich contributions (at a time people were disappearing without trace) reluctantly have to make this call. He is the only one I think deserves being called out on this. The SR has history behind it and whatever is going on now will become history. It should not put itself in a position to give unnecessary explanations when all this is over. I hope people being maligned here and there would deposit their law suits in court. — Vanguard

— May 17, 2016 @ 12: 27 GMT


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