In this interview with ENIOLA AKINKUOTU, the National Chairman of the Unity Party of Nigeria, Dr. Fredrick Fasehun, speaks on the upcoming Osun election and other issues
The Unity Party of Nigeria, which you lead, bears the same name as the party led by the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo. Do you think the All Progressives Congress-led administration in Lagos has continued with the legacy left by the Lateef Jakande-led administration in Lagos?
The truth is that the APC regime runs Lagos State with impunity and it has turned Lagos State into an animal farm, where some people are more equal than others. The APC recently paid the price of impunity in Ekiti. And come 2015, Lagosians must ensure that they vote out this anti-people party. Lagos citizens must remember that this party used and dumped commercial motorcycle operators popularly known as okada rider after harnessing their support and services in the elections of 1999, 2003, 2007 and 2011. During campaigns for those polls, APC politicians even donated to okada riders branded helmets, motorcycles and reflective jackets. But no sooner did the Action Congress of Nigeria (now a part of the APC) come into power than they turned around to bite the finger that fed them, by banning okada all over Lagos State. Fashola should dedicate his last days in office to streamlining and reducing the financial yoke under which bus operators currently operate. Today, the average Lagos commercial driver bears the burden of multiple levies. Haba! How can any business survive under such a draconian regime? With all its pretentions to attaining mega-city status, Lagos has the worst transport extortion regime in Nigeria, Africa and perhaps the world. The world over, the drift is towards encouraging mass transportation, but the different levies and impositions being heaped on commercial buses in Lagos State have become a disincentive to commercial bus operators. And the drivers ultimately pass on the heavy bill to the commuters, the common man, who will be forced to pay more for transportation. In the area of education, when the students held peaceful demonstrations, the government unleashed the police and arresting tens of students. Finally, in response to students’ demand for a reduction of fees jacked up by up to 1,600 per cent, the Fashola government announced a reduction of 34 to 60 per cent. The government’s gesture amount to tokenism; and it is unacceptable as well as condemnable. And Lagos State University students have rightly rejected the fees and demand a 67 per cent reduction across board. We support the students’ stand.
In a state where workers earn N18,000 as minimum wage, and where the daily living income per family hovers around $2 (about N325), fees as high as N150,000 represent a death sentence for the educational aspirations of the youth population. This must not be allowed. The Lagos State Government must bow to the wishes of the students. LASU was conceptualised by the UPN government of Alhaji Lateef Jakande in 1982 to provide tertiary education for youths free of charge. We must return to those ideals and ensure that LASU students have access to affordable quality education.
What is your view on the creation of more states endorsed at the National Conference?
Instead of finding a way of redistributing wealth, the various governments are distributing poverty. How many of the existing states can sustain themselves? I personally don’t agree that states should be created. If there has been evidence of social injustice in certain areas of this country, then right those wrongs. Don’t try to appease people who don’t need to be appeased by creating states.
Your party is going to contest in the Osun State election. You have boasted that the UPN will win. How realistic is this given the fact that money is a key factor in Nigerian elections?
The other political parties are in a shambles and we are united. If you remember, Osun remains one of the bedrocks of the UPN government of the past and we have only gone to Osun to remind them of the magic wand of the UPN in the past and that we are also prepared to re-enact the magic wand.
A governorship aspirant in your party, Mr. Segun Akinwusi, recently defected to the Social Democratic Party, alleging that the UPN was not democratic.
He did not stay in the party to realise how democratic the UPN is. We were not registered when he pulled out so he could not assess the democratic culture. He must have left for his own personal reasons, I cannot say why he left but his leaving will not affect our base
The APC says your party is just a shadow of Awolowo’s UPN …
Many people have been attempting to fake Awolowo and that, of course, shows that Awolowo might have died physically but he has not died culturally or politically. If he had died politically or culturally, why are people wearing the type of his cap and spectacles? They have been proclaiming in every nook and cranny in this state that their political parties are Awoistic. We are not mimicking anybody but re-enacting the realities of the UPN of the past.
Awolowo was an opposition leader in the First and Second Republics. Is the UPN now an opposition to the centre?
We are not aligned to anybody and we are not seeing ourselves as an opposition. We are seeing ourselves as government in waiting and that is what the UPN will be by the grace of God. We are not hostile to anybody. We are not just criticising anybody, we will run a campaign without bitterness or hostility. We have a focus and by the grace of God, we will work towards that and achieve it.
The Osun election would be the first election the UPN is participating in since 1983, what is your expectation from INEC?
INEC should make sure that the election are free and fair and that the results as indicated by the people should prevail.