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INTERVIEW: Africa has its own peculiar problems, says Eholor

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 Patrick Eholor

 Patrick Eholor, a social crusader, in this exclusive interview with ISAAC OLAMIKAN spoke about some burning issues.

 

Excerpts:

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Why I was honoured in Liberia

 

The honour came to me as a surprise. They made me a patron of All African Bar Association. They were supposed to hold this year’s edition in Egypt but for some obvious reasons it was not to be as the Egyptian government gave a template of what should be discussed at the event but it was rejected based on the sad experience of their ex-president, Morsi, who died in jail aftermath of the bad treatment he got in the hands of the government. The gathering was made up of lawyers from all parts of the African continent. I was deemed qualified to be honoured out of the many activists/social crusaders scattered all over Africa. I dedicate the award to all the men and women who have and continue to fight for the unity of Nigeria and also against injustice. I also dedicate it to all those who have died from police brutality and extra judicial killings.

 

 

Sharing opinion with George Weah, the president of Liberia

 

Africa has its own peculiar problems. George Weah met a country that was torn apart by war which was what his predecessor, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, also experienced. They are yet to fully recover from the effect of the war. In comparison to Nigeria, Liberia is a small country but it is more united. On our tour day when the event was to be officially flagged-off President George Weah, who was supposed to do it, was unavoidably absent and Mrs. Taylor(the wife of the former President Charles Taylor now in jail) was given the assignment. I had a lot of discussions with the powers that be in Liberia on how we can decline the aids coming from foreign countries because nothing goes for nothing. The aids that we are being given with the right hand is being collected back with the left hand. We also discussed about business opportunities that would be of benefit Nigeria and Liberia.

 

 

Do you benefit from fighting for others? 

 

I am benefiting immensely. My benefit cannot be quantified in monetary values. If you are able to save human life through His grace it means you’re richly blessed. I have campaigned against extra judicial killings and improving one the welfare package of the police as they are not been well treated. This has made it impossible for them to be fair minded in the treatment of issues. I went into all these because it is more like a calling for me. For more than a decade now I have been engaged in advocacy like the over one million march I organized to bring awareness to the many deaths along the Lagos – Benin Road as a result of the poor state of the road. I also organised a protest to bring attention to the deplorable road from Benin to Gelegele in Ovia North East Local Government area of  Edo State and the gas flaring going on there. I also led a protest when Governor Adams Oshiomhole that the old brigade politicians are not letting him to do his assignment effectively. I was also one of those that championed the fight about the freedom of information during the reign of the late President Umaru Yaradua. Today, it has become a precedent guiding every institution whereby we now have a right to speak to power.

 

 

You have never been honoured in Nigeria for your fight against injustice

 

It is sometimes difficult to be honoured by the people you fight everyday. It will be selfish of me to expect any honour from them. It is sometimes difficult to recognise a living legend. A true leader might not be recognised while alive but may be recognised when he departs the world. That is why some people die but keep living. People like Luther King Jr, Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, Nelson Mandela, Ken Saro-Wiwa and Steve Biko just to mention a few were legends that were not given awards while they were alive. But when they departed we know their value. They keep living among us today.

 

 

Brush with the men of the Customs

 

The Customs in Nigeria is stinking. That’s why it bothers me when President Muhammadu Buhari says he is fighting corruption. Fighting corruption is just not saying it in the media. What is more corrupt than when you have customs officers in places where there are no borders? I was coming to Benin from Lagos when I was accosted by Customs officers who have no locus for being where they were harassing me despite the fact that my car was plated. If you plate your number the Customs have no right to ask you any questions. The only people that can ask you questions are the police. Right now, I and the Customs are in court to determine if their action is proper. Recently, as I  was travelling between Lagos and Benin I noticed that there were more than 100 police roadblocks along the road. What they were demanding for was money. What they do is that they mount their roadblocks at the spot where the roads are bad. They inconvenience innocent people. If you don’t give them money they will threaten to shoot you. Meanwhile, the Inspector General(IG) of Police keeps saying that the police should stop mounting roadblocks but they keep doing it. They never walk the talk. I am yet to see President Buhari has helped us to fight corruption.

 

 

I challenge Fashola to prove his claim

 

Recently, the Minister of Works, Babatunde Fashola, told Nigerians that Nigeria roads are not as bad as people complain they are. What do you expect to hear from a person who is conveyed from place to place in choppers. I challenge him to show me the good roads in the southern part of the country. People like him and Lai Mohammed, the Minister of Information, keep misleading Nigerians.

 

 

Godswill Akpabio(Minister of Niger Delta Affairs)  and the NDDC 

 

Godswill Akpabio does not have integrity. There was a plot by him, Rotimi Amaechi(Minister of Transportation) and Festus Keyamo(Minister of State, Labour) to usurp power by placing the Niger Delta Development Commission(NDDC) under the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs. The NDDC was established as an interventionist agency during Chief Olusegun Obasanjo regime. It was established so as to help the downtrodden in the Niger Delta area. But it has not been functioning that way. When a person like Senator James Manager is alleged to have been awarded over 300 contracts by the NDDC which he has not completed more than half despite that he has been paid for the jobs. If the intention of Akpabio is to genuinely address this kind of fraudulent activities I am in support of him. I salute his courage.

 

 

Clamour for Igbo president in 2023

 

I don’t believe in quota system kind of governance. My idea is that whoever the cap fits let him wear it. I am Canadian citizen from the English speaking part of that country. If you review the history of Canada you will notice that the people who have ruled the country the most are from the French speaking part which is the minority. They are very active in politics than the people from the English speaking part. In Canada, nobody judge a leader based on which part of the country he comes from. What they are interested in is that such an individual should ensure that things work in accordance with good governance. There is respect for the rule of law.

 

 

Obaseki should stop attacking journalists

 

What is trending in Edo State now is that when people protest and ask Obaseki to explain some government policies and actions he resorts to organising thugs to attack them. Recently, civil society activists went on protest to demand for explanation on the state of affairs of the state government owned new Central Hospital. What they got as response was attack by thugs believe to be acting in support of the state government. Some journalists who went to report the protest were injured and their equipment destroyed by the rampaging thugs. These are the same journalists who used their pen to sell the candidacy of Godwin Obaseki to the Edo voters when he was contesting as governor in 2016. Journalists have raised many people from obscurity to fame while some cheats who were occupying heights not commensurate with their status were exposed and brought down by the journalists. I am appealing to Nigerians to call Godwin Obaseki to order now so that he can stop his unwarranted attack of journalists which seems to be his latest stock-in-trade.

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