In less than six months, Nigerians will be heading to the polls to elect another set of leaders that will be in charge of the nation for another four years. However, it seems momentum is gathering from the side of the nation’s youths as many of them want to give different elective positions a shot during the election. In a bid to assess the feasibility of the youth’s political dreams, TheEcho’s Babawale Oke met with a young and passionate activist, Fidelis Okeke, a graduate of Psychology, University of Ibadan where he sheds light on some of national issues. Excerpts…
Can you give us an insight into your background?
I’m a native of Ishiagu, Ivo LGA, Ebonyi State but I was born and raised at Oyigbo, Oyigbo LGA, Rivers State. Born into a Christian family of six children, I am the fourth child and third son. I graduated from the Department of Psychology, University of Ibadan.
How was your growing up like?
My growing up was amazing, especially, coming from a typical Igbo family that believes in male supremacy, so I enjoyed freedom to do anything I wanted to do. Even coming to the west to study at Unibadan was part of the freedom because my sister wanted to join but because she is a female, they didn’t want her to go far. So, I enjoyed my growing up because my parents did all they could to make us happy. My worry then was only the refusal of my parents to allow us to keep friends especially keeping female friends which was basically because of my parents’ religious belief. But things fell apart when I lost my first love (mummy) in 2012 and death of my dad in 2015. So I had to struggle to finish my University programme.
What do you think about your culture that clamps down on the rights of females?
Well, for me, some of the culture that clamp down on the rights of women such as widowhood right is really unfortunate but with civilization, some of those practices are not happening in some communities again. Meanwhile, nobody can do it to any educated woman. I think female education should be encouraged because it will empower women to know their rights. Although, some of those practices such as restrictions of females from moving any how is actually for their interest because women are vulnerable. I remember sleeping at Tender Hall reading room the first time I came to Ibadan in 2011. That day witnessed a heavy downpour that caused the collapse of bridges. So if it were a female that came to Ibadan by 11:30pm, you can imagine what would have happened to her.
You see yourself more as an activist and change-agent, what’s your drive for this?
Well, I believe in the words of Peter Marshall who said “the measure of life is not in its duration but in its donation.” My drive is altruistically and intrinsically motivated. I find joy in fighting for justice and standing for what is right. Although, like they say in my local parlance “he that enters a forest knows that thorns will chock him” so in the course of standing out as an activist, my life will be at stake. But I’m aware that my role model, late Gani Fawehinmi spent most part of his life in prison which contributed to his death because reactionary forces will always fight progressive forces. So, like N. Eldon Tanner said, “service is a rent we pay, for the privilege of living on this earth.” My passion is to serve God and humanity. By his Grace, I will be a minister in the temple of Justice so that I can serve as a voice of the voiceless.
Are you using all these as a build up to contest an elective post?
Well, it’s not in my mind for now because I believe in what Professor OBC Nwolise said that “leadership is the occupancy of a post and performance of a role,” so it is when I have a concrete plan for my constituency that I will consider an elective position. But my fear is that I’m not a politician (typical Nigerian); I approach leadership from different perspective.
Can you share what the perspective is with us?
Leadership is all about service but in the case of Nigeria, it’s all about selfish aggrandizement. You don’t have to be in office when you know that you are not ready to make any sacrifice for the good of the society. I don’t have to kill, maim and assassinate character to secure political power.
Do you think such a perspective can win you an elective position in Nigeria?
No, it can’t win an election in Nigeria. The coming of PMB has taken us backward from the gains made so far in our democratic journey. The social and economic factors too will not allow changing of the status quo. The social factors especially, our culture which glorifies wealth, so you have to do everything humanly possible to get to the top echelon even if heads will roll so that your people will celebrate you and give you chieftaincy titles. The economy is not favorable, so many are hungry to make ends meet at all cost. They can obtain loan to contest for election and that is why they will always do everything to achieve their selfish motive. Since the economy is affecting the poor in a special way, they quietly use them by offering them akara for stomach infrastructure. The elites have impoverished the citizens, so it is always easy to manipulate them and climb to the ladder. Infact, Dr. Lafenwa of the Department of Political Science, University of Ibadan will say “Nigeria will never develop” because we don’t want to change our approach to things; we keep moving around in a circle. So for an upright person to emerge in Nigeria is like biblical camel passing through the eye of the needle.
So, do you mean the story of Nigeria cannot be changed?
You can only help one who is inside a pit and stretches forth his hands for help. For me, the story of Nigeria is not going to change because “we are fantastically hypocritical;” we spend all the night praying to God yet we can’t stand up and do the right thing. The problem of Nigeria is fundamental and until it is addressed, we are not going to make any headway. I like to call a spade a spade and not a working material even when it is. We are too religious and we are not sincere with ourselves. That’s why Mahatma Ghandi said “I like your Christ but I don’t like your Christians because your Christians don’t believe like Christ”. It’s only in Nigeria that a politician will go to church and mosque and they will be given front seat and the preacher will be praising him instead of telling him the truth about his style of leadership. It’s only in Nigeria that if you know I’m a thief you will still vote for me during election provided we are from the same tribe or religion.
So, for how long do we continue in this circle as a nation?
Until we start telling ourselves the truth! Like Albert Einstein said, “the significant problem we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we created them.” So, let’s wake up especially the citizens because the few cabals have hijacked Nigeria. We are still following the same people that ruled Nigeria at the age of 26/29 in the late 70s and are still the same people deciding the fate of more than 180 million people. We can only move forward when we stand up and say enough of this nonsense. Then follow it up with actions by insisting that only those that have good track record emerge as leaders.
Are you saying there are some arrays of hope in the new bloods emerging in our nation’s political scene?
Well, there is hope if they will allow them to take charge. But the cabal can’t allow them, don’t forget when President Buhari signed the not-too-young-to-run bill few months ago, he openly told the campaigners to wait after 2019. That’s to say, it was just formality and not as if they are going to support it. You know in Nigeria you can’t win election except you’re recruited by those elites. We call it elites’ recruitment. For me, what the new bloods ( in your language) should do is to study the dynamics of Nigerian politics first. This issue of them wanting to take a shot at the presidential level, they got it wrong because the power holding the political axe in Nigeria is too powerful so you start from the grassroots. With this, they will win any post in 2019, mark my words.
I mean they can’t win presidential or gubernatorial election in 2019. They should start with local level politics first then proof their worth.
But the youth cannot afford to watch for another four years
But the youth are incapacitated and we are already used to fire brigade options. Election is just 5/6 months from now and they just wake up to change the status quo. It’s not done like that in Nigerian situation, that’s why I said earlier they should study the dynamics of the nation’s politics. In fact, Sowore just declared the platform he will be using for his presidential bid. For me, what we actually need is to join forces and not this one everyone wants to go for presidency. Don’t forget we have incumbent President with his military mentality and PDP with Same cabal on the other side. So, if we are serious,what the youth should form is third force then present a credible candidate but that is late already for 2019. They can start now ahead of 2023 election.
While serving your fatherland, you wrote a book, what was the motivating factor for this?
Basically, it was as a result of my passion to give back to the society. There was a vacuum I noticed as a class teacher that was what motivated me to share my experience as a student and a teacher. Although, I’m a writer so I decided to publish one.
How was it received by the people of the community?
It received overwhelming support from the community; the obas, political leaders, religious leaders and the entire community. They believed it was apt due to the falling standard of education which also affects Ekiti State which produced highest numbers of professors in the country at a time.
Are you now encouraged to continue along the same path?
Yes of course, like I said earlier, my passion is to serve God and humanity.
Thanks for your time.
It’s my pleasure.