by Stanley Azuakola
Ms Ayo Obe is no slouch when it comes to fighting for civil and human rights. She is bold, confident and outspoken. That’s hardly surprising though, seeing as she was the first president of the Civil Liberties organization during the dreaded Abacha regime. The lawyer, columnist and activist joined us on #Ynaijainterview recently to discuss some pertinent national issues and she had a lot to say. A whole lot!
She was grilled by our special guest interviewer of the day, Mr Babatunde Rosanwo (@rosanwo), who did a fine job engaging Ms Obe.
Read the full details below:
@YNaija @naijama good morning ma, we are glad to have you on #YNaijainterview this morning. Who is Ms Ayo Obe? Any difference from the twitter handle?
@naijama @YNaija #Ynaijainterview No, I am Ayo Obe and @naijama is my twitter handle
@YNaija @naijama What was it like as a leading female activist in Nigeria? You led the CLO under Abacha #Ynaijainterview
@naijama @YNaija #Ynaijainterview I don’t understand the question. I’ve never been a male activist so I don’t know if being a woman is relevant. Abacha is dead and buried, and as I said, I have been active in some things, but think the term ‘activist’ overused
@YNaija @naijama And you are still an activist, Do activists retire?#Ynaijainterview
@YNaija @naijama you delivered a paper once on Shari’a Law in Nigeria at Harvard University, what’s your position on Sharia law?#Ynaijainterview
@YNaija @naijama On Nigeria and Human Rights, where do you see Nigeria today? #Ynaijainterview
@naijama @YNaija #Ynaijainterview The security challenge posed by Boko Haram and our government’s response to it has thrown us right back. We’ve always had a problem of extra-judicial killings but reports from some parts of the north are deeply disturbing
@YNaija @naijama You are not satisfied with the response of the government to Boko Haram? What do you expect, dialogue? #Ynaijainterview
@naijama @YNaija #Ynaijainterview It’s nothing to do with whether or not govt should dialogue with BH, but the tagging & killing of innocent Nigerians. If govt can find a partner for dialogue, it should get on with it, and continue until it reaches an acceptable result. But there should be less grandstanding and public statements, alarmist remarks that are not followed up on, e.g. saying there are BH members in government, or that govt has a list of BH sponsors & leaving it hanging. All that does is create unnecessary alarm without any confidence that govt is actually doing anything concrete
@YNaija @naijama Any connection between the quest for Sharia law and Boko Haram activities? #Ynaijainterview
@naijama @YNaija #Ynaijainterview I believe that some manifestations of BH say they want to impose Sharia Law on parts of Nigeria, but I doubt many people would want to trust to their possibly limited capacity to interpret and fairly apply Islamic law
@YNaija @naijama you said if the govt can find a partner for dialogue, does that mean Boko Haram is not defined? #Ynaijainterview
@naijama @YNaija #Ynaijainterview I personally don’t but believe that a lot is being done under guise/in the name of BH. But govt ought to know!
@YNaija @naijama you are so passionate about good governance and democracy, what is the challenge with Nigeria? #Ynaijainterview
@naijama @YNaija #Ynaijainterview The challenge in Nigeria is that government treats good governance as a favour that it is doing the Nigerian people. We encourage that by saying “…if government will be magnanimous…” & treating our entitlements as gifts. Soon those in govt start to believe that they own the national income and are merely favouring us by doing anything. One needs the check of democracy to remind them where sovereignty actually lies. Eg, it’s not a favour to me if government provides me electricity. It’s a deprivation when (as now) it is withheld!
@YNaija @naijama what do we have to do as Nigerians to turn the favour idea around, especially the youths? #Ynaijainterview
@naijama @YNaija #Ynaijainterview I’m not sure I can say what is different for youths, save that they have been even more indoctrinated with the ’governance as a favour’ idea than we elderly ones. But they should stop using the language of “gift & favour.”
@YNaija @naijama Nigerian youths, yoots and yootsk? What is it about Nigerian youths you like? #Ynaijainterview
@naijama @YNaija #Ynaijainterview I don’t know what ‘yootsk’ is, but used ‘yoot’ as the Naija equivalent of ‘da yoof’ in other countries. I can’t generalise about Nigerian youths because while I’m encouraged by the way many see themselves as truly Nigerian & love their country, others use very divisive terms in talking about others which I find depressing. I would like them to be less concerned with celebrity culture & such stuff, but most of all, I’d like them to remember that youth is a condition you are supposed to grow out of! But given that they have much bigger hurdles to face than my generation did, I guess what I like is that they are still hanging on in there. But they shouldn’t leave it to charlatans to determine their future, or buy them off
@YNaija @naijama we have returned to democracy since 1999 but the level of corruption is alarming, what is wrong? #Ynaijainterview
@naijama @YNaija #Ynaijainterview We returned to civilian rule in 1999, one should not confuse that with democracy, which takes a great deal longer. I think the biggest problems are lack of transparency & passive/cynical acceptance by the people. CLO pioneered FOI legislation back in the early 1990s because we couldn’t get a list of prisons, but it actually has more relevance as an anti-corruption tool. Even though relief may not be immediate, exposure is vital & that’s why we should celebrate the work of many NGOs doing unglamorous technical work examining budgets etc.
@YNaija @naijama you are part of the CSO on Police reforms, why not the govt lead reforms? Would you not work for the Nigerian govt#Ynaijainterview
@naijama @YNaija #Ynaijainterview I was a member of the Police Service Commission from 2001-06 at Federal level & Lagos State’s Advisory Committee on the Exercise of the Prerogative of Mercy. These were part time appointments, so it is not that I won’t work for govt, but it would have to be for more than just getting my feet under a table where the national cake is shared
@YNaija @naijama Can you rate the President Jonathan led government?#Ynaijainterview
@naijama @YNaija #Ynaijainterview GEJ’s government is giving itself too many excuses for non performance. He has been in office for two whole years! There has been a frightening disclosure of corruption over fuel subsidies but his Attorney-General is foot-dragging. We wait patiently for improvement in power supply, but in the last three weeks, I haven’t had up to 24hrs total! The road I see being built is the one that will allow Govt officials to whizz past ordinary people on their way from Abuja Airport, but the rail system that ordinary people need is a dream. Security means special guards for the rulers and traffic jams & ‘you’re on your own’ for the rest. There is an insensitivity that is worrying.
@YNaija @naijama a quick one, Lagos State govt Vs Lagos Doctors, what is your position? #Ynaijainterview
@naijama @YNaija #Ynaijainterview I hope that the intervention of neutrals like the NBA will lead to resolution, but ordinarily, it is wrong for doctors to go on strike. Something serious must have caused them to do that & if an agreement was reached but not implemented, it may explain why they feel that striking is their only option since previous negotiation appears to have had no effect. But the suffering of patients means that I find it astonishing that the NMA can so lightly & carelessly talk of going on sympathy strike. Strikes by doctors are extremely serious. But LASG should not see this as a trial of strength, or regale us with how much doctors earn already. Are doctors not worth it? & if not, why negotiate a higher rate? They should pay what was agreed.
@YNaija @naijama Are you worried about the state of Nigerian Education, that’s the future of this country #Ynaijainterview
@naijama @YNaija #Ynaijainterview Of course one must be worried about the state of education: just this morning Mr. President came up with the astonishing idea that our universities don’t do well because 60% of lecturers have no PhD, & he wants to motivate teachers, but this is a field where many can assist. Hence we at Z.O.Dibiaezue Memorial Libraries help with reading, libraries, ICT in public schools. We need a push to improve literacy levels across Nigeria
@YNaija @naijama taken much of your time beyond schedule, apologize for that. Are you inclined to the ACN? And your final note.#Ynaijainterview
@naijama @YNaija #Ynaijainterview Not particularly, as I only voted for them twice in the last elections. But I would love to see a more united opposition, not necessarily because I would vote for them, but because it wd improve the quality of our democracy. My final note? Building democracy, Nigeria, a better world etc. isn’t somebody else’s job. So any time you find yourself asking why this one is not talking, or that one is not acting on a particular national issue…remember that nobody is stopping you!
@YNaija @naijama #Ynaijainterview. Thank you for the great insights and your time.