Japheth Omojuwa is the Editor of AfricanLiberty.org for Atlas Economic Research Institute United States and also founder and curator of www.omojuwa.com, one of the most popular web pages in Nigeria. As a crucial part of the Occupy Nigeria movement, Japheth consults for local and international organisations and, with well over 42,000 followers on Twitter, has a significant influence on young people. Japheth is a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Shapers and well published in local and international media. Currently, he is working on the Green Deal Nigeria project: this is how I got to know him on a panel discussion at the Heinricht-Böll-Stiftung in Berlin, and Japheth immediately agreed to answer some questions for our Blog.
Japheth, how do you or young people in general perceive the political situation in Nigeria? What do you think about the government?
Young people perceive the political situation in Nigeria as hopeless till the next elections. It is so sad that just over one year after the last elections, many have lost hope in the ability of the current government to deliver the goods. The government on its part keeps shifting the goal post on when it will deliver. The next goal post for performance according to the President is 2013 when according to him his works will show. However stupid and awkward that sounds, Nigeria's President Jonathan has been known to say even worse things.
As for the government, there is nothing to expect but continued efforts at pretending to work and continued realities of gross failure. Corruption remains at its highest, the government remains unable to fix critical institutions, reforms are stalled in critical sectors like petroleum because of the benefits the present order offers to the president and his men. As far as Nigerians are concerned, President Jonathan is overly inept, worse than useless and in terms of service delivery to the people, extremely clueless.
What topics are especially important in Nigeria?
The topics shift almost at the turn of each day. Corruption remains a major topic because cases of corruption remain high under this government and as at today it appears the government is cool with corruption as long as it is grand scale. Fuel price issues remain in the front burner as they have been for the better part of one year now. The review of the constitution, the continued lack of progress in terms of the available of the deliverables of democracy to the people and other issues of calculated distraction by the ruling government. The 2015 elections will take an increasing dominant role in the coming days and months.
Is there a civil society in Nigeria and what does it looks like?
There is a civil society. An active one for that matter. More than ever before, the Nigerian civil society is now more influential. The civil society is organised in patches and batches. It would help to have a common front but the politicization of many things in Nigeria makes that even dangerous because like the Nigeria Labour Congress failed the masses during the Occupy Nigeria protests in January, putting all the eggs in one basket of one common front could present more danger than its potential for good.
How is the situation with Mali and how is it perceived in the public/ media?
Mali remains dicey. Nigeria is very much involved. There are separationists and there are Islamists on one side. The ability to differentiate one from the other will help the negotiators and military forces to know how to rank its options. Nigerians are not as interested in Mali as their government is because they believe we have our own issues with terrorists operating up north and kidnappers down south. International peace keeping is a good source of moving money and anything to move and spend money will always be welcomed by the Nigerian ruling class.
What significance does Nigeria have for the African continent?
No matter how much we try to ridicule her influence and power, Nigeria will always be a dominant factor in Africa. The bulk of the continent's population is Nigerian and when you take Nigeria out of West Africa, you have nothing but a voiceless region. Lagos is the 4th largest economy in Africa. That says everything about the place of Nigeria in Africa. Nigeria can do more but by the sheer size of its population and wealth alone, Nigeria will always be a big player on the continent.
How do you think will the political situation in Nigeria change in the next years? What parties play what role in these changes in your opinion?
Nigeria remains dicey and unpredictable. 2015 looks really far yet it remains very close. The permutations and predictions have started, the politics and propaganda are already in top gear and even the ruling government looks more interested in playing the politics of 2015 than in paying the dividends of democracy for the mandate it claims it got in 2011.
The ruling party "People's Democratic Party PDP" will always be a big player. As always, it has the money of the state and big business men and corporations to play with and money will always count in politics, not least Nigeria's where money counts in everything. The opposition looks like it's coming together on an alliance but until that happens I don't want to bother about speculations. Unless that happens, Nigerians will be stuck with the same party that has left it desolate, poor and virtually hopeless for all the years of its current democratic dispensation. The People's Democratic Party is anything but about the people and it is certainly not in any way democratic except when the elections are not about its own attempt at internal democracy.
How does the Nigerian government deal with criticism?
To say it is repressive would be to hide the truth. It is not taking criticism in its stride but at the same time we have not witnessed mass arrest of critics and exiling of some. It is nowhere near open to criticism but it is not repressive in the absolute sense of the word.
What is the future of Nigeria like?
The answer will be found in the ability of the people of Nigeria to stop the victim mentality and rise up for the change they claim they are desperate about. They cannot continue to say "Enough is Enough" if they don't walk the walk. We must stand up for Nigeria today or we shut our mouth forever. There is a spasm of enthusiasm around the 2015 elections but we must understand that everyday counts in our quest for a better Nigeria. In our quest to move this nation forward, we must be ready to fight, to push, to shove, to engage and indeed do everything there is to save ourselves, our children and coming generations from the shackles of these vampires and monsters. The time is now, not tomorrow, not 2015.