Till date, there is a never-ending debate on the role the Church should play in public affairs. Pastor Johnson Ogunyemi is one of those who believe that Church leaders, like other upright men should not abandon the task to the unrighteous.
In the last election, he sought to represent Ondo South in the Senate but lost the ticket. He says he remains undaunted since his aim is to serve. Now, he has emerged as the National Co-ordinator of G. 36, which hopes to promote good governance in the country. In this interview, Pastor Ogunyemi sets out the objectives of the new group and how it intends to influence the next set of elections in 2007. Excerpts are following:
What is G.36 about, why was it formed and how far is it willing to go in pursuing its mission?
G.36 is a political and economic pressure group that is not affiliated to any particular political party in Nigeria, and comprises of Ondo State indigenes at home and in the diaspora.
The group's interests, among others, is to ensure responsive governance in Nigeria, particularly in Ondo State, by promoting and supporting credible individuals in politics that would cater for the interest of the masses, encouraging domestic economic and political growth, discouraging discrimination and nepotism in our body politics.
The idea of the group came up as a result of slow economic and political growth in the state, which is why our Motto is 'Building a better Ondo State' so that the state can truly mean a sunshine state, 'sun does not shine on particular person or group of persons alone, it shines on everyone both the rich and the poor'.
The group will be actively involved in shaping the future direction of politics in Ondo State, by sensitising the masses about who to vote for in the future elections into public offices.
The group will be promoting the positive image of the state, home and abroad as well as encouraging investment in the state.
The group will support positive economic and political policies that would better the lives of the poor masses.
The group is to serve as a watchdog for the masses by providing positive criticisms for any anti masses policies.
You know this is a technological age. We can communicate with the people in a number of ways. Secondly, because we believe in this cause, we shall be making contacts with our people home and abroad regularly to contribute their own quota to the development of Ondo state and Nigeria. Thirdly, as I indicated earlier, the group is not only for those within Nigeria alone it involves those abroad as well. In due course, we shall have branches all over Ondo State. So, it is not a far-fetched objective.
Let's take a look at some issues of concern to the people of Nigeria as a whole. Recently, there have been series of upward review of prices of petroleum products. What is the view of your group on this? Do you accept the view that the government had no choice in view of the escalation of prices in the international market? What else could the federal government have done?
The continuous increase in oil prices by the government without due consideration of the people's earning capacity and purchasing power is bound to have direct negative impact on the lives of the masses. There are indications of a correlation in the pump price of oil and increase in cost of living. Basically, oil is related to critical human needs namely; water, food, shelter and security.
I can understand international market forces factors; visa-vise unrest in Iraq, the Russian oil-company, Yukos, which accounts for 20 per cent of Russian's oil export that had its bank accounts frozen and on the verge of bankruptcy, the terror threats on the US and Western Europe all this would add panic and unrest to the oil and financial markets and coupled with the fact that the global oil demand is increasing.
The Federal Government should put whatever efforts needed to solve the problems that caused oil price increase in Nigeria.
The increase caused by the phasing out of fuel subsidies is having serious effect on people. There are increases of oil prices in other countries and is not impoverishing the country's people. In Britain for example, you can hardly feel the impact of any increase in oil price because people can till afford it, and such decision by the government would meet low resistance from the public.
Federal government should focus on domestic issues by concentrating on domestic economic growth, solving the unimaginable youth unemployment in the country and providing basic life amenities for the poor masses. The high cost of oil could threaten our domestic economy, which is still struggling to show any significant growth and our political stability that we are trying to achieve in Nigeria.
The Federal Government should focus on programmes that would improve the welfare of the poor majority. These are strong factors of continuing crisis in Nigeria. We are playing big brother role to our neighbouring African countries that have strong domestic economic policies, and paradoxically, our people wallow in abject poverty.
There is no justification for the increase in the price of oil. The government should look at things in a critical perspective before responding to external influences at the expenses of the masses. There is no iota of doubt that the government did not consider the plight of the poor masses.
Let us not forget that there are other consequential effect of increase in oil price; investors usually panic with a sudden oil price increase, the airline industry could either increase fare or reduce staff and individuals will get worried and might turn aggressive because of the deprived critical needs mentioned earlier. An increase in oil prices will have an unequal impact across all businesses and consumers, particularly industries that are more dependent on oil such as shipping, courier-delivery and transportation.
G36 commends Labour and the civil society groups for fighting the cause of the masses. There is glamour of hope for opposition against some of the despicable government policies, despite weaker political opposition parties. Our group believes that the participation of Nigerians in diaspora in our electoral process will encourage their homecoming and patriotism as well as create political enlightenment.
It is high time we started incorporating modernisation in our democratic process in Nigeria; care should be taken in introducing electronic voting system in Nigeria, as this would discourage rigging. Now is the time to lay a strong democratic foundation in Nigeria like the rest of the world.
Currently, the economic policies do not allow or permit individual businessmen and women to help in promoting Nigeria's economic growth. "Nigerians are working for the economy but the economy is not working for them" The environment does not permit both national and international businesses to grow.
Government should promote and encourage domestic economic development; this is the bedrock of political advancement of any developed nation. No nation can survive politically without economic development! Political stability can only be achieved where majority of people are gainfully employed, particularly our youths and graduates. "An idle mind is the workshop of devil" we should encourage talents amongst the youths and utilise available resources in order to create wealth from our wastes.
Many Nigerians are now on life survival strategy as families are torn apart due to economic hardship, and there is high level of moral decadence within our society as a result of harsh economic measures. The group would like to call on all Christians, Muslims and other faiths nationwide to pray for the unity and survival of democracy in Nigeria.