What are the cardinal objectives of the Albino Foundation?
We envisioned a society with equal opportunity for persons living with albinism in Nigeria and the world, that vision is succinct and explicit. What that means is that we want equal opportunity across board, i.e equal opportunity with people living with albinism. Someone will be tempted to ask if anybody is denying people living with albinism equal opportunity. Yes, the system denies us that opportunity, individuals deny us that opportunity, and the environment denies us that opportunity. So it takes an individual to make the environment conducive for us, it will take policy makers to make the mainstreaming of albinism into government thematic projects. It will take individual to appeal to the society and advocate to the society to create a level playing field for persons with albinism, because there is need for quality. However the United Nation system and national government across the globe are preaching equality in all spheres of human lives but unfortunately, the individuals and the underserved they are preaching it to, are not seeing the need for that equality. That is why we exist as a foundation to be able to bridge that knowledge, awareness and understanding gap that flourishes as a result of the aforesaid.
To what extent have you been able to achieve the core objectives of your foundation?
I think I should leave people like you and others to judge us but then, it is important to point out some of the milestone achievement of the foundation. There is only one National Policy on Albinism globally and it is in Nigeria and which of course, was a brain child of Albino Foundation. We had also recorded a number of successes in the educational sector; prominent among them is our membership of National Council on Education. In fact we are one of the few
Non-Governmental Organization, (NGO) that are members of the highest policy making body of the ministry of education. We are utilizing our membership to advance the course of albinism in the education sector and that is paying off as the ministry is already supporting most of our projects, politically and morally. We have also established 42 chapters of the foundation across the federation and we are still expanding. We are currently working with Kebbi state government to establish the Kebbi State chapter.
What is the current status of the National Policy on Albinism in Nigeria?
The important thing is that we have a national policy, even though the implementation process is very slow at the moment, the fact remains that we have a policy on albinism. Gradually we are pushing for its full implementation. You know that it is one thing to do a policy and another thing to implement it. However, we are strategic, patient, pragmatic and proactive in our approach to the implementation. So we will ensure that it is implemented so that the money, time and energy invested in putting the policy together will not be a waste.
What are the obstacles inhibiting the full and smooth implementation of the policy in Nigeria?
The main obstacle is ignorant, majority of the people do not know much about policy on albinism and many do not also know the basic issues the policy is set out to address. So ignorant is a constraint, lack of political will on the part of government is a challenge, financial constraints is a challenge, low level of advocacy on the existence of the policy is a constraint, and getting the albinos to understand what they have so as to drive the process is also a constraint. But challenges are there for you to brass up and become challengers of your challenge, become advocate that will bring solution to the challenges confronting you and that is what we are out to achieve.
Do you have confidence in the 2016 budget proposal presented to the parliament by the president despite the controversy that had trailed its presentation?
Well, I will say that you don’t have to blame the government totally because only God knows the future. When they were preparing the budget, there was hope that the price of crude oil will not fall below the proposed benchmark but unfortunately, the forecasters were wrong.
Meanwhile you cannot on the basis of that blame them out rightly; this is because the whole business of forecast is dependent on some unforeseen variables and circumstances. However, if they brass up and make the necessary adjustment and maintain the principle of zero budgeting as proposed and ensure its full implementation, as well as manage the deficit, then the administration will be able to navigate the turbulent waters before them and reposition the country for economic prosperity and progress. Those who prepared the budget have done their best and the president as you know is corruption phobic. He means well for the country and we pray that he should assemble a team of administrators who have the same vision and commitment like himself so as to lead the country out of the woods. The challenges notwithstanding, I have a firm believe that the president is going to do well. If Nigerian factor creeps in the process of fine-tuning and implementation of the budget then we will have problems greater than what we are currently battling to overcome. Take for instance if those charged with the responsibility of scrutinizing the budget (the parliament) decides to place their personal interest above that of the nation, then we will be inviting difficulty.
Some provisions in the proposed budget are allegedly frivolous, does that not negate the anti corruption posture of the current administration?
It is unfortunate, but again we cannot blame the president for that, because you cannot avoid such scenario where you have crafty and smart individual in the system. But then, when the public begins to point them out, it becomes incumbent on the government to correct such frivolity immediately so as to guide against pitfalls. Thank God the budget has not scaled through the parliament yet. So this is the time to scrutinize the budget properly and correct all the envisaged or identified errors. But again I am also been very careful because in Nigeria, we often time sensationalize issues of this nature, may be because of our diversity. Is it really true that there are frivolous provisions in some of the sub headings in the proposed 2016 budget? In fact you and I had not even seen the budget, so most times we work on speculations. But if they approve the budget with such unreasonable component even when sections of the public had raised objections then the budget will leave a lot to be desired. In terms of how willing he is to cub corruption in the country, I can tell you that he is determined than any president before him to sanitize the nation of graft related offences.
Do you share the view in certain quarters that the change APC promised is poverty and economic retardation as the nation’s economy is on a standstill?
We need to be patient because change is a process and the process of change is often cumbersome when it is taking place in a situation ridden with corruption. I do not think any right thinking person should start judging the president’s performance now. It is too early to pass negative judgment, let us give him time. I think that the only thing that will form the basis for judging him will be when the budget is passed and implemented and it did not affect the lives of common men positively, then we can begin to evaluate his performance objectively. However, there is need for the media and public to keep the government accountable and keep them responsive to all their political promises during the campaign. It is also important that we do not aggravate the already tensed situation in the country.
Practically speaking, we need to be patient and wait until we see situation and circumstances that will cause us to panic and raise alarm, let us not blow the whistle when there is nothing to worry about. The economy is at a standstill per se, but not holistically, there are still some hopes, I don’t think that it will crash eventually. Government is trying its best to manage the situation even though some of the management style is questionable; we need to give the benefit of doubt. Secondly, we should understand that every time there is a transition in government, more especially from one party to the other, it is often never an easy transition. I am very optimistic that we will come out of the hard times. I will also use this opportunity to appeal to government to always excuse non performing cabinet members from the cabinet to avoid further retardation in the economy. Some professional and competent hands should be injected into the cabinet to drive the system.
Some militants recently busted oil pipeline, what is the benefit of such restiveness and sabotage and where will it leads us to?
It is unfortunate; I think it is best for the President to tackle it head on. Negotiation should be the first option, call them back and see how best to work with them, instead of trying to fight with them because it is very easy to destroy but very difficult to build. So we cannot afford to do that now because doing that at this point in our national journey is suicidal, unfortunately, some of these ex-militant are flexing muzzles with government which is not good. At the end of the day, they will not be the one to feel the consequences like the common people will.
The president has been accused of non adherence to the rule of law in his fight against graft, what is your view on that?
It is important that we face the reality about this issue of rule of law, these corrupt individuals who had enriched themselves with the common wealth of this country knows that they can use the legal processes to wriggle their way out of the evils they had committed against the nation and they are trying to do that. But if for any reason, a court that was misguided by dubious, corny and smart lawyers and their clients makes a decision that will not augur well for the entire country. I am against total freedom for corrupt people in the name of law. If you stole money and return it, does not mean you should not face some level of prosecution, you should be prosecuted so that those who may have intention of doing same tomorrow will refrain from such. The current administration must prosecute all those who had helped themselves with the common wealth of this nation, more especially those involved in the arms deal or Dasukigate as it is popularly known now.