Comrade Curtis Eghosa Ugbo is a human rights activist, and the founder of Benin Solidarity Movement (BSM). In this interview with OJIEVA EHIOSUN, he spoke on the present political drama in Edo State. Excerpts…
How do you see the defection of Governor Godwin Obaseki?
There is nothing wrong with his defection. As activists, we are not political, but we know that Obaseki has done marvelously well in Edo State. A political party is just like a vehicle moving you from Point A to Point B. The end result is for the person to get to his destination. What really annoyed me is his disqualification. It is what angered people in Benin people. The people of Edo State are with him. If he wasn’t popular among the people, he wouldn’t have tried to cross carpet. I welcome his courage and wisdom.
Obaseki once arrested and detained you in the course of fighting for the masses; do you have any regret as an activist?
The only regret I have is that our youths are not really doing what you think they should do. There are issues you expect them to speak with one voice but they turn out to become disappointments, showing lackadaisical attitude to very serious matter. Our youths prefer to hobnob with politicians, collect peanuts, sell their future and think that is all. I don’t regret anything. I like my job. I spent my personal money to keep things going. We have succeeded in putting governments on their toes. Our youths must stay away from crime, criminality and drugs. The rate at which criminal activities are increasing is alarming.
Do you see the governor winning despite the federal might?
Edo election is going to be between the people of Edo State people and the APC. There is no amount of manipulation that can stop Obaseki from completing his eight years. Edo will resist any external force or intrusion of the federal might. Look, let me say this now, Buhari or no Buhari, Edo people will re-elect Obaseki to complete his tenure with another four years in office.
Why are you supporting someone that detained you for four months?
Despite that I went to detention, I’m working seriously for him because he has done very well, he deserves a second term. It is while doing my job as an activist. I was not bothered; because I know I was doing the right thing, that is one of the hazards of our job. Today I’m the happiest man because Obaseki is doing very well. He has brought sanity to governance in Edo State.
What have been your challenges as a human rights activist?
One of the biggest challenges we have is finance. Some people see us as jobless lots that want to be fighting for the rights and freedom of the oppressed in the society. But what they fail to understand is that they do not know we have key role that we play in the society. Today in Nigeria, human rights activism has compelled most governments in all states of the federation to be pro-active. I started Civil Society work in Edo in 2010, and today, we thank God that the state has realised our efforts. People are seeing the impact of our activities.
Activism world over is seen as anti-government, many have died fighting for freedom. What informed your involvement?
For me, it is in inborn. Of course, we understand the risk involved, being the voice of the voiceless in our society. You are stepping on the toes of government, but you know that risk itself is part of life. If you are fighting for fellow humans, being oppressed, who cannot speak for themselves and you are getting results, y o u will damn the consequences. If one die fighting for freedom, it is fine and good. We were born one day, and must also die one day.
How do you go about your personal security?
Security agencies in state are aware of our activities. Anytime we want to have protests over one issue of injustice or the other, we inform the security agencies, they sometime provide us with their support so that the protest will be peaceful and not go violent. Again it is God that secures, but when you know that you fight the right course, there is actually nothing to be afraid of. The masses know you are for them, so whatever any person plan against you will not work; God is always there to protect. Civil Society practitioners believe in God’s protection than government or politicians for protection. We stand for the voiceless and poor masses; we speak the truth to those in power. I do not need to fear anyone. Even the security agencies that carry guns, it is the same God we look up to for security. When did you start human rights crusade? I actually started in my secondary days, because I hate to be in an environment where people are being victimised and oppressed. I have been actively involved in fighting for the oppressed; it was my activism that gave birth to many civil society organisations in Edo State. And I’m happy doing this job.
Is Benin Solidarity Movement BSM fighting for course of Benin alone?
As the President of BSM, we are responsible for fighting the course of Benin indigenes all over the world because of bad things that is happening in our society. We fight to ensure that our people are carried along in the scheme of things in the Nigeria nation. As civil rights activists, we have played our role in the nation, so we have decided to concentrate in our own environment. We join hands together help build our environment son that Benin Kingdom would be better for all.
What are the Civil Society Organisations doing to curb the spread of rape?
The issues rape in this country is becoming very worrisome. A normal human being cannot force a girl to bed. I believe that is as a result of drugs. People who get involved in this heinous act are animals living among human beings. Some of them do it for ritualistic purposes. It has reached a level where government should do something drastic about it. How can a normal person with his rights senses sleep with a child? It is barbaric, it is inhuman, it is a crime against God, against nature and worth and a death sentence. Men who sleep with their daughters are cursed. They should not be in existence. They are polluting our kingdom. The monarch in his own wisdom is doing something about it. It is not everything the palace will come out in public and say, but because I’m an in-house person, I do know that they have done so much to get the wrath of the gods on the people involved. If not for the good leadership our royal father, criminality in Benin would have been more than this.
How do you bankroll your activities?
BSM is an international organisation, we get support from our people in the Diaspora. Sometimes, we task ourselves to fund our activities. We also get supports from the Benin Monarch.