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‘Our Commission will do its best to support this government’ – Odikalu, NHRC boss


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Professor Chidi Odikalu is the Chairman of Nigerian Human Right Commission. He spoke with Seye Joseph on what Nigerians must expect from the present administration at the NLI induction program

What do you think about what NLI is doing to ensure that?

NLI identify leadership talents across the board that is why we have associate fellows, fellows and senior fellows. Senior fellows are people who have accomplished and established track records of leadership in various sectors, private sector, public sector, voluntary sector. Fellows are a generation below and associate is the generation below the fellows. The idea is ensure true interaction between these generations of leadership. It was Chinua Achebe who said in one of his book that leadership is the problem of Nigeria. We are not short of talents in Nigeria, we are not short of ability, and we are not short of resources.

We are now in the new dispensation of the country; would you say you have confidence in the capacity of the new leadership?

Nigerians voted for a new leadership, I don’t think it is up to any citizens not to have confidence in the new leadership and I don’t it is up to any citizens not to have confidence in the new leadership. We did inauguration yesterday, the inauguration is in celebration of our country and it is important to acknowledge what we have achieved, the election of March 28, the telephone call of 31st March, the result announcement of 1st April and the inauguration of 29 May. These were huge development. So, on inauguration day, we have a new president that was inaugurated with tremendous support and goodwill from the people. We must all work hard so that he can succeed. Whatever party we all belong to, group or anything. We are all Nigerians and we must wish our country well.

What are those first steps you expect the president to take to inspire the people?

I am not here to give leadership lecture to a man who was a president when I was just leaving secondary school. The throne of government is solemn calling, people must know that. I think the inaugural addressed laid it out that he cannot be doing his job if he allows other people to mess            under his watch and that line that belonging to everybody and belong to nobody because as a leader you must have a mind of your own. And the signs have started coming now, the governor of Kaduna State has cut his salary by 50% because you cannot be asking people to make sacrifice when you don’t make sacrifices. In an era that petrol is scarce, the long convoy can go because every car in a convoy is expensive to manage so we need to see leaders who can make sacrifice and show that there example is important. When they do those things, it is easier to tell people to make sacrifices. Whether it is about shrinking the size of the federal bureaucracy in civil service, whether it is issue of reducing benefits in the public service so that travels and estacode don’t become the biggest thing and we can put it back into building in human development, whether it is public sector contract liability so that we can know which is true or not. It is important that leader make a right choice and command authority because no country buys enough guns and bullet to shot his people. What you spend as a political leader is not cohesion, it is the authority. The inaugural address set a great tone and Nigerians have known now that is the positive ways to go.


What will now be the focus of your commission now?

The universal declaration of human right was not amended because we have a new government, it the same. We are not changing anything we will just need to do our best.

Your Commission is probing into the last political violence in River State, what is the outcome of the probe?

It is not my Commission. I only chaired the committee.

What are the significant of political violence in the last general election in River State to the issue of human rights in Nigeria?

Political violence is a huge problem; people should not be killed because of political position to that extent in rivers state was to validate human life. Across the political device, whosoever did it we handed the report to River State. It is not my business to make that report, if they choose to do so that is it not my problem if they don’t that is not my business but I think it important we addressed the issue of political violence so that it won’t happen in the subsequent election.


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