Maverick entertainer, Charles Chukwuemeka Oputa, popularly known as Charlyboy, was almost killed during the week for his advocacy for the return of President Muhammadu Buhari when violent
Each time there is a major national issue that requires advocacy and open discourse, you are always seen championing the course of the masses. Why is that so?
Well, for the past 40 years of my life, I have done various forms of advocacy for the entertainment industry. What they are enjoying now is as a result of the few of us who brought respect and the ‘big’ money into the industry. One dominant group that I have always tried to inspire and motivate is the Nigerian youths.
I have always said that this country will be saved by exceptional youths. I felt very sad and discomfort knowing the fact that it just seemed like everybody has gone to sleep, especially the Nigerian youths; of which I represent. It’s beginning to look like all this while they have been docile.
I understand the dynamics. They were born into this rot. Most of them don’t know any better. I have often said that my generation and the ones before me are to be held responsible for not sticking to our guns; been able to create an enabling environment where the youths can grow.
You understand that the #ourmumudondo is also a coalition of different groups who believe in the dream of a united Nigeria; who believe that we deserve a better country than what we presently have; who believe that our resources are not handled properly. The result of it is the poverty that you see, the hopelessness, the frustration; everybody is angry because when you hear about people stealing money that they can never finish in four life times, you wonder whether it is madness.
Is it the same passion you have brought to the recent ‘resume or resign’ protest?
Yes, it is clear to all and sundry that nothing appears to be working; the nation seems to be retrogressing and nobody is aware of where the government is leading the masses to, and how it intends to get there. The cabal in the Buhari administration is not really telling us what it is that is going on within the Presidency.
Of course there are a lot of issues and problems plaguing Nigeria but you know that it starts from the top. The top in this context of course the Presidency. We are wondering, we are saying to ourselves, ‘we know about the lies people in government often tell the masses just to keep doing whatever it is that they do’ that is why we decided to join forces as the ‘resume or resign’, because we wanted to, by speaking out, try to compel the few individuals, excluding President Buhari himself, who are responsible for the deep secrecy that has shrouded this administration, to reveal what is wrong with the President so we can do the needful from an informed angle..
We were only seeking for the truth; that is why we did the everyday to sit-out. During our sit-outs, we only sit together at the Unity Fountain and talk, and express our frustrations especially with where Nigeria is today.
But why did you take the protest or daily sit-out to Wuse market, many blame you for the fiasco that broke out there last Tuesday?
A few days ago, we decided to go to Wuse market to deliver public talks and mobilize young Nigerians for nation building because as I said earlier; I have done my advocacy for over four decades through the media and directly in public places such as schools, motor parks, market, and the streets.
What we wanted to push to the people we would see in Wuse market was the idea of change not coming from heaven unless masses especially the youths take the bull by the horn and engage one another on key issues.
They can’t continue to be staying at the corridors, hoping to receive handouts. No, the youths need to be inside where political meetings take place, it concerns their future. To achieve that, one needs to engage; you need to be part of it. So we are saying the youths must go let your voices be heard.
You must start to build groups since INEC has opened up the electoral processes, so that in 2019, the masses will not start to agonize again that unscrupulous politicians have taken over power again and spoilt everything.
When I see people who agonize over government maltreatment and injustice, I ask: where were you when they were spoiling it? You need to be in there. So, that was part of our advocacy apart from the ‘resume or resign.’
Then, how did the fiasco begin?
Everything was going well inside the market. We had finished our advocacy. We had done our own little small talks. It was as we were going that all hell broke loose before we could get out of the market. We were surprised. It was like an ambush because our movement is that of peace. We were not advocating violence.
Was that why you suspended the ‘resume or resign’ protests?
After that attack at the market, the resume or resign protesters were more determined. They wanted to continue coming out. About one or two of my people were injured. However, I looked at it and thought to myself, ‘if these were my children, will I put them in harm’s way like that?’
The police, during our second daily sit-out, had already tear-gassed us; sent attack dogs at us; and harassed us. May be that was what gave the people at Wuse market the morale to attack us. But I just felt it was wrong.
If they were more determined, that means the decision to suspend the protest was yours.
They didn’t know I was going to call for the suspension of the protest. The day I did. They didn’t see the announcement I made suspending the protest coming.
But I knew I had to make that announcement to save our lives. Okay, we have made our point. Let’s relax. Let’s re-strategize because there is a lot to be done to salvage this country.
The issue of Muhammadu Buhari, his health and the cover-up to prevent the citizens from knowing what is wrong with their president is just one in the many issues that we need to deal with.
So, to be fair to them as a father, I can’t let them be more harmed. I am even feeling guilty and bad that some of them were injured during the Wuse market attack.
But when it comes to outright violence and hatred that is not what I preach. I am not a violent person. So, I rather have them live and fight another day.
Some victims alleged that you provoked the attack by forcing your way into the market
I did not force my way into the market. I am not a ‘by force’ kind of person. Yes, they had said; ‘no’ we would not enter that we should take our advocacy to somewhere else. But later, Head of the Market Task Force called Musa was the same person that opened the gate for us. Looking back at how the thing played out, we are thinking, he must have let us in as an ambush. We reliably gathered that he was the one who organized the group that attacked us. He obviously knows all those kind of people around the market in his capacity as Head of Task Force.
How will you react to allegations that you were sponsored with about N200m to stage the aborted protest?
From the ‘resume of resign group’ how many people do you see? You see just few people about 10 or thereabout because nobody is paying them to do that thing that they are doing. When you come to their side you don’t see pure water. You don’t see wraps of paper money littered all over. They believe in that thing that they are doing. Obviously, the ‘resume or resign’ protest was not sponsored. It was born out of conviction.
The first time that they went out was Monday last week. It was on Tuesday that even the Unity Fountain was engulfed with more than over 150 policemen because of how that first coming out went viral all over the world.
How many people showed up there? Less than eight people who just sat there. They didn’t want us to be there. They wanted us to leave. But Unity Fountain is a public place. So, we said we are not going to leave because we are not causing any harm. We only sat there and were singing. So, why do they want us to leave?
When they knew that we were determined to stay, they now sent their attack dogs and started spraying us with water cannons and started shooting us tear gas. Later in the evening, they came to defend their actions on television that it was miscreants who were coming. Then, you wonder who are the miscreants.
Obviously from all the videos that were there, it was obviously that it was us that they were spraying. But the few young protesters kept coming out. It was that seven or eight people that caused the government to pack their publicity and media team to London to go and get a video tape of our president. Before then, they were showing us pictures. This is what only eight Nigerians where able to achieve.
Your crowd… [Cuts in]
Oh, they say ‘he does not have crowd’. How do we get crowd when Nigerians are sleeping? So you can imagine what 20 or 30 people can do once they are tenacious.
The people controlling this country, the cabals are not up to 40 in number. That is why I believe those that will kick-start the process to save this country are not up to 20 out of 200 million people.
Asari Dokubo lampooned your efforts and described them as laughable after news concerning your being tear-gassed at the Unity Fountain broke. What’s your response to him?
I don’t have any response to Asari Dokubo. It’s Just like when I started Charly Boy Show. I am sure that you that have come here and seen have seen how I am talking will be shocked. Everything just crashes all your perceptions about me.
It is only the person acting that fully understands what he is doing. Other people can give it different interpretations. So for me to be answering Asari Dokubo is meaningless. Apparently, he doesn’t understand what I do.
And for him to make an informed criticism is for him to understand what I am doing and for him to know that I may be a dreamer but I still believe in the unity of Nigeria.