Adebayo: Nigerians must make sacrifices to elect right leader
Prince Adewole Adebayo is the Social Democratic Party (SDP) presidential aspirant. In this interview with OLAWUNMI OJO, he says Nigerians must make sacrifices to be able to elect the right person to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari.
You have been unrelenting in your quest to emerge as the presidential flag bearer of your party. Why?
It is unfortunate. If you want other people to fix the problems of Nigeria because you are not interested in fixing them, then you are hypocritical. I want to be president. Over the years, I have studied what the president does. I have studied documents about how processes work. In a country like Nigeria, I have seen serious life and death decisions, good and bad decisions, and serious consequences following such decisions.
If you are going to be president of Nigeria, you have to think about 3,000 or so decisions a week for four years. And if you have two terms, you will do that for eight years. So, if the president gets 90 per cent of those decisions right, will you not say he has tried? But that leaves you with 300 errors every week, each of which can cost lives, ruin fortunes and cause chaos. So, in that situation, you want to improve on it and see that the president gets his decisions 99 per cent right. If God is with him; if he is prayerful, honest, sincere, careful, hard working, naturally talented and a person whose heart bleeds for the country, he can achieve that. So, I will be working towards that when I am the president without wasting time or delay. My covenant with God is to have 99.9 per cent of my decisions right.
Nigeria appears to have competent people with wonderful ideas especially during campaigns on how they are going to transform lives once they get into office, but their performance does not always meet expectations. What’s your take?
The issue is this – if the president or governor or a legislator gets 99 per cent of his/her decisions right, you will know that this person is actually a very good person. But if you get 99 per cent of your decisions right, you will take 3,000 decisions every week. You must make 30 mistakes a week which means that the president makes like five mistakes a day, which can cost lives. It could be that he forgot to approve payment into the hospital. It could be that he appointed a wrong person who stole a lot of money. It could be that he didn’t secure an infrastructure like a rail line and as a result, lives were lost; people were kidnapped.
There was voter apathy during the last general election. What would you advice with regard to voter education as 2023 elections draw nearer?
What we need first is truth. We tell a lot of convenient lies. The people who steal elections are not illiterates. They are not people in the rural areas. Our poverty is not the cause. The first set of people most likely to steal a vote are party officials, who are well to do. You will see the national chairman of a political party who has all kinds of bulletproof vehicles donated to him by people gunning for election. In any of the parties, it’s the governor who funds the party that gives them dollars and everything. Are you saying a typical national chairman, national secretary, auditor and all the officials of the party are illiterate and poor? No!
Now the next set of people are delegates; the typical delegate is not really that poor. Many of them are statutory delegates, some of them are former governors and senators and all of that. So, it is just that they are dishonest people. It is as simple as that. They are greedy and disloyal to the country. They don’t understand or believe in democracy. It is just a business for them. The person you see in the rural areas that you say is hungry, if he can be hungry for four years, he can be hungry for one day. If a person has been hungry for four years, since the last election, then how much will he collect in one day?
So, I think it’s just a general lack of commitment. However hungry people are, when it’s time for Ramadan, they fast; even the poorest still fast. Among the other faith, some do seven to 10 days of fasting. Some use their money to go to religious locations for prayers.
I think what we should do is to make people in Nigeria to understand that this governmental system we are running is equally as important and that you can make sacrifices for it as you make sacrifice for all other things in your life, including your religion and your children.
However poor a woman is, as a mother, she will feed her children first and go to bed hungry. So, if they value the country and the governmental system and see it as salvation to our happiness on this earth, I do know about heaven because that one is in the hand of God, they should sacrifice for it.
The government is God of this earth. It is a government that will determine whether you get killed in your house or not; whether you live in safety and comfort or not; whether your children are in school and how much you have to pay in school; whether you have a job after school and live a life of comfort or you are jobless and in poverty. So, government has a role to play and you cannot be saying God should punish politicians; God should question them. If you are collecting money from them, when you tell God to punish some people, you cannot tell God the limit of the punishment and how many people will be included. So, if you collect N5,000 from the person who stole from the national coffers, because you want to vote for them or you collect $1,000 or more from a politician because you are a delegate, you cannot say God should punish someone who has stolen N80 billion from our commonwealth because part of the money has come to your hand.
I have heard people say collect the money and vote your conscience. You don’t have a conscience once you collect the money. There is no conscience left because if you are a receiver of stolen goods, you are a thief. You cannot say let me be the receiver of the stolen goods, keep it and tell the police I saw the thief walk by. The thief will say he kept part of it with you.
So, in order to have people believe in this system, those who run the system should be credible. We need to build a political system that people can believe in their leaders such that you know that the leader is there for you. We need political leaders who can show absolute transparency, selflessness and commitment that people would see and know that the person in politics is their for the people. The reason people want to take such money is because they believe that you are there for yourself and that has to stop.
Can this philosophy of yours gain root Nigeria?
Yes, it can happen immediately. For example, who knew that young boys and girls who grew up in Lagos could stand in front of the police, army and even teargas? Some even lost their lives in the process and others came back the next day. So, I think that Nigerian politicians tend to run away from responsibilities and say that people are not ready. People are ready only that the people are too smart that they don’t want to be fooled. If anybody is saying people are not ready, where were you in 2014/2015, when people were trekking miles just to listen to then candidate Muhammadu Buhari?
People were in tears as if it was a rock star. There would be rally in Bauchi and people would walk all the way from Jalingo to the venue. If he were coming at 5:00pm people would be there by 5:00am.
Recently I went to Kano to consult my political supporters and something happened. I was supposed to be in Kano by 11:00am; I missed my flight and I didn’t get to Kano until 5:00pm and they were still there waiting for me – men, women, boys and girls. That day, if I was an unserious person, my life changed. I was like, so in this country people can still leave their families and stay in the sun and by the roadsides from morning till late night because of something called politics, because somebody is trying to be president of Nigeria who they have never met but believe in what he is saying. They want to come and hear more. So, that showed to me that if I don’t misbehave, if I don’t join the gang of the unserious people, if I don’t become a looter, if I don’t become a dishonest, disloyal person, if I continue to become patriotic, they will believe overtime and they will convince more people.
So you think the game will change in 2023?
The game will change. There are two factors to consider if the media follows issues and not money. I know that the media is expensive. But there is a period in the life of a nation especially at this critical period where every liberty we have is at stake; where even the liberty and right of the press is at stake; where the economic continuity of the republic is at stake that sacrifices have to be made.
That’s why the media has to drop its commercial attitude to see that leaders of the country who are aspiring to lead can be interrogated; even if you don’t like them, come out interrogate them.
Anywhere in the world, if somebody declares that he/she wants to be president, the media follow the person, question the person, research the person’s background and confront the person at every juncture. If you don’t do that, you deny the voters the right to know them including the right to reject them.
Beyond the elections, how can Nigerians begin to promote good neighbourliness among themselves?
We need to do that, but we need first to give the truth a tight hug. We need to hug the truth tightly. We need to get used to it. You have to be truthful to yourself. There is no way you can escape the fact that the person who will be president next year will be a Nigerian. And if he is not a good citizen now, he will not be a good citizen later.
If we can have a president who is 70 years old, and who is not carried away by I need to buy cars; I need to build houses; I need to keep money somewhere; I need to wear jersey which I have never worn before; my wife has to dress in gold and all of that; my friends have to be rewarded with public money, we would would have a good country.