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‘I wish the Senate is abolished, House of Reps, a part-time job’


Sowore<br />

Omoyele Sowore is one of the presidential aspirants aiming to dislodge the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari in the 2019 election. He spoke to AJIBOLA AMZAT (Features Editor) at his campaign office in Ikeja, Lagos on Sunday. Excerpt.

Why do you think it is necessary to replace the government you assisted in bringing to power?

With that statement you can also accuse me of bringing about democratic rule because till 1999 I fought as a student union leader to drive the military rulers out power.

You can also accuse me of bringing to power a man from ethnic minority group in 2011 when the late President Umaru Yar’dua was sick and the cabal was holding on to power.

We used everything within our power, especially social media, internet, new technology to expose the cabal and allowed ex-president Goodluck Jonathan to ascend the power.

So what people are saying is that each time you did something right, you should apologise for it

In 2015, I along with other people oversaw a transition from one political party to the other by accurately and instantaneously reporting the election result to the extent that an incumbent lost power for the first time in 2015.

But I never campaigned for Buhari, you can’t find me endorsing him anywhere. But I did ensure that election was not rigged, or that corrupt people did not have their ways.

What will be your priorities if elected?

We have a bunch of priorities, not just one, For Nigeria to take off on the sight of progress and prosperity , you can’t just have one priority.
I will explain our priority around an acronym, SPISEAR.

So Security will be a priority, Power will be a priority, Infrastructure will be a priority, Anti-corruption will be a priority, Economy will be a priority and Restructuring of the Nigerian state will be a priority.

But there is a caveat. Professor Wole Soyinka said today at a meeting celebrating 80th years posthumous birthday of the late Gani Fawehinmi, that the next plan for the future cannot be carried out by those who have frustrated the future: The old people.

I am against old people who are trying to restructure Nigeria for young people.

Let the young people be on the table deciding what they want for the future. We have also talked about health and education. This came out of a technological survey, that the first priority of Nigerians is health.

We understand that if security, power and infrastructure are fixed, the pressure ahead will be less. We also have education as our key priority because we can’t move this country to prosperity and progress unless we educate our young people.

Human right defender, Gani Fawehinmi, also made attempt to become the president, and failed. What are you going to do differently to get the attention of Nigerians to vote for you?

Gani Fawehinmi came before his time. He came at the time when there was no social media. There was no Facebook, no Instagram and no Twitter.

Now, we have all those. And there is what is now called bias remorse. We all have learnt our lesson.

So, if you have chance to choose between a thief and a righteous man, you don’t go for the thief.

So what will I do differently? Now, we have technological tools that we can deploy to reach out to more people organically across the country.

The biggest billboard is no longer the posters you paste on the streets, it is Instagram, WhatsApp, Twitter and Facebook.

And I don’t think Gani even opened an account on Facebook before he died. So we have a lot of these tools at our disposal that could help us mobilise a large number of people.

Even as we make contact with people we realise that lot of them are interested our proposal to move Nigeria to progress and prosperity.

We have been to Kano, Kaduna, Abuja, Onitsha, Owerri, and yesterday we were in Benin.

Everybody is keying into this movement. We have evidence to show that Nigerians in those places welcomed us warmly.

What do you say to those who think you will make a better labour union leader than the president of Nigeria?

You could have said that about Dr. Nelson Mandela, a prisoner who became the president of South Africa. You can say that about former President of America, Barak Obama, a community organiser whose best promotion would have been a union leader.

Yet, he did well as the president of the United States. People say such thing because they have internalised inferiority complex and oppression to the extent that they cannot even believe that a son of poor teacher can become the president of Nigeria, and do well.

You have to understand that people’s self-esteem has been battered for so long that they are comfortable with degrading themselves than upgrading themselves. But I have what is called an operating system (OS) for Nigeria.

If we put us there, things will work perfectly well. We have enough memory, intellect and integrity to take Nigeria to the next level.

How do you plan to engage the international oil companies who especially frustrated the energy policies of the late President Yar’dua and the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) as mentioned by Segun Adeniyi in his book: Power, Politics and Death?

I know the IOCs. I know how good or bad they can be. We know what they are doing, that is why they are always interested in who becomes the president. But nobody should worry about that. My policy will be Nigerians first.

I have fair knowledge of how they operate. I have been involved in lawsuit with Chevron before. We will ensure they do things the right way at the minimum.

And over time we will strengthen our own rule to the benefits of Nigerians.

You said you are going to have your cabinet members sworn in one week, how possible is that, considering that you are going into election with coalition of parties with different interests?

Our approach is movement politics. So we are going into the coalition with those who agree with us. We cannot afford to dilute or pollute our narrative and agenda.

That is why our approach is revolutionary as opposed to traditional.

Are you talking with other young men who are also vying for the presidency?

Not yet. But I have been talking with Mr. Thomas -Wilson Ikubese. I think ultimately we all have to join hands. What is good about this time is that young people have realised this is the time to say enough is enough.

And I love that. Some of the guys in the race will be great cabinet minister, some as information minister or CBN governor.

The fact that they have come out and escalated the agenda to the public, and have eloquently stated what they want t do for Nigeria is going to make it easier for us to find people to work with.

If the coalition chooses a candidate other than you to be the flag bearer. Will you abide with the decision?

Whatever the coalition decides, we have to subject ourselves to it democratically. But I doubt any coalition will find me incompetent to lead Nigeria.

Of all the aspirants in this contest, I have the most rich experience , most principled stance. If I were in the civil service, I now would be preparing for retirement.

I have done this for thirty years, and as I understand, most civil servants retire at 35 years. I was admitted into the University of Lagos in 1989.

By 1999, I left Nigeria to the US. So by mow, I have been physically away from Nigeria for 19 years, but my presence has always been here, I run a world class news media company, Saharareporters.

I have exposure on global economics, history, philosophy, global politics. I went through one of the most interesting periods in the US, the elections of George Bush 1, Obama and Trump.

I know how the world system works, I am the only candidate to have study public administration at masters level . This means I know how to administer public space.

Theoretically, I have been a professor in the US university for the past 10 years, this means a part-time lecturer, in Nigerian parlance. I added this so that we don’t confuse it. I have been through a lot within that period, I have been an entrepreneur , an activist and university teacher in the last 20 years .

And when talking about coalition, I want you to note that we have a separate coalition from others, because sometimes people ask us whether we are in coalition with a Donald Duke, and I said to them that I am not part of that coalition.

And with due respect, Donald Duke was the person who built the only international shopping mall in Nigeria that did not have …: Tinapa. I have investigated all of these guys before, so I know how they operate.

But for the other young aspirants, I really encourage them to come out and contest. And I want to keep encouraging them not to give up.

You promised to pay N100, 000 minimum wage, what calculation have you done to achieve this?

I have done my calculation and found that the amount is even minimal. We have found out that there are 879,000 federal workers, including the police, the army, the navy, the air force and all the civil servants.

Out of 198 million people , that number is small. And guess what? Of that number, 21 percent are ghost workers.

The police found 80,000 ghost workers two weeks ago. So, if you purged the list; one, you create employment for ghost workers to become real workers, and you pay them N100,000 minimum wage, this comes up toN1.3 trillion per year to add to the federal workforce wage bill.

This is nothing compared to what they steal in this country. It is nothing compared to what senators take home which is N13.5 million. Even though they are only entitled to N1million per month, they jacked up allowances by almost 5000 per cent since 1999.

There is enough money in this country. I sat with someone here today, and he was telling me, for example, that Guinness is owning the federal government up to N5 billion every year, but they only end up paying N1billion because there are people who help them with the tax system.

All these airlines are owing Nigeria.

So by the time we collect everything due to us, we will have too much to spend.

There is money in this country, don’t let anybody fool you. But we are going to need creativity, innovation and raw will for Nigeria to get what it deserves.

Every Nigerians can be happy in this country. If you are in doubt, just fly to Ghana. And see what they have done with their meagre resources, and Nigeria has more.

You can choose your ministers, but not the assembly men, how do you plan to engage with the members of the senate and members of the national house of representatives?

I understand. But this movement is about electing responsible people and dis -electing irresponsible people.

We have to make it clear to Nigerians that lawmakers are for Nigerians and Nigerians are not for them, that is why I said I wish the senate can be abolished , then you make the house of representative a part-time job. If you don’t come, you don’t get paid.

Would you be able to achieve that as a president?

It is possible, I have achieved more difficult task in my life. I was at the University of Lagos when cult members were reigning supreme on campus, and I mobilised students to fight against them.

Through Saharareporters, I have stepped on more toes in my lifetime than EFCC can ever imagine.

Are you worried that those people could come after you now that you are within reach?

It’s too late now. But if they can come, let them come. Like I said earlier, this struggle is not about me, it is the struggle for the Nigerian people to free ourselves from slavery.

When the push comes to shove, Nigerians would definitely fight back. I don’t know if I will survive it, but I really I am not worried.

Some people are complaining about your hairstyle. What do you say to that?

Frivolity, that is. The people who brought independence to Africa have different kinds of hairstyles. Nkruman has a hairstyle, Mandela used to have a parting from the back of his head to the front. Hairstyle is nothing.

I think a lot of our people have moved away from that frivolity, they are not really looking at the hair, rather they are looking at what is inside my head.

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