‘Nigerian elite deliberately promote disunity as political weapon’
Social Democratic Party (SDP) presidential aspirant, Adewole Adebayo, in an interview with select journalists, spoke on the enormous challenges bedeviling the country and how he intends to solve them if elected. AZEEZ OLORUNLOMERU was there.
You have indicated an interest in serving the country as president in 2023. Why are you running for the highest office in the land?
My approach to the problems of the country is not about the privilege or height of the office or my career ladder, what I want to be or which will be easier. It is basically about service to the country and the time we are in now is not a time of luxury where you choose the form of service you want to render.
We are in a period of extreme emergency where the ship of state is imminently going to capsize. This is not a time to start asking whether you are an admiral, a new shipman, a carpenter or a passenger. Nigeria today is a rudderless ship and the captain and his top officers at the bridge are crying for help; the mother ship is heading for the abyss. So, we have to go to the bridge, take over the rudder and steer the ship away from catastrophe.
The executive powers of the federation are vested in one man – the president – and the country will look like whoever is the president. The person’s virtues will be used to service that office; his vices will loom large over the office; his fears will be the fears of the country. So, there is nothing I can do for Nigeria and her future if I don’t go for that office where the executive powers lie. That is why I’m going for the Office of the President.
You talk about Nigeria being in extreme emergency. What are the major problems you see that need urgent attention?
You don’t need to think too much to know the problems of the country. They are out there and they are shouting. This is not the era of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe or Chief Obafemi Awolowo, who foresaw the problems we might have in future and tried to warn us about them. These are problems that even a child knows. This country is insecure and things are getting worse by the day the governmental system we run and our state actors have become part of the insecurity of the state. There is looming poverty not just among the unemployed but also among employed professionals. Even though the character of those in power reflects intellectual poverty, they are stealing blindly because they are afraid that the poverty will catch up with them. Insecurity, poverty, lack of unity and injustice have become common currency in Nigeria. We no longer have the assurance that the President and Commander-in-Chief are the father of the nation.
I will not focus on the problems because they are well articulated; I’m focusing on the solutions. My coming out to run for the presidency is to show the people that the problems may loom large, but the solutions are obvious. It is the lack of discipline that makes us look at the problems like a child that has malaria; he knows that his mother keeps the medicine in the cabinet but because it is bitter he does not have the moral courage to take the medicine. That is the problem of the Nigerian elite. They know the solution to Nigeria’s problems – insecurity, poverty, disunity, injustice and others but they will not take the medicine because it is bitter. Insecurity will not end until all those sharing dollar on top of it realise that it has to end because lives are being lost. Every incident produces an excuse for someone to siphon money. That is why insecurity persists.
So how would you deal with the problem of insecurity should Nigerians give you their mandate?
All you need is to have a compact with those in charge to do the job. The compact we have now is a compact between those who have political power and authority, those who have the professional skill, those who have a commercial interest and those who have administrative responsibility. All these people have a compact to unite and make money out of insecurity.
You will see a relationship between those who appoint professionals into service positions; they have to be ‘greased.’ That is why the selection of people that will head any of the services or how long they will stay there is not done professionally. It is seen as a lucrative ground so they put in people who are in a compact with them and the measure of how long you will stay is not about performance; it is how much returns you make to those who put you there.
What I will do differently is to engage my service chiefs and the bureaucrats and ward off those who have commercial interests. My measure of performance will not be about how much money I can make.
This problem is not just about this administration; it started with the previous administration whereby the security situation was not taken seriously. It has now become an excuse to spend money recklessly. If you look at the structure of this spending in comparison with spending elsewhere, the ECOMOG and civil war spending, for instance, you will find that the spending is not going into fighting insecurity. If you look at what is going on in our military and paramilitary, you will discover that it is a leadership problem and not a capacity problem. That is why I’m coming out.
The widely held belief is that Nigeria has not been as disunited and divided as it is today. What do you think is the reason for this?
I will frame it differently. Some of those who say Nigeria has not been this divided are using it to weaponise disunity just to challenge the government of the day. I can tell you that Nigerians themselves have not been more united than this about the problems the country is facing. The common Nigerians are more united now than ever before. The problem is that the elite has not been this desperate at any time in Nigeria’s history to use disunity as they are now. Over time, especially since 1999, terms and tenure are defined and no matter how powerful or mischievous a politician is, after four years you must have to take another mandate and after eight years you cannot take another one.
What the political elite in Nigeria have done is to form a conclave and put their names in a basket. If I’m governor today, after eight years I will put somebody to succeed me and go to the Senate; if there is a chance I go for the presidency and if I don’t get it I become a minister. To succeed in doing this, they have to keep the people disunited; they use it to get power. Sometimes they go ethnic; at other times they go religious. But the bottom line is that this does not have any effect on the real-life dynamics of the Nigerian people. The common Nigerians are united by the misery the political elite foist on them but the political elite’s interpretation of unity is whether they are all represented in government.
We must contrast the cry of the elite over the sharing of the loot with what the Nigerian people are going through. The common people of Nigeria are not disunited among themselves. I don’t join the elite in their ethnoreligious classification and interpretation of what a disunited Nigeria is, based on how much access they have to the villa.
The Nigerian elite is the one stubbornly trying to promote disunity. I judge the unity of Nigeria on whether the government of the day promotes things that unite the people.
You are contesting on the platform of the Social Democratic Party (SDP). What are your chances given that the party is not as established as the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the leading opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)?
The SDP is the second oldest party in Nigeria after the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP). They are our friends and hopefully, we will finalise our union. It is not hard at all because APC and PDP have become part and parcel of the fabric of the crisis that Nigeria has. Both are now problems to be solved and they are not popular with the people. The SDP has more committed members than the APC or PDP has.
What is happening is that the APC and PDP are using the apparatuses of the state to promote and project themselves but they don’t have depth. We have taken our party to the people and we believe we stand a chance to defeat them in a free and fair election more so now that the Electoral Act, though not perfect, has become more transparent and pro-voter.
Three things are in our favour. First, the SDP is committed to delivering good governance unlike the APC or the PDP, which are a place for people who want to share the resources of the country. Second, we have a track record of having produced MKO Abiola in 1993; he won an election that is considered, to date, the freest and fairest election in Nigeria. Thirdly, the election is going to the people and the chances of rigging are reduced. I don’t see any reason to join the APC or PDP when I know they are the problem of the country.
What stands you out from all other aspirants across the political parties? In other words, why should Nigerians put their trust in you?
For me, it is the freshness and singularity of my commitment to the purpose of the republic and total lack of any distraction, the mastery of the situation of our people and the ability to see solutions quickly. You will see that majority of my solutions don’t require money; they require character, competence and commitment, which cannot be purchased in the market. They are not things we need to borrow money from the IMF to do.
If I become president, most of our problems will go away just by the application of common sense and these virtues. People without these virtues are compromised because they are playing politics of compensation and don’t understand that we are all at risk of oblivion if we allow politics to be done like a business where you invest and reap bountifully for yourself. I’m bringing originality of purpose. If government fights corruption inside the government, the corruption in the street will disappear.
Until we have a president that has knowledge of how to harness the resources at our disposal, we will be going around in circles. Nigeria has every human, material, ecological, natural and artificial resource to solve its problems of Nigeria. God gave us everything like character, truth and justice but we have refused to use it and thereby turned our paradise into hell. The government has unleashed socio-economic terrorists on the people. Until we stop governmental terrorism, we cannot solve the problem of the country.
For now, no one is running on this platform with me. That is why I feel God has given me insight because I listen to other people and when they talk they may make sense but they don’t know where the key is so I don’t feel threatened in anyway. All my party and I need to do is to tell the people to stop raising their hands in prayer because what they are asking God for is already before them.
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