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Ruling party and PDP are dead horses, says ANN’s Olawepo-Hashim


In this interview, Mr. Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim who was at some time the Deputy Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) but now a chieftain and presidential hopeful of the Alliance for New Nigeria (ANN) said both the PDP and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) have failed Nigeria and that his new platform has what it takes to bring the country out of the woods. Niyi Bello, Abuja Bureau Chief, reports.

PDP and APC are almost dead horses
The two parties are on their way to death already. They are bleeding very horribly. One thing that is interesting is that you have almost 10 million voters who are going to be voting for the first time in Nigeria. Most of them are not followers of these two horses you are talking about. In fact, they are the crop of people who ordinarily were not showing interest in politics, who are incensed by the shenanigans of those two major parties, that they don’t want to vote for either of these parties. These are the first line of support for the ANN. In a three-way race, if you start with 70 percent of that vote, you are already halfway through and you can do your research.

These ones are unlikely to vote for PDP or APC. So, that is the starting point. Then you have a number of patriotic people even in the APC and PDP who have been trapped in that politics and these people have been given the impression that it’s either this one or that one. But the ANN is offering a ray of hope that captures their imagination. They are already leaving the two parties in droves. Ordinarily, a lot of Nigerians are forward looking and they are really yearning for a new Nigeria, a new polity. You can also do your independent findings. If you try to find out who these people are likely to vote for, you will see that majority of electorates, apart from those who make a living of politics, are not interested in APC or PDP.


The difference in the ANN
Number one, you will see that majority of the people in ANN are people who have something they are doing with their hands. They are not professional politicians who live on politics. The party believes in productive engagement. That is number one and consequently, the focus of the party is not to distribute handouts, but to make sure that we have sustainable employment that is tied to industry, that is tied to manufacturing. Job is central to that. Creative people who are utilizing their creative energy to make value for society is central to that. These are the kinds of people you want to encourage in politics. They are the kinds of people you want to use your political platform to empower.

Then we want a Nigeria that is not going to be driven on the basis of ethnicity or religious bigotry. We want a Nigeria where merit will determine a lot of things that will drive the values that society runs on. These are things that are quite different. That’s not what you see in the two biggest parties in Nigeria. Anytime they are talking, it’s about zoning; it’s about whether the President is going to be from the South or from the East and all that. That is the conversation all the time. There is no serious focus on how do we grow infrastructure.

There is no conversation on how do we create jobs. There is no conversation on how do we expand the GDP and the economy. That’s not the conversation. Their conversation is who is leaving the PDP tomorrow for APC; what is the next permutation. That is all the conversation and that is nonsense, bunkum. Nigeria’s conversation about politics should be about jobs, about economy and that is when people cannot escape responsibilities. But when you make the conversation all about religion and all that, these are inanities and lot of people can run away with a lot of things. It’s that conversation that has fouled the atmosphere so much now and you see criminals who should be in jail will escape with the loot because when you want to arrest them, they will say I’m from this corner or that corner. Then people from their village will go and make a public display that they are persecuting our son because the whole conversation is about ethnicity. So, it makes nonsense of anti-corruption. It makes nonsense of failure in governance. But when you elevate the issues, then people cannot hide and escape the consequences of their criminal actions.

On changing state of origin
That’s the Nigeria I want. That’s the Nigeria the Alliance for New Nigeria (ANN) wants. I‘ve lived in Abuja at least for a while, doing business for more than twenty something years. So, you shouldn’t have a problem with Mrs. Clinton doing politics and then going back to New York to contest for Senate, or in Nigeria, (Governor Rauf) Aregbesola moving from Lagos. So, this is not the first time we are having this type of thing. The country we want to build is the country where your regional descent should not define you politically. In my case, of course, I have heritage in about three states and apart from that, I have lived abroad for about 10 years of my life. So, I’m completely a cosmopolitan person and we have a lot of Nigerians having dual citizenship. I don’t have dual citizenship. I have only the Nigerian passport. I’ve had the opportunity of taking citizenship of other countries but I had never done that. What I’m saying is that you have people who were born abroad who could even contest to become British

Prime Minister. So, why should that be a big issue in Nigeria?
So the Nigeria of our dream is the Nigeria where any Nigerian can get up from anywhere and contest for public office and that was the beauty of Nigeria before. I was just talking about Sir. Kashim Ibrahim running election in Benue – a Borno man in a predominantly Christian State, a Muslim and he was elected into the Northern Assembly. You talk about Zik of Africa who was elected into the Western House of Assembly. I think what we have now is a complete degeneracy in our polity in this era. The founding fathers of our Republic were more progressive and more forward looking, whether they were from the North or West or from wherever. They were more nationalistic and more patriotic. It beats my imagination that the younger generation who claims to be more educated and more exposed, are regressing into clannishness which wasn’t even the case in the First Republic. So, we need to take Nigeria back to those values that gave Nigeria independence; a Nigeria where an Igala man can become the Mayor of Enugu and Enugu people will have no qualms about it. That’s the Nigeria our founding fathers left for us. So we cannot bequeath a Nigeria of the herdsmen that will start slitting the throats of citizens. That’s not the Nigeria we want to leave for our children.

I think there is lots of irresponsibility on the part of the leadership where the body language of the various leaders have been encouraging division, rather than bringing Nigeria together. So, the fact that I’m happy to say that Abuja is my base now, we are also sending a message that that is the Nigeria we want to build. That is the Nigeria we want to have, where you can play politics from where you live and you don’t have to retreat to your ancestral origin before you can do politics. That’s the new Nigeria we want to build.

Curtailing vote buying on Election Day
That is a job for all of us, including the media. But the level of poverty in the country encourages it. I also think that those who have stolen a lot of money from government also encourage it. So, once you de-market certain categories of people and that is the job of all of us, I think the vote buying will reduce, especially de-marketing them by making the election about issues. But when the choices are not very sharp, or when the differences in the political platform are not clear, then the electorate will say they are the same; why should I choose one over the other, except the one that offers me something because there is no difference between APC and PDP. Tell me why anybody should prefer PDP to APC? There is no reason to be honest with you. So, that’s an incentive for vote buying, when there is no difference between the political parties. But when there is a clear difference, I think the scope of vote buying will become narrower.

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