By Sunday Ani
Presidential candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in the 2023 general elections, Prince Adewole Adebayo has warned that the same deafness which the electorate had in 2015 is about to happen again as they don’t examine records of the people who present themselves for leadership positions.
In this interview, Adebayo said religion should not be a yardstick for performance, rather Nigerians should check the records of all the candidates in the coming elections so as to have a better perspective about the kind of persons they want to vote for.
Looking at the controversy surrounding the same faith presidential ticket by a political party, what is your take, and has your faith ever been questioned?
I am the only person that has questioned my faith because I know the precept of what it takes to be a Christian. As Christians and Muslims, it is our work in private and public life that should speak for us. We should not use religion to claim employment or get votes. Religion should be used as a moral guidance.
Who is your vice presidential candidate? What religion does he profess?
The faith of my vice presidential candidate isn’t an issue. Let me tell you how the SDP behaves and its perspective to all of this. We do not question people’s religion, but we are sensitive to the country because we are a diverse community. So, there is no shortage of good people, men and women of different faiths. In SDP, we believe that Nigeria is not only about Muslims and Christians; we also recognise other religions. We respect everybody’s sensitivity, identity and beliefs, and it is our hope one day, we would not push this argument to a ridiculous point where people will begin to ask whether it is only Muslims and Christians that live in Nigeria. I am happy to be a Christian because it is a religion I have serious faith in. I grew up in an environment where half of my cousins are Muslims, so it is not an issue for us. As a lawyer, both here in Nigeria, America and other places, I have confronted very good Muslims and very good Christians. I have also prosecuted very terrible Muslims and Christians. My message to Nigerians on this issue is to raise the argument only for one reason, and that is to judge the ability of the person who is going to hold the public office to be sensitive to people of other faiths. The first duty of a person who wants to be president is the choice of the vice presidential candidate.
That’s why I am asking who your vice presidential candidate is and his faith.
We would announce that later because my party must be there when the announcement is made. I want you to know that since civil rule returned in 1999, both Christians and Muslims have ruled. In fact, both have ruined us, so we should not use religion as a major criterion. All the evils that have been done in the first eight years were done by a nominal Christian. That administration didn’t look like a government led by a Christian, but history will judge that. Next was Musa Yar’Adua, who did his best. Then, we have the last seven years under the leadership of a practising Muslim. This is not how I know Muslim to behave. This government doesn’t look to me like a government under a good Muslim. Same with the first person who ruled us then, a Christian, who even had a Chapel inside the villa, but I can tell you that he was not a good standard of a Christian, because when the righteous rule, the people rejoice. We haven’t rejoiced since 1999.
Why are we fixated on politics of the region such that it’s becoming one of the parameters to measure the qualification of those who aspire to lead Nigeria?
In politics, whatever argument you want is available in abundance. What politicians do is to first locate their interest. When the argument is found, it then helps their aim, but when you work for the people as I am doing, there shouldn’t be any permanent interest other than good governance, accountability in government, and ensuring that Nigeria becomes the pride of the Black race and not the headquarters of shame in the world. I always ask myself why we are concerned about the politics of the region. I see that the fear could be because of marginalisation. Secondly, people have been wrongly educated to believe that the presidency is a reward. It is a very difficult job. You could see president Buhari complaining the other day. It is not about the honorific aspect of it, that is waving at children, going to Eagle Square and watching the army march past; that is just a percentage of the job. It’s a very difficult job because he is carrying the burden of millions of people. So, if it’s about service, people won’t be too concerned about who is there; whether he is from their place, they would think more of the deliverables. So, it is my mission in politics to interact with people who have this kind of primordial perspective to say, yes it is important for identity sake. We have tried, President Buhari from Katsina State has been in power for the past seven years, but my people from Ondo kingdom have had a better time than the people from Katsina.
You said we should focus on job creation and national security including food security. You just returned from the US, what exactly are you offering Nigerians? What are we doing wrong?
What we are doing wrong is that we don’t have a government. We have incumbents who spend four years and are replaced by their friends. They don’t do government functions. Just as you know, when you go to your home town, the local government chairman is not relevant to you; a councillor in your street is not relevant to you because your amenities within the environment are not working, and when you talk to the councillor or the chairman, they say they don’t have money or that the governor has taken the money. These are the ones you could see with your naked eyes, so with that, you know that the local government system has collapsed. Let me also tell you that the Federal Government too has collapsed in Nigeria. But, because the Federal Government is hiding inside the villa, they blow sirens and make a lot of noise when they are passing; you think they are busy; it’s a lie, they are not busy. What I want to bring along is to replace these bunch of politicians, who go to the Villa to collect campaign rewards without a functioning government.
If you were the president and the Kuje Correctional facility was attacked, what would you do differently?
It would not be attacked if I were president. The first thing a government does is to have intelligence. Second is to have the ability to process intelligence. What they are doing is that they are not spending time on government business. They are doing all sorts of things in the villa. They are even holding weddings in the villa now. They don’t have time to pursue intelligence and process it because their recruitment is faulty. They are not even complying with the Terrorism Act 2011. When I was overseas, people were giving me intelligence. Why is it that they appear to care less about the problems? It is because everything to them is an opportunity to make more money.
Would you tinker with the security architecture if you were the president?
When you elect me, you have made the greatest change because you have elected a commander in-chief. With utmost respect, president Buhari isn’t doing two percent of what is expected of a commander in chief.
You mean even with his background as a general?
The problem is that we don’t examine records very well in this country; we only examine titles. When you examine records very well, you will understand that what is happening now was bound to happen.
His party men said he is not the one to go to the field; he only gives the order; do you agree with them?
He doesn’t give the order because he is not aware. If you read his lamentations on twitter, that’s a confessional statement of an absent-minded Commander-in-Chief.
That’s because you people in the opposition have refused to put him on his feet.
But, he doesn’t have feet. The problem is that you voted for someone who has no feet at all. So, you can’t put him on his feet. We are even trying to put him on his back, facing up. You have to respect the office, but at the same time, you have to say the truth. He is not on the ballot now, so I can just sympathise with him that he has some few months to go. But, we need to be alive while he is still there. The problems you need to face is that the same deafness which the electorate had in 2015 is about to happen again. Let us be clear about what the president is. The president isn’t judged by his religion or the amount of money he can share around, or how many people are endorsing him. You judge him by ability to do three functions. He must be able to be a commander in chief and keep you safe. You are seeing the example of lack of it now. He must be head of state; father of all. He must not put in the mind of anybody, however minute the size is. Thirdly, he must be an effective chief executive.
Nigeria has a revenue problem. How do you intend to fix that?
Quite simple; Nigeria has an honesty problem, because they are stealing the problem.
Are there facts to buttress this?
Yes, I have the facts. For the past nine months, I have been shouting that 80 percent of crude oil being sold by Nigeria is being stolen.
Even the president acknowledged that during the Sallah celebrations.
But, every day, he shakes hands with the thieves. They are with him. He can fire them in one second, but he wouldn’t for political and moral bankruptcy purposes; for lack of leadership purposes, for lack of patriotism and courage. Secondly, even the little that comes in is being stolen by the apparatus of government. It’s not me talking, it’s the government.
At the inception, this government came up with the Treasury Single Account (TSA). What would you say about it and what would be your alternative to it in terms of revamping the economy?
I have already started job creation. For many years while I was in Washington, I helped the national chamber of commerce in America. I go all over the world, fixing problems for them. I am an investment lawyer. When I was doing this investment law services, I couldn’t take investment to my country. I brought companies to this country but many of them ran away because they would go to jail immediately. This is because right from the word go, people would want to use them for money laundering. People want to pack money into their contract, so they said they couldn’t come here. A well run American company came here to build an airport. I was their lawyer. They came to me and said we forfeit the contract because the new governor came and said we should pack the contract 10 times over again. They just gave it to a Nigerian company and left. So, when I started running for president, I knew that the first thing I would do would be to first of all create 30 million jobs. I went back to the national chambers of commerce to seek their help. I told them I would remove the conditions they are running away from; remove the corruption and bottlenecks, remove the idea of going to the Nigerian embassy for a visa where they are already collecting bribes from them. What I need from them in the five sectors and we started calling the CROSS; I was at a press conference in Washington where I secured 30 million jobs. That’s the first phase. There is nothing fantastic about it. From the first day in office, I know where the jobs are coming from. They are coming from agriculture and agro-allied sectors, green energy, and infrastructure. This infrastructure I am talking about, we are not going to borrow money from China and we are not going to use our money. China cannot lend you money again because they have seen that there is no executive capacity.
How do you want to create 30 million jobs?
At the moment, there are 2000 companies that have signed up to this. When you loom large at the companies from just their auxiliary services, they can generate up to 60 million jobs and many of these companies are willing to come over immediately. As the campaign progresses, they will be coming over here. I met them in Washington. So they will be coming over here in person to outline how the jobs would be done. They are not interested in pure politics, but interested in showing you that Nigeria has the capacity to employ the entire West Africa. The only thing you need to do in Nigeria is to allow agriculture to run which means you need to have security so that farmers don’t get killed.
Some people would say what you are reeling out isn’t different from what the APC did in 2015 and we are all seeing the results now. What makes yours special?
The first thing the people must be suspicious of is their own sense of judgement. In 2015, these people should not have succeeded in fooling anybody at all. The person they presented as their candidate had been in government before. He didn’t succeed in doing anything major. People surrounding him were the people causing the problem he claims he is coming to solve. He was flying jets that they paid for. The APC and Buhari were spending money and in competition with PDP that was printing their own dollars; I don’t know where from. You realise that this gentle man first, is not saying what he knows how to say, they are just putting words in his mouth. These people are also the cause of the problems he said he wanted to solve and they have held him hostage. What we need to do now is to run away from being deceived again with another hash-tag. Luckily for us, these people who are in various parties are one; whether in APC, PDP or Labour Party.
You mean the Labour Party is inclusive; are you saying that because Peter Obi was once the vice presidential candidate of PDP?
Yes, but not only that. They were not there for a day; they also had prominent roles they played. The Labour Party is an extension of PDP; it borrowed the PDP’s body. What I am saying is that you should not be deceived by labelling. The external establishment now is in three parties in order to fool you. First time, they were in the PDP. Second time, the new PDP which was the soul of it muffed with the then ACN and others to create the second PDP, which is the APC. Buhari was borrowed as a face because people had the legend that he came from heaven directly. What they are now doing in order to create that third branch of that same camp is pushing Labour Party candidates. Obi, who was the vice presidential candidate to the PDP four years ago is now claiming to be the face of the Labour Party. His vice presidential candidate is somebody who never passed any sensible bill while in the Senate. I am saying this because young people follow hash-tag and things like that, just like they followed hash-tag eight years ago.
Your party isn’t attaching any state as its own; besides, it is not really popular like others. So, what are your chances of emerging president in 2023?
Our chances are quite bright. Let me tell you why we are not making noise. We have refused to become a refugee camp for the defectors. Even the people who went to the Labour Party came to us first. Peter Obi came to SDP first. We set exams for all of them but they all failed the exams. Peter obi failed our exams. Bola Tinubu failed our exams.