Why Nigerians must interrogate all

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Prince Adewole Adebayo is the presidential candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) for the 2023 presidential election. In this interview, he speaks on his vision for Nigeria, his party’s chances in the election and why Nigerians must interrogate all the candidates in the presidential raceYou are contesting the presidential election on the platform of the Social Democratic Party (SDP); how formidable is the structure of the party across the country?In reality, all political parties are supposed to have the same structure because one of the criteria for an association to be registered as a political party is that it must have presence across the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory. In this regard, I will say that the SDP has presence in all the 774 local government areas of the country and you will agree with me that in the recent primary elections of the various political parties, SDP had the highest number of delegates at its presidential primary election that produced me as the presidential candidate of the party.We had 1,750 delegates, who were drawn from every constituency in Nigeria. Before then, we had our ward congresses in 8,800 wards, local government congresses in 774 councils, state congresses in 36 states and the FCT, and the national convention at the International Conference Centre, Abuja. If you go to Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), you can obtain a list of our members and these are people you can put faces to their names.So, we have the structure although what some people refer to as structure, is a big man somewhere, sharing rice and killing goats for people to come and eat, and who can mobilise as many thugs as possible. The question we should ask these people who claim to have structure is: If they really have the structure, why is it that they resort to vote-buying to win elections?So, they really don’t have the structures they claim. They are just big for nothing parties. If they are really big parties as they claim, they should be able to solve big problems, whether it is in electricity, road infrastructure, health or education, among others. How can you call yourself a big party when you don’t have big ideas and can’t solve big issues?The SDP of 1993 is different from SDP of today. What makes you think the present SDP will make an impact in the 2023 elections as the party has not really done well in the present dispensation?Yes, SDP hasn’t done well of late not because the party is not on ground but because in the past, it has not been willing to contest elections. About four years ago, we had the problem of Donald Duke and Prof. Jerry Gana. Eight years ago, the leaders of the party thought that they had ideological relationship with some people. So, it is not as if we have been contesting, but anywhere we contested, like we did recently in Ekiti State, we made a mark. All we need to do is to continue with this attitude of contesting elections like we are doing now.One cannot dismiss the role of money in Nigeria’s elections; how deep is your pocket given the financial strength of the candidates in the presidential race?It is basically criminal money that you see in politics because they are spending above the regulated limit. But ideally, any serious political party should be able to meet the limit set by INEC. If you look at the legal limit for spending for the presidential election; we can raise that with ease through contributions from willing members of the party. We had a better organised national convention than the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and All Progressives Congress (APC) and we raised money for it by ourselves.Officials of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) were not there with dogs to sniff our members over whether they were carrying dollars in their pockets. It was a good outing; INEC and other observers were impressed. So, to raise descent funds for the campaigns is doable. The problem of most opposition parties is not how to raise funds for elections. Their problem is that some of those running their affairs are not interested in their parties contesting elections.All they do is to make much noise only to hand over their parties to anyone who is ready to pay them. Some of them even collect money from the so-called big parties to fund their conventions. So, it is the parties they are opposing that select members of their teams for them.Most believe that the youth will play a major role in deciding who wins the 2023 presidential election given the level of political consciousness among young people. What is your view on that and what is the leveI of acceptance of your message by these young people?Most youths on the voters register today did not get to the register by accident. It was conscious efforts by some people and political parties that made them to register in order to vote in the forthcoming general election. We know the youths and where they are and some of them have been given the opportunity to vie for elective positions by the SDP in the forthcoming elections and this has given them a sense of belonging.We may not have been orientating our own youths to be making noise on the social media like the other parties are doing but we have encouraged them to be in their constituencies and learn the basics of politics. We have tried to make them realize that activism is different from politics, so they are in their constituencies, sensitizing the people on activities of our party by going from door to door.We adopted this strategy because we don’t want a situation where some of them won’t even be able to locate their polling units on election day. I will also say that we are not bothered by political activities on the social media because reports have shown that some of those claiming to be supporting the other parties are actually not human beings you can identify.The tradition of the SDP right from Chief MKO Abiola’s time has always been to identify with the people and work with them. I am not saying that I am Abiola but we share a similar story. He was a businessman; he was never a governor or member of the National Assembly but as a presidential candidate, he worked with highly experienced politicians and that was why he was able to achieve success in the 1993 presidential election.The same thing Abiola did in 1993 is what we are doing now. If you look at our team and compare it with that of the other parties, you will find out that we have experienced people who have the capacity to give them a run for their money. We are not lacking in experience people, what we don’t have is those who have experience in the wrong things.We worry much about experience in Nigeria but where is the system that we want experienced people to sustain. I don’t want to be a minister of Power in a country where there is no electricity. I don’t want to be a minister of Education in a country where lecturers are on strike for over seven months and nobody is doing anything to resolve the industrial dispute.It is clear that there is no development but retrogression. So, we don’t need people, who are experienced in retrogression. What we call experience for many of them is just wasted opportunities. A journalist, who interviewed me recently, laid so much emphasis on my experience but I told him that I have personally created more employment opportunities than most of the key people in the presidency put together.What this means is that the relevant experience for the problems of the country is what should count and not how many years one has been receiving salaries from government and living in government houses, blowing siren and giving excuses rather than solving problems. If you are insisting on experience, why is it that Boko Haram doesn’t run away when they hear President Muhammadu Buhari’s name because of his military background? Why are they even threatening to kidnap him if experience matters?What is the state of the SDP given the polarization that chracterised the party ahead of its primary elections?You are correct about factions because of the succession battle we had in the party. Chief Olu Falae at a time resigned on health ground and Prof. Tunde Adeniran took over. But he later announced his retirement from politics. At that time he was equally national chairman and as a result, two people from his geopolitical zone came out to lay claim to the chairmanship of the party and it wasn’t resolved and they even went to court.But I can tell you today that Chief Supo Shonibare is one of my strongest supporters and he has brought a lot of people to help me with the campaign. The other person, who a section of the media has been promoting as a factional presidential candidate is like an uncle to me. I will say that what happened during the primaries was a move by some members to register their presence as party stakeholders. However, I will assure you that we acknowledge our problem but we are dealing with it.What new is the SDP bringing to the table that would be different from what the PDP and APC have done in the last 24 years that they have held sway at federal level?If you listen to what some of the presidential candidates have been saying or what is being said on their behalf, you will find out that they are not in tandem with what we know them for. Some people who have never managed anything successfully are suddenly promising to turn things around but I will tell you that Nigerians cannot be fooled by such promises.Unlike in the past, the people are going to interrogate anyone who is presenting himself for any position. You can see that some of them are already running away from debates but have hired very experienced journalists, who are writing columns on their behalf. When you tell them to bring out their principals out to talk to the people, they will decline. So, I urge Nigerians not to listen to campaign promises any longer because promises can fail.No democracy anywhere in the world listens to promises; what politicians are supposed to offer are plans. To say that you are going to build a house for every Nigerian is a promise. You should come up with a plan of how you are going to acquire the land, the cost of each unit, the manpower to build the houses, where the building materials will come from and the funding.For us in SDP, what we are presenting to Nigerians is a plan of how we intend to tackle the nation’s numerous problems. For every item on my plan, I know when, I know what, I know where, I know who and I know how I am going to get it done.What do you think Nigeria is doing wrong and what exactly are you offering Nigerians if you emerge as the next president?What we are doing wrong is that we don’t have a government. We are having incumbents who spend four years and go and be replaced by their friends. What I want to bring along is to replace these bunch of politicians who are going to the villa to collect campaign rewards with a functioning government.The truth is that the other presidential candidates have governed before; none of them spent less than eight years in the respective offices they held and they did not solve any problem. The problems of poverty, insecurity, lack of infrastructure and unemployment among others. The major situations we complain about are still widespread across the 36 states of the federation. All these other candidates did not address the problems when they were in their respective offices; they are all part of the same establishment.I have a plan for 30 million jobs to tackle poverty in Nigeria within 18 months. When people have jobs and you put people in school, you create the middle class and solve the problem of poverty. When the job comes with accommodation and other incentives, poverty will go away.What is your antecedent in politics because some people are saying that you’ve never held any public office and that the responsibility that comes with the office of the President may overwhelm you?Antecedent in politics is not enough. In fact, in advanced democracies, your antecedent in politics is not as important as your antecedent in personal life. So, as I am running for the Office of President now, people should be able to go to the primary school I attended to find out whether I stole a pencil as a pupil. They should ask my teachers questions on the kind of student I was. That was why I spoke about my personality at the recent conference of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) because some of the lawyers are individuals I have opposed in court or who have practiced with me.How will you tackle the key issues of security and economy if elected as president?A government that cannot pay teachers; a government that cannot ensure that workers show up on time; a government that cannot clear drainages; a government that cannot respond to a correspondent cannot solve any problem. What you call security challenges in Nigeria are normal day-to-day problems we have in this country. If you want to see a country that has security problems, go to Canada. The country is bordered by the two super powers of the world – the United States and Russia – so they have to think everyday about how to avoid the two powers.If you want to see another country that has security problem; go to Ukraine which was recently invaded by Russia. What we have here are mere skirmishes of banditry and kidnapping. Any problem that an AK47 riffle can solve is not a really a major problem. The Nigeria Army is strong enough to tackle what you call security challenges but the government is not serious about tackling the challenges. What is happening is that some people are making money from the security challenges the same way some are making their own through crude oil theft.Go and Study the Terrorism Protection Act, you will find out why have issues tackling the security changes. Most of the issues are over the power of the Office of the National Security Adviser and its territorial fight with the service chiefs. Who is the one to buy arms; who is going to hire mercenaries that will not fight anybody? So, it is a dollar and naira fight.They have a lot of people who are making money from these things and others say, ‘let me join them because I will soon retire and they won’t pay my pension and this moron here is claiming N1 billion a week, so let me join them.’ That is what is happening. The bandits make money and the security people make money. That is what is happening.Insecurity will end when we have a commander-in-chief, who will be actually ready to know what is happening on the field and not just bringing people to the villa to come and take tea and go away. Soldiers know how to win battles but winning a war depends on the government. Soldiers are trained to win battles, they are trained to defeat insurgents but no soldier is trained to defeat a government in which he is serving.How about the economy; what plans do you have to resuscitate the nation’s ailing economy?Firstly, the present government says that our expenditure is more than our revenue, that we are not earning enough money to run the country and that they even have to borrow to do recurrent at both the federal and state levels. Even their classification of what is recurrent and capital makes no sense because many of what the call capital, are not capital at all.If you study the Medium-Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF), you will find out that what they call capital expenditure is not capital expenditure in any way. Secondly, they are not doing projects management, so the budget cycle doesn’t make any sense. That is the reason why Ajaokuta Steel Company has remained what it is today. People just want to award contracts whether they are completed or not is not their problem.Why do we have revenue shortfall? It is because of the fiscal side. They are pretending that they don’t know how to collect government revenue. In some states, they are evening using consultants who end up getting more money than the government. At the federal level, they claim that they don’t have enough revenue; rhat to me is nonsensical. Five months ago, when they started making noise that they don’t have money, I spoke with people who went to the Federation Accounts Allocation Committee (FAAC) on why they didn’t share money; they said because the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) did not remit any money.Some said we were not producing enough crude, but I said no, we are producing enough because I know the figures. Later they said they were spending more on subsidy. But I studied the figures and found out that what they are saying is not true because they are stealing more than 80 per cent of the country’s crude. However, because I am a not professor of Economics, nobody cared to listen to me. But after a while, the government said what is being stolen is 75 per cent, so I admitted that I was wrong but I don’t know the difference between 80 and 75 per cent.If you look at where they said the crude is being stolen from, you will find out that even if you take militants to that place, they will repent because the location is on the high sea. Are they telling us that the Department of State Services (DSS), National Intelligence Agency (NIA) and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) do not know those behind the oil theft?The government is the one stealing the crude and it didn’t start today. Because they know that someone is going to audit the accounts of the NNPC someday, they’ve decided to sell the crude through the back door and share the money among themselves. So, the artificial deficit they are declaring is the most wicked thing on the part of the government. By my estimate, we are losing about $4 billion every month to crude oil theft, which is why we have people in government who are richer than the government itself.How would you react to the belief in some quarters that you are holding forth for one of the major presidential candidates and will take a bow before the election?Yes, there is mercenary politics everywhere, so one cannot rule out the possibility of some of these people having agents in my party and the other parties as well. I’ve seen people change parties three times in one day depending on what they are paid and there are spokespersons who are saying different things from what they said four years ago. These politicians have enormous amount of money, so they people people everyday to defect from party to another.So, it is not out of place that some of them would have paid one or two parties to nominate presidential candidates, who will later adopt their own candidates before the election. But they cannot only do that with a dormant party that is looking forward to the pay day and not the SDP.



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