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We start from where MKO Abiola stopped – SPD Presidential Candidate, Prince Adewole Adebayo

 

Prince Adewole Adebayo is the Social Democratic Party, SDP, presidential candidate. MIKE ODIAKOSE reports that in this interview he spoke on a lot of national issues, including who becomes his vice presidential candidate, why the party will be reviving the legacies of late MKO Abiola and why Nigeria is still in debt despite its wealth and how corruption can be checkmated.

You are the presidential candidate of your party. Have you decided on a running mate yet?

Yes, I have decided but I am consulting. We have always had a large talent pool, and we want to give Nigerians a first taste of our decision making. So but it’s not like I don’t know what they are going through on the other end but here, we are looking at a competent ticket and we are trying our best to see that we give Nigerians a new perspective.

Are there guidelines your party followed in arriving at picking the running mate; would share the name of the running mate?

It’s under consultation but duly we would announce to the party. The idea is that the person should be someone that  can advise, can assist while I am discharging my duties. And it should be someone that in any eventuality, Nigerians should be able to accept easily as a president, and it should be someone who is there to assist, not using it as a ladder to climb to the next stage. It should be someone who is coming to assist, to see that he is the Chairman of the Economic Council. That person should be able to tell the president to his face ‘you are on the wrong path, stop it’ or things like that. He should be the last person in the room who can advise you. And it should not be a position for rewarding somebody for how they helped you to get there. It should be someone that you know if you are sleeping, the person is awake. If you are traveling, you don’t hesitate to leave responsibilities for the person and if something goes wrong in the country or goes wrong with me as a person, I am human being anything can happen to me, Nigerians will not regret and say ‘oh! How did we get to this kind of a person?’ Those are the guidelines that I have in mind.

As regards primordial sentiments should we be looking at religion, sex geography other than competence and efficiency?

As it is today, the SDP is the best party. We are not in the business of giving advice to other parties when it comes to the problems that they are facing. In fact, I have spent twenty something years of my life as an adviser, as a lawyer giving advice to my clients but now I myself need advice because I am now the person who is on the seat making decisions. We will take our own action; we will announce our own team. And if they can learn from that and then they probably find solutions to some of the quagmires that they have created for themselves in the manner in which they have done their politics. So what we are doing is that I will not choose a person who cannot do the job just because I want to use the person to win an election. That’s already acting in my own self-interest which is not what the president should do. I will choose someone that I know would be the best for Nigeria as vice president, and if anything unexpected happens will be a good president for Nigeria. And if I am on holiday or on vacation, will be a good acting president.  So a vice president is not supposed to be a person who fixes ballots. It’s a person who can be a good adviser to the president, a person who can be a surrogate for you and a person who can discharge that office, and who will not embarrass you, who will not privatize all the property to himself. He is not going to be looking for a war chest to create a political campaign in the future; he is going to be someone who will be my number critic – when people are clapping for me, he will call me to the room and say: ‘you know you are not doing very well, you need to do better.’ That’s the person I need. I don’t need another big man or big woman. I need someone who will tell me, who will remind me of our oath to the people of Nigeria and who will look me in the face and say: ‘I disagree with you.’ That’s the kind of person I want, not another political big wig somewhere. He is someone who can serve Nigerian people because the people have been underserved for too long.

The ladies have complained that they don’t get a look in as much as they should. What are your thoughts on this?

SDP probably is the only hope in this election for a lady. The person who competed with me in the presidential primary was a lady, Kadija Okonu-Lamidi. So we have a good record with women. They know that we have their interests at heart. And women are not ruled out at all. Don’t be surprised if the VP is a woman, and don’t be surprised if the VP is a man. Women are in the basket and men are in the basket and we are consulting.

Okay, it’s interesting the way you put it that look: the kind of vice president you prefer is one who can talk straight as it were, let you know, so to speak and speak the truth to power. That must be a person that you have a relationship with, that you trust, and that you will not take offence over. It’s not very Nigerian, dare I say?

 

Definitely I take advice. In fact, the advice I like the most and I am most grateful for is bad advice because at least it tells me what not to do. And I also like good advice, so I don’t discriminate against advice. I don’t feel insulted when I am advised. You can advise me rudely. If you have a good advice for me, you can put it on a piece of paper and smack it on my face. I will still read the advice because what’s important is that when I do what is right, I am the one to take the credit. And like people call me presidential candidate of the SDP, but there were so many errors I committed along the way that many people corrected me and today I am the candidate. So it’s the same way as president, I am not the wisest person in the room but I am the person who is most determined to get the best to happen. And a successful presidency is what we are looking for. It’s not just to be elected president and there’s a life of no consequence. I don’t want to be seen as a former head of state and there are no roads to many places in the country – there’s insecurity. I want to perform, I want to serve, I want to achieve things.  I don’t want to be majesty. I am from a royal family; I know what a king is but I don’t want to be a king in the State House. I want to be a servant who is coming to serve and my vice president will know that he is serving a servant, and my ministers will know that they are serving a servant and that we are all serving the people.

What is your vision that your running mate has to key into? 

Yes, the vision is as follows: we start from where Abiola stopped – Farewell to Poverty. And because in the last 29years after that there has been insecurity. So we say: ‘Farewell to Poverty and Insecurity.’ First thing I will do is to set a government that does not promote poverty. And how do you not promote poverty? You comply with Chapter 2 of the Nigerian Constitution which tells the government on how to deploy money, other assets and resources of the country, and how to give opportunities to every Nigerian. And we are told in our Fundamental Objective and Directive Principles of State Policy that we must not concentrate the resources of the country in hand of a few. This is not just an egalitarian wish, it is an effective metric for ensuring that one person doesn’t have too much and the other is left in want.

Secondly, that you get all the talents on the table. And the way to get all the talents to the table is that if you have a thousand graduates and you give employment to seven, you have not only made the nine hundred and ninety-three poor but you have also denied them contribution to the economy. Also, I will ensure that people don’t steal Nigeria’s money off balance sheet as they are doing so now. That all the money that we generate from minerals, oil, taxes, over applied charges, levies are not stolen, nothing is stolen and everything is put in the kitty. Nothing would be stolen if I as the president don’t want anything to be stolen – if I am not keeping a secret books somewhere for myself or those around me, whether in the name of security or under any other guise where the people’s money is taken away off balance sheet.  Now we are doing railway lines everywhere, what you see are Chinese faces. I have nothing against the Chinese but I don’t think that beyond bringing the technology here, they should bring people to come and put callipers and a few things and slippers on the rail lines. We should be able to do that by ourselves. . So we are having a huge budget for defence: 4trillion, 1.8 trillion, 5trillion, depending on the numbers, and all that money is going into foreign contractors and some esoteric procurement that does not trickle down to the people. Even, if you go to the military barracks, you don’t have a feeling that we are spending so much on defense. People are just sharing the money as it were.

The Social Democratic Party is the party that won the 1993 year presidential election even though that victory was annulled. Is the SDP back?

The SDP is back and we are running on the same platform that we ran in 1993. We are following the same pattern, and you know it’s not easy to fit into the shoes of Chief MKO Abiola, he was a legend of the highest order; he was a president of presidents even before he was elected. He was known globally as a philanthropist, a thinker and as an ethical business man who did so much for the anti-apartheid struggles in South Africa; and he was an icon of the black community all over the world but what we are doing is the same pattern like what we are doing now – which is that we come with a professional, he was an accountant, I am a lawyer , we come with a professional, someone who is fresh, who has never been in government before, who is coming with new ideas, professionally driven ideas, and who also understands the people, and has sympathy for the people. So that’s just basically what we are coming with and where we left Nigeria unfortunately 30years ago is where the country is today. In 1993 we said farewell to poverty. You know poverty is worst now and on top of that we have insecurity. That’s why we say “Hope Again 2023”. Farewell to poverty and insecurity. So that’s where we are and that’s the platform on which we are running. We don’t make slogans out of the air. We make slogans out of the situation of the people, and that’s basically what we are running with and there’s no way we can escape the responsibility of the time that no reason can be adduced – rational reason can be adduced for why Nigeria has not kicked poverty and there’s no reason we can adduced for why insecurity pervades in the land. With respect to Ekiti, SDP is the leading party in Ekiti and the violence that you see there is the attempt by the APC, the incumbent governor to try to intimidate voters, and we have no instrument of power in our hand, what we have is another professional, Engineer Segun Oni who had ruled before in the state and people now understand that they need to go back to such a sane, obeying and responsible and ethical government. We have been campaigning on the same principle of farewell to poverty, farewell to insecurity and we are sure to win the election; so we have no reason to be agitating and causing confusion but we have been at the receiving end of violence in Ekiti overtime. We have informed the law enforcement agencies, we have informed President Muhammadu Buhari, we have informed the IG of police, the Director General of DSS. So but we are coasting home, and we are assuring the people of Ekiti that there’s no need for violence, just calm your nerves and be responsible. It’s a civic engagement and by Saturday you vote in the SDP and Nigeria is on due path to recovery. It’s a shame that 30years after June 12 , we haven’t had any election that’s as free and fair as that. We haven’t had any political party coming with a clearer and more achievable mandate than we did 29years ago, we haven’t come with a candidate as lucid, as unifying, as iconic as Chief MKO Abiola. We can’t just be having our best things happening in the past, we need to turn a new leaf and we need to tell the country that what was possible 30years ago should even be more possible now.

What are your plans regarding our economy?

These are my plans. First, I know every local government in this country. I went round the country. I’m not saying I know every state. I know every local government in this country by foot. I’ve been there. So what I mean is that the poverty itself is showing in the lives of the people, in their faces, they talk to me about it. What we need to do is as follows: One, let us not be intimidated by the figure that maybe almost 100% of our income is for debt servicing. We need to check the books. The books are not accurate. We need to deal with leakage. If you bring all the leakages together, you will see that we have more on the side of leakage than on the books. You know that I’ve been talking about it for the past few months that how could the government be silent when 75% of the crude oil that we sell, that we produce in this country is done off balance sheet. These things are practically stolen, so they don’t enter into the books. So the figure that we use to know our debt service relative to our population is based on what has been received by the Accountant General of the Federation. But when you practically go to the flow stations and steal all this crude, they don’t get recorded in the book, that’s number one.

Number two, you will discover that we don’t spend money on works. So when you don’t spend money on works, you are not likely to get employment. Because people come with this mantra that it is not the job of government to create jobs. But for those who tend to say it, it is the government that is creating their own jobs and they tend to hold these jobs for a very long time. Some have been in government for 40years. So if government can give you a job that lasts you a lifetime and double lifetime, how can you say it is not the responsibility of government to create jobs for others? So when you deal with capturing the revenue properly to see that there are no leakages, there are a lot of the MDAs who are having a lot of their monies not getting to the federation account and these monies are given away one way or the other. And if you capture all of that, you can triple the revenue quickly. And if you look at our fiscal situation, our taxation, I think those who are collecting our taxes are collecting more for themselves in their pockets than they are reflecting in the book. So if you just do honest book keeping, I will address that one immediately.

Secondly, if you look at the Chapter two of our constitution, it does not want the recourses of the country to go into the hand of a few people. And if you do the analytics, you would see that in appropriation we are not appropriating to the poor or the less privilege. And for those who have worked in the State House, you know that it’s a lobbying place. And those who do not have lobbyists for them are the poor, the weak, the unemployed. And if I go in there as their advocate and I tell my ministers that I don’t know what figures you are bringing to me but I want to spend 70% of my appropriations on social programmes because I want to comply with chapter two of our constitution: The fundamental objectives and directive principles of state policy that says that I must not concentrate the wealth of the country in the hand of a few. If I do that and I create works, I will have been able to damage unemployment figures, I will bring it down to about a single digit with works. When you have works then you are attacking poverty because people can now directly intervene in their own lives, the lives of their families. So our social structure in this country, analytically, says that if you employ and you give a living wage to one person, four people will be out of poverty. And we can do that without breaking the bank.

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