Prince Adewole Adebayo is one of the youngest, if not the youngest, male presidential aspirants who have shown interest in the topmost job in the land. He says he is the sling in the hands of the Nigerian electorate to ‘kill’ all the Goliath politicians. In this interview, the Social Democratic Party (SDP) member says insecurity will be history the moment he assumes office.
Q: Having been this blessed, the question is what exactly is this man looking for in this murky waters of Nigerian politics.
When you are dealing with public welfare, the more you are given, the more responsibility you have. If I were to look at basic life problems being solved, then I wouldn’t even grow up in society, because when I was born, those problems were already solved by my ancestors. I realised that it is not everyone who won the lottery that I won. To be born into the right country, at the right time and into the right family. Everything has worked out for me in a way that suggests that God has a special place for me in His heart. I see these God’s blessings that I don’t deserve as a call to duty, that I should look at the lives of others who may not have won the lottery I won, that’s being born into the right country, the right family, at the right time and having the right opportunities. It’s a burden that I need to discharge. I can press that advantage for the rest of my life and build up from there that I get richer and get more opportunities. But that’s not a worthy life. A worthy life is that in which you do more for others than you do for yourself. I don’t think there is any other worthier course one can find than to serve.
Q: While it’s good to serve, especially voluntary service like this, however, there are other offices to which you can serve rather than the presidency. There is a governorship or even a sit in the National Assembly. Why the topmost office in the land?
I have been offered appointments many times in the past. I know there is a place called the Senate but I don’t have any business there because the problem of society is that of leadership. The executive powers of the federation are vested in one man, and that man is the president. I have waited all my adult life, looking for one president that I can serve. Since 1999, I have yet to meet a president who is travelling in the direction I want the country to go.
Q: Which direction is this?
The direction of Justice. This country has, unfortunately, been deformed to accommodate injustice. This is a country, in the beginning, the leaders in the First Republic knew the importance of justice. It meant that they understood that public office was a trust and that nothing inside it belonged to them. They knew that the only way they could merit and justify being inside a government office, and exercise public powers was to use it to serve the people. They started their journey by serving the less privileged in society by establishing school systems that catered to the needs of those who had no opportunity. They fought and eradicated childhood diseases through immunization programmes for everyone and by living close to the people and in a modest manner as well.
If I had been born at that time, perhaps there was an Awolowo (Chief Obafemi Awolowo), I would have served under him as a commissioner or even a clerk, or even just to be carrying his bag, I would have done so gladly because I would have known that this was a man who has come to do justice. In politics, the leader that inspires me the most and whose work I follow is the late Mallam Aminu Kano. He lived with the people, he lived for the people and he made sure that social justice was the centre point of his political life. He built infrastructure in the mind of the people that participation in governance is the number one duty and everyone was entitled to it and that what he called family compact where you are born into the aristocracy of the ruling houses and only had access to housing, education and other privileges of society was not right. He criticised the court system even though he was a son of an Alkali (sharia judge). He said the court system wasn’t bringing justice to the people and ensured the people formed their own political party, the Northern Element Progressive Union (NEPU) and pushed ordinary people to take positions of power. When he was made a Minister of Health and later, Communication in Gowon’s government, he stood on the side of the people.
Take a look at the leaders of that time, and compare them to what we have now, if a president is already self-serving, why would I go and serve him? I will just be part of his apparatus of self-service. If a political party is set up to confiscate and siphon the wealth of the society and perpetuate injustice, why would I go and serve there? I don’t believe in the system they are running now because it is a system of theft, unfairness, and injustice. It’s a system of ordinary people who were given free education, who were the children of nobody, who were picked from the lowliest waters of Nigeria. Some were sent to the Armed Forces, some to the Civil Service. The founding fathers expected that these children of nobody that were sent to school, like President Buhari were an orphan, ordinarily, he should have been tendering cattle, but the systems set up by Sir Ahmadu Bello ensured that he was picked and put in a boarding school for primary school education right through to when he joined the Army. He lived in a boarding house all his life till he retired as Head of State. As we speak, he still lives in a boarding house in the Villa. All his life, Nigeria has catered for him. Will Ahmadu Bello be proud of him now? How many have he lifted out of poverty? All those people who were picked up from cocoa farms by Awolowo and enrolled in schools who became professors emeritus in medicine, professors of all disciplines, vice-chancellors, are they not now living in affluence even though the universities are on strike? So how can I be part of this? I can’t.
Q: You can exercise executive powers even as a state governor.
But the jurisdiction is narrow. CanI be a governor in one state and be able to take care of my brothers and sisters in other states? If I am crying because of the injustice in Zamfara State, for instance, how would being a governor in Lagos State help the situation? The penury you find in Borno, Cross-River, Lagos states and urban poverty you find in Ibadan, Oyo State, how would being governor of one state help me? Should I overlook all of that when the root cause is the collapsed federal government that we have? My mandate is to make Nigeria a great country. Anybody suffering from poverty in Malunfashi is as painful to me as someone who is suffering in my family. I have to solve the problem from the top and across the country.
Q: You are contesting on the platform of the SDP. Compared to the more dominant parties. How would you rate your chances vis, -a-vis others including APC and PDP?
You cannot say before you join the fire service, that you, first of all, be an arsonist. You cannot say I have to be a reckless driver before I can join the road safety corps. You cannot say I should be an armed robber before joining the police. You cannot say that before I join EFCC to fight economic crimes, I should first be a yahoo person (internet fraudster). This country is where it is today because of PDP and APC. Why should I join them? They are not making mistakes, they are deliberately impoverishing the people.
Q: These two parties are well-grounded in terms of structure and grassroots penetration which of course ensures electoral victory.
Their victory is not from the people but a product of rigging and that’s why you see them struggling with the electoral act and all the manipulations. In any case, what is the essence of power if you are not using it to better the lives of the people? Do you think ex-President Jonathan is a happy man today? He is not. He tasted the power but he made no difference in the life of the populace. Do you think President Buhari is a happy man today if he could do a deep reflection? He has gone from hero to zero because of what,’ let me join those who can make me win quickly’.
I am keying into the programme of the late Chief MKO Abiola which is farewell to poverty. And now I say farewell to poverty and insecurity. If I am saying farewell to poverty, who is the author of poverty if not the PDP? If I am saying farewell to insecurity, who are the architects, custodians, and profiteers of insecurity except APC? How can I go and join them to stop their business? You cannot join the wrong coalition in order to win at all costs. But if you join the looters, the compromised, the riggers, the manipulators, you can travel fast, but you will not go far.
Q: You speak so confidently as though you are sure of victory.
A: My confidence is coming from the place of justice. I believe that God didn’t create a country like this, with 200 million people to be enslaved. That is not the belief I have. I believe God is showing us an experiment and in the fullness of time, these people will overreach themselves and an ordinary person will come and knock them down. This is the David/Goliath situation. I believe the David are the Nigerians. I am not the David, the Nigerians are, I am just the sling. That sling cannot direct itself but David was divinely inspired to throw that sling. I am that sling that would hit the head of looters in this country. All of these things are testimony to the conclusion of a wicked system. I am not competing with them in the area of bullion vans and I am not competing with them in the area of bogus consensus they are doing, manipulations and the breach of trust they are doing, I am just taking my message to the people on that journey that began in 1993 upon which Abiola was killed and everything came to a halt has begun again. These people have asked for power, they have been given, and they did nothing with it. They asked for billions, they were given but, they cornered it, they have done nothing with it. They have taken the centre stage of our political life, they have done nothing with it. They have left the people impoverished and pauperised and they are deliberately withholding benefits of the people of Nigeria. Electoral defeat is enough for this set of people. This generation took all the benefits to themselves and their children. Now they are doing daylight robbery. They rob creches, primary schools, hospitals and mortuaries. Everything that has money in it is stolen in this country. Enough is enough. Nobody should be condemned to perpetual hopelessness. Nigerians are neglected and in perpetual penury, and yet their country is rich, very rich.
Q: In the course of consultation around the country, what was the reception like, especially from1 the power that be?
I have gone around the country. I am still touring. I have met with former Heads of State, traditional rulers, former governors, politicians, religious leaders, market men and women. The response has been warm and the message is clear. The former rulers have given their perspectives and where things went wrong and what they want to see done. None of them, I can tell you, is happy. Whether you contributed one way or another to where the country is today, none of them thought things would go this bad. They have become victims themselves. They have equally lost hope in the generation that is ruling now but that is compensated for that they have great hope in our generation.
Q: What would you do differently if allowed to superintend Nigeria regarding the insecurity in the country?
Insecurity is the easiest problem to solve. The present insecurity in the country is government-induced. The Nigerian government is the source of the insecurity because it has become a business. Just like fuel scarcity, they have turned it into business. Lack of electricity is a problem they have turned into a business. None of the Nigerian problems is difficult to solve. The solutions to our problems are already there. The Nigerian Army of today is better than the Nigerian Army of ECOMOG time. But what is happening now is that they have turned insecurity into a multi-billionaires business where Generals, Permanent Secretaries, contractors and politicians profit. When you talk to some members of the Armed Forces, they will tell you that they are not lazy and that they can finish these rogue fighters within a short time. Even during the civil war, there were a few who saw the war as a business. The majority of members of the Armed Forces took the war seriously and that was why we were able to fight the war without borrowing a Kobo. Awolowo was a Federal Commissioner in Gowon’s government. It was a policy of that government at that time that they would not borrow money to execute the war. Awolowo was auditing and editing almost every bullet used. Clement Isong was the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria. He protected the bank against the government. That was why even during the war, our currency was strong. Isong said he would not use the Central Bank to fight the war. When the argument was hot, General Gowon ran out of rational argument and reportedly told Awolowo at some point that if the Central Bank did not release the money to buy ammunition, he would take everyone in the Central Bank to the Bar Beach and have them shot.
When the message got to the Central Bank, Isong reportedly called off the bluff of the Commander-in-Chief. He was reported to have said they were prepared to die in the defence of the Central Bank of Nigeria. At the end of the day, Gowon had to relent and looked for the money elsewhere. Compared to now when the Central Bank governor attended the convention of a political party and his presence was announced. That is a professional institution, an independent and professional position that people have fought over the years to maintain. A government can continue to perpetuate insecurity as long they want to make money out of it. I will put an end to all such shenanigans.
Q: How does this lopsidedness of Nigeria make you feel, particularly as nothing seems to be working.
Honestly, Nigeria has more solutions than problems. We have more money today than we had yesterday. The government is surrounded by money. If anybody tells you there is no. money in the Nigerian government, you should know that that is your number one enemy.
Q: But we are borrowing to execute our budget.
We are borrowing because their greed is so huge that they did not want to only steal the money of today, but they want to rob the unborn children. The Nigerian leaders’ insatiable quest for money is special ethology of mental disease. When you steal what you don’t need, you steal what you don’t know and cannot keep that when they come out of office, they don’t know where the money is. I say this with all sense of responsibility, if we are not careful, we are going to have leaders who will rule from the mortuaries. We must remove the original curse of Nigeria which is bad governance. There is no middle way for those who are blinded by an insatiable greed for money. There is this unhealthy competition. If one governor is using state money to control a political party, spending millions of dollars to remove the chairman and do whatever, the other governor wants to replicate that in his state.
So what you now have is a well structured criminal organisation called “Governors Forum” that every member ought to, as a matter of patriotism, report themselves to the nearest police station. They corner substantial revenue of the federation and steal the money of the local government. So some of the poverty being ascribed to Buhari is not his. Buhari has become a bundle of disappointment though.