Prince Adewole Adebayo is the presidential standard-bearer of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in next year’s election. He, alongside other candidates, recently attended Arewa Joint Committee Interactive Session in Kaduna where he stressed the need to tap into the North’s closeness to the Mediterranean for Nigeria’s economic benefit.
Here are his answers to some questions during the session.
How do you plan to tackle oil theft and diversify the economy from oil dependency?
Thank you very much. Since you started scientifically, everybody who is sitting on oil now doesn’t know how it came about. So, as a lawyer in the oil industry for many years, I can say that there’s nowhere in Nigeria that there is no oil. In fact, I have worked in the Niger Republic and Chad. So it is not just about a simple understanding of geo-special and geological knowledge. There’s oil, but that’s not the issue; what we are not managing well is the politics of oil. We’re looking at oil from a political point of view.
First, let me say this, among the top 100 resources of Nigeria, oil does not even come in the first 100. So it is clear that it is the least profitable of all our resources because you can’t even itch if you take it.
Another thing I want to say is this. The oil taken from the Niger Delta in 1956 in Oloibiri; all the amount of money that has been spent on Northern Nigeria and the rest of Nigeria is not up to the amount of money from oil that has been stolen by foreigners before any Nigerian, whether it comes from the North or South, anywhere can benefit $1 of Nigeria oil, foreigners from Europe, America, Asia will have taken $100. As I’m talking to you now, you know, I was the one who broke the news that 80% of the crude oil in Nigeria is being stolen, and at that time I believe President Buhari didn’t know as he didn’t know some things.
Why would you not sustainably do agriculture, for example, in Southern Kaduna alone, the ginger that is grown there, if we just create a plant to process the ginger and get ginger oil in Southern Kaduna, plus two or three local governments, you can get $1.4 billion a year.
The summary of it all is that it is a failure of leadership. Our leaders create artificial scarcity, and they use identity to manage that scarcity. Another instance is this, we can build a federal government college in every local government so that the children don’t have to compete. But they won’t do that. So the resources are frittered away, so now when you want to admit a student you say you are from Katsina State, you are from Jigawa State, you are from Ondo State, and end up creating tension for yourself. What should happen in Nigeria and what will happen at the beginning of our administration is that we will develop every resource available in every part of the country.
Two, we will give capacity for every state to manage resources in such a way that, for example, in the Mambilla Power Project, if Nigeria’s money is not being stolen, Adamawa and Taraba states can build it. Adamawa and Taraba states can handle it. It has failed the entire country, but it is something that Adamawa and Taraba states can handle. We need to do big projects and their major investments.
For example, let me offer a personal example here. I brought a company from Virginia when I was a lawyer in New York, because they were looking to build an airport somewhere in Central Africa, and they considered some parts of Nigeria to be close to Central Africa. We met with the government (of a particular state), and all this company wanted was land and signature. They will build the airport. But you know what, they did not let them build the airport. Rather the same government awarded airport construction based on that idea, wasting public money. They couldn’t do it up to that standard we enunciated. There are so many investments that we can make in Nigeria, all across this state that doesn’t depend on the paucity of our budgeting.
I can tell Nigerians this, by the time we implement one-third of our projects, we would have created 30 million jobs, you will have to start looking for workers from outside Nigeria to come work here.. Everyone in Nigeria will have a job and all these tensions will die down, naturally.
How do you intend to bridge the gap in the educational advancement of the country and that of institutions of Northern Nigeria?
The first response to this is that education is not all about Western education. Education is a process by which a new generation learns the norms of the preceding generation and becomes functional in the environment in which they are grown, and if you are lucky, the talent of one or two people will come out and the rest of society will learn it. The educational challenge facing Nigeria, from my study, if you study the arguments between the Lagos elites and Lugard, you will notice that the energy that drove education during colonial rule was an attempt to replace Western officials. So we attended their schools in London, Oxford, everywhere. We were trying to replace the colonial people with our people and would pay attention to that clerical education, whereas in other countries in the world that were making progress, their educational foundation was not just to replace officials, it was generally to learn anything that you can learn technically.
Secondly, we thought that we had to replace our own brains with the white man’s brains. Traditionally, we did not institutionalise the training on so many things in which we had skills, we just threw them away. So a person from a family of wood carvers or drug makers who have been doing tannery for a thousand years will go to Barewa College, forget about the tannery and learn Philosophy and become a District Officer; then when he retires he can’t do anything rather than moving files from place to place. That’s the mistake we made, particularly in Northern Nigeria. The educational drive in Northern Nigeria was initially driven by the Northernisation policy to say that the gap between the education population in the South and the North needed to be bridged so that the North could take control of its administration. So the same problem we have generally is what we have.
So what I think we should do about this is we must get away from that and go back to a system where there is the systematisation of the learning and retention of all kinds of skills. So the majority of our people learn how to be plumbers, artisans, just like Italians. Italians who are making 90% of the income of Italy did not attend a university at all. So I want us to have a different understanding because if you get to England, the population of the English people who have gone to university is smaller than the population of Nigerians who are going to university. But in Britain, if you are looking for a plumber, you get the best plumber, if you are looking for an electrician, you have the best electrician. So we must address that issue holistically
Now for the formal education, the clerical part of it, the problem is we’re also creating institutions in competition with one another. So you have ten professors, I too want to produce ten professors. This attitude would change. One other problem with the government which I’m going to change is that education is taken as part of government running ministries. Education is supposed to be a liberalised system whereby every person from the family to the mosque, to the madrasas, the local government has input to make in educating people, and the idea that all the money for education must be in the ministry of education, I will deal with it, it won’t be the case. The case will be that all traditional institutions will be able to run a school system.
But what we are going to do to address the issue of education is that generally, the management of the economy must be such that teachers can live a comfortable life as teachers, because if we have to be truthful, if you meet somebody for the first time and you are told, you ask, who is this man? His name is Salisu. What does he do for a living? Is he a primary school teacher? You can conclude that he is a poor man right there and then.
So that is what we need to change, we cannot address the question of education without addressing the manpower issue. We will train more manpower, we will also make them able to remain teachers and live a reasonable life, which means we will deal with the issue of inflation so that inflation doesn’t eat all your wages. We will deal with the issue of non-monetary benefits. A teacher should have a home, a teacher should have effective public transport to work, and a teacher should have a liveable pension.
Lastly, we must be able to deal with the cost of living. So once we do all of those and put it down, the best talents will want to be teachers. But right now the best talents don’t want to be teachers.
How do you handle accountability even when you have the vested power of the Nigerian Constitution to back you up?
The most magical power that I have that is greater and bigger vis a vis EFCC, ICPC, and Police is the power of personal example. During the time of Sir Ahmadu Bello, there was no EFCC, there was no ICPC, they only had the regional police and the Native Authority police. But Sir Ahmadu Bello will not use a government car one hour after getting home. He will not travel on Northern Nigeria helicopter because he wants to visit his farm, he will not use it to carry his friends and if a junior officer or lower officer had an emergency superior to his, he would drive on the road and that lower officer will use the helicopter. He will not appropriate land for himself, and people around him came around him on that basis. It is not difficult. Those who created ICPC, and EFCC created them for their enemies because they don’t need them for themselves.
So, in our government, we will go back to the regional principle. It is mostly about the people you bring to your government, and that is why we are careful. You can call us in the Social Democratic Party, and say come and collect one billion naira to support your campaign. But we will say don’t worry, we don’t need it. That is why I came here by road, that’s why I’m not borrowing a helicopter or a jumbo jet from somebody, because I don’t want to come to take my oath of office and start crying that I don’t belong to somebody, I belong to nobody.
What do you think you have that will make the Northern Nigerians vote you against other presidential candidates?
The reason why I should be the preferred candidate of the North is that when I look at the North, I don’t see the North, I see Nigeria. When I look at the East, I don’t see East, I see Nigeria, when I look at the South, I don’t see South, I see Nigeria; and when I look at the West, I don’t see West, I see Nigeria. But you cannot address Nigeria without addressing Northern Nigeria because the North is the issue in Nigeria. For example, I want to feed people. Where would the food come from? Northern Nigeria. I want to keep the country safe, where would the soldiers, the airmen, the Naval men, the policemen come from? Northern Nigeria. I want to be an industrial power, where would the industries be? Northern Nigeria. I want to replace oil with agro products, where will I plant my ginger, except Northern Nigeria? I want to eradicate poverty; if Nigeria wants to rank as a country that has escaped poverty, where will I address most of my concerns, except Northern Nigeria? I want a united country where the generation after me will not bother about their state of origin or where they come from, where will I get the nationalists except Northern Nigeria because in the North, Sir Ahmadu Bello, Dr Dikko and many of the leaders of the North like Makama Bidda, they all came with one policy – one North, one people.
So the North has taught us how to keep diverse people united. In the Second Republic, the NPN (National Party of Nigeria) led by my father, President Shagari said one nation, one destiny. So it is the degeneration in our politics that made us start to look at people, their attitude to the region. One thing I will not do, I will not do politics of symbolism. I believe you are a friend of the North when you address the problems of the North, not when I appoint my friends from the North. That is why I’ve taken my time to go segment by segment from leaders to followers to other different groups to know the problems of the North. So anybody from any part of the North can call me back. I know the problems, I know the needs of the North, and I will address all these problems facing the North.
Any person who can do justice and truth is a friend of the North because without truth and justice there can’t be peace, and the North needs peace.
I am not a friend of the North by word of mouth, I am a friend of the North because I see myself as a dan Arewa. I live here and I built my fortune here.