Former Minister of Information, Prof Jerry Gana, the Social Democratic Party (SDP) presidential candidate believes controversial areas in the electoral guidelines released by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) can be corrected before the February 16 presidential elections. He said this and other salient things in an exclusive interview with Adoyi Aba and Patrick Andrew.
First of all, I want to thank God for good health, good relationship and favour with the people of Nigeria. I have the opportunity and the privilege of being the presidential candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) I consider it a tremendous privilege because it defines my political philosophy- the social democratic platform in the sense that it is people-oriented. And for the people of Nigeria, there is a very serious need for us to have certain fundamental programmes that will provide solutions to vital, serious and critical problems facing the people of Nigeria.
First, we did our survey and everywhere we went to people are extremely worried about the level of insecurity in the country. Our number one programme is how to restore security, safety, and peace to Nigeria so that Nigerians can be at peace with one another so that there can be proper security. We have this under our programme as “security re-engineering” and it is within the context of the code name we have given to our programme SWIFT. The S is for security-reengineering because that answers the outcry of millions of Nigerians.
Secondly, Nigerians have complained seriously about hunger and poverty and it is real. You can’t push it away, the thing is real. There is poverty in both the urban and rural areas, so we felt that our economic programmes should be refocused to the direction of creating wealth, because instead of redistributing poverty, injustice, inequitably, you will have to create wealth so that there is be more than enough to be distributed.
Wealth creation is a very robust part of our programme. Fortunately for Nigeria, we have so many resources: land resources, mineral resources, solid minerals, gas and oil. What is lacking is a visionary leadership. We have the capacity of harnessing all these resources in very good programmes to create wealth in agriculture, industry and other sectors of the economy.
For example, as part of the wealth creation programme, we have 774 local government areas in Nigeria, there is no local government in Nigeria where we don’t have a resource that can be developed. That is the basis of saying one industry per local government area. There is already 774 job creation centres in this country. However, we cannot do all that without the element of excellent infrastructure. That is the I: Infrastructural Excellency and power supply, by way of good roads, highways, railways, airways, waterways, transmission lines, and pipe lines.
The human body, for instance, cannot do without the veins and the arteries. An economy cannot do without good infrastructure and the movement of goods and services that is how an economy vibrates and grows. If things are stolid, the economy will die, If you cannot move goods.
Right now in Apapa Wharf, a simple blockade is costing Nigeria billions every week. We have so many other ports that we can develop; sadly 90 percent of the goods coming into our country are coming through the sea. The F is for fight against corruption. We will do it differently, because we discovered in Singapore under Li Yaun Yu, China or in India and other places where they have succeeded, the most powerful weapon against corruption is leadership by example.
Those who are in leadership are the first to show they are incorruptible. If anyone of them is caught, he is dealt ruthlessly so that it will not be like what is happening now where, if you are corrupt, you run from the periphery to the ruling party then you will be set free, yes be saved. In fact, the most unsafe place will be near Mr President because the light will be so bright there.
The second thing is that you firmly, decisively and ruthlessly deal with anyone who is caught in corruption like they do in China. We will deal with anybody who is caught in corruption. We will not play games. We will be firm, decisive so that corruption will be punished, not celebrated like we do in Nigeria.
Somebody is corrupt but he is given chieftaincy title in the church or mosque, which is irresponsible. Core values and principles is the third thing because if you have good core values those can be your own police man. If are a good Muslim core values will be your police man, and if you are a good Christian, same would apply and a good Christian is the light of the world. So you don’t want to tarnish your name, a good name is better than gold. So core values are also powerful.
The sixth is technology that is the T: Education and human development. I come from that side of education. No country can develop without a technological base. We must have a science and technology kind of dominated education system. The 21st century is a knowledge based century.
It is not what you have but what you know that is critical. We will build rational and qualitative education science and technology infused so that you will have the teachers, facilities, labs and so on, so that Nigerian education can be one of the best. It used to be. I got my first degree in Nigeria before going to the University of Aberdeen and we excelled wherever we went. It can happen again.
The SWIFT was designed to answer the cry of Nigerians. I am delighted to be given the opportunity of being the presidential candidate because I have a message for Nigerians and over the years God has given me and Nigerians have given me the opportunity to share the message powerfully because we are mobilizers. We are articulated to speak to the people.
When you have a problem like this, you really must understand the root causes and get to the root not treating them on the surface. We have already in our researches understood the powerful root causes of Boko Haram. Secondly, once it is manifested in the force, in order to counter it, you must have what we call concentrated force and firepower. You don’t just joke around. You will have concentrated force and fire power.
The Nigerian army is now being dissipated and snaked down here and there. We should have concentrated force and firepower in the Northeast. We don’t have firepower anymore. Some of our soldiers are running away from Boko Haram because they don’t have the ammunition and firepower and facilities.
Believe me they don’t have the weapon to fight these fights. We intend to do that very soon. How are we going to do it? Very simple: with concentrated force and firepower, the soldiers won’t run away from Boko Haram. We are doing it wrongly.
The third reason current efforts are not succeeding is this and it is extremely painful there are vested interests, very powerful vested interests and that is very bad. That is weakening the whole thing. There are people within who are part of the processes of the Boko Haram and they don’t want it to die.
Corruption fighting back
Everywhere in the world, corruption fights back. That is why if you want to fight corruption, you have to be qualified to fight corruption. If you are in a glass house, you can’t throw stones. One of the things we will bring on board, by the grace of God, for over 40 years, we are incorruptible. I have been in and out of government and nobody can point at anything corrupt about me.
Those that are going to be involved in the fight against corruption must make sure they do their very best to be incorruptible. When a corrupt person knows that you are corrupt, he knows your secret, you can’t talk about fighting corruption, you will shut up.
Well in the context of corruption fight in Nigeria maybe the president alone is incorruptible. If you go beyond the president, beam a search light on those surrounding President Buhari they will run. If you doubt me, put it…..laughs
Exclusion from INEC list
Well, I am not excluded from INEC list of presidential candidate it is just that somehow some people disobeyed a court order, which is a very serious problem. The INEC was directed to drop the name of a candidate because he was parading himself as the SDP presidential candidate but the INEC has done its part. The party was given the same directive because seven directives were given. The INEC has fulfilled its own part, their own was to take that name off its list. The party was directed to bring forward my name and put it there.
However, somebody in the party, who is the national secretary and also the presidential running mate, has vested interest. He is not signing the papers to take to INEC. That is what in fact we hope somebody somewhere should implement the orders of the court.
The orders of the court are not for joke. He has vested interests and therefore has not signed my papers which will be taken to INEC but the court has given an order and INEC had said whatever the court orders them to do they will do. So I am already there it is just that INEC is not publishing it. This is because to publish it the court says it must be signed by the party and the acting national chairman has signed it as mandated to do but the national secretary who has vested interest is refusing to sign it.
What party will do
But the party is meeting. You just wait, they will be eruptions very soon.
Controversial electoral guidelines
My main appeal to the INEC is to offer Nigerians free, fair, credible electoral processes. Some of the things that have been identified, I agree with their observations, and INEC should listen to the people, listen to the reactions of the stakeholders and do what is right to make the election transparently credible. I hope they are listening, because it is not too late for them to correct any errors in the guidelines.
We have run elections before: the freest election in this country was when I was the chairman of MAMSER and we were mobilising and preparing the people. Prof Humphery Nwosu was the chairman of the then INEC and together we were mobilizing the people for that election. Together: Professor Nwosu and myself gave Nigerians the freest and the most credible election in Nigeria election ever. The INEC can do it and they should do it.
Capacity of INEC
We have a tremendous fear that they may not be willing to do it, but God save Nigeria if people go ahead to rig this election. With the kind of pressure that people are under, of insecurity, of poverty that people are living under, the hunger, clueless leadership, hopeless situation, when people are armed with their PVCs wishing to go to that election and vote now you deny them, God helps whoever dares that.
Why Nigerians should vote for me
We believe that we will offer a very credible opportunity. A leader must among many things have three critical qualities: the three Cs of politics. There must be capacity, courage and character. Character is the fact that you are incorruptible, somebody that can be trusted and you have tremendous integrity.
This is very important because people are able to trust a leader with character. Courage, especially in Nigeria, you must have the courage take decisions and not just wait. In Nigeria, many forces will be pulling you here and there and you must have the courage to say no, here we go and anybody who stands on the way will know that the train is coming.
Capacity is very important. Part of the problem you are seeing around is lack of capacity. We can’t get things done. Leaders must get things done. I thank God that I have tremendous knowledge of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. I have been given the opportunity to serve under the Directorate of Food and Rural Infrastructure, then MAMSER and for eight years I was going round. I know this country. I have been to different part of the country.
I have also attended many constitutional conferences where people debated key national issues. We know what people are asking for. There is tremendous knowledge: physically, intellectual, politically, socially, economically, so that we will hit the road running. Some people don’t know this country, there don’t even know what the people want.
I thank God that for the past 40 years I have been to every community in Nigeria. I know every nooks and crannies of this country. It is good for leaders to know that so no community can be neglected. I will be the one crying for your area because there is no major road in this country that I don’t know. Some people just fly to some cities in the country they don’t know what Nigerians are going through by road. I usually go by road to different cities in Nigeria.
If the Federal Republic of Nigeria wants to be at peace and for us to move forward, then we should listen to the people. There is need to restructure the country. In a situation like ours, where you have a complex nation with different ethnic groups, religious orientations, there are so much differences, then federation is the way forward so that the federating units can move and develop at their pace.
There is a kind of power at the local level to develop and take care of your own future. In a federation, you allow variety and that variety this momentum and they are happy and you know it. Some can even move with the speed of light, while some may be crawling but they are happy with it.
Secondly, there must be devolution of power. In a federation, the most powerful thing is that there must be hierarchy of functions. Some are at the base. What is the federal government doing with primary schools, primary healthcare centres? There should be dealing with very top things. If it must be in the area of health then it should be referral hospitals.
Devolution of power
In the history of Nigeria, at a stage, we had military rule for a long time and the nature of military governance, their organization is hierarchical, so things got sucked in from the areas to the centre. The centre is congested so we should decongest it. Three illustrations will suffice.
The first is security. Defense is national, security is local. You cannot stay here and secure people far away. You have to be present. Wherever you have a federation, you have a hierarchy even in the United States of America. There are states and federal police, even county police. In our own case with over 180m Nigerians, we are pretending to secure them with less than 400, 000 police. It is a joke.
When the SDP government comes on board, the Nigeria Police Force will be enlarged from what they have now to about 900,000 men. Some states will more than 25,000 police officers and some states that are metropolitan in nature, like Lagos, Kano and so on will need much more than 25,000 in an average. Nigeria is clearly under policed. We don’t have the manpower to police Nigeria now.
Worse-still, they don’t have the weaponry. They cannot even defend themselves, let alone defend you because you have not given them any weapon. In my team, I have a former Police Affairs minister and he has told us certain situations in the Nigeria Police Force that you will make you even pity the police. Some armed robbers use even more advanced weapons than the NPF.
So restructuring is not only in terms of politics, in terms of which federating unit suits Nigeria or is it federal and state, or federal and regions. We should agree. I love states and want to solidify, some people prefer regions. Let’s come to an agreement or consensus, implement and settle that. America, for example, settled for states. They have about 50 states, and they are now stable. We should also arrive at a decision and be stable.
The second question should be what function should be performed at what level?
Empower the federating units to function effectively. What are states doing coming to collect money from the centre? Why should that be the case?
Every state should be able to generate revenue and income and nobody should be able to take away that income. I come from Niger state, we have huge land resources. We have one of the best sugar factories in the whole West Africa and it is in conjunction with the private sector. Mr President was the one who came to commission it. I was the one that acquired the field I got a partner in flower mill. States should be strengthened and largely self-reliant not liabilities.