Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim is one of the Presidential aspirants on the platform of the Alliance for New Nigeria (ANN), a party composed mainly of technocrats and professionals.
In this interview with BODE OLAGOKE, he speaks on why he dumped the PDP, what ANN is doing differently and why the APC has demonstrated lack of capacity to run a united Nigeria
What is it about the PDP that is so objectionable to you that made you dump that platform? I left PDP in November 2006 about 12 years ago.
I had issues at that time with the PDP and I think the party now is worse than then.
The issues we had were issues of internal democracy and the standards were even pretty high in terms of values and we even questioned those standards then that they were not adequate.
So, you can imagine what it has become now.
I think it’s pretty worse now than when we formed the party.
We started with issues of internal democracy right from around year 2000 and 2001, when some of our colleagues in the National Working Committee (NWC) wanted automatic extension of their tenure from two years to four years.
Late Harry Marshal, I, and others challenged it, even though we were supposed to be beneficiaries of that extension.
We felt it was objectionable.
We had just come from military dictatorship and coming into democracy, we were not supposed to be conducting ourselves with impunity.
So, that was the fight then around 2000, almost two decades ago now.
Then, by 2006, it was clear that the party was not ready to reform itself and a lot of people exited the party including the founders of the party that made victory possible.
That was why you saw that the 2007 election was perhaps the worst election that Nigeria ever had.
2007 election was like warfare because they had lost support of most of the members that made victory possible.
Some of these people who became Governors in that era on the PDP platform didn’t really win elections.
Some of them afterwards continued their careers and transformed themselves to Senators and all that.
So, the perfidy did not just start today.
The perfidy started from that era and of course it began to go from bad to worst.
Are you not generalising the situation? All these things have consequences – when you turn out leaders who do not have political tutelage, no ideological training.
So, they just come into public office and just behave like rascals.
That’s what you had in the PDP and of course, the APC that succeeded PDP is not any different.
In fact, it’s the worst because they are not even a political party.
It was just a conspiracy to remove (Goodluck) Jonathan out of office and as soon as they came, they were confused.
They were completely confused about how to approach the economy, how to approach politics and they were running a disorganized government.
The National Assembly under the APC government was a different party entirely from those in the Executive and they were perennially at war from beginning to the end of that government.
So, they were worse than even the PDP.
I’m still trying to situate your name as it used to be known when you were in the PDP and what you are known as now and also it appears your home State then has changed from what you have today.
Today, you are contesting from the FCT why the transformation? That’s the Nigeria I want.
That’s the Nigeria the Alliance for New Nigeria (ANN) wants.
I‘ve lived in Abuja at least for a while, doing business for more than twenty something years.
So, you shouldn’t have a problem with Mrs.
Clinton doing politics and then going back to New York to contest for Senate, or in Nigeria, (Governor Rauf) Aregbesola moving from Lagos.
So, this is not the first time we are having this type of thing.
The country we want to build is the country where your regional descent should not define you politically.
In my case, of course, I have heritage in about three States and apart from that, I have lived abroad for about 10 years of my life.
So, I’m completely a cosmopolitan person and we have a lot of Nigerians having dual citizenship.
I don’t have dual citizenship.
I have only the Nigerian passport.
I’ve had the opportunity of taking citizenship of other countries but I had never done that.
What I’m saying is that you have people who were born abroad who could even contest to become British Prime Minister.
So, why should that be a big issue in Nigeria? I think what we have now is a complete degeneracy in our polity in this era.
The founding fathers of our Republic were more progressive and more forward looking, whether they were from the North or West or from wherever.
They were more nationalistic and more patriotic.
It beats my imagination that the younger generation who claims to be more educated and more exposed, are regressing into clannishness which wasn’t even the case in the First Republic.
So, we need to take Nigeria back to those values that gave Nigeria independence; a Nigeria where an Igala man can become the Mayor of Enugu and Enugu people will have no qualms about it.
How is your party planning to get to number one from the perceived number three positions it is now? The two horses are on their way to death already.
They are bleeding very horribly.
They are both APC and PDP.
One thing that is interesting is that you have almost 10 million voters who are going to be voting for the first time in Nigeria.
Most of them are not followers of these two horses you are talking about.
In fact, they are the crop of people who ordinarily were not showing interest in politics, who are incensed by the shenanigans of those two major parties, that they don’t want to vote for either of these parties.
These are the first line of support for the ANN.
In a three-way race, if you start with 70 percent of that vote, you are already halfway through and you can do your research.
These ones are unlikely to vote for PDP or APC.
So, that is the starting point.
But the ANN is offering a ray of hope for the peoples.
What is this programme or the ideology of the ANN that you profess? Number one, you will see that majority of the people in ANN are people who have something they are doing with their hands.
They are not professional politicians who live on politics.
The party believes in productive engagement.
That is number one and consequently, the focus of the party is not to distribute handouts, but to make sure that we have sustainable employment that is tied to industry, that is tied to manufacturing.
Job is central to that.
Creative people who are utilizing their creative energy to make value for society is central to that.
These are the kinds of people you want to encourage in politics.
They are the kinds of people you want to use your political platform to empower.
Then we want a Nigeria that is not going to be driven on the basis of ethnicity or religious bigotry.
We want a Nigeria where merit will determine a lot of things that will drive the values that society runs on.
These are things that are quite different.
That’s not what you see in the two biggest parties in Nigeria.
Anytime they are talking, it’s about zoning; it’s about whether the President is going to be from the South or from the East and all that.
That is the conversation all the time.
There is no serious focus on how do we grow infrastructure.
There is no conversation on how do we create jobs.
There is no conversation on how do we expand the GDP and the economy.
That’s not the conversation.
Their conversation is who is leaving the PDP tomorrow for APC; what is the next permutation.
That is all the conversation and that is nonsense, bunkum.
Nigeria’s conversation about politics should be about jobs, about economy and that is when people cannot escape responsibilities.
But when you make the conversation all about religion and all that, these are inanities and lot of people can run away with a lot of things How can your party match the level of vote buying we have seen in recent elections? That is a job for all of us, including the media.
But the level of poverty in the country encourages it.
I also think that those who have stolen a lot of money from government also encourage it.
So, once you demarket certain categories of people and that is the job of all of us, I think the vote buying will reduce, especially de-marketing them by making the election about issues.
But when the choices are not very sharp, or when the differences in the political platform are not clear, then the electorate will say they are the same; why should I choose one over the other, except the one that offers me something because there is no difference between APC and PDP.
Tell me why anybody should prefer PDP to APC? There is no reason to be honest with you.
So, that’s an incentive for vote buying, when there is no difference between the political parties.
But when there is a clear difference, I think the scope of vote buying will become narrower.
Specifically, why do you want to be President? I can put Nigeria back together.
Nigeria is badly divided and it needs a unifier and a bridge builder.
Secondly, Nigeria’s economy needs to be rescued from complete collapse.
Even the growth rate of 7 percent that we have for about 15 years until 2015 was not a good enough number to grow Nigeria out of poverty.
We needed our GDP to expand sevenfold to be able to be at par with the countries that were in the same rank as Nigeria’s like Malaysia at independence.
We want to evolve a middle income country, having per capita income of between $16,000 to around $25,000 and if we are going to be at that level, we need to grow within ten years, our GDP by sevenfold.
I understand how the modern economy is organized and I’m an investor myself in different countries and I have done business for 27 years.
So, I have practical understanding of how to expand our GDP and grow our economy, as one who is on top of both economy, practically and theoretically.
There are very few people in Nigeria who have the privilege of having strong level of political training and also sound economics and that’s important for Nigeria.
We have to unite the country and at the same time, we have to deal with the economic challenges.
So, they are twin issues and in fact they are related.
As Tiv traditional marriage rites bow to reforms…
DANIEL AGBO examines the implications of reducing cost of marriage in Tiv land, in Benue state, being one of the steps towards reforming the age-long Tiv traditional marriage ceremonies, recently approved by the Tiv Area Traditional Council
Jubilation greet reduced bride price Recently, the Tiv Area Traditional Council reduced the cost of marriage in Tiv land which hitherto was making it almost impossible for young men intending to marry pay bride price or dowry for their potential wives.
The decision in the reduction of the tradition marriage costs which was announced by Tiv Area Traditional Council at the Ijir Tamen (Tiv Supreme Council), was received with great jubilation by both potential husbands and wives.
To many, the monster which formed a stumbling block in their Marriage rights was now out of the way.
Traditional marriage in Tiv Traditional marriage in Tiv, Benue State had become one of the richest ceremonies in the country.
Way back in the days before it was taken over by modern marriage arrangements, traditional marriage in Tiv land was fun.
For an intending groom, his parents or relations after spotting bride, the bride will encourage them to enter into courtship.
After the groom’s first visit with few of his family members to his suitors/ in-law’s place, he was then expected to come back officially for proper introduction.
But while coming back at this time with his people he was expected to come along with drinks, bags of salt and bush meat if the bride’s family request for that.
At the introduction, both families choses a date for the traditional marriage rites and then the groom’s family is provided with the full list of items to be provided for the marriage.
For the father of the bride, the groom was expected to provide, Azenga (cowries) Nembe Taava, (local Tobacco) Matches, local gin or cartons or beer, not more than six cartons, a live goat and some money, which is usually meant for the replacement of the drinks in case it finishes soon and dowry.
For the mother, the groom’s family was expected to bring items such as, a small size She goat, rope, peg and a piece of wrapper (with peg and rope usually provided in cash).
Other items included, salt measuring pan, bowl, local chair and table made with palm fronds which the mother will sit on and share the salt and a live pig earlier given with Iwyuhe (fellow women in the extended family.
Some of the items also included umbrella and soft drinks.
Flexible Rites These rites were usually made flexible and some items could be negotiated to give soft landing to the groom, most especially considering that he was becoming a member of the family.
When the traditional marrige rites were fully done with, the bride would be called by her family and handed over to the groom and his family, as a wife.
After this the youths of the bride’s family, usually referred to Asua, (noisy bird) come to demand some money from the groom which he may find one way or the other to dodge or give them whatever he feels like; mere protocols, at times! Kwase Kuhwam When the traditional rites are done with and fully observed, the groom’s family take their wife home and celebrate the new wife with traditional music/dance.
This process is called “kwase kuhwam.” These were just few basic requirements for marrying a Tiv lady.
Though with a rich tradition, their simple ways of life often go a long way in making the otherwise expensive requirements look so simple and easy to fulfill.
Not to be overlooked also, was the flexibility of marrying a Tiv woman.
Most of their items on the list were negotiable and could be substituted with money easily.
Marriage rites as monster But marriage rites later metamorphosed into a monster and was scaring young men intending to marry because of the huge marriage costs charged by parents of the bride.
Most girls had to elope with their suitors to unknown destination only weeks or even months after, for the groom’s parent to approach the girls’ parents to inform them not to look for their daughters that they were with their sons.
Most families after subjecting the grooms through other necessary rites and providing all requirements on the list for the traditional marriage rites would still charge exorbitant amount as much as between five hundred thousand naira (N500,000) to one million naira (N1,000,000) The situation became worse that some parents added the school fees they paid on their daughters and asked the grooms to refund it, before they would allow them marry their girls.
The core Tiv traditional rites were twisted and other rites jettisoned by some families to suit their selfish interest.
The groom and his family were also made to celebrate and conduct a dance party for the new wife ( Kwase U Kuhan) in the pride father’s home and to go through expensive celebrations.
Implications These brought a lot of hardship to the couples as they begin a family and sometimes resulted to break in marriage as the husband could not again carter for the new family because he had exhausted almost everything in the expensive marriage ceremony.
Most young men became scared of marriage, some were humiliated and other were forced to elope with their lovers.
Marriage in Tiv land became an expensive ceremony, as only the rich grooms could afford payment of bride price.
Payment of dowry almost became a life time issue for those who could afford 70 percent of demands of the girls’ parents.
It was enslaving.
The marriage ceremony also became disorganised with different families charging different fees as dowry on their daughters.
However, with the downward review of bride price in Tiv land to N100, 000 many potential husbands and wives have been excited.
New era marriage Based on the pronouncement of the Tiv Traditional Council, led by the Tor Tiv V, Professor James Ayatse, love should be the primary issue between the families concerned in marriage discussion and transaction but not money.
According to the Tiv Council, total expenses on marriage including dowry or bride price (kem kwase) and sundry costs (Azaan a kwase) which at the moment vary from one community or family to another should not exceed One hundred thousand Naira (N100,000.00) in Tivland.
The rule guiding marriage rites also said, traditional marriage ceremony where bride price is to be paid shall involve only the elders of the two families concerned.
It also stipulated that the practice of inviting and bringing large numbers of friends and well-wishers to the occasion was alien to Tiv tradition and is “hereby abolished.” “The practice of holding festivities in the house of the girl’s parents popularly known as Traditional Marriage involving cutting of cake, dances, parties should be discontinued as it is alien to the Tiv way of life.
“Celebration of a new wife is done by the Tiv People only in the husband’s house.
“Tiv culture places emphasis on parental consent and blessing before marriage.
“Elopement is a violation of this but when it occurs there are traditional steps accepted to get parental consent.
“The groom’s family should, immediately report the elopement to the family of the bride within two (2) days.
“At the first visit of the bride’s family there should be payment to them of: Ihira tsuwan not more than two thousand Naira (2,000.00); “Entertainment including ikyegh i wonov (a cock), drinks and a sum of money commensurate to any lost items alleged to have been in the bride’s care; and a reasonable amount of money for transport.
“Tiv girls to be given out in marriage must attain the age of Eighteen (18) years and above.
“Violation of this marriage tradition shall attract boycott by traditional rulers and elders and the denial of traditional marriage registration, including other traditional sanctions as the community may deem appropriate” the rule reads.
Observers’ comments Commenting on the development Mr Aondofa Ikpanor commended the Tor Tiv Professor James Ayatse and the Tiv traditional council for the wonderful reforms, which he said would go a long way in curbing the hardship being experienced by young men intending to marry.
He said, the situation was also contributing to under development of the Tiv land and forcing young men and women of marriage age to stay home longer than necessary.
“I am married already but I know what I passed through when I went to pay on the head of my wife.
“The pig I brought to my wife’s family was rejected.
They brought a woman to measure its height and insisted that if the pig does not reach the rated height they will not accept it.
Only the pig I brought gulped one hundred and twenty thousand naira (N120,000).
“After the whole show, I and my wife almost couldn’t feed ourselves.
For almost a year, we struggled to survive”.
Miss Dooshima Anum in her reaction to the review of traditional marriage cost said expressed joy over the development, adding that it was becoming difficult for young men to ask their hands in marriage.
“I am approaching thirty years now and I am still unmarried and living with my parents.
“They wake up every day and see me as a liability.
The first young man that came close to marrying me after receiving the list of items refused to come back.
“I am happy that the Tor Tiv has now thought it wise to review the cost of marriage.
“More men and women will marry now.”It is my hope that the implementation will be strict and everybody will abide by the law,” she said.