Published On: Sun, Jun 3rd, 2018

We must decentralise power to make progress – Buhari

Presidential aspirant, Mr. Ahmed Buhari has noted that Nigeria’s democracy is too top heavy and decentralisation has become necessary for progress. The 40-year old IT entrepreneur turned politician who stated this in an interview with Business Hallmark’s Okey Onyenweaku, Laolu Ayoola and Obinna Ezugwu, explains how he hopes to change the country’s fortunes if elected president. Excerpts:

 Apart from running an IT company, what other experiences do you have that makes you think that the job you are aiming at, you have what it takes to handle it?

A lot of people have talked to me and said things like, “You don’t have the relevant experience to run for an office of this magnitude.” “You have never been in politics, we would have wanted you to start from councilor or chairman of local government, House of Representatives or even Senate, and maybe then we can attest to your capacity to deliver.” What I say to these people is that the experience required for good leadership doesn’t have to be earned through a political process. It doesn’t matter what field of practice you are in, as long as you have the ability to be a good administrator you can deliver. What you need to have is integrity, competence, ability to learn and ability to work with teams. If you have all of these, there is nothing that will make you fail.

 Again, it’s important for us as a people to understand that any leader that says he has all the answers to all the problems we should be weary of him because even when he is wrong, he would insist that only his ideas should be followed.

 Although I trained as a geologist and worked in the oil field for a few years, I have a Masters Degree in International Trade and Marketing, another Masters Degree in Geography and Information Systems and Special Analysis; even though l have run a Telecom company for a number of years with a good number of staff, facing highs and lows, I think what is most important is my passion, my zeal, my competence and my track record. I believe Nigerians would like to see a person like me at the helm of affairs in the country.

 Why do you want to be a president in a country that is as complex as this?

 It’s not so complex. But bad leadership only made it complex. And it’s when we have a leadership that can prove that we are more of the same than different, that we can start having a progressive country. I will give an example. Today in Nigeria, we have a leadership problem and the major leadership problem we have is based on the fact that our people do not warm up to the person in the centre. We do remember when the Vice President was responsible for certain activities and I didn’t hear people identify him as a man from a particular ethnicity because what the people really want is inclusiveness. That’s why on this journey we have embarked on, there are two things we consider paramount if we have to succeed as a country. The first is to have a united country, which means that all of us must see one another as one people; as Nigerians.

 We would have to create that mindset that will make our people to see beyond ethnicity, religion, social status and gender, and start looking at how we can have people who can deliver by exploring our comparative economic advantages. Then, we need a secured country and we need to have a decentralised system of governance. If you want to call it restructuring, fine, but what I really want to see is that state governments start taking care of their own resources. So that when they fall short the people will know exactly who to hold responsible.

 I am aware that people want to know the plans we have for power, education, healthcare and so on, but what we say to them is that except you have proper data management system, we cannot have a plan; we cannot have a forecast. Every Nigerian should be identified so that by the time the government wants to provide basic amenities, it knows exactly how many people it is going to be catering for. For example, if you talk to the minister of interior today and ask him how many Nigerians exist, he tells you 170 million. You ask another minister, he tells you 200 million. Other people would say 180 million. These figures are about 20 to 30 million apart which is bigger than many countries in Europe.

 The point we are making therefore, is that except we have proper data, we will not be able to plan. That is why the budget we pass every year doesn’t make much impact on the people. For a start, we have to know the number of people who live in rural areas, so that if you are building a healthcare centre, you should be able to tell how many people it is meant to serve. If you are doing school feeding programme, you should be able to know how many pupils or students are in school. We have a country that doesn’t even know how many of her citizens died or were given birth to last month. All this we have to change. We will ensure that we have adequate figures so we can plan.

 You are a trained geologist; you are also an authority in ICT. When did you make the transition to politics?

 I have always liked challenges. I remember when I was about to go into science class in secondary school. I had a lot of teachers saying, “No, this guy should go to an art class or commercial class because we see the potential in him.” But at that time, every parent wanted to see their children become doctors, engineers and so on.  I was compelled to do sciences and I do like sciences because it exposed me to a lot of things.

 However, after I finished Geology, I went to do a Masters Degree in International Trade and Marketing. The reason I wanted to study International Trade was that I felt I was too much of a science kid and needed to create a balance in how I reason, in how I look at things. When I read International Trade and Marketing, it actually opened my horizon to other kinds of things and people. That is how I have worked. If you look at it properly, you will see that even at some point after I started working as a geologist – from geology, I moved to the Telecom – at a point I got really bored, I wanted to do something different. That’s when I prepared myself to run an IT company. We have run this company with over 50-man staff strength.

 At the time we started our IT company in Lagos we became the centre of attention because at that time, we were coming with things like the Kids Can Code programme where we encourage children to embrace ICT. We started having coding for people with special abilities. So, in this hall, we had people who had different challenges: the albinos, the blind, the deaf, the cripple and so on. Because we felt they were people who needed other forms of business streams that didn’t necessarily have to compel them to travel from point A to point B, because obviously, they can’t travel far. We took it up to show them other things they can do; things they can create to earn a living. We were inviting kids from all over the country to come here and learn. These are the things I have been doing, and for me, it has been so exciting.

 You are a young professional who I reckon may not have a lot of money. How do you think you can cope in a terrain that is capital intensive?

 When I started this journey on October 1, 2016, this question came up. We asked ourselves, “How were we going to do this when it’s obvious we don’t have the kind of money required?” But we embarked on sensitisation programmes, going to school, talking to young people; to people who have lost hope to tell them that look, if Nigerians are not prepared to pay for the kind of democracy they deserve, they will be paid for the kind of democracy that they get. This means that if as Nigerians, we are not ready to sacrifice, we will keep getting the wrong people.

 I’m glad that a lot of people are buying into our vision. I have had friends in the Diaspora call me to ask how we are going about it and how they can make financial contributions. They understand that the only way a leader can be accountable to the people is when they are the ones that got you into office.

 If five people support you, you will be interested in how to give contract to them alone, and you won’t care whether they execute those contracts or not because at the end of the day, they will be more concerned about recovering their money. But if 100 million people support you, you have no choice but to do well so that all can benefit. The important thing here is for Nigerians to start waking up and start thinking differently. It’s same with the entire black race, we cannot keep complaining about how the white man came here to pillage our resources, we have to take up the challenge of developing our continent. We must start liking one another; we have to stop striving to travel to other people’s countries but to see how we can make our countries better. And the only way we can do that is to have a united front that would enthrone good governance and efficiency in governance.

 In terms of where the resources are going to come from, so far, we have been able to get resources from people who truly want to see this happen; young people like myself who call to say, “I’m gonna send you N5,000, I’m gonna send you N10,00.” What we did was to create structures across the 36 states, including Abuja and the Diaspora. That way, it is easy for us to move from point A to point B. We don’t keep a big bus or an airplane. We go by our local buses to meet people. But I have to admit that this is not easy and will take a lot of time. We have to sensitise the people, to make them understand that there is a new order and except we embrace this new order, we are going to remain the same way.

 What kind of campaign strategy are you going to use to achieve this enormous task: Door to door?

 I think Nigerians want something new to happen, that, I can assure you. I have been to all the states in the country; I have met with so many people in a very short time. And one thing I can say for sure is that everybody wants something to happen. One of the biggest distractions we are going to have in this 2019 election is the fact that we have over 68 political parties right now, and it’s a huge distraction. Within those existing political parties, the one that we believe has the structure and grassroots presence, we would have to stop shying away from them. I have heard people say, “Give this party or that party red card. We don’t want them anymore.”

 But that’s not the right way to go and by the way, most of the people in the grassroots are still in support of these parties. Can’t we go into these political parties and own their structures as long as we are going in our numbers and with our conviction? I can assure you that some members of those parties are tired of how they are being run. What I’m saying to Nigerians, and young people especially, is that it doesn’t matter which political party as long as your ideology is right. So yes, we are going to go into some of those big parties to let them know that things must change.

 You are an ICT person, what’s your stand on electronic voting? Again, in a country with such high unemployment rate, how do you hope to tackle the challenge?

 I will start with the first question, which is electronic voting. There is no way I’m not going to support technology, it is the answer to our problems. When we started this sensitisation exercise, I remember we visited Akure in November 2016, and I had a town hall meeting with a few people. I was speaking about data and how I think it can help us to succeed. Then, somebody who is a lecturer with a polytechnic came up the stage to ask questions.

 And this is the most disappointing part, he is a lecturer, he looked like he was less than 50, but the question he asked me was, “You have been talking about this computer and data, we don’t want this kind of life, we want somebody that can have human feelings; somebody that is going to be present to hold us and embrace us.” I said to him, “With a people that are over 100 million, you cannot shake everybody; you cannot embrace everybody. What you can give them is a system that is going to recognize them so that when you click on a button, their lives would be touched.”

 Electronic voting is the only way out. And the only people that are going to frustrate it is the system itself, whether it’s going to be the electoral body or the politicians because they fear they might lose. Apart from electronic voting, I’m also thinking about how we can make it possible for those in the Diaspora to vote. But you cannot do any of these things if you don’t even know how many Nigerians exist. So the first thing is, let people get their PVCs first.

 With respect to the youths, in the last two years we have met as many important people in the society as possible and one thing we tell them is, “If you don’t allow responsibility to be transferred from one generation to the next at the right time, you will create a vacuum. And when you create this vacuum, anything can fill it up. It could be Boko Haram, it could be herdsmen, it could be kidnappers, it could be baby factories; it could be yahoo boys… just anything.”

 The reason is that the people on the other side are losing hope. If I’m a secondary school student, the only reason I will go to the university is because I believe that when I do, I will get a job. And the reason I will be looking to get a job is that I know that when I get a job, I will get paid, and I will take care of myself. But when those things don’t happen, and you see yahoo boys making a lot of money and being celebrated in the society, you lose the incentive to go to school. The system is not flowing, there is a vacuum. And our job will be to make the system flow.

 The topic of the day is restructuring. What is your view? Do you support it; will you restructure Nigeria if you are elected president?

 I have said that we need three things: first is a united country where people can work together regardless of ethnicity, religion or social status; second is a country that is secure; then I said we want a country that is totally decentralised. And when we talk about decentralisation, we are talking about restructuring. We think that the centre is holding too much and it is breaking. We think that this arrangement where we have to get all our resources, send it to the centre and the centre decides how to share it is not working. We think that every state should start thinking of how to run its own business, leveraging on its own comparative advantage. But we have to educate ourselves properly. There is this notion that people in the North do not want restructuring because they feel they will lose out. We have a duty to make them understand that at a point in this country, the North survived economically.

 People need to understand that this country can be built with proceeds from agriculture. We cannot be saying we want to diversify the economy and at the same time, be spending billions of Naira to look for oil in the Lake Chad; at a time when we know that the oil economy is passing away. Till today, nobody has given us any report on what was found. What we are saying is that the North has great potential in agriculture and we can leverage on the entire value chain. Imagine the amount of jobs that will be created across the entire value chain.

 The North will survive. As a matter of fact, the people of South south with their oil, will come and invest in some of the plants in the North. And this is where the comparative advantage will come in. We have to stop looking at ourselves as a geographic entity but as an economic entity, which is why the 1914 amalgamation took place. The British saw that there are things these people can bring together for their own benefits. But as soon the British left, we started dividing ourselves on the basis of geography, ethnicity and religion and it has not helped us.

 We can have a country where we will begin to have mutual benefits. Take for instance, the issue of herdsmen that keep moving down South and the whole discussion have changed to Islamisation instead of economic issues. These guys come down South for these reasons: First is to get water and grass. Second is to get a market. There is more market for livestock in the Southern part of this country than in the North. So, as an Igbo man, I can say to myself, “Who says only Fulani people can do this cattle business?” As a state governor, I can decide to create ranches for cows and tax cattle owners. So that my government can decide to get the skins of these cows and send to Aba for processing into leather shoes, bags and so on.

 This is a country with over 200 million cattle, but we still import milk. This is the way we should start thinking, not on religious grounds but on economic grounds. Who says the Fulani are on religious rampage? I don’t think so, I think they just want to survive. We have to get to the root cause, to know why the herdsmen kill people when they pass these places, if they are the ones killing people.

 In the last six or seven years, most of us have been asked to go back to farmlands. There is hardly anybody you see today that doesn’t have one small land he is cultivating. So, all of those places that the cows normally move on a normal day to the South are now farm lands. People have invested in those farms and would have to fight when the farms are destroyed by the cattle. And in in trying to fight them, the cattle herders would have to fight back because they have their cattle and their businesses to protect. What I expect the country to do is to enlighten people on both sides because the ECOWAS treaty that allows for free movement of people across the whole West Africa allows the cattle breeders to pass through these areas. But these areas are no more virgin lands. I would suggest we get them ranches and let them know that they can actually make more money from it.

 Are you worried that this government is not able to tackle this security challenge? What will you do differently? 

 Yes, it is a security challenge and the way I have studied it, I think it has a lot to do with immigration problem; an immigration problem that has gone out of hand. We have to eradicate this notion that certain people are orchestrating what is going on, I don’t think so. If we have to have a country that is secure, we have to leverage on our economic advantages. Security is one of our major issues, but we can’t do anything about it if we don’t have proper data system. If you go out to the street of Yaba and stop ten ‘okada’ riders, take a sample, I can bet you, eight of them are non Nigerians. But who knows them? Who has identified them?

 Go to Lekki, take a random street, do a survey, find out the nationality of the security men in the houses there. The only houses you find Nigerians securing are houses that have uniform security men. The rest of them are non Nigerians. If this is not a security threat, then what is it? This is part of the problem. So, whether it is herdsmen or Boko Haram or kidnappers, the only way we can start managing these problems is when we have a data system that identifies all of us. So that when someone is trying to board s bus from Ikorodu to VI, and he doesn’t have a Nigerian number, you can say those who have the Nigerian number should pay N200 and those who don’t should pay N2000. That way, the system will squeeze out those who are not Nigerians. When you go into the streets, and you find out people who cannot identify themselves, you take them to Immigration Service.

 These are long term solutions. We are talking about an immediate security challenge. Communities are on the verge of being wiped out. Again, you have tried to suggest that the herdsmen crisis an economic, which is true. But what we see is that these herdsmen invade communities, kill people, sack dwellers and destroy properties. What will you do in the immediate to check this?

 So, do you think it’s the herdsmen that are responsible for those attacks? We don’t know. We don’t know who are even doing these killings. That is why I’m suggesting that the the first thing to do is to get the Fulani men off the road. Let’s know what we are dealing with. What we are saying is, except we embrace this ranching, we may not know how to tackle the challenge.

 These killings may not be perpetrated by these people called Fulani. They may just be perpetrated by some militias, who in my opinion, are fighting a cause we may not know yet. The security agencies must do more on intelligence gathering because we might just be under attack. So, if I am the governor of say, Lagos State which seems to be getting it’s security right, I would call on the governor of Benue State and say, “What is the problem? How can I help you?” If we don’t think that way, these things will escalate and in the process, we will start thinking in the direction we shouldn’t be thinking.

 I have heard people say because the president is from a particular ethnicity, he doesn’t want to tackle the challenge. I don’t think so. These killers have attacked places like Zamfara and Kebbi, so it’s a general problem. And it brings me back to the issue of decentralisation because I don’t see how Mr. Okoro is going to be a fantastic police officer in Sokoto State. I still think Mr. Salihu who is from Sokoto will be a better commissioner of police in Sokoto because he understands the people and the terrain.

 Can we have three strategic items in your manifesto you think can change Nigeria?

 When I said a united country, I’m not joking about it. Some people think it’s vague; some people think it can’t happen, but one reason we don’t seem to have it is that we keep agreeing that we will keep rotating the presidency to different regions. And anytime one region is having it, the other region just won’t be part of the system. So, it’s only when you have a government that can carry everybody along that we can start making progress. That’s one. Then, people must be secure. I talked about decentralisation, except we bring the government close in such a way that the people know who to hold accountable, we won’t get it right.

 But more than anything else, we have to find out how to grow our economy because at the end of the day, if we all have food in our bellies, we won’t have any reason to fight. So, we have to create avenues through which we can leverage on our comparative economic advantages.

© 2018, Hallmarknews. All rights reserved. Reference and link to this site is required if you wish to reuse any article.

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  1. Abbas says:

    This is visionary leader. Let’s get it right now.
    The future is in our hands.
    Ahmed Bee let’s go there…

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