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Peter Obi, Tinubu, Atiku, Kwakwaso can’t fix Nigeria —  Ango Abdullahi


At least, four major presidential candidates have emerged. Who do you think can fix this country?

We still have not got the man who we think will fix Nigeria. What we have on the ground is not good enough.

Even Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress, APC, and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP?

How can you look at Tinubu and Atiku, and say they are the ones who will fix this country? They have been on the ground for the last 25, 30 years and so on. What have they done? What are we looking for? I was the one who encouraged a technocrat to join the consensus. You probably saw Dr Mohammed Hayatu Deen on the group of people going around looking for a consensus arrangement in the PDP. I was one of those who encouraged him. We haven’t got the materials on the ground, unfortunately.

Given what we have who would you ask Nigerians to vote for?

It is still not too late. Within the next seven months we can always fish out some people who will come and fix the country for us. We can.

Were you surprised that Tinubu emerged the candidate of APC?

Nothing should surprise me about Nigeria. It just shows you how bad things are.

So what factors did you think played a role for his emergence?

It is just the politicians who would just want to pick power easily if they have nothing to contribute to the country. It’s purely a connivance of politicians who sat down and said we want power and therefore, we should organise ourselves to see somebody who must get it.  That is what they have done in the two cases of Atiku and Tinubu.

We have a younger person in the race now and there is so much frenzy about him. So, what do you think is going to happen to Peter Obi?

 Peter Obi, unfortunately, I don’t know him that much. He is a young man. He was a governor of Anambra State and he is a businessman now but this is not the way to approach it. If we were really serious about the problem facing this country, the approach should not have been an issue of where are we going to put a president or who gets what, which section of the country gets what and so on.

The elders are at fault too because I have been talking to my peers, my colleagues. They know my feelings on some of these things that we haven’t done, what we are supposed to do. No matter how painful, the truth must always come out from elders. But the elders have relaxed themselves in the crowd of irresponsible political classes and they are just shouting like all the politicians are shouting during campaigns and so on.

So, there is a difference between the elders now and the politicians on ground as far as I am concerned. But what I thought the elders should do is to agree that this country needs real fixing and therefore, we should sit down and seriously look at all the issues and objectively, honestly, and truthfully agree that these are the issues facing Nigeria; not the issues facing North-East, North-West, North-Central, South-East, South-West or South-South.

What are the issues facing Nigeria? These are the responsibilities that elders should sit down and and agree that these are the problems and what are we going to do to solve them from the various fronts, political and so on.

So, by the time we agree to approach it this way, we won’t be talking of where the presidency should go or who will be the president. We will be talking about who is qualified to take it. There are so many people who will qualify but we have to take a decision as to why this one should do it at this particular point in time. But unfortunately, we got lost in emotions, tribalism, religious sentiments and so on and that is why we are where we are now and I can’t see how we are going to get out of this.

Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso is in the race too…

He is a good young man. He started his politics with us and he is quite smart. No doubt about it. Of course, he had some of these debts that he acquired or he must have picked in other political formations and so on but clearly he is one of the bright ones around. No doubt about that.

Would you advocate Obi-Kwankwaso ticket?

No. I am not going to advocate anything from a distance. Each time, before I make a pronouncement as to whether it is A, B, C or D I get all my information right. So far, I don’t have that kind of information that will make it possible for me to say this is a good pair to deal with the Nigerian crises because Nigeria is in crises.

This is something that we have to accept first: The Nigeria we have and want to keep because I assume that we want to keep Nigeria. We must sit down and say what’s wrong and this is the way to go about it. But the way we have gone about it with the kind of riff-raff politics is wrong. How you can say 750 people, one per local government will decide who will be the president of Nigeria? How? How can you say this is a democracy that is participatory?

That is the delegate system?

This is something that we have tried to avoid. The delegate system produces nothing but godfatherism, irresponsible mentorship and so on and so forth. We did not have participatory democracy. We have tried to say the INEC or National Assembly should introduce option A4 like we had in my days when I contested in the SDP and won in Kaduna. No matter how rich you are, you can’t go out and get N100 million, N20 million or N30 million. You can see the corruption. How can you pick a form for N100 million? For what, is it not outrageous selling nomination forms for N100 million?

I mean this is clear sign of irresponsible corruption because somebody whose total legitimate salary in four years, assuming he is president, will be, I think, N34 million. Why should you pick a form for N100 million and you are not even sure you are going to win the election? So, these are signs that the entire political system is corrupt and unless we go back to the drawing board and do the correct things that will make Nigerians participate in the process, we cannot ensure emergence of good candidates from the grassroots. How can you say it is only one person from my local government who can represent me to elect the president? How?

What do you think made seven aspirants to step down for Tinubu on the day of APC presidential primaries?

It is all corruption. The system is corrupt. That exercise is a reflection of the enormous corruption that is in our system. Corruption is not necessarily exchange of naira and kobo or dollar. Corruption means you are not telling the truth in your mind. You are not really judging things fairly and objectively and so on. If you are looking for a good man, how could you compare X and Y and you know that there is a difference between X and Y but you went to the wrong place? So, it is all part of corruption in the system and until we go back to the drawing board, I cannot see how we are going to get out of this mess.

Who do you think the North will queue behind- Atiku, Tinubu, Kwankwaso or Peter Obi? Will there be block votes from the North?

No, I wouldn’t know because I am not in the process. Block votes for what, and for who? If I had a position in terms of the quality of the party or candidate, I would have thrown my opinion in terms of yes we should vote this way or vote another way, then the issue of block voting or whatever voting perhaps will come to my mind. But as I told you I won’t throw my weight anywhere.

So you are not supporting anybody?

I am not supporting anybody out of what is on ground.

The Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, has been on strike for several months now. You were a VC of ABU at a time. How would you respond to this?

I was at one time the secretary of Nigeria Teachers Union. It wasn’t ASUU at the time but I was in the union activities years ago and I was also involved with ASUU when I was VC of ABU and when I was the chairman of the university council.

It is very sad that the universities are shutdown for a long time. And the fault is that of the government. Nobody says it is this government. This agreement was not signed by this government. It was signed by the previous government and the mistake was done by those who signed those agreements.

As a former VC, and former teacher, I couldn’t have appended my signature on the agreement the way it was.

It is very sad that the universities are closed but the fault should be shared between the government and university lecturers.

Let’s look at the economy. One dollar is exchanging for about N600 at the moment. How do we get out of this?

Let me tell you. It is a true story in which I was involved. In 1985/86, there was a debate in Nigeria about IMF loan and our colleagues in the universities; I remember in particular my friend, Bala Usman and others, argued against Nigeria taking IMF loan with the conditionalities that were attached.

The first demand from those conditions was that Nigeria should devalue its currency. And that particular time, One naira was equivalent to one dollar 40 cents, one naira, 20 kobo was equivalent to one pound sterling. Now when this devaluation started, it started at N5 to $1. I called a dinner in the VC’s lodge and the main people I called were from the social sciences – economists, sociologists, etc.

After the dinner, I jokingly said to them: ‘This food is not free, I wanted to ask you a question and that is why I set up this dinner. What is the meaning of this devaluation and what is the meaning of this structural adjustment programme? As a VC, I am expecting some answers from you. I am an agronomist. I am a farmer and that is why I called you economists to come and explain to me what is all this

 One professor of economics, a friend of mine, he is still alive, said, ‘professor, this process that has started, I will not tell you where it will end. I will only be able to tell you the beginning of almost total destruction of the Nigerian economic system starting with its currency.’

You remember I said one naira equalled to one dollar and 40 cents, at that particular time. Today, as we speak, I understand now that one dollar is about N600. Just try and imagine this in your mind. And you don’t produce anything in Nigeria to sell, except your crude oil, much of it which is stolen. You are not selling anything. You are not creating things for which you receive payment from outside but you buy virtually everything. Everything you see shining on the road today, it is imported. So you have to have all the naira that will translate into the dollar and then you go and buy whatever it is that you are buying. So, with this in your mind, if you are going to do the calculation correctly, you can almost reach the conclusion that your economy is down and only God knows when it will ever rise again.

Who will you vote, who are you voting for if I may ask you?

Why do I have to vote if I know that there isn’t a mechanic that will fix my car, my broken down car? Why should I bother myself?

If you are to advise Nigerians, what would you tell them?

What I will tell Nigerians is that we are in trouble and that the way to solve this is for Nigerians to agree that Nigeria is in trouble and that the machinery on ground today is not appropriate and we have to go back to the drawing board to see what we can do to save Nigeria.

I believe the politicians have failed. My belief is that the political class had over the years failed to produce the kind of quality leadership that we require to deal with the problems of Nigeria and which means that we should look for quality materials not necessarily within the mainstream political parties, from outside and there have been a lot of discussions in Nigeria recently about technocrats.

One of the things that I would have preferred is to search from array of technocrats and for Nigerians to agree that one of the technocrats can do it and therefore should be put on one of the political platforms for Nigerians to rally round and elect him. I believe that we have not had a good array of politicians. With due respect to some of them that one saw contesting I am not being selfish here by referring to certain people like Prof. Osinbajo. He is a quality material but the political system will not tolerate him.

On comments that by running against Tinubu, Osinbajo betrayed the trust, loyalty and the friendship of the former Governor of Lagos State

What has it got to do with what Nigeria wants? Is he a slave to the former governor? I don’t understand this kind of analogy. Professor Osinbajo is a human being entirely on his own merit and his accomplishments are entirely his own and people should assess him as such. Those who needed his services asked for his services. When he served as the attorney general of Lagos State, he was invited by the political system of Lagos State. This is the way I look at it and when he became vice president, I understand it was the president/party that identified him as qualified and competent enough to be the vice president in the current dispensation. And why shouldn’t he be because he served under XYZ?.