Umma Getso was the running mate to Prof Kingsley Moghalu, presidential candidate of the Young Progressives Party (YPP) in the 2019 election. The vibrant, female political activist and business entrepreneur who co-founded the National Progressive Movement (NPM) says she is disappointed with the kind of lackluster leadership being provided by the President Mohammadu Buhari-led APC government.
She is worried about the way insecurity has taken over the land while the government is looking the other way. She is also upset at the conduct of the 2019 elections, insisting that “it is the worst election ever in Nigeria since I have been following election conduct.”
She is equally angry with so many things about Nigeria, which you will find revealing. She did not stop complaining but offered useful solutions that will salvage the system. Excerpt:
What is your random thought on the last election?
We have witnessed a lot of elections in Nigeria, I have also followed elections since I was in Primary Six (during the NRC, SPD era). I have always been current politically, but the 2019 election is the worst election I have ever seen or witnessed in Nigeria. That is why I told you there is nothing different between the APC and PDP. There is never a time that money politics was truly in display and I think all over the world (because I have made some findings) to buy seats the way it is in Nigeria. The money took charge in the 2019 election. The APC believed and was afraid that Atiku will bring out money so they were ready to do anything with money and they did, adding intimidation through militarization. Politicians were buying the votes, buying ballot boxes, buying the INEC staff, buying security personnel, etc; 2019 does not reflect the choice of Nigerians, but all about money.
How do you see the state of insecurity in the North?
It’s frightening, but it’s not in the North alone because it started all over the country, but now it’s becoming more and more terrible in the northern part of the country. But if one may ask: what is the current administration doing proactively to salvage the situation. I say this because former President Goodluck Jonathan failed because people felt Buhari’s presidency will guarantee better security. The current administration said Jonathan was weak in security, but what we have today has doubled or even tripled what happened during Jonathan. During Jonathan, we were only battling with the Boko Haram menace, but today we have things that are more deadly than Boko Haram. Imagine what is happening today in the only busiest major road that is linking the North and South, that is, the Kaduna-Abuja road. That route has now become a dead zone; you cannot travel by the road or even by the train. It is only when the prominent people are on board that is when you will see an helicopter flying to escort them to Kaduna. Even from Kaduna, Zaria to Kano there is so much robbery. The road has now become very bad that traveling through it is hellish. I was coming back from Kano recently you need to see how the airport is looking like Nyanya bus-stop because people were fighting for tickets; so the insecurity challenge is really crippling the economy of this nation and if we continue like this for one year definitely, this country will melt and go down, especially the northern part of this country, economically and otherwise. Even we that are from the North, we are tired of going back to our places, something very terrible happened recently in Kaduna, people were even kidnapped in their own homes, so nobody is secured, nobody is safe. It is only the people in power that are enjoying security. We pride ourself as the giant of Africa and people cannot move around even within Abuja, it’s a shame. Imagine what we budget on security in this country and see what is happening. This is what brought President Buhari into power, i.e., the security issue and we have thought it will go down, but it is rising by the day. I don’t even know why the president is so quiet, why he is so silent. In fact, I don’t know where this country is heading to because if the president of a country cannot protect the lives and property of the citizens, I don’t think such a president should continue to rule this country. The irony is that during the Abuja Airport renovation the road from Abuja to Kaduna was fully secured and people were moving freely, there was enough personnel, so why is it not secured now? It is very annoying because the government needs to do something drastic about it. Some people say it’s better there is corruption than not to have security and be enmeshed in insecurity and be killed. I think I believe them given our own case. It is only a person that is living could be thinking about corruption. If everybody is dead as a result of insecurity who will you govern? Whom will you be chasing around for your corruption crusade? Let’s do first thing first: tackle insecurity because without it there is no meaning to your government. Let’s be secured first before any other thing.
Do you think that if more jobs are created and more people getting engaged could take care of this monster?
To be candid, I don’t think it’s all about unemployment. There is more to this. I know the unemployment rate has increased, but If you can remember during the time of the past administration there were job challenges, but people did not take this kidnapping and killing of people as business the way it is now, at least there was security and the personnel were at alert, they know what they were doing. Whoever that is the Commander-in-Chief of the Federation is supposed to ensure that things are happening, that lives are safe, do reshuffling of cabinet. But here the security chiefs are so redundant and are not doing anything because there is no task given to them. Look at what has been happening and there is no radical change, no upgrade that will produce a result. There is nothing happening. It’s just that we have money budgeted and nothing is happening, we don’t know where the money is going into. If a country like ours cannot tackle what we are facing, this tiny challenge when compared to a war, how can you then fight a war in case if there is any advance from anywhere? Anybody can kidnap any person you want to and ask for ransom and still go free. It is that bad. I never imagined this can happen under Buhari’s presidency, it’s just a disappointment.
So, you think the insecurity challenge also triggered the woes in the economy?
If you look at the economy of this country and you look at the last administration that we were shouting did not do as expected, I remember there was a time we were tagged the best economy in Africa and really the economy was growing, but now if you look at the way things are going we are sinking by the day, becoming the poverty capital. What is also most annoying today is that though we are sinking by the day people don’t want to say that this government is not working. We have to understand that this government has not been working, has never worked and is not working and Nigerians need to get up and do something, believe in themselves that this is not what they want, we are more than this and should not be settling for the very less. This government before they assumed office said subsidy was a scam, but today, they are paying almost three times of what the previous administration was paying. Even with the increase in the petroleum product price we do not seem to get anything better. And they are still paying. Why are people not asking this government questions? We need to demand an explanation to know what actually is happening there because we expect improvement. I tell people that this government is a government that people invested so much in and brought them into power. We saw this government as that of a common man and Nigerians celebrated its victory in 2015, so we are expecting a result. We expect them to account for what they are doing. So, if a government like this that people so much believe in and things are just melting, getting worse by the day in front of our eyes and we can’t do anything, it means there is something wrong. It means the country is not working, so we must face the reality rather than this deception we are witnessing.
Some say the president is being held hostage at Aso Rock…?
(Cuts in) But he said he is a patriotic Nigerian and that was what brought him to power, people believed so much in him that he is transparent and has integrity, but I always tell people that integrity is not enough to rule a nation. Secondly, if he is patriotic enough, he has family members around him, he should tell us, (I know that the wife has been talking) that he is not fit to govern this country. If he knows he is not in control then he should find a medium to tell Nigerians that he is not in-charge rather than the party (APC) making a lot of noise. We thought he is the saviour and I did my little best to support him in 2015 because I was all out to ensure that he wins. But after his birthday when he won that election, I discovered Buhari is not here to save Nigeria, he is just here to be called a president, just by name, but not to solve the problems and bring solutions. I remember he said that he has achieved his ambition by becoming the president, so that is his dream? To just be the president without solving Nigeria’s problems, it’s sad. He just wanted to parade himself in Aso Rock. We need leaders that truly believe in what we are doing to get this country working again.
Do you think that restructuring this country can proffer a solution since we are not running true federalism?
We need it. If we don’t restructure this country, why do you think we are having this kidnapping? One side cannot be funding the country while resources abound everywhere in Nigeria? A whole country cannot be relying on petroleum and you think the country will work. If the people of Zamfara, for instance, know that the resources in the state belong to them and will be used for the development of the state things will not be the way it is. It is the same in other states. Without restructuring Nigeria nobody is going to be responsible.
Why do you think that the core North is not progressing or functioning? It’s because we are not yet restructured, we are waiting for the federation to always send allocation. The country can never work that way, restructuring is one of the first solutions to get Nigeria working.
But can’t we get good leaders from what we have without restructuring?
If you look at the entire political picture of this country, APC is still PDP. Look at Buhari appointments, we were thinking (when he was taking a long time to appoint his cabinet then) that he will bring technocrats, something new or different on board, but see what we got. He picked all the monsters that have been robbing this country from 1960 till date. We still have ministers now who were there as a minister when I was in nursery school. Why Nigeria is not working is that some people believe that they are the only one that can do it while we have a lot of brains all over the country, but they are not given the opportunity. Imagine what happened during our campaign, if you don’t have billions you cannot be a leader in this country no matter what you can offer. Nigerians will not even believe you unless you can give them money. That is a bad orientation. You see, the problem is not only on leadership, but the masses themselves are also their problem because we always settle for the little. If somebody gives them little money, say N5,000 or N10,000, people will vote for the person not minding that they are mortgaging the future. The person has paid you off and you have no moral right anymore to hold the person accountable. We are so primitive, looking for immediate gratification. The country is not a problem of leadership alone because the masses are also truly at fault.
What is your view on the leadership tussle at the National Assembly?
It is very unethical and a disgrace for a political party to insist on getting all the positions. It has never happened anywhere. When you are elected and get into the National Assembly you become one family, no discrimination because they are supposed to represent Nigerians, they are supposed to be equal and choose among themselves without undue interference by the party. APC brought a dirty one by saying they are not allowing any opposition to take any key position. Adams Oshiomhole is parading himself as the spokesperson of the party instead of conducting his office with reserved respect. APC is taking us back to the ‘70s.
What do you think is the way forward?
Let Nigerians know that 2019 has been a pointer, but that 2023 should be a window through which we should look into and search out for true leaders who will make the needed sacrifice, people who know that life is not all about money. Nigerians need to differentiate that being a leader is not you being rich, but you sacrificing your comfort to serve others.
What lesson did you get from the Sudan experience where their top government officials are now in jail?
I saw how they were caged like animals and driven to prison. You can see how angry the people were and were even stoning them. We are sitting on a time bomb here and what happened in Sudan is a typical example because Nigeria will explode one day if we continue this way. We are operating a fake system; we are not living based on reality. It is just a group of people that decides what happen. If our time bomb explodes it is going to consume every one of us. Nigerians must wake up or one day there won’t be a Nigeria for our children.
How did you feel when Prof Wole Soyinka endorsed Prof Kinsley Moghalu, your presidential candidate?
A lot of people, a lot of big men well placed came to us and told us we were the solution, that Prof Moghalu has the pedigree, has a record of performance, but some could not say it in the open because they were afraid, perhaps because Moghalu was not a billionaire. When Prof Soyinka endorsed Prof Moghalu I almost cried that night and that shows the stuff Prof Soyinka is made of. He was bold to tell Nigerians the right way to go. He is indeed a true statesman that deserved more than the international awards he has won.
Let’s know what drove you in politics?
I am a born activist and I don’t like seeing people being oppressed. I am sick at the head when it comes to Nigeria and no matter how hard I try to run away from the problems of Nigeria I can’t. I just love my country so much, this is the only reason I am in the political arena.