Presidential candidate of the Peoples Trust (PT), Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim, speaks on four key zones his party is set to win. He spoke before the re-scheduled presidential election.
There have been allegations from some parties about lack of readiness for free and fair elections both by INEV and the administration. What are your views concerning these issues?
I think it is worrying that a number of parties are not comfortable with the preparation and I think the INEC people who are supposed to be the umpires had to go the extra mile to give comfort to the various actors in the process; it is their responsibility to do so. But it’s not just enough to make statements to say what you are saying is not true. You have to be seen to be taking practical steps that are deliberate, symbolic, and institutional; to give comfort and when people see the comfort, they know. So, it is the duty of INEC to give comfort. If they cannot do so, they would have failed in their responsibility and that is the responsibility they owe this country. When they were confirmed by the Senate, they were all screened individually. Somebody must have nominated them as commissioners and what have you, but ultimately, they owe their duty to Nigeria not to any group of persons.
This is a very important election that is going to happen and I think that there is going to be individual and corporate responsibilities for the actions or inactions of people who are in agencies or institutions. In the event that their actions lead to breakdown of law and order, they are going to be held individually responsible by history and not just history, by friends of Nigeria globally who are interested in the peace and stability of this country. So, nobody should think that they can hide under anonymity. This is what most of our development partners are going to be looking at. So, INEC officials can be sanctioned. A lot of countries can refuse them entry as a result of their actions. Their properties can be frozen. If anyone of them does anything that leads to breakdown of law and order, they can even be taken to The Hague and sent to prison for life because Nigeria is a signatory to a lot of global instruments that expects some minimum standard of decency and conduct from public officers. So, they should not just think that they can do anything and get away with it. They can’t just anything and get away with it, whether you are a police officer or army officer. There is not going to be limit for accountability for your actions. Even the people they are helping to win the elections, they have a limited tenure after which they will go. But there is no limit in statue for people giving accounts, especially under the various instruments that Nigeria has signed. In ten years, you can still be called to give account of your role and you will still suffer the consequence. It’s not just enough to say that I can behave anyhow, as long as the person I want comes in. In 10, 20 year’s time you can still pay.
There is this impression that Nigeria is much more divided than any other time. What message do you tell the people while going across the country?
We were somewhere in the South East and we had an all-night quiet meeting and these people we met are people with deep roots in the east because these are patriots who have produced a lot of the people that you see on the scene today and a lot of people defer to them and who really bitter about the situation of Nigeria. Incidentally, I went with a team of my Chief Press Secretary, Dr. Jahleel Tafawa-Balewa and some of these people were talking about pains, why they are not really enthusiastic about Nigeria. They talked about pains which were of course very legitimate pains that had to be addressed. They were really bitter with Nigeria as a state. Then Balewa got up and said you people are talking about pains, my father was killed over allegations of corruption by some officers of a certain regional extraction. He never had a single property anywhere in the world, not talk about a bank account. He left nothing for us, and then my mother happen to be of the same parentage with Chief Ladoke Akintola, the same father, the same mother and Chief Ladoke Akintola, who by then was Premier of Western Region, was killed that same day Tafawa Balewa and Sardauna were killed.
As an eight year old boy, I’ve borne this pain since I was told that my uncle died and my father died too. It was a double barrel tragedy for him. He said what pain are you talking about. It was very interesting to see and it was laboratory for me in testing hypothesis for national reconciliation and everyday calmed down. They we are ready to give you chance seeing where you are coming from and indeed you are very serious about this. Those are the quiet things I’ve been doing without the cameras.
For me, this is not just an ambition. It’s a national reconciliation project. It’s a project to rescue Nigeria and it is something that I have put my heart to, not just because I want to run for presidency. It’s something I have been doing for more than three decades, paying the price, taking risks. So it’s a continuation of that struggle. I’m different from those who just want to be President. It’s not about being President. It’s about how to rescue Nigeria and we must rescue Nigeria as it is now. It is not the time for small boy politics. It is time to build a broad national consensus to rescue the nation and this is what this is all about.
Before we started making all the consultations, we went to Kaduna and we met with the ACF. They said we are not endorsing anybody. Anybody that is a candidate from the North is our entire candidate. You are all our candidates. That was a very good statement from the ACF. I said the North that we knew under Sardauna was the North that welcomed everybody and that was why Sir Kashim Ibrahim was elected to represent the Tiv people in the Northern Assembly. He was a Muslim, a Kanuri man and was elected by predominantly Christian society, which tells you about what the North was. We spoke and they were very happy. So, Nigeria right now does not just need a politician. Nigeria needs a statesman. Nigeria needs one who can mobilize the country for national reconciliation and development. Nigeria needs an inspirational leader that can bring the country back together again and defeat insurgency through negotiation and reconciliation. It’s not just going to be about police action. There are people who feel really bitter and they didn’t even see themselves as committing any crime. They believe that they are revenge against the Nigerian state. So, the style will be different. We are already building the national coalition and it is not a coalition of just parties who are looking to have seats in government. It’s more serious than that.
Some of the candidates have spoken seriously about restructuring, while some persons have seen it as mere contraption to seize Power. What response did you give to some of the elite who raised the issue of restructuring the country?
Anybody who is in his right sense, knows that Nigeria cannot continue the way it is now. There is too much over centralization of power. The states can do better when they have some level of power over their resources. For instance, Zamfara, if they have their department of solid minerals and they don’t have to come to Cadastral House to seek licenses to develop some of the mineral resources there, their revenue will be expanded and they will be able to face the task of development. Most states, even Bauchi and the others will like that. So, you won’t have problem with Bayelsa or Rivers State having control over their own resources too, especially those ones that are in the inland basin. The one in the continental shelve is more than enough. Even right now, almost more than 60 percent of Nigeria’s production is coming from the continental and deep waters not even from hinterland because there is so much crises. A lot of people don’t know that. So, when they say let some states control their resources, they are thinking they will not get revenue again, not knowing that revenue is coming from the deep waters that are exclusive zone that belong to the Federal Government. So, there is a lot of illiteracy, even among people who call themselves elites, about conversations.
The language of communication is also important. When you say restructuring, a lot people are scared about the content of it. Yes, there are those who want to politically profit from that and they banding restructuring. For me, the most important thing is how to decentralize power to give more to the states as presently composed. In 1990 we organized a national conference and it was not a movement of just politicians. I believe in the reform of the Nigerian federation in other to have a more efficient and balanced federation. So, I will not use the word restructuring because it can be a bit confusing and it creates some signals that send unnecessary confusion and palpitation. My job as President and Commander in Chief would be to find the right words, synergy, consensus that will bring things that can move the country forward swiftly without creating more division.
Your base is seen as the North Central. How do you hope to win the other zones?
I think we will win the North Central for sure, by the grace of God. We will do well in South West. We will do well all over the North and we are getting our message to the South East and the South- South. The South East and South -South have a very peculiar problem and it is not about PT or APC. A lot of people feel a sense of huge injustice about Nigeria as a state from those regions and that’s the way politics have been defined for some time there. None of the two big parties can say that they have those zones for keep. Majority of the people in those zones are preoccupied more with other questions than even the 2019 elections. The urgent question that confront them is how do we find equity, how do we see that we are part of this? We are getting our message in and I believe that we have a pathway to victory in 2019, more than a number of people have even given us the chance for.