By Sunday Ani
The Social Democratic Party(SDP’s) Presidential candidate, Prince Adewole Adebayo has described as scaremongering insinuations that debt servicing has surpassed government revenue in Nigeria, insisting that what has surpassed the government’s revenue is not debt but stealing of the government’s money by public officials.
In this interview, Adebayo who believes that the ideology of people who have come to government since 1999 has been to capture power, institutions, and national assets, spoke on a wide range of national issues including President Muhammadu Buhari’s performance, collapse of national grid, loss of oil revenue and the current FG/ASUU crisis among others.
The president said the legacy he would like to leave for Nigeria is a free, fair and credible election. Given the outcome of the recent governorship elections in Ekiti and Osun states, are you still saying there is nothing to celebrate about this government?
I cannot say there is nothing to celebrate about this government. I will celebrate their departure; and even double the celebration if I win the election and they hand over to me. Until then, there is a lot to endure. Beyond the psychological satisfaction that we don’t have a coup, and that we are not under foreign occupation, even though we are partially under terrorist occupation, we can celebrate that the Nigerian people haven’t given up on the country. When I go out and see the number of people receiving me, I get humbled that the ordinary people who are worse off than I am are still eager about the politics of this country. When I see the number of people who came to visit and have had to wait because other people are there, it gives me hope that despite the problems, they have not given up on the country. Yes, we have problems, but if the idea is about celebration, then, you can see from the face of the president that if there is a way he could fast forward the clock, he would want to jump to May 29.
The elite to which you belong have been accused of being responsible for the country’s current sorry-state; do you agree with that?
Every Nigerian knows the truth, but very few are willing to pay the price of saying the truth. Every Nigerian knows that the present government is a fiasco in capital letter. Whether you want to say it or not, it’s a fiasco.
What do you mean by saying the government is a fiasco?
I will tell you. First, you set a standard. In an ideal situation, as stated in our constitution, I tend to focus on chapter two of the constitution, and compare it with the present government; you will see that it’s a total failure. Then if you try to be a little more sympathetic, you compare the government with what they said they would be and what they are now. The country’s constitution as far as ethos and idea are concerned, may be too high for any incoming government that it may stumble, and as such, may not meet the standard. You can say, well, we have to have what we get. However, when a group of people led by the current president, on coming to power, set objectives and standard for themselves and they are violating it every day, there is nothing one can do. There are four different types of elite. The intellectual elite are a kind of dishonest intellectual elite that speak and explain on behalf of those who pay them. And they include lawyers like me, and media professionals who tend to focus on personalities, religion and other distractions. They can get a non-performing governor who gets an airtime to have live coverage and he is talking lies and nonsense and there is nobody to edit that because you make money out of it. There are people who are campaigning on issues but you don’t give them airtime. You give airtime to those who are dancing and others, so, we are guilty of that. When you go to the judiciary, they tend to overlook errors. And when the judiciary overlooks errors, people commit more of them. When you go into that of Academic Staff of Universities Union (ASUU), I sympathise with them because you will see that for many years, a large number of them have been collaborators with the system.
Who is now free; it appears everyone is culpable?
The people who are free are the common people. Unfortunately for the common people, if they are not careful, they too will become collaborators because circumstances or condition are now pushing them into collecting crumbs from those who are whining down the system. That doesn’t mean there are no good people in the country, but if you do an analysis, a government doesn’t elect itself; it takes the collective will of the people to elect a government.
Given the various problems encountered by this government in terms of dwindling revenue, recession and the amount of work being put in place to mitigate it, shouldn’t we appreciate their efforts?
If they are worried about all these routine things, then, they should hand over the government to me. If you are telling me that everything that is there for you to make you work, isn’t working for you, then why are you still there? We need to introduce honesty to our politics, especially honesty of analysis. You can argue viewpoints, but you cannot argue against the fact. They have ruined the economy. People are out of jobs. People are insecure. I know all of these things when I decided to run for president. These are not intimidating to me. These are things that have solutions if you look around.
You are saying exactly what the leadership of this government was saying when they were outside; won’t you complain by the time you get in and see what is on ground?
It is not because I am outside; I am different. It is for the media and the people to listen. I don’t want to go into the fiasco we went through in 2015. That is why I am saying now that you can decide what you want to do. Out of all the problems you have in Nigeria today, you are still alive. Perhaps you are not worried and you want to go with the same establishment, hopefully such people would be in minority. Majority would be people who want to live a good life that God could not have created Nigeria to be in perpetual darkness and suffering such that the national grid will be collapsing every two weeks and this issue of unemployment cannot be attended to. So, they would want a change. Why it looks all the time as if politicians come and say this and there are no changes is because it is the same people. That’s why I am telling Nigerians that if you want something new, elect new people. You know that in 2014, it was the new PDP that started their trouble. It was the same PDP that joined to exhume Buhari where he was and joined with the then Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). They are not completely new; so PDP became APC. You could see the chairman of APC when in 2015, he was in PDP. Even the PDP has opened a new shop in Labour Party. I am giving you fact; I am not here to confront you, because you invited me to give my perspective. The people and audience can think and make up their minds if I am right or not. In politics, politicians have ideology. Power at all cost is ideology and that ideology informs the performance in government. And this people change party from place to place. The fact that they change parties doesn’t mean there is a real change. I may or may not win the election; it’s all based on God and the people. But what you say is on record. When in 2015 I was saying these people are not going to make any change, people didn’t believe me. Look at the man on the right, look at the man on the left; they are the people who caused the problem; the man in the middle says he is going to solve. In 2019, I told them that there was no option between the two, and that the only option was to go for the third force.
You talked about the collapse of the national grid, the decay in infrastructure, which has been like that for many years; why are they not getting it right?
That’s because in 2001, I attended the national council on power and I gave them a blueprint on how they will get power in this country but they never listened. The late Olusegun Agagu was the Minister of Power then; that was during Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration, with Danjuma Goje as the Minister of State for Power. Makoju of the blessed memory was the Managing Director of the then National Electric Power Authority (NEPA). I gave them a blueprint on why they will never get power and how they will get power in this country; I have applied it to myself. All my establishments are off grid. Nigeria is in darkness because we didn’t change the people, who have penchant for procurement; penchant for investing millions of dollars on dead horse. They know that a dead horse will never wake up, but at least, they will make some money off it. They award a lot of dead horse contracts. Electricity obeys everybody. That woman in Wuse Market or anywhere for that matter can generate electricity; once you have a generator, fuel and connect it, you will have electricity. Electricity obeys everybody. Egbin Power Station was built by Marubeni. I told them in 2001 that Marubeni had stopped servicing this kind of station because I was a lawyer in the power sector. I saw that these people were more eager to award contract than to get the thing to work. For example, do you know that the money for ASUU is lying there in TETFUND? People are sitting on it.
Why are they not unlocking it?
When people come to government, they have an ideology that brings them to government. Ideology of people who have come to government since 1999, without exception, is to capture power, procurement, institutions and national assets, commercialise and privatise them to themselves. They are like parasites; they have entered into the bloodstream of the economy. So, talking to them and giving them advice is a waste of time because they are committed to the notion that they want to take the last blood of the economy. What you can do to save yourself, the masses and the future, is to take away power from them, because once they are out of power, they cannot touch your money. Do you know that the revenue you say we are short of, this government, this current government that is a few miles from us, is colluding with thieves to steal 80 percent of the crude? You are in the media, don’t close today without investigating why 80 percent of our crude is being stolen and the government is rubbing hands as if they don’t know. Why would your economy not collapse?
How can we stop the haemorrhage of corruption, lack of accountability and crude oil theft; how can we address them?
We have to go back to the original thing; black and white. That is the truth. When I engage in public discourse and I realise that people are not interested in the truth, I leave them. This is something that is so obvious. We make ourselves a laughing stock. These are thieves in government, with due respect.
Let us be moderate
No, they are not moderate in the stealing. If you say a government official who has sworn to a public oath, has stolen billions, there is nothing moderate anymore. You cannot be moderate when government accuses itself of losing 80 percent of the revenue; we cannot help them to deny it. They are the ones accusing themselves. When government says its own accountant general, the chief steward of our money, is now in custody, having been caught with N190b, it is not for me to be moderate because that is not moderate in the stealing. If the media, the politicians and the commentators don’t want to say the truth, let us shut down. The first thing you do is to admit the truth that you cannot find solution to your problems when it is mosquitoes that are discussing about how to eradicate malaria and the mosquitoes know that they are the cause of the malaria. The government that is telling you that they are looking for solution is the problem.
Let me tell you what they are going to do with NNPC now called NNPC Limited. They are going to have unlimited corruption, unlimited stealing, unlimited lack of accountability, unlimited looting. Why? NNPC as it was before belongs to Nigerians. It was a corporation answerable to the national assembly. It couldn’t belong to us more than that. It belongs to us the way the Villa belongs to us. So, if you say we should privatise the Villa, privatise what? We already own it. How can you privatise my father’s house to me and ask me to buy shares. It is a fraud.
There is noise about debt servicing surpassing government revenue in Nigeria; don’t be fooled by such scaremongering cover-up. What has surpassed revenue is not debt. Stealing has surpassed disclosed revenue. Siphoning has surpassed disclosed revenue. They are hiding your money
This is why my leader, the late Aminu Kano talked and talked and the man died and we never learnt anything.
Are you going to bring different people other than the same Nigerians?
What you are doing is what is called fallacy of moral equivalence. You cannot tell me that honest people who have worked all their lives, who you can go through their records, are equal to those people who have been stealing for the past 40 years; you cannot say so. That is fallacy of moral equivalence. You cannot say I am equal to Atiku, I am not. Or I am equal to Obi, I am not. Please, let us make that distinction otherwise, you will be passing a wrong message that everyone in Nigeria is part of the system; we are not.