From Okwe Obi, Abuja
National Chairman of Young Progressives Party (YPP), Emmanuel Bishop Amakiri, has warned against the planned regulation of the social media by the Federal Government, stressing that the move would negatively affect the country’s economy.
He also spoke on the #EndSARS protest which grounded the country for about two weeks, arguing that the civil unrest was a reflection of the people’s disenchantment over bad government.
As the National Chairman of Young Progressive Party, what is your take on the EndSARS protest championed by the young people?
Let me make some clarifications; Young Progressive Party (YPP), means people that are young at age and young at heart. Sitting with us is the zonal Southeast chairman who is above 50. But he is a progressive-minded person and all he is thinking is how we can have an egalitarian society and a working nation. So, my ideology differs because it is not about the youth, but about ideology. It is about the youth even the youth that we are talking about, there are two categories of youths: youths that I will say are stomach infrastructure driven; they do not believe in mental infrastructure. A person who believes in stomach infrastructure is a young man who thinks that he cannot be a governor, a house of assembly member or representative, all he thinks is to become a personal assistant/adviser throughout his life. It means people who have the mentality that he cannot go beyond where he is and they are a number of young people that fall in that category. Then they are youths who fall under the category of the mental infrastructure, meaning those who believe that they can use their brain to become more productive. They believe that the danger of stomach infrastructure is for youth who come to my office today mostly my age mate who come to my office for example and demand something like N200,000 and squander it on food.and the next five minutes they will go back to the toilet when he discharges he becomes hungry again. Then he begins to think how he will come back to you again to ask for money. But if it is a youth that is mentally driven and wants to be empowered, you give him ideas on how to grow. That is why some people say teach me how to fish rather than give me fish. I am an incurable optimist, progressive-minded person, and I believe so much in mental infrastructure. So, it is important that we begin to categorise the youth because there are segment of youth who want to grow and those who do not want to grow. Those who want to grow are serious about it and they are mentally-driven, and always make it step ahead. So, back to your question; the EndSARS was just a scratch on one of the problems that has actually plagued this country for several years. It is an encapsulation of bad leadership. If we do not talk about proffering solutions, we will always come back over and over time for this interview. Let me be sincere to you, we are all stakeholders in the business of nation-building because the business of nation-building is a multi-stakeholder obligation for all of us whether you are a media person or myself as a chairman or an entrepreneur or captains of industries, the major problems we need to solve first and foremost is how we can usher in new breed of leaders that will govern without greed and that can champion the cause of governance because leadership deficit actually is what has kept us here, and so for me every conversation I go to or every stage I speak on my point of emphasis is we need to begin to understand where we are coming from and where we are going to. I know where I am coming from and I know where I am going. So, there is no point to begin to promise you that YPP will begin to do this or do that. As it is today, leadership is a problem in Nigeria. First and foremost, leadership recruitment process has to be tackled in this country that is what we want to do, and that is why the YPP, God willing, we are projecting a movement called “Young Leaders of 2023, Take it Now”. it is going to be a radical movement. Radical movements not by guns, but through a political movement where I say we will go to the ballot, but we will begin with what I call political evolution. As you are here, I charge you as media personalities to key in because a country suffers once there is political or democratic instability. The people who bear the brunt are the citizens all-inclusive. So, you and I have a duty to right the wrongs. So, leadership in Nigeria is zero as far as I am concerned. We must begin to think of how to bring a new breed of leaders without greed. That is why i said the EndSARS movement was actually a build-up of anger. It was like a bomb that was waiting to explode; people were angry about so many social injustice that are happening and nobody took care of those things, rhat is why young people now decided to take advantage of EndSARS by just one pocket of problem that started somewhere or maybe God just said you guys should speak now and that was just a platform. We should begin to talk the way forward.
Are you not satisfied with the setting up of committee by the Federal Government to listen to the accounts of victims?
Since we started hearing of committees set up by the All Progressive Congress (APC), how many of its manifestos have they implemented? APC said that when they come into power they were going to fix all the refineries and that it would boost the economy. Has that been done? Do you know how many number of jobs that would have been created for young people when the refineries are working and textile industry also working? Where are the roads? Let us not even talk about power. Do you know the number of jobs power can generate and get huge number of people off the street? So, it is empty promises that the APC made. Let us not begin to dissipate our energies on something that is not feasible. We are not seeing them now, let us work towards this radical movement of paradigm shift, maybe it might give us the result which is why we must first of all talk about ushering in new breed of leaders. What we are lacking today are leaders that do not want to mentor the younger generation to take up the responsibilities. And how can we have an education sector that is working when the children of politicians are studying abroad? How can you have a health sector working when an ordinary medical check-up he flies abroad just because he can afford it? We need to go back again even our constitution we need to take some very painstaking decisions that will help this country move forward. If I am aware, of course, the national assembly our parliament is the centre of our democracy, so let’s build our parliament.
Are you doubting the EndSARS committee set up by government?
No, I am not. It is a good step because you do not expect any other thing. Or were you expecting something else from the government? Let them continue with the committees, but one wonders what even led us to setting up the committees that is why I said where are we coming from? Something led us to setting the committees. If Nigerians had these basic amenities provided the young people are not looking for much from our leaders, just provide us basic amenities. We are leaving Nigeria to Cotonou. How can a brother be leaving Nigeria to Cotonou to study in Benin Republic or to Ghana and we are the giant of Africa? And we are saying all is well. At my age I am not that old, of course, but I have given yesterday a bye bye. Yesterday is a bygone. I talk about today. I have seen and I don’t think I have any hope with the present set of leaders the ones that are leading this country until we bring new breed of leaders that are patriotic and have capacity to take us to the 21st Century of our desire.
Are you satisfied with your party’s performance in the 2019 general election?
Every leader that wants to be a good student should give priority to history because you cannot be a good leader if you don’t want to know about history and I will want to talk about the little background of YPP. YPP is just three years old. And within a short period of time as a new party we produced a senator, our first outing, first appearance in the electioneering context we learnt in the national assemble. In the Senate, we have only three parties there, so what I can categorically tell you is that from 2017 that YPP was established, it has moved from 0% membership drive to about 35 per cent membership. It is a journey. It is a work in progress and we are also putting our house together to consolidate on the past achievements so that we can make progress. But that is not to say we don’t have a lot of responsibilities. It is a herculean task young people are looking up to us and we want to carry them under this platform of progressive-minded people who are patriotic driven about Nigeria. The door is open just like our party logo depicts. It is an open door in the map of Nigeria. What is important for us is how we can have an egalitarian society.
What is your position on restructuring?
Restructuring is a framework of what you want. Even my cap can be restructured. Let me tell you what my understanding of restructuring is. When there is a leader that believes in nationhood and sees everybody as equal and one who believes in equity and justice there will not be all this outcry of restructuring. I am not a PDP member and I have never been a PDP member. I am also not an APC member, I have never been an APC member, and I will never be. But the way the clamour for restructuring is being magnified today, it was not so in the six to seven years ago because there is a sense of equity that you could see even the composition of appointments, it was equal. Nobody was crying foul, the people want sense of belonging whether we like it or not that is the way to go now. So, restructuring in terms of people being carried along with regards to appointments according to federal character. Mind you, federal character is being abused in this APC-led administration. So, why won’t people cry for restructuring? Don’t we all belong to Nigeria? I am a Nigerian. I am not a Ghanaian. So, what is good for the goose is also good for the gander. And when you talk about restructuring I also agree with the other school of thought that says we should go a little bit of our constitution and see how we can amend the constitution. The constitution does not declare any state Christian or Muslim. For instance, my state called Rivers Rivers is a Christian state or whatever you can say predominantly Christians are there. But you don’t say it is a Christian state or a Muslim state, but we have had a governor say in other places that this is a Muslim state or a Christian state. It is not the spirit of nationhood. So, what I am saying is that we cannot throw away the baby with bath water. I want to say that we should have a one-term system of both presidential and governorship and even national assembly.
How many years are you then proposing?
Seven years. The truth of the matter is that, whether we like it or not time is infinite. But we human beings are finite. We will have an end. One day we will all go, but time will keep going. What I am trying to say is that when you have a seven year term, we have six geo-political zones in Nigeria, you can say in a constitution, one term of seven years for presidency we want a rotational presidency. If South-south rules for seven years the next would be Northeast. The whole country knows that when South-south finishes ruling for seven years the whole country knows that the pendulum is swinging to Northeast; it will foster more unity. The people from the South-south know that we can no longer contest for president. So, who can we support from Northeast, then it can now foster this bond of unity, it’s what we are talking about, then from the Northeast, it goes back to South-south, the people from Northeast will say we know that we have finished our seven years, it is now South-south. We should include that in our constitution and then when it goes rotationally, you will see that all this brouhaha and bloodshed will stop, and there will be national unity. I am also of the school of thought that the era of somebody being a senator for 22 years should be stopped. Why would a president just be limited to two terms or governor and the senator will go there and stay until he says he doesn’t want to come back? No, let’s allow other young people to take up responsibility of being senators in the spirit of growth. Whether you call it younger generation or whatever, let them have a taste of leadership because nobody has the monopoly of knowledge. Let us allow participation and broaden the scope so that people can come in and have the taste of water. Restructuring must come with great deal of sincerity and unity of purpose not about self-aggrandizement. Not about my state or local government. For instance, when Kogi broke out from Benue, the Igala were not seeing anything because the Tiv’s had dominated them. And as we speak today the Tivs have been ruling Benue State, but we have the Igede and Idoma. So, when you equal this now you say the three senatorial districts should produce a representative and you will see the unity. It should not be about personal interest which like I said earlier that interest is the genetic making of human being, but how we go about it is important. But if we must go forward then we must jettison our parochial interest and bring forth national interest.
It has been alleged that the youth are the ones perpetrating kidnapping and banditry. As the chairman of YPP, what would be your advice to the young and government on the way forward?
The issue that happened recently about the American rescue operation wonders me. If it is true that the man was rescued, it’s the answer to our security issues. The truth of the matter is that we do not have leadership. We do not need to be beating around the bush when something is black you want to turn it to white when there is no sincerity of purpose. If America can come and take one of their persons and we heard that somebody permitted the operation, then something is wrong. I cannot be deceived. My position on this matter is that there is some level of insincerity on the part of the leadership down to the local government. In fact, there is leadership failure, and until we fix that leadership vacuum, things will not fall into place. The kidnap of the Chibok girls has been on for more than six years. In fact, it has even been used as a campaign strategy that this present government said there is no way if they take over they will not bring back the girls. But today, we are no longer seeing the promoters of #Bring-back-our-girls. Where is Oby Ezekwesili or Aisha Yusuf that is shouting #EndSARS? Why didn’t she continue with the #Bring-back-our-girls campaign? I told you that I am a Nigerian. I am not a student of prognosis. I am a pragmatist. So, there is no amount of conviction that this country will get better if we do not fix the leadership problem. We will end up recycling the same group of people in the leadership of Nigeria.
Are you in support of the planned regulation of the social media?
Can they regulate social media? Social media regulation will cause a setback on our economic. When you bite a finger that is in your hand without knowing that you are the same person that will feel the pain, it is the same with the social media. These people use social media in the last election. So, what is the yardstick of wanting to regulate it? They have not given us a cogent reason as far as I am concerned. For me, it is just speculation and I know that strongly the young people will fight it, I do not think that this social media regulation will fly. Some of us will be part of the people that will ensure that it does not stand. You cannot come and gag people. There is freedom of expression. The Federal Government actually has some power, but to some limits because the office of the citizen is more powerful than any government.
The campaign for 2023 general elections has started. Where will YPP zone its presidential ticket to?
This issue of zoning is not my kind of agenda. The first thing is to see someone who is competent. Do not get me wrong. I also strongly believe that people who have not been in office should be given a chance because we all know that there is some section of this country that have not tasted power. So, if they have competent people they should begin to bring them on board. And let the people make their choice. But I do not want us to be hammering on this zoning issue. It cannot take away the politics of geo-political zones from our politics, but again competence also matters if you are talking about zoning. We cannot just bring out anyhow person when the other aspirants that are coming from the other side are more competent. You would not be justifying zoning. So, let us talk about competence first and then zoning will come on board. Let us say, for example, now YPP has somebody from the Igbo extraction and then maybe we have somebody from the Hausa extraction, both of them come and they are all competent and they have capacity. I will give you support, take me as your deputy, when you finish give me support to see whether I will go. It is about political negotiations.
The leadership of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) has been having a running battle with your state governor, Nyesom Wike. What is your take?
Should they start their agitation in Rivers State? Is it in Rivers State that they should be more louder? They should come and do it in Abuja which is the centre of government. But it does not mean that people do not have freedom of expression to stay where they want to stay. I am saying that we should be mindful of politicising some certain things, IPOB agitation, at that particular time when #EndSARS protest was going on, which one do you expect the governor to deal with? I think the leadership should be able to manage some crisis at a particular time. One of the things that I will tell Nnamdi Kanu is to come back home and fight for this agitation since you call it a genuine cause. Why don’t he come back home and fight? You cannot stay in Israel and be fighting. Come back home and fight the struggle. All of us are here seeing Sowore fighting from Nigeria. He has the power of the media. He is the owner of Sahara Reporters. Why did he not go to America and be throwing punches? People should demonstrate within the confines of the law.