By Chukwudi Nweje
Anthony Ubani is the Executive Director, #FixPolitics initiative. He was formerly Director General of Peoples Democratic Institute (PDI) and Ex-president of Women Leadership institute. In this interview, he speaks on various issues.
You were recently appointed Executive Director of #FixPolitics, what is that about?
#FixPolitics is a research-based citizens-led initiative to address the challenges and mis-governance in Nigeria and indeed Africa which has arrested human and economic development for ages. It is not affiliated with any political or religious organisation; we are completely non-partisan and do not intend to metamorphose into a political party. We are a pressure group that intends to bring about the kind of responsible politics and leadership that we hope will bring about economic growth and development in our country so that we can bequeath a nation that is peaceful and prosperous to our children and the future generation.
What informed the initiative?
In 2019, Dr Oby Ezekwesili participated in a research fellowship in Robert Bloch Institute Berlin Germany; the purpose was to interrogate the nexus between politics and national development particularly in African countries and particularly in Nigeria. The research showed that politics in any society determines the level of development, be they human or economic. In societies where the human and economic developments are positively high, you will discover that politics in that society is also positively high and productive.
If you find any society where the human and economic indicators are very low like in Nigeria, where if you check any of the indicators, whether it is education, life expectancy, economic well-being, justice or anyone, you will find out that we are almost at the bottom, you will find out that one consistent thing is that the politics is in a bad shape. So, that determination was made that politics is a key driver of human and economic development in any country, particularly in Africa. It became also clear that the reason why almost all African countries have been in the doldrums when it comes to national development and growth is that their politics is much challenged.
How do you fix the politics, what exactly are the variables needed to ensure progress?
In any given society where democracy works, there are three things, which represent the pillars of democracy that must be present. The first is that you must have an engaged and empowered electorate; you can call it citizenry. This means that the citizens must understand their rights, duties and responsibilities. In other words, they must understand the importance of exercising their franchise and participate in elections, not just to vote at elections, but to cast an informed vote. An informed vote is necessary because the person you elect to preside over the country will determine the prices of commodities in the market, that political arrangement will determine every aspect of the national life, including the wages workers earn because politics affects every area of human life, the qualities of schools, hospitals, and telecommunication.
Therefore, the citizens have to understand why they must vote and engage the political parties and hold leaders accountable. The last United States election shows the people holding leadership accountable. The people came out in their numbers, the highest in the history of U.S. elections to make a point that they don’t like the direction the politics were heading. The aspect of empowerment of the citizens can be on two levels; it can be economically, which will reduce the chances of vote-buying; in Nigeria today, you can buy somebody’s vote for as little as a loaf of bread, a reflection of not just hunger but ignorance and economic hardship. When citizens are empowered economically, it will be difficult for somebody to approach you to buy your vote because you are not desperate.
But where you have a country that has become the poverty capital of the world, people will accept money to vote. Then, the second aspect is education. Nelson Mandela said that “Education is the most powerful weapon with which you can change the world.”
Nigerian leaders don’t like to invest in education because they don’t want to empower people with knowledge because when a man is educated, he will ask questions and interrogate issues; he has wisdom and he has the knowledge and will not just accept anything you tell him. When people are empowered with the knowledge, they are emboldened.
Another pillar is the need for value-based leaders. Today in Africa, you will hardly find any leader who makes decisions based on values and respect for the citizens and patriotic instincts. We need leaders who make decisions based on the understanding of public policy and its role in national development.
We need leaders who come to power with a clear understanding that what they have been sent there to do is service. When you have leaders who evolved from the mentality of ‘Chop I Chop’ and ‘Turn by Turn’ nothing will work. Every Nigerian is today waiting in line that it will come to our turn, nobody is thinking of what we can do to make the country better. It is almost like people have given up that the country can be better.
Another round of the general election will be coming up in two years, what are the plans of #FixPolitics for 2023?
Our intention is that out of the 500 people we take into the SPPG every six months, 250 will be women and 250 young men. These young men and women will be people interested in running for political office. We hope that in three years, we would have trained 3,000 emerging leaders and push them out into the political space to play a role in running for offices or as supporting candidates and then put in place the knowledge we have empowered them with.
Hopefully in 10 years time, you can imagine what that number will be. We want to gradually build a critical mass as we go along; we hope that the 3,000 people we would have put out there by 2023 will play some kind of role.