by Yomi Kazeem
Exactly a year ago, Yomi Kazeem had a Q&A session with former Presidential candidate of the National Conscience Party, Dele Momodu. In light of various issues arising, we had some discussions which resulted in another interview. Never one to shy away from sharing his thoughts of policy and public affairs, he speaks freely on Madam Ezekwesili’s duel with the Presidency, the infamous El-Rufai tweet and of course, the brand new merger that has led to the birth of the All Progressive Congress.
Sir, in recent times, there has been widespread clamour and calls for young Nigerians to join political parties and increase their levels of political participation. Are you an advocate young people joining political parties as the ONLY avenue via which they can be involved politically?
I believe our youths should take more interest in politics and leadership matters but we can’t all join political parties. I wish to see more of advocacy than politicking and politricks. Those who have leadership attributes should be encouraged to participate but it shouldn’t be an all-comer affair. What I suspect is that most people join politics in Nigeria with the hope that it would soon be their turn to partake in sharing the ubiquitous and proverbial national cake. This is the tragedy of our nation and it seems most of our youths have given up on our country and have picked up the bad habits of our fathers.
You’re a vocal critic of the PDP and often voice your discontent with the current PDP administration as well as proffer advice via your popular weekly column. In contrast, Ohimai Amaize, your former campaign manager and protege under the National Conscience Party describes the PDP as ‘a great party’ and claims the opposition do not have the interests of Nigeria at heart but merely want to ‘kick the PDP out’. What are your thoughts on Ohimai’s assertions and his new passion for the PDP?
I’m a vociferous critic of PDP for several reasons. The main reason being that in 14 years, the ruling party has wasted the resources of Nigeria beyond imagination, for no justifiable reason and without any remorse whatsoever. In any sane society, members of such ungodly assembly would have felt a sense of shame and would still have been chased out of power ignominiously. Unfortunately the PDP has taken full advantage of our uncanny docility to walk with swagger and announce to the whole world that they will govern for a minimum of 50 years. Their seeming invincibility is what has made them attractive to would-be politicians. I’m not of little faith and, therefore, I believe their terminal end is near. This is premised on my modest knowledge of history that taught me that no nation had ever lived perpetually in stupidity.
On the decision of my former Campaign Manager, Ohimai Godwin-Amaize’s to romance the PDP, I’m an avowed believer in freedom of speech, association and worship. I disagree with him vehemently on his position but he remains one of my closest associates. We’ve all made mistakes in the past and he’s allowed to make his. We still spoke several times recently. He’s of the opinion that change can come from within PDP but I know that a leopard can’t change its skin. I gave him copious examples from our recent and very contemporary history.
It is not in the character of conservative parties and groups to accommodate and tolerate and encourage and nurture good members. NPN frustrated one of their best materials, Chief Moshood Abiola. Chief Abiola had to abandon the party and NPN remains one of the saddest footnotes of Nigerian political history. That ugly party started the unholy trend for profligacy in a country where majority of the people live below poverty level. NPN gave birth to NRC in the endless transition programme of President Babangida’s Two Party system. I had written a letter to Chief Abiola on Dec 20, 1991 imploring him not to join NRC and reminding him of how NPN maltreated him. Happily, Chief Abiola had learnt his lessons and eventually joined the more progressive party SDP. When General Sani Abacha seized power, many politicians jumped ship under the excuse that we must fight for the revalidation of the June 12 Presidential election from within the government. I remember Alhaji Lateef Jakande, the former Governor of Lagos State, an incorruptible man.
There were other great icons who were lured into thinking they can bring about the badly needed change from within a most dictatorial regime: Baba Gana Kingibe, Chief Olu Onagoruwa(S.A.N), Chief Ebenezer Babatope and Mr Alex Ibru, the late publisher of The Guardian newspapers. What did they achieve? Monumental failure! They were used, dumped and damaged beyond recognition and recovery. Chief Onagoruwa’s son was murdered in cold-blood. Mr Alex Ibru was shot, obviously, by snipers in the eye and was traumatised throughout the rest of his life. Chief Babatope, a former Marxist ideologue and close associate of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, was scandalised as Transport Minister. I had warned him in an open letter that bad governments would never allow good people leave power as immaculately as they came in. My prophecy was too accurate. The pattern has never changed since then. Good people always get sucked into the deep cesspit of corruption and brigandage in Nigeria. We often fail to recognise our friends who were former heroes before attainment of power on their homeward journey because they always get burnt. I have no problem with people working in government but must add the caveat that they need not dissipate energy on polishing a terrible political party that is too full of itself to recognise their existence. I will apologise publicly to my young friends in the PDP Youth wing if they turn out to be right and I’m wrong. PDP is the grandchild of NPN and the party has refused to shake off the toga of recklessness and rascality of those days.
Talking about the opposition, major opposition parties recently came together under one banner. Firstly, is this move, in your opinion, what Nigeria needs? Secondly, what do you think of General Buhari’s possible candidacy for Presidency in 2015? Thirdly, is your party, National Conscience Party, considering a merger as well?
I firmly support the present merger arrangements. Nigeria is in desperate need of a rescue from the prodigal sons and daughters in power. See the way they are spending our commonwealth as if money is going out of vogue. The people are not their priority. All believers in a better Nigeria must join hands and make this work. There is no nation that is governed by Saints but by performers who became celebrated and deified. The four big parties should urgently widen its mobilisation of opposition parties and progressive elements even within PDP. It would be easier to fight outside PDP than from within. Just imagine that a man as impeccable as Donald Duke is in PDP but marginalised. If the PDP would present that calibre of leader then many of us would think, maybe, they are getting serious after-all. But they won’t. The inferior and lacklustre leaders are always afraid of charismatic and more competent members of their party.
All the smaller parties including mine must join forces with others to send PDP out of power without further delay. I think it is too premature to know who the candidates of opposition would be. But if you ask me to speak candidly, I will say the opposition must present new candidates who can ignite frenzy within the larger population of first time voters like it happened in America. If we rely strictly on using the past methods and methodology, of expecting votes from traditional electorates we’ll play into the hands of PDP again, and God forbid.
On social media where you are a prominent figure, the last few days have been dominated by a certain retweet by Mallam Nasir El-Rufai’s handle (@elrufai). Some claim he went overboard and was blasphemous, others say the singular action may encumber his political ambitions- if any. Given the volatile nature of Nigeria’s religious community, surely the mallam should know better, shouldn’t he?
Personally, I did not make any big deal of Mallam Nasir El-Rufai’s tweet that drew the ire of those who felt their religion had been trampled upon. No matter the position we took, his apologies should calm frayed nerves except some busy-bodies want to gain political capital out of it by amplifying the unfortunate tweet.
The judiciary has come under fire following the 2 year sentence for a man guilty of looting sums to the tune of N23 billion. Even though the punishment seems lightweight, it is the maximum the law allows. How serious is the government about fighting corruption if the laws obstruct the justice they are supposed to deliver?
The Judiciary is a product of society and laws are made by human beings for different purposes. Some of these laws are obsolete and need re-jiggling. But unfortunately, most of our lawmakers themselves lack the capacity for serious issues. It seems they are more pre-occupied with other interests than what they are being stupendously remunerated and amply rewarded. Our war against crime does not begin and end with the judges. We need a good police, competent and committed Judiciary and a less corrupt leadership that would not be fighting to protect its own clan.
Madam Oby Ezekwesili’s speech at the UNN Convocation has caused ripples in the Presidency. In dramatic fashion, Minister of Information, Labaran Maku dismissed Madam Oby’s criticism as fallacious and also suggested that she was financially irresponsible while serving as Minister of Education under the Obasanjo regime. What is your take on this issue?
On Madam Oby Ezekwesili’s fiasco with the Jonathan government, let me plead guilty in advance that I will be biased. There are not many people in Africa as cerebral as, and more concerned, about the state of our nation than this incredible lady. I have had the opportunity of interacting with her at home and abroad and I would readily risk everything to defend her integrity. I believe she spoke out not to deride President Jonathan in person but to draw attention to what has become the notorious signature of his government in the manner the President and his chorus singers in FEC titillate us every Wednesday about frivolous projects they are about to spend billions on. I regard Labaran Maku’s shot as cheap blackmail unbecoming of such men in public office and high position.
There are reports that the sum of N4 billion was proposed in the Federal Budget to build a ‘mission house’ project for the First Lady- a position unrecognised by the constitution. Does it make financial sense that despite the massive infrastructure deficit that the nation faces, such sums are spent on such projects?
The attitude of the Jonathan government to public spending is that of unprecedented recklessness. No government in our chequered history had wasted money like this one is habitually doing. He’s been on a binge and an amazing spending spree. He’s told us publicly that he doesn’t give a damn about our criticisms and so we can say whatever we like. I believe he will regret all this thoughtless annihilation of our national treasury in the future. Why are we building monuments to madness when we can rescue our youths from poverty and hopelessness?
Sir, the 2015 Presidential elections are only two years away. For one who has experience with the electoral systems having run for the post in times past, what major flaw in the electoral system must be corrected before the elections are held?
Our electoral process is far from perfect as much as I may truly wish to salute Professor Atahiru Jega and his INEC officials for their gallant efforts in the face of daunting challenges. We must take full advantage of technological advancement. Several African countries have reduced tension and electoral fraud in their system and we must resolve to do better next time.
Your candidacy in 2011 was unsuccessful and many wonder if you plan to contest again in 2015. If not, can you name three politicians whose candidacy you’ll totally support based on their prospects and capabilities?
My participation in the last presidential election was a landmark achievement for me. I recorded over 26, 000 votes nationwide and was surprised to see there are so many principled Nigerians who cannot be intimidated or bribed. The full account of that epic journey has been powerfully captured by Ohimai in a forthcoming blockbuster memoir titled FIGHTING LIONS WITH BARE HANDS: The Untold Story of Dele Momodu’s Presidential Campaign. I’m mightily proud of shaking the whole of Nigeria with a team of four young Nigerians. My campaign was a blistering fairy-tale that captured the imagination of most educated Nigerians at home and abroad and I won’t hesitate to do it again. But in view of the merger going on it makes sense to play a role in whatever capacity assigned to me because we must sacrifice our personal ambition for the sake of Nigeria. Whoever is not willing to do so is an enemy of the people. God bless Nigeria.
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