Special Report

October 12, 2014

2015 Presidential Series: The big ideas to transform Nigeria, by Sam Nda-Isaiah

2015 Presidential Series: The big ideas to transform Nigeria,  by Sam Nda-Isaiah

SAM Nda- Isaiah

Speaks on his paradigm shift
Buhari is my boss but  he can’t intimidate me’

Sam Nda-Isaiah, publisher, entrepreneur and politician, is one of the presidential hopeful on the platform of the All Progressives Congress, APC. He shares his thoughts on Nigeria and why he wants to be the President of Nigeria.

By Soni Daniel, Regional Editor, North

We never knew you as a politician and now you want to run for Nigeria’s Presidency. What is the motivation?

I am sure you know I have been involved in politics over the years. But if being a politician means running for public office, I have not done that one apart from the one I did in school. But if being a politician means working within the political parties, I have done that. Don’t forget that I was the spokesman for Major General Muhammadu Buhari when he contested in 2003.

SAM Nda- Isaiah

SAM Nda- Isaiah

I was with him in ANPP and was a member of CPC when it was formed and it eventually fused with other legacy parties to form the APC. So, I have been a card-carrying member of political parties since 2002 and became the pioneer Deputy Director General of Buhari Campaign Organisation when it was formed. I was in charge of the media at the time. Yes, I have been in politics for some time but I have never really done politics at any other level.

But I want to say that I am into the race because of what I know I can do for this great country as it has become very clear to all that, indeed, Nigeria needs a new direction. It is obvious that we cannot continue the way things are going. We need an urgent change of direction for the country. That is why I am into the race.

Are you not scared that you are going to contest against one of your mentors, Buhari?

My mentor? No, Buhari is my role model. I don’t think I have a mentor apart from God that I have always trusted for everything. A mentor is a stronger word than a role model. He is my role model and we have shared the same views, we seem to exhibit the same tendencies and even now within the APC, you can see that we belong to the same tendency; if you have to assess all the candidates, we are the closest in terms of beliefs, ideas and pedigree.

So, I don’t see anything wrong in contesting with him. In any case, I joined the 2015 presidential race before him. I declared my intention to run since last year and made it open at the beginning of this year. As at that time, Buhari was not sure if he was going to contest. At that time, he had said that he would not contest again. But he has changed his mind and wants to contest. A man has the right to change his mind. I have no problem with Buhari. And I don’t see any problem at all. It is fine and my relationship with him is intact as we meet and discuss all the time.

Why didn’t you think of starting you real political practice with a shot at the Senate or the House of Representatives to really integrate yourself into the political mainstream since you have never really been there apart from helping other candidates to contest for the Presidency?

No, no, I have no need to do so. It is like saying why didn’t I go and contest as a councillor or a local government chairman? I don’t want to. I am not a career politician and I am in politics for just one reason-to make the difference. I am a serial entrepreneur. I have businesses that I started from the scratch and have become institutions. So, it is like asking people that have been governors before or vice president why they didn’t go and start something from the scratch and then develop something to be qualified to come and run Nigeria, which is a bigger entity.

In fact, Nigeria has failed largely because we don’t have people with entrepreneurial experience, those who have been able to create something out of nothing. There are those who believe that is our bane as a country. So, I don’t think that I need that kind of experience in order to contest for the Presidency, especially because, as we speak now and clearly, if Nigeria has come to where it is today, then you should know that those who gained the experience of the past have nothing to help this country.

It is funny when people ask to be elected President because of experience. If I may ask, experience of what? Is it the experience of the high level of corruption that has been committed in the country or the experience of the mess that Nigeria has been thrown into by its rulers? Most of those who are banking on past experience cannot face scrutiny.

That is not the kind of experience that Nigeria needs. In fact, what we need now is a leader with vision to take this country to the next level. We need somebody that will take Nigeria from a third world country to a first world country, somebody who believes that it is possible and not someone who will promise that he is coming to build roads and boreholes. That is not what we need. Ruling a nation is not a joke. That is why I talk about big ideas.

 

At what point did this idea of becoming Nigeria’s Presidency creep into your head. Is it a childhood ambition or have you just seen it in a dream?

To be frank, if the Presidency had been handed over to me some years ago, assuming that anyone had the power to offer it to me, I would not have accepted it because I have never thought about is as a job I would like to do. I mean, it is not an easy job because it takes the whole of someone. It means a lot to be the president of a country because even when things are normal, it takes the whole of you. It takes you away from everything.

I am talking about countries where their presidents are doing things properly. See how rapidly they change in physique. Take a look at when Obama assumed office and look at him now barely seven years after. Look at his predecessors-Clinton and Bush- and you will know what it means to occupy the office of president. If am going to be president, I am not going to play. The urge to be president started from 2007 but became very serious after the 2011 election.

The issues around the world are new and different and the experiences of the past cannot be a guide for the future. And we have had some people that tried and even to win an election, there are certain strategies to be used. If you are going to contest election in Nigeria, the issues are different from when you are contesting election in Ghana or South Africa, Europe or America. You must understand those issues and if you think that I contested election in NPN before, you can always win, it will not work. The issues have since changed and the political environment is not the same. Even technology has changed significantly.

Of course, when Jonathan came and the whole place became polluted and people became fed up with the way things are going in this country, some friends began to say, ‘hey, Sam, why don’t you go into the presidential race and rescue this country from the brink?’  The disorder in the system made some people to ask me to get into the race. I am sure I am not the only one that got this kind of pressure. Initially, when they started, I thought it was a joke and l laughed over it. But when very serious people started urging me to get into the race, I began to think seriously about it.  Some of those who spoke to me did it as if it was an instruction.

Of course, I have prayed over it seriously. I intend to win and even if I win, that is when the real trouble will start. If you are doing this job well, after four years, you should leave because you should be able to do very serious things that people think are impossible. In sum, it is not what I would normally have sat down to think about and it is not also that in the past, the idea did not come to my head but I had always waved it off.

It has come to me and I see some very things I can do for this country. Whenever I go abroad, I see some things that I believe that Nigeria has what it takes to do more. Look at Dubai, which we now envy, when they started their first Sheraton Hotel, they came to Lagos to hire some people to run the hotel. Today, the hotel is among the best.  Each time you go to Dubai after three weeks, you see one new thing or the other. That is how a country is built by visionary leader.

But if all you want is to use your position to amass wealth and promote your tribe, you cannot go far. We have leaders who have divided this country, but Jonathan is most guilty. I talk about big ideas. I need to unite this country behind me to implement those big ideas. Why do I need to divide people when it is my duty to bring them together for the purpose of achieving national goals?

 

But are you not frightened by the avalanche of challenges facing this country? Why do you want to leave your successful business to dabble into the murky water of politics?

Of course, the way things are going in this country, every normal human being should be frightened. It is normal for people to say ‘let me mind our business’ but have you not seen that it is getting increasingly  difficult to face what we are doing? Now look at the kind of security we put around our offices. It used to be that when you start you own business, you will get your own NEPA and Water Board, but now you need to get a very strong security network to be able to secure your premises, staff and clients because the security apparatus in the country has collapsed.

It gets worse every day and it is a thing that should frighten all of us. There are two ways to it: either you mind your personal business and do nothing about the deteriorating situation and then we get to the situation we now have in Somalia which nobody wants to do business with, or you get frightened and decide not to shy away from entering the contest because the lives of your children and their future are endangered. I just cannot sit down and wait. Knowing that it will not be easy but I have no choice but to get into the ring to effect change.

So what are you bringing to the table differently? YarÁdua came with his 7-Point Agenda but died before he could implement it. Jonathan is still struggling to implement the Transformation Agenda to give Nigerians a fresh air. So, what is Nda-Isaiah bringing new to Nigeria?

I have said this at many fora. My programme stands on three legs and I want to do them simultaneously. The first thing I want to do is to unite the country as soon as possible.  As a president, you don’t even need a budget to unite the country. You have to be fair and just to all. It is very easy to unite the country if you behave as a father to all your children.  Only bad parents divide their families; I know that if you govern the country as a good father, there will be peace, unity and development.

We intend to do that as quickly as possible through policies that can work for the people. The second leg of our programme is security, which is the responsibility of every government to the citizens.  As we speak now, Nigeria is in chaos caused largely by not just incompetence but also the extreme corruption that this country has never seen before-the kind that has deprived us of the capacity to even buy bullets to tackle simple crimes.

The nature of crime has changed; so you cannot be using 1960 methods to confront modern crime. Crimes today are defined by terrorism, technology and all that. Unfortunately, there are equipment to help you achieve this but you need to train and retrain the personnel to be able to tackle insurgency. We must change our tactics. Jonathan may mean well for this country. I have met him many times and interacted with him. The issues are bigger than him. He should not be president.  He does not seem to know how to move Nigeria forward.

The third leg consists of big ideas. For instance, let me pick one that relates to the unity of this country. Do you know that we can create a soccer economy for Nigeria? Soccer economies are large and provide jobs. Most importantly, a soccer economy will provide unity for Nigeria because Nigerians love football. Why are we not taking advantage of it? Do you know that the stadia you see in Europe are owned by private companies and the clubs are run by investors?

SAM Nda- Isaiah

SAM Nda- Isaiah

The same people are ready to come and do it here in Nigeria.  For a country that has 48 million unemployed people, only big ideas can change it. Any country with such record of the unemployed should be frightened. Even government confirms that it has 34 million unemployed people which is more than the population of Ghana. We intend to create new jobs for 48 million people; we are creating an army of entrepreneurs, which means that you need to have policies that will foster the creation of small businesses.

A small business creates between one and two jobs. Nigerians want a conducive atmosphere to create businesses for the economy to flourish.  But if you want to steal N40 billion, it will never be possible. Why does the country want to give subsidy in cash instead of seedlings?  There is no need to give people cash which can be stolen. Agriculture is the mainstay of most countries of the world and we need to promote it. Look at Brazil, which has now been classified as Agricultural Superpower.

We have so many things in common with that country. It is doing big business in meat, in sugar cane, in soya beans, cattle, pig and rice. Why do we continue to pay lip service to these things? If I become president, I would be more concerned with legacies when I am through with my tenure. The day I am sworn in, I would also start thinking of the day I would leave office.  That is the only thing that would make one to act with seriousness. I am not interested in becoming president so as to get something out of the office.

It is cheap for people to steal as president, but I don’t know why people should steal as president. We are going to bring big ideas to Nigeria and change the way things are done.  For instance in Nigeria today, we have 17 million housing deficit and the present government is boasting that it has succeeded in building 2,000 houses in one year.

That is their big idea which is unacceptable. The thing about building many houses in a country is that you are creating new jobs with them. We have to build millions of houses because of the value chain. For one million new houses you build, you are creating about 30 million new jobs because everybody will be involved:  architects, engineers, mortgage providers , insurers, craft men, bankers, furniture sellers, food vendors, etc and that will create jobs.

 

So how would your administration tackle insurgency?

I have told you, it would be tackled as part of my security strategy. Don’t forget that, in the past, we had security challenges that these same security men in Nigeria effectively tackled. Don’t also forget that Nigeria was big and strong enough to send its soldiers and policemen to other countries to go and save them. These same armed forces did it. Nigerians soldiers are good; they only need the right support to excel.

So what is limiting them?

Of course, corruption is limiting them. Go and find out as a media person, how much is budgeted for the armed forces and what actually gets to them. Now, the soldiers are even complaining that they are not well fed and are not provided with bullets. Soldiers are proud fighters, willing and ready to fight but why are they running from the battle field? Why are they running away from Boko Haram into Cameroun? Find out.

Nigerian soldiers are competent and proud people and they have always been. In those days of the civil war, we were hearing of big names like the Adekunles and the Murtalas. Where are they now? Where are the Adekunles and the Murtalas of today?  We need to be serious, our country and some things are beyond politics. Most of these things I am saying are very serious; even if I am not contesting, I would still say them as a Nigerian. I am quite worried about them. I have absolute confidence in the Nigerian soldiers and policemen. What we should ask now is why are they running away from the enemy?

What is wrong with Nigeria, what is missing?

The decline of Nigeria started gradually, but I think it has reached the apogee under President Jonathan. For a long time, crimes have not been punished in Nigeria, even under Obasanjo. It was during Obasanjo’s time that an attorney general was killed and we were officially told that the case had been officially closed. That is not how to run a country. Under Obasanjo, so many political assassinations took place and nobody was brought to book.

There is no reason Jonathan should not have been impeached a long time ago. That is the essence of democracy. But when you want to impeach him, some hoodlums who are part of the system would remind you that you did not impeach Obasanjo when he was misbehaving. They will remind you that you did not impeach Yar’ Ádua when he was in the cooler and you want to impeach Jonathan because he is an Ijaw man. These are the people who are trying to divide Nigeria.

And we are going to prove them wrong. We are going to run a campaign that will unite the whole country. This decline started for some time and nobody was punished for it.  Under Obasanjo, subsidy corruption for one year stood at N245 billion but under Jonathan it came to over N2 trillion within a year. Even Obasanjo was alarmed.   So it is time to start punishing crimes no matter who commits it. Nigeria is a failed state and we are pretending.

The luck we have is that because of its size and our resource base, it is not irreversible. We are not like Somalia and Sudan. Fortunately, all the people who are stealing from our coffers have no access to so many things; they are just in a hurry to pack the ones they can see because it can end tomorrow. So when we get responsible leaders and we face the resourcefulness of Nigerians and our natural resources Nigeria, shall rise again because what we have in this country is much. But don’t deceive yourself, Nigeria is a failed state.

There was a time that Nigeria became the country with the highest number of deaths from terrorism. Every day you hear the large number of people killed by insurgents.  To become the president of Nigeria, you not only need to know the seriousness of the problem but also the seriousness of the solutions. The world now is in a flux. Look at what the ISIL is doing. You cannot afford a mediocre leadership in Nigeria at this time. People say it happened in Kenya and other places. But since it happened in Kenya, has it happened again? But in Abuja, Boko Haram struck twice within 14 days. We need competence, clear leadership and clear headedness. That is what is lacking in Nigeria.

Why did you choose APC and not any other party?

I have always been with the progressives. I was among the first set of people to ask for the parties to merge to defend Nigeria from the PDP since they had threatened to destroy the country by saying that they would rule Nigeria for 60 years.  That is why I say that they have threatened to kill the rest of us. I have friends in PDP but it is not just my abode.

Where lies your primary support base, since your state is controlled by the PDP?

I am not a local champion and I can say that Niger politics is progressive leaning. I am Kakaki Nupe and it translates to the ‘I am the voice of the people’. So, clearly, I have a base in the state and I have a base in Nigeria, which is my whole constituency. I was born in Minna, schooled in Kaduna and went to University of Ife and did my Youth Service in Ekiti State. I have always seen myself as a nationalist and I understand Nigeria very well. I am not a guy whose base is limited. I understand this mischief of trying to divide the country; so I know what to do to unite this country. We are not yet a nation but a combination of quarrelsome people.