By Dotun Ibiwoye
A former Nigeria High Commissioner to Canada and Mexico, Professor Iyorwuese Hagher, dissects social justice in several dimensions in this exclusive interview. Also a former Minister of Health, Power and Steel, incumbent Pro-¬Chancellor, Afe Babalola University and a presidential aspirant, Hagher, known for soft power diplomacy instead of violence from wars and arms race globally, speaks on Nigeria’s diversity and unique exceptionalism in the multiplicity of languages, a peaceful revolution of hope for those with no voice and the ethnic cleavage that is getting wider, among other issues, in the polity.
As a presidential aspirant ahead of the 2019 elections, what should Nigerians expect from you, especially having been a senator, a minister (1995 and 1997) and ambassador (2004 and 2008)?
Nigeria should expect from me some measure of experience gained in the legislative and executive arms of government, as well as the diplomatic service. My other experiences are as university professor in teaching and research and leadership mentoring of the youth. Nigeria is in great need of a highly enlightened leadership to take it to greatness. Without experience, leaders stumble and flounder in positions of responsibility and disappoint everybody in the end.
I believe you were in the Constitutional Conference of 1994-1995 also, so you can also claim to have experience in constitution making. So how do these experiences make you a better presidential choice?
Let me reframe your question a bit. It is not how many positions one assumes that makes one a better leader. It is what one garners from these experiences and positions. In my own case, I learnt early that life is not only about resumes, and the rat race to be better than others in acquiring positions, careers, money and power. These things contribute only to external success. What really matters in life and gives substance to good leadership is character! In all positions, trainings and life experiences, I learnt that a profound character of leadership is found in one’s core being like honesty, humility, kindness, loyalty and courage in the face of evil. These are necessary to have in the type of president Nigeria needs now. I believe that I am better armed than most Nigerian political types to be president. I have a strong political will to serve this country and dedicate the rest of my life for that purpose. I am capable of independent critical analysis. I take reasoned decisions. I can face evil, any evil without flinching because of the spirit of God in me. I am experienced, fortified and overcame greed early in life I shun materialism. I believe I will harness the nation’s resources with integrity. Above all, my love affair with this country is beyond description. This is why I want to be president.
On July 30, 2016, you wrote a private memorandum to President Buhari intimating him with the existence of incremental genocide taking place in Benue. What should have been done?
I had expected the Federal Government to pull its intelligence institutions together to verify the veracity of my assertion and then put a security force to stop the genocide which I predicted was going to become full blown war against the people of the Middle-Belt within 18 months. The government assured me in their reply to my memo that it was doing its best to stop the looming genocide and anarchy, but, on the contrary, their best was not good enough to stop the genocide. In fact, the reaction of the president and security institutions was to blame; they took sides with cows against human beings.
What then should government do now?
President Buhari should swallow his pride and apologize to the people of the Middle-Belt where the genocide is taking place. He should show presidential empathy and not arrogance or hubris as is playing out now. The presidency is in total denial despite horrendous facts that genocide is raging against Nigerian citizens. He swore to protect lives and property. He has failed. He should concentrate on making amends and restitution and not be involved in the campaign mode of bribing the victims and leaders that are willing to sell their conscience. I believe we don’t have enough money in the Central Bank to pay for the life of even one citizen killed through government.
Many Nigerian youths have not really experienced good governance or any purposeful leadership since they were born. What is the way out for these youths?
There is much anger in the generation of youths you refer to. There is another generation that has not seen peace! All they see and hear is terror, squalor and poverty. They live like animals. They were born between 1999 and now. For those over 19 years, they have not seen peace and are refugees in their own country. Nigeria has the highest number of internally displaced persons in the world besides Syria. These youths have no education, can’t write their names but can handle AK47. They are fed ethnicity, religion and hatred. This is the generation that I fear most for Nigeria. They are growing in numbers and are being recruited by the evil parasitic political elite for evil intents. The biggest problem of Nigeria is bad leadership. The North and the South have never been politically or socially united (except in looting) since the amalgamation of Nigeria in 1914. The ethnic cleavages are getting wider.
But how can you achieve your lofty dream for the nation?
A lot can be achieved through education, agriculture and health. Nigeria is facing disaster today. The Middle-Belt is witnessing genocide; the South-East and the South-South are embroiled in assassinations, armed robbery and general insecurity. The North-West is facing severe poverty and the North-East is facing a separatist and religious war. Poor choices of bad leadership have led to system collapse. In this country, it is safest to live in the South-West where there is prosperity built on decades of investment in education. Ogun State alone has more private universities than the entire North of Nigeria. This is the Awo free education policy that is yielding dividends now. Educated people prefer conversations to confrontations, consensus over aggression and civility over political force. I will, as President, give the minimum of 26% of the budget to education because, as educational levels increase, consciousness is raised. Qualitative education will lead to full employment opportunities and productivity will grow the economy. As economic opportunities spread, more people will regard ethnicity and religious bigotry as wrong and will even rise up to condemn and fight these moral wrongs and we will together built a great nation.
The absence of a strong police force and efficient judicial system, with few asserts and even less information on the perpetrators have made the conflict worse. What will you recommend for the federal government?
Strong institutions are those headed by competent servant leaders who establish strong institutional cultures than can with stand volatility. The judiciary needs to be expanded and provided with critical assess to technology and purged of corruption. We need a police force that is a well-trained elite force. We need an army that is strategic and overwhelming in efficient outcomes. But we need more than brute force to manage conflict and insurgence. We need good governance tact and justice for all, for without justice we can have no peace. We need committed churches and mosques that are rooted in serving humanity with love.
Who are your role models?
My late father, Daniel Hagher Gbaaiko, a totally selfless, kind and loving man. My other heroes, Jesus Christ, Mary Slessor , Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr, Nelson Mandela, Murtala Mohammed, Aminu KANO, J.S. TARKA, Sir Ahmadu Bello, Obafemi Awolowo, Wole Soyinka and Dapo Adelugba. I sought mentors and heroes from personalities that opted to put iron in their core to cultivate wisdom, courage, integrity, love and compassion in their heart and actions.