By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
Mr. Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim is aspiring to be president of Nigeria on the platform of the newly registered Alliance for New Nigeria (ANN), a party, styled as the party of technoticians mainly on account of the professionals and non-career politicians in its fold.
On the periphery of the party’s national convention penultimate Saturday, Mr. Olawepo-Hashim, in an interview, ventilated his thoughts on his aspiration and the state of the nation.
Despite your prominent role in the evolution of the PDP, why did you leave the party?
I left PDP in November 2006 about 12 years ago. I had issues at that time with the PDP and I think the party now is worse than then. The issues we had were issues of internal democracy and the standards were even pretty high in terms of values and we even questioned those standards then that they were not adequate. So, you can imagine what it has become now. I think it’s pretty worse now than when we formed the party. We started with issues of internal democracy right from around year 2000 and 2001, when some of our colleagues in the National Working Committee (NWC) wanted automatic extension of their tenure from two years to four years. Late Harry Marshal, myself, and others challenged it, even though we were supposed to be beneficiaries of that extension. We felt it was objectionable. We had just come from military dictatorship and coming into democracy, we were not supposed to be conducting ourselves with impunity. So, that was the fight then around 2000, almost two decades ago now.
So what happened?
Then, by 2006, it was clear that the party was not ready to reform itself and a lot of people exited the party including the founders of the party that made victory possible. That was why you saw that the 2007 election was perhaps the worst election that Nigeria ever had. 2007 election was like warfare because they had lost support of most of the members that made victory possible. So, the perfidy did not just start today. The perfidy started from that era and of course it began to go from bad to worse.
How can your party break through to take the pre-eminence over the two major political parties in the country today?
The two horses are on their way to death already. They are bleeding very horribly. They are both APC and PDP. One thing that is interesting is that you have almost 10 million voters who are going to be voting for the first time in Nigeria. Most of them are not followers of these two horses. In fact, they are the crop of people who ordinarily were not showing interest in politics, who are incensed by the shenanigans of those two major parties, that they don’t want to vote for either of these parties. These are the first line of support for the ANN. In a three-way race, if you start with 70 percent of that vote, you are already halfway through and you can do your research. These ones are unlikely to vote for PDP or APC. So, that is the starting point.
Having left the PDP in 2006, what did you engage yourself with between 2006 and 2018?
Since 1992, I’ve been a businessman. I’ve never had any other occupation rather than running my business for over 27 years. Politics is the one that is my second address, not my first job.
You have put a lot of energy in reorganizing the ANN, if you don’t get the presidential ticket, what will you do?
I will still continue in ANN. But members of ANN are not stupid. They want to put their best foot forward for Nigerians so that the party can win and that is what we are working hard on.
Specifically, why do you want to be President?
I can put Nigeria back together. Nigeria is badly divided and it needs a unifier and a bridge builder. Secondly, Nigeria’s economy needs to be rescued from complete collapse.
At the bottom of some of these challenges in the country is competition for resources and massive poverty. It also contributes to the number of these upheavals that we are having in different parts of the country. Some of the realities are quite scary and needs the urgency of now to arrest them. Otherwise, if the trend continues, things can really run out of hand.
Some months ago, we were discussing with some people who came to visit us from Shiroro (Niger State) and we were talking about insecurity, they said the kind of insecurity we are seeing now is not just about herdsmen and farmers clashes; that in Shiroro now, once they bury their yams in the ground around the planting season, some people will go and unearth the yams; some will even go and sell the seedlings in the market in order to have some money.
So, what they do now is to mark the yam seedlings with paints so that when it shows up at the market, everybody will know that this is a stolen yam. This is where we have come to. So, are you going to send policemen to be manning every farm in Nigeria? This is a huge social economic crisis.
That one is no longer just security problem. It’s a serious problem of chronic poverty and collapse of all the economic lever of hope. This matter is an urgent matter. You cannot discuss some of these security challenges outside the issue of poverty and the collapse of the economic support system for the people to live to be human beings in the first place. That demands an urgency of now.
But the discussions and analysis of 2019 leaves all these practical questions out. It’s about what is about what are the chances of this person; how many House of Reps members are following him? How many governors do they have? The real issues are left out and we will ensure by the grace of God that 2019 election is going to be about issues. It’s not just going to be about the shenanigans of politics.
Is that why you call yourselves technoticians? Can you explain?
That’s a term in ANN. It means basically technocrats, lawyers, doctors, professionals who are also interested in politics. That is the slang in ANN. If I want to make it simpler, it’s people who have something they are doing with their hands.
Do you see your ambition being hampered in one way or the other by the so called issues of politics, which you called shenanigans of politics, zoning, ethnicity, which appear still widespread right now?
I don’t see how my ambition is limited by that. If anything at all, I think Nigerians want a truly Nigerian President. So I don’t see how that limits me. It only helps in a period of great division. Nigerians need at this point a President that will be a true Commander-in-Chief of all Nigerians regardless of where they come from or regardless of their State. That is the President that Nigerians need and that person is me