•Qualities our next president must have
•We cannot continue to recycle failed politicians
Choosing Celebrated journalist and publisher, Mr. Dele Momodu is a frontline Presidential hopeful on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP in the 2023 election. In this exclusive interview with Vanguard, he explains why he remains the best man for the huge task of repositioning Nigeria for greatness.
A lot of tested politicians are in the race for the PDP Presidential ticket. What mileage do you have over the rest?
My answer to your question is actually contained in an expression used in your question, “tested politicians”. That is the bane of our present society and societal development. Most of the aspirants for Presidency today can be encapsulated in that phrase “tested politicians.” My view is that, sadly, while our politicians may be tested and experienced, they have only been tested but majorly failed in all spheres. Their experience is one of failure and mediocrity, and it is about time we moved away from these abysmally low standards and set new, higher and qualitative standards and ideals for ourselves.
Indeed, majority of Nigerians are saying they want fresh faces with fresh ideas and refreshing ideals. That is where my candidacy is different and novel. I am that candidate who fulfils the yearnings and aspirations of the ordinary Nigerian people for a principled, talented, disciplined, visionary leader who is additionally imbued with integrity, resourcefulness and patriotism. I am bursting with ideas and solutions to the seemingly intractable problems that we face as a nation. The good thing is that this is not new to me. I have consistently advised our various leaders about what needs to be done to turn the fortunes of our beloved country around. It is not rocket science, but you must first open your mind, be a bucket for the reception of ideas and be receptive to those ideas. That is a fundamental attribute that is lacking in most of our leaders. It is why we also sadly continue to promote mediocrity because we are left with no choice.
With every sense of humility and modesty and without any fear of contradiction, I will say that I have laboured hard to attain a global brand status. The records are there. They don’t need embellishment or massaging. I have had solid theoretical and practical education, which has enabled me to acquire wide-ranging experience and exposure in the world of teaching, business, entertainment, lifestyle, advocacy, entrepreneurship, governance, networking, public speaking, academia, journalism, public relations, branding, tourism, information technology, foreign relations, hospitality, philanthropy and so on. I believe that I have accomplished a lot by successfully managing people and resources. The secret of my successes in different fields of human endeavours can be traced and ascribed to honesty, knowledge, discipline, humility, frugality, passion, comportment, charisma, affability, vision, audacity, tenacity, commitment, loyalty and implicit faith in God.
I’m a child of diversity with a father from Edo State, with a strong Muslim background and a mother from Osun State with a strong Christian origin. I therefore have very strong ties to two of the three regions in the South and the two major religions in Nigeria. I also enjoy extensive links to the South East where I have been a major admirer and promoter of Igbo talents, culture, tradition, and incredible capabilities.
Internationally, my job as publisher of Ovation International magazine and chairman of the Ovation Media Group has made it possible for me to have a face and name recognition everywhere in the world. I have operated in, and covered over 60 countries, on five continents. In my own right and personal recognition, I have met and interacted with Presidents, Vice Presidents, world figures, captains of industry, business icons, traditional and religious leaders, men and women of the armed forces, social crusaders, political chieftains, rebel leaders, philanthropists, and so many others in Nigeria and overseas. There’s no part of Nigeria I have not made friends across ethnic, social, political and religious divides.
In your estimation, what are the key attributes the next Nigerian President should have?
Clearly, the next Nigerian President must be the Chief Executive Officer of the nation and behave as such. He must have the capacity to naturally attract love, and command respect, at home and abroad. He must radiate confidence, intelligence, brilliance, level-headedness, clear-vision, discipline, and business acumen and be cosmopolitan in nature. Nigeria urgently requires a measured and moderate leader. He must not be tempestuous, arrogant, intolerant, vindictive, condescending, old-fashioned and outdated.
The world is fast moving away from career politicians to technocrats in politics. Our party must seize this opportunity to correct the mistakes of the past. We must demonstrate to our people that we are ready to offer a new vista of hope to our country men and women on the 30th anniversary of the June 12, 1993, Presidential election. We cannot continue to recycle the same politicians as if Nigeria has made no progress whatsoever in the past three decades. We must not belittle the remarkable achievements of those who have not been in political offices but have been major players and determinants on the world stage, not arguable local champions that we presently have.
We must resist and reject the notion and temptation of suggesting that power is the exclusive preserve of a group or class of people who have hijacked our common wealth for personal use. The time has come to challenge and change the unproductive and retrogressive status quo. We must urgently retire our leaders of yesterday and yesteryears and substitute them with our fresh and innovative leaders of today in order to assure that our collective tomorrow will be much better and rewarding. I’m proud to say I have taken time to plan and prepare for this journey. And I’m very ready to lead our nation out of the doldrums. I will be a ready President and Commander-in-Chief from day one.
Consensus talks collapsed among aspirants from the North recently. Down South, Senator Anyim Pius Anyim and Governor Nyesom Wike have vowed not to step down for anyone. What is your take on consensus candidacy?
I honestly do not think the consensus approach to the selection of candidates is democratic, particularly where it is not voluntary but imposed or coerced. If at all, it should have happened before nomination forms were obtained at such exorbitant amounts. The selection of candidates to govern our entire country should not be the exclusive preserve of a few putative candidates or party grandees. There must be a fair representation in the decision-making process. That is usually done through an indirect process by Party members, which is recognised the world over as being democratic without being unwieldy.
Should the 1999 constitution be subjected to further amendments or Nigeria should go for a brand-new constitution as recently canvassed by erudite lawyer, Chief Afe Babalola?
Nigeria currently lacks the time and the required resources for a brand-new constitution. In any event, it is unnecessary. The constitution that we now have provides for a federal system of government which is the main grouse of many who complain about it. Therefore, the problem is not with the constitution itself but with those charged with implementing it. No constitution will ever be perfect. We shall dust up and review some of the brilliant and excellent work, done in recent conferences that have not seen the light of day to see what areas of the constitution needs further amendments or tinkering with.
We must always remember that the judiciary is also there to give purposive interpretation to constitutional provisions as the country and humanity evolves. That is why we need an independent, insulated and robust judiciary which is not financially or otherwise reliant on the executive or the legislature. A situation where the Chief Justice of the Federation or a state is casually and regularly summoned to State House for functions and meetings should not exist and will be stopped at federal level at the very least. Respect must beget respect. Let the judges face their duties. In truth, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, as the head of the third arm of government, should be well equipped and respected, likewise for the state governments.
One area of constitutional development that we must interrogate immediately is the opportunity for a second term for Governors and Presidents. This re-election syndrome has been one of the reasons for the failure of successive governments in Nigeria. After two years, most of our leaders become embroiled in politicking and other activities in preparation for a second term. Their attention wanes and it is the nation that suffers. Given our history, population and circumstances, I do not see why a single term of 5-6 years is not enough for anybody to formulate and implement policies for the betterment of Nigeria. The next person can continue from there, accepting the good ones and embarking on his own.
How will you fight insurgency/terrorism if elected President of Nigeria in 2023?
Once we bring love back and treat every Nigerian with respect, we would have instantly laid a solid foundation for peace and unity. We will build on that foundation by doing the things that are necessary for the military, police and the teeming mass of restive unemployed youths dotting our national landscape. We shall invest in the education, training and reorientation of our men and women of the armed forces. We shall adequately equip and safeguard them and give them pride to be involved in service to their fatherland knowing that if they are injured or, God forbid, have to pay the ultimate price, they will do so with the assurance that they and their loved ones will be well taken care of. Apart from deploying all modern, sophisticated and innovative measures in the battle against the insurgents/ terrorists, we will activate a robust welfare and insurance package that will give them hope and comfort.
There will be respectable, viable and plentiful job opportunities for many of our graduates from every part of Nigeria. Gainfully employed people and those who have realistic prospects of employment do not have reason to engage in these kinds of dastardly activities. We will educate them and the rest of the people and create mass awareness which will be greatly helped by the wealth, comfort and security that our government will engender. As part of our efforts to create jobs, our government will intensify vocational education and training in our institutions.
Intel will become a major priority and we shall take advantage of the advancement of technology. Similar to packages for our armed forces, our police force and intelligence officers will enjoy special wages and incentives, including insurance, free medicals and free education and regular trainings. As one of our elders once told us, I see no reason why up to 40 per cent of our resources cannot be committed to our security and well-being now so that we can all have safe and secured lives. I believe that war is always a last resort. Dialogue can achieve a lot more. Even after war, there is always discourse. Therefore, I am prepared, willing and ready, if necessary, to meet with terrorist leaders on certain conditions, if peace and security can be guaranteed.
What specific policies and programmes will you implement if elected, to diversify the nation’s revenue base beyond oil?
Firstly, I must emphasise that, in the immediate future, we cannot seek to eliminate our dependence on oil as a major component of our national wealth. As we seek to reduce our dependence on income from crude oil, we must still embark on a wholesale surgical operation of the industry. One of the priorities of our government will therefore be to make the oil sector more vibrant by eliminating the massive corruption in the sector, building enhanced and efficient capacity and infrastructure, and re-energising the sector through technology and innovation. The deceit and fraud in subsidy claims will end by the policy of subsidy being discarded. Nigerians have paid for this scam for far too long. Every commodity in the world has a price but we’ve never known ours because of the abracadabra of the magicians controlling the sector. The recourse to importation will not be a matter of necessity but one of last resort as local production will be ramped up to cater for our consumption and that of our neighbours. Pricing will be properly done to ensure the benefits of our being blessed with this natural resource is felt by all Nigerians and is not a curse or a cross for us to bear.
The entire subsidy regime will be fully and forensically investigated by our acclaimed experts in the area, and any unlawful or shady dealings exposed, and the culprits fished out and handed over to the relevant agencies to prosecute. It is scandalous that Nigeria continues to run at a loss in most of our petroleum departments. No diversification of our economy can work if we do not keep our main cash cow very healthy. We shall need to make huge investments even in that sector as part of the diversification process.
We must increase our productivity in the gas sector. We have lost so much time and too much revenue by wasting the limitless gains of our humongous gas deposits through gas flaring. Even now that we have recognised the significance and huge benefits of gas, we are yet to develop this as we should. Had we done the proper thing, we would now be one of the countries reaping the benefits of the Russia-Ukraine war, but instead, we are like the unwilling spectator being forced to imagine and rue what might have been. We must never be in the same position again.