Prince Adewole Adebayo

‘I know more about the military and the challenges they face than the C-I-C’

By Olalekan Bilesanmi

Prince Adewole Adebayo is a Social Democratic Party, SDP, presidential hopeful for the 2023 general elections. In this interview, Adebayo says the N35m nomination form isn’t an investment as some inferred. The investment, he says, is the belief that young people have that, through him, Nigeria can be better.

The party you are using does not control even a state in Nigeria. How are you sure that N35m investment in this project isn’t a waste.

I understand that N35m cannot make you a President. Our investment is in the people who share our belief for a better Nigeria. Thousands of people, young and old, all over the country, are pasting posters and talking to people. So, N35m is not the investment. The investment is the belief the people have. The rest is in the hands of voters. 

The way our republic is fashioned is that you come out in public to state your belief, you don’t wedge on which party should I join? No, you go out and say we have a new perspective to the problem of the country. We are creating a platform which we can present to the people. It is now left for the people to see that the platform is credible. If you are going to vote, there is no law that says you cannot vote for a party that is new. In a state like Ekiti, for example, SDP is the leading party there. 

So, Nigerians just have to open their minds to one thing, that let us allow for fresh ideas and let us see whether this person can actually run a government. One of the ways you can know if a person can run the government is that you allow them to run a party and run a campaign. So, watch us as we run our campaign, we have a nine months period to make our case to the public. So, by Christmas time, by January, you will now know whether we have explained to you why you can put your faith in our offer because what we are trying to tell you is that there are alternatives. I am tired of people saying we don’t have alternative if you ask people, why don’t you vote? “I don’t have alternative, I can’t vote for this. I can’t vote for that”. So, now, we give you the alternative. At the end of it, you will now decide whether the alternative is viable or not. 

What gives you hope that you are going to win. Isn’t there any thought that you could lose the N35m?

First, we have problems that are human problems. There are no natural problems. There are some countries that their problems are natural, not human caused. I lived in California for many years. In Nigeria, there are no natural problems. Now, in economics, the whole idea of economics, with all the books written on economics, is based on the principle of scarcity. 

That is an environment of scarce resources. You have to make economic choices in Nigeria. No scarcity. Every developmental resource that we need is in abundance. There is no scarcity of human beings. There are some countries that want to develop, they have to import labor. We don’t have to. They have to import food. We don’t have to. 

They have to import water. We don’t have to. The whole of geopolitics of Europe is that they have to import gas. That’s why everybody’s looking towards Russia and Ukraine. We don’t have any of this. So, it goes down to one thing that we have a leadership problem. Now, if you address that leadership problem, then, you have solved all our problems. Now, what do you do about leadership? To change the leadership, you have to expand the leadership pool. 

You can’t have 30 people who, for 60 years, have to choose themselves to become the leader of the country and, when you are done and people have forgotten your errors, they wait for some years and bring you back again. So, we said, no, what you can do if you want to change the country and you know that leadership is the problem, then you need to put more people into the leadership pool. How do you put them in the leadership pool? You put them into politics. You test them out and their understanding of the issues in the country? And they can start to providing solutions to them. Look at their lives if they live up to 40 years. You look at where they worked, were they good workers? When they went into business, were they ethical? When they went into public service, were they efficient and patriotic? Then you test them on whether they understand the issues at stake today. 

If you put all that together, then you can now choose them as a leader because you have nothing to lose. You have been choosing from the same pool. There’s no head of state that can honestly say “I have not sent something by way of advice”, but it’s not that they don’t know what is right. 

The issue is that what is right has a price. That price requires selflessness, not the traditional way we presently operates where when I am in power, I share the resources of the country among my friends, the old boys’ network. I cover their errors and I reserve position for your children and you reserve for my children. If they are competent or not, we don’t care. We can put the person in charge of critical infrastructure, and you can break it down. And if you are caught with N80billion and your uncle can call me and say, “Okay, look at that small boy, okay; well, don’t worry. Let them make noise for three months, afterward we will help him out”.

 So all those things are the reason we are not progressing. It’s not that our problems defy human nature. No. If you go to government offices, as I do on many occasions, you will see that the person elected as a governor or President may spend the substantial hour of the day not even doing the people’s business, he may be with his Party Chairman discussing party issues. So they don’t have time to do work. 

You may see a Minister that spends half of his time on things that don’t have to do with his ministry. So it is not that our problems are so complicated that we are always in the church and in the mosque, round the clock, praying for divine intervention. You don’t need divine intervention to clean your room if you have a broom. But if you don’t want to do it, you can’t be looking for divine intervention. Problem, however, small, needs somebody who wants to solve them. It is the person who doesn’t want to solve them, or who, in addition to that, wants to use this problem to make money. So you have insecurity, for example, I can send two battalions, few guys enough to go and knock them out. I realized, no, why should I do that? I can turn it to N1 trillion budget and make my friends rich and I become rich myself. When I turn into N1 trillion budget, I get used to it. 

Then I said no, let me turn it to a N7 trillion budget. It goes on like that. But it is a problem I can easily solve. Yesterday, my campaign managers were going to Zamfara State and they called me to say “we are in panic”. So what happened? They said “bandits have stopped us on the way”. A few hours later, they called back and said, “Well, we can go now”. I said “what happened, did you see the army?” They said no; they called local hunters and local hunters chased the bandits away. 

So, I said, there are bandits in this country that local hunters can chase away but the army cannot chase away. So that’s one example that can be adopted but it doesn’t make it scientific, but if you do research, you will find out that in every problem from security to poverty and collapsed infrastructure, there are places where people make money. There are people in this country who haven’t done any decent job in 40 years. There is an estate out of our commonwealth which is created for them. So they are in charge of the ports, they sit down and collect rent. So we don’t improve on the ports. We don’t build new ports.

You are you are a lawyer and a business man and founder of Kaftan TV, among other business interests. How true that one needs some experience in governance before joining politics?

Let me confess in public that I do not have any experience in bad governance. So I have not been part of those who have been misgoverning the country. So that lack of experience in doing bad things, I admit, I don’t have. However, when you want to take a decision in the public sector, the only difference is that the money doesn’t belong to you. It belongs to the people. Everything you do in managerial field, private or public sector, is the same. If I am managing this station, as a private station, it is the same principle as that of a public station, the only difference is that profit interest or motive is downplayed but if I need to provide electricity, I need to provide it. It doesn’t matter if I am in government or outside. Leadership in public service is not about forming an alliance where, for example, we have this GSM principle governor, senator, minister. So if you are a failed minister, you are in charge of housing, people don’t have housing, you cannot come to say, “I was a minister. I have experience”. 

No, you can only say you had an opportunity to serve and you failed. If you are a governor, and you spent eight years, and bankrupted the state, you cannot say you have experience in managing a state. No, you will say, “I was given an opportunity to manage state, I mismanaged it”. You can only be good at it if you have been good at it. If I you have to give him more opportunity than me, does it mean that you are better than my experience? I have represented and advised government.

 I have consulted for government in Nigeria and overseas. Let me say what can happen to you if you have no government experience, you come to an environment, you do not know how decisions are made. You do not know the facts on ground.  That is what may likely happen to you. 

That’s not my case. If you ask me when it comes to every critical aspect in terms of security, it will surprise you to know that I know more about the strength of the military and the challenges they face than the C-I-C who is in charge of them but who doesn’t listen to them. You can see in this country that people outside defense and security intelligence know more about it than the people inside government. Some incumbent who, when they came in 2015, in spite of having been government all their lives, came back to tell us, “oh, we are shocked. We didn’t know government was this bad”. But we were out there advising them that this is what it is. So there isn’t anything in government that is not about you. First, mastering the issues, having the facts and surround yourself with competent people. This kind of people is available. The only problem is that they don’t have money to give the delegates.

What gives you hope that you are going to win even though you paid N35m nomination form?  How much of impact have you brought to your community?

N35 million is a lot of money because I know that many people are hurting in this country. But N35m is not up to what I pay every month for scholarships for indigent students. So it’s not a problem every month. I have employees who work for me. I have over a thousand employees who work for me. So N35m, yes, I don’t disrespect it; it is a lot of money, but it’s not money that I will do a sign of the cross before I spend.

You don’t need supporters to come up with the money. You actually paid for that out of your pocket.

Not at all. I paid for that from my pocket and I paid for so many other things out of my pocket. If you look at the taxes, every year in my state, I get the tax payer of the year award. And the governor of my state is of APC, he’s not from my party, but every year, including this year, I got the taxpayer of the year award and the NYSC, which is owned by the APC-led government, gives me employer of the year award. So you can accuse me of not having been advertising myself, but it’s not my job to advertise myself. 

It is the job of journalists to look for developers of community? If a person is hiring over 1, 000 workers for the past 15 years, it is the job of journalists to find the person. If I practice law up to the Supreme Court of Nigeria, I have practiced law in the Supreme Court of the United States, I practiced in New York, I practiced law in California, I practiced all over the world, and I am one of the rated arbitrators. I have been a fellow of arbitrators since I was in my twenties. It is for the people in the media to search and criticize all of that. And if you Google my name, you will not have to struggle to know who I am.

What is your thought about rule of law in this country, given that you are a lawyer?

With due respect, there is no rule of law yet in this country. There is only the rule of persons. Let me give you the benchmark. When there is rule of law, change of government will not affect it because rule of law is where the law is no longer in the hands of government to enforce. 

There would be rule of law if I am in Council, as President, if a police constable sends a note to me in Council through the security services that they want to arrest the Attorney General because he has just used his car to knock somebody on the way to Council meeting, that’s when you have rule of law. 

That is to say the institution of the state like the police and all of that are free from government interference…and that when I am in government, I fear the police as much as the man who is selling oranges on the street. So that’s when you have rule of law. So we will get there. That is the journey we need to get to but we need to define it well. So when they say, for example, a certain President is helping the rule of law, you don’t have rule of law, because rule of law is not the party manifesto.

•    Interview first aired on TVC

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