Datti Baba-Ahmed

…His thoughts on the economy, investment, insecurity, education et al

By JideAjani, General Editor

Something is bound to give; and we must deal with it.  Because Nigeria is at crossroads, whatever needs to be done must be done.

This first phase in this series is not just about an interview. It is a melange of views espoused by presidential contestants (the candidates and their running mates) at different fora, including but not limited to television interviews and social media content.  The main interviews would follow in due time.

We believe it will be better to engage a bottom up mode, instead of a top to bottom arrangement, hence, we are starting with the vice presidential candidates of the major political parties in the land.  Like the leopard, Nigerian politicians have never and will never change their spots. Those who have established a cordial relationship with corruption will continue to have their romance with corruption. Those who have been religious bigots will merely seek to accentuate their bigotry whenever the opportunties arise.  The ones who just want the title will do whatever it takes to rig their way to power.  Those with nepotic instincts will not relent once in office.  They ills have always lined their ways.

If you are in doubt, these questions will burst your brand: Why has Nigeria continued to retrogress? Regarding regimes, why has it been so easy for Nigerians to prefer the former which they demonised, while lamenting the woes under the present which they welcomed with open hands? Or, is it because they were never really held down to some conditions?  Is it because the Nigerian politician suddenly changed?  Is it because Nigerians did not properly interroigate the antecedents of the in-coming leaders?

It is in addressing that last question that we have harvested past statements – in their own voice, with video evidence – of those aspiring to lead Nigeria from next year. We have codified their statements in a thematic form and each can be held to account. The contexts of their statements have neither been befuddled, not their essence obfuscated by ill-will. The internet never forgets. 

In THE POLITICS BOOK, we are reminded of how Johann Gottried Herder (1744-1803) posited that ”each nationality contains its centre of happiness within itself”.

The authors broke it down thus: ”People are shaped by the places they group up…-…because shared languages and landscapes help to create a national spirit, or Volksgeist.-this national spirit forges a community with a particular national character.-people depend on this national community for happiness.-Each nationality contains its centre of happiness within itself.

So, we ask: does the Nigerian nationality contain its centre of sadness, backwardness, insecurity and corruption within itself?  The answer is yes.  But the same Nigerians have another opportunity to change the narrative as we begin to interrogate the personalities and their ideas in the quest to lead us.  

By default, instead of the perenial All Progressives Congress, APC, and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Labour Party, LP, has happened on the stage.  But for LP now, it is more about the optics of mobilisation and excitement rather than voting proper.  Then there is the New Nigeria Peoples Party, NNPP.  We also have some other political parties in the mix.

Today, we present the thoughts and ideas of Dr. Datti Baba Ahmed, the running mate to Dr. Peter Obi of the Labour Party.  The views are strictly his and were made at different times – some during interviews, others in-session with young professionals and some were things he said in 2018/2019.  It burrows into the dept of the mind of Baba Ahmed.

Compiled by Dapo Akinrefon and Gabriel Olawale

How to make Nigeria work

First and foremost, we have to end the award of inflated government contracts.  We are going to bring about prudent procurement because the moment you eliminate inflated government contracts, which Peter Obi did in his eight years as governor, you will have more money to spend on working conditions.  The moment you are able to attract and retain earned revenue, you are good to go.  If your intention is to get inflated contracts and that is why you are supporting me (us), forget it. If you are coming to me(us) with clean mind and running a legitimate business we will patronise you, and make sure we get benefits of your expertise either you are in Nigeria or Diaspora.

Nepotism, personal and group interests in appointment is why you get the wrong people into right offices and right people into wrong offices. We can only be 100 percent correct. What they call Due Process Office and Bureau of Public Procurement, I was involved in 1999. I designed it and among about 1,000 members that have been to national assembly, go and check it, I am the only one that sponsored a bill against inflated government contracts. This has destroyed Nigeria in about two decades.  We all shout against corruption but when it is time to act, people turn away because they are going to benefit from it. The next Nigerian President must be somebody practically ready to micro-manage Nigeria.

Micro-managing Nigeria

How many people have you ever heard coming to speak specifically about how they are going to stop the award of inflated government contracts?

There is no need giving too much credit to myself, I leave you to judge from what you hear from me. But I can assure you, this is different from what you know.

When Buhari said he is going to fight corruption, how?  If you ask Buhari now how does corruption in Nigeria happen, he wouldn’t know. What we need now in Nigeria is better mechanics, better builders and better businessmen from the public side. Aside that, we also need to make use of our best expatriates who are in leading universities across the world.

In Canada, among the top ten professors, there is a Nigerian; and among the top ten surgeons in every top hospitals in Europe and America, there is a Nigerian.

When I started my PhD in Westminster in 1997, the highest paid individual was not the Vice Chancellor but a Nigerian who is the Head of IT.

We need to tap from our people in Diaspora.  If you think we should develop technology, it doesn’t work in a vacuum; what we have is a vacuum.

Corruption

I’m not so sure President Buhari really understands corruption. 

I can quickly tell you that there are seven different ways corruption is perpetrated in Nigeria.  First, inflated government contracts, which is responsible for anything between 55% to 65% of the quantum of corruption.  Second one is unremitted revenue.

The third one is extortion – from the N50 collected on the road to the multi-million dollar deals that are done before anybody could see the president.  Fourth one is conversion of public property into private.  Fifth is the use of security votes – the way you have it before is the way you still have it today.  Sixth one is wastefulness – criminal wastefulness, anything you can create to spend money on recklessly, including undue use of private jets and any other instruments of government that is wastefu, it is wastful, it is corruption. 

The seventh one is undue influence of fraternity and relationship, which we call influence-peddling (man knows man).  Buhari has never scientifucally looked at corruption.  Corruption does not perpetrate itself.  There are ways that it happens. Of these seven, some are administrative, some are legal and you’ll discover that about 70% of the way corruoption is done in NIgeria is simple administration.  What President Buhari has been saying about corruoption since 1984 has been mere rhetorics, he has never fought corruption till this moment.  The way contracts were awarded during the PDP years  is the same way that contracts are awarded today.

Arresting people does not address the issue of corruption.  It addresses the criminality.  What we should be technically interested in is how did the act happen? They inflated the conrcat so how would you stop it?  It is to control the mechanism.  Logical limits and mathematical limits.  Those jailed now you’ll discover that some of their cases started during the PDP era.

To fight corruption, first pass the bill on inflated contracts. Secondly, deploy tecghnology so that people do not under-report or divert Nigeria’s revenue.

You cannot deal with extortion by not leading.  When you surround yourself in Aso Rcok Villa with friends, family and cronies, the natural tendency is for them to extort moeny from business people and politicians before they get to see you.  Surround yourselef with technocrats and experts in various fields, not a nephew who was never elected.  That is how to fight corruption.  Somebody has been doing the complete opposite of fighting corruption but  because his actions tally with the typical illiterate, ignorant (pardon my language)Nigerian, who, all they want to see in life is the downfall of others. In the meantime, there has never been any government in the history of Nigeria that has promoted corruption in the way Buhari’s government has done and the worst form of corruption is a fake war on corruption.  I stand by what I’ve said.

Insecurity: Tackling terrorism, banditry, kidnapping

Security, in the context of Nigeria, where you have kidnappers, bandits, secessionist, you need to be careful; there are certain things unspeakable now; but if his excellence, Peter Obi, has not said it, I will not say it, but bear in mind there are unspeakable things that have happened.

I love Nigeria so much that sometimes I take risks and I can tell you, at least, being a vice presidential candidate in a contending, leading political party, I will not be tempted to say certain things for now because I love Nigeria, and, without Nigeria we are nothing. There are some people who promised to bring security to Nigeria; there were few bombings in Abuja as at that time; the moment they relocated to Abuja, the bombing stopped. So, what is going on?  They used to travel Abuja-Kaduna frequently every day, but the moment they brought private jet and stopped public means of transportation, it became one of the most unsecure roads.  What is happening?

The reason why we are not saying so much now is because we know too much. I have to pray in my heart because I say the little I did now, if you know what we know you will wait until we get there and see the way we will deal with those that brought insecurity into Nigeria.

We are not going to play with the issue of security. Why will I listen to APC talking about how to secure Nigeria when, after eight years of borrowing billions of dollars, there is no tangible outcome.

Take a police constable with wife and two kids for example!  What can N100,000 do for him? Nothing happens so quick and over night, and that is how you know leaders that mean business.  We will try to give humanity back to the security operatives, from the police constable, to the army officers, custom officers and public servants like teachers and lecturers and nurses among others – give some humanity back to them, redirect there loyalty to their nation and profession, and, that way, the police will not collect bribes on the street.

Technology and security

Look, South Korea that manufactures this CCTV camera, if you go to them and say ‘produce half a million units for me’, that will, in the first instance, crash the price and then you bring them to Nigeria – there are millions of Nigerians willing to embrace technology.

Every road – about 40,000 kilometres of road in Nigeria – CCTV can cover.

Remember, that is going to be done concurrently with the identification of every vehicle and individuals, deploying technology with security personnel. If we do it in such a way that you can not get public transport or enter a mall or a hotel or hospital without identification, I want to know who will come out from a community and say he wants to go to another community to kill.  Once you can identify almost everyone, crime becomes less attractive because once people know that they can be identified, that serves as a deterrent.

Right now, what we have is a lawless society, it is everybody for everybody, because you can come out from Sudan or Cameroun or any part of the world and go into the middle of Nigeria, commit any crime and nothing will happen.  The absence of a system in which people know that they can be called to account is the reason why there is so much insecurity in Nigeria.

In the last crisis in Jos, where hundreds of people were killed, I assure you, that killing will not have been done if there is database in the DPO’s office that can tell you about all the men between the ages of 16 and 45 that live in that area.  Because, if you want to investigate and with CCTV, you will have the database to question where people were, when and what they were doing when the incident happened.

Potential area of conflict with NASS

In the first three months, if Nigerians feel that they can travel to all parts of the country with safety assured; if we don’t see naira sliding; communities are not attacked; Christians are in the church and don’t need to block the road because they don’t feel safe; you don’t need extra security because nobody is going to attack you.

If we succeed in that regard in the first three months; or, that, none of Peter Obi’s relatives are in the system; no corrupt arrangement in the Central Bank is attributed to Peter Obi or myself.  And when they see the return of Nigerians in diaspora – medical doctors coming back to open hospitals; industrialists start assembling computers, motorcycles and vehicles in Nigeria.  That means Nigeria has changed and it is no longer about political parties alone, but purely about success on the part of Nigerians.

You can’t impeach somebody that is succeeding as we will; it doesn’t make sense. That national assembly will not attempt it.  So, it is the people of the constituency that will start the recall process on whoever makes such a move to impeach.

Made in Nigeria product?

We will address the issue of ‘Made in Nigeria Products’ with what I call ‘PEDIGREE’ (Presidential Economic Development Initiative for General Redirection of Economic and Empowerment.  Yes, I call it PEDIGREE.

That is to show you that I have done so much work in the last three years (2018); not that I just woke up one day and said I want to run for this office.

The concept of PEDIGREE will require so much time to explain.

Civil service

We are going to cut out so many things and do it in a civilized way.

With the problems confronting Nigeria today, we will sit and design our civil service procedure and public service procedure in such a way that it will work for us.

We are interested in basic literacy and civic awareness; you have already created middle class. When you have a stable middle class as a government, and you ensure that everybody’s take home at the end of month is enough to last them till another end of month, if we achieve this, then we would have achieved something fantastic.

What I represent

You can go through my business and political career and see how careful I have been in selecting people that work with me.  Go to the website and see those that work with me; there’s nothing to hide. I have successfully convinced a large number of our people in the North to understand that our being together as Nigeria is designed by God. My date of birth is not something that is supposed to generate controversy, I was born in 1969, I am 53 years old. I am highly honoured to be part of the project to change Nigeria for good.

Nobody who buys delegates’ votes will do anything good for Nigeria.  I withdrew from PDP governorship race in Kaduna because God has not created me as one that will buy delegates’ votes. When Labour party called me to be Peter Obi’s running mate, I embraced it because I like the Presidential candidate and his principle. Anybody who earn legitimate income in Nigeria is by default a Labour Party member. If you go to work and make legitimate income, you are LP member.

Our movement

In recent months, Peter Obi did not only gather some followers, he gathered phenomenal supporters. 8 million new registrations from young Nigerians within a short period of time is phenomenal. It clearly shows that a difference is going to be made. What is going to hit the powers that be, which happened in 2015, will happen again. LP is a train – not like the Abuja-Kaduna train – and it will be very difficult to blow it off because the whole Nigeria is in it.

We represent the interest of Nigerians; we want to link Nigerians together in unity and harmony. We are going to invest in education.  We have a pyramid we want to implement; not necessary that everybody must go to university to obtain degree. Our pyramid will increase the number of Nigerians that can communicate with basic literacy, to awareness, enlightenment, education, professionals.  When people ask you about southerner leading the country, you need to ask them certain questions. You need to ask people about their condition in the last eight years, if they have been more secure? Who is in charge? What is your interest? Let’s find someone to do the job for us irrespective of his region.

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Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.