.Dumebi Kachikwu

•Talks about education, security, power, good governance

By Jide Ajani, General Editor

Dumebi Kachikwu is the Presidential candidate of the African Democratic Congress,        ADC. A billionaire businessman with interests in the media, agriculture and real estate, Kachikwu deployed his candour to clinch the ticket of his party. In this interview at his Abuja residence last week, he exuded confidence and expressed hope that Nigeria can become a better nation.

With radical ideas in toe, he believes once unity can be forged, and the square pegs are fitted into square holes, Nigeria will be able to deliver on her potentials. He talks about education, security, power, good governance and the type of mentality a Nigerian president should have.

Excerpts:

Emir Lamido Sanusi says he doesn’t know what the motivation is for those seeking to be Nigeria’s next president. What’s the motivation for you?

I think it’s very simple.  Looking at the abysmal failure of this government, I felt I was partly to be blamed because if you look at those who present themselves for office, knowing they have nothing to offer, yet we do nothing about them, we have a problem. And when members of the public are restricted to those people alone, they are forced to choose from among them.

So, if you don’t present yourself, no matter your best ideas, nothing will change. As a young man, I saw the decay and our parents kept quiet; but I don’t want to keep quiet and I don’t want to bequeath to my children this mess we are in. I want a better country for my kids and the generality of Nigerians.

Coming from the private sector, why ADC and what has the experience been like?

The experience has not been the best. Every day you think about what you meet out there, you see people in their true colours, the horrors, hate, bitterness, divisions and you are faced with the stark reality of everything that we are and you ask yourself: ‘Where do you start from?’ Some days you’re presented as an Igbo and some days you’re not. Some days some people accuse you of CAN agenda just because you’re a Christian. Some days, you see those who have plundered this country and continue to do so fight you and resist change. You see that those who you are fighting for don’t even want to be liberated and you’re confronted with this mixed bag.

Now, why ADC? Someone very close to me convinced me for three months to run on the ADC platform because I was clear in my mind that I was not going to run on PDP or APC – not because there are no good people in that party, of course, there are – because they lend themselves to money politics and godfatherism.

And I don’t have money so I needed to go to a party where I will emerge because I have good ideas and play my politics better and tell the people about what I will do. And even in ADC, I also saw strong candidates. And win or lose, I would have supported whoever won because they would have been better than those in the other parties.

Being confronted with the mélange you referred to, immediately after being sworn in on May 29, 2023, for instance, what are those first things you’ll quickly address?

I think this question is one of the biggest mistakes we make in Nigeria because if you watch successive governments, this has always been their approach – three-point agenda, four point agenda.

And it shows clearly that they don’t understand the depth of our problem in Nigeria.

Sorry, let me cut you short there. The question of first steps that I just asked is within the context of the issue of the confusing scenario you painted, saying that tssss you do not even know where to start, so, it is not about an error of thought?

Oh no! Not you. Just saying generally about past leaders.

Nigeria is like a bucket that is leaking because of multiple holes. If you plug just two or three of the holes, will the bucket stop leaking? Absolutely not. If you plug 10 holes and you still have 15 or 39 holes, the bucket will still be leaking. So, our approach must be multi-faceted, that can set a foundation for fixing all the problems.

We must have the right people in the right place. Once that is done for all sectors, we will deliver. We have the talent. You cannot take health and power and you ignore education. Every sector is important. The human body will not be complete if one organ is faulty.

But some organs are more important than others?

I agree but your general well-being is the most important.

There are some who believe and insist that true fiscal federalism will solve all our problems. How would you approach the challenge of

Situated the way we are now, federalism is not achievable because of the deep-rooted suspicion we have for one another. We have to go back to the foundation: Who are we? The colonialists were shareholders in the space called Nigeria but left the shares of the company for us with problems that are built along the fault lines of tribes, tongues and religion and that trap continues to haunt us.

We delude ourselves by refusing to acknowledge this. Once we define who we are as a people united, even while accepting our uniqueness based on tribe or religion, but agreeing that we must all promote our country based on equality but still promoting that one country of equal shareholders, we will make progress. Once you remove those faultlines and we see ourselves as Nigerians using that green passport, we will begin to make progress.

As a father, for instance, you know the potential of your children – the one that is likely to be good in engineering, you begin to position and support him for that, same for medicine, entertainment or catering without discrimination. What you would be doing would be building a solid home. But the moment you begin to discriminate, even when you’re genuinely cash strapped and cannot address some needs of your children, the bias you have shown will cripple that family.

If you have one of the children engaged in a vacation job and he contributes to the growth of the family, you’ll need to encourage that one too by not always milking him, but by encouraging him, too, to do more by way of allowing him to keep part of his earnings.

So, to deal with federalism of any sort, we must see ourselves as a nation first, representing Nigeria first. Loyalty to the country. When we begin to position tribes or tongues or religion over Nigeria, as we’ve been doing, we won’t make progress.

So, how would you build unity in practical terms as president?

The people we call our leaders are steeped in the bitterness and hatred of the past. We need a new generation of leaders who see each other as one and the same. We cannot expect people who are suspicious of one another to change. Look at our so-called leaders.

Fortunately, the Internet is helping in a way. I’ve been moving around and I see some young people who do not have those biases of the older generation. We must speak to their sense of fellowship and encourage the same. We will engage in the conversation for oneness.

I’ve come to realise lately that what I thought was Nigeria was not Nigeria in terms of the depth of the hatred and bitterness.  But there is hope. Any time I talk to the younger ones, I see hope of a greater tomorrow and we are encouraging them. Yes, there are those being paid and sponsored to misbehave but deep inside, they want a better nation.

The issue of insecurity is a serious one. What challenges do you see?

Our insecurity issue is caused by many factors. Economy is one; our President mismanaged our diversities, and he did not defend our borders the way I would do against the invaders. When your economy is not working, people become desperate to do just about anything to survive; and the economy again because Nigeria cannot afford to prosecute the war the way it should if the economy was buoyant.

So, what must we do now?

First, the war is in all parts of Nigeria but Nigerians don’t accept that Nigeria is at war. Nigeria is the only country in the world that is at war but the people don’t believe that they are at war. When you go to a country at war, the headline news everyday is about the war. In Nigeria, the government of the day does not want the war reported because they say the media is unpatriotic. But if you don’t report the war, people won’t believe that there is a war going on.

The government has gotten that wrong. The government does not want people to know the body count. Nigerians are not alarmed enough to come out and make donations to the military or to a point when people will come out and say they want to volunteer for the military. Everyday we lose men. Everyday the terrorists and bandits recruit more jobless people because it is a lucrative enterprise but our military is not recruiting in the same manner.

We must recruit more. But in the short term, the Police and Civil Defence must be brought in across the country, we can start taking these people on. We drive the outsiders away and hold our own people down and prosecute. Military budget must be reviewed to meet the demands of the moment. Look at the exchange rate and the cost of diesel used to move the trucks.

Such constraints limit activities, thereby creating windows for terrorists to operate.

The military is challenged but can not come out and complain. Then we must tackle the corruption within our procurement process. We should also ensure that Nigerians can arm themselves. Once the bandits know this, they, too, will think twice before attacking people. And a situation where even our security operatives are thinking of not hurting sensibilities because of tribe, tongue or religion is not helping because it sends confusing signals. The body language of the

 President is key in resolving and defeating these criminals. We keep talking about ungoverned spaces and you even hear government officials talking about ungoverned spaces without realising its import. What it means is that some spaces in the country are not within the control of the Federal government of Nigeria. That’s not good. Our military has all it takes to execute this war. The Nigerian people must support this war. The media, too, must support this war.

But, unfortunately, the economy or market forces do not respond to body language as our military does. You have the issue of inflation, value of the Naira, crude theft, power, debt overhang and many more on the economic front. What would be your approach to tackling all these: Private sector-led or State-sponsored intervention?

You see, our problems are many but they are solvable as long as we are determined to solve them. People at the helm of affairs are thinking of short-term gains.  We must have a free-market approach on one side and have strong policies in place to serve as a guide.  That’s how every country that works does. 

But in Nigeria, for every sector that has failed, you had people who didn’t care and nothing was done as a deterrent.  This has gone on for too long and there are no consequences so those who come in continue the same mess.

Let’s take health, education, power and security.  The people who suffer this the most are the poor but the rich get away with it. 

The elite class have the permanent light courtesy of generators.  They have police guards, boreholes; as public education is failing, the elites have options of private schools or abroad. 

Those who manage the critical sectors are the elites, and the rich, and they don’t feel it across all sectors or experience it, so, they don’t care.  But the poor do not have options. 

My first interaction with NASS when I’m elected would be to send an Executive Bill, The Nigeria Patriot Act. It will mean in good times we are in it together, in bad times, we are in it together.  It would seek to become an act that every public office holder and every company that derives its operating licence from the federal government –  banking, media, teleccoms – everyone of them must travel by road except it is an emergency; you must rely on public utilities like water, power, hospitals, schools and you cannot have police security in your house.  Imagine a Nigeria where top public servants are compelled to use government hospitals or send their kids to public schools and imagine these things for those we call leaders in Nigeria. 

All within nine months, Nigeria will begin to work again.  If these people feel what the common man is feeling, they will begin to help our country. 

Imagine the minister of power not relying on generators at home or in the office.  It will also reduce corruption because the money you’re stealing will not be so useful and funds for projects will be used for projects. 

Is it in the education space? Or the healthcare space? Or utilities space – power, water.  If there is consequence for bad behaviour, Nigeria’s public office holders will be responsive and responsible.  Once we can do that, we can address the multi-sectoral challenges we have.

In education, the best schools in the world are funded by endowments from the rich.  In Nigeria, what are they doing?  Building hostels cannot be compared with endowments.  Our problems are deep but they’re human problems.

That Patriot Act will be dead on arrival at NASS, because why must a Dangote be confined to the pains of poverty? Or,…

(Cuts in) It’s not in that form as you’ve put it.

The Act will be in place for 12 years so that we can get our acts together.  It was my passion and commitment that made me present it in that raw form.

Okay, it would be like an Emergency Act?

Exactly. You got it, an Emergency Act.  There’s going to be a timeline.

I’ve looked at these problems critically and it needs a very critical solution.  Twenty, thirty years ago, it was still the same problem and it is still the same problem today that we are dealing with.  We can solve it. 

A President with a popular mandate will enjoy the support and goodwill of Nigerians once they are made to understand that it is in their interest.  We cannot continue like this my brother.  Do you know what it means to be in the capital of Nigeria in the year 2022 and there’s no light, no water?  Three minutes form the Presidential Villa no light, no water, it’s a shame. 

We must all be patriotic.  We thought it was only about the poor but when they say ‘poverty capital of the world’ it is our country no matter how rich you are.  When they say failed nation, it is our country that is being referred to.  You are only as rich as your neighbour.

These radical ideas are good.  But those who easily refer to Lee Kuan Yew ignore the faultlines we have created in Nigeria.  Singapore went into a merger with Malaysia but the faultlines did not make it work and Singapore opted out. Because Yew was dealing with the same people, it was easy to get everybody on board and that refers to your position on unity. Whatever Yew did, people bought into and owned it as a united people.

So, mobilising public support is good.  How do you convince your group, the elite who exploit religion and ethnicity and have weaponised poverty, a group which you belong to?

I won my rimaries selling this message about a rescue mission that involves everyone.  There are transformational leaders who can speak to the issues and who people will trust.  I have one task as a presidential candidate and it is to take this message to all corners of Nigeria.  It will then be up to Nigerians if they want to continue with this mess.

The Stockholm Syndrome has been planted in the minds of Nigerians. Our people who are captive have this love for those who have held them captive for so long.  We must help our people and save them from themselves.  Moses was a part of the elite but he chose to rebel for the commoners.  That’s my aim.

But the strictures of public office, particularly the presidential villa, have negative effects on its occupiers.  There is a difference between meaning well and being able to do well, just as there is a difference between the desire to deliver and the ability to accomplish. People get to public office and become something else. We have one on our hands!

Once you have a leader who truly loves his people, that love will break down every barrier.  That love will envelope the atmosphere.  Mandela did it. 

He was able to carry everyone along.  If I don’t sleep because some people are in kidnappers’ den; if I don’t sleep because of the problem of unemployment, people will queue behind me. The day we have a leader who understands that an inflation rate of 19.5% is terrible and not normal; the day we have a leader who will not let everyone sleep because ASUU is on strike; the day we have a leader who would do everything right not to make his healthcare workers leave the country; the day we have a leader who says if power is not working, I will not abandon you and enjoy power from generating sets, that day will mark the beginning of transformation.  It is easy.  It is about leadership.

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