Sam Nda-Isaiah Stops Weekly Newspaper Column, Explains Why
The stakes are quite high and getting higher by the day. Nigeria appears to be a sinking nation, even though many prefer to live in denial. The APC presidential primary takes place in a couple of weeks and I have declared an interest. Winning a presidential primary anywhere in the world is not a walk in the park. And, since I intend to win, I need to face the hard work that will be necessary for winning, and with absolute focus. This will require not just travelling all over the place but talking to people who are going to be involved, directly or indirectly, in the choice of the standard bearer of the party. It will possibly take speaking to and engaging the more than 300,000 people – elected officers of the party from the ward level up – that shall be voting during the presidential primary. I am doing this because I know how important this is for the future of our progeny and our country.
I have said it severally on this page that Nigeria cannot survive four more years of Jonathan’s incompetence and attitude towards corruption; these assertions get confirmed every single day. Even the most optimistic of people and those who doubt some of the grim prognoses I have been offering on this page must have been shocked by the events of the past weeks, especially the way Boko Haram has been taking territories from the Nigerian state. And nobody should deceive himself or herself that, if Jonathan remains in Aso Rock, Boko Haram will not take over several states of the nation. Only the most foolish person will fall for the falsehood that Nigeria’s security problem is a north-east problem only.
The president has no idea of how to secure Nigeria, whether the threat is from Boko Haram, kidnappers or whosoever just wants to become a criminal. Murderers are not apprehended and his government just watches helplessly as Nigerians, including little boys and girls, are kidnapped, raped and murdered on a daily basis. Rumours that the president’s own family had to pay a ransom to kidnappers for the release of a senior family member in Bayelsa State not long ago persist; those who should know even quote figures of the ransom paid. Oil theft reached an industrial scale long ago and nobody in government discusses that issue. And not a single person has been arrested so far for oil theft, and that is very curious. The greater issue of crude oil becoming a less sought-after commodity of international trade that would affect the funding of the nation’s operations within the decade, as a result of the shale resources in North America, Europe and Asia, has received absolutely no emergency attention from President Jonathan. Monthly allocations to states have fallen by about 50 per cent since Jonathan became president. And this is supposed to be a crime that is clearly an impeachable offence, but nobody – not even the two houses of the National Assembly – has as much as discussed it.
All these and many more strange things happen because of the level of corruption – the type that this country has never seen – of the Jonathan government. Our president has a funny, inexplicable attitude to corruption. He once went to great lengths to create a difference between stealing and corruption, and one wonders for what end. When his Central Bank governor raised the alarm of extreme theft in his government, the first thing that came to his mind was not to arrest anyone or even commence an investigation to determine the level of damage, but to suspend the governor. That shocked the world and embarrassed our country. It is this attitude that has encouraged the kind of stealing that has virtually grounded the operations of the nation to the extent that everything, including the security of life and property and the provision of basic amenities to the people, has collapsed. There is no money to buy arms and bullets are now being rationed in the fight against criminals. Not long ago, a commander in one of the battle units told me that 200 guns were sent to 400 soldiers fighting against Boko Haram. So why then should we be surprised that soldiers’ wives are protesting that their husbands should not be sent to battle fronts without arms and Boko Haram have been capturing Nigerian territories and hoisting their flags, and our soldiers fled from Boko Haram’s fire to Cameroun where they were promptly and ignominiously disarmed by Camerounian soldiers? Is this the same military that salvaged Sierra Leone, Liberia and Chad all at our expense? Is this the same army and police that were once thought to be among the best in the world during the days they took part in peacekeeping missions all over the world? Is this the same army of generals Murtala Muhammed, Muhammad Shuwa, Benjamin Adekunle, TY Danjuma and other gallant, courageous and fearless soldiers we used to hear of? Something has gone seriously wrong somewhere and we need to quickly bring back our country out of this huge disgrace.
To compound this shame, our president ran to Chad a few days ago to beg the president to help us in the battle with Boko Haram. What kind of scandalous climb-down is this? Is this the same Nigeria that used to have some responsibility for Africa? We miss the days when past Nigerian presidents used to sit in their offices in Nigeria and invite all these other presidents and they quickly obeyed. Is this not the same Chad that, during President Shehu Shagari’s days, a Brigadier Muhammadu Buhari, as GOC in the north-east, almost overran within 24hours because their soldiers had killed a few of our soldiers, and Buhari would have actually done so if the then French president had not woken up President Shagari in the middle of the night to call his soldiers to order? Well, to humiliate us further, the Ghanaian president recently promised to send us troops to help fight Boko Haram. Chai!
Those who still deny that Nigeria is a failed state that needs urgent rescuing probably do not know the definition of a failed state. Even Pakistan that has been classified as a failed state by the west has apprehended those who attempted to murder Malala two years ago. They arrested them last week. Nigeria has not apprehended a single terrorist or murderer in spite of the thousands and thousands of murders that happen every day in our country. The gruesome murder of little boys – they were burnt alive in their dormitory – at the Federal Government College, Buni Yadi in Yobe State, seems to have been forgotten. And thanks to the disingenuous Pro-Jonathan groups the best that the government has done to bring back the more than 200 missing Chibok girls after over 150 days, is to launch the counterfeit hash tag, #bringbackJonathan2015. Pity!
In spite of all these, it will still be quite legitimate to ask me why I want to be president; and I, in fact, want people to ask me. Nigerians should interrogate not just me but everybody that intends to be president to know whether they have a plan. The entire edition of this newspaper would not be adequate today if I had to list reasons why Jonathan should not continue as president, but that should not automatically translate to why I or anyone else should want to be president. Jonathan is not a bad human being and may actually be doing his best, but, as we can see, his best has actually grounded our country. Jonathan has proved totally incapable of governing Nigeria, but that also doesn’t mean just any candidate the APC presents will defeat Jonathan. A five-minute chat with an average Nigerian voter would confirm this. Even speaking to many of those who intend to vote against Jonathan will reveal that a lot of people who are going to vote against him will be doing so for the wrong reasons.
To defeat Jonathan handily in 2015, we must be able to mobilise the whole country, or at least 90 per cent of it, to be successful. No incumbent president has ever been unseated in Nigeria and it will even be more difficult with a desperate president who doesn’t obey the elementary rules of decency. For the APC to defeat Jonathan, it must think out of the box and provide Nigerians someone very new and different as its candidate.
Jonathan has no record to run on, and, if our democracy had been working at all, the PDP would not be presenting him as its candidate, because the party should actually be embarrassed, if not scandalised outright by his performance at this point. But barring any force majure, Jonathan will be PDP’s presidential candidate in 2015. And any party anywhere in the democratic world that presents a Jonathan for re-election certainly has something up its sleeves. So the only way to defeat Jonathan in 2015 is for the APC to present a candidate with the basic attributes to mobilise everyone to save the nation. The APC and Nigeria will not have a second chance to do that. Election riggers do not want to see people mobilised all over. No incumbent president has ever been defeated in Nigeria because the opposition has not been able to present a candidate that will bring out people all over the country.
Just like we in the APC are very glad that Jonathan is going to be PDP’s candidate and hope nothing disrupts that, Jonathan and his people know the kind of person they want as APC’s candidate and they are praying very hard for that kind of candidate to emerge. It is clearly a legitimate aspiration and they are not committing any wrong to wish that. They certainly do not want me or anyone with my kind of portrait or delineation to be APC’s candidate. Some of them have told me this personally. One of them closely associated with the Jonathan campaign recently told me that if I am the APC candidate, it will disrupt their plans and immediately change the game and they certainly do not pray for that. And that is precisely why I am in this race, and that is why I intend to win the APC presidential primary. I know how important it is for Jonathan not to continue as president beyond 2015. And that is why I must stop this column today to face the very hard and exacting work of mobilising to win. This is a national assignment bigger than this column. I am, therefore, inviting all those who have followed this column and believe that Nigeria can be what I have strenuously advocated every week for more than a decade to join me in this mission – a mission that remains for God and country…
Why Do You Want To Be President?
Funke Egbemode, ever brilliant and witty, whose column in the Daily Sun I do not ever miss, recently asked in her column why I want to disrupt my peace by wanting to be president. It was a perfectly legitimate question. I suppose Funke knows me well enough to understand that I will not be that president who just wants to feel good about being president. The office of president of a nation is not one to be enjoyed and those that do the job properly age very rapidly because of the sheer responsibilities and burden of that office. Even though some people in my campaign train don’t like it when I say the job of president is not a good job – because they think I could be misunderstood – I still sincerely believe it is not a good job. It is a job that will disrupt all aspects of your life and expose your privacy to the world. But it is also a job that must be done properly by somebody.
Another reporter who has been so enamoured by our message asked why it is so difficult for me to pass on these big ideas to others to implement instead of wanting to do it myself. And I told him that vision is not television. Only one person sees and cultivates a vision but millions can watch television at the same time. If the vision is not yours, it will be very difficult to steal it. After the Jonathan era, which I am sure will be remembered as “the years of the locust”, it will be time to move Nigeria to a new status. It is very possible to move our country from its current status of a Third World nation to a First World nation. Nigeria has much more than what it takes to get there in record time. It is only the leadership with vision and courage that we do not have. A few leaders came close to it in the past but didn’t quite get there. If it is the example of small countries we want, we have Singapore and the Gulf states to guide us; if the example we want is a moderately large country, we have Brazil; and if we want examples of large countries, we have India and China. China, which used to be considered a Third World country, is today on its way to displacing the United States as the world’s largest economy within the decade. It has already displaced Japan and every country in Europe. Brazil, with a population of about 200 million, which is really the country we should be competing with because of our several similarities, is the world’s agricultural superpower. It even sells aircraft manufactured in the country to the United States military.
Is there any reason why we should not be a great nation competing with these nations? None whatsoever! When Singapore gained independence in 1965, its leaders said their ambition was to be like Nigeria and The Philippines. Now, it is Nigeria and The Philippines that want to be like them. And Nelson Mandela once told Dr Hakeem Baba-Ahmed when the latter, as permanent secretary in the foreign affairs ministry, visited him that one of the things that kept him and his compatriots going during their 27 years in prison was the thought that there was a black country called Nigeria that would also become a world power to act as a counterpoise for the whole of Africa. Dr Baba-Ahmed told me that Mandela was very angry at what Nigeria had become.
But our fortunes can still be reversed. Even though Nigeria has failed, our circumstance, unlike many others in a similar situation, can still be reversed because of our huge and extensive human and natural resources.
A reporter once said that even though I have many appealing big ideas and he hoped I would become president to implement them, I do not have public sector experience to help me. My response to him was that nobody has the experience for the future. Vision, not experience, is what is needed to change the course of history of nations. Besides, the experiences of the past which have stymied our country cannot be a guide for our future. We need a brand new direction for our country if we are to survive at all. The world is moving so fast that we need a lot of catching-up to do. And if experience is such an issue, then you cannot have a better experienced person than Jonathan who has been all things from deputy governor to governor to vice president to acting president and then president. And see where he has led our country to.
To move Nigeria forward to where we should be, our campaign message stands on a tripod. The first thing I intend to do as president, which is the first leg of the tripod, is to unite this country as quickly as possible. Nigeria is still not a nation because of the attitude of our leaders. We have leaders who deliberately want the people divided so as to achieve their selfish goals. To be able to achieve the kind of big things I have been talking about, I will need to unite the whole of Nigeria behind me. Thankfully, you do not need a budget to achieve this. Any president who really, really is sincere about uniting the country will succeed. A president that governs with fairness, justice and charity to all will unite the country behind him. And there is no magic to this. All crimes must be punished. A message must be sent to criminals that whoever commits a crime will be apprehended and brought to justice — whoever they are, no matter where they come from and no matter how long it takes.
The second leg of the tripod would be to secure life and property as fast as possible. Nigeria is currently in near total disorder. The most basic responsibility of any leader, whether it is a monarchy, democracy or military rule, is the safety and protection of the people, and any president who does not do this has no right to continue to remain as president. A nation is bigger than any individual. I will not be that president who would complain that people are killing themselves because they do not like me. Nigeria needs a strong police force comparable to the best anywhere in the world. We need to enlarge our police strength from the current 370,000 to at least 1,000,000 immediately and then gradually grow it to 4,000,000. Nigeria currently has a population of 178 million (according to the latest UN figures); it is scandalous that we have only 370,000 police officers to match this population. The police officers must also be trained and continuously retrained and must be adequately equipped to meet today’s exigencies. Nigeria also needs a very strong military, not only for our security and the stability of Africa as we had done in the past – which in fact is in our national interest – but also to defend our currency and our economy. I strongly believe Nigeria has a responsibility to lead Africa and we must do so. And we need a strong military to achieve that.
The first line of defence for any country that has challenges relating to terrorism should be its borders. Nigeria now probably has the most porous borders in the world. There are identified 1,497 illegal entry points into Nigeria; at Adamawa State border alone, there are 25. There is no way we can succeed against insurgents if we do not take full control of these borders. And, these days, countries are able to do this more effectively by deploying modern equipment.
The third aspect of our message or the third leg of the tripod, and which has now become our slogan, is that we are going to be the government of big ideas. Yes, only big ideas have changed the course of history of nations. I will not be a president that promises to build roads or boreholes as many do. The bureaucracy should do these as a matter of course. That is what the normal budgets of a country should focus every year. The kind of issues that will preoccupy my time as president is how we can have the largest seaport in Africa if we really are Africa’s biggest economy; how to make Nigeria the aviation hub of Africa if we really are the most populated and the most travelled in Africa; how to create a soccer economy, for instance, to take advantage of our talents and passion for the game to reduce unemployment and further bind us as a nation.
The last time I checked, Nigeria had more than 48 million unemployed people. Since Nigeria currently does not have 48 million jobs on offer, only big ideas can solve this massive and dangerous problem. We intend to create an army of entrepreneurs through the creation of millions of small businesses. A small business typically creates between two and five new jobs.
If Nigeria currently has a population of 178 million people and we are Africa’s biggest economy, and South Africa, the second biggest economy with a population of 50 million, produces 45,000mw of electricity and intends to double this figure, it is totally unacceptable that President Jonathan’s big idea is to produce 10,000mw in the coming years, even though no one believes he can nearly achieve it. If Brazil with a population of about 200 million people generates 121,000mw of electricity and we are serious about competing in today’s world, we cannot be thinking of an installed electricity production capacity of less than 50,000mw in the first instance. Only big ideas can achieve this. Even Pakistan which is considered a failed state produces 22,000mw of electricity.
I can go on and on and on but I will hold my peace until the campaigns start to give details of these big ideas. There are people who would tell you that what I am saying is impossible. Don’t believe them. Always remember that those who say certain things are impossible are continually being interrupted by those achieving them.
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