What motivated you to go into politics, putting into consideration your former position in the Central Bank?
I am actually surprised by myself because I never actually thought I would ever go into politics. I thought that being a senior technocrat in a leadership position would be enough to make an impact but I have seen that it is not so. No matter how competent you are as a technocrat, if you have the wrong political leaders on top of you, the country would continue to have problem. As a result you would be frustrated because your vision compounds the problem of unemployment, poverty and national cohesion and security. Those types of things would not be fulfilled because you do not have the ultimate clarity that elective democracy and the legitimacy that elective democracy confers on you. Ultimately responsible people for governance in this country are our elected leaders not technocrats. You see what I am saying, so I became more and more disappointed with the performance of Nigerians politicians and realizing they are not actually leaders. They are just politicians for the sake of politics of money, power, relevance but not to serve the people which is the whole purpose of politics in governance. When I became disappointed and saw the increasing level of poverty in this country, I began to feel politics. By the time I was a Professor in the US after serving as the Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). I have a certain level of freedom, I was not hindered or hampered by anything. I was expressing my opinions freely, and I think you need to offer yourself to the people of Nigeria and ask them to give you the chance to right the wrongs. The chance to do what the failed recycled political leaders has not been able to do for 30 or 40 years. The reason they have not been able to do it is because they do not have the capacity, they do not have the character or the competence. So as a technocrat you bring that confidence,
Are you saying all technocrats can be good leaders?
Not all technocrats actually have that competence, let me also be clear. The fact that you are technocrat does not mean automatically you can be a good leader but I believe that I have leadership ability and I believe it has been proven in my track records in many institutions. In everywhere I have served, I have always left the institution better than I found it, either in the Central Bank or in the UN. You find that when you leave a place, people miss you for a very long time because there is something they feel is unique you have been able to add in terms of value to whatever the institution does. I felt that the logical next step therefore is to contest for the Presidency, to seek the mandate of the people and to be for Nigeria what Lin Con Yu was for Singapore, what Mahaze Mohammed was for Malaysia and to seek a vehicle that is closer to the people.
During your time at CBN there were accusations that you oversaw some execution of controversial banking reforms. Does it not bother you that some people would see you as a controversial President if you are elected?
No, because the bottom line is that as Deputy Governor of CBN, l made strong contributions to the progress of Nigeria. I oversaw and supervised reforms that have helped the Nigerian economy in which Nigerians enjoy till this day. This includes the introduction of the Bank Verification Number (BVN), I led the reforms that started the rise of the Banking Industry after the financial crisis. If I had not performed well, several banks would have failed and billions would have been lost. Depositors would have lost their money in many banks, and today there would be a lot of weeping and gnashing of teeth. My work together with my team headed ultimately by Sanusi Lamido Sanusi prevented that outcome. For the fact that my track record is a track record of success and the fact that I understand that leadership is not always popularity contest. Sometimes, you have to take actions that may not be popular with some persons interests but it does not mean that because those actions are controversial, does not mean they are not in the interest of the people. Indeed, the problem with our so-called leaders is that today, they are politicians and why I say so is that they are not interested in taking the right decisions that are necessary to take the country on the right path of development and national unity. No, they want to be popular with some of the people or some of the constituency and then they fail to do the right thing. What is your choice, to do the right thing or be popular? If you are a leader and you really want to do the right thing, explain to people why what you are doing is the right thing. At that time they may not see it but eventually they would see it. Therefore, the reforms that the CBN introduced and with which I was associate including the Islamic Banking are good reforms. The fact that they were controversial at that time does not mean they are bad. Islamic Banking was financial inclusive, it was to bring segments of the country into the financial system using a system of finance so that they would be more comfortable. I do not know one person who was a Muslim who has become a Muslim because we introduced Islamic banking. It was not a political thing or a political agenda of any sort contrary to what some people thought.
Why did you choose to contest through YDP and not the ruling or main opposition parties?
Why I am the candidate of the Young Progressive Party?
It is a party whose ideology matches my ambitions. That is why I could not join the PDP or the APC, I do not care how old or big or famous they are, the truth is that they have failed. That is what Nigerians should focus on and begin to look for an alternative and a solution. I and the YPP are offering ourselves as that alternative choice.
You intend to bring changes as the present leaders of the country have failed, As you have also posited, you believe in restructuring. Which area would you intend to restructure in the polity and changes you will effect as the President of Nigeria?
When I talk about restructuring, I mean the constitutional restructuring of Nigeria, the structural pillars under the constitution, that is, what type of state is Nigeria? I mean restructuring Nigeria to return Nigeria to proper federalism, that is what I mean by restructuring. Nigeria is supposed to be the Federal Republic of Nigeria that means it is a Federal State but in reality, it is not a Federal State, it is a Unitary State because there is a lot of command and control vested in the Federal Government including ownership of mineral resources. That is wrong in a federal system, the exclusive legislative list is too long, 62 items, so we need to divulge a lot of those powers. We need to restructure the country in my view to be based on geo-political zones and not on the basis on states so that you have a central government and geo-economic zones as federating units that recreate Nigeria. Then you have fiscal autonomy, resource control as they call it whereby the regions would own their resources and revenues and contribute to the central government that is what a federation is. You restructure the arrangement whereby the local governments are a constitutional federating tier of government, which is wrong in a federation. I think the regional government should create local government and supervise them. There should be only two tiers of government in the constitution, the central government and the regional government. I believe that religion should be separated from public policy in Nigeria. These are the things I mean when I talk about restructuring in Nigeria. The central government should have control of certain common services like defense and the armed forces because that is a federal responsibility. Foreign affairs, the CBN, immigrations and those kinds of things can be exclusively for the Federal government but they should not be many. Most other things should go to the regions either on a concurrent list or on a residual list in the constitution. The residual list in our constitution has only about seven items like cemeteries and registration of births and deaths and marriages which shows you that there is no thought of bringing governance really down to the communities. We need to change that, the Police for example should come down to the control of the regions but there may be a Federal Police Force. The regions should absolve most of the Police because policing should be at the community level. I think that the central government should not be weak simply because you are divulging powers to the states. America has a model of a very good balance between the federal government and the state, in this case the right of the regions as I propose it. So, I do not want a weak center, I think the federal government in the 60’s was weak and the regional government may have been too strong and that might have been part of what led to the civil war. So I want a better balance, a strong center but with strong regions that have the space to develop economically. Restructuring is also necessary because Nigeria’s economy cannot develop without constitutional restructuring. For so long, the federal government owned natural resources and politics of Nigeria is self seeking and the economy would be a weaker economy because those who control political power at the center share the solid of minerals, that needs to change so that economic governance goes close to the people. This is what I mean when I talk about restructuring.
The President has refused to sign the electoral bill, what is your position on that?
I am disappointed but not surprised, President Buhari has no commitment to democracy and transparency and his failure to sign the electoral acts shows what he truly is. Forget about what his followers pretend he is, he has no commitment for transparency. The All Progressive Congress is obviously trying to rig the elections that is why they do not want sunlight to be shinned into the processes and those processes improved and made more transparent. Transparency is a core balance in good governance, there is accountability in transparency, there is an effectiveness an inclusiveness but none of these core elements of good governance would you find in the present administration at the federal level. Now, it is left to the National Assembly to override him or for the people to take their fate and their destinies to their hands as they go into 2019 elections.
The Peace Accord for the 2019 elections was signed recently. Does that mean you would agree with the outcome of the elections regardless of bias?
It means that there would be no resort to violence, that we would conduct our campaigns and the elections process peacefully, that is what it means. It does not bind you have to accept results that are rigged, you have your rights under the law and not signing any of those things that does not preclude any of those rights you have under the constitution and under the law. Though, people often confuse this type of things, you are signing a peace accord because we want a peaceful election. You agree that the elections should be peaceful, it does not mean that if someone comes and rigs it, you should accept it. You can go to court, why would you preclude that right?. Is that what you interpret peace to be? Injustice!
What do you have to say to the electorates going out to vote?
What I have to say is that, be strong, understand that your destiny is in your hands. Understand that 2019 is more than just an election; it is an election of our destiny as a country. It is an election on a very clear choice between the past and the future, between light and darkness, between stability and instability, between poverty and prosperity. My candidacy represents the future; the YPP Presidency represents the future for Nigeria. A future that is inclusive of youth and of women, my Vice Presidential Candidate is a young woman named Mrs Getso, a 37 year old from Kano. I am the first person to select a female Vice President since 1999. I did because I have the courage and the boldness necessary to turn this country around. I am not afraid, so the problem with our politicians is that they are too compromised to be able to address the issues that face the common man in this country. They just play an elite game up there and I am saying to our people for this time around come out and vote. Do not despair and say “my votes would not count”, it would count that is why they recycled old and failed politicians. They are trying to buy your votes. If your votes do not matter, why would they be trying to buy it? And in trying to buy it, they give you N2,000 and all sorts of such nonsense. Does that mean that every year, what you are worth is just N25,000, a year?, Does it mean you are the child of small God?. That people should come and pay your mind, you sell your destiny for a pot of porridge. This is my message to Nigerians. Stand up and use your personal voters card (PVC) and vote for a new beginning in 2019, which means we are retiring the old recycled politicians and my view is that they should go and spend more time with their grandchildren.
You are from the eastern part of Nigeria, you can recollect that the Ohaneze have adopted former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, while some leaders from the East also visited Buhari. How would you interpret this?
Let me first of all be very clear, Ohaneze has not to my knowledge officially endorsed any Presidential candidate. Let us not allow propaganda to confuse us, people can go and visit anybody and take pictures and put it in the newspaper to create an impression. Has Ohaneze issued a statement? Has Ohaneze said they are backing any candidate?, the answer is no. That is number one, therefore there is no Ohaneze endorsement of any candidate whoever that candidate may be. Number two, is that the people who vote in elections? it is the citizens of Nigeria, any socio-cultural group may have its own views but it can never speak for the electorates. The exercise of voting is a free choice; it is not by the command of the Afenifere or the Ohaneze, so let us get things straight. Of the leaders from the South-East that went to visit Buhari, that is their business. Buhari is the President and if any Governor wants to go and visit him, what am l to say about that? Those are problems of the PDP, I am not a member of the PDP. You can see all is not well in the PDP, you can see obviously that all is not well in the APC, these two parties are masquerades that are covering up a lot of rot inside them. We know it and many people among the citizens know it, so cannot be bothered or intimidated by appearances of dominance. It is for the Nigerian people to decide who they want as next President. I believe that the 2019 results will bring a massive shock to the system because people are tired of the APC and the PDP and the only people who do not know this are the APC and the PDP because they live in a different world, they are connected to reality.
How are you going about your campaigns?
In their world, no need to bother yourself about serious campaign they just rent a crowd, distribute money and you win the elections, that is all they know. Here I am, going through the streets of Asaba, engaging people in the market place. Do you understand what I am saying, for the past nine months, I have been visiting the whole country, almost thirty states now interacting with the grassroots but how many people have been mentally enslaved by our Nigerian politicians. My main campaign is to move us from slavery, slavery from the wicked and soulless political class which believes that they and their children own Nigeria. Nigeria is like a business industry for them and politicians in the APC and the PDP are the shareholders. That is how they have rubbed this country for a long time and this people like you and the citizens believe that they have the rights to the political space. That is changing, that is why there are several alternative candidates today. I am the leading alternative candidate, I am the third force and by February you would see what would happen I would have to take them down one by one, the YPP would take down the APC and the PDP. We would win the elections for the Presidency in 2019 and people would be shocked. It would be like what happened with Trump and Hilary Clinton.
If there is an arrangement in future and you are asked to drop your ambition after you are offered an appointment like a Minister. Would you take it?
That is an insult, I am a candidate for the Presidency that has a vision to solve Nigeria problems and I am not a food-is- ready politicians. Take the question to the food-is-ready politicians, I am running for Presidency and I will be on the ballot. I have been approached with all sorts of things but I just dismiss them. I am not here for food-is-ready politics and that is the difference between the YPP and the APC or PDP. We are ideological politicians; we desire a Nigeria were the citizen is enthroned as the sole focus of governance. I am doing this for the people of Nigeria, I am not in this for myself so there can be no questions of my going to make arrangement with nobody. Let the electorate of Nigeria decide who should be their President.