- 2 Hrs With Presidential Aspirant, OMOYELE SOWORE
- Talks About His Travellings Round The Country
Omoyele Sowore is one of the leading presidential aspirants right now. The Sahara Reporters boss has already thrown his hat in the ring. For 19 years, he had lived in the US but has been coming in and out of Nigeria, living a life of intense activism. He is fully back now and for the past 2 months he has been traversing the length and breadth of Nigeria, touching base with the old and young and preaching to all of them the gospel of a new Nigeria.
Few weeks back, he was our guest at our City People political roundtable to talk about his political ambition and why he is running for Presidency. Below are excerpts of the interview.
You are coming into the race to face entrenched forces. How do you plan to battle the cabals that have been in existence, been in government for over 20-30 years doing nothing. How do you hope to tackle them?
Some of these people that we are fighting today are familiar people. I have been reading about them in my Primary School history books. I first knew about Audu Ogbe around 1976, I think somebody mentioned him in our Social Studies class then as a Minister. This is 2018, the man is still there. It was the same way that the people of France when they wanted to have their revolution, they had to debate on how to dislodge their own cabals and they were laughing that it can never be possible, but the revolution happened and changed their history. It happened also in Cuba. They never believed it. In recent times nobody ever thought that Egyptian President and his family could be overthrown. What about Zimbabwe?
I had a personal experience with Mugabe when he came for Buhari’s inauguration, I was part of the team that confronted him with questions, like when are you leaving, so that we can come for an inauguration in your country and everybody responded that the man would die in power. He didn’t leave power but power left him at the appropriate time. So my answer is this, the decision has to be all about us. If the message that is going out is one, then it is time for us to take our country back, it will happen because that message will reverberate across the country. I wasn’t surprised when I heard that people have actually been monitoring my life over the years and that is the testimony I get, when I get called up. They will say Sowore please go ahead. We know your past. Some will relate my life with Sahara reporters, some will relate me to University of Lagos days, some will say that guy who lives in US which means somehow Character is important in public conversation in Nigeria, and Nigeria can take a decision in a different dimension.
As a matter of fact, now, for the power Elite in this country, this is their last chance for peaceful resolution to the political quagmire between them and the people of Nigeria, after this, even me that is going around now will no longer be relevant, because all of them would form a zone and they will strike from there. What is exciting about Nigeria is there is no black man or woman that I’ve seen who doesn’t respect Nigeria.
So, we just have to take a deliberate decision to organise and come together. It is not difficult, let’s just make use of the platform that we have. It’s unbelievable how easily we can achieve this. There is a lot we can achieve with our devices, the biggest billboard in Nigeria is Whatsapp; it can travel from here to Kaduna in 2 min and travel from Kaduna to Port Harcourt. So, we can make this happen, in a very cost effective manner. Get your PVC, stand on election day without expecting anything from anybody. Just like what happened in Kaduna when we went for town hall meeting, I didn’t spend a dime. Somebody bought them Cocacola, they rejected it.
When Nepa took light they went and gathered round the table. I did not have one policeman in Kaduna and Kano. Even then there were insinuation that if I enter there they would eat me. They were listening to us. We went to the Emir’s Palace, they listened to us because they were hearing something new and we were offering new dimension that they think can liberate this country.
What is your reaction to President Buhari’s statement about Lazy Nigerian Youths?
I wasn’t surprised. I was actually the first victim of that statement when the Minister of Communications told me that I’m an inconsequential person on a radio show that went to millions of people. I knew that was the thinking at the top. So, when you have moved up as a youth, they would be asking you to go for councillor’s post. They don’t see youth beyond Councillorship. they will say that is the best you can have; the position of Presdient is for us. So when Buhari eventually said it, I said now this is an upgrade of what the Minister said to me. It’s the way they see us. We already know who the lazy people are and the people that are not lazy. Nigerians are responding approriately, but what will be a tragedy in our response is to lose sight of the relevance insult and I’m beginning to get worried now because comedians are beginning to water down the importance of that statement.
It is a serious issue. Vote him out of power is the only way we can tell him that we are not lazy, because the day he made that statement was the day he voted himself out of power, and what you should know about Buhari is that he speaks what he believes to be the truth, that is his position, that Nigerians are lazy. Who is lazy between somebody that has been living his life on free of everything provided by government and a Nigerian young person who goes out of their way to use their talents to build themselves into formidable Nigerians and making Nigeria proud. The statement is a very organic statement and deserves organic responses and approach. Prof. Wole Soyinka said it is time for another set of people to throw all of them out of the window and let us becareful about this youth thing so that we don’t jump into the hands of youth scammers, Kogi State is an example, that is my response to that.
What are the structures you have in place?
We have structures, that is why we are approaching it from movement politics. We have a lot of people particularly young people even older people who are buying into it, we have millions of followers but when it comes to political structures we want to do it in a different way. A lot of the parties out there are created by the PDP and APC. So what we want to do is to create a solid movement that will then work with coalition of parties, I’m not saying that there will be merger of parties, its probably too late to merge any party now but coalition can come when 10 parties will fly the flag of one political party and what I can guarantee you is that I’m not joining the APC or PDP.
Many doubt it if Sowore has a clear understanding of how the economy runs?
I understand the Nigeria economy so well. But let me quickly warn you. What they call Economy to you is not the Nigerian economy at all. What they do is that they have a reward system for the rich and a punishment system for the poor. So, when you are hearing about economic blueprint they are not talking about how to construct roads, they are talking about how to award contracts to contractors who are not builders.
They are talking about IMF/World Bank theories When they say there is an economic policy, what we hear all the time is that there is too much money in the system, and how do you have an economy that has too much money in the system and people are poor? Is that not an oxymoron? Because they don’t bring an economist to run the country. They go and bring some people who claim to be economists, a colonial master who will tell you that the only way your economy can work is when you devalue your currency and how do you devalue your currency? You create 3 different levels of exchange rates, at a point we had 5. So, if you are going for Umurah you get a dollar for a subsidized rate but what do you think will happen?
What the market is looking for is a decisive leader, that is why elections are determined by what goes on in the Stock market. It took Buhari 6 months to appoint Ministers and the market doesn’t react very well to indecisions at the highest level. So nobody was responsible for managing the economy. Nobody was responsible for the construction of roads, nobody was responsible for health, education for 6 months.
That is as good as suspending the country for 6 months and that was where the economy problem of Buhari started from and when he eventually came, they were just allocating dollars to cabal people, and those ones were just managing the dollar rate on their own. We weren’t lucky to have a yes man at the CBN. Emefiele, I will continue to say it, when I become the President and the man is still there, he’s heading to jail!. There is no reason why Buhari will keep Emefiele who was supplying money to Dansuki in CBN till today. So what is Economy? You have money that you are making in the country, you either decide to spend it or the country invests it on the people of the country or spend it on those who are just the few in the country.
They came to tell you that rice mills are closing down in Malaysia or Syngapore but the question you ask yourself is, where is Nigeria’s own rice mill? We only have one in the North, but a Minister in Nigeria is telling you that the economy of Malaysia is about to collapse because we are now producing enough local rice to compete with them before the ambassador came to say it’s a lie. There is no economy around here. We just have people that are doing ‘Kalokalo’ with the Nigerian economy.
The Nigeria economy is MMM, ‘Moko Mogbe Modaran’, and these guys are just sharing the things among themselves. Ask yourself, they told us themselves, FIRS this year made 4 trillion naira, the customs made about 2 trillion naira, Jamb made some billions of Nigeria, EFCC recovers like 800 billion naira and our budget for 2018 is 8 trillion naira, that means from just these bodies we’ve been able to pay for the budget, we have not gone to the NNPC, and nothing has been implemented in the budget, these guys are just throwing money around for themselves. Instead of building roads, they are looking for how to finance the next elections by distributing rice and naira again. So by fighting corruption the economy would have improved significantly but the people there did not know what they are doing. We can not have an economy when we don’t have people who understand economy.
When they are doing dollar round tripping under Buhari, it didn’t cause Inflation. When the oil subsidy thieves stole 26 billion dollars in this country importing petrol into Nigeria with vehicle that start 10 years before, it didn’t cause inflation, but the moment you say this money should be invested in Nigeria, people would say it causes inflation. What cause inflation! It is the circulation of money within the system that cannot back up demand and supply?
So, what is an economy that works? Its an economy that empowers the people. The moment people can have purchasing power, the economy will work. I have lived in America for 19 years. America qualify to be called a Socialist State. There first interest is to keep their citizens happy, if they have to kill the rest of the world to do it they would do it. There foreign policy is about how to make American happy, that is why if you go the Americans embassy they are trying to sell to the world whatever America has to produce, but here we are talking about how to make our economy work, but we have no solution to end poverty, we are not sending children to school, we don’t have hospital that are okay, we are not providing employment by turning your country into a construction site where infrastructure is been built every time and everyday. Whenever America had an economy problem they will look inside if they had a bridge that is not okay, they will go and break it and rebuild another one and that will create employment for their people.
Also we have people who should not be near the Stock market, but they are the ones running it. They are people who have conflict of interest. They go there to manipulate stocks. They fulfil their dreams and take money outside the country.
If Nigerian economy is as good as that of Ghana, this would be the happiest country in the world, and they are not even as harworking as us. I am not trying to insult them, but because their country works for Ghanian people, the foreign investors come there to invest. The atmosphere there is secure and they have all the tools that can attract investors but here when we want to attract investors we just go on radio and start saying foreign investors ‘come o’, as if foreign investors don’t use google and they know that there are kidnappers all over the place. When they fall sick they can’t even get good treatment. When they know that your own President doesn’t even go to his own hospital. So this are simple things we should know about economy.
Macro economy doesn’t have any impact to me if it cannot put food on my table, if it can not give you an infrastructure that can help you from here to Onitsha without stress. Any country that doesn’t have integration will never have economy that will work, but we like building models that are not working. What I am bringing to the table is the rudimentary understanding of economy and I am going to practice that very rudimentary; economics where we are allocating our resources per capital basis, we count Nigerians and we will say this is what you deserve as a result of what we are making per year and we are going to invest it on you. That is going to be the beginning of my own economics policy.
You have written many to stories about Saraki, Obasanjo and Co, don’t you think they may want to team up to muscle force to work against you?
When I was a Student Leader, I joined forces to fight these guys when they were at their strongest, when they were military people. They had Tanks that they put in front of the Univeristies, didn’t we drive them out of power? So there is no big deal! We have been fighting them before now, and we are ready to fight for Nigerians. You know fighting corruption is what I do for a living. I have been fighting corruption on my own with no support. As I am talking to you I don’t have any money in Nigeria. Saraki froze all my accounts, but I kept fight on. I fight better when I am poor. So they are not new people we have been fighting.
What are you going to do about the Constitution, because sometimes they claim it is the constitution?
Nigeria constitution is not our constitution! I believe we will all agree that Nigeria Constitution was written by a few people, but they fraudulently inserted the words “We the people”… there. Eventually, what we are doing is a revolutionary reprocessing, that our constitution has to be fixed. And my position on restructuring is that anybody that says Buhari is too old to rule Nigeria, but young people are not on the table when they were discussing restructuring. It’s the same 80 year old people that are discussing restructuring, which is very wrong.
We must be present where they are discussing our future. If there should be any restructuring all of us must be there, because why a restructured Nigeria must take into consideration of technology. They don’t know anything about technology, they don’t even know about facebook, they don’t know about Instagram, they don’t know about twitter, they don’t know about devices that we use today. So restructuring and the constitution is something that will happen as part of this process. We must definitely sit down after we have taken the country back from them to address the number of issues that are on ground that constitution needs to work on.
Do you have plans for women in your cabinet?
Our cabinet would be starting with 50-50. There is no reason we have equal proportion. We have equal population, and we will work together. In fact, most times women work more than men; they will go to work and still come back home to work. So if we have capable women that we can work to turn things around why not.
How has it been moving up and down with your campaign?
What brought me before you today was a decision that I took few months ago to throw my heart into the political process, to partake in electoral politics which is different from the kind of politics movement that we have been doing before now. The difference is that, I am approaching the electoral politics this time through a movement strategies. We are issuing a clarion call to Nigerians, particularly Nigerians who are saying no “we’ve had enough of ongoing democratic process.
Every facet of our life has been desgraded in this country. Some people we know are not qualified to run sometimes primary school. Some of the people who are leaders today at various levels did not have enough character to be elected as Class captain when they were in primary school and secondary school. In University, they did not even participate in students union politics. Some of them are not even here when they are fighting for democracy. Most of them are not even Nigerian citizens, so to speak. So I am going round to tell you some of my experience and again not to be too formal, so that we can feel free to interact.
Since I came I have travelled around the country. I have been to Kano, Kaduna, Abuja, Ibadan, Owerri, Onitsha, Benin and outside of the country, I have met with Nigerians and the conclusion I got is different from what they have told us. This idea that certain parts of the country don’t want development or they want perpetual way of delivery, that wasn’t the impression I got. Another fallacy that was proven to me when I travelled, for example they always claim that Kano is for President Buhari, you can’t enter the place and get out, they will do this, they will do that. I went into Kano and what I saw there was different. They told me, the only reason they voted for Buhari.
A lot of Northerners are poor. In fact they have a name for Poverty, which is different from how we call poverty in other places. They call poverty “Talakawas” The Yoruba have a degrading name for poverty because Yoruba don’t like poverty. They call it “Otosi” but the Talakawas are people who understand that if you are put in that condition somehow, God will take you out . And the reason they love Buhari was they wanted him to pull them out of poverty. So, they call Buhari “Mesgaskiah” in the North, meaning “the truthful man”.
They thought his Integrity is enough to pull them out of that Poverty but after seen what Buhari has done to them in the last 3 years they knew it was all false. His integrity was concocted over the years to make them love him, and they have all deserted him largely. We also went to Kaduna where there is a bitter division created by the political class between Southern and Northern Kaduna people, and they came together at a event we had, which was mostly women, if you look to your left you will see Muslim women on middle, Christian at the back and you see mixed at Arena house. Everybody spoke in Unison that we have to move in another direction, before we did that we have met in Abuja.
When we headed to the last the impression I was also given is that, the Easthern part of Nigeria doesn’t want to associate with anyone that is not from them; they felt that the other part of Nigeria are moving too slowly but when we spoke to them they wanted the same thing all of us wanted; they want a place where they can practice their trade. We met students. We met adult when we went to Onitsha.
The reason why I am telling you this is that there is no one place we have been to and anybody is asking about Ethnicity. No. Nigerians are looking for a person or a group of people who can move Nigeria in a right direction.
Nigeria is the only place Nigerians don’t flourish. Go to Ireland, The best community there is Nigerian community. Same way in the UK. The people who are excelling there are Nigerians. same way in the US. So there is something wrong with the Nigerian space, we know it and we have over problematise but one thing we have never done is to unite and try one more thing before we give up on Nigeria, to have a leader that can run this country the same way Northern nation are doing but we make a mistake and all of us are guilty as well. We are always looking for that quick fix of the leader. But as a young guy who has seen it all, we decided that we would take this country back, tune it up and make it a country that we can be proud of.