Chief Jackson Ude, a former Director of Strategy and Communications under President Goodluck Jonathan, is a Communication Expert with specialization in political communications, Media, public policy and political management. He was trained in the United States and Canada where he bagged his degrees in Communications/African American History and a Graduate Degree in Political Management. He was a House of Assembly aspirant for Abia North and a presidential strategist. He spoke with CHIBUZO UKAIBE on sundry issues, including his perspective on the President Muhammudu Buhari administration
From the diaspora, what’s the impression about Nigeria’s political engagements so far?
Thank you very much for the question. From the diaspora, Nigeria is a failed state under the current administration of President Mohammadu Buhari. Nothing, absolutely nothing has worked, or is working under the current administration. From the Economy, Security and other areas, nothing has worked, nothing is working. The country appears to be on autopilot. No leadership, no direction, absolutely nothing. It is simply the worst democratic Government since 1960. The All Progressive Congress, APC, has killed its brand. Buhari himself has destroyed his name. He is now the opposite of “mai gaskiya.” Unfortunately, he is not aware!
Let me break it down. On the economy, Buhari and the APC Government inherited a thriving economy under the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Government led by President Goodluck Jonathan. Under the Goodluck Jonathan administration, Nigeria rebased it’s GDP for the first time in over a decade to become the largest economy in Africa, overtaking South Africa and Egypt in the process. Nigeria opened to the global business community, becoming Africa’s number one destination of foreign investors. In the first six months of 2014, a total of US$9.70 billion or N1.51 trillion flowed into the national economy as foreign direct investments (FDI). How much has Buhari attracted since 2015?
But since Buhari came to power, Nigeria’s economy has nosedived, unemployment rate has more than doubled to almost 10%. It was around 4.3% as at 2015 when Buhari and his gangs in the All Progressive Congress, APC, took over. In June 2018, CNN reported that Nigeria overtook India as the country with the largest number of people living in extreme poverty. About 87million Nigerians, or half the population of Nigeria, live on less than $2 per day. The fastest the economy has grown in the five-year period (2016-2020), is 2.27 per cent, well below the yearly average GDP growth rate of 6 per cent in the previous 10 years. Due to the negative economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, the economy is forecasted by the IMF to contract by 3.4 per cent in 2020.
On Security, Buhari not only failed himself as a former military general. He failed Nigerians after promising in 2015 that within six months of his administration, he would wipe away Boko Haram and insecurity in the country. According to the 2020 Global Terrorism Index, which gauges the degree and frequency of violence by terrorist groups across several countries, Nigeria was ranked third only after Iraq and Afghanistan. Essentially, Nigeria, Iraq, and Afghanistan were described as in a state of war. Ironically, this is happening under the leadership of a retired military general whose turf should be security. Besides, Boko Haram, Nigeria has added banditry, kidnappings-for-ransom and others in the list of security challenges. And again, Buhari does not seem to have any answer to the growing challenges of insecurity in the country. His change of Service Chiefs at this time is a little too late. A report from Nigeria’s Security Tracker estimated that under Buhari’s first term between 2015-2019, 25,794 people were killed in Nigeria in attacks motivated by political, economic and social grievances. A data from SBM Intelligence shows that between January and November 2020, there were 142 incidents in the Boko Haram insurgency in north-east Nigeria, an average of 13 a month.
At least 1,606 people were killed in 125 fatal incidents, an average of 13 per incident, suggesting that Nigeria is the third-most terrorised countries in the world, according to the Global Terrorism Index released on 27 November 2020.
Between 2018 to date, thousands of Nigerians have been killed by Armed Fulani Herdsmen. From Kajuru, Zamfara, Benue, Ondo, Oyo, Sokoto, Cross Rivers, Enugu and a host of many states in Nigeria, the rivers of innocent blood has continued to flow under the watch of Buhari and his government.
So, in all, Buhari and his APC, have not added any development to Nigerians and Nigeria. They have not added any democratic value and dividends to Nigeria and her people. It is the worst government in the history of Nigeria, the most corrupt and clueless assemblage of leadership. Nigeria is now the global comedy theater under Buhari. What Buhari and APC came to do in Nigeria is simply to lie, kill, and loot.
The debate about restructuring has dominated political space for a long time. Why has it become so difficult to achieve it?
Restructuring is for the benefit of all. The reason why it has become difficult is simply because of misconception. Some believe restructuring is aimed at taking away power from them, some think it is to take away resources from them, some just do not understand what it is meant to achieve. Nigeria is badly led, the division is just too much, the injustices are very palpable, the wounds of inequality, injustices and lopsidedness have refused to heal. Restructuring is simply what will guarantee every Nigerian a sense of nationhood. There is too much power at the center, Local Governments are dead. Without powers to the Local Government, Governance cannot reach the people. Powers should be devolved around the Federating units. The current Unitary System is not suitable for Nigeria. It does not guarantee quality of life and the dividends of democracy to people at the Local Government level. Our democracy inherited authoritarian politics. Restructuring will simply break that and give every Nigerian a sense of Democracy. Restructuring is not only about breaking down powers, but also about creating an economic revolution where all the God-gifted resources in Nigeria from North to South are fully explored to the benefit of all.
What is your position on the clamour for power rotation to the South and do you align with the agitation for South East presidency?
While I would love to see a South Easterner emerge as President of Nigeria, I do not share in the idea of reducing the Presidency of a country on a regional or tribal basis. In 1999 when democracy returned to Nigeria, the preference for a President from the Yoruba extraction was borne out of the urgent need to pacify the South West over the injustice of the June 12, 1993 election won by Moshood Abiola which was annulled. President Olusegun Obasanjo emerged even against the full support of the South West. He did his eight years. That Presidency did not solve the problems of the Yorubas. It did not even fix the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. After Obasanjo, Musa Yar’Adua emerged and unfortunately, he only served for a little over two years before he passed on. His two years did not fix the problems of the North. Not even the basics of their problems. President Goodluck Jonathan from the South-South took over, completed Yar’Adua’s tenure. Jonathan did almost six years. He did not solve the problems of the Niger Delta people. He did not even complete the East-West Road, a major road in the Niger Delta. President Mohammadu Buhari, a Northerner took over in 2015. Till date, he has not been able to solve the problems of the North, not to talk about the huge problems facing the country for which he has contributed to no small means.
Besides, the rotational presidency idea was a PDP arrangement. And if that arrangement within the PDP is to be honored, then the Northern part of Nigeria is still owed some years to complete their eight years by virtue of Yar’Adua’s sudden death after nearly two years in office which President Jonathan completed as VP and then ran and did four years. If it was a constitutional provision for a rotational presidency, then we can argue that Buhari’s tenure has taken care of that but since it was just a PDP arrangement, then PDP would have to allow the North complete their eight years.
I am sure if it were the South East, South West or South South in PDP that had their son die mid-way into his Presidency, they would also argue to be allowed to complete that tenure. However, I really have not seen any region that has fared better than the other after having their son occupy the Presidency.
Otherwise, what Nigeria needs right now is a President for all. A president that has the capacity to build bridges across the divide. A president who understands the problems of Nigeria. A president who is competent. A president who is aware, who is available at all times. Let the field be open for everyone to aspire and let Nigerians select whoever they adjudge to be competent from any tribe or religion. I am not saying this in opposition to a South Easterner becoming President of Nigeria. If justice must be served, let it be seen to be served completely.
Nigeria needs a competent President who understands the dynamics and challenges of all the tribes and different ethnicities that make up the entity called Nigeria.
So, you will agree with me that the idea of rotating the Presidency around the regions or tribes in the country has not solved any problems of the country. It only ends up massaging the egos of the region or tribe from where the President comes from. The feelings that the President is from my tribe, my ethnic group, my state, my local Government, my ward, or my family, is not enough to solve the problems.
Besides, the South East has a lot of political work to do within. They need to heal themselves, reach out and build more bridges of political alliances. The activities of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, have sowed a lot of distrust in the mind of people from the North and South West. And politics like we all know, is a game of numbers. The South East alone cannot produce the President without the support and votes from the North or South West. A South Eastern Presidential candidate can easily be blackmailed in the North and South West as an IPOB apologist. That alone, is enough cause a defeat. Now, if the North and the South West have that kind of perception towards a Presidential Candidate from the South East, how is that perception fixed? It would require serious assurances, bridge building, negotiations and all that to change that perception. And it takes time. For me, I would rather prefer a South Eastern Vice President in 2023. That office can be used to reach out and build stronger political alliances for another eight years of a South East President thereafter. And with that, the Igbos would have done either 12years or 16years in the Presidency. All this is just in case we continue to drum the beat of a rotational Presidency or a President from a particular region.
The APC is perceived as being more likely to give its ticket to the South compared to the PDP. What do you think?
Let the APC give their ticket to anyone. The party has failed Nigerians and have no moral rights or capacity to win any elections again in Nigeria without rigging. APC is a party of gangsters made up of economic and political thieves. If they are not looting the treasury, they are stealing votes. They have not promoted democracy by one inch and have not provided dividends of democracy since they took over the reign of leadership in 2015. Instead, they have promoted killings, promoted Human Right abuses. The International Criminal Court is already waiting to prosecute Buhari’s men and women for crimes. Nigeria is now ranked the second most corrupt country in West Africa. The country is awash with innocent bloods from the deaths of Nigerians because of the incompetence of APC. Nigerians would careless where and who the APC give their tickets to in 2023.
As for the PDP, I hope they learn the lessons of the 2015 and the 2019 defeats in the hands of the APC. PDP needs a competent candidate. In fact, I would rather they throw it open for everyone and anyone for Nigerians to decide. As it stands, the party should not be interested in what region the candidate for the 2023 presidential elections comes from but how competent and electable is the candidate.
Looking at your party, PDP, what is your rating of its interventions in the political space?
So far, they have done their best but I believe they have a lot of room to improve on their political interventions. Honestly, it is not the kind of opposition I expected to see. APC has failed in many ways. They have looted almost all the agencies of Government. A thoroughly organized opposition party should have taken APC to the cleaners and dusted them off the political space in Nigeria. That APC is still breathing today and talking, is largely because the PDP intervention in the political space has not been enough.
Soon the process for electing a new NWC will begin, what kind of party leadership do you anticipate looking at 2023?
I sincerely want a new NWC that has all it takes to kick the butts of the APC, show Nigerians another kind of leadership that is in line with the yearnings and desires of the Nigerian people. I expect a new NWC that would create the pathway for the rebirth of Nigeria’s democracy by ensuring that come 2023, only the best and the best get the Party’s ticket to run for office. The days when politicians pay to get the ticket should end. A new NWC should create a level playing field, reenergize the party and give members the hope and sense of membership. And no one should be above the party.
Do you think PDP it has the capacity to return to power in 2023?
Oh yes. PDP has what it takes to return to power in 2023 only if they do things differently. Like I said earlier, the Party needs new idea, new methodology. The party needs to court younger people. Nigerian youths need to know what PDP has for them. Youths need to be giving a chance to occupy party positions. Nomination forms should be reduced for youths who are interested in contesting for an election. The party should do all it can to encourage youth participation.
APC appears to be broadening its base ahead of 2023, how much of a threat does this pose to PDP?
Like I said before, APC is a walking dead Party. The Party is more divided than Nigeria. From the Presidency to the Local Government level, APC is a ticking time bomb. It is simply waiting to implode. The CPC elements and the ACN elements in the party to explode. The CPC elements of the party which constitutes bulk of the Presidency and Ministers are using enormous powers and resources to undo the ACN element of the Party. Simply put, the Buhari loyalists of the APC are at war with the Tinubu loyalists. Remember, the fussing of the two, made APC won the 2015 elections. The internal war is deeper than anyone would understand. And they are not ready to back down anytime soon. Tell me how they intend to broaden any base ahead of 2023 to win any election? As long as Buhari is ending his tenure and not on the ballot and Tinubu is bent on running and the cabals have their own interest, APC is going down. 2023 is going to be a totally different game. It is not 2015 or 2019. Nigerians are wiser now and hungry for a real change. APC has shown to Nigerians what they can offer-Sorrow, tears and blood. No sane Nigerian would be rooting for a party that lied for eight years, divided Nigeria for eight years, caused thousands of deaths for eight years, denied Nigerians basic rights, dividends of democracy and quality life for eight years. The only way APC can broaden its base and win again in 2023 is if they continue kill Nigerians until no one is left.