2019 Election Will Not Be A Bet Between Two Devils, Says Olawepo

2019 election will not be a bet between two devils, says Olawepo
Gbenga Hashim Olawepo is the presidential candidate of Alliance for New Nigeria and Peoples Trust.
In this interview with LEO SOBECHI, he examines the crucial issues about next year’s election, stressing that the choice before Nigerians would be for a prosperous future
With an incumbent and former vice president in the presidential race, do you think you have a chance in the forthcoming presidential election?
Firstly, I would be able to unite the country, build a strong economy given my experience and I am that candidate that majority of voters, particularly first time voters, who are very significant, almost about 15 million of them, will vote for.
They are not supporters of APC or PDP. And then my friends in PDP and APC, who have made up their minds that when it comes to presidential election, they would vote Gbenga, that’s the edge I have going for me. I believe no other candidate in this election has that.
By all standards Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Waziri of Adamawa, is qualified to be the President of Nigeria, having been Vice President before, but the 2019 election is a different election. I think vice president Atiku missed his chance of being president in 2007 and talking about 2019 is like talking about the future of Nigeria and at the same time facing and reasoning backwards.
I think the choice before Nigerians is between Nigeria and the whole Nigerians. A better Nigeria and the Nigeria that people like Atiku created before and most electorates from the polling that we have seen already are not talking about the maps that are been call up by some newspapers, I mean the pollings by those who have PVCs and want to vote. Eighty per centof Nigerians want see a new direction; they don’t want to go backward and Abukakar is a man of yesterday. I think ANN as a party is not all that my political structure is all about.
The Gbenga Hashim Organization, which is our political platform, presently in 36 states of the federation, is bigger than the ANN. ANN comprises of the fathers of ANN and some of my supporters who agreed to migrate to that party, but the GHO is made up of my supporters and friends who are in APC, PDP, SDP, PT and ANN and it is all these forces that we are going to be galvanizing for the next election and we have always known that we will come to this point when we started this campaign.
2019 elections is going to be a different election. You will find that some states when it comes to the presidency, they will vote candidate A and party A, when it comes to governorship, they will vote for party B so the results of the presidential election is not going to be measured by the strengths of the parties as they are established right now and because it’s not automatic that, because someone’s in APC he will vote Buhari.
We did an opinion poll six months ago, a survey of people who actually have PVCs. In Lagos for instance, Buhari scored 5 per cent, Atiku scored 3 per cent. Majority of the people who are both APC and PDP said they are waiting for a new candidate. The 2019 elections is a unique election; it’s not going to be that simple and this is not just a Nigerian trend, it’s a worldwide trend.
They have just finished the primary nomination.
The choices will be very clear so we still have up to five months to actual balloting. One of the things that have happened in this particular case is that we are having the primary nomination earlier than we have always had. Previously, it happens around November and December but this time around and for whatever reason, INEC moved it up and I think it’s good that it is happening soon enough and there would be adequate time for campaign.
So on this electronic age that we are now information travels so fast, four to five months is a long time. The electorate will have adequate time to get familiar with who’s running and on what platform are they running for and what issues. I believe we have a lot of advantage on our side and we are very optimistic about the 2019 elections.
Based on the alliance or electoral understanding between ANN and Peoples Trust, what essential issues are you canvassing for national development?
Well, the alliance with the People’s Trust, is a party promoted by National Intervention Movement and the discussion to have an alliance with ANN started as far back as May. It’s not a new thing, we are just consummating that and our national convention, which was held in Abuja, proved that. It’s not just Peoples Trust; we have a number of organizations and parties that have also signed up in the alliance.
The whole idea is to key into the strategy of National Intervention Movement that we promoted for almost one year running now. So this is not just any initiative, it’s just being consolidated and taken some further steps. I think the issue is to build a stronger political platform that’s also committed to the idea of national unity, economic development, security in the land and to have a Nigeria where the life of every citizen will count and no discrimination against anyone regardless of your ethnic decent and religious beliefs and a true federal system. These are some of the issues that the platform is committed to.
I think the alliance with the National Intervention Movement shows you that this is the natural platform that I belong to. The leader was the president of the Civil Liberty Organization, while I was the national administrative secretary of the Committee for the Defense of Human Rights.
In 1990 with me and some other patriotic Nigerians (some are late today), we traveled the whole of northern Nigeria consistently for about three weeks in a bus to get the consensus of our people on how to end military rule. So, we are already working together. I quite understand that there are many civil societies’ structures now outside these traditional structures that we have and there’s a whole historical gap between the civil society activists of the 80’s and the 90’s and some of them are here today.
So I believe that we will have a lot of buying in as the campaign progresses. You start somewhere and people get the right information that they need and they join in the process; so it’s a developing story.
We have very good candidates, particularly we are in the people’s trust alliance one thing I can assure you is that we are fielding candidates in virtually all the constituencies and that the alliance has given us the opportunity to migrate candidate from different parties who are in their alliance to the same single platform. Particularly the presidential and National Assembly elections and that’s what we are going to do once INEC finishes with the process of nomination and names published.
One thing we want to assure Nigerians is that given our history, we are coming with a lot of experience that will make a proper difference. We are going to present people who are tested. It’s only when you are tested that you can talk about your integrity. So the kind of candidates that we are going to parade are people who are tested; they are not just speaking empty rhetoric and this is how leaders are selected anywhere in the world for countries that are serious.
We want to ask about their history and so on. It’s unfortunate that people, who want to hold Nigeria down, have taken history out of our syllabus.
Unfortunately, when the military decided to amend the curriculum, it produced a generation of people who don’t have historical consciousness. We have to fill in the void and I think that’s going to be one of the first jobs we are going to do once I’m elected president. We need to restore content in the Nigerian educational system because the education curriculum that we have now doesn’t support patriotism; if you don’t have a historical consciousness you can’t be patriotic.
A lot of young people think that Nigeria has always been a mess like this. No it has not always been a mess like this; there are people who stood for integrity. Aminu Kano died without having a house; some of the young people don’t even know; they just think looting and stealing is what Nigeria has always been; it has not always been like that.
A lot of people don’t know that it’s not Buhari who started anti-corruption campaign; in Nigeria. In 1966 coup, people were killed because they were accused of corruption and corruption still didn’t stop in Nigeria. So Buhari isn’t the first person who started anti-corruption campaign; a lot of people don’t know that; they don’t know that there are people who have more integrity than people that they are looking at.
So there’s a sense of void that helps charlatans to get public attention; so we need to put a proper education in place that will restore the historical consciousness of young Nigerians.
The problem of education is not just about having enough money or infrastructure. Our parents went to school where they trekked many kilometers before they got to school with some as mud houses but what’s important was the content, more than infrastructure. I once listened to an NUC official they spend more than one million naira on each student in the university.
I know private universities that pay as much as 500 thousand naira. So if in public schools the Federal Government spends up to one million on these children, it means that they are spending probably more than the average private school. So the issue is more than just allocating more money, you have to look at the content and how the funds are even administered. It’s this comprehensive programme of reforming education that we are going to be looking at. I think the people’s trust ANN alliance is with an intention for a merger and that is on the cards, but because election is here, we have to do election first. With mergers you have to talk about new constitutions and so on. We have already notified INEC as to what we intend to do and what we are doing.
Outside the election, we will see a merger of the number of the existing parties with the initiative that we have and that’s where we are going. As I said to you, our organisation, which is the campaign platform, the Gbenga Hashim Organization, has members of PDP, APC, SDP and various parties so these people are going to vote for us in the presidential election.
Again and most importantly for me, my priority is to expand the GDP of Nigeria because this is the most important issue and the economy is too small for 180 million people. If you consider that even in 2013, when Nigeria made a lot of money from oil sales, the country made less than $50billion in total revenue. That same year, Disney World, a private company that markets entertainment in Florida, made $47billion.
So for 180 million people that revenue base is to small and its GDP of 510 billion even though Nigerians celebrated as the biggest in Africa as at 2013. That’s why you see that almost 2/3rd of the country’s population still live below two dollars a day, and that’s why you see that the life expectancy rate in Nigeria is 53 years, whereas in Liberia that experienced a civil war and Ebola on a large scale, their life expectancy rate is 61; Sudan is 63.
We need to build a bigger economy and the new economic development programme (NEP) which we have put in place will move Nigeria from 410 billion US dollars to 4 trillion dollars in 10 years and that will bring our average per capita income to be at par with countries like Malaysia, Thailand. We are not talking about comparing us to the United States or Germany; we are talking about building a comparable economic base; so, nothing extraordinary for $4 trillion GDP in 10 years for a country of 180 million people.
Which would you consider the better devil?
Let me be clear, the next election will not be a bet between two Devils, we have passed that stage in 2015 where Nigerians where forced to make that choice. In 2015 I heard some people saying they just wanted Jonathan to go, but can you honestly say that Nigeria is better now than 2015 in all the indices? Even then the results in 2015 as I said is not anything good, but that was a referendum about Jonathan, now Nigerians have four months to make up their mind to choose between evil and good not to make between the lesser and best evil and that’s the choice before Nigeria to vote for me as President, not to make a choice between two evils. There’s a clear choice and that choice is between the future of Nigeria, a different Nigeria, a modern Nigeria, an economically prosperous Nigeria, a United Nigeria, a secured Nigeria where the life of every citizen will count regardless of their ethnicity and religion, that’s the choice Nigerian have to make and not to manage.
Among the two major parties, those you expect to vote for you constitute the primary elections that are throwing up old men in their 70’s as their presidential candidates, what can you say about that?
You see the two major political parties have their own problems that’s is perhaps why somebody like me didn’t run under them, I have a lot of friends in PDP, I left PDP in 2006. I have a lot of friends in APC too. And some of them in APC I funded their elections in the National Assembly, I funded some people who are big people today in the APC in the past so the point is that when I’m in the ballot it’s a different matter. I’m a young man but I’m bringing to the table something more than being a young man, I’m not against old people because they are old, that’s not the narrative here. Mandela was very old and advanced in age and he was a good president because he had the legacy and history that recommended him to the whole world as a leader.
Trump is 70 and the economy is doing well under President Trump even though you don’t like him, the economy of America is growing. So I’m not against anyone because you are young or old, and I’m not marketing myself as a young candidate, that’s not my selling point. The most important thing is the history, experience, competence that I bring to the table so it’s not just a question of young versus old.
You are not breaking any record by being young; yes we need young people but young people with content, history, and experience. There’s some kind of skill set that’s necessary and I take exception to people who don’t want to have any kind of experience, they just want to start from the top, you don’t want to be councilor, chairman but your first sting in politics is to become president.
Even if you are coming from a business background, you have led corporations and which expose you to some level of politics and that give you some experience to be president of a country, but you don’t have any such history and you have never been a student union leader, trade union leader, even if its chairman of road transport workers union, that’s some politics that gives you some experience so I’m not just saying any young man, I’m not against old people as long you are competent and have something to offer we will take you for who you are.
I will like to encourage a lot of young people but I also want you people to have the required skill set to do the job well. One of the difference between me and other people is that I started very early. There’s nothing to come up as a young leader; there’s nothing about it as long as have prerequisite training and there’s no job in this world without a skill set if you want to do properly well in that job.
Well, you know once a party starts becoming relevant, then you will have lots of internal contestations.
Sometimes people sponsor from outside because they don’t want a formidable challengers competing with them and that was the case with ANN and there were attempt to have one convention where a candidate was supposed to have been produced with delegates from six states out of 26 states where ANN is presently constituted but at the end of the day the NEC took the appropriate decision to annul that and those who tried to do that have been punished according to the party constitution and at the convention of the party where we had about 20 states in attendance out of the 26 states where I was elected presidential candidate.
A decision was also taken to fast track the alliance discussion with other political parties like PT also adopted me as their presidential candidate, now we have about 10 political parties also coming to the alliance and I will be running as the flag bearer of the entire alliance of the political parties. For different reasons some of our supporters ended up in different political parties, some in SDP.

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