Alliance for New Nigeria (ANN) presidential candidate Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim spoke with reporters in Lagos on his ambition, plans for the country and why next year’s general elections will determine Nigeria’s future.
Group Political Editor EMMANUEL OLADESU was there.
WHAT is your reaction to the emergence of Alhaji Atiku abubakar as the PDP presidential candidate?
By all standards the 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 in 2019 is like talking about the future of Nigeria and at the same time racing 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 called up by some newspapers, I mean the pollings by those who have PVCs and want to vote. Eighty per cent of Nigerians want to see a new direction. They don’t want to go backward and Vice President Atiku Abukakar is a man of yesterday.
What competitive edge do you have over him going into this election?
Number one, I will be able to unite the country. I will be able to build a strong economy, given my experience and I’m that candidate that majority of voters, particularly first time voters and who are very significant, almost about 15 million of them who are not supporters of APC or PDP and then my friends in PDP and APC, who have made up their mind that when it comes to presidential election we will vote Gbenga. That’s an edge I have going for me I believe, no other candidate in this election has that.
I think the ANN as a party is not all that my political structure is all about. The Olawepo-Hashim Organisation, which is our political platform is 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 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 some states when it comes to 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 polls 6 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. In the last elections in the United States we saw that a lot of democratic supporters, the men for instance migrated and voted for trump even though they were in a Democratic Party and that’s the trend.
I understand that in ANN you have an alliance with People’s Trust, what are the basic issues. What are you presenting?
The alliance with the People’s Trust, the PT is a party promoted by National Intervention Movement and in 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 proves that, it’s not just people’s trust, we have a number of organizations and parties that have also signed up in the alliance. The whole idea is to key in into the strategy of national intervention movement that promoted for almost one year running now. So this is not just any initiative, it’s just being consolidated and taken up 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 organisation while I was the national administrative secretary of the Committee for 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 what the alliance has given us the opportunity to do is also 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 their names should be published. One thing we want to assure Nigerians is that given our history, we are coming with a lot of experience that will a proper difference, we are going to be presenting people who are tested. It’s only when you are tested that you can talk about your integrity. It’s unfortunate that history has been taken out of our syllabus by people who want hold Nigeria down. 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 job we are going to do once we are elected as president. We need to restore content in the Nigerian educational system because the education curriculum that we have 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 it’s not Buhari that started anti-corruption campaign in Nigeria. In 1966 coup, people were killed because people were being accused of corruption and corruption still didn’t stop in Nigeria. So Buhari isn’t the first person that 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 up hand of charlatans to get public attention so we need to put a proper education in place that will restore the historical consciousness of young Nigerians.
Alliances have limitations. Why are you not considering the fusion of parties in the alliance?
I think the People’s Trust/ANN Alliance is with an intention for a merger and that is on the card, 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 the merger of the number of the existing parties with the initiatives that we are having and that’s where we are going. As I said to you, our organization 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.
I think most importantly for me and 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 50 billion dollars in total revenue, that same year Disney world a private company that markets entertainment in Florida made 47 billion dollars. So for 180 million people that revenue base is to small and its GDP of 510 billion even though it was celebrated as being the biggest in Africa as at 2013. Equals to poverty and that’s why you see that almost 2/3rd of the country’s population still live below two dollars in a day, and that’s why you see that the life expectancy rate in Nigeria is 53 whereas in Liberia that experience civil war and Ebola on a max scale, their life expectancy rate is 61, Sudan is 63. We need to build a bigger economy and the new economic development program (NEP) which we have out in place will move Nigeria from 410 billion US dollars to 4 trillion dollars in ten years and that will bring our average per capita income to be at par with countries like Malaysia, Thailand than Nigeria was. We are not talking about comparing the United States or Germany, we are talking about building a comparable economic base so nothing extraordinary for 4 trillion dollars GDP in ten years for a country of 180 million people.
Are you comfortable with the fact that among these two major parties as it were, those you expect to vote for you are throwing up old men in their 70’s as their presidential candidates in the APC and PDP?
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, 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 business background, you have led corporations and which exposes you to some level of politics and that gives you some experience to be president of a country but you don’t have any such history 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.
Why the crisis in your party over presidential nomination?
Well, you know once a party start 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 the 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 twenty 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 ten 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, so will say the time is too short we are in PDP and we already have a governorship candidate that has been campaigning, we will vote for our governor and vote for you as the presidential candidate. So the GHO which is the big machine plus the alliance platform is the machine for the 2019 election and because we are in a unique circumstance, no party is actually coercive seriously even this two big parties that you are talking about. The APC virtually in every state had factional congresses from Lagos to Oyo to every state in Nigeria. So what you are talking about isn’t unique to AN. So this is expected. For us in our campaign the GHO and the alliance platform is a big platform that will be able to compete with APC. Source: The Nation