IDEAS Radio 7 December 2018

 

Sandra Esekwesili:  Countdown 2019. We have Ms Ayo Obe on the show, and of course Mr. Rotimi Sankore.  Good afternoon Ma and Sir. So over to you.

 

Ayo Obe: Ok, Rotimi, we have a guest, a special guest on the programme this afternoon, and as usual, my job is to drag out the IDEAS content in his, in what he’s going to tell us.  Our guest is Mr. Tope Kolade Fashua. He is the Presidential candidate of the Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party. And, you’re welcome to the show.

 

Tope Fashua: Thank you very much, great to be here, thanks for inviting me.

 

AO: I don’t know whether to call you Mr. President, or Mr. Candidate?

 

TF: Well, Mr. President, is better.  Let’s get prepared for the eventualities as it is.

 

AO: Yes, well.  The Abundant Renewal Nigeria Party, Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party: when really was it formed?  When was it established?

 

TF: Well, we started out in 2016 December, and you know, we were there, we were there trying to get the licence for almost a whole year.  We got the licence precisely a year less two days afterwards …

 

AO: When you say “The Licence”, you mean before, you got registered?

 

TF:  I mean, that’s the licence, registration comes together, kind of.  So, you know, precisely in a year’s time. So, December 14, 2017, we got registered, and then on the  10th of January 2018 we got the certificate itself, so basically that’s it you know.  So it took quite a while and we had to go through the, through the whole hog of, you know, going back and forth, putting papers together, you know, through INEC and all that stuff.

 

AO: Ok.  I mean, I guess you know that this section of the programme, the IDEAS segment, tries to look into every candidate’s party and policy, and find out: where do we see the integrity, where do we see the ethics, where do we see the accountability in their programme?  So I guess that the first thing I would ask you is: Why did you feel that you had to establish your own party, rather than joining an established party?

 

TF: Thank you very much.  In fact, every reason. Because you know, all of us Nigerians, well a lot of Nigerians, say they’re frustrated about what’s been going on, at least since the return to democracy, about 19 years ago or thereabout now.    Everybody says they are frustrated about what’s been going on, but who’s doing anything about it? So, that’s the thing, that’s where we started from. Then I actually got quite frustrated, and I said: This 2019 I’m also going to be also contesting for the position of the President, you know, in this country.  But the point was now: How? And I felt that there was also going to be quite a number of people who feel the same way. So we said look, the best bet would be – not to join these old parties which are already compromised. And you know, the way you start out on your journey …

 

AO: Oh, I understand that there are parties, the narrative of the existing, the major parties are compromised.  But there are several groups of people like you, you said there are a lot of people who felt dissatisfied. What is it that draws your particular party together?  Is it the issue of Integrity? Is it the issue of Ethics? Is it the issue of Accountability?

 

TF: Actually, I would say the three, because if you looked at our Constitution, a lot of that is actually embedded in there, we have a very strong Constitution …

 

AO: So what does your Constitution have to say about ethics and integrity?

 

TF: Oh yeah, I mean, for example we, even things like who signs the cheque within the party, how do you control the party structure …

 

AO: Party finances.

 

TF: Party finances, very very important.  We have three signatories for everything. You know, and if it doesn’t work that way, then nothing comes out and so on.  So that’s very important.

 

AO: Can I ask you, if your party depends on having  three signatories before an ordinary political party can spend money, doesn’t that suggest to you that there’s  actually a lack of integrity, because …

 

TF: No no no …

 

AO: … because, it means that, it suggests somehow, that one person cannot be trusted.  That the people in your party may not necessarily have the required degree of integrity to operate by themselves?

 

TF: No, I don’t think so.  I think the real thing is that in terms of corruption prevention and all of that, the first thing you do is to ensure that people don’t actually get to  steal the money, you know. You don’t tempt them. People get into all sorts of things, you know, family issues and so on. Don’t even make it possible for them to take the money, and you know …

 

AO: So for you it’s about systems?

 

TF: It’s about systems, very very important.  And that’s what we did. Serious corporate governance going on in the party.  The party, we emphasize in our Constitution that the party is supreme. It doesn’t matter what you become, if you become the President, Governor or not …  Because one of the things we saw, from the old parties, was a scenario where one guy gets there, he’s the chairman, he does anything he likes, he does it any way he likes, you know?  And then usually, one very interesting thing – they call them ‘Leaders’ right? So, the leader of a party in the state is the guy that becomes the governor because he has the money. So, the parties are driven by money, because that’s the guy that they go to beg for stuff and all of that.  So all of these things were the things we try to mitigate and hedge against, you know, in trying to put the systems of the party together …

 

AO: But apart from defining yourselves in opposition to the existing major parties,  what is it that you are bringing new to the table in terms of the issues that are of concern to Nigerians, particularly in a context where the desire to see a genuine anti-corruption administration is very strong in the electorate?

 

TF: Right.  Ok, for example, if you look at our manifesto, as far as this is concerned …

 

AO: Ok, tell me something from your manifesto.

 

TF: Ok, so for example, on anti-corruption.  We intend to do, to institute what is called the CAFR, which is the Comprehensive Annual Financial Reporting for every Ministry, Department and Agency in Nigeria.

 

AO: Isn’t that just an audit?  What the Auditor-General does?

 

TF: It’s an audit, it’s a published audit.  For example, I mean, they say that NNPC is our mainstay for example.  NNPC, I can’t remember in the last twenty years if they’ve ever published an account.  And so, if you say that something is your mainstay and they don’t render account to the people, so who’s the boss?  So, the guy who’s the GMD of NNPC believes that he’s the boss. And however, he’s there at the mercy, in fact, at the instance of the people.  And we seem to have forgotten that. Then, there’s something called the GSA, which is the General Service Agency, that procurement, because procurement fraud is one of the big areas of corruption in Nigeria.  Procurement can be done as it is actually in the USA actually, you know. It could be done …

 

AO: Well in the USA you can still find the United States Army buying for $20, the lightbulb that elsewhere is sold for $1?

 

TF: Oh yeah, but there’s something called the GSA in the USA, and that means that you know, this agency procures in bulk, and if you need something, they issue it to you.  Ok of course, if you’re talking about the US Army. Maybe in a specialist organisation, can actually, you know, but then, we can get there. But the point is that, we’ve got this silo mentality.  I live in Abuja and I see how it works, you know? Ministry is here you know, you want a mast, you build your own mast. And then, the Ministry is next door, builds its own mast as well, instead of you to combine, because people are more into the silo mentality, into the territory protection.  So we believe that the GSA will …

 

AO: So you think that …

 

TF: … the GSA will be great stuff.  For example, one of the problems we have with the budget is that, you see a scenario where they want to buy maybe a Hilux, and one ministry is buying its Hilux at 15 million, the next is buying at 19 million, the next is buying at 27 million.

 

AO: But isn’t that what the Due Process and the Budget Procurement…

 

TF: Yes, it has failed actually.  The BPP has failed …

 

AO: But when you say …

 

TF: … the BPP has to be strengthened into a GSA, kind of.

 

AO: Oh ho, I was going to say …

 

TF: So we’re going to have just one place where, when you buy the asset, it gets issued to you; when you’re done with the asset, maybe after depreciation, you send it back … one very very interesting thing happens today …

 

AO: Don’t you think, Mr. Fashua, don’t you think that the end result of that will be so many logjams in government that the tendency will be for people to try to circumvent the system, and then you’ll be in a worse condition than you were before, in terms of accountability?

 

TF: No, no, I don’t think you’ll be in a worse condition in terms of accountability.  What you would probably say, as the argument against this, is probably that oh, you are concentrating the power in one place.  But again, if you concentrate the power in one place, you can actually check that place. And there’s going to be so many eyes on it.  And it depends on how we put it together. However, however, the issue of logjam. It would be a great thing for there to be a logjam in the way government spends money in Nigeria right now.  Because what they do, the budgets don’t work for the people of this country. Each item in the budget is actually put there by someone who owns that item in the budget. And sometimes, when you win a bid, they tell you: “Oh, this was put there by the secretary, or the perm secretary, or the director of one thing or the other.  Go and meet him and ask him what he wants to do with that.” So there’s a need to slow down. Like in the US for example, I’ll say that the key reason, the key way, the final way in which the US got out of the Great Depression, was that between 1942 April and 1944 December, there was a freeze on the purchase of, or manufacture of any new car, and the General Motors, Fords and all of that, were told to recalibrate their assembly to work with the war effort because the Second World War was going on.  Nigeria is at war, if you ask me, an economic war, and whoever is going to take this country to the next level must be a war time President, someone who’s going to come in …

 

AO: You seem to be adopting, you seem to be adopting the slogan of one of the major parties when you talk like that about the Next Level, but …

 

TF: No no, ok, not that kind of ‘next level’, those guys are taking the next level downwards!

 

AO: No, I’m just playing with you.  But seriously, when you talk in this way about, and you tend to see many of your examples from the United States …

 

TF: Well, not only the United States, but again you know, sometimes they say you can’t re-invent the wheel.  The wheel is round. If it is, if a system works in Europe, and we based our, we took our democracy from them, they colonised us, they gave us the systems when they were leaving.  What we need to do is to work the systems. If we work the system; what we’ve done now is to warp it and to actually bring a lot of traditional funny ways into doing stuff, and then we take decisions based on where you’re from, what religion you … you know, and that kind of thing messes up the system …

 

AO: Mr. Fashua, I wonder …

 

TF: … and so, I’m just saying that look, we can actually go back to global best practices, it still works, and we’ve seen that.  And Nigerians are some of the most travelled people in the world. We go abroad and see how those things work, and I think we can make it, can get it done here.

 

AO: I appreciate the point that you are making.  But don’t you feel that when you have your eye on the global ball and then, you … there’s a saying that: All politics is local.  And one of the things that has been discovered, even in the European countries that you’ve been talking about, where people at the local level feel that their  interests are being ignored because of people, those who have their eye on the, on this global ball. Don’t you feel that there’s a danger that your message will get lost in translation?

 

TF: Well, there’s a chance that will happen, for example, I mean, if we go to the villages and we’re talking about GDP, growth and so on, they may not understand what you’re saying.  But what I always tell people is this: That, the reason that there’s so many of us running for President now, okay, however I’ve always urged the guys that are running for President like me, that look: that this is the time for us to  dump all our best ideas in the space. The people at that local, you see, we cannot be led by what’s going on at that local level, otherwise, in a hundred years, politics will still be about: Give them N4,000, and you win the next four years, and you, you know mortgage their next four years.  No. So we have to do what we’re doing and help, and move this country forward in spite of that problem we have at the local level.  So I’m here talking about GSA, I’m here talking about CAFR, I’m here talking about procurement issues and so on, because these are macro issues that need to be dealt with at the very centre, and that’s why I’m running for President, not the Senate not anything.

 

AO: If you were not …

 

TF: As a candidate for the President, I’m making a lot more impact than sitting in one chamber in the Senate and collecting allowances and becoming part of the problem.

 

AO: As a candidate for the presidency, your objective then, is to impact …

 

TF: Absolutely!

 

AO: … the issues that are being discussed in the race.  

 

TF: Amazing.  That’s it.

 

AO: And what would you say, in terms of ethics or accountability, what would you say distinguishes you from the rest, so to speak, of the candidates.  Is it your background? You’re a business person, have you found it possible to operate a business and live a totally, and do it in a total, in a way that is totally consistent with integrity, or have you found that it’s not easy?

 

TF: Yes.  Well, it’s not very very easy.  As a matter of fact that’s part of the reason why I’m running for President.  Because I’ve seen in this country, I mean, I started business, I started out in business around 2005, you know, and 2006 thereabouts,  However, what I’ve seen in this country in that time is that ethics kept going down. And I must say that since this government came, what we saw was a bottoming out of you know, nepotism and all of that, you know, mediocrity.  I mean, we see a country that there’s what you call adverse selection: given two options, Nigeria seems to choose the worst at every point in time. And we felt that look, this is the time for us to step out and do this, right? So yes, there’s issue of integrity, issue of ethics:  I’ve been around, I worked, well I worked in the banking sector, it’s not all kosher in the banking sector it must be said yeah. However, there’s a reason why I also left, at some point: you know, when I felt look … as you go up, you see a few compromises and so on. Yeah, but the entire system needs to be dealt with if you ask me.  And so, in terms of ethics, I actually, I’m an intellectual. I’ve written loads of articles, I’ve written maybe three or four thousand articles , I’ve written six books …

 

AO: Wow!

 

TF: … and what you do then, you know, in writing articles every week …

 

AO: Clarifies your thoughts …

 

TF: Exactly!  And then you get challenged as well. And I’ll say that I’ve written much more than any other person that’s actually contesting today.  So as a matter of intellectual quotient, I mean: What are you adding to the space? How much research are you doing? Are you even noticing what’s going on in the other parts of the world, how are you even relating with that?   I think I’m right at the top. However, I’m not notorious, right? If it wasn’t for this quest , you probably wouldn’t have met me. However, there’s a time that one has to do something, I’m not doing it for myself, or for my image, I’m doing it for this country and this country must get better.

 

AO: Well, as you say, you are throwing your ideas into the national pool of ideas, and whatever the outcome of your own personal quest, the idea is that you would impact the way that the debate and the discussion, and perhaps the voters, are thinking and going, and that’s really what we want to do at IDEAS radio.

 

TF: Absolutely, that’s it.  Because we need to sow that seed and then, and watch it germinate because …  Maybe the more intellectual people are the ones that will understand what we’re talking about, but we have to  talk about it all the same. The politics and economics of Nigeria must move away from this poverty-driven kind of thing because, and what these guys have done …  And what I’m also saying is that look, if we do things right, even the rich people in this country can become, they will get richer, and the middle class will expand.  And we can get it done. But look, what are we doing with 88 to 90 million people extremely poor? And the largest number of extremely poor people in the world? It is untenable and that’s why we’re here dumping these ideas in, and hoping that at some point, the politics will change, and this …

 

AO: Somebody will pick them up, and run with them.  So we want to thank you very much Mr. Tope Fashua, the Presidential candidate of the Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party.

 

TF: The Computer Party.  Our Logo is a computer.

 

AO: Their logo is a computer.

 

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