IDEAS Radio 25 January 2019
Aghogho Oboh: All right, welcome to Countdown 2019. It’s nine minutes past four at 99.3 Nigeria Info, where we discuss all the big and significant issues on the road to the 2019 general elections.
This is the IDEAS segment with Ayo Obe. You can follow the programme on Twitter @Countdown2019NG, @RotimiSankore, @ideasradiong. You can also follow the programme. We’re speaking with the Presidential candidate of the Alliance for New Nigeria, Fela Durotoye.
Remember you can also tweet our different handles on Twitter where you can get questions and we’ve got comments. You can have that there also. I’ll let you into the WhatsApp number also too, it’s 08095975805.
And so, here we go, Ayo Obe, Good evening.
Ayo Obe: Good evening Aghogho, and Rotimi, my co-presenter, but in particular welcome to the very much campaigning and vigorously and actively campaigning candidate of the Alliance for New Nigeria, Mr. Fela Durotoye. You’re welcome to the IDEAS section.
Fela Durotoye: Thank you so much Ayo, and I’m always happy to be here at Nigeria Info.
AO: Well, what we focus on here in this section of the programme is the, are the issues of Integrity, Ethics and Accountability and the role that they play in our Democracy. And I just wonder, in the context of Nigerian politics, and as one of those who is seen as … I don’t want to use the term ‘new breed’, but people who have a new approach to doing politics, how do you think you’ve been able to, to not so much to talk about those issues, but to actually reflect them in the way that you’ve been campaigning, the way that you’ve declared your campaign, the way you emerged as the candidate, and how you’ve been going, how you intend to go forward with those ideals.
FD: Okay, thank you very much Ayo, and Rotimi and you know, everyone who’s listening, I believe very strongly that there is no nation that can really become a strong nation without people of integrity leading their government. Because integrity really is about promise keeping. And you know how it works with what it seems like Nigerian politicians, that they’re good, they make promises and are extremely great at breaking them. In fact many people say things like “They don’t even mean the promises when they make them!” Well I believe that as a person who has promoted integrity as a value system for the last – close to 14, 15 years – into the, you know, you national psyche of Nigerians, someone who myself who has done everything I have, or I can to live by integrity and, you know, accountability. One of the things that helped me to choose the party Alliance for New Nigeria was the values that the party professed. And there were three values: transparency, integrity and excellence. So in a sense, first of all my choice of a party was based on the values of integrity. But then one other interesting thing is that, I believe that I’m probably the only candidate, I’m not sure about this but it’s really there to be checked, that has posted our budgets for our campaign literally almost every month, and also posted our expenses every month. And what we’ve done with that and I think a lot of people realised that these guys are not just talking transparency. You can see how much we spend on food, how much we spent on accommodation, what we spend everything on. So also, like, one of the other things is, I’m not a signatory to the Fela Durotoye Support Initiative …
FD: … and it took us ten weeks to register that trustee account. You know. So whilst people were ready to give to us and to start our campaign, we had to wait ten weeks because we wanted to do it right. You know, to be able to be sure that we had the kind, right kind of corporate … what do I call it corporate status to be able to receive …
AO: Yes. But when you talk about your corporate status and the need to register, did you find that that was a smooth process or did you find that there were any obstacles in your way?
FD: Well, it was a smooth process, but it’s just a lengthy process. So for instance, even when you’ve gone through the registration, and you know, because it’s … you’ve got to have trustees as opposed to just shareholders, because you can’t take anything from that account, it’s specifically for the campaign …
AO: So one should assume that if you are setting up an organisation like that, it’s not just that, a flash in the pan for 2019?
FD: Oh no, not at all. You’ve got to set it up for the long haul. And for me, I think that that was very important that we got it right from the beginning, Even though like I said, it took us literally a delay of ten weeks in starting and you can imagine what ten weeks is like in a campaign.
AO: Well the reason why I asked about whether you found the process smooth is because that particular aspect of it may have been smooth, but candidates have found that whilst they may have decided to adopt the high road, that the … the powers that be, those who are in power, or those who think that everybody else is a distraction from their own campaign, have not been quite so accommodating. And when, if the other side, the other sides go low, what do you do?
FD: You go high, in the words of Michelle Obama.
AO: Yes, but does that win you elections?
FD: I’ll tell you something very interesting Ayo. The day that I decided that I was going to run and I actually broke the news to my kids, I promised them something. I said I would never do anything that I would not be able to stand and tell them proudly, and I would not do anything that would make them ashamed of their Dad. And I have kept that. So basically what I said publicly was: I will not do anything to violate my values, not even to win an election. And there’s a reason why Ayo. Because you know, if I … you know, you are who you are. Your values define who you are. And to a large extent, if you violate your values, even if you win the election, you’ve still lost yourself. So in a way in the end, you’ve still lost. And then if you lose the election and you lost yourself on the values, then that’s a tragedy. But if you lose an election but you keep yourself, you’ve learned something, and you’ve learned how to make things better without necessarily, compromising your values. And if you do win the election and you kept yourself, then you have an amazing story to tell. And for me, that is really the story that it’s going to be. It’s going to be that Fela never touched one kobo for campaign, of campaign funding …
AO: But when you say you’ll have an amazing story to tell, I mean, your supporters, they don’t want to hear your amazing story of the campaign …
FD: Oh yes they do …
AO: … they want to hear that you have won!
FD: No, no, no, no, no, not my supporters! My supporters are the kind of people who understand that it is possible for one person to win and all of us will still lose, as we have been losing all through the, you know, our elected history. We call it this thing, it’s a syndrome that is called ‘Elect and Regret’. Where one person wins, but because we got the wrong person in there, or the parties do not hold themselves to the right values, then in the end our economy suffers, the people suffer, so we all lose. So I think we’ve come to a point where now, people are looking for integrity. They, it means something to them, especially those who typically do not get involved with the political process. You know, if you look at it Ayo, in 2015, 96 million people were above the age of 18, but only 28 million votes were counted, which means that 68 million people did not get involved with the process. Most of them just didn’t think that the process had any integrity in it. They didn’t think their votes would count.
AO: But do you think that’s why they didn’t vote?
FD: No, for many reasons, but most of the time it was also the fact that didn’t believe in the candidates, they didn’t believe in the political parties, they didn’t believe in any ideology of those parties, and by experience, you know, they had lost hope. So there are many reasons but it all still anchors around the fact that they do not see the values that they wish to see in themselves and to pass on to their children in the political system.
And I’m sure that that’s what we’ve done differently, that has now today energised a whole 23 million new voters to come out. And I think, I’m not sure whether Rotimi will agree with this, but this is the largest number of new voters in any electoral cycle. And we worked hard to get this to … I’m not saying that it’s all me, but we know that the process was not easy. Many people had to wake up at 3 am, 4 am, because they were looking for something different. And a lot of people say: “Fela, we find that in you.” And it’s not just about who you are right now, it’s who you, we’ve known you to always be. You’ve been a proponent of values, you’ve helped to share values over this, the last 12, 13 years. One of the core values that I’ve been pushing into Nigerians’ psyche and through Nigerian schools, is something called “Do the right thing at all times, regardless of who’s doing the wrong thing.”
FD Another value statement that we push is ‘Live a life of integrity and honour’. So you see that today, it’s not now, it’s not because of elections that I’m trying to do that. These values that I’m speaking to you about, I have pushed into over 300 schools across Nigeria. The Association Private Educators of Nigeria have endorsed those values. Anambra State Government has endorsed those values. So it’s, we have been pushing this for a long time. Values has been one of my big things, and I’m leading them out.
AO: I think that one thing that I just wanted to go back to because you mentioned it earlier, which is about politicians making promises and not keeping them, and I was just looking at some of the things that you said. Don’t you think that when you say – for example – that you’re going to degrade and dismantle and defeat the terrorist group Boko Haram, or that you are going to, let me see, you know, you’re going increase the literacy rate by up to 90%. Now these are undoubtedly very noble aspirations and, but when you make them as promises, and then you get into office and you come up slap bang against the Nigerian Union of Teachers. Or some other interest group. Or simply the sheer scale of the problem. Do you then say that being unable to deliver everything means that you are no longer a person of integrity? I mean, don’t you think that it’s a bit harsh to be saying that once a politician makes a promise that they can’t keep, then that they are not a person of integrity?
FD: No, ok. So let me start by saying that there was a post that I put out in 2015, and that post, really, I think I put it out on Twitter, and I said: Promises may be hard to keep, but integrity makes it harder to break promises. And that’s really what the whole thing …
AO: But if the thing is not within your full control …
FD: So this is where I’m coming to. The lack of integrity usually starts with the intention. It’s … you know, I talk about integrity being the alignment of your thoughts, your words and your actions. And that many times, people without integrity say the things they don’t mean, and many times the people without integrity do things that are different from what they said, intentionally. And so, is it possible that a person of integrity would say to you: “I’ll be with you at six o’clock”, and not be there at six o’clock? Yes. But you would know that that person did everything humanly possible to be there at six. And more importantly, that most likely they would have called, if they could call to say: I’m so sorry. So what I’m trying to say here, is that most of the time the lack of integrity is the desire or the lack of it, to keep your promises. In other words, don’t make empty promises, promises you don’t intend to keep.
AO: But even if you make a promise, for example, let’s take the promise of putting a functioning health care centre into each of the Local Governments. Now, that sounds … it should be within the gift of the Federal Government if you were to become the President, so in theory it’s doable, but in practice, where are the personnel to make those health centres really functioning? Have you done the kind of studies of where the students are coming out, who they are going to be? How much you’re going to have to pay them to tempt them to certain Local Governments, and so on, or is just that you say Well, we should have one in each, so let’s just put it there.
FD: No no no no …
AO I mean really, are these promises researched?
FD: Yes, absolutely, and they were researched for months, literally, for over a year we’ve had a policy team of experts who are in those fields. So when we talk about health care policies and whatever promises we are making, they are made by people who have researched them and most of them are literally, are in the health sector. So, you know when we talk about … Let me just tap on something that you said, you know, how do we make sure we have the personnel? And one of the things that we’ve realised is that, first of all, 90% of the diseases that are killing Nigerians today are mostly diseases that should have been treated at the primary health care level. And today the world has gone beyond trying to use Medical Doctors as primary healthcare providers. Now, they are using what you call paramedics, right? And paramedics are people who, literally you train to be able to deal with most of the diseases that you have there, and then when they find out that this thing, you know, like they say in Nigeria: “If this one pass me”, you know, refer them to a secondary health care and that’s really what this is about. In other words, you don’t need to be a Medical Doctor seven years trained, to be able to become a paramedic, And just by being able to do what we are talking about, you can imagine that we will be able to provide a lot of jobs in that sphere just by, you know training people to be paramedics. Some of those paramedics are people you, they may not even be able to speak in, you know … they have to be able to speak in the language of …
AO: … of course, of the community
Well, before we go, because we’re practically out of time but there was one thing that I wanted to take up, and I know that Rotimi is going to come back to this. But, you participated in the PACT which was to see amongst several of the non- quote and unquote “major” parties, whom of the …
FD: …aspirants at that time
AO: … aspirants at that time would be supported as the sole candidate, almost like a coalition that would be formed. And, at the end of the, you had a debate, I mean, you agreed on a procedure by which the, that sole candidate would emerge, you had a debate, and at the end of the debate, you emerged as the sole candidate. And yet after that, it turned out that the, not everybody who had signed up to that PACT was ready to now abide by it because they had not emerged. And I wonder when you are reported now as being ready to still talk about coalition and having one candidate … I don’t want to call you the ‘also rans’, because it’s a bit pre-judgmental and we never know what the 23 million Nigerians who are coming into the electoral space are going to do, but, I just say ‘the non-major parties’ what, now you are talking about still having some kind of PACT with these groups, and you also know that some of your fellow parties are in the CUPP which involves one of the major parties. So, I mean, if we’re talking … Don’t these sorts of things depend on trust? And of course, trust is a matter of integrity. How do you go into such discussions knowing what happened before?
FD: Well you hope for the best. Okay, and you’re right …
AO: But hoping for the best? You need more strategy than that!
FD: No, no no. To be honest you cannot do more than hope that anybody that you’re going into coalition with will honour their signature on a Memorandum of Understanding. You can’t, I can’t coerce anybody to it. Right, and you just hope that everybody keeps their word.
I mean, let me just quickly put something that is very important out there is, and that’s a fact, that there were ten people that eventually took, an election, not a debate, but an election amongst ourselves to pick the consensus candidate. And nine of us are still together. So eight people, you know, are still behind Fela. There was only one person, Professor Kingsley Moghalu who went through the process and then pulled out and he said it clearly on some other, he pulled out because he didn’t win he has the right to, and I guess the only sometimes, the only painful thing is that sometimes he’s cast aspersions on a process that he helped to design. He’s cast aspersions in a way, on the persons that were involved, and of course, even on the person of Mrs. Oby Ezekwesili who was just really, an arbiter who just came in to oversee the process, she didn’t design the process. She just came to say… And that has been very painful. But you know what, Leadership is more than an emotional decision. We have to, we understand that to be able to get our nation forward, we need a coalition of people, and that is sometimes, you have to be able to say: You know what, whatever has happened has happened. Let’s hope that this time around it will not happen again, and we’ll try and make it a …
AO: Well I want to thank you very much Fela Durotoye, for coming on and giving us your perspective from the IDEAS point of view. I think that’s all I’m going to poke my nose into now. Please remember to follow the programme on @ideasradiong and you can also check out our website where we try to post the videos and podcasts, and even the transcripts of these discussions. So I hand back to my fellow presenters Rotimi and Aghogho, and goodbye.
FD: Thankyou Ayo
AO: And all the best in the campaign!
FD: Thank you so much. All the best to us all!