Prince Adewole Adebayo is the presidential candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) for the 2023 presidential election. In this interview with FELIX NWANERI, he discloses his vision for Nigeria, his party’s chances in the election and why Nigerians must interrogate all the candidates in the presidential race
You are contesting the presidential election on the platform of the Social Democratic Party (SDP); how formidable is the structure of the party across the country?
In reality, all political parties are supposed to have the same structure because one of the criteria for an association to be registered as a political party is that it must have presence across the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory. In this regard, I will say that the SDP has presence in all the 774 local government areas of the country. If you go to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), you can obtain a list of our members and these are people you can put faces to their names.
So, we have the structure although what some people refer to as structure, is a big man somewhere, sharing rice and killing goats for people to come and eat, and mobilising as many thugs as possible. The question we should ask these people, who claim to have structures is: If they really have the structure, why is it that they resort to vote-buying to win elections? The really don’t have the structures they claim.
They are just big for nothing parties. If they are really big parties as they claim, they should be able to solve big problems, whether it is in electricity, road infrastructure, health or education, among others. How can you call yourself a big party when you don’t have big ideas and can’t solve big issues?
The SDP of 1993 is different from SDP of today. What makes you think that the present SDP will make an impact in the 2023 elections as the party has not really done well in the present dispensation?
Yes, SDP hasn’t done well of late not because the party is not on ground but because in the past, it was not willing to contest elections. About four years ago, we had the problem of Donald Duke and Prof. Jerry Gana. Eight years ago, the leaders of the party thought that they had ideological relationship with some people.
So, it is not as if we have been contesting, but anywhere we contested, like we did recently in Ekiti State, we made a mark. All we need to do is to continue with this attitude of contesting elections like we are doing now. The tradition of the SDP right from Chief MKO Abiola’s time has always been to identify with the people and work with them. I am not saying that I am Abiola but we share a similar story.
He was a businessman; he was never a governor or member of the National Assembly but as a presidential candidate, he worked with highly experienced politicians and that was why he was able to achieve success in the 1993 presidential election.
The same thing Abiola did in 1993 is what we are doing now. If you look at our team and compare it with that of the other parties, you will find out that we have experienced people who have the capacity to give them a run for their money. We are not lacking in experience people, what we don’t have is those who have experience in the wrong things. We worry much about experience in Nigeria but where is the system that we want experienced people to sustain. It is clear that there is no development but retrogression. So, we don’t need people, who are experienced in retrogression. What we call experience for many of them is just wasted opportunities.
A journalist, who interviewed me recently, laid so much emphasis on my experience but I told him that I have personally created more employment opportunities than most of the key people in the presidency put together. What this means is that the relevant experience for the problems of the country is what should count and not how many years one has been receiving salaries from government and living in government houses, blowing siren and giving excuses rather than solving problems. If you are insisting on experience, why is it that Boko Haram doesn’t run away when they hear President Muhammadu Buhari’s name because of his military background? Why are they even threatening to kidnap him if experience matters?
The role of money in Nigeria’s elections cannot be dismissed; how deep is your pocket given the financial strength of the candidates in the presidential race?
It is basically criminal money that you see in politics because they are spending above the regulated limit. But ideally, any serious political party should be able to meet the limit set by INEC. If you look at the legal limit for spending for the presidential election; we can raise that with ease through contributions from willing members of the party.
We had a better organised national convention than the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and All Progressives Congress (APC) and we raised money for it by ourselves. Officials of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) were not there with dogs to sniff our members over whether they had dollars in their pockets. It was a good outing; INEC and other observers were impressed. So, to raise descent funds for the campaigns is doable.
The problem of most opposition parties is not how to raise funds for elections. The problem is that some of those running their affairs are not interested in the parties contesting elections. All they do is to make much noise only to hand over their parties to anyone who is ready to pay them. Some of them even collect money from the so-called big parties to fund their conventions. So, it is the parties they are opposing that select members of their teams for them.
Most people believe that the youth will play a major role in determining who wins the 2023 presidential election. What is your view on that and how are you reaching out to this young people?
Most youths on the voters register today did not get to the register by accident. It was conscious efforts by some people and political parties that made them to register in order to vote in the forthcoming general election. We know the youths and where they are and some of them have been given the opportunity to vie for elective positions by the SDP and that has given them a sense of belonging. We may not have been orientating our own youths to be making noise on the social media like the other parties are doing but we have encouraged them to be in their constituencies and learn the basics of politics. We have tried to make them realize that activism is different from politics, so they are in their constituencies, sensitizing the people on activities of our party by going from door-to-door.
What new is the SDP bringing to the table that would be different from what the PDP and APC have done in the last 24 years that they have held sway at federal level?
If you listen to what some of the presidential candidates have been saying or what is being said on their behalf, you will find out that they are not in tandem with what we know them for. Some people who have never managed anything successfully are suddenly promising to turn things around but I will tell you that Nigerians cannot be fooled by such promises.
Unlike in the past, the people are going to interrogate anyone who is presenting himself for any position. You can see that some of the candidates are running away from debates but have hired very experienced journalists, who are writing columns on their behalf. When you tell them to bring out their principals out to talk to the people, they will decline. So, I urge Nigerians not to listen to campaign promises any longer because promises can fail.
No democracy anywhere in the world listens to promises; what politicians are supposed to offer are plans. To say that you are going to build a house for every Nigerian is a promise. You should come up with a plan of how you are going to acquire the land, the cost of each unit, the manpower to build the houses, where the building materials will come from and the funding. For us in SDP, what we are presenting to Nigerians is a plan of how we intend to tackle the nation’s numerous problems. For every item on my plan, I know when, I know what, I know where, I know who and I know how I am going to get it done.
What do you think Nigeria is doing wrong, and what exactly are you offering Nigerians if you emerge as the next president?
What we are doing wrong is that we don’t have a government. We have incumbents, who spend four years and go, and are replaced by their friends. What I want to bring to the table is to replace these bunch of politicians who are going to the villa to collect campaign rewards with a functioning government. The truth is that the other presidential candidates have governed before; none of them spent less than eight years in the respective offices they held and they did not solve any problem. The problems of poverty, insecurity, lack of infrastructure and unemployment among others.
The major situations we complain about are still widespread across the 36 states of the federation. All the other candidates did not address the problems, when they were in their respective offices; they are all part of the same establishment. I have a plan for 30 million jobs to tackle poverty in Nigeria within 18 months. When people have jobs and you put people in school, you create the middle class and solve the problem of poverty. When the job comes with accommodation and other incentives, poverty will go away.
How will you tackle the key issues of security and economy if elected as president?
A government that cannot pay teachers; a government that cannot ensure that workers show up on time; a government that cannot clear drainages; a government that cannot respond to a correspondent, cannot solve any problem. What you call security challenges in Nigeria are normal day-to-day problems we have in this country. Any problem that an AK47 riffle can solve is not a really a major problem.
The Nigeria Army is strong enough to tackle what you call security challenges but the government is not serious about tackling the challenges. What is happening is that some people are making money from the security challenges the same way some are making their own through crude oil theft. Go and Study the Terrorism Protection Act, you will find out why have issues tackling the security changes. Most of the issues are over the power of the Office of the National Security Adviser and its territorial fight with the service chiefs; who is the one to buy arms. who is going to hire mercenaries that will not fight anybody? So, it is a dollar and naira fight.