Nigerians should ignore El-Rufai’s comment on Muslim dominance – Ex-presidential candidate, Kachikwu

The presidential candidate of the African Democratic Congress in the 2023 elections, Dumebi Kachikwu, tells DIRISU YAKUBU his position on a wide range of issues, including the President Bola Tinubu-led government, his experience in partisan politics and why he will decline if given an offer to serve in the current government, among others issues

What is your impression of the 2023 presidential election, particularly the process and the outcome?

I will say it takes the grace of God for one not to be traumatised with what one saw during the campaigns; the human interactions, the failure of our society, the near absence of government across the country, the poverty level and the fact that most Nigerians were willing to sell their souls and many other experiences. It is a very depressing situation and I thank God that I was able to experience that, and I believe I am better off with it. I think I have a better understanding of what Nigeria truly is right now because of that experience. This is more important to me than the outcome of the exercise.

Are you hoping to be on the ballot during the next elections or you would want to take a break?

I won’t say I won’t participate again because I believe politics is a life of service. I have been in active service to my fatherland for a very, very long time. I remain an activist and by nature, I always give what I have to participate in ventures aimed at making my country better. So, I cannot say I will not participate again. But by participating, I have a better understanding of who we are as a people, what our country is about and some of the issues that one must be careful to navigate around.

What do you make of suggestions that President Bola Tinubu should pick his ministers across party lines, and will you be willing to serve in this government if called upon to do so?

If given the honour to serve in this government, I will decline and that is not because I have anything against the government. I am a supporter of this government and I absolutely want him (Tinubu) to do very well. For some reasons, I believe God put him in Aso Rock at a time like this. I do believe God installed him to teach us something about power and the fact that power comes from God, not from human beings, no matter how we go about things our own way. God is the ultimate decider of the affairs of man. In saying that I don’t want to serve in this government, I want Nigerians to know that one has lost a lot in the past eight years. It is time to build back; to get businesses back on track and to see what one can do in this economy that will work.

Could you explain why you would decline if called to serve?

There are a lot of politicians who ran for elective offices on the platforms of smaller parties. Their intention was simply to be recognised as presidential candidates so that they could use that to negotiate for appointments. This does not help our democracy; rather it destroys it. This makes people look down on parties like mine, the ADC, and I cannot encourage it. So, if I accept an offer, that is the impression people would have; that we ran on the platforms of smaller parties to get appointments. My belief is that if a party gives you its ticket, make it count and let people know and see what you stand for.

President Tinubu appears to have hit the ground running in the fight against corruption, given the arrest and investigation of Godwin Emefiele, the suspended governor of the Central Bank, and Abdulrasheed Bawa, the suspended chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, what do you make of this?

Well, there are those who believe that the EFCC chairman had become political, especially during the last election. I didn’t see that but some people hold that view. There are several allegations, but allegations remain what they are until proven to be true. Let us be patient with the authorities until they come up with their findings. But what we have seen is that, the CBN governor from southern extraction was arrested, the EFCC chairman from northern extraction was arrested. 

We must support the President to act against those who destroyed, looted and affected our way of life by their actions and inactions while in office, like the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited, the Nigeria Customs Service and other government institutions that acted corruptly at the expense of the Nigerian people. President Tinubu should act very fast, otherwise people will think his moves are political in nature, like his predecessor.

What is your take on the leadership of the 10th National Assembly, especially as the Senate President, Godswill Akpabio, and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tajudeen Abbas, were both the choice of the governing All Progressives Congress and the President?

Looking at the frontline aspirants that gunned for the Senate presidency, the outcome left much to be desired, but we understand why the President wanted a southern Christian for that office. Personally, I think we need to move away from a country of religion and tribe and start looking more at meritocracy and competence. I do understand that a lot of sentiments play out in our politics, and like I said, it is easy to understand why the President went in that direction. Having said that, one really hopes he understands what is at stake when you choose people that will rubber stamp everything you do. It destroys our democracy and I hope that is not what will happen. The Buhari-led government failed because we had a rubber stamp legislature who thought they were helping him but succeeded in destroying him. You perform better when people challenge you. You become better in the plethora of advice; you perform better when people are able to present their opinions and solutions to you. But when you stifle that and muzzle people’s voices, you are worse for it. Asiwaju Tinubu portrays himself as a democrat and we hope he would be truly democratic now that he is the President of Nigeria.

The issue of ethnic balancing literally informed the choice of the four presiding officers of the two chambers, and some people still believe that the South-East didn’t get a good deal, do you think ethnic consideration is the way to go?

I want to thank you for this question. It is very sad that our democracy has been reduced to tribe and religion. It is sad because in advanced democracy, these things don’t matter. All they care about is service, ideologies, principles and what is good for the people. In Nigeria, people believe that the government is not truly representative when you don’t have people representing the different geographical regions of the country. Again, the Igbo people, by virtue of the type of politics they play may appear to have been singled out, but they were without a top contender.  People thought the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation would go there, but that did not happen. Now the Senate President and Speaker of the House offices have been taken. Is it that the Igbo are not good enough? We had an Orji Kalu who wanted the Office of the Senate President, but people felt that his antecedents might have worked against him but when you look at the antecedents of people like Godswill Akpabio and Abdulaziz Yari, what is the difference? It appears the Igbo are being punished but I hope that in appointments, President Tinubu will not have the disposition of former President Muhammadu Buhari. Let’s wait patiently and see what happens in the weeks ahead.

What is your impression of the Students Loan Bill recently signed into law by the new administration?

I believe that nothing good is free and if we desire our kids to get good education, then we need to have an educational system that is well funded and people have to pay for this. You value what you pay for. If you see what is happening in our tertiary institutions today, people don’t value the education they are getting. The lecturers are not committed because they know that students are not

paying enough for the education they are getting. This is not in line with global best practice. What has been going on over the years has brought the standard of education in public universities and polytechnics very low and we need to do something about it. Today, we release into society half-baked graduates who are barely literate. Now, if the government is providing loans, it is a good idea because students in other parts of the world enjoy this privilege. I benefited from student loan too when I was in school abroad. The initiative is a good one. It is my hope that they get the loans and are able to use this to fund their education. The loan itself should be well structured to stand a chance of making the needed impact.

Successive administrations made pledges of tackling unemployment with virtually all of them failing to match words with actions. What will be your advice to the Tinubu-led government in the area of job creation?

I think employment is easy to address if you have the right people in the right place advising you. Our past presidents failed because they brought in people who were not competent enough to advise them. They brought on board people without requisite experience in the private sector to advise them; people who didn’t have enough experience, and because you can’t give what you don’t have, we are where we are. Nigeria is a bundle of blessings, one of the most blessed nations on earth. All it takes now is for us to see what we have been blessed with and start harnessing those resources. It makes no sense that a nation is blessed with the blue economy and yet, we are witnessing unnecessary hardship. Look at our coastal resources, tourism potentials but none of these is being

leveraged. Our aqua endowment is a goldmine, good for export and capable of feeding the rest of Africa but what are we doing with it? If you look at agriculture, if you fly above Nigeria, you will see unbelievable resources, fertile land whose surface we have not scratched. We have jobs that can be created with ease. It breaks my heart when I see Universities and Colleges of Agriculture going to waste not knowing what to do with their curricula in a world where farmers are one of the richest people.

Nigeria has a vast uncultivated land, yet farming across the country is largely subsistence, why has the situation remained the same?

The world is moving from subsistence farming to agropreneurship but successive governments are not doing anything about it. We are still dealing in raw farm produce, which we are not processing. Imagine what would happen if we have agro-processing parks in every senatorial district in Nigeria. Imagine if we have a model where we could have our agricultural students run a work-school model, where  they study and we pay them to work on farms. Take a look at the digital economy. I go to places like India and I see industrial hubs. I am looking at industrial parks where they bring common facilities together so that people who have talents will come in and learn. You look at the fact that broadband is not even affordable in Nigeria. Broadband today should be a right and not a privilege but our students don’t have it, our workers don’t have it. They switch it on and off because they are not able to afford it. You look at the power problem, how can small businesses thrive? 

How can you provide services when you don’t have power, which is basic? There are so many things we can do to create employment.

What are the stumbling blocks to job creation?

When I was campaigning, I talked about the Nigerian Patriot Act and the essence of that Act is very simple. Those in government, I mean the President, governors, ministers, directors and big players in the private sector whose operation derives from licenses given by the government, such as broadcasting and the like; should be restricted to the same things as the masses. Let their children attend the same schools like the children of the masses. Let them get treatment from the same hospitals. If we do this, everything will work in Nigeria. Things are not working because our leaders have not demonstrated sufficient readiness to change the situation of things in the country. If they love this country enough, Nigeria will change for the better in a few years.

The immediate past governor of Kaduna State, Nasir El-Rufai, recently said in a viral video that the political domination of Muslims across the country is real and has come to stay. What do you make of such comments?

Nasir El-Rufai has achieved his purpose, because you and I are talking about him. That is what he wants. He wants to be topical and to be noticed. He wants to be seen as the next Buhari in northern Nigeria. He wants to be seen as a defender of the Islamic faith but he is a hypocrite. You can see that Muslims and Christians have ignored him and that is what we should all do.