By Atek’ojo Usman-Ejima
Dr. Davidson Isibor Akhimien, the presidential candidate of Grassroots Development Party of Nigeria (GDPN) in a ‘no-hold back’ interview with CAPITALWATCH editor in Abuja explained that the US deliberately denied the country of arms purchase to confront insecurity in Nigeria.
The former Intelligent Chief in the Nigerian Army explained that the nation need modern equipment as well as modern training for the nation to overcome insurgents.
Grassroot Development Party of Nigeria is making inroad into the political space at the presidential level for the first time. Does the party have structures across the federation to drive this task successfully?
O yes. It will interest you to know that in just ten or eleven months of the party’s approval or licensing by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the party has been able to develop structure in 36 states of the federation. Congresses have been held in over 20 states of the federation. Congresses up to the wards level have been held. It’s a new party, it’s a focused party. It’s a party with ideology. It’s a party that is garnering followership in hundreds and thousands by the day.
What is missing in the presidency now that informs your decision to contest for the next president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria come, 2019?
One of the things we lack as a nation is the kind of leadership at the centre. I believe that we will be able to galvanise every persons across the country, across tribes, across religious affiliations to ensure unity in diversity. Having done that, we will begin to develop an economy that is prosperous; an economy that will be competitive globally; building an economy where its people can be able to live above board and I found out that these have been absent because of the kind of leadership that we have at the centre. There is no visionary leadership and I believe, like I have always said, it’s not by magic that we will bring about dividends of democracy. From the top to the grassroot people, it takes political will to develop the people. Grassroot Development Party of Nigeria have what it takes to deliver on that mandate.to have a peaceful, united, integrated Nigeria; that we have the capacity to broaden our gross domestic product, GDP base. Also to take Nigeria to where it ought to belong in the 21st century and to yet again give it a pride of place among the committee of nations of the world. All of these must be initiated from the centre.
As a man who comes from security background, what would you do differently from what President Muhammadu Buhari administration is doing to tackle security challenge confronting the country today?
Security of a nation is not achieved in a vacuum. There are causative factors that bring about threat to security. Threats to national security come in different folds and molds and the most important thing is to identify what the causative factors are. In our case, if we examine some of the cases of insecurity that we have, we must go to the foundation of injustice. Secondly, massive unemployment levels. Thirdly, huge percentage of youth population who are not gainfully employed. Fourthly, the yawning gap between the rich and the poor in the society today that there is almost obliteration of the middle class. The Nigeria society today is structured between the haves and the haves-not. The haves are a small percentage, almost an infinitesimal percentage of the population, while the mass majority of Nigerians are living in poverty. So this economic divide brings about what we call friction in the system which eventually manifest in crimes and criminality. A situation where a great number of Nigerians are not able to put foods on the table, where they cannot fend for their families, yet a minute fraction lives ostentatiously out of wealth that is corruptly gotten and most people begin to feel that it is their common patrimony that has been hijacked by these few priviledge ones. All of these causes heightened cases of insecurity in the land. It causes high way robberies, it caused cases of terrorism which we are experiencing in the north eastern fringes of our country. It’s still the same that gap that exists between the elite and the masses. When you deny the youth that are supposed to be the future of this country education, and are not able to fend for themselves, they are then vulnerable to ideologue of radicalism and occupied the space that government should have occupied. They now become foot soldiers of terrorist organisations.
As the 2019 general elections draws close amid heightened insecurity, how do you intend to tackle insecurity differently from the way the current government is doing?
I am going to tackle insecurity from two major fronts which is going to be quite a departure from the style the present government is adopting. Like I always say, we are going to tackle insecurity of terrorism in the Northeast, Nigeria. I am going to have it from domestic political economy and international political economy. We are going to be looking at our military approach. We are going to be strengthening our armed forces. We are looking at retooling and reequipping our armed forces, changing our inventory to modern inventory that is required for the 21st century asymmetric kind of war fight. Of course, as it is today, most of the insurgents are trained in modern day fighting techniques. Terrorists use very modern armaments and so never in our history should terrorists be better armed than our armed forces and we should not allow ragtag army while terrorists are better equipped than them. So when I become President, I am going to re-kit our army in tandem with the 21st century requirements.
Terrorism anywhere in the world is not fought alone by the affected country, but it seems Nigeria is left alone fighting its own terrorists. Other nations of the world are not interested in assisting Nigeria. What do you think went wrong?
That is what I was talking about domestic political economy and an international political economy. If you look at the world today in balance of power situation in international economy, you will find that Nigeria happen to be disadvantaged. Recall when President Barack Obama was in power and Nigerian leadership under Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan asked for arms to be purchased from the United States, we were denied. We went to the United Kingdom to purchase arms, United States prevailed on the UK to deny us and they did. We went to Israel, they denied, we went to South Africa they denied as a result of pressure mounted by the United States, so Nigeria went to black market and the thing burst. So it is important for Nigeria leadership to understand interplay of domestic political economy and international political economy when it comes to seeking cooperation in the fight against terrorism.
So if you eventually become the president, would you be doing this immediately in order for the country to enjoy cooperation of other nations in fight against terrorism.
Your foreign policy has to be astute. Your degree and level of diplomacy have to be in a manner that attracts nations to your nation. We have what we call not only member of international communities, but international non-governmental organisations which go a long way to ensuring that you have relationship with other countries in the international arena. All of these are within the ambit of international political economy.
What legacy would you be remembered for in the next 20 years after you have left presidency for instance?
My legacy would be known for industrialization of the country. Industrialization and empowerment of the youth segment of the society. The entrenchment of the human capacity by a way of modernized educational system. We will put up structure to ensure every child is captured in our educational system and to ensure that never again would there be an illiterate Nigerian.
Has President Muhammadu Buhari led government doing anything good that is approved of you?
Yes, if truth be told, this government is passionately fighting corruption and in my view they are succeeding. They are fighting corruption in every sphere of the system and any right thinking Nigerian should agree to that.
Ahead of 2019 elections, how do you react to the trend of vote buying by some politicians and how can this menace be tackled?
It is important Nigerians should know that the phenomenon of vote buying is an insult to their humanity, an aberration to their humanity, and to their individuality. Why should politicians buy your vote when he needs to earn your vote? I must say that the political class is culpable in vote buying and vote selling phenomenon. A politician that comes to buy your vote is not interested in your welfare. Nigerians should know that kind of politician has made democracy and governance in Nigeria transactional. That is to say, buying and selling, the same way one buys tomatoes and pepper and it means voter has been reduced to a commodity. Nigerians should know that they have more value and worth than that. They should say no to vote buying and any contestant that come to them for vote buying should be immediately given zero score card.
Is the Grassroots Development Party of Nigeria envisaging alliances with other political parties in order to deepen your base ahead of 2019 elections given the fact that GDPN is presenting you as Presidential candidate for the first time.
The problem of some political parties in Nigeria is somewhat lack of ideologies. As a new entrant into the political space, we have come with a very strong political ideology; we believe in our ideology and for us, it is a new thing altogether. We have come into politics to play politics of 21st century; politics of development. Politic that would serve as a counter-culture to the existing political culture of underdevelopment. Ours is about bringing a revolution into the political space. We are an ideologically based party. We stand by our ideology and we can align with parties that share similar ideology with us. We are looking for parties with similar ideology we could work in synchrony and things like that because even though we have our presence in 36 states of the federation, we have not been able to make inroads as much as other parties. We need something like a coalition of like minds.
What actually do you think went wrong with this country that arouses your deep concern?
You are a young man and you may not know what happened in the past. So many things happened. We have experienced a trajectory of awkward experience and a downward slide in our social life and the economy. The livelihood of an average Nigerian in an international arena has been on a downward spiral since the 80s to where we are now. If you go through your history very well, you discover that we are not where we used to be. Indeed, we are throttling towards an abyss. There is insecurity everywhere. There is inability of an average Nigerian to push his life forward and the lack of affordable house accommodation everywhere in the country. Massive unemployment with over 20 million people should give somebody like me sleepless nights. That is a huge percentage. With about 1.8million internally displace persons (IDPs) in Nigeria as at today are statistics that do not speak well of a country like ours.
If you ask me, when I become President, what will I like to do. It’s like rebuilding Nigeria all over again. We are hemorrhaging and bleeding in every area of societal life. Now, my administration will be looking at restoring security of lives and properties of Nigerians so that they can sleep with their eyes close. Security is a primary responsibility of government as captured in the 1999 constitution as amended.
The other thing we are going to be looking at is education which is very key for me. For me as an individual, I weep and I consider as a denial of fundamental human right of any citizen that is deprived of education. When you talk about a country of 200 million people, we should be talking about 200 million highly developed minds and what I mean is with sound education. Unfortunately, percentage of illiterate people is within a neighbourhood of 60% of the entire population and this is not good enough. The level of educated people is directly proportional to the development of that country. When we are talking of building infrastructure, minds must be developed to maintain that infrastructure, if not, you find out that all your investment in that infrastructure will not be sustainable. Education is key. Educate a man and you have started the building blocks of a nation, because he will know how to comport himself, even, the consequences of population explosion.
The other thing we will be looking at is the health care system. We intend to build primary health care centres in every ward of the federation. These facilities will be well staffed and well equipped. Rural dwellers will have access to health care which is affordable for them as well.
The history of governance in Nigeria has been the history of protecting the interest of cabals and delivering dividends of democracy. How would you strike a balance between these two as President?
They are cabals anywhere in the world. In any power system, cabals exist. But it takes the personality of any leader to break through any cabals. It takes the vision, the tenacity and temerity to break through cabals that stands in the way of interest of the nation. Who are those that stand in the way of a leader in the guise of cabals? You are voted in as a President and you must not allow cabals to stop you from discharging your responsibilities.
There is this mindset of Nigerians that every opportunity they have to do anything, it must be about their tribe and religion. How does a president of this country isolate this attitude and reset the nation on merit for greater productivity?
One thing is this and that is the gospel of Nigeria must supersede any other gospels. The gospel of Nigeria through Nigerianism and nationalism must supersede any other interests whether tribal or religious. All these ‘my, my’, ‘we, we’, is what brings about clamour by certain groups for certain resources. When there is no fairness in the allocations of resources, when there is no justice in the decision of government, it brings about agitation. There is what we call perceived injustices by government that pander towards ethnicity and nepotism, there is bound to be clamour and agitation. The narrative could change when things are justly done.
So, do you support restructuring of the country?
Restructuring consists of many things. We have to identify where restructuring is a plus for development of our country and also where restructuring is a minus to national cohesion that we are seeking. There is an area restructuring calls for attention and execution. There are things that need to be studied carefully so that we don’t thinker with our national unity because Nigeria’s existence as a nation cannot be compromised