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May 29: Political parties are less democratic, SDP’s Adebayo

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May 29: Political parties are less democratic, SDP’s Adebayo
As the administration of President Bola Tinubu marks one year anniversary in office on May 29, the candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in 2023 presidential election, Barr Adewole Adebayo, speaks on governance, democratic rule and political parties in the country and other issues. Subair Mohammed writes.
May 29 marks one year anniversary of President Bola Tinubu, what, in your opinion, the government need to focus on to take the country to the promised land?
First we have to look at the cost of governance. We have to know that governance is more important than politics. Politics, through an election, is the process through which the electorate select the best candidates to represent their interests. And it is expected that these candidates have to do their jobs. So I don’t want us to be like America.
It’s not everything that America is doing that is good. Let’s not be a democracy of perpetual politics where once an election ended, somebody is sworn in immediately.
No, we should learn that governance is important and that it has three branches. Those who we have elected or who somehow have been declared elected formed the government.
So we, the people give them support whether we agree with their policy or not, we owe them that basic support. We must continue to recognize the government of our country, don’t say the government is illegitimate and go against that, because somehow there ought to be a government, after all, when we had British, when they ruled us and they were white skinned, different religion, we didn’t ask them to come, we still obeyed the law and we still pay taxes to them.
When military came and were in government even though nobody invited them, we still managed to attend universities that they created. So, now that we are choosing our own civilian government even if you don’t like the candidate, you don’t think it’s a perfect person,  you need to obey the law of the land, you need to pay your taxes,you need to cooperate.
Next to that is that we need to be critical of the government, we need to be critical of policies, we need to analyze policies and be critical of them and some of us who are in leadership, we need to provide alternatives because for everything that we are doing there is an alternative.
We have alternative system of government compared to parliamentary, presidential and all of that. We also have alternative to political parties, you don’t have to be APC all the time and even in governance policy,  the subsidy removal, there are more than 10 alternatives to subsidy removal. The methods of running our financial system, there are alternatives. The way we do our budgets, there are alternatives.
People like us will continue to remind Nigerians of the alternatives. And we remind them by also defending the alternatives as much as the government is defending what they are doing. And occasionally, like the clock, however bad the batter mechanism is, the clock will be right at least once a day. When occasionally the government does what is right, we have to say it is right, let us support what the government is doing and say this is right. Then we also have to define government more in a deeper way.
We have to define government to include not just President Tinubu and his cohorts in the Federal Executive Council, government should also include the people we elect into the Senate and House of Representatives.
Its been 25 years of democratic rule in Nigeria, how do you see the state of democracy in Nigeria and its electoral process?
My impression of our democracy is that democracy is yet to come. What we are having are attempts towards the democracy. So, we are like a student who wants to study medicine and is doing pre-medicine.. So, if he makes the right grades, then he can start medicine.
 From 1999 till now, we have been in a civilian rule but we have not managed to enter into democracy because democracy is not a permanent state. It is the presence of certain dynamics. So even a previous democratic state can slide away from democracy.
So the tools of democracies are not complete and that’s how I see it. One is that the power is still not flowing from the people yet. For two reasons: the psychological self disempowerment by the people where they don’t recognize the government. They are the one forming the government and that the government is their servant. They are commissioning an agent to work for them. They still have this monarchical, dictatorial system where they think the people in government are their rulers and their leaders, their owners.
Secondly, people don’t want to take responsibility for making choices in a democracy and to make choices in a democracy, you need to know the issues at stake and to make your choice of leadership based on where you stand on these issues.
So, it requires continuous education. That’s for the people. They have to own the government. Second, the political parties have to arise from the people. The political parties today are less democratic than NGOs. A man and his wife, a man and his friend, a man alone can form a political party and be the chairman, do whatever he likes and be selling candidacy up and down. A political party will collect money from one person, who wants to be the candidate of that party, more than the money contributed by 99 per cent of their members.
So, the political parties need to work on that because to say I am discussing how to broaden democracy but I forgot about the people and I forgot about political parties, you have not started. The next is the media. Nigerian media is a machinery. I am a media owner and I interact with the media. Nigeria media is a machinery. They sell out time, officially and unofficially.
So, whatever you do, the media needs to understand that in a democracy, the media is one of the lubricants for a healthy democracy. The role of the media is to highlight any errors in governance, any error in quality of the candidates.
That’s how the media can strengthen democracy. The way a criminal fears the police, ideally ,that’s how a politician with skeleton in his cupboard should fear the media. The media has to do better than that going forward.
The Civil Society should be stronger more than the political party despite the importance of political party because the strength of political parties is based on their membership alone.
Those are real needs before democracy can settle in which case when I run for office, I am not desperate I want to serve and the superiority of my ideas will be enough for me. Be confident that if you reject me once or twice you will see the superiority of my ideas, you will come back and realize that this person is saying what is correct, let us go for him.
And if I lose in a free and fair election, I don’t lose anything, it’s a privilege to come out and offer ideas. I will continue to offer the ideas and make myself available until I democratically convince majority of my country men and women that I am the right leader for them. If like Awolowo and other people tried.but didn’t get it, we will still continue to be useful. Those are the things needed in a democracy.
What’s your view on the now suspended cybersecurity levy?
On the cybersecurity levy, I am against it. Some people invited me to criticize President Tinubu regarding the cybersecurity levy and I asked, why?
I am not a Tinubu critic. I want to be president, so, why should I jump to criticize Tinubu? He didn’t pass the law. Your representatives passed the law, the media carried the news of the law when it was passed. So, if you don’t want the levy just tell every member of House of Representatives and senators representing you that within 48 hours they must bring a repeal of that law immediately.
So, the government is not only one person. It’s a good thing that the president has suspended the operation of the levy but the way government works is that you must ensure that if you are against that levy as I am against it, you need to let the House of Representatives member and your Senators repeal that law. If the law is repealed there will not be any levy to pay.
So, we need to have a deeper understanding of our government. When government brings a policy and we are discussing the good or bad side of the policy, I always ask my party people: how did the elected SDP members vote? Because I don’t want us to look very silly to go and start opposing something which our members voted for.
 So,  if we don’t like this policy and we can recall our members who are in the House, summon them for questioning, to say  this law or this regulation or this resolution is contrary to the objective of SDP and the principle for which we stand.
It’s been one year of the renewed hope agenda of President Bola Tinubu yet Nigerians are crying of hunger while the cost of living is increasing on a daily basis, where did the government get it wronged?
There are some responsibilities that are those of the state and those of the local government. So,  when you go around and say we are hungry, and all of that, you should start that with your state government because all over the world the primary need of the citizen is done by primary government.
Food, housing and other basic needs are provided at the state level and that is why I keep saying that in our engagement, we must try to get it right at every level of the government because we are not running a unitary system where only the federal government exists.
So, those are the things we can bring into it and then to not leave the space and to talk to those who are in opposition to understand that opposition is a place of sacrifice and it’s a place of over performance. You must be able to have alternative for every government policy and you must have superior argument and you must struggle to let your voice be heard even though the government of the day has monopoly of the microphone.
 And for as much as possible no matter the temptation, unless you have ideological convergence, try as much as possible, not to go and join the ruling government, no matter how tempting the offer is. You are not helping the country.
 If you are in opposition on the basis of ideology, on the basis that, you have alternative, that itself, you’re in government because government is both the government in power and the government in waiting and for the government in waiting is the real hope that people have. When people are frustrated with the government of the day, the reason why they are not losing hope in the country is because they believe we, the opposition can change the government but if people lose hope in the government of the day and they also feel that the opposition is even more useless than the government of the day, then they lose complete hope.
 So, the the opposition must always be better, must always even be stricter in recruitment, must expect higher quality in the candidates, higher quality in his membership, higher quality so that people can say okay, we have made a mistake in electing these ones or somehow they are there but there is the alternative and that is what democracy is about. It is not that you will not elect a bad government or a poor government or that somebody you elect will not disappoint you, it is that it’s only temporary.
The long term thing we can do is the general re-orientation of the population as a whole because I can tell you categorically that the way democracy is structured you can never have a government that is smarter or better than the collective wisdom of the electorate. And if majority or substantial or portion of the electorate is the type that you can use noodles to push around or that are so bias in certain sentimental issues like ethnicity and religion and the issue of the day, we should use governance to measure the issues that they use in selecting the leadership, that variance will always show and the developmental cost of that variance can mean that the country is retarded for a long time.
So, this continuous tutoring of the electorate, continuous development of that is necessary. And then next to that is that the political parties are extremely unsustainable and investment in political parties is one of the quickest investment in leadership in Nigeria because for many years as African leadership group, you have produced many leaders over the years and even the pastor through the church, has produced many great leaders but you cannot bring them to government because you are not a political party but somebody can jump from a motor park and be a governor, no investment in that person.
The way you run churches, run other organisations, run mosques, run universities, political parties should be run like that.  I remember the unfortunate incident of Herbert Wigwe, Access Bank within a short time was able to appoint another CEO.
When I went through the profile, I saw that Access Bank was not expecting the tragedy but they have prepared a lot of people in their leadership cadre in the case of any eventuality.
Access bank is not as important as one state or even one local government in Nigeria. It’s just a bank, a private entity. We should start preparing alternative leaders, ethical leaders, principled leaders, and that’s what we need to do, if we don’t do it , we will be complaining all the time. So,  those are the long term we need to do. And we must do them now.
You mentioned alternatives to subsidy removal.and the leadership selection, can you expatiate on this?
Let’s start with subsidy. I always want to run away from looking like I’m campaigning again after losing the election. I am still campaigning in my head but I will just paraphrase that. What we said was that the main problem with subsidy was the amount of money from the budget that was being used in the name of subsidy.
So, fiscally which means that with the revenue coming in and the amount of expenditure this government was making, we were exceeding our income to the point where they were even saying that they were borrowing money to fund the subsidy. It started with NNPC, our cash cow, saying that  they were going bankrupt because they were using their earnings to pay for subsidy because of that, they were not paying money to Federation account and because the tiers of government rely on the money coming to Federation account they too were having shortfalls.
Of course, we were spending other money on tax rebate for so-called pioneer Industries and all of that and we were giving tax waivers to many people and, of course, there were loose areas in Revenue collection and a lot of concessions we had given out also through which we are losing money and many other swaps we have done. We didn’t talk about that.
They talked about specifically the money we spend on subsidy and it was going from N600 billion, N840 billion at a time. It was N1trillion at a time. They even said it’s going to reach N2.7 trillion.
So, the elite in government and their friends in the media will confront you every day with the question of subsidy: If you have a meeting with any multilateral organization, IMF, World Bank, they will ask you question on subsidy. But we refused to be blackmailed by that and I said the solution is this: audit it first. Find out truly if volumetrically, the amount of money you are spending on subsidy is for subsidy, for petrol used by Nigerians. Until you know that, you cannot know the amount you are spending on subsidy. .So second, when you know that then you cut down on the waste. Then you phase subsidy out by doing what in economies we call shift.
What does the state of the economy says about the country’s leadership recruitment?
There’s nothing wrong with our leadership recruitment because the present leadership – this is the kind of leadership we want. Every incumbent wants you to miss them when they go, so they will look for somebody who is weaker than them to succeed them. They are not playing to the strength. Look at how Nigerian Army started. Nigerian Army started by trying to recruit the best who could defend the country and raise cadres below them so that by the time you were a major in the Army, you are already leading leaders under you – Captain, Second Lieutenant, Lieutenant, Second Lieutenant and NCOs. So by the time you are already a colonel with a red neck, you can lead the country. That was how the Army started. But when the Army joined politics, the leadership started looking for people who will not take over from them who will obey them, so the leadership quality dropped in the Armed Forces. So you could be an Army General and you don’t have the quality of somebody who would have been a captain when the Army started.
So, the Army became weaker and weaker to the point where Alwari Kazil was retiring as Chief of Army staff, he said the Army had become army of anything goes and as it was with the Army then the public lost confidence in them and in 1999 they had to leave. The same thing is happening now in our politics from 1999 to now, the doctrine is  don’t look for somebody who will outperform you, who will outshine you, who will do better than you, who is clever, who is smart, who is intelligent, who is ethical, who is independent minded.
 So, if we change our minds and we are recruiting leadership that will be better than the incumbent, then we will encourage people of ideas, people of ethics, people of discipline in politics and to do that, it will be done at three levels: at the level of political leadership. Political parties will be begging for candidates for the fact that you have quality and that you have done well in your private life.
Personally, that was what the SDP did with me in 2022 because I wasn’t a member of their party. I have been a member of the party since late MKO Abiola time but I’ve not been too active and they came to me to run on our ticket. I didn’t go to them.
Next is that, the elite of the country, former heads of state, former military heads of state, civilian, business people, clergy, bankers, people with means, media owners; they will also start to tilt towards the idea that let us give feasibility, let us give support, let us give encouragement to good leadership in Nigeria.

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