Former House member, former senator and Pro-chancellor of Baze University, Dr. Datti Baba-Ahmed , has an unfinished business – an aspiration for the country’s top job. In this interview he explains why he wants to move from the Ivory Tower to Aso Rock.
You have been a member of the House of Reps and a Senator. What’s your motivation to run for the Presidency?
I appear to have ticked all the boxes constitutionally, politically and morally, with even some extras. All over the world it is the people of my position whose duty it is to present themselves to lead their nation. Self-praise is an act of ignorance but in politics, it is a loss failing to recognize your achievements. Those achievements put me at the fore-front of the list. What will I tell my children in the future if anything goes wrong, if I refuse to at least participate?
The three senator representing your State, Kaduna, have frequently been at loggerheads with the State governor and the APC in the state appears to be divided house. On what platform are you planning to run?
I am contesting under the platform of PDP. I joined the PDP last year after I was satisfied that it is now safe to join the truly national party with personnel and structure in every ward of the federation. What used to be PDP is now APC. 22 out of 24 APC Governors are part of those who misruled Nigeria under PDP in the past. Same goes to the cabinet and all other major appointments. Any political party that suffers the kind of outflux that the PDP suffers and is still this strong is truly a national party. Moreover, Nigeria was better under PDP than it is under APC as the world can generally see. As for Kaduna State, I can only consider those actors as insane and prefer to respect myself by not honouring them with any comments. However, I will try to see that good leaders are also elected there.
President Muhammadu Buhari has indicated his intention to have a second term. You are both from the Northwest. Why do you want his job?
President Muhammadu Buhari has not lived up to expectations at all, neither has he been able to deliver on any of promises. He continues to prove that. For now, I will like to hold back my comments about his anti-corruption posture and about being a good leader.
There is more to leading a complex federation like Nigeria than exploiting the sentiments and divisions among the people. There is nothing as dangerous as a leader promoting religious bigotry. There is nothing as bad as exploiting the masses illiteracy and lack of political awareness. I recall PMB making a phone call to say that he borrowed the money for his nomination form to prove to the masses that he does not have such money. But like I said, I will like to reserve my comment for another day and in the mean time, pray that PMB will save what remains of his good name.
There are people who say Buhari is a victim of high expectations; that given his health challenges in his first term, he has done reasonably well. Do you think he could do better in a scond term?
Buhari’s second term will destroy Nigeria and unsettle the rest of Africa. Fulfilling promises are not high expectations, if you made those promises. Expecting to live in a country without terror and violent crimes is not high expectation. Expecting the naira to remain where his government found it is not high expectation. Expecting the number of jobs his government met to be retained is not high expectation. Expecting the economy to be as good as how his government met it is not high expectation. What Buhari’s government has done is to destroy the fragile economy of Nigeria and allow insecurity grow into new dimensions.
Nigeria’s constitution makes running for a national office/winning, very expensive and complicated. Are you planning to reach out to other younger persons or new emerging groups?
Let me assure you that unlike the political parties that won elections, I will never use looted funds for my campaign. My records are there to show that I have always defeated candidates by spending less, earned from legitimate sources. Somebody should challenge APC to declare how much they spent in 2014/2015 and where they got it. They should also declare that appointments and patronages were not influenced by the sources of those funds.
Under what terms will you, personally, agree to work with such alliance?
On the terms that there are no illegitimate strings attached whatsoever to any support given, and that it is within legal position of the electoral act.
A number of other young candidates have indicated interest to challenge Buhari next year. Are you or your party in talks with any or all of them?
No. I am not in talks with any of them.
Would you, at any stage, consider stepping down for the any of the so-called outliers, say, Omoyele Sowore or kingsley Moghalu or Fela Durotoye?
Not at all.
Do you have to contest for the Presidency to make consequential difference in service?
Yes, because nothing less than the power and the authority in that exalted office will allow me to execute my brand vision for Nigeria.
Do you think that the age of a leader is more important to young people in Nigeria today, than competence, character and capacity?
No, but unfortunately, PMB has negatively correlated the variables in your question. It is better to put it this way than to say incompetent, deteriorating character and declining capacity with age.
How would you tackle corruption differently?
I refer you to the Prohibition of Inflated Government Contract Bill of 2004 sponsored by me which was not signed into law until I left the National Assembly. This is arguably the most definitive tangible action towards really fighting corruption even beyond what is called Due Process today. I will change the academic order from government patronage by relatives and friends being the source of wealth to individual capacities of our productive citizens. I will use technology to capture all revenue. To me, fighting corruption should begin with your own government not with the previous government as Buhari is doing. Run a transparent and accountable government, and prove to the world that there is no corruption in your government beyond reasonable doubt by implementing some of the things I earlier mentioned, then you have every moral right and you have the support of the nation to defeat corruption. But certainly not when your immediate family and friends are beneficiaries of foreign exchange manipulation and all the known forms of corruption, and when everything has remained business as usual, then you launch yourself into a media battle of the so-called fight against corruption that is strictly targeted to your opponents and allow your party members free of intimidation by incompetent agencies.
I will also certainly not use any I will also not use any loot for my campaign.
What is the government not getting right in its fight against insecurity? And how would you do it differently?
I am not one to play politics with security. This is again what APC did and got nearly everything wrong. If you comment on insecurity then you know the specifics. If you know the specifics then you are either in government with the services directly responsible or you are somehow involved. So now I ask, How did APC know all that it knew when it was challenging PDP and playing politics with the issues? Believe me, any responsible person that truly understands security would only lament the situation and until appropriately officially briefed will he only be able to understand and take the right action.
Out of 85 million employable Nigerians, 16 million are unemployed. What is your job plan?
Stabilize the naira for a period of ten to 12 years and get the international business community to realise this. Having mitigated foreign exchange fluctuation risk, further mitigate all other financial and civic risks, then gradually drive down interest rate to single digit for long term investments, then flood the Nigerian capital market with investable funds. This will surely kick-start and reinvigorate the economy towards production that will mop up 30 – 35 % of the 16 million unemployed. I will create job sentence and make hiring of registered vetted and trained personnel easy. Just to mention a few, service charge companies will be vigorously established across Nigeria and this will also reduce unemployment further.
You have often spoken passionately against corruption and encouraged journalists to boldly defend their report on corrupt people. Are you impressed by Buhari’s government’s partial release of the names of suspected looters?
I am not impressed whatsoever with nearly everything about the Buhari’s government not just the partiality. And I, like nearly all Nigerians are surprised at how disappointed we are in Buhari. The failure of Buhari is a classic case that some politicians can say and do anything to get to power.
Money will continue to play a big part in elections, especially Nigerian elections. How do you intend to fund your campaign?
Certainly not through looting. And from legitimate income of interested persons within the provision of the electoral act.
Looking at the field of candidates who have either declared their interest in the Presidency or are on the verge of doing so, who do you consider your most difficult opponents and why?
President Buhari is my most difficult candidate because he is at the age to be my father and he is playing a rough game with someone the age of his son. Even this interview is very difficult for me to do because I come from a very highly disciplined background and I would like to say that I live by high moral code and respect for elders. But my country is my country, and our future is our common destiny and that is above everything else. You also asked me why. Well, this is because I just cannot understand why PMB cannot see the truth and do the right thing.
What’s your message to anyone out there who still thinks your candidacy is a joke?
Let them please see my record and find out what happened to Makarfi even though he got the senate seat back. My life is far more important than retaining senate seat for three years, four months.
What would you do on your first day in office?
Sign an executive order prohibiting award of inflated government contracts. Increase salaries of all Federal public servants by 50% immediately with monthly increment to be quadrupled by May 2023. Please realise I am not a joker and I do not say things I don’t mean or can’t do. As for security measures to be taken, this cannot be discussed in the newspaper.
Do you think Buhari still has any chance to shore up public confidence in his government and may pull off a second term?
Realistically speaking, even with the illiteracy propagated by Buhari’s government and the aggravated use of religious and ethnic sentiments, Buhari’s chances are severely diminished. PMB will has to rely on campaign funds from within as you don’t have governors and former ministers decamping to support him with their loot. We cannot rule out the misuse of security agencies, and all forms of known electoral fraud. PMB has no chance of re-election in 2019.
Aisha Osori’s book, Love Does Win Elections, documents how Nigerian politics can irretrievably damage a contestant, however noble their intention. Is there something about our politics that really scares you?
Two things scare me. The compromising nature of party delegates, and the phenomenon of blind followership, even when the facts are glaring.
Your State, Kaduna, is frequently assailed by deadly sectarian clashes. What do you think is the solution to this problem?
Very strong and responsive security agencies under responsible leadership are the answers to this unfortunate trend.
Do you believe Baze University is sufficiently strong to withstand your re-entry into partisan politics?
Yes. I established it and I am responsible for overseeing while there is a capable management in charge of the day-to-day affairs. My 2019 aspiration is in order and if elected, I may simply resign that position in the University for another suitable appointment to be made.
You are passionate about security, the economy and education. How would you rate the performance o the Buhari government in the last three years on each of these sectors?
To say the least and to save our dear PMB’s government from consistent unrelenting bashing, permit me to keep it short and simple by saying that the word disappointment is an understatement as regards this APC government.