If Jonathan did what Buhari, APC did in Osun, Oshiomhole won’t be calling himself former gov today—Olawepo-Hashim
Mr Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim is the presidential candidate of the Peoples Trust (PT) and Alliance for New Nigeria (ANN) in the 2019 general election, and also the candidate of a coalition of political parties, called the Third Force. In this interview, he speaks on his agenda for the economy, declaring that the All Progressives Congress (APC) is not prepared for free, fair and credible elections next year. Group Politics Editor TAIWO ADISA brings excerpts:
You are the presidential candidate of the Alliance for New Nigeria (ANN). How prepared are you for the challenges ahead the 2019 elections?
First I want to thank God for the opportunity of being elected as the candidate of ANN. The job is to continue to educate the electorate on our intention. There are two things that people would like to know-your commitment to what you stand for and your capacity to carry through your stated objective. The All Progressives Congress (APC), for instance, campaigned on the platform of anti-corruption basically, but having been elected, the party showed no capacity to implement anything against corruption.
So, what I’m bringing to the table to the electorate is not just going to be my stated intention, but also the capacity to drive whatever I commit myself to, which they can see from my own record of performance as a businessman for 27 years. I have a business that God has helped me to build. This comes to underscore capacity. Within a short time, we’ve been able to transform ANN to the fastest growing political party in Nigeria and to a recognisable brand.
Do you believe the structure you have now can deliver you the presidency in 2019?
Well, the structure of this campaign is not just ANN as a political party. One of the things that our party adopted was a strategic alliance with a number of political parties that have already approached us to align with us with a view to supporting our political aspiration, based on shared values and objectives. So, the platform that we are going to be running on to the general election is a bit bigger than ANN.
Beyond political parties too, you must know that this is going to be a different election. What people want to see in the presidential election is a consensus leader, a bridge builder and a creative mind. What people want to see is a candidate that can unite Nigeria; a candidate that can secure the country; a candidate that can grow the economy. So, the narrative of who becomes president in 2019 is going to be different from what it was in 2015.
Just as you are emerging the presidential candidate, another faction within the party was busy addressing the media to distance themselves from what you were doing. What really happened?
You know this is typical of our emerging democracy. We have done two decades in democracy, but a lot of people are still learning democratic principle and this has nothing to do with whether you are a soldier or you are a civilian. It has to do with what background the people are coming from and all these comes to play in the run up to the primary elections and the contestations of various parties. This is happening in almost every political party and the truth of it is that once the party gathers some capacity, what also comes with it is a lot of internal contestations because people see a pathway to be interested. On some occasion, it is even people who are external parties. Once they see a party is getting strong, some oppositions to those parties get interested in the internal affairs of those parties and they begin to put their fingers and hands in such parties because they don’t want that platform to be available to contest against them. The bottom line is how are these issues resolved in the final analysis, going forward.
The next election is a different election. It’s not the type of election we have seen before. The 2019 election is a referendum on the future of Nigeria. Whether we consolidate our democracy or our democracy relapse to totalitarianism, that’s one question we will answer as we go to 2019. We would answer to whether Nigeria would continue to be a united country under God or it is going to be a country that would subsequently be enmeshed in further ethnic cleansing, divisions and religious bigotry. This is what this next election is all about; it’s an unusual election. So, the type of candidates that this election calls for are the ones who have strong values, who are tested, who have records, who have stood for principle and along the line have not compromised. All that we’ve brought to the table or acquired during the struggle against military dictatorship are going to be useful in the next election because Nigeria is facing imminent dictatorship.
With what we saw in Osun State, agents of political parties being tied to the stake and the brazen and aggressive manner which victory was snatched from the victors, the next election is going to be tough. So, it’s not a kiddies’ affair. I quite understand that the strategy of APC is to register many parties that can suck the vote of the young people who ordinarily would not vote for [President Muhammadu] Buhari. So, they want to give them as many young candidates as possible who would just be making empty noise and they go with a few thousand votes that otherwise would not have gone to the ruling party. APC is up to the game of promoting very weak candidates in virtually all the political parties, even in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). That is what they are doing in every political party. So, it’s not just enough for you to stand aloof. The same crisis is going on in APC. Every primary of APC virtually in every state is contested bitterly with serious factions and people protesting. In PDP, it’s the same. So, any party that is of consequence, you must see these internal contestations because what is going on is an organised thing.
Why are you pointing fingers at APC for what is happening in your party?
Yes, APC is responsible. Number one, these guys who are making this trouble, they walked away from ANN; they said they were not members of the party anymore. When we had the last convention, three of them walked away from ANN and they made press statements that they had left the party. And then about few weeks to the presidential convention, they came back and said we are now presidential candidates. We have organised our convention. I can understand if people can forget what happened 20 years ago. But I have no explanation for people whose memories are so short that they don’t remember what happened six weeks ago.
Everybody knows you as a person who has done well in business and you have been playing some roles in politics for a long time. But would you say you are a national brand that people would easily go for you?
Yes, I’m a very national brand. I’m more national than anybody you can present today. Number one, I am half north and half south. There is no candidate like that that is contesting. Therefore, I cannot be unfair to the North and I cannot be unfair to the South. Half of my family is Christian; the other half is Muslim. There is no other candidate like that. So, how else can you be a national brand? I have won election in this country where you have students coming from Maiduguri, coming from Yola, coming from everywhere and voting for me. I was a national officer of PDP that was elected by all Nigerians; not by one senatorial district or a governor who is just a local constituency. How national can you be? I have represented Africa in various youth fora globally. I do business in about seven countries of the world and I have visited about 29 countries of the world. How much can you be exposed? How much can you be cosmopolitan? There is no candidate is this election that has got a brand that is as national as I am.
The president recently promised the international community that his administration would deliver a free and fair election. Do you have any reason not to agree with such position?
Well, I think we will have a free and fair election by the commitment of all Nigerians. I also want to believe that those who are in the electoral agencies are patriotic Nigerians. At some point in time, they would also have to take positions as to where they want history to record them and these are personal questions that everybody would have to individually ask. But if you ask me, APC as a party and the president inclusive, have not demonstrated to me that they are committed to a free and fair election. They have not acted in any way that shows that the party is committed to a free and fair election. They have been acting like dictators; they have been acting like some fascists. But I believe that the electoral umpires can still be neutral and write their names in gold at the end of the day.
How would you justify your claim that APC is not ready for a free and fair election?
You saw what happened in Osun, the way and manner they went about doing things. That is not what happened under the watch of President Goodluck Jonathan. If Jonathan did what they did in Osun, Adams Oshiomhole would not have been governor; he would not have been calling himself a former governor now. We had that kind of election in Edo where a rerun was ordered for and all that under Jonathan and even Oshiomhole was full of praises for the role of Jonathan at that particular time. Can we say the same of Buhari? You cannot. So, we need some serious commitment from President Buhari. The man is fast losing his integrity because when you say something and you act contrary to what you say, it is called hypocrisy. But just to be clear, our rescue mission for Nigeria is unstoppable and it is not dependent on the whims and caprices of Buhari. His tenure would expire on May 29, 2019 and if there is no free and fair election by then, every legitimate means would be used to have a free and fair election in Nigeria.
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