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2019: Third force politics can’t take us anywhere  -Obi

Obidike Jerry

Nnamdi Obi, a Pharmacist, is the MD/CEO, Embassy Pharmaceutical and Chemical Company Limited. He believes that the survival of the country is a collective responsibility. For those who are angling to play third force in 2019 either through a coalition or red card movement, he urges them to quickly appropriate a registered political party and mobilise Nigerians through the same platform if they want Nigerians to take them serious even as he wonders how they will fund their campaign, saying crowd-funding is alien to the country’s political culture.

President Buhari-led government has been in power for close to three years with a three-fold agenda of reviving the economy, fight against corruption, and insecurity. Starting from the economy how do you assess the government as it affects your sector especially?

For me this government is expected to do more for the industry. I have already mentioned that the exchange rate has grossly affected all strata of businesses. By the way, I hope you do know for a fact that the richest man in Africa, our own Alhaji Dangote, was at point in time rated among the first 100 richest men in the world. But recent report shows that he wasn’t there any longer because of gross devaluation of his worth as a consequence of the devaluation of the naira. So, if what I read stands to be true and he in that very class got affected then all Nigerians should be affected in whatever activity they perform. So my sector is equally affected as in any other sectors.

What about security challenge and its effect on business?

We are facing enormous security challenges in the country-the Boko Haram issue and the farmers-herders’ crisis. This is something that government needs to handle very quickly because of its implication especially with most states in the middle belt, Benue in particular, which is the food basket of the nation. With Benue being affected, we are most likely going to experience shortage of food items in the next couple of years because the farms have been destroyed. It even happened in the South-west where Chief Olu Falae, respected elder statesman’s farm was also attacked by the herdsmen. And it is an extreme cruelty, to say the least, for somebody to set a farm on fire. What was that person trying to achieve? So, we should all know that in no distant time there would be scarcity of food here and there and the few available ones would be so expensive and what percentage of Nigerians can afford it? A hungry man, they say, is an angry man. So before this situation degenerates to an irredeemable level, there’s need for government to address it squarely.

Just recently, I was happy to see on television the deployment of soldiers to Benue State and seeing both the governor and Chief of Army Staff in military uniform is a strong signal that the lives of Nigerians are important to the nation. If the same could be replicated in all the crises zones in the country that would be a very strong statement by the government of its seriousness to address security challenges we are having just the same way they addressed the issue of Boko Haram. Yes, I do agree that to a very large extent that they have been decimated and that is why they are resorting to this suicide bombing happening here and there. It is not like what it used to be in the past where they had occupied territories and displayed their flags. Government is making progress in that direction but much more is needed.

Jonathan government was accused of impunity by the APC then as opposition party, not having regard for rule of law. Recently APC government of El Rufai in Kaduna state demolished the factional office of the party. What is your reaction to this?

Well, I watched Kaduna state commissioner for finance on television finding it difficult to answer question put to him because of gross display of impunity by the government. You see, an injustice to one is injustice to all. There are certain things that are not done in civilised climes that are done here so brazenly that you keep wondering if we are normal? We should be able to accommodate dissenting views. What is democracy all about if minority will not have its say?

In democracy, majority will have its way while minority will have its say on whatever issue. But where all of us had to be in agreement on a subject matter without a dissenting voice, you don’t have to ram it down each person’s throat. We have to agree to agree or agree to disagree. He was asked a question what the law permits before demolition? How many days notice are you supposed to give before you move in? He could not answer those questions. He said he doesn’t know, and that what he could remember was that due process was followed. But one had expected that for him to appear on that programme knowing full well the pertinent questions would be asked he would have armed himself with answers to that but because he knew that the nation knows that they didn’t do what was right he was evading the question and pretending not to know the answer at that point in time. What the governor had done I do believe he (commissioner) wasn’t privy to it but if he was, it is condemnable in all ramifications.

What do you make of the advice to Buhari by Obasanjo and IBB not to run?

For me as much as I do have enormous respect for Obasanjo and IBB, they are entitled to their opinion. Buhari is entitled to run if his party so decides. It is left for millions of Nigerians to decide who has to govern them. It is not for APC alone. If Buhari has done so well in our own assessment then we will give him another chance. If he hasn’t done that Nigerians will have to use their voter’s cards to vote in any candidate of their choice. Yes, the two former presidents may have expressed the sentiments of some people in Nigeria. That is the beauty of democracy. Then how many Nigerians do have their voter’s cards? That would be the question that would be answered. Not greater percent of us do have. Some of us are arm chair critics. Get your voter’s card because that is your power.

This voter’s card you mentioned reminds me of Oby Ezekwesili’s red card movement which advocates neither APC nor PDP. According to her the two parties have failed Nigerians hence the movement is urging Nigerians to register and use their cards to determine their future in 2019 by voting for another party. Do you agree with that?

Of course, yes. See, whether she gave red card or did not give red card is not my primary concern. My primary concern is that the future of this country lies in our collective determination to move this nation forward. And no person has exclusive preserve. This project called Nigeria is a project for us all. A vote means a lot and INEC has to watch it, to make sure that the sentiments of millions of Nigerians as expressed in the days of election are held sacrosanct. The days are gone when somebody sits somewhere and churns out figures. Those days are gone. This is the time of social media. And this social media makes or mars any nation. It is so powerful a tool that what is happening in the remotest part of the world you can have it in your phone in the next minute because of the power of social media. So Nigerians are going to determine who has to occupy that very seat among all the contestants. There has to be a proper appraisal of the competencies of those who want to step up and govern us.

A while ago you mentioned the power of the social media. And in the same social media there seems to be a kind of consensus to have alternative, third force, to the two dominant political parties (APC and PDP) that can better take care of the interest of Nigerians and former president, Obasanjo supports the idea. What is your position and how feasible is the idea considering that 2019 is at hand?

It is a wishful thinking.

Really?

Yes. The 1999 constitution as amended says that for you to run for any elective office you must belong to a political party. And 1NEC guideline is that you must be in a party to run for an office. So the question is a coalition of what? Is your coalition a registered party? Yes as much as I am looking forward to having young people hold political offices, it should not be the sole determining factor. There are a lot of young people who do not have anything to offer. There are also old people who do have something to offer. So it is neither here nor there. What we want is somebody who has all it takes, in all ramifications, to be there. That you get a 30 year-old person to be president of Nigeria, I am for it as long as he has requisite capacity and these things are not bought off the shelves. So coming back to the coalition there must have to be a political platform for them to run. We have 60 something registered political parties. Is it possible for these gentlemen with this wonderful idea of having a coalition, to get hold of one of the registered political parties and use it as a vehicle to run for political office? And people there must have to be men and women of proven integrity. I will support it but you know also too well that electioneering costs a fortune. Who is going to fund it? Have we reached a stage where individuals in Nigeria could contribute to somebody who has ideas but doesn’t have money to run?

They are thinking along that line -crowd-funding.

Yes but is not easy. It is easier said than done. Obama hadn’t money but even watch repairers in US contributed something to his campaign when he ran for US president. But have we got to that level of intelligence? I doubt if we have. Can you tell any worker, ‘please contribute N10 of your salary for XYZ person to make your life better?’ You dare not touch his or her salary. I love our sense of optimism but is it grounded on reality? That’s another question. Our sense of optimism must be grounded on reality and on ground and not seeing contending interests pulling in different directions. If you have 36 states and Abuja can you honestly have Nigerians who will render services at the pooling booths throughout the country without stipends given to them? What percentage of Nigerians is prepared to do that? So all of us want to go heaven but no person is ready to die.

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