2023: We will tackle poverty in 18 months, create 30 million jobs – Adebayo

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Prince Adewole Adebayo, the Presidential candidate of the Social Democratic Party, SDP, says he would eradicate poverty in 18 months, if elected, by curbing stealing of crude oil, cutting cost of governance, prioritising capital expenditure among others. In this interview, he also spoke on his chances against the major political parties and what he would do differently among others.

The SDP has a presence in all the 774 local government areas of the country. In the recent presidential primaries of the various political parties, the SDP had the highest number of delegates. We had 1,750 delegates, who were drawn from every constituency in Nigeria. Before then, we had our ward congresses in 8,800 wards, local government congresses in 774 councils, state congresses in 36 states and the FCT, and the national convention at the International Conference Centre, Abuja.

So, we have the structure although what some people refer to as structure is a big man. The question we should ask these people who claim to have structure is if they really have the structure, why is it that they resort to vote buying to win elections? So, they really don’t have the structures they claim. They are just big for nothing parties. If they are really big parties as they claim, they should be able to solve big problems, whether it is in electricity, road infrastructure, health or education, among others. How can you call yourself a big party when you don’t have big ideas and can’t solve big issues?

On his political experience that qualifies him to run for the presidency and acceptance of his message to the youths

Most youths on the voters register today did not get to the register by accident. It was conscious efforts by some people and political parties that made them register in order to vote in the forthcoming general election. We know the youths and where they are and some of them have been given the opportunity to vie for elective positions by the SDP in the forthcoming elections and this has given them a sense of belonging.

We may not have been orienting our own youths to be making noise on social media like the other parties are doing but we have encouraged them to be in their constituencies and learn the basics of politics. We have tried to make them realize that activism is different from politics, so they are in their constituencies, sensitizing the people on activities of our party by going from door to door.

The tradition of the SDP right from Chief MKO Abiola’s time has always been to identify with the people and work with them. I am not saying that I am Abiola but we share a similar story. He was a businessman; he was never a governor or member of the National Assembly but as a presidential candidate, he worked with highly experienced politicians and that was why he was able to achieve success in the 1993 presidential election. The same thing Abiola did in 1993 is what we are doing now. If you look at our team and compare it with that of the other parties, you will find out that we have experienced people who have the capacity to give them a run for their money. We are not lacking in experienced people, what we don’t have is those who have experience in the wrong things.

We worry much about experience in Nigeria but where is the system that we want experienced people to sustain? I don’t want to be a minister of Power in a country where there is no electricity. I don’t want to be a minister of Education in a country where lecturers are on strike for over seven months and nobody is doing anything to resolve the industrial dispute. It is clear that there is no development but retrogression.

So, we don’t need people who are experienced in retrogression. What we call experience for many of them is just wasted opportunities. A journalist, who interviewed me recently, laid so much emphasis on my experience but I told him that I have personally created more employment opportunities than most of the key people in the presidency put together. What this means is that the relevant experience for the problems of the country is what should count and not how many years one has been receiving salaries from the government and living in government houses, blaring sirens and giving excuses rather than solving problems. If you are insisting on experience, why is it that Boko Haram doesn’t run away when they hear President Muhammadu Buhari’s name because of his military background? Why are they even threatening to kidnap him if experience matters?

What is the SDP bringing to the table that would be different from what the PDP and APC have done in the last 24 years at federal level?

If you listen to what some of the presidential candidates have been saying or what is being said on their behalf, you will find out that they are not in tandem with what we know them for. Some people who have never managed anything successfully are suddenly promising to turn things around but I will tell you that Nigerians cannot be fooled by such promises. Unlike in the past, the people are going to interrogate anyone who is presenting himself for any position. You can see that some of them are already running away from debates but have hired very experienced journalists, who are writing columns on their behalf. When you tell them to bring their principals out to talk to the people, they will decline.

So, I urge Nigerians not to listen to campaign promises any longer because promises can fail. No democracy anywhere in the world listens to promises; what politicians are supposed to offer are plans. To say that you are going to build a house for every Nigerian is a promise. You should come up with a plan of how you are going to acquire the land, the cost of each unit, the manpower to build the houses, where the building materials will come from and the funding. For us in SDP, what we are presenting to Nigerians is a plan of how we intend to tackle the nation’s numerous problems. For every item on my plan, I know when, I know what, I know where, I know who and I know how I am going to get it done.

What do you think Nigeria is doing wrongly and what are you offering Nigerians if you emerge as the next president?

What we are doing wrong is that we don’t have a government. We are having incumbents who spend four years and go and are replaced by their friends. What I want to bring along is to replace these bunch of politicians who are going to the villa to collect campaign rewards with a functioning government. The truth is that some presidential candidates have governed before; none of them spent less than eight years in the respective offices they held and they did not solve any problem. The problems of poverty, insecurity, lack of infrastructure and unemployment among others.

The major situations we complain about are still widespread across the 36 states of the federation. All these other candidates did not address the problems when they were in their respective offices; they are all part of the same establishment. I have a plan for 30 million jobs to tackle poverty in Nigeria within 18 months. When people have jobs and you put people in school, you create the middle class and solve the problem of poverty. When the job comes with accommodation and other incentives, poverty will go away.

On how he will tackle insecurity and bad economy, if elected

A government that cannot pay teachers; a government that cannot ensure that workers show up on time; a government that cannot clear drainages; a government that cannot solve any problem should not exist. What you call security challenges in Nigeria are normal day-to-day problems. If you want to see a country that has security problems, go to Canada. The country is bordered by the two superpowers of the world – the United States and Russia – so they have to think every day about how to avoid the two powers. If you want to see another country that has security problem; go to Ukraine, which was recently invaded by Russia. What we have here are mere skirmishes of banditry and kidnapping. Any problem that an AK47 rifle can solve is not really a major problem. The Nigeria Army is strong enough to tackle what you call security challenges but the government is not serious about tackling the challenges. What is happening is that some people are making money from the security challenges the same way some are making their own through crude oil theft.

Insecurity will end when we have a commander-in-chief, who will be actually ready to know what is happening on the field and not just bringing people to the villa to come and take tea and go away. Soldiers know how to win battles but winning a war depends on the government. Soldiers are trained to win battles, they are trained to defeat insurgents but no soldier is trained to defeat a government in which he is serving.

On the economy, firstly, the present government says that our expenditure is more than our revenue, that we are not earning enough money to run the country and that they even have to borrow at both the federal and state levels. Even their classification of what is recurrent and capital makes no sense because many of what they call capital are not capital at all.

If you study the Medium-Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF), you will find out that what they call capital expenditure is not capital expenditure in any way. Secondly, they are not doing project management, so the budget cycle doesn’t make any sense. That is the reason the Ajaokuta Steel Company has remained what it is today. People just want to award contracts whether they are completed or not is not their problem.

Why do we have revenue shortfalls? It is because of the fiscal side. They are pretending that they don’t know how to collect government revenue. In some states, they are even using consultants who end up getting more money than the government. At the federal level, they claim that they don’t have enough revenue; that to me is nonsensical.

Five months ago, when they started making noise that they don’t have money, I spoke with people who went to the Federation Accounts Allocation Committee, FAAC, on why they didn’t share money. They said because the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, did not remit any money. Some said we were not producing enough crude. But I said no, we are producing enough because I know the figures. Later they said they were spending more on subsidies.

I studied the figures and found out that what they are saying is not true because they are stealing more than 80 per cent of the country’s crude. However, because I am not a professor of Economics, nobody cared to listen to me. But after a while, the government said what is being stolen is 75 per cent, so I admitted that I was wrong but I don’t know the difference between 80 and 75 per cent. If you look at where they said the crude is being stolen from, you will find out that even if you take militants to that place, they will repent because the location is on the high sea.

Are they telling us that the Department of State Services, DSS, National Intelligence Agency, NIA, and the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, do not know those behind the oil theft? The government is the one stealing the crude and it didn’t start today. Because they know that someone is going to audit the accounts of the NNPC someday, they’ve decided to sell the crude through the back door and share the money among themselves. So, the artificial deficit they are declaring is the most-wicked thing on the part of the government. By my estimate, we are losing about $4 billion every month to crude oil theft, which is why we have people in government who are richer than the government itself.

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