Tope Kolade Fasua is the presidential candidate of the Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party (ANRP). He spoke with PREMIUM TIMES’ Festus Owete and Azeezat Adedigba on his chances at the 2019 polls. He also spoke on what he would do to restore Nigeria to the path of progress and prosperity, if elected and other sundry issues.
PT: We know you’ve gone to some states selling your programmes. How have you been received?
Fasua: Well, I think I’ve been well received because my angle is different from most other people. In fact, I come from a very shocking angle. People don’t actually expect what I talk about and the kind of approach I give it. As a matter of fact, on Twitter as we speak, two people mounted two different polls. Funny enough, they paired me with (Omoyele) Sowore, who is quite popular on social media. Initially, he was leading with about 80-20 but as I speak to you, I’ve closed him up 50-50. Hopefully, at the end of the day, I’ll win and that will be shocking. Because I look at his own campaign and I see that social media has been very helpful. So, the reception is amazing especially when I meet people who are willing to listen to what I say and listen to the angle. And you know, all of these things that we’ve been writing and speaking about in the newspaper, on radio or television those are things we are mainstreaming now.
PT: Some of you (presidential candidates) are young and so you hear people asking this question – why don’t you start at a lower level, probably go to the House of Representatives first to gain experience. Does this affect you? How do those older politicians respond to you?
Fasua: I actually don’t have much to do with those old politicians.
I am also a party chairman and I must say that when we go for meetings, these old guys are a bit wary , a bit suspicious and afraid of us. Even when we attend the party chairmen forum, you noticed those young guys coming up, the way they act is different, the way they think is faster and all of that stuff.
On starting from the House of Representatives, there are two angles to it. The first angle is to say the man that is running this country today, Muhammadu Buhari, started ruling when he was about 40. He was a governor of a state, Northeastern State, which has now been split into about six states when he was about 33. Again, if I look at 1993 and I think I voted in that election, this same Atiku that is contesting at 72 or thereabouts contested with M.K.O Abiola in the primary election and he was 45. Nobody said he was too old then. Bashir (Tofa) who eventually contested with Abiola who was 56, was 47. And I am now thinking – what happened to this generation? The generation of people in 1993 didn’t say ‘Tofa, you are too young, how can you be contesting with Abiola? Or Atiku, you are too young……. No!
This generation is supposed to be enlightened. This is a generation that we have matured economist. We have people like Emmanuel Macron of France, people like Uhuru Kenyatta, John Mahama in Ghana. We want leaders that can relate at a certain level and leaders that can appreciate the challenges of the time.
We live in the age of artificial intelligence, the age of big data collectivity, the age of robotics, the age of the internet of things. We don’t need an expired and analogue person. That is not the kind of person we need.
The second angle, perhaps more importantly, is that, the problem of Nigeria is not that of sitting old men. Some say our problem is in the National Assembly. No, it is not. Certainly, part of the problem is there but absolutely not all of the problems. People will tell you that at 47 (my age), be a councillor, or be a local government chairman. Let me tell you, the way it works is this; the local government is complaining that they are emasculated by the state government and we know they are since they have discovered something called Joint Account in the constitution. It never used to be like that in 1999 up till 2006. Every allocation going down to the local government, they (state governments) seize on to it and they allocate whatever they like to these people and they determine when you have an election or if you will have an election at all.
I’m not looking for a political career. If I was looking for a political career, I will start in those places and walk up to that ladder. It is a ladder of infamous, a ladder of underdevelopment.
At that level, it is hopeless because the states are sitting on that. But the state governments are complaining of two things. They complain about the long exclusive list and they complain about the allocation formula that is skewed in favour of the federal government.
Governor Fayemi of Ekiti State is complaining about how much debt former Governor Fayose left. My governor in Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu, is complaining about the debt former Governor Olusegun Mimiko left. What investment did they do with the debts? Are we on the right path?
The National Assembly will never reform itself. We need an external force to reform these people. In Senegal, they abolished their Senate and increased the number of seats in the House of Representatives by 15. And they gave those ones to people in Diaspora. Those are countries that are thinking.
Since 1999 till date, we stopped restructuring; we stopped thinking. Restructuring is not what you do once and for all. It should be in the constitution that every three or four years we look at the structure we are running and tweak by moving the furniture around.
There’s no way you’ll say once you restructure Nigeria, everything will be okay. That’s intellectually fraudulent. Restructure what? From what angle? The United States is still restructuring as we speak. Sometimes, some people will come and what they give is block grant. In the US, the federal government gives money to the states up till the local government level (county level). They give money based on the needs of those things. Mississippi is the poorest state in the US and receives the largest amount of block grants.
Our problem is not at the National Assembly. We need a president that can find a way of re-enrolling them to reform themselves. I was in the House of Lords in 2013 in the United Kingdom and I found out that the members only earn 150 pounds per sitting. It is less than N70,000 in today’s money and if you don’t come, you don’t earn. These are countries where we imported democracy. This shows that the black man cannot govern himself. He’s only interested in oppressing his fellow man.
PT: Are you thinking of restructuring the country if elected?
Fasua: Yes. Absolutely. The first thing I will do is to restructure our mindset to the extent that it is not what you achieve in a first roll. It must be constant. Restructuring stopped in this country in 1999. This country was operating a parliamentary system of government in 1960. We moved to presidential in 1979. That’s restructuring. Those were restructuring.
Even the allocation formula was moving. The derivation formula used to be hundred percent in the colonial days became 50 percent in the 1960s.
If the aforementioned are restructuring, why do you think people are still clamouring for restructuring?*
Two things. The first is that; it is evident that the system we are operating now is suboptimal, inefficient and doesn’t allow our people to unleash their productivity. It’s not moving the country forward.
According to a report last week, Nigeria is the headquarters of global inequality. Nigeria is the headquarters of poverty in the world. Over 90 million Nigerians are in extreme poverty.
According to the UN, Nigeria is the country with the highest number of out-of-school children (13.2million). Those in the city don’t know what people are going through in the ghettos. They are totally forgotten.
Nigeria leaders don’t understand the meaning of administering a country. That is where we should start when people say go and get experience. You can only get experience in how not to do things. It’s clear that we’ve been restructuring in the metamorphosis of Nigeria in terms of allocation formula, state creation and regionalism.
Since 1999 allocation formula has been 56:24:20. Since 1999, derivation has been 13 per cent. Since 1999, we have had 36 states. If you want to create more states or you want to merge them……… (and I think we should merge if we can). Now you cannot tell states that you want to merge them because they will tell all sort of tribal histories and every governor has become a warlord on to his own. Something like state police. I think we are ready for it.
The funny thing about restructuring is that usually those who ask for something in the past change their mind to ask for something else. People are asking for regionalism now. If you go to the South West of Nigeria where I am from, if you go and check, the same South-west were the ones that said ‘NO’ to regionalism in the past- in the days of Chief Awolowo. Awo had the mindset of a federal Nigeria. It was General Aguiyi Ironsi that brought unitarism. People asking for state policing now were the ones against it in the past because there used to be Hausa Police. Then we said ‘let’s have a federal police.’ Now we are saying we want state police again. You’ll see that the psychology of restructuring is that; people will want something now, they will try it and after it stops working they will say ‘we want another thing’. That means that we will never get to a point where you have restructured once and for all. The fact is that the system we are operating has failed. But not that the system alone failed. We failed as well. Our leaders failed. It’s high time we toyed with some other kinds of structures.
PT: Do you have the political structure that will make you win this election?
Fasua: The meaning of structure in Nigeria is actually money. Money and structure are the same even if you get the money by stealing the money, whether directly or indirectly.
Governor Ganduje of Kano allegedly stuffed that amount of dollars in his pocket. If he sends one million dollars to Buhari, will he (Buhari) tell us? He won’t tell us. He will just be going about saying he is ‘Mr. Clean’. It’s a joke! The structure is a myth.
They bought the structure over as a result of their longevity in that space and illegal access to public funds. In 1984, Buhari jailed some governors in this country. People like Ambrose Ali, Bisi Onabanjo….. Some of them went blind in prison. In fact, some of them died there shortly after. He jailed them for one thing: because they used state funds to grow their party.
In 2018, 35 years after, we have seen a scenario that it doesn’t matter anymore that you used state funds to develop your party. It is against the constitution of Nigeria. As a matter of fact, it was one of the grounds on which my party was exploring taking APC and PDP to court, and joining INEC to ask for the withdrawal of their registration. Because they have perennially violated the constitution of the country.
Regarding winning, there are two ways of winning; either I win at the polls (I am going to do everything possible to win at the polls and I will make use of the social media) or my ideas win. I have some ideas I am pursuing.
PT: Now that we are in the age of technology, what about the rural populace? How will they get to know your visions for them if you are going to do this mainly on social media?
Fasua: Of course, we are aware that we cannot do everything on social media. As we are deploying that one, we are also deploying the manual aspect of things. Like I said, I’ve been doing some town hall meetings and these town hall meetings are where people don’t understand English. You have to speak in vernacular. However, the poor people and the illiterates are growing every day. Illiteracy is growing in this country!
I read that the number of poor people have tripled in the sub Saharan Africa in the last 50 years. It is a sin against humanity!
The poor people must be saved in spite of all whether they understand the grammar I speak or not. We must save them so that one day, they will get to the level that they or their children will understand the grammar we are speaking. Whether they understand what better life is or not, it’s behoove on us by action and words to make them have the better life. Nigeria needs an intellectual revolution.
PT: As an economic statistician, what do you think is wrong with our economy and what are solutions to the problems we have?
Fasua: Everything is wrong with the economy. The economy is not growing the way it should. It is not diversified. It is not growing at the pace it should grow. The economy does not exist. We run a mafia economy.
Nigeria is a country that exports everything it produces, we export everything we produce and then we import everything we need.
Another guy called Charles Majomi, a gas expert, also talked about that. We produce the gas and everything, we export and then we import the gas when we need them. Can you beat that? So the economy is suffering from disconnect in different places because people are evil. A lot of people are interested in how much money they can make. The other time they sent a lot of yams to the United States by the time they got there, it was bad, they threw the yams away. Meanwhile because of that so called initiative the prices of yam in Nigeria had climbed and hunger was in the land.
Nigeria’s economy is growing at 1.5 per cent, and population is growing at 3 per cent, inflation is at 11.24 per cent (that is negative growth). So, the economy is not growing .And these guys are now telling us they want to drop the budget for next year from N9.1 trillion to N8.6 trillion. What they are telling us is that they want to kill people next year because you cannot drop the level of budget when the population is increasing at 3 per cent and inflation is eating into the value of the money.
Lastly, let me say this, luckily some of us have exposure abroad like some of these guys that are in government right now but they will never help Nigeria with what they know. I have run companies in the UK, UAE and I will tell you how they make their money. In the UK, you cannot operate as a company if you do not get what they call your company Annual Returns in the company house.
PT: If you are elected, what will be the first action you will take as the president?
Fasua: You see I will want to push back on that because there are many actions to be taken, but please I would not want to reduce the problem with Nigeria to an elevator pitch issue. Nigeria problem is not a linear equation anymore. Perhaps we have to be moving on several levels at the same time with lots of unsolvable issues.
But if you insist, first of all I have four things which are going to drive the economy. Of course the normal issue with security, but security will be tackled by employment and we have opportunity for employment and one of the areas we can employ people in this country is the area of the environment,
To be able to man the country we need more policemen. For those policemen that follow all these big men around… we have to find like a fee that they pay like N300,000 and pay into PFA and the country is going to get a lot of money from that to train the police, make them more comfortable, secure the country and also to employ more policemen.
Another is that I will immediately ensure that CAC sees the FIRS and the FIRS sees the bank. Everybody will pay their taxes. But you see by the time you live your life in a very transparent way and you are not oppressing your people, people will pay their taxes. I will let the companies and the people who are paying their taxes see that whatever they have paid is going to get back threefold.
PT: There was a time some of you presidential aspirants were discussing the issue of consensus candidate. What happened eventually?
Fasua: I was there but the guy who conveyed the issue decided to rush the process and I personally told them one thing that before you choose a consensus candidate we need to have a debate and they said NO. They did not want to have a debate, they wanted to just choose amongst themselves and of course that was not going work for me because I am a private person. The velocity of our ideas is what I believe we should be pushing forward. If these so called young candidates are not ready to push their idea then they are frauds.