The presidential candidate of African Democratic Congress, Dumebi Kachikwu, shares his thoughts with FRIDAY OLOKOR on the 2023 elections and other issues
With what you have seen so far ahead of the 2023 general elections, do you think Nigerians are ready for a change or they want the status quo to remain due to what few of them can get?
It appears that the vocal minority don’t want a change because poverty has been weaponised in Nigeria and because of stomach infrastructure, those people cannot do otherwise. They only want those who are prepared to pay them now. Then you have the majority, who are in an abusive relationship with their rulers, and because of this abusive relationship, they have been so disabled and cannot do anything. They just keep quiet, their voices have been sold, and they are just watching. They have this ‘sidon look approach’ and their country is burning. Again, they have been so abused that it has made them incapacitated.
Some believe that going for the presidency, you should have pitted your political tent with the Peoples Democratic Party or the All Progressives Congress or the New Nigeria Peoples Party. There is also the Labour Party. Why did you decide to run on the platform of the African Democratic Congress?
My party has been in existence for 17 or 18 years; my party, in terms of spread, is the third largest party in Nigeria, far bigger than the Labour Party or the NNPP. Unfortunately, that is not what matters in Nigeria. In party structure in Nigeria, what you quickly realise is that the structure is not so much about the people, it is about the people who hold political offices, who are able to use their political offices to fund the party structure. That is why you see only the APC and the PDP are able to thrive because they are dominated by people who hold political offices or who have held political offices. So, the patronage they get from government is used to fund the political structure.
Now, the other parties don’t have this and their membership is made up of people who are mostly poor, who are even unable to pay the party dues and these parties lack resources to do anything. So, in going for a smaller or a lesser known party, I didn’t want to go into a contest that was going to be dollarised or that was going to be about money. If you call for any meeting, most of the people want you to give them transport money to come for meetings otherwise they cannot attend, whereas in the bigger parties, that is not the case.
When you have a situation where there is need to print their flyers and most of them are depending on the presidential candidate to fund them, they struggle again because the electorate, those people they meet everyday keep on telling me that when they meet people, if they have not brought out money, people will tell them they are not serious; ‘are you sure you want to run election? You didn’t bring money? You are not serious at all’. They in turn are now telling me, if I am not giving them money, I am not serious. It is a vicious cycle.
In essence, are you discouraged by the system?
There are good days and there are bad days; but if you always say to yourself, ‘this is why I am running’, and if you should look at the fact and say should you stay let yourself be consumed by Nigeria, let yourself be burnt or be destroyed by Nigeria, you say no. ‘You know what; if I go down, let me go down fighting’. So, I am fighting for my life, I am fighting for my country, I have to continue doing this, I can’t stop.
Your political party said it expelled you; despite that, you weathered the storm. Have you forgiven them?
It is very difficult, you have to understand that for 17 years, what these people have done is to profit from the party system; that was why one man stayed as party chairman for 17 years, one man stayed as national secretary for 17 years, one man stayed as national treasurer for 17 years. All they have done is profit from the system, all they have done is profit from candidates and they have never done anything to advance these candidates. So, for these people to understand that this is about to come to an end, this is over, that they now have a political party where people want to run a serious race. All they were doing when it was election time was that they worked with the bigger political parties, enter an alliance. But now, they have candidates who want to run election, they are not used to it; they want that alliance where they can get money. So, there is no way we can ever see eye to eye, it is not possible.
So, they are licking their wounds, they cannot believe that hurricane Dumebi entered this ADC and it is cleansing this table. They can’t see that and that is why they are fighting dirty. Everyday, they will say whatever manner of rubbish that comes to their mind, but I am not deterred; I believe I must allocate change in Nigeria; change must start from within my party.
There was a time it was rumoured that Atiku was pushing you into this journey. How true is that?
That is the most ludicrous statement I have ever heard. I am someone who is running for office because I believe that those people; the likes of Atiku, Asiwaju (Bola Tinubu), Peter Obi, (Rabiu) Kwankwaso, have absolutely nothing to offer not because they are bad people but their time has passed. They cannot understand what the issues of today are, talkless of talking about solution. On a daily basis, I see the tragedy of our nation because we have had these people stay in power, being in power for two decades and more. Atiku cannot push himself talkless of pushing me. It is absolutely out of the question; Atiku has absolutely nothing to offer.
Let me tell you why they were saying that. People know that Atiku’s running mate, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa, is a very close friend of mine. Okowa is one of those people you respect because he is a brilliant individual; he is one of the forces that if Okowa had run for presidency himself, you would have seen the difference in the landscape, right. Unfortunately, Okowa didn’t run himself; so, a lot of people understanding and seeing my relationship with him, believe that because of that relationship, I cannot run against Okowa. But my issue is that I am not running a race for Ifeanyi Okowa, I am running a race to better Nigeria, to change the political landscape, to change the narrative, to improve the lots of Nigerians. My friendship with Okowa is one thing, but the issues and things that affect Nigerians are there on a daily basis; they transcend my relationship with any individual.
In essence, nothing has brought you and Atiku together either in the US or anywhere because there is this belief that there was one job you did for Atiku and that was how the relationship started.
It is absolutely not true. People are not informed, the Internet is there if people want to go back to historical news and every single thing, that’s not what happened. I used to run a company about two decades ago and Atiku was the Vice President of Nigeria at that time. In the course of running this company, I came in contact with a certain congressman, William Jefferson, and he tried to sell me a dummy. He took advantage of my company and because of that he ripped my company off and I petitioned the FBI. In the course of me petitioning the FBI, people like Atiku came into the mix because Atiku had a relationship also with the congressman and they are trying to do funny things to take advantage of my company. So, that was what happened, it did not signify or imply a relationship with Atiku. It was me, if anybody understands the news of what happened, I petitioned the FBI because my company was swindled. That was what happened, but people were misinformed.
Since you started nursing your presidential ambition, we know you must have spent lots of money so far; what has been your source of funding?
I have solely funded this campaign by myself. I am one of those people who believe that before you start asking Nigerians for donations, you need to first of all go and prove yourself in the field, go out there, do what you can. I don’t believe that what Peter Obi and the likes are doing, asking the Nigerian masses for money. What are they really doing with the money? I believe that the Nigerian masses, the Nigerian people like in any democracy fund elections, but because I am seeing what is happening, I am seeing that poverty has been weaponised in Nigeria, I am funding myself, my campaign is struggling financially. So, we need fund and everything.
But at this point, I believe it is important that I need to get my message to a certain level where I am in cruise control, where Nigerians have bought into the message and where Nigerians on their own are the ones who say they want to support my campaign, not that I am the one asking them. They are the ones who at that point are reaching out to say they want to support my campaign. That is what I am doing so far.
Recently, the CBN governor came out with a policy that they are going to redesign the currency and it has polarised the country on economic, religious and tribal fronts. Do you think it is timely?
Absolutely not! The CBN governor is someone who has a penchant for misdiagnosing our economic problems. I don’t know if he has the kind of advisers he has but for most of the policies he has tried to implement, you can see that our economy is getting worse. He looks at things on paper and he wants to run with them, but he does not look at the practicality of those things. Now, he is trying to polarise Nigerians by saying that rich people, politicians have kept billions of naira in their houses that they want to use for election and obviously, this is making a section of Nigerians happy and saying ‘we are going to teach these big men a lesson’. They don’t realise that it is just a gimmick.
If anybody knows what N1bn looks like, you will know what it takes to store N10bn or N20bn; it makes almost an impossibility to store that amount of money. Number two; there is no smart person who will say ‘I want to store money’, who will now go and store money in his house in naira when you can store your money in foreign exchange knowing that naira is depreciating in value everyday. So, I don’t understand why he does these things. But if you see what is happening, the naira today is about N850 to a dollar or more. It is killing the economy. He is a man who keeps on saying that we need to strengthen our naira, but in trying to strengthen our naira, he does nothing whatsoever.
In the last seven years, you want to strengthen your naira; you have to talk about your balance of trade, a positive balance of trade. We are an import-dependent economy, what are we exporting? We are not exporting enough. Okay, what has the CBN done to encourage export? They should publish the list of companies which they have supported in the last eight years to export. How many new entrances in the export space? Now, if you are talking of import substitution, how many new companies have they supported to birth new businesses to substitute what we are importing? You don’t know the reality of our situation, he likes talking on paper but in reality he does absolutely nothing. Look at rice, you know he has been making a lot of noise about what they are doing in agriculture, bag of local rice today is N50,000. How do you explain that?
The man has failed on all fronts, a CBN governor who was trying to transform himself into a president, who was even going to court to challenge why he should not be able to run. It tells you that as a nation, we are in trouble. Imagine the situation where the Minister of Finance came up and said she was not informed and what you want to prove to Nigerians is that you don’t need to inform her, it is the President you have to inform. Listen Mr CBN Governor, I don’t understand his level of knowledge or exposure.
I understand that you are not going to do the normal campaign; you are going to do town hall meeting in each states. Is it because of insecurity? What informed that?
I believe in an issue-based campaign. If you watch, the day the PDP flagged off their campaign in Akwa Ibom State, watching on TV, you will that people stayed there for six hours or more, waiting for the presidential candidate to come and speak, eventually he mounted the podium, he spoke for only eight minutes. In the eight minutes he spoke, he used three minutes to say, ‘Will you vote for me? Will you vote for me? Will you vote for me?’ The people in Akwa Ibom State did not hear the presidential candidate address any issue; he had nothing to say. So people came from all over the South-South states, were there and they did not hear him address their problems.
I saw the same thing with the APC; they do not talk about issues. They will go and say it is my turn, you will not hear them addressing issues. I watched on Saturday here when Peter Obi went to Nasarawa State and all the news reported. Sadly, after what Nigerians were saying that they were expecting in Peter Obi’s rally, what was Peter Obi was talking about? ‘Nigeria, it is not a shame that you people have not gone for the World Cup, when I am president, you will go for the World Cup’. It was disgraceful.
A country is burning, almost at the point of disintegration and you have presidential candidates who go to rallies, bring people, dress them in wrappers, faze caps, T-shirts and they have nothing to discuss when they get there. That is why I said, one for security reasons. Two, because I want to discuss issues, solutions, ideas, I want to have town halls where people come and ask me questions, any questions whatsoever, I don’t decline questions.