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Prof. Durotoye: Buhari Won’t Be the First to Run a Country at 72 if He Wins

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Adeolu Durotoye is a veteran journalist and professor of Political Science who has taught in many universities in Nigeria and abroad. He is currently the Secretary of a group called Global Intelligentsia for Buhari, a group of Nigerians in Diaspora, with the aim of mobilizing, canvassing, educating and supporting General Buhari for the March 28 presidential election. In this chat with Our Correspondent, DEMOLA ATOBABA, Prof. Durotoye bares his mind on issues in the election postponement by INEC, the confidence and trust he has in Buhari’s victory in the forthcoming election, women in politics and other sundry issues…

Why are you dabbling into politics considering your pedigree as a professor and educationist? 

Well, I would say all human beings are political animals. Whether you like it or not there is politics at every state of life even in your family and what is politics really? Politics has been defined as who gets what, when and how? And what that means is that politics is about allocation of resources and what we are saying is that in Nigeria today the present government of President Goodluck Jonathan has failed Nigerians in the area of properly allocating and managing the resources available to us as a nation to bring about development and to bring about progress and growth. And that is one of the reasons why myself and a few others felt that we should come together and contribute our quota and clamour for change. The Global Intelligentsia is an initiative of Chief Tola Adeniyi who happened to be a veteran journalist. He is the founding Chairman and initiator of this group, he was at a time the Chairman and Managing Director of Daily Times and I am the Secretary of this group. So, we have seasoned people, journalists, academics and other professionals as members of Global Intelligentsia for Buhari.

What is the mission and vision of your group, Global Intelligentsia for Buhari? 

Global Intelligentsia for Buhari is not a political party but a group of Nigerians in the Diaspora with the focus to mobilize and support the candidature of Buhari and Osinbajo (Yemi) and ensure that we have a change of government in Nigeria come March 28. Our major assignment is to mobilize, educate and enlighten people to vote with their conscience during the poll.

How would you address the issue relating to the level of political culture in Nigeria? 

Yes, the political culture in Nigeria is a culture that tolerates corruption and that is why many people have been speaking about politics of the belly or what they called ‘stomach infrastructure’ and as such our politicians will abandon their duties to the populace and go ahead and be distributing money rather than bring development to the people down to the grassroots. But it is a political culture that allows and encourage corruption unfortunately and I think there should be a change and the need for that change is the one that moved us to form Global Intelligentsia for Buhari.

What strategies are being put in place to ensure the objective of change by your group is realised?

Part of those things we are doing presently is that we are educating our people back home about what to know about the present government, and the reason they must vote for change. We have also intimated our people (abroad and at home) on how to support Buhari and the APC by way of contributing funds to this campaign. Part of our enlightenment campaigns could be seen in a communique we issued on January 16, 2015 after our 2nd International Meeting in Toronto, Canada. We stated unequivocally, among others, that the PDP Government in Abuja should debunk the grapevine report that it was toying with the idea of postponing the February 14 Elections. So, we pre-empted the postponement and warned against it. We also expressed our hope that the Jonathan-led government will not plunge Nigeria into darkness by the purported design to massively rig the forthcoming Elections. Our conclusion is that Nigeria will only survive when temporary holders of power recognised that elections are not warfare and should not be a do-or-die affair.

What is your view on the postponement of the February 14 and 28 Elections by INEC? 

The postponement of this election I must tell you was motivated by politics and not security and I will tell you why? On February 2nd to be precise, there was a national committee for peace headed by the former Head of State Abubakar (Abdulsalami) and that committee had in attendance all the service chiefs and the Chief of Defence staff, and they all said that they were set to secure the elections and four days later on the 6th of February the same set of people came out to say they had more pressing issues against Boko Haram and as such that they would not be able to secure the elections. So what happened between the 2nd and the fifth? That tells you that this has to do more with politics and not security. Having said that, looking at the different parts of the world especially Afghanistan, and Iraq, they held elections even when they could not boast of adequate security in place, even in Egypt they held their own elections.  During the Council of States meeting it was said that only 14 Local Government areas were being affected by the insurgency in the North-east and out of these 14 Local Governments, 10 of them were in Borno and this 10 Local Governments were evacuated to Maiduguri. So we have 12 re-settlement camps in Maiduguri and the people in those camps said look we are ready to vote because we have our Permanent  Voter Cards (PVC) and that we are ready to vote. So it is not because of the issue of Boko Haram that made them to postpone the elections because the issue have been there for more than six years without any solution and then the military said they would curtail it within the next six weeks. So, to me the election postponement is an armtwisting game because it is not incumbent on the military to determine when to hold the elections and so that tells you INEC might not be as independent as we have all thought and that is dangerous to our democracy in Nigeria and I am afraid that Nigeria’s democracy might be put in jeopardy the way things are going.

Politics and mobilization have to do with those at the grassroots. How do you intend to fit into the system to let them feel that you are part of them and also that you are fully on ground? 

If you remember very well, I have said it earlier that the Chairman of this group is Chief Tola Adeniyi who is on ground in Nigeria and I am the Secretary who spends most of my time in Nigeria. We are also leveraging on the fact that we have contact abroad having lived overseas for a couple of years. We have the benefits of those worlds. We know what is going on now. We are part of the system and we understand what it is. We have lived here before we travelled abroad and we have been coming home in the past few years. The purpose really is that we don’t want our people abroad to be left out because this country belongs to all of us. And that is why we are working hard to mobilize our people in the Diaspora for Buhari and Osinbajo and also, to mobilize our people back home for Buhari to ensure that there is a change that will bring about development, a change that will turn things around in this country for better. Looking at politics of nowadays we could see that more women are showing interest, they are even agitating for 60-40 sharing ratio.

What is your comment on this?

You see, women have the right and opportunity to contest for any elective position as well as men. I think women in politics should be allowed to pay a cheaper nomination fee. We have a female President in Africa, I mean in Liberia and her name is Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and incidentally this woman took over a country that had been riddled by the civil war in that country two years before she took over. Nigerian women are highly educated and exposed enough to be president if they so wish.

 Do you agree that the earlier prediction by the United States that Nigeria is going to disintegrate in 2015 is tilting towards being real? 

Well, to me I don’t subscribe to that because if you look at what Nigeria has been through and if you look at the political history of Nigeria you will discover that the first coup happened in 1966 and a section of this country was a victim of that coup. And another coup took place six months later and also it was believed that a section of the country was targeted and then in 1967 the Civil War started and Nigeria survived the Civil War. Also, in 1983 we saw massive rigging of elections and we also survived it.  In 1993, we saw how MKO Abiola won an election because I was among those who covered that election as a journalist and Abiola won that election and that election was annulled and yet Nigeria did not disintegrate and yet after that we saw a clampdown of by the Abacha regime and Nigeria did not disintegrate. But having said all that, the present government should not take Nigerians for a ride. Jonathan and his co-travellers should take a cue from what happened in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. You never can tell what will happen when you make a peaceful change impossible. You might be asking for more than you can ever imagine.

What is your view on the national confab held recently? Can General Buhari implement those suggestions already approved by the delegates across the country and members of the National Assembly?

Now let me say this, when Buhari takes over as the President, he is going to take over as a civilian President and not as a military President, and as such not as a military Head of State because in a civilian regime a tree does not make a forest, the Senate will be there, the House of Representatives will be there and the Houses of Assembly in the states will also be there and decisions will be taken in a very democratic way.

It seems you have so much confidence in the candidature of Buhari who was a military head of state over three decades ago. Now that we are in a digital era. In your own view, do you think he still has the swag to rule a complex and larger society like Nigeria? 

Well, I believe with someone like Buhari, wisdom comes with age. And at 72, he won’t be the first person that is going to contest and run the country. Mandela became the President of South Africa in his 70s and he did quite well. We have had people like Ronald Reagan who was in his 70s when he governed United States. Johnson SirLeaf of Liberia is in her 70s. Age really should not be a barrier. I believe whatever may have happened some thirty one years (31) ago, Buhari has learnt, he has grown from it, he has developed from it because this is a different ball game, and this is a democratic experiment as opposed to a military regime. I believe he has what it takes to run this country. Considering the fact that he has been running since 2003 means that he must know why he keeps doing it. He has prepared a game plan, he knows what he wants to do and I believe he has what it takes to do it and take Nigeria to the next level of greatness both locally and internationally.

Looking at the efforts of your group, there is this notion by Diasporian people that Nigerians on ground are not doing it right and by the time they also come on board they (Diasporian) join the bandwagon. How does your group intend to change this impression?

What I want you to believe is that in a democracy, strong institutions matter a lot. In the Western world it is not that there is no tendency for corruption but there is an institution put in place to checkmate all these. Buhari has said repeatedly that he will ensure that the right institutions are empowered to do their job. So, those in position to implement policies whether they are from home or abroad will be moderated by those institutions but more importantly by the quality of leadership in place. That quality of leadership is lacking now and that is why we need a change from a “president without balls”, apologies to Femi Fani-Kayode, to a “president with balls”. We need a president who has the guts to do the right thing. Buhari fits into that at this point in our history to play the role the likes Winston Churchill, Charles De Gaul and Nelson Mandela played at different junctures of British, French and South African histories respectively.

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