By Remi Adefulu
Dr. Doyin Okupe served as special assistant to two different presidents of Nigeria. He was Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to President Olusegun Obasanjo and later Senior Special Assistant on Public Affairs to President Goodluck Jonathan. In this interview, he spoke on national issues and how Nigeria will overcome its insecurity challenges.
What are your perspectives on the state of the nation?
Even a child or a blind person knows the country is not where we want it to be. As an aspirant, I am not out to apportion blames, but certain things come out very strongly; one of them is the issue of insecurity. In the 61 years of Nigeria’s independence, we have never come this close to an unmitigated disaster, where no one is safe, that is a major problem. When you now look at the connecting effects of insecurity, farmers cannot go to their farms, children cannot go to school in certain areas of the North. These are not very desirable things. There are moral issues and there are social issues, most profound of which is food security. Because there is so much insecurity, agriculture is suffering seriously and there is a drastic reduction in production capacity and capabilities and consequently, less food to feed our over 200 million population, which itself is a potential time bomb. The exchange rate is on the rise and we are facing a financial crisis such that even the rich have become impoverished, not to talk of the downtrodden.
Are you not surprised by the state of affairs, given President Buhari’s pedigree and exposure as a Former Head of State?
I will say that the issues that emanated during his era as Head of State have become overwhelming because of either their errors of omission or commission in handling them. It is important to put all hands on deck to find a solution to the problems, bedevilling the country. The budget for 2022 is N16.39 trillion which is just a little over $26 billion. In 1982/1983, President Shehu Shagari’s budget was $25 billion, that was over 35 years ago when our population was half of what we had now. Now, over three decades later, with a population more than double what it was in 1983, we are presenting a budget of $26 billion? We have to expand the revenue base of the country and without that, there is no hope. The reason why the Buhari administration keeps borrowing is because we are not generating enough money to survive on.
The APC presented a beautiful manifesto when it was campaigning, what went wrong?
The APC was like a political special purpose vehicle which was hurriedly put together in order to dismantle and defeat the incumbent government which of course had its weak areas. The then incumbent government had issues like insurgency to contend with and the APC exploited that. But, the economy was not bad at all; we were the largest economy in Africa and we were doing a $500 billion economy every year. The basic problem with the APC is that till date, it is not a well harnessed political party. The party easily splits into its various factions – ACN, CPC, APGA at the slightest problem and because of that, they can’t pull together as a party. They have no capacity to confront the issues because they did not prepare for government.
With the scary scenario you have painted, why are you running for President?
I have diagnosed the problems because of my closeness and residual knowledge of what goes on in the presidency. I also have an idea of what goes on internationally. If I put all these together, I can find a solution to the problems facing Nigeria. I don’t want to bring out all I want to do to the fore yet because it is a competition. But I must say that a $26 billion budget is far too low for a country of 200 million plus population. I will within one year of becoming president take steps that will double the national income. If we double the national income, we won’t need to borrow because we will have more money to service the people. Apart from solving the issue of insecurity, I will make issues that concern the people a major priority. I am going to spend one third of the budget on the people’s welfare. The money and the wealth of the country should be spent on the people. We have very serious health issues in the country because we don’t have enough funds in the budget for the healthcare.
You have never held an elected position, don’t you think that is a minus to your aspiration?
Barack Obama was never a governor before he was elected President of the United States of America, neither was Emmanuel Macron a governor before he became President of France. It’s a function of commitment, vision and intellect. All these people that call themselves governors, what did they achieve? Many governors cannot point to any achievement after eight years in office. Being a former governor is not a qualification to be president. You must assess a man by the muscle of his intellect, his knowledge, his exposure and his experience. Obama was a senator not a governor while Macron was a member of a sitting government; he left that government and 17 months later became the president of his country.
Don’t you think your idea of ending insecurity in two years is a tall ambition?
Ending insecurity in two years is very, very possible; it is based on knowledge and experience. I was there at the very beginning of this insecurity at the end of Obasanjo’s administration. I was also there when it got to a peak, during President Jonathan’s administration. I know what gains were made and I know what errors were committed. I also know what the challenges were. As president, I will internationalise the war against insecurity. Nigeria is not capable of defeating terrorism on its own. I have researched it from 1920’s till date, whether it’s Vietnam, Iraq or the IRA, the minimum number of years to end insurgency is 12 years. When America was going to Baghdad, they have money, they are a Super power, yet they recruited Britain, European Union, Saudi Arabia and others; they brought in a coalition force and within a year or two, the matter was resolved. We need to set up an African High Command of 25,000 to 30,000 troops to fight the insecurity.
What plans do you have for the power sector?
I am going to increase power generation from its current 8,000 megawatts potential to 30,000 megawatts within two years. I will change the policy surrounding this thing, there will be an executive order that allows any Nigerian to generate 5,000 megawatts without coming to government for licence and you can do your negotiation. If you pass that law today, by December, there will not be less than 1,000 people who will jump at that opportunity. That will be 5,000 megawatts. I will open up that sector like the telecommunications sector. I will bring all other major power companies in the world to either generate, transmit or even distribute. Many people will come because they will enjoy incentives. Those ones will be licensed, but you must generate between 5,000 to 10,000 megawatts. We can do these things. The President must be somebody who has original ideas and original vision and he must have the know-how to go about it. I am that person. This makes me far above my competitors.
Your party, PDP, has witnessed a gale of defections in recent times; is the platform strong enough to battle the APC in 2023?
I am a politician of 40 years and more experience. Gale of defections don’t mean nothing and I can prove it to you. Between Buhari and Atiku in 2019, total number of voters was about 30 million or there about, how many defections can create 1million votes? Defections are for personal aggrandizement or personal placement, improving your lot politically. It has very little impact on the voting population. If Nigerian voters believe in you and your vision, if your party has just a municipal support, they will put you in power. In 1999, the South-West did not vote for Obasanjo, but by 2003, almost all the South West governors were tumbled. That is the power of the electorate who believe in a candidate.