The 47-year-old Dumebi Kachikwu is the presidential candidate of the African Democratic Congress for the 2023 presidential election. In this interview with SOLOMON ODENIYI, he speaks about the party’s primary and his vision for the country
Your emergence as the standard-bearer of the African Democratic Congress is being regarded as an upset in which you defeated the likes of Kingsley Moghalu and Chukwuka Monye. What factors do you think worked for you?
I am one of those persons that believe that God gives power. He directs and teaches. Among them all, I am the only person that has over two decades of political experience. It’s about delegates, not a social media election. I was making friends and engaging the delegates. They became part of the family and I became part of theirs too. My house is full of delegates from North and South. They believe in me that I care for them and I am part of them. The kind of work I do, as a construction engineer, helped me to relate well with them. I deal with labourers everyday, when you do, you’ll learn how to converse with them and not talk above them to achieve the objectives.
Something else happened whilst we were at Abeokuta. A lot of them (delegates) were stranded. The people who brought them didn’t care for them. My team and I made sure these people were cared for even when I knew they were not for me. They saw that I cared.
I went into that election not believing I would win. I went as an underdog but I had done sufficient work on the delegates. We had several delegates from the South. All the aspirants were competing for South-South and South-East votes but I left it for them.
I went after the North and South-West delegates and I got almost 90% from the North and some from the South-West.
Just like in the two major parties, there was a dollar rain during your convention in Abeokuta. You were also said to have taken part. What do you say about this?
It’s very true there was rain of naira and not dollars, but it wasn’t my team that doled out the money, those who did know themselves.
What I did was that on the eve of the primaries, I hosted 1,600 persons who were for me. The videos are there. I announced that my campaign team would not give them any money. The people were crying and upset. I told them I was not doing any vote- buying. If I win, I want to return the glory to God that gave me the victory. A lot of people became angry. They said I would lose. The other people immediately started giving the other delegates money. I believe that human beings are naturally decent, 997 people proved me right.
If we need to change Nigeria, we need to be able to stick to principles. Shortcuts have got us nowhere. Nigeria is the country of short cuts. I am desperate to change Nigeria, not desperate to become a president.
Will you be sticking to your principles going into the main election?
You’re a Nigerian. Why should I give you money to have people vote for me? Are you not part of this suffering? So, I won’t do that. The biggest challenge is that the politicians have weaponised poverty in Nigeria. There are still working class citizens who earn a salary and do not vote. There are over 50 million people who are the majority and do not need to be bribed with wrapper or garri to vote but do not vote.
Mogahalu did not congratulate you before leaving the party after you beat him to the ticket, how does this make you feel?
It’s a delegate election, and the people who voted for me have congratulated me. That’s what is important. Kingsley is someone I like and respect a lot. Sometimes when people lose I realise they don’t know how to manage that well. I tried to reach out to him for us to see. I think he is a smart gentleman who has a lot to offer Nigerians and he will do that in several ways.
If I am not your president, I will continue doing what I am doing to serve Nigeria which I have been doing all my life. I own Root TV. It’s the only Non-profit TV in the country. I don’t have to become a president to serve.
A statement was attributed to you that you vowed to retire Atiku and Tinubu. What makes you think you can match these candidates?
Yes, I will defeat them in the coming elections. I believe no sane Nigerian will vote for the two old men to lead the country. The dynamics of our people have changed a lot. People are now more cosmopolitan and looking into the future. Nobody wants to be part of a country that’s degenerating everyday. They want someone who is capable of handling issues.
You said the country is being faced by modern issues. What do you mean by this?
Let’s take for example, we are in a global economy where stuff like foreign exchange has changed. We have companies like Google and Amazon’s who are actually deciding the fate of countries. If you’re not able to respond to these companies, you will do what the Nigerian government did by banning twitter. Also, you have a situation where many Nigerians still believe that infrastructure is about roads construction and awarding contracts but modern countries all believe that the highway of the future is the super broadband.
Every Nigerian needs to have broadband as a fundamental human right. We still don’t understand that yet.
We don’t understand that we need to start investing in Nigeria. That is why we have 40 million youths who are unemployed. Their taxes alone will help Nigeria if they are employed. We keep talking about oil and gas while we forget that Nigerians are the first asset of the country. Give them the resources to stand, after being employed you can generate income from them.
These two people, Atiku and Tinubu have a primordial approach to governance. They believe that once you hear contracts have been awarded to people in your area, you’ll warm up to them and win elections. They don’t understand what to do about the twin problem of recession and inflation.
Countries are giving incentives to help businesses. All they are doing here is to compel people to pay tax. They are clueless and do not know what they really need to get Nigeria there. That is why we need someone who understands this, shares the plights of businesses. We need someone who knows how to block the holes and the leaks to get the nation back on track. Running a business is about running a vision and making people run with that vision.
In the southern part of the county one of the major causes of unrest is a separatist agitation. Do you think the present administration managed the issue well?
Buhari didn’t start the war, he only made it worse. He mismanaged the diversity. When a President’s body language shows that he doesn’t care about what happens to a particular part of the country, when you practise nepotism especially in a harsh economic condition, you give them the attitude that you don’t really care.
Personally, Kanu and Igboho should be tried in an open court if there are charges against them. Bring your prosecutors and they bring their lawyers, everybody can hear what the charges are. They should have their day in court. Justice delayed is justice denied.
Everyone can see if the charges make sense or not. They will hear their defence. The judge will decide based on the evidence presented. If you don’t allow them to have their day in court, where they can defend the charges against them, you’ll make things worse.
The government might even be able to show Nigerians clearly that these men have done wrong.
If you feel they’ve done wrong, try them in court; Let people hear your argument against them, that’s what needs to be done.
There have been calls for political solutions for Kanu and Igboho. Don’t you subscribe to this?
Some people are advancing for political solutions to this but I do not think so. If you notice what’s going on in the South-East where people are being killed unjustly daily, what do you tell the families of these people? They need to know who killed them and why. We all need justice and equity.
The killings will stop when Nigerians know they have a true leader that preserves the aspirations of Nigeria. I am not a proponent of regionalism. That it is Igbos turn to rule or Yourba’s. I am a nationalist. I believe in one Nigeria. I am a Nigerian who believes that if we have a president who comes with equity and fairness with love and justice, Nigeria will be the best for it. As long as we keep cheating the masses, agitation will be more and if time is not taken, it may lead to anarchy.
From all indications, the APC may be opting from a Muslim-Muslim ticket. What do you make of this?
I said earlier on that I am not given to issues of religion, tribe and tongue. If people are competent, capable, fair- minded, if all they care about is Nigeria and lifting the poor out of poverty, making Nigeria work for everybody, why not?