. . . Says Alliance for New Nigeria will bring forward dedicated, committed and purposeful leadership
Dr. Jay Osi Samuels is a Medical Doctor by training. He was born and bred in Ibadan, Oyo State. His parents are from Fuga Town in Estako Central Local Government Area of Edo State.
He had his primary education in Ibadan and secondary education in his home town in Fuga and bagged a Degree in Medicine and Surgery at the University of Ibadan. After graduation, he did his one year internship in Kaduna and his NYSC at the General Hospital in Lagos. He eventually went to Harvard for his postgraduate fellowship training and was in the Harvard system for five (5) years before returning to Nigeria in 2006.
Murya Magazine crew was at his office and had a chat with him to capture his thoughts on several issues about what makes his party, the Alliance for New Nigeria stand out political issues about the country as well as the plans his party has for the country. Excerpts.
You are a medical doctor and now you are into politics, I understand man by nature is a political animal, but how do you connect that?
For me and even till now, I still don’t consider myself a politician. My dabbling into politics came out of the passion or the desire to engender good governance in Nigeria. Before I go further, let me take a step back to explain the background to how I came to this level. Like you said, Man by nature is a political animal. I am an avid news reader. I listen to political news and pride myself as one who can analyse politics better than some professional political analyst, because I follow politics a lot. I follow governance and also follow business and many more. In that respect, I am not a novice to politics, but in terms of actual participation, I have not really been involved. In fact, I have been averse to anything that has to do with politics, but the love for country is actually the major motivating force that brought me this far.
A lot of us who are professionals do what we have to do because that is what we signed up for and whenever we leave our houses every day, we always thinking about how to improve the work place irrespective of the fact that we own the business or not. Similarly, we believe that there are people who think about the country in this manner, so much that their job every time they wake up is to think about how to better the country, how the people of Nigeria can best be served and the likes.
However, the type of politicians we have at the moment appeared not to care about good governance. They care about themselves, about what they would benefit and don’t even care about our own well-being. How can you explain a situation where, someone has been traveling Abuja - Jos route for 12 years and the condition of the road still remains the same if not worse? If Nigeria was a business and it was someone’s business to make that road better, he or she cannot be watching over the years as the road get worse and worse. If a State Governor, a Federal Minister, even the President himself passes through that route, even though they can chose to fly, how would they feel that year in year out the roads are getting worse? I am just using this as an example of the signs of failings of the government in our society.
As a development worker that I am, I find it difficult to shove off this kind of issues. People need to be held accountable. If we go to work every day and appraisals are conducted at the end of the year for workers to judge their performances then, we as citizens or owners of Nigeria should be able to appraise our leaders, because it appears that our rulers don’t care. They simply see government or government position as personal position to enrich themselves and turn the masses to beggars by giving those fond of hailing them peanuts. For somebody like me, who had worked with the government both at the international and local level and by the reason of the work I do, which gives me the opportunity to sit at the front roll and see things first hand, it equally put me in a position of seeing the decadence in governance and in Nigeria especially, how government has neglected its duties.
These are the things that moved me into deciding that if these people are not ready to provide proper governance, I have to come in, because in the past, I used to ask how one can join the government with the intention to serve the people and create a difference.
looking at the way politics is played in Nigeria, the easiest way would have been for somebody to say I have seen you, you are very good I would appoint you as my Special Assistant, but personally I don’t think I can be effective in that role, because as an S.A to somebody, you can only advice, you cannot make things happen. I have friends that have worked as S.As and those that are convinced about their potentials don’t spend three months in the job, they resign because the politicians who engaged them don’t mean what they often say.
The other aspect is to look at the political space, if you look at the people that have been participating in Nigerian politics in terms of voting or being voted for, they are less than 30% of the eligible voting population. In other words, a few people have been determining our collective destinies in Nigeria. What happened to the 70% of the population?
I am talking about people that are 18 and above, some don’t even register, some register but don’t even vote. If you look at the last election, we recorded about 67 million new registered voters in total, but out of that about 29 million or so actually voted. I think about 30 something million people were accredited to vote. About 2.5 million went home and didn’t return to cast their vote.
What we looked at, at Alliance for New Nigeria was why the 70% or more people not participating in the election process? And mind you, I was among those 70% because in the last election, I didn’t vote and there are millions of Nigerians like that. The question is why is this so?
There are many reasons attributable to this situation, but the simple reason is apathy. People have come to believe that politics is a dirty game and votes don’t count, because even if you voted, the outcome would be rigged in favour of someone else. For some of these reasons, people don’t want to waste their time.
On a technical level, however, there are some other things - although things appear to be changing now – it has to do with the issue where an electorate want to exercise his or her civic responsibility and would need to be accredited and wait for a long time to cast their vote. The people say they are busy and don’t have 7 or 8 hours to waste in the name of voting. In order to solve this issue, a new INEC regulation that allows for simultaneous accreditation and voting would encourage them greatly.
At Alliance for New Nigeria, our focus is to attract and galvanise people that have not been participating in the electoral process either by voting or those who are interested in standing for elective positions but are discouraged due to the nature of the nation’s political space.
Take me as an example, I am not a politician, I have never been a politician, I only want to be a politician now because I am interested in the wellbeing of Nigerians and I want to engender good governance in Nigeria. Therefore, as a mark of my commitment I am stepping forward. If I can step forward, you too should step forward.
You said you are not a politician but you had to join because you think there is a need to salvage the system from the present crop of politicians. How can you reconcile the fact that virtually every one of them joined politics with a similar mission: “I am interested in good governance” yet when you give them a chance, they mess up the process. What new things are you bringing on board?
Let me just say this: when I said I am not a politician, I meant it 100% and at Alliance for New Nigeria, we are technoticians. We coined that word for ourselves and I will give you the background behind it. We have seen in the Nigerian political space that technocrats have been appointed as minters and some elected as governors like the Governor of Gombe State, Alhaji Dankwambo. He is a technocrat, but a politician now.
I like to describe Nigeria as a dirty cup of water. If you have a glass full of unclean water and you add clean water into it, the water in that cup would still be dirty. That is what has happened over the years. When technoticians, the so called good people come into the political sphere, they get engulfed and a lot of them get frustrated and rather than for some of them to leave the arena, they join in doing the dirty things.
We have also seen a situation of a Babatunde Fashola, when he was the governor of Lagos State. He was technocrat who came on board though he had a politician behind him and he performed creditably well in his first term in office because he was clearly focused on the work as an technocrat- the way he wants it and he was doing it- but somebody was at the back end doing the politics for him. Nonetheless, we recognize that you cannot survive as a technocrat without understanding a bit of politics. That is why we coined the word, technoticians - we are mainly technocrat but for us to understand the world and survive in the political field, we need to understand a bit of politics. However, I need you to know that, we are more of technocrat and less of politics.
The question now is how do we intend to achieve our objectives? This is the way we want to go about it. The way Nigerian politics is currently played is a like a situation where an individual is entrusted with a particular position to truly serve the people, but are finding it difficult to locate a platform that would enable them to serve. For instance, I have people that came here and said they went to PDP and were told the space is full and were even told to go and cue for the slots in 2023 or whenever. This means, you need a godfather to get you in. That is what we want to do differently.
We are building a party where you don’t need or have a godfather, a party where any Nigerian can aspire to take up any position. The party is owned by the ordinary average Nigerian. Anyone can come up with his or her interest, what the party will do is to provide a level playing field for all aspirants. If at the end of the day, you are the best candidate, the party will support you.
In ANN what we want to do differently also is, as we go ahead mobilizing for support, the task we have set for ourselves is to convince Nigerians that this is the party! APC and PDP have failed. This is the party you should rely on.
If for instance, ANN wins the 2019 presidential elections, you don’t need anybody to tell you that it is the Nigerian people that voted the party in and we know that for us to remain in power we need to deliver to the people what we promised.
Otherwise, I have seen a situation where politicians who find themselves in several positions in the House of Reps, the Senate or even Governors who know they can win not because they had to do what people want, but because they only need to bribe the people and to do that they have to amass a lot of money. We don’t want to play that type of politics. Rather, we want a government that will be responsive to needs and aspirations of the people, provide the basic things and make this country better than it is currently.
What is your assessment of the state of the Nation generally?
The state of the nation is not encouraging. It is actually saddening that we have gotten to this level in times of governance. Just think of any metrics of measurement we are not making progress - the economy, security or employment - it is like the government has lost it from day one. They don’t even know how to manage or steer the affairs of the state. That is very worrisome and the outright lies, deceits and propaganda this government has churn out is far worse for our country than any other previous government. Nigeria had always had divisions in terms of ethnicity, but this government has acerbated it in every way, things are really bad for this country.
Don’t you think somebody will disagree with you, and say no it has never been this good? And at what point are we going to agree that something is wrong or are we going to continue like this?
Personally when it comes to the issue of state, especially anything that concerns Nigeria, we shouldn’t be bias. We shouldn’t be looking at things from the perspective of party affiliations. We should look at it as Nigerians. Is this what we want? We all have families, businesses and many other cherished values. There is a definition or acceptable level of what is good or bad, but when we try to use previous administrations as a basis for comparison I don’t think that is good for our country.
This government is in power because the last government failed, we cannot be using them as a standard of measurement in whatever form because what we are concerned about is Nigeria as a country and what will make her move forward. There maybe something that the government is doing but there is a lot more the government can do and not giving excuses or looking for a reason to say this is why you are not making progress, such things should be very obvious for people to see.
When do you think we can get to a level where we start calling black as black and white as white, will it start with Alliance for New Nigeria?
Definitely it will start with Alliance for New Nigeria. As I often tell people, one of the major things wrong with this country has to do with good governance. True, we have policies here and there, but what is really lacking in our governance system is the purposeful determination and committed leadership to implement the policies. None of our leaders have been able to provide selfless service, because people often come into government based on god-fatherism and through other ugly means. And the moment they get there, they cater to special interest by making subjective decisions that have no bearings on our collective destiny.
One of the things that Alliance for New Nigeria will bring forward is dedicated, committed and purposeful leadership where decisions will be made, policies implemented based on the convention and the believe that the Nigeria people are superior to any individual.
How do you think we can step out of this quagmire, considering the fact that, the moment your party the ANN gets to the level of a mega party like the PDP or APC it could easily start condoling godfathering and other vile acts?
We hope not! That is why we are putting mechanism in place to checkmate all of the ugly factors I outlined above, but like I said before even though I may just be repeating myself now, the major reasons is because the masses are not taken into the equation in the governance style of this country.
Let me give you an example, in the US, President Trump is there today, he knows that some people or Americans put him there and in putting him there, they have certain expectations from him and whether you like Trump or not, whether you like his style or not, he has a solid base of supporters and at every point in time his decisions is guided by what those people want, because he knows that once he loses his support base, he is gone.
In fact, he is actually fighting the god-fathers. They do not call them god-fathers there, they call them the establishments. He is fighting the establishment and that is what we want in Nigeria. We don’t want a situation where we will be doing things to satisfy a few individuals who have been holding this country by the jugular.
For once, let’s have a party that is responsive to the yearnings and aspirations of ordinary Nigerians. And that is what we are bringing on board, because the way we are going to run the government is that our campaign will start from day one after the election to make sure that all the deliverables we promised would be visible even to a blind man in two years. People should be able to see and feel the difference that there is a new government in town. We don’t have any reason why we are still crawling like a baby in Nigeria.
How do you intend to break into the market and take a share of the brand equity of your party or the people knowing about the existence of your party; how do you intend to occupy their minds?
We are already occupying their minds because we are going daily by leaps and bounds. However, I know we still have a lot of works to do. Mind you when we started off, we were not even planning to factor so much in 2019. We didn’t come together because we wanted to participate in 2019 elections or win in 2019. We are more of a long term focused ideology based organization, but currently, because of the external pressures on us resulting from the fact that a lot of Nigerians see this party as the saviour of this country, many things are happening even beyond our imagination.
In fact, people have even come to advise us to focus on one small area, because apart from the PDP most other parties started as regional parties. We can say the APC is a national party, but it is still having a regional coloration. Those offering their advice are saying we should pick an area of influence and just focus on a state and win the governorship seat, but we don’t have that control because as we speak now, we have members in every state of the federation. There’re people that went to register on their own and very time I check for updates on my Facebook page, people are seeking to contact us. This thing is organic, even though we still have specific plans which we started implementing to reach out to the kind of people that we are targeting.
We don’t even see APC and PDP as competitors, because we are discounting the 25 million votes or so recorded in the last presidential election and creating a new set of voters from the 70% of Nigerians that have never voted before. If we can get them on board and they believe in our message after they identify with us, our target is to register about 10 million members by October this year. Though, we hope to do more than that, but that is a base line to measure our performance.
We have a lot of things planned and we are gradually implementing them even though we still needs a lot of funds to achieve our aim, but this is very easily do able. When people say time is short, it is not that we are focused on 2019, but because of the expectation of the people, we believe that even though it might look like a short period, in politics one year or nine months is a long time.
So far do you have any presidential aspirants?
We have several aspirants that have been coming to us but one that is publicly known right now Fela Durotye, he joined us officially even though he has been talking to us since September last year but he officially joined the party on the 22nd of February this year.
I understand he is a motivational speaker?
Yes! He is actually well-known in the corporate world as a motivational speaker, but aside that and because people know of his aspiration that he wants to contest for president, some people are mistaken him to be our candidate. He is not actually our candidate, he is an aspirant, and we have several aspirants that have indicated interest, not just for the presidency even at governorship and other levels.
The issue of political ideology is missing totally from the Nigerian space, is ANN going to be the same in terms of the manifestoes and ideologies compared to other parties in Nigeria?
Alliance for New Nigeria as a party is different. We are professionals. The party is built on the bedrock of professionalism, but that is not to say that all of us are Doctors, Nurses, Engineers, lawyers or whatever. Anybody who has a profession is a professional even a carpenter is a professional in that sense, but our ideology is based on the fact that we are professionals who want to offer ourselves for public service, but the underlining thing is that, we believe in Nigeria. Ideology has gone beyond socialism, capitalism and the like, the major reason that makes us come forward is because we believe in Nigeria. And this country has to be made great! This country has to be made to occupy her rightful place in the community of nations. That is our ideology.