In this exclusive interview with The News Chronicle, Dr Abubakar Alkali, convener of Movement for a New Nigeria (MNN) and a presidential aspirant in the forthcoming 2023 general elections under the ruling party APC gives his take on sundry issues in the Nigerian polity and why he is running for president.
TNC: We congratulate you for putting yourself in the presidential race for the 2023 general elections, especially with the presence of so many political heavyweights like Tinubu, Vice President Osibanjo, Amaechi and others who have thrown their hat in the race for the post of the number one citizen in Nigeria. You indeed displayed confidence and not being deterred by the 100 million Naira price tag forms (expression of interest and the forms proper).
People say there are 3 categories of those in the 2023 general elections race; (a) those who are in it as serious contenders, (b) those who are in it just to be called ‘former presidential aspirants and (c) those who are in it as a form of business, whether to be regarded as stakeholders, or to get juicy appointments in the aftermath or to strike a bargain.
Where do you belong?
Dr Alkali: I think that I belong to the serious contenders as I will want to believe all others who have declared their intentions are also in the same category with me. Even the decision to go into the contest in the first place is not a light one, so logically we are serious about the whole process.
I have been contesting since the year 2011, then I came out for the post of a Senator. It was with the Congress for Progressive Change. In 2015 and in the 2019 general election I also ran for political offices.
I got into the presidential process for the 2019 elections under the APC then and you know how the power of incumbency functions anywhere in the world. In fact some people were telling us then that there was only one form available for the post of president and therefore we shouldn’t bother ourselves.
You see, I have been actively involved in politics for quite a while now.
TNC: Was there any form of compensation from the party to you and other candidates in the party considering how it went about the selection of its presidential candidate?
Dr Alkali: No, there was no compensation whatsoever in anyway.
TNC: Was that why you formed the Movement for a New Nigeria?
Not exactly, I am loyal to the party. The movement was there before the 2019 general elections, it was formed sometime in September 2018. We tried to use it as a platform to mobilize the youths to be involved in the political process at all levels.
Sometime after the 2015 elections and with the way things were going, I felt we needed a change other than the change the APC had initially promised. The will was there but the facts on ground were not in consonance.
So I felt that a great part of what the country needed was young people with bright ideas, digital and innovative awareness in this global digital era to take the country to its rightful place.
TNC: you are from Sokoto in the North, just like President Buhari from Katsina another Northern State, with the clamor for power shift and zoning principles of political parties how do you see your ambition playing out in the unifying process of Nigeria?
Dr Alkali: I think more of what we should be talking about is competency. I am not saying that only a person from the North is competent or only a person from the South is competent, but we should focus on who can get the job done. In fact, the power shift we are talking about is taking power from the old guard and giving it to the youths with new ideas.
TNC: But when we look at Nigeria’s leadership history till date, the oldest person apart from Buhari who has ruled Nigeria is Obasanjo who became a civilian President at the age of 62. He was Military Head of State at 39 apart from that it is factual to say that power has been with the youths. What have they done with it? Yakubu Gowon was 29 when he took over as the military head of state, Murtala Muhammed was 38, Babaginda, Shehu Shagari and the rest of them.
Dr Alkali: When we look at the current setting today, the key contenders are in their 60s, 70s and even 80s. It seems as if there is a design to make leadership an exclusive preserve of the old. For example the cost of forms selling at a 100 million Naira is out of reach for most youths. It is the old ones who have been in the game for a long time who can afford such amount of money.
We need the young people to come with unconventional methods to bring about solutions to the problems facing the country.
TNC: You have shown to be passionate about education in the country, if elected president, what will you do differently to improve education and end issues like the persistent ASUU strike?
Dr Alkali: You are right, education matters a lot to me. In the late 90s when I was doing my masters, I remember telling one of my lecturers that strike is outdated. The lecturer asked me what I suggested ASUU should do with its complaints.
I am of the opinion that according to the law ASUU should approach the industrial court and use the legal option to make its grievances known.
I wrote a piece sometime back on “sack and reapply” which I still stand by. The government is the employer and as such should state the terms. Anyone who can abide by it should sign and work, while those who cannot abide should leave. ASUU has some realistic points while some are not realistic. They need funding which is true but are also indirectly pushing for a better welfare for themselves.
TNC: “we need technical education for job creation” this statement is credited to you. Can you throw more light on this?
Dr Alkali: I believe there is too much emphasis on certificate to the detriment of skills in the Nigerian educational system. I read somewhere that China was considering turning 60% of its universities to skill acquisition centers. I am actually proposing a reform of the Nigerian educational system where skill acquisition for 2 years will be added to the curriculum. As president I will build skill acquisition centers in each of the 774 local governments in Nigeria.
TNC: You wrote an article on the lingering insecurity and attacks around the Kateri, Rijana, Jere and Kasarani axis of Abuja-Kaduna express way, where it appears who were canvassing that the areas should undergo a total military action. Don’t you think it will be too drastic, especially for the inhabitants of these areas?
Dr Alkali: On the contrary, what I was calling for is a method that saves innocent civilians. Our security agents know their job and how to go about it. The idea is for any criminal in that axis to be identified and taken out. The information on ground is that many of the criminals use these places as hideouts.
TNC: Nigeria is a multiethnic, multi-religious and one can say, a complex society. It seems that the centrifugal forces outweigh the centripetal forces, as some have said that the only time we come together is during sporting activities. How do you intend to handle these divisions like the Biafra agitation and revenue sharing formula as president and unify the country?
Dr Alkali: Firstly, I will say these issues persist because of the problem of leadership. You cannot keep an army of youths unemployed and expect they will not be tools to destabilizing the country. Therefore one of the ways I will be tackling this is by creating jobs, it will reduce agitations to the barest minimum. We need to focus on wealth creation, we are blessed with so many natural resources and therefore should utilize them.
Summarily, I am looking at healthcare reform, establishing thousands of low and medium cost buildings, security architecture restructuring.
Under my watch as president I will recruit 500,000 soldiers, I will also recruit 1,000,000 policemen, special forces, we have to overwhelm the bandits, not forgetting to work with the local vigilantes. ICT will play a major role in the fight against insecurity. Coupled with this there should be judicial reforms where we will have special tribunals for bandits just like we have tribunals for elections.
I believe that I am the best candidate to lead this country, with my zeal, confidence, intellect and also banking on the support of the people to become the next president of Nigeria.