Political calculations are already ongoing ahead of the 2027 general elections three years away.
There are reports that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the Labour Party (LP), the New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP) are planning to form a formidable party that will sack the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
In this exclusive interview on Channels Television, a political economist, Professor Pat Utomi, confirms that the parties’ candidates in the 2023 presidential poll have agreed to form a mega party. He also speaks on talks that led to the creation of the APC in 2014 as well as his relationship with President Bola Tinubu.
See excerpts below:
Give us an idea. Are you planning a merger or a brand new political party?
It’s a really clean start. You have to start from the premise that Nigeria has not had a political party since 1999. And let’s be very honest with ourselves. What we have managed is to create platforms that enable machine politics from which to grab power, usually for the purpose of state capture. If you will want to test that, check how much the quality of life of a Nigerian has improved since 1999.
Prof. Pat Utomi was a guest on Politics Today on Wednesday, January 10, 2024.
It’s frightening but the truth is a matter that in 1999, a political class managed to build a certain coalition of accommodation to keep the military out and share the spoils of power in Nigeria and somehow did not manage to create an alignment with the Nigerian people to improve the quality of their lives. This is why you can see Nigeria deteriorating, becoming the poverty capital of the world, becoming the centre of widespread violence everywhere. And if you want to take some clear examples, I want anybody who is a political scientist, or economist in Nigeria to look at where India was in 1999 and where Nigeria was in terms of mood, violence in politics, the quality of life of people and where they both are today in Nigeria versus India.
In 1991, India was technically bankrupt. Foreign Reserves could not accommodate more than three weeks of trading. What has happened since 1999 is that India’s politics has managed to focus on the rational engagement of a developmental state.
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If you look at the numbers today, India is now speeding past the so-called miracle economies of South-East Asia. Nigeria, on the other hand, has been traveling in the reverse direction. What better explanation can there be than the fact that Nigeria has not managed to organise the structures for political participation that can focus on the Nigerian people and lift their lives?
So, a political party is a vehicle to bring onboard those who will govern the nation.
Absolutely the point, political party is a vehicle for doing that.
In that living room where you are, just some metres away, that was where you and some of your friends cooked up the APC. What went wrong? Isn’t this what you planned? Can Nigerians trust this process that you are going through again, Prof?
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Some people will say Prof Pat Utomi is talking theory, absolute nonsense. They don’t understand what theory means. Let them check my background. At age 21 in this country, Atedo Peterside and I, form the new breed organisation, created the first business finance magazine in this country.
In my early twenties, I was appointed editor of one of the most influential news magazines in this country. And even when I was abroad, I managed it from outside the country. I have been an executive and a manager in a multinational company because I have some academic titles. People who have done nothing in their lives but just throw out innuendoes against people say you are talking theory. Now, let me show you very clearly why I have walked away from arrangements that have not served the Nigerian people.
It emerges by iteration. You try this, but it doesn’t work, you go on to something that will work. So long as you are focused, you know that why you are there is something to do that will serve the best interest of the majority of the people.
So why did APC not work according to your plan? What happened, from your description, it doesn’t look like APC worked according to your plan.
Simple, they didn’t want it to work.
Who are these people?
The people who captured the states, the Buhari government did not want the states to work.
You supported Peter Obi and the Labour Party in 2023. One would have thought that, oh those ideas that you have, you wanted to infuse it into the Labour Party, that also failed. Did the same thing also happen to the Labour Party?
You can’t make that statement. It didn’t fail, even though it was a hurry-up offence as they would say in basketball in America. Just let’s get this thing to show this system.
That’s why I want to calm down now, design and put in place a real political party with clear ideas of how you become part of it, what you will do in it and therefore you accept to do it or not to do before you come into it, where there will be a clear agenda – a party plan that the day you arrive in office, everybody from Perm Sec to level eight officer knows what they must do every day to move Nigeria to a certain level. If you don’t do it, you get fired.
So, this business of just arriving and looking for how much money to transfer to your account, to transfer to that person’s account will not be there because you are very busy implementing something that everybody has agreed with (and) talked about in the public space and civil society is holding you accountable, the media is holding you accountable and the whole of society knows what you will do next month.
If you don’t do it, somebody will ask why not? Not to get there and begin to try to enjoy yourself and just generate hubris, pure hubris. That’s not how to govern a people who are dying.
Are you hoping that Peter Obi, for example, will be the presidential candidate of this new party you are forming?
No, no, we’re not talking about candidates now. We’re talking about what the party will look like, the values that the party will stand for, the policies that the party will stand for, a national strategy.
Now, I give you a small example. In South Africa up to one level of the ANC, they have conversations about public policy, and all these flow back and they can ask whoever is president of South Africa questions based on that. Who in the APC has an idea what APC is doing, even as one of those who founded it, one of those who wrote the road map and all of that? I wrote more than 10 letters to the Chairmen of APC, I never got one single reply, not one reply.
And so the APC was just a concoction, a private enterprise of a few people that was justified with the people who they got to run around and the object was simple – state capture. So Nigeria needs a political party, not all of these things.
I know you are a very good friend of Bola Tinubu. Your friendship with Bola Tinubu I guess has always been issue of ideas that you’ve had together and you know, the camaraderie that you’ve shared before now is also about ideas. Can Nigerians look forward to those ideas ahead of 2027 when that competition will come up?
I’m not even thinking of 2027. That’s what I’m saying, Nigeria has become a circus of elections. Let’s leave elections for now. Let’s look at how our country can be made to work for everybody. And let’s create a political party that can bring the issues to the fore for all the Nigerian people to have the kind of consensus on how to solve problems. If we have that consensus, we will find Nigerians who can provide leadership positions and the provision of those positions will not be about what they get for themselves because this narcissism is a cancer that is tearing Nigerian politics down.
What we need are people who sacrificially give up themselves to build a great country with their possible reward being immortality. When I talked to several of the presidential candidates in the last run about this track we are travelling. Yes, I’ve had conversations with Atiku Abubakar, I’ve had conversations with Engineer Rabiu Kwankwaso, I have had conversations with Peter Gregory Obi and the people like Ralph Okey Nwosu of ADC are some of those that would probably constitute some of the base. And I’ve said to them, it’s not about you. It’s about Nigeria, it’s about the ordinary person in this state. It’s about really truly moving from this business of sharing trickles from oil sales to how we can become one of the most productive economies because our (natural) endowments allow that but our politics has not allowed Nigerian people to produce. Politicians just go there to grab, grab, grab.
They don’t even have the discipline to sit down and plan how Nigeria can produce its way out of poverty and everybody can be happy. Look at how it is happening in India. As you know, I have very good relations with India. There are friends of mine in India who are struggling to get me to come and sit in India for a few months in the university and do this, do that. But I just feel so what’s wrong with the Nigerian elite? Why are we satisfied with nothing? And then they will try and rationalize it by saying now I’m talking theory, what nonsense, what nonsense, how many of them have had the kind of jobs that I have had as an executive, as a manager, as an entrepreneur? And you say I’m talking theory. Do you know that there is no practice, that makes sense without theory?
The idea of this new political party sounds like a merger because you said you have had talks with Atiku Abubakar, Rabiu Kwankwaso, Peter Obi, Okey Nwosu and the rest. They have agreed to come together, isn’t it?
What name have you decided to call it?
We’re not talking about names yet. Besides these politicians, I mentioned, I’m talking about leaders of social movements, leaders of social movements, the labour movement and so on and so forth.
I have even been part of creating a new tribe, Nigerians who are committed to certain values who say I will not give a bribe, I will not take a bribe. And you can then create a set of values that can lead to progress in the country.
The way we are today, a few people in the world are willing to engage with Nigeria because they think there’s a collapse of culture, the values in Nigeria. You can’t trust Nigerians, all kinds of things are here.
Credit Channel TV