Obi­ageli “Oby” Ezek­we­seli is a lead­ing Char­tered Ac­coun­tant who co-founded the global anti-cor­rup­tion group, Trans­parency In­ter­na­tional. She is also one of the co-con­ven­ers of the Bring Back Our Girls cam­paign to find the 300 Nige­rian school­girls ab­ducted by Boko Haram in 2014. She has held sev­eral keys po­si­tions within the Nige­rian govern­ment in­clud­ing Se­nior Spe­cial As­sis­tant to the Pres­i­dent of Nige­ria on Bud­get Mon­i­tor­ing and Price In­tel­li­gence, not to men­tion Min­is­ter of Min­er­als Re­sources, Min­is­ter for Ed­u­ca­tion and more.

Ezekwesili is one of the sev­eral can­di­dates con­test­ing to be Pres­i­dent of Nige­ria at the 2019 polls and she has boldly stated she is in the race to win it, not just to make a state­ment. Bold, out­spo­ken and highly in­tel­li­gent, Oby is quick to draw at­ten­tion to why she is very de­serv­ing of this role and how her voice must be heard by the peo­ple she in­tends to serve. She speaks to FUNKE BAB-KUFEJI about her plans for Nige­ria as a na­tion.

It is time to con­front the old or­der pol­i­tics and re­place it with new ways of pol­i­tics by peo­ple who care for Nige­ria. It is time to start afresh and build a new po­lit­i­cal class that will of­fer democracy that is of the peo­ple, by the peo­ple and for the peo­ple

What is your take about the N45m fee charge for the form for the Pres­i­den­tial ticket and how much do you feel should be an ap­pro­pri­ate price?

It is ob­scene in a poor na­tion like ours to place a price tag of over a $100,000 on nom­i­na­tion forms for elec­tions. It is the sad­dest ev­i­dence of our mon­ey­pol­i­tics of ex­clu­sion that im­pedes par­tic­i­pa­tion of young peo­ple and women in par­tic­u­lar in party pol­i­tics.

I pub­licly stated that any party form above N100, 000 was not worth my pur­chase. I paid pre­cisely that amount for my Al­lied Congress Party of Nige­ria Pres­i­den­tial Nom­i­na­tion form.

Some say Nige­ri­ans have be­come a blunt in­stru­ment with their com­plaints be­cause they have been sup­pressed un­der the bad lead­er­ship of sev­eral decades. What’s your view?

It is true to a very great ex­tent be­cause of the in­cor­ri­gi­ble dis­po­si­tion of our po­lit­i­cal class which car­ries on bad be­hav­iors with gross im­punity. They feel that cit­i­zens can­not do any­thing to them and so grossly abuse their of­fices and en­gage in all kinds of shenani­gans with­out con­se­quence to them.

As a re­sult, most cit­i­zens sim­ply look away re­gard­less of what wrong do­ing goes on among our po­lit­i­cal class. That is dan­ger­ous for any so­ci­ety and to­day, Nige­ria and Nige­ri­ans are pay­ing the price of in­dif­fer­ence.

What can you do to sound the bell with the po­lit­i­cal class?

My de­ci­sion to run for po­lit­i­cal of­fice is a re­ac­tion to this blunt­ness of our de­mand as cit­i­zens for ac­count­abil­ity and good gov­er­nance from a po­lit­i­cal class that sim­ply does not care.

They don’t care what dam­age their ac­tions or in­ac­tions do to Nige­ria nor does it mat­ter to them that cit­i­zens are dis­tressed by their im­per­vi­ous­ness. It is there­fore time for us as cit­i­zens to do more. It is time to dis­rupt their en­trenched and deca­dent brand of bad pol­i­tics, bad lead­er­ship, bad gov­er­nance and gov­er­nance fail­ure that has brought mis­ery and de­spair to cit­i­zens.

It is time to con­front the old or­der pol­i­tics and re­place it with new ways of pol­i­tics by peo­ple who care for Nige­ria. It is time to start afresh and build a new po­lit­i­cal class that will of­fer democracy that is of the peo­ple, by the peo­ple and for the peo­ple.

You have also said even though there are no con­se­quences with chang­ing of par­ties, you be­lieve 2018 is the year of the cit­i­zen?

Yes, 2018 is the Year of the Of­fice of The Cit­i­zen. With­out the vote of our cit­i­zens, our po­lit­i­cal class can­not have the le­git­i­macy of their elected of­fices. Cit­i­zens are fast re­al­iz­ing their power to de­ter­mine elec­toral out­comes. Now, more cit­i­zens are con­nect­ing the dots that with their votes, they can de­ter­mine the qual­ity of peo­ple they vote into of­fice. There are no peo­ple or in­di­vid­u­als more pow­er­ful that cit­i­zens who have mo­bi­lized them­selves be­hind the power of their vi­sion of what their na­tion can be when they vote in elec­tions. We are see­ing such awak­en­ing in 2018 and that’s bril­liant. I to­tally be­lieve that this year has been the #YearoftheOf­fice­oftheCi­ti­zen.

You started the Red Card dis­ap­proval of our po­lit­i­cal class es­pe­cially after the Be­nue killings. Can you tell us what this Red Card is or means?

It was a demon­stra­tion of one’s ab­so­lute dis­ap­point­ment at a po­lit­i­cal class that failed to show in words and deeds that the ram­pant killings of cit­i­zens re­ally mat­tered to them. The more our peo­ple were be­ing killed, the more the politi­cians were dis­tracted by their self-in­ter­est based squab­bles. Tack­ling the killings was not a pri­or­ity. No. They were busy fight­ing to ei­ther re­tain power or cap­ture power in the 2019 elec­tions. The sad­ness one felt com­pelled me to start is­su­ing Red Card to them. Other Nige­ri­ans joined me and we started the Red Card Move­ment on Twit­ter and then took it round the coun­try. We is­sued #RedCardToAPCAndPDP the dom­i­nant par­ties that are ac­tu­ally ONE group of peo­ple. They are the Si­amese twins of our coun­try’s Gov­er­nance fail­ures. We la­beled them what they truly are...six and half a dozen with no dif­fer­ence in the bad be­hav­iors that have ru­ined Nige­ria’s chances to be­come a great na­tion.

What was the Sum­mit of the Al­ter­na­tives and what did you con­clude after the ses­sion of this pro­gram?

It was a Sum­mit that some six civil so­ci­ety groups in­clud­ing the Red Card Move­ment, held to en­able cit­i­zens be­gin to en­cour­age new en­trants into our pol­i­tics to act to­gether as cred­i­ble block of can­di­dates in our elec­tions in or­der to ter­mi­nate the reign of en­trenched old or­der politi­cians in our coun­try. We in­vited the new par­ties and their can­di­dates to in­ter­act with cit­i­zens over a two-day pe­riod. Our premise is that if we do not as cit­i­zens col­lec­tively work to re­form our pol­i­tics, we would never have the qual­ity of po­lit­i­cal lead­ers that can of­fer us good gov­er­nance which is sine qua none for de­vel­op­ment of na­tions.

What strat­egy do you plan to use to make your cam­paign Project Res­cue Nige­ria at­tain its de­sired goal?

We are the can­di­date of the Nige­rian peo­ple who are fed up with the fail­ures of Gov­er­nance in our coun­try. We are mo­bi­liz­ing those among our cit­i­zens who have long given up and no longer bother to vote when all they are of­fered are the fa­mous “lesser of two evils op­tions” at elec­tions. About 67 mil­lion Nige­ri­ans reg­is­tered for 2015 elec­tions but only some 28 mil­lion of them both­ered to vote in the Pres­i­den­tial elec­tions. Many of them stayed away be­cause they said they could not in clear con­science, vote for any of the two un­ac­cept­able can­di­dates in that elec­tion. Now, that was al­most re­peat­ing it­self in the 2019 elec­tions un­til we de­cided to get into the race. Now, many of those blocks of vot­ers are writ­ing to say, “We will vote in 2019 be­cause now that Ezekwesili is run­ning, we have a can­di­date. We have a cred­i­ble al­ter­na­tive”. I am there­fore the can­di­date of all Nige­ri­ans who agree that our coun­try is in dan­ger and must be res­cued from the hands of pro­fes­sional politi­cians that have mis­man­aged all our po­ten­tials leav­ing us with 87 mil­lion peo­ple who live in ex­treme poverty and crowned Nige­ria as the world cap­i­tal of ex­treme poverty. Even In­dia which is six times more than Nige­ria in pop­u­la­tion, has lower num­ber of such peo­ple than us.

What will be your shock ther­apy to the Nige­ria peo­ple?

It will come in var­i­ous pack­ages of sig­nif­i­cant changes in the way Govern­ment works. My Govern­ment will be the most trans­par­ent govern­ment ever. We will throw open the en­tire book of ac­counts of the Fed­eral Govern­ment and con­sis­tent with the prin­ci­ples of Open Govern­ment prin­ci­ples, cit­i­zens’ right to know will be fully pro­moted.

Ours will be the most pri­vate sec­tor-friendly govern­ment ever had in Nige­ria; with a strong vi­sion to rapidly raise the peo­ple and coun­try’s pro­duc­tiv­ity as well as im­prove com­pet­i­tive­ness in all spheres of eco­nomic ac­tiv­i­ties.

Ed­u­ca­tion will be our new oil. Hu­man cap­i­tal will be our new econ­omy. Hu­man De­vel­op­ment strate­gies of Health and Ed­u­ca­tion Re­forms will at the core of our eco­nomic agenda.

Cor­rect­ing the fiscal im­bal­ance or deep fi­nan­cial hole that this govern­ment has dug the coun­try into re­quires that we im­me­di­ately stop the se­cret fi­nan­cial bleed­ing that is go­ing on at the NNPC which the Pres­i­dent di­rectly runs him­self as Min­is­ter of Petroleum. Tak­ing the swift step of dereg­u­lat­ing the petroleum sec­tor will be a ma­jor re­form that will not only free up mas­sive re­sources that the NNPC cur­rently calls “un­der-re­cov­ery of cost” but also bring more re­sources to the trea­sury.

I will in­stantly ter­mi­nate their cur­rent ex­pen­sive joke of giv­ing sub­si­dies a new name while re­peat­ing ex­actly the same cor­rupted ways that the ad­min­is­tra­tion it re­placed han­dled it.

Then, I will up­date and im­ple­ment the Cost of Gov­er­nance re­port known as Stephen Oron­saye-led Pres­i­den­tial Com­mit­tee on Re­form of Govern­ment Agen­cies which rec­om­mended the re­duc­tion of statu­tory agen­cies of govern­ment from 263 to 161. It is manda­tory to im­ple­ment a Cost of Gov­er­nance pro­gram in Nige­ria where this ad­min­is­tra­tion dis­sem­i­nated a 2017 Bud­get Per­for­mance re­port that shows that the coun­try’s to­tal earn­ings from oil last year was not suf­fi­cient to pay the salaries of the work­ers of govern­ment. That’s def­i­nitely a strong ev­i­dence of why we need deep re­forms of our pub­lic sec­tor.


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