INTERVIEW: Buhari is not a Perfect Presidential Candidate – Kayode Ogundamisi

Kayode Ogundamisi needs no introduction. He is a pro-democracy leader and a civil rights activist. On Twitter, over 75,000 followers follow his views. His TV show ‘Politricks with KO’ is one of the few programs on television that deal with issues that concern Nigerians in Nigeria and the diaspora. He took some time to talk to our Tundun Adeyemo.
Many people look up to you as leader, but could you have gotten it wrong on your choice of presidential candidate for the 2015 election? Are you not saddened at the way the Vice Presidential candidate of the party you are backing was selected?

The vice presidential slot of the APC to the best of my understanding was achieved after careful deliberation and it was actually a pretty competitive process resulting in a first class candidate in the person of Prof. Yemi Osinbajo. In advance democracies, it is the prerogative of the Presidential candidate to choose his running mate, however in a coalition of political parties, and the realities on the ground in Nigeria, it is expected that the choice of Buhari’s vice President would not come easy. I personally wanted Fashola to run with Buhari but I am not a card-carrying member of APC, I can only advice.

They have found in Osinbajo a brilliant choice; no matter the VP candidate APC picked, it would still be controversial. In Osinbajo, you have a man who reached the top of his career as a lawyer, being Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN). He is a top class teacher, who is an internationally acclaimed professor in law. A top class General Buhari, who will secure the life of Nigerians and deliver on his campaign promises, and a top class lawyer and teacher, who will ensure that every action of the Buhari government, will pass the basic principle of respect for the laws of the land and the Nigerian constitution.

Could your activism be propelled by the future offer of political appointment in a Buhari Presidency?

I have supported and worked with different candidates at different levels with no expectations beyond their subsequent performance. I have always felt free to withdraw my support as well. Nigeria remains my sole motivation.

Would you ask the 12 million Nigerians who voted for Buhari and the CPC in 2011 if they were propelled by an offer of political appointment? In any case am I not more than qualified to serve Nigeria in any capacity if I deem it necessary?

My support for Buhari is based on my conviction that he’s a better candidate than Goodluck Jonathan and until a better candidate other than Buhari emerges, I am going to support his candidacy.

You are leaving for Nigeria in a couple of weeks. Have you been paid to campaign for Buhari?

It is obvious that 14 years of PDP and 6 years of Jonathan Presidency have reduced your perception of political participation to a cash and carry affair. Nigeria is not for sale. No, I have never been paid to campaign for, support or mobilize for Buhari. In 2011, I got a loan of £5000 from Barclays Bank, the records are available, I bought my plane ticket for £600 and donated what was left to the CPC and Buhari campaign team.

I recalled Nasir El-Rufai asking me how I would survive for the entire period of the campaign. I did survive and we are in 2014. I have purchased my ticket again. I am going to Nigeria because I believe you have to walk the talk. I could have taken the easy way out and got involved in Jonathan’s conference like some of my diaspora colleagues did. They got over 46Million naira just for recycling the same documents passed on by Babangida and Abacha’s conferences.

I am not the only one, we have a number of Nigerians in diaspora who are contributing to the Buhari campaign. I don’t have permissions to share names but someone is donating his family home for the period of my stay in Abuja and he’s just one Nigerian tired of the level of cluelessness of the Jonathan administration. In 2011, we lived on bread, sardine and water as we travelled across Nigeria with Buhari and the CPC. My joy is that today, Nigerians are donating every little amount to help in the campaign for change.

What is the vision of Nigeria you like to see in your lifetime?

A just nation where every citizen, regardless of circumstance, religion, location or tribe, is afforded every opportunity to live anywhere they choose to with decency and dignity. A nation that will not be shy to discuss its differences; that will allow a resolve by citizens to peacefully negotiate the mistakes made by the colonial masters and our founding fathers.

Is this ideal achievable?

Yes it is very much achievable. The alternative is not looking good.

In 2010, you campaigned for GEJ to be made acting President and look at how that has turned out. What guarantees do you have that Buhari is the right candidate for Nigeria?

Actually you got it wrong. Yes, I stood on the side of truth and justice against the Yar’Adua cabal who held on to power rather than hand over to Goodluck Jonathan, the legitimate Vice President. It was not about Jonathan. It was about justice, equity and forthrightness. I disagreed with those who felt Goodluck Jonathan shouldn’t be President because of some warped arrangement within the PDP.

I was the toast of the Goodluck Jonathan gang then but I was very clear that it was not about their principal (GEJ) but about Nigeria. An injustice to Jonathan was, in my opinion, an injustice to Nigeria. But as soon as Jonathan became the Acting President, it became clear the man with a so-called PHD had no clue about governance. He set out on an agenda to divide Nigeria just for his selfish interests; he promoted bigotry and left Boko Haram to go on the rampage. In four years of Jonathan’s cluelessness, over 17 thousand Nigerians, by his own count, are dead, killed and maimed by terrorists. Rather than go after terrorists, the commander in chief spent money and propaganda blaming opponents without one shred of evidence.

I had no lofty expectations from GEJ so I am not disappointed but only vindicated. His track record from deputy governor to accidental governor, from vice president to accidental acting president was resoundingly uninspiring but Nigerians chose to ignore Olusegun Obasanjo’s rape on democracy when he handpicked two candidates, who had no intention of running, on the night of his party’s presidential primaries.

Obasanjo picked a sick Yar’adua and a clueless Goodluck Jonathan. Look, I was very close to the Ijaw struggle; I was party to and active in the movement that led to the Kiama Declaration. Even amongst the first 20 Ijaw comrades I know, Jonathan cannot make the top 19 in terms of understanding the dynamics of Nigeria and ability to serve.

People will be shocked in 2015. A number of people in the Niger Delta will look at their environment and notice that things are not better under their son and that the oil companies still go about destroying the environment, the militants are the new oppressors. The loyalty of the militants is now to one man Goodluck Jonathan and not the working class people and the poor in the Niger Delta.

General Buhari is not a perfect candidate, no Nigerian is perfect for Nigeria but with the choice we have today, comparing Buhari to Jonathan is like comparing light to darkness.

With Buhari what you see is what you get. His commitment to his country has never been in doubt, his records as military head of state creates fear in the minds of the corrupt, the drug barons and those who enslave Nigeria but it brings hope to those who want the best for Nigeria.

I do not share Buhari’s dream of a one indivisible Nigeria but I share in his dream of a Nigeria where justice will be made available for all. I share in his dream that as long as we remain one united country, terrorists should not hold Nigerians to ransom, a minority one per cent should not take the wealth of all, that our schools should be a safe place for our children, that we should be respected internationally as a result of our progress.

I share in his dream that Nigerians should be able to get the basic needs of life without having to bribe their way up or ladies sleep with men for favours, I share in his dream that our women should have a place of pride.

So I can hold on to my long-term disagreement with Buhari on the national question to achieve those short-term goals. That I want a confederation in Nigeria does not mean a massacre should go on in any part of Nigeria.

Nigerians in the UK suffer very harsh immigration laws and cost of living crises, could your energies not be better utilized in working with minority groups in the UK who are underrepresented and in many cases without a voice?

Nigerians in the UK are of course affected by what happens in Nigeria. Diaspora remittances alone are the budget of small countries. Money aside, the anguish one goes through just knowing a relative is ill and at the mercy of a broken system is bad enough. If the situation at home is improved, I dare say 90 per cent of their woes here would vanish. How many are here because they love it?

I pick my battles and I am sure we have more than enough groups campaigning for the rights of Nigerians in the UK and above all, we have strong institutions here where you can challenge the system and injustice. My ultimate goal is that we should make Nigeria better so we don’t have to be in the diaspora permanently.

Can’t you run for office in the United Kingdom?

I can but I am not interested.

Would you not say that this is the best time for Africans living in the UK to have a stronger and unified voice? Could they not benefit from such leadership from you?

I run a programme, Politricks with KO, on Ben television and have done so for two years with 100 per cent volunteers’ effort. This show gives the diaspora a platform to speak and be informed. The TV show survives on the magnanimity of the Chief Executive of Ben TV, Alistair Soyode, who donated airtime to my platform. All the crewmembers are volunteers who are not paid a dime, including me.

Every week, we provide a platform for Nigerians. If that is not leadership then I don’t get the definition of leadership. For me service and personal sacrifice to the people is what leadership is all about.

On a lighter mode, I was told BEN-TV was under pressure from the Nigerian government to take the programme off air. But we are still on and that is thanks to the resilience of the Chief Executive. If they come under pressure, anyway we still have Sahara Reporters to fall back on.

Most Nigerians are disillusioned about the state of Nigeria’s political and economic mess, should we promise a hope in APC, a party we cannot rely on?

I am not a card-carrying member of APC or any Nigerian political party but we are hopeful that the APC will be different. If we don’t notice anything tangible in one year, we will unleash the people might on them.

Why do you hate the PDP so much?

Look around you. The country is the most divided it has ever been since the civil war. Our leadership beats its chest on achievements, buys more private jets and eats billions in yearly food budget while Boko Haram has driven one million citizens out of their homes. Many abandoned people have run to Niger Republic, Chad and Cameroon, our neighbours. If you are not angry with the party that’s been in control at the Federal level for 16 years then you are either a beneficiary of the system or simply living in la la land.

Nigerians are tenacious people- most Nigerians are doing well by themselves, would your efforts be best channelled in economically supporting people?

Tell that to the 1.5 million displaced. We cannot dance around the fact that Government must work and not exploit the people for the advantage of a few.

The cynicism against politicians and government in general is one you encounter every day especially on your TV show. How do you deal with that?

I let people talk. There is nothing to deal with. It’s the peoples’ show. I hope the politicians and their handlers listen. PolitrickswithKO is unique in one sense. I declare my interest to the viewers. I don’t pretend to be unbiased. I let people challenge me and I am very glad that we get calls from all over Europe on the programme.

I don’t know how we have survived the last two years but we managed to keep a live show without a dime. I take criticism on the show on board. I don’t just dismiss them, when I get home I think about what even those who oppose my view say and I improve on my point of view.

What would you like to be remembered for? What is the one thought that gets you out of bed every day?

I have three lovely daughters and it is what my children would think about me when I leave this world that bothers me more than what the world would think about me. I am extremely satisfied with my little service to my community both in Nigeria and the United Kingdom. Each time I wake up, I want to do better than when I went to bed the previous night. I want to contribute to the change movement in Nigeria. My first love is my service to the community. If you knew where I am coming from – growing up in Mushin and Agege in Lagos – you will understand why service is key to me. I was brought up to understand that change won’t come without a struggle.

Why should the electorate follow you and vote for Buhari?

The electorate should look at Nigeria under Goodluck Jonathan. If they think they have a better life they can vote Jonathan but they should also look at Buhari – his honesty, his vision and his passion for Nigeria – if that gives them a reason to vote Buhari they can join me. 2015 election is not do or die to me.

One, I don’t live in ground zero (Nigeria) so I am not directly affected by the misrule in Nigeria but I can also not turn my back on my country. If Nigerians chose Jonathan again in 2015, it won’t be the end of the world. Of course, we would wish him the best as President and pray he gets it and delivers on his electoral promises. Those of us who oppose the PDP and Jonathan’s government would then go back and continue to try and convince Nigerians for change. You cannot force a people to follow your ideals, you have to keep trying and hope they are convinced that your ideals are right for them. That to me is what democracy is all about.

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