Dr. Davidson Isibor Akhimien is the presidential candidate of the Grassroots Development Party of Nigeria (GDPN). In this interview, he speaks on his agenda for Nigeria. Excerpts:
Don’t you think you are in a difficult terrain considering that both the APC and the PDP are fully in the race for the presidency?
I am in the presidential race because having observed how governance has been carried out in my country all these years, having seen how leadership has fallen short of expectations of the majority of Nigerians, having seen how democracy has not yet delivered the dividend to the majority of the people these years, I have decided to step in to rescue the situation.
Nigeria now ranks number one in the world’s poverty index; as the country with the poorest people on the surface of the earth, yet we have so much human and material resources, and it appears to be normal. For me, it is a misnomer, and I say there must be something wrong. And what I find wrong is lack of visionary leadership, lack of patriotism and commitment to the welfare of the generality of the people. What is wrong is selfishness and self-centredness of members of the political class and so people say politics is dirty. Yes, I now see why it is dirty and I now say let me step in and bring cleanliness into it, bring in the burning desire to deliver the goodies for the people.
What are your chances considering that you are going to slug it out with an incumbent president and the candidates of other parties, including the PDP?
There is a defining moment in the history of any nation, and for me, I find this season in which we are as a defining moment for Nigerians. I am preaching a transition from the old order to a new order. I am at the vanguard of a movement for a new Nigeria. I call it the rebirth of Nigeria. There is an aphorism that says if you continue to do the things you are doing and you expect a different result; that is insanity.
The character and colour of our political engineering have been the same. Religion, ethnicity, tongue and tribe have characterised our politics and brought us to our knees. So it is time for a paradigm shift. We have cycled this mountain long enough. We need to progress, we need to move forward. So I am not in a competition, I am only sowing the seed for a new Nigeria in the political space.
There is a new lexicon in Nigeria’s polity called vote buying. Do you see it as a threat to the 2019 polls?
Vote buying is a characteristic of the old order; it is associated with the primitive culture of the old extant political class. There is going to be an intervention in 2019; an intervention that is beyond the mundane. So I am not worried about vote buying. People are going to collect your money and they will not vote for you because enough is enough. They have seen the need for this transition I am talking about, so I am not worried about it. They should be ashamed of themselves. When you buy a man’s vote, you are not accountable to the man when you come into government. Our leaders who orchestrate vote buying should be ashamed of themselves.
How will you tackle the Boko Haram insurgency in the North East and the prevailing security challenges in other parts of the country if elected president?
There are sponsors of the Boko Haram insurgency. This campaign wouldn’t have been sustained for seven or eight years without certain sponsors. Has the government come out to give you the names of sponsors within the seven or eight years of insurgency in that region? So my government will step up our intelligence operations in order to identify their cells and command structure. We are going to hit at their command structure and see how we can de-radicalise them. We will try to expose their sponsors, so we will use the double prong approach, political economy approach and intelligence approach. We will bring succour to the affected communities and see how we can improve their economic situation. We will clear it.
Are you in the club of those willing to restructure Nigeria if given the mandate?
It is important for us to know the dimensions or aspects of restructuring that we need. Restructuring is a recent clamour which has come as a result of perceived injustice in the allocation of resources, impact of the centre on constituent units, operationalisation of certain government policies and security.
Where certain aspects of restructuring will advance governance and the welfare of citizens, I am very much in support of it. But where some aspects of restructuring will be counterproductive and undermine the territorial integrity and national cohesion of the nation state called Nigeria, I will not be in support of it.
Are you referring to geographical restructuring?
Yes, but there are other aspects of restructuring that are very much welcome.
Do you see the possibility of an Igbo presidency in the near future?
Yes, anybody can be president of this country as far as you are a citizen of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. You have equal stake to the presidency. The point is we have not come to see ourselves as clearly standing on equal grounds. Some groups ascribe to themselves the position of inferiority by design and sometimes even by default. But can anyone carry the presidency and say I want to give it to the Igbo? We need proper integration of the people of Nigeria; let’s see ourselves first as Nigerians before we see an Igbo President, Yoruba President or Hausa President. That is why I hate zoning. Zoning perpetuates our sense of lack of integration. We should be Nigerians first.
Is your party not afraid of the two big parties: APC and PDP?
If you look at the two parties, they are one and the same. So as far as we are concerned, what is the ideology of the APC? What is the ideology of the PDP? Where is the APC today? Where were they yesterday? Where was the PDP yesterday? Where is the PDP today? So the gale of defections we all experienced few months ago shows the lack of ideology and principle of our political actors. They were leaving for their selfish interest. When it doesn’t favour them here in terms of position they move out in droves. But we are coming with an ideology. The ideology is grassroots-based. It is to reduce the rural-urban migration and by that bringing massive employment for the teeming unemployed youths in this country; bringing about industrialisation and rural development and creating wealth for the common man. We will stick to our ideology.