George Goualin, a former senatorial aspirant for Lagos Central district on the platform of Peoples Democratic Party and co-convener of La Lumiere, a non-governmental organisation, was a chieftain of the defunct Action Congress. In this interview with FEMI OGBONNIKAN, Goualin examines some fundamental geopolitical issues in the country. Excerpts:
How did you come about the organisation, La Lumiere?
Who told you about La Lumiere? And how did you get that information? It means you have your ears to the ground. Interesting! La Lumiere is an organisation that aims at enlightening the average Nigerian voters. We want to enlighten the electorate, not a situation when you have some group of people and they say, this is the person we are voting for and they want people to go along that way, without even knowing why they are voting for him. We want to cancel that. We want to make the people know why their votes are valuable and count, and mostly how significant it is in the process of choosing the president for the nation. It is a very important process that we must not allow to fail. Look at what happened in America, Trump and Clinton. Trump is now in school, trying to understand what international diplomacy is all about. He is in school now trying to understand that the senate is very powerful. So, he is now trying to negotiate with the senate in order to pass some bills into law. He never knew that before and he was fighting with everybody in the Republican Party. But now he has to calm down because they are going to show him where the power is. This is the thing they are facing. We must grow in Nigeria. We want a true change, true proactive change that will bring about real development. We are the big hope of Africa, the largest black nation in the world.
La Lumiere is an organisation that is pro-Nigeria, a nationalist organisation that wants to see this country prosper and grow. We are not biased and we donâ€™t have anybody in mind that we love that we are supporting. But we are supporting our motherland. She has given a lot to us. If you read through our brochure you would see what we mean.
Now that the 2019 general elections timetable has been released by INEC, how do you think the selection criteria for the presidential election should be?
First of all, intra-party democracy has to improve. With my colleagues we have analysed these things together and have come to understand that people have been imposed by the aristocratic class upon us. The common man does not have a right to participate in the primary process of choosing his own leader; even names of delegates are written by political parties when they are not elected. So, the common man is being disenfranchised. At the primary level of party politics, we donâ€™t even get the opportunity to see these aspirants debate among themselves. We want to see what they have on their heads or the intelligence that they have. We just want to know. We saw the American presidential primary and it was very hot. There is a young man that I even liked so much the way he talked in the Republican Party. His name is Senator Rubbio. He is a bit mature. Then, in the Democratic Party, Sanders is a great senator. He contested against Clinton. The man has something upstairs. I want to see a Nigeria whereby we would see our candidates from both parties participating in debates. We are no longer interested in candidates coming forward and thinking that they can hijack the seat of our nationâ€™s leadership like our presidency. Of course, yes, our presidency is not for sale. And that is what La Lumiere is all about. We want to shine the light. Light in French means â€˜Lumiereâ€™. We are shining the light on these areas for the common man to understand.
How would you assess the influence of money in the countryâ€™s politics?
With the presence of the social media and growth of intelligence among our people, especially the youth, money will start losing its value. That is why we are going to act as checks and balances. We know that there is going to be a lot of money to be used but we are going to be saying the truth. We will dig for information far back into so many years and we would tell people about who the candidate is. People would find about you and we would say the fact. We are not going to fight anybody but we are going to say the truth for our people in this nation to know and know who really to vote for. If you have done well in the past we would say the truth about you, that you have done well.
In the case of Nigeria of today, whether you like it or not the North still has another term of four years to spend.
Please, can you expatiate on this?
Ok, would you agree with me that it is possible that the present president may not get a second term? The northern politicians may want to bring another candidate from another party who would probably win and get an eight-year advantage. And if they do that, it is not anybodyâ€™s fault. The election of president is usually for eight years period and if they win the second term election, probably they may be there for the four years of the former president plus eight years of a new president and everything will boil down to 12 years.
Which geopolitical zone in the North do you think should produce the next president?
I can give you an idea, based on my political understanding. Cash is not going to play any role in 2019 because there is going to be checks and balances system coming like educational enlightenment to the average voter, because it is the common man that is suffering right now. He is the one buying a bag of rice at the rate of N18, 000. The common man is now buying a litre of kerosene for N243. We know what is happening within the society. The common man is looking for a messiah right now. He is looking for somebody that would come and make these things cheaper and easily affordable and available. We are not interested whether you are from the North or South but because of the political demography that we have, the northerners would not want let the power to go yet, and I donâ€™t know if I am correct. So, in considering your question, I am thinking that the North-east has a better chance producing the next president.
I think the reasons are these. The North-east has not produced anybody since 1963. The last time they came close to the presidential position was Tafawa Balewa. The last time they had another person was the vice president and that was Atiku Abubakar who is from Adamawa State. And he is the Turaki of Adamawa. But if you look at the North-west, they have produced many presidents, like Umaru Yarâ€™Adua, General Muritala Mohammed. Alhaji Shehu Shagari, General Muhammadu Buhari (twice), General Sani Abacha. But while the North-west has produced a lot, the North-east has suffered, from Maitasine and, presently, Boko Haram, and they have been the black sheep of our national family. They have suffered a lot of destructions. They have been like a rejected stone, the pariah of the North. But the thing that is so funny is that the North-east and the south-eastern blocs are having problems and I donâ€™t know why the eastern blocs of our nation are having this problem.
In case the presidency is zoned to the North-east in 2019, who are the likely candidates?
Actually, I donâ€™t know yet, but it will be wise to ask the people. How do you identify candidates that are qualitative and the North needs to understand this time around that they must present candidates that must be really qualitative, candidates that must be free from corruption, because Nigerians have come to believe in the fight against corruption. The fight against corruption has come to stay. These candidates must understand economics. They must understand monetary policies. These people who want to rule Nigeria should understand what the meaning of demand and supply is. Before going into a position of leadership, you must have a good idea of import tariffs, international trade and international diplomacy. It is necessary to have a leader that will give us an economic policy direction from the first day he is in office. We want to know where we are going. Day one, we need someone that would hit the ground running. Do you know how many bills Trump signed the first day he resumed the office? We want to see an action president.
I know we have qualified candidates in both parties â€“ APC and PDP. We hear that in APC Mallam Nasir El-Rufai is quite adept. He has done a lot of things, like in traffic management, massive visible infrastructure, and compulsory children education. There are some others too in APC. In PDP, there is a man called Dr Hassan Dankwabo of Gombe State. From our research, we found out that Hassan Dankwabo is well qualified. He studied Economics. He studied Accounting. He was a one-time Auditor-General of the Federation. And monetary policy, he understands the working. I think he worked for 10 years with the Central Bank of Nigeria. This is a perfect candidate. If you ask me, who do I tip as the next president and vice president, I would say, Dr Hassan Dankwabo for president and Okonjo-Eweala as his deputy. The two of them would speak the same economic language. The same thing with El-Rufai of Kaduna State and Charles Soludo. These are the kind of people we want to see, people who are capable of making a difference. There is another one that, I think is in Jigawa State. His name is Badaru Abubakar. He has been doing well there. He has upgraded primary health care in the state. He has sponsored Jigawa citizens to China to study medicine. He does not owe state government workers salaries too. We also have Ganduje of Kano State and there are many of them. But what I am trying to look at is, candidates who have the ability and capability to understand the economic management of this country.