Trained in the best institutions both at home and abroad, Dr. Jay Osi Samuels, a medical doctor has achieved success in his chosen field. An international health care development expert, Samuels is involved in medical and healthcare development in Nigeria representing donor groups who are interested in disease prevention. He finds something is amiss in a society where people can barely feed in the midst of plenty. That is why he decided to step out of his comfort zone and spearhead the formation of a group, Alliance for New Nigeria, ANN. His aim is to galvanise professionals and technocrats to come out and take governance away from the crushing grips of politicians. He tells Samuel Ajayi about his mission and vision
You trained as a medical doctor, what are you presently into?
I am an international healthcare development expert and my area of specialisation is sickness prevention and health systems strengthening. My organisation works for governments; that is the donor government and the host governments either at the federal, state or local.
Does your job cover other African countries or Nigeria alone?
For now, our focus is primarily on Nigeria even though we have Africa in focus. We have offices in four states which are Lagos, Oyo, Plateau and Abuja. These are the places where our funders want us to work.
In the news is that you’re involved in a new political movement, Alliance for New Nigeria. Can you tell us what this is all about since it is outside your core area of specialisation?
Yes. I think getting involved in the political space was not what I set out to do. If someone has told me few months ago that I would be involved in this, I would have said no. But events that are happening in the country and the way the country is being run have led one to start asking is this the best that we can get for Nigeria. From experience, this country has the resources, both human and natural, to be better than the way we are. It just befuddles one to ask what is happening. Even those of us operating in the donor landscape, all the monies that donor countries are giving us, Nigeria can conveniently afford them and even do more if well applied. Even the funders are threatening the country that if you don’t do this or that, we will do that but the government does not seem to care. These are the things that get us wondering and have pulled one to the political. Our current leaders don’t have the will to serve the people that put them there. Instead of complaining all the time, we have to let our people know that we are not hopeless and that is why we are stepping into the space.
Why don’t you leave politics to politicians and let them run the show?
And that is what we have been doing since – I mean the professionals. We have ceded the leadership of this country to politicians for long. Even if we have felt the positive impact before, we are far behind when it comes to dividends of democracy. Even those of us who claim we are comfortable, that is relative. Some of the things we could afford in the past, we cannot afford now. We are far behind now in that so-called comfortability. We don’t even know what will happen in few months time. And it does not seem we will get the right answers to the issues we are raining. Why then should we continue to believe these same people will solve our problems for us? Why don’t we take the gauntlet and try to rescue ourselves? We are in the political space to say that even if politicians have failed, there are some of us that care for our country. We must let Nigerians know we are not hopeless. That is why we are calling on all right thinking Nigerians to come on board and be part of the action some of us have taken and help to retire and replace this class of leaders we currently have.
What is your own ideology?
Our own ideology is that Nigeria is one of the greatest countries created by God but we have not been blessed by good leaders. So we came about with the ideology can be great again. What average Nigerians want from government is not too much. They want good and decent life. Why has this been difficult to provide? Why? We are spurred by the fact that if given the chance, we can actually run this country. When it comes to writing and developing policies, many excellent ones have been developed in the past. What is lacking is the political will and determination to implement these policies and do the right thing. The problem is that our leaders are always pandering to certain interests that prevent them from doing the right thing. Allegiance should be to the people alone and that is what we want to do. It is only the people that can give power and take it. We don’t believe in any godfather; the only godfather we have is the people. All you need to do is to be transparent and provide purpose leadership. The people will fall in line when they see these.
You focus on professionals and technocrats. Why?
When you look at the society, professionals cut across all cadres. Not necessarily those that read medicine or accounting or law. Bricklayers, carpenters and so on are professionals in their own rights as long as they learnt these vocations. But we are looking at certain class of professionals who has been carrying on as if they are not part of this country because they have been their own ‘governments’. They are governments to themselves because they did not use mortgage to build their houses, they paid cash down. They provided their own power, even built back-ups via solar panels; they built their own water system and so on. These are people who spent millions of naira to put water treatments in their homes. Some of them even constructed the road to their neighbourhoods. These people don’t feel any impact of government but when you feel you can do so many things without relying on government, wherever you are living, you are still under a local government or county. And there is someone who is the local government chairman who is not as educated or exposed as you are, but he determines what you do and what you don’t do in your area. The time has come for professionals to apply that same excellence you applied in building your business to success to public service. Come out and manage the political space the way you have managed your business and the people under you. Enough of saying it is not possible, indeed, it is possible. For the love of this country, let us come out.
Yes, it is. Politics is something most of us are averse to. But politics is one thing you cannot do without when you are in public service. We don’t want to be seen as another set of politicians who have come. We are different. We are technocrats but at the same time, we want to offer service in the public space. That is why, for a better terminology to describe us, we will be called ‘technoticians’. We join the two words-technocrats and politician-together and formed the word ‘technotician’. We are mindful of the fact that if you want to go to the political space only with your technocrat background, you are bound to fail. You must know how to build a little bit of politics.
Is your political movement for real?
We are for real and I can assure you of that. The perception in Nigeria is that for one to play politics in Nigeria, you must have a very deep pocket and must know one big name to be able to do what we are doing and that is the perception we want to change. No one is behind us and we are not being financed by anybody. We want to tell these powers that be that they cannot continue to ride roughshod over us even though we don’t have the resources they have. We can do better than them. Therefore, my message to those who may want to join us but thinking we are being sponsored is to come inside and see for themselves. All we have been doing have been out of goodwill. Nigerians are tired and that is why our message has been resonating with all the people we have been contacting. My message is that if you are interested in us but your are skeptical, I will encourage you to come on board and in due time, you will see if anyone or any godfather is behind us or not.
Has the group been registered ny INEC?
We are on the final stage right now. We have paid the mandatory fee to INEC for application. We are putting our papers together and our national office is almost ready and it would never be like your normal party office. We want to do things differently. INEC will soon visit us for their verification and hopefully, we will be registered as a political party.
Are there Nigerian professionals ready to join the group?
Of course. So many of them who I cannot mention for obvious reasons. That is very, very true. Since we started making awareness about our group, we have been receiving enquiries from within and outside the country. Many of them are just waiting in the wings and they are ready to step in and be part of this as soon as we are registered. In fact, many of them are happy that we are even doing this. What we have now in terms of endorsement will be nothing compared with what we will have when we are fully registered by INEC.
Away from politics, what do you enjoy having most?
Well, those who know me know that I take no prisoners when it comes to good things of life. I love them. The best, the better for me. I love good cars and a good house but I don’t believe in amassing all sorts of things like people saying I have property here or there. What I do is that the one I live, I make it as comfortable as possible. I love good cars to but don’t believe in keeping fleet of cars. The one I like, I go after it and I enjoy it to the fullest.
Have you always wanted to be a medical doctor?
Ironically, I never planned to be one. I became a doctor by accident. I was a very brilliant student without being immodest. My classmates reading this can attest. When I finished secondary school, some error on the school’s part, I had issues with my result and as a result, I could not go to the university even when I had already gained admission. I actually wanted to read architecture. When my classmates were gaining admission, only one person gained admission to read medicine and he went to the University of Benin. My resolve then was that I was better than many of them and for me to show that I was better, I decided to go for the best course which was medicine. Apart from that, I decided that I would go to the best university offering medicine as a course, which was the University of Ibadan. My dad was asking if I was sure I wanted to do it since medicine was never part of the plan.
Even at medical school, many thought I was too relaxed to be a medical student since I was not what we called the ‘effico’ type that would be holed up in the room reading. I was always involved in social activities and stuffs like that. I showed them that you don’t have to be too serious because you are a medical student. One of my classmates heard about my ANN activities and he said he was not surprised because he knew this was in me from day one. He said I should go ahead and he would support.
You are from Edo State but grew up in Ibadan.
Yes, I am from Edo State but I am a full ‘Omo Ibadan’ (Ibadan indigene). My dad was from Edo State but we were all born in Ibadan and that is one of the things that frustrate one: this state of origin stuff. We lived all our lives in Ibadan. I came back to Nigeria in 2006 and have been living in Abuja since and I could claim Abuja. I am from Fugar in Edo State but how many times do I go there? Though I went to secondary school there because my father insisted I did so as to have an idea of my roots. Nigeria should get to that level where the issue of state of origin becomes irrelevant. We can have state of residence but not state of origin. That is part of what we have to restructure.