A former Minister of Health, Iyorwuese Hagher has faulted the decision of President Muhammadu Buhari to seek a second term having failed to keep the promises he made to Nigerians in 2015. He spoke with George Okoh in Makurdi, Benue State. Excerpts:
You want to contest for the presidency, do you think you stand a chance?
I will be president next year because Nigerians are tired and sick of the status quo; they want a change, a real change. Nigeria has been ruled all these years by pre-modernity people who sit there and don’t look at the future. They did not plan for the youths; they did not plan for succession; they did not plan about legacy. They planned only about eating, capturing treasury and looting! Nigerians are sick and tired of the trajectory that our nation has arrived today. God cannot hate Nigeria so much that he will allow Nigeria to degenerate and collapse; and totally become a failed country broken into pieces. We Nigerians are so God fearing, we pray a lot and some of us believe God has heard our prayers. Why I think I will win the presidency is that, of all the candidates on ground, I can’t say there is none, but there are many who do not share my passion for this country, my love for this country, my zeal for this country. And the places I have served this country, as a university professor who has watched many young people grow up to make something of themselves; and still watching young people today grow up, graduate, don’t have jobs. I am saddened. Because they don’t have jobs, they are not married, thes young men and women have become a risk to themselves.
I watch some of these young people flee the country into slavery in Libya and die on the seas. As a university professor and somebody who has, all his life mentored, taught and trainned youths, it breaks my heart. So to me it’s not even about winning because I know I have already won in the hearts of Nigerians. It is the struggle to change the status quo that it will never be like this again. It can be done because the issue with Nigeria is poor leadership, bad leadership, people who are fixed in the ways of yesterday, people who don’t have clear idea about where Nigeria should go. Nigeria has critical advantage over other countries because we have the fastest growing population of young people who are intelligent. So our focus should be educating these young people to have skills and ways that will become useful for the nation. Countries like Germany and Japan have no raw materials, yet they have developed education, they developed employment and they have developed productivity. This is what this presidency is all about. It is to give Nigerians the ability to rise above mediocrity, to be giants in the international community because we have more young people than other countries; that are our critical advantage. In my house there are several graduates that I train that have no jobs, and they cry to me as a senator seeking my endorsement to get a job. This will not happen; this is the worst form of corruption, bureaucratic corruption, corruption in government, corruption in university system, corruption everywhere. We have become endemically corrupted and the country is not looking at the fundamentals of fighting corruption. We are dealing with the surface symbolism of corruption and we are pursuing people and raiding people’s homes without dealing with the fundamentals.
There is problem of insecurity in Nigeria, how will you solve this problem if you become the president?
The country is in a state of total collapse.There is nowhere in this country, no state where you do not have armed robbery on the increase and kidnappings. People are being killed at will and there is no solution to the murders that are taking place and nobody is held accountable. Our security agencies have been compromised; and the criminals work in tandem with our security agents. We have reached a state of paralysis. When I become president, it’s not just me, it’s a mind revolution. Everybody will be a security officer. That is what is done elsewhere in the world. We have technology today that can effectively map up and secure our areas, but nobody is using it. More importantly, the things that are making people criminals are unemployment, lack of education, where people in the 21th century in Nigeria are animists. Who believe that if you kill a young woman and take out her private part or parts of her body then you can make money! Why should such barbarity continue? And they are not unaware of the modern slavery that is taking place where young people all over the world are being hunted and taken to harvest their spare parts for use in other countries, where medical practice have become so sophisticated, because they are doing kidney transplant, they are doing heart transplant. So people who are vicious and wicked come to Nigeria and look at you that you are a very strong young man, kill you and end up harvesting your parts for their benefit.
This is also a new reality, but with modern technology and everybody involving in security, we can solve this problem. Now, nobody really cares if we involve the local communities. I can secure ‘Benue state within a month.
One laptop can capture an entire population in a local government area, and village by village. If everybody is everybody’s security agent, the day a strange face appears in the local government from bicycle to motorcycle, we can log in that a strange person has come into village A. What is he doing? The following day somebody else reports, we saw strange movement of people. You then monitor it immediately, using information system to monitor security. You can monitor security. It has reached advanced stage. It is so easy to be done but nobody wants to do it because people are benefiting from the insecurity. With the present insecurity in the country, the president asked for $1billion, why is terrorism not finishing? It is lasting longer than the Nigerian civil war. Why? It is not a problem to me, I will finish it. All it takes is political will. If they are ready to finish they will finish it, but because they are benefiting from it they will not.
If you become the president what will be your position on farming?
Agriculture via education; that is what I am going to use to turn this country around. With education, you don’t need oil. The monies that we got from oil have been stolen; and the oil is dwindling. If you live in the western world, you will be surprised how much research is going on. There is a car called Tesla that is already been driven in US and Canada, which does not use fuel at all. They are also experimenting with cars that drive themselves. You sit in the car and sleep, it take you anywhere you want. Primitive agriculture will not work, educate the people and also improve on the agricultural product. I am going to do one thing that no other president has done in this country. I am going to take education so seriously that every university will be actively involved in applying research and development, research and innovation. That is what doesn’t happen in this country. Professors are promoted in our universities, go and ask them what they do before they are promoted, basic research that has no relevance in the environment.
We have universities of agriculture, what do we do with them? They should be on the farms teaching new methods, giving us new seeds. Have they ever given us a new species of oranges? No. Because our people are innovative, our people are creative, every year you come, you see different names of new mangoes that they have on their own experimented. They research on their own, work and had successful products. That is research taking place outside the university system. Now, I am not speaking out of vacuum. I have built a new University called Afe Babalola University. I have been pro Chancellor in charge of the university for eight years. And that is what we have been doing. We have won many international prices in science and technology. I am going to replicate that in every university and I am going to establish research centres in every university across the country.
Have you made efforts to get the attention of Mr. President to proffer solution to the herdsmen and farmers crisis?
It’s a weighty question. My answer is simple. Buhari has been a very incompetent president; and the fact that he has declared that he wants to run again after I, former President Olusegun) Obasanjo, General Ibrahim Babangida and a host of others including General T.Y Danjuma have advised him not to contest and leave a legacy, he refused. I told him: you have to choose between leaving a legacy and a peaceful society, or be regarded as somebody who killed democracy and promote genocide. Apparently, he has chosen the latter. I consider his declaration to run for a second term as an act of political terrorism. When you have failed all your campaign promises, the first promise was that he would be there for one term; but today he has failed by declaring that he would contest for a second term. He promised that he would eliminate corruption, but Transparency International told us that Nigeria has never been more corrupt that now. How many people have been jailed? He was fighting corruption the wrong way. And most pathetically, he does not have the disposition, the will power, or the kind of empathy which a president should have in order to do the job. He is behaving as what the people are saying does not matter. He is behaving like a civilian dictator.
We know that he is still a general in his mind so; maybe he is leading us to full military dictatorship. We elected him in 2015, if he gets himself elected again, by hook or crook; it is imposition. He went into the NEC meeting of his APC party and announced himself that he is running, which is an act of intimidation. It is like, oh whether you like or not, I am going to run. So I feel deeply concerned that our president is out of touch with the reality in his country, or has deliberately decided to ignore sensibility of the larger number of our people. As president, I will not be a Tiv president; I will be a Nigerian president. When I am a Nigerian president, I will make sure that every ethnic group in this country is respected. There will be no favoured ethnic group, no master ethnic group. There will be no slave ethnic group that have to give up everything so that other ethnic groups must live. I am going to restructure Nigeria to work in such a way that people will be happy.
I feel deeply concerned that our president is out of touch with the reality in his country, or has deliberately decided to ignore sensibility of the larger number of our people.