Dr. Johnson Edosomwan is an Edo-born businessman, philanthropist, and presidential candidate of the Nigeria Democratic Congress Party. In this interview with Mary Nnah, Edosomwan discusses his new book, Nigeria: Progress Begins with me: A Roadmap for Nigeria Transformation, which he published as part of his agenda for the country in pursuit of his 2019 presidential aspiration. Excerpts:
What does your book seek to achieve?
“Nigeria: Progress Begins with me”, presents challenges faced by the nation as a young democratic country, including but not limited to: leadership, economic growth, infrastructure, lack of good governance, poverty, corruption of leaders and electorate, education, healthcare, security, and inefficient structures, among others. It offers a roadmap for addressing the challenges above. The roadmap sets the pace for transforming Nigeria into a multidimensional economy, creating jobs for men, women, and youth, and securing communities.
The roadmap focuses on all aspects of infrastructure including water, electricity, roads, bridges, and airports, as well as upgrades to power sources using solar and wind technologies. The current trade deficit is addressed with emphasis on technological advancement in electronics and cyber security, and partnership for progress with other democratic nations around the world.
In the book, my vision calls on all Nigerians, both at home and abroad, to unify and transform Nigeria into a world‐class democratic nation where every citizen contributes and lives peacefully in safe and secure communities free from corruption, poverty, violence, regionalism, and tribalism, and a modern nation that provides access to jobs, clean water, clean air, electricity, infrastructure, education and health care.
It will transform Nigeria into a forward‐ looking nation whose multidimensional and robust economy eagerly embraces the advancing technological age and prosperous nation that will make our citizens and Creator proud. The framework presented for the transformation of Nigeria stresses ownership and accountability for the implementation of best practices at all levels. I believe that Nigeria’s progress begins with me and each and every one of you using our unified talents, abilities and experience to make Nigeria a great nation.
Who is the target audience for the book?
The book, which is targeted at Nigerians of voting age in general, most especially youths and the women, will be launched in Lagos, Abuja, London, Amsterdam, Canada and USA. The book is going to be running concurrently with the Johnson Edosomwan Foundation, which has been touching lives across the world, including constructing potable water projects in the six geopolitical regions in Nigeria
What do you do presently for a living?
I spend a lot of time coaching top executives across the globe. I am a senior executive coach. When CEOs of the Fortune 500 and Fortune 100 companies and all of the other multinational organisations, are in trouble, they come to me and I advise them on what to do to run effective and transformational organisations. I also own a technology firm where we invest in technology. I own a real estate company, which means I have been developing real estate housing and affordable housing for people in addition to many other businesses I own as well. However, one of my key jobs today is in the Christian world. I coach churches, as well as not for profit organisations, on how to be successful.
When did you begin to nurse the desire to lead Nigeria?
It was just about a year ago that I had this definite feeling that I had to do this. It was a very strong awakening for me that people in my hometown were suffering and I felt I should not allow this to continue. Initially, I kind of brushed it off but then, the more I tried to brush it off, the stronger the awakening was. So I had to pray and I got a confirmation that I should go ahead and this is where we are today. We registered our political party this year and got approval on January 10, 2018, and just then we started to put offices in different states, held conventions and right now we are at the ward level. We going to the end of the finish line, we are going to fight a good fight and win.
Have you ever contested for any political post before now?
No, I haven’t contested for any political position before. We have been looking in from the outside for too long. It’s time for us to come in and implement the best practices to solve Nigerian problems. I’m coming in on the platform of the Nigeria Democratic Congress Party (NDCP). Just as I am new, the political party is new too. But the age of the political party doesn’t matter. One of the reasons we formed a political party is because it was very difficult for us to join the existing ones simply because we didn’t have anything in common. There were the issues of corruption, accountability, ownership and a whole lot of other things. We didn’t want to be a part of something we really cannot support. With NDCP, we are running to win and not to lose. We have offices now in all the 32 states and we are going to go to every ward and every location to fight for every vote.
As a newcomer, what inspired your decision to be at the helm of affairs of the country?
I have come to realise that the problem that Nigeria has is the problem I have solved all through my life. I have done these things in large organisations and countries and in the course of these, I have solved all kinds of problems that Nigeria is going through today and I can do the same if I am elected the president of Nigeria. I am a pioneer in the whole issue of leadership and so I know how to lead and manage people. But I also know how to follow; I know how to build teams and how to work with diverse group of people. We are a very diverse country with people from different tribes and regions; I have the ability to bring these various groups of people together to work for the nation. And I can do even more if I have the opportunity of being the president of Nigeria.
What precisely are the present day Nigerian leaders lacking?
I don’t want to focus on the leaders but on where Nigeria is today. Nigerians can judge the performances of their current leaders, but in terms of the things that need to change – we have a lot of unemployed youths and we have to create jobs for them. Over the years, we have relied so much on oil, now we want to branch off to manufacturing, service, healthcare, education and infrastructure. When you look at healthcare, it is only rich people that can afford it, but the poor have nothing to take care of their health; the women don’t even have access to working capital to begin a trade nor do some of the things that they would like to do. We only have about 15 per cent of our productivity due to lack of electricity. You can go on and on – all of these various aspects in the Nigeria system needs to be transformed.
How exactly are you going to bring about this transformation?
We have a six-point agenda, first we want to create jobs for the suffering youths out there. We want to create the jobs in multidimensional facets, which include job creation in manufacturing, healthcare, education, infrastructure, roads, bridges and so forth. We want to create at least seven million jobs per year. Secondly, we want to create multidimensional industry, moving away from just relying on oil as our only source revenue. Every car I see in Nigeria today is imported, so we want to start manufacturing our own cars and motorcycles here in Nigeria. We have Nigerians that have training to do that. The reason why we don’t have industries here is because investors are running away due to lack of electricity. We want to create solar energy, wind energy, hydroelectricity and even nuclear energy, if we can. All of these options are in the open onto the table. Right now in every facet of Nigeria, you only have 15 per cent productivity and 85 per cent of that productivity is wasted because they lack electricity to do their work. The roads are not good, so we want high speed rail. I was going from Ikeja to the airport and it took us two and half hours sweating, a journey that would have taken us about five minutes. So those are the issues that we want to deal with. The average Nigerians are suffering and we want to turn their suffering to success.
Political leaders in the past years made lots of promises that amounted to nothing. How are we sure you are not going to do same?
First of all, you have to look at my track record. For the last 35 years, I have not only built but designed, built, monitored and led various organisations. I have done that around the world. Recently, I was given Platinum award for political leadership by the Chief Executive Officers (CEO) Club of Nigeria. The award was given to me in Abuja by the Club’s CEO, Mr Elvis Enyioko under the chairmanship of Ambassador Ibrahim Gambari. So it is now time for me to come and give back to my country. I want to use the same innovation and creativity to help my own country. And as part of the strategies to reform Nigeria I have published a book titled, “Nigeria: Progress Begins with me: A Roadmap for Nigeria Transformation”. A book published as part of the solutions to lingering Nigeria problems. Having seen the suffering in the land and how several past leaders have been unable to see solutions to the lingering problems inspired the book. And it is to assure Nigerians that there is still hope, if the rightful candidate is voted into power.
First, you are from the minority part of Nigeria, Edo State, secondly, your political party is very new in this terrain and, thirdly, you have never played politics in Nigeria before. What gives you the confidence that you would be successful in this race?
First of all, we are running to win; we are not running to loose and we can do this by the grace of the Almighty God and by the will of the of the Nigeria people. We have reached out to many people and the fact that I am from a minority state of the country does not mean we cannot win. That is not the right thinking because we want to bring best practices to change the nation. And for those that are reading this, we hope they would give us a chance so that they can see the benefits in what we can do in less than three years to turn the economy, the dollar value and the nation around, as well as put the right infrastructure in place.
How committed is your wife and family to your political vision?
She has always supported all that I need to do. And have always told my wife and children that whenever God asks me to do something, you can either support me or you just step aside and watch me go through what I am doing and then pray for me while I am going through it but in this particular one, we are all together on it, because they believe there is suffering in the land and that we need to do this.
If there is one problem you will want to face once you assume power, if elected, what would that be?
I would say perhaps the whole issue of the warlords, the godfather issue. Because some godfathers think unless they give you credibility, you cannot do anything but I think the masses will prove them wrong in my case.
If your political party needs to align with another political party, which party will you prefer?
I think the question you need to ask is: Which party will align with us? That will be the party that has the value system of honesty and integrity and also stands for implementing best practices to change Nigeria. We would be in alignment with any political party that wants to do that.
What word of advice do you have for Nigerians, especially during these tense political moments?
I will tell every Nigerian to keep faith, hope and their enthusiasm alive. Just because of the fact that things have been tough in the past does not mean that things will continue to be tough forever. I will tell every Nigerian to just wait a moment; better days are yet to come. I will tell every Nigerian to work with us because they are likely to be beneficiaries of what will happen when we take charge of the nation soon. I want people to be able to look at the situation with optimism and with the hope that we can together build a very lasting and progressive future.