A former member of the All Progressives Congress, Adamu Garba, who pulled out of the presidential race, reveals why he dumped the ruling party for the Young Progressives Party, his motivation for joining the presidential race, the forthcoming elections and his thoughts on the Not-Too-Young-To-Run Act
What informed your decision to leave the All Progressives Congress?
What informed my decision were certain steps the party had taken over time that seem to betray the tenets of democracy. A situation where people went for a convention and it turned out to be an enthronement. As we got ready for the primaries, it became clear that there was a game plan geared towards installing somebody as a consensus candidate. It betrays the tenets of democracy completely. At the same time, we young people in the party are completely alienated. The more you bring new ideas, new solutions and suggest changes, the more you are perceived as an enemy and somebody that should be thrown out of the window. The third case is the over-monetisation of the system of the political process. It is a threat to our future as young people. Why? This is a third world economy that generates its resources from the ground. Since the resources are not coming from the human brain but natural resources, human lives are going to be less of concern to policymakers than the resources on the ground. That’s why you would see killings in Katsina State, Zamfara State, the Niger Delta, South-East and the North-East and nobody is doing anything about them. It is because we don’t care about humans but resources. That is the direction of the policymakers. That’s why our young people are running away from the country and nobody cares. In fact, some ministers are even saying it is good. So, you would see we don’t have a future here. We have ‘monetised’ everything, from health care to education, roads and even the office that is supposed to deliver the goods. That’s one thing that made me conclude that the party really doesn’t represent the future.
In 2019, you wanted to run for the presidency and the party pegged the ticket at N40m, how much did you project it would be this time?
My expectation was that it might remain the same because we complained at the time that the cost was too much. But the President (Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.)) himself lamented that the price was more than he expected. He urged the party to review and reconsider the cost in the future so that young people and those who don’t have enough could participate. I said no problem since the President also shared our concern, we should give them the benefit of the doubt. But in 2023, it is really shocking that the President superintended the NEC (National Executive Committee) meeting that approved the N100m for the cost of the presidential forms, more than double the previous cost in a country where the minimum wage is N30, 000 – that is if it is even being paid. In any ideal democratic country, you must have the right to vote and be voted for as a citizen and your rights must be recognised across the board, regardless of your economic status. However, in our case, almost 95 per cent of the people seemingly have no right to be voted for. They only have the right to vote. How can this be a democracy?
How were you able to raise the N83m for the party forms?
First, I rallied my friends, colleagues and family members whom I told what I was passing through while trying to raise the N100m. I published it online for the general public to see, urging them to contribute and let’s get the forms. Eventually, I was able to raise N1.4m through my online appeals while some friends gave N82m, making a total of N83.4m. On my own, all I could afford was N63m. But then I discovered that when you bought the forms, you had to post-date a letter of voluntary withdrawal. So, in a situation where people donated willfully to see me participate in the primary, perhaps many of them are delegates who hope to vote for me, and I have already post-dated my voluntary withdrawal before joining other aspirants, this betrays democracy. In all honesty, that was why I said I could not risk it.
The APC later clarified that the letter of withdrawal was not compulsory.
I don’t agree with that. The APC is banking on the Electoral Act which says primary should be any of direct, indirect or consensus. The party is considering all the three options and expects you to fill all the three. Should you decide to choose only direct and indirect and refuse consensus, it will look like you are deliberately betraying the concept of the Electoral Act. When I look at all these, it didn’t make sense to me to carry people’s money and drop it there all in the name of trying to secure some relevance. To me, it looks as if you are contributing to the party, and if you plan to do that, why not go through other channels?
Do you plan to return the money?
We have started returning them. For the ones that I posted online, I published the statement of account and all the records for everybody who contributed to kindly highlight theirs. Some have done that and we have refunded. As of last week, we were able to pay over N20m because somebody is helping to manage the account. Many friends and family members too have collected theirs because some sold properties to help raise the money. I know a guy who sold his car for N1.5m in installments. He brought me the first N500,000 that he was first given and when he rallied round for the remaining N1m, he brought it to me. So, how can I in all honesty donate that amount to the party because I want to be relevant? It doesn’t make sense. I had to call them (the donors) to a meeting and I told them the situation and the facts on the ground. We had to sign this and that as part of the conditions. When they heard my explanations, everybody agreed with me that it didn’t make any sense. That was the reason we had to withdraw from the contest and eventually exit the party.
Did you write any letter of complaint to the party before you resigned?
Yes, of course. You know this is a party that is not hidden from public knowledge. The first time they published the fee of N100m, I was all over the media complaining that they cannot monetise public office. It has to be done by looking at their (aspirants) competences, capacity, credibility, programme, orientation and sellable solutions that Nigerians can be able to buy into. That is what you should do before fixing money. But in our case, you fixed the gate fee and once you have the money, you can come. The party responded in an interview that they are trying to separate serious contestants from the unserious ones. In fact, he used some derogatory words that sounded like motor park slang. I responded by saying the public transportation system is an arrangement where only money can buy you a ticket. That’s why it is a motor park. It is a place that, no matter who you are, whether dirty or clean, intelligent or not, once you have money, you will be transported. That was what we turned the party into. It means if I am a kidnapper, I can abduct someone, raise the money and buy the forms. If I am a fraudster or Yahoo Boy, I can also buy the forms, because there is no criteria that will stop me from doing so. This is so low for an office that is supposed to deliver for the public good. Those were my complaints. Few days ago, I was going through a French intelligence paper, The African Report, where they looked into the monetisation of Nigeria’s democracy. On the average, you have to spend $2bn as a candidate to win this 2023 election.
That’s a lot of money; how realistic is that?
The report projected that if you have to go through the delegate system, you will have to earmark a minimum of N80bn in addition to the $240,000 that you will pay to buy the forms. That is the most expensive in the world. If you go to the United States, the total amount spent by both President Joe Biden and Donald Trump for the 2020 election was just $6.4bn combined. That is a country with a Gross Domestic Product per capita income of about $64,000. Here in Nigeria, you are spending over $4bn. It doesn’t make sense and we can’t continue like this. That was why I decided to pull out of the party completely. We need to chart a new path for this country.
Do you think this Not-Too-Young-To-Run law was in vain?
The ‘Not-Too-Young-To-Run’ bill was a scam to rally youths to win the 2019 elections. In 2019, there was this movement of the young people. In the North-East, many young people came out to aspire for the presidency. Look at 2023, very few of us who contested last time are still struggling. Why? Maybe because we are pushed by an ideology. So many people were demoralised and disenfranchised. Some of them used their money to sponsor their campaigns. I also ran bankrupt when I returned from my campaign. I had to struggle to come back because I used my personal money to fund the campaign. I am now trying to correct it, going forward. It means that ‘Not-Too-Young-To-Run’ is a joke. I saw statistics by the BBC. They have calculated that if you are a senior civil servant in Nigeria, maybe at a director’s level earning N350,000 per month, you will have to save for 24 years before you can raise N100m. Now imagine a young man at the age of 35 to 40 years, when will you get into civil service to save N100m where you won’t buy anything? This is not the kind of country we need as young people looking into the future. These people in power are in their 60s, 70s and 80s and are going. We are going to carry over a very serious burden. We should begin to challenge the status quo and remove the mini incentives they give us; else we won’t get anywhere. I am trying to face reality.
Before the APC announced the sale of forms, only about nine persons declared their intention to run for the presidency. After the fee was pegged at N100m, the number of aspirants rose to almost 30. Rather than discourage aspirants, more people bought the forms. What do you make of that?
That is exactly the miscalculation of the party. The APC leadership said they fixed that amount to discourage those who are not serious. But this is the most crowded contest that we have seen in Nigeria since 1999. N100m became what people used to show that they were not some people’s mates. Some of them clearly stated that they were actually making investment in the party for you to be able to negotiate for certain positions. It becomes showmanship, perhaps to spite the poor. We are complaining about inflation, poverty, deprivation, our students are at home and can’t go to school due to the strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities and we are flaunting N100m. One of the shocking things is that some of the people who gave the N100m are occupying public offices. You sign people’s money out and you still came out to pay N100m to a political party. It means you are grabbing something from the public. As a minister, if I indicated interest to contest an office and I still occupy that office as a minister, you can imagine that kind of confusion. How can somebody with all the organs of the executive governor come in to contest? You also have the senate president coming to contest. What kind of country is this? We don’t have to go this way.
It is about a week to the APC primary, who do you see winning it?
I think one of the serious problems the APC is facing is the fact that the 2023 elections are about a year away. Look at the frontline politicians. If you talk about the PDP, people can predict Atiku or Wike. When it comes to the APC, we really don’t know. It is like we are banking on the fake vote bank of the President. This doesn’t exist again. But they still think they can just carry Buhari’s signature to win. This can’t work. There are lots of speculations about former President Goodluck Jonathan and certain agenda. Asiwaju Bola Tinubu has invested more. He has moved around and got lots of support from the delegates. Whether they want to disenfranchise this huge democratic investment or not, we don’t know. Perhaps, they are trying to have a forced consensus. And once they do that, they are disenfranchising their major actors. That’s why we who believe in democracy and the future don’t believe that’s our domain. We need to be very strategic in our thinking.
You don’t seem to believe in the consensus arrangement?
I really don’t believe in it. There is supposed to be a contest. The only thing you have as human beings that differentiate you from every other creature is choice. How can that choice be denied and you will still consider yourself a human being? That was why democracy was birthed to create social justice, participation and construct that will bring about social contract. All these things are supposed to be there. Suddenly, somebody went there and announced that the party has decided. Who is the party?
Would you know why the APC has not refunded the APC aspirants who stepped down for others during the March 26 convention; it’s about two months now?
I think they may. One of my friends was affected. He contested the national chairmanship position. That young man paid N20m to the party and when I asked him, he was still optimistic they would pay. But one of my contacts in the party confided in me that once money enters the APC account, it is gone.
What is next for Adamu Garba?
Adamu Garba is going forward to join any political party and continue his ambition of trying to win the presidency of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in 2023. A party that is new, fresh and driven by young people’s ideologies. To me, it seems like the replica of young progressives. It is called Young Progressives Party, which is quite different from the APC. I will give many young people the opportunity to participate.
How would you rate the Buhari’s presidency and as the leader of the APC?
Buhari and everything that has to do with the APC have failed Nigerians. All of them! I don’t want to solely blame the president because he has a cabinet, ministers, members of the executive and legislative members. He has so many members of the party that are all moving along with him. That establishment that has become so elitist, cynical and undemocratic has failed the system. They place less value on human lives, the economy has gone worse and food inflation keeps getting higher. One of the biggest mistakes was closing our land borders, where food was being brought in. People fell into depression and poverty. Bandits also came in with guns and brought destruction to our land. When you look at the whole arrangement, you will agree with me that Buhari has failed economically, physically and socially. We are completely backward. All these small amenities and infrastructure we are talking about are Chinese investments. When you build rails using Chinese money, it means you have Chinese rails in your territory. We always make the mistake of looking at loans to build infrastructure in the country. The United States and the West’s loan prepayment is tied to sovereign wealth while China is tied to sovereign assets. It means that for them (China) to invest in that particular asset, they must own it first, run it and give back when they recover their money. So technically, we are riding on Chinese train and roads in Nigeria. Should we default, China has to invade this country to secure their money. This is very risky. We shouldn’t celebrate mediocrity. This is not the Nigeria that we dreamt of.
What should be the agenda of the next president?
Nigeria, to me, is an economically integrated entity, not a political entity, I always say that. There must be a new vision that will bring about how we can integrate our economy properly and then decentralise our politics. We are one nation, one country and one sovereign state but we are politically, ethnically and religiously different. We must accept these differences and tolerate them as what they are, then decentralise the politics of the country based on the identities of the people living in a sovereign state and then concentrate on the economy. If Nigerians decide to vote for me, perhaps as a president, my task is to pay attention to only the economy. We will create councils to pay attention to the politics and security altogether. I mean councils for political and security affairs. We can build a nation, reconnect our social lives and uplift the standard of living of the average Nigerian. Currently, we have about 110 million people living below one dollar a day. We are looking at an average of over 10 dollars a day. We have so many programmes that we should pay attention to in building people’s economy and livelihood. Any Nigerian president that comes with so-called unity, zoning or religion, these people are just destroying us. The more we are divided, the more we fall into trouble as I mentioned earlier. They want that division, destruction and for us to give up on the country so that they can take those resources like gold and oil that they will sell to feed their own appetite. The more Nigerians run away from the country, the more destruction is going on in Zamfara, the more they are happy. It means gold will not be licensed in that area. They will pick it easily. The more there is destruction in the Niger Delta, oil will be flowing. If it is two million barrels that should be declared, they will declare one million and pocket the proceeds from the remaining one million barrels. That is the situation.