Some years back, you were in the vanguard of calling on General Sani Abacha’s regime to transmute to become a democratic government. Same issues you had used to argue for Abacha to continue to democratic leadership are confronting us, nothing seems to have changed. With hindsight, how do you see that call today?
I am Daniel Kanu, a Nigerian from Imo state basically son of the soil. In 1997, I was the National Coordinator of an organization that wanted the implementation of the Vision 2010. That Vision had several components to it, there were social, economic and political reforms involved in it. We supported the Vision 2010. We believe that for the Vision 2010 to be implemented, there was the need for the originator of the programme, General Sani Abacha, to contest and become the President for proper implementation.
What we feared will happen was what happened when Abacha died. The Vision 2010 was abandoned in several respects. Let me commend General Abdulsalam Abubakar for at least implementing a portion of the Vision 2010 which is the transition programme to a democratic government. That’s the root of the democracy we have today in Nigeria. The other parts were abandoned. The budgetary reforms, the industrialization, political development etc were all abandoned.
The problems as at that time were such as unemployment of youths and graduates, poverty, ethnicity and religious challenges etc. Like you rightly noted, the problems of 1996, 1997 and 1998 are still the same problems today in 2014.
To a high degree, I feel vindicated but I’m not rejoicing because the nation is not where it should be.
Yes vindicated but unhappy but I wish Nigeria is better off than it is today.
Let’s visit the Vision 2020. This is coming from where you called for Abacha to continue. We’ve had two constitutional conferences and now, a National Confab. Are we not running round the same circle? What hopes do you have of the current confab?
To achieve success, you must have a roadmap. All successful nations of the world have some sort of roadmaps. I believe that if Nigeria was disciplined enough in the past to have followed a roadmap, irrespective of what it looks like, we would have made it. We would have been better off than we are today.
Today, we have challenges of terrorism, unemployment, poverty, corruption, mass illiteracy etc These issues wold have been minimized to its bearable low level.
I believe implementation of any roadmap is the best for any nation that wants to succeed. Its like building a house, good but strong houses are functions of good plans.
Building a country is like building a house. A house built by good architectural design, manned by well trained masons, supervised by engineers, finished by tillers etc will come out strong, straight, beautiful and fulfilling even to the eyes.
If you build a nation without a roadmap there will be mistakes along the lines of development. As you are fixing one area, another is collapsing. So, we need a plan to follow to develop our nation.
I hope that the ongoing National Confab will be able to come up with such a plan. However, I have some concerns.
What are these concerns you have about the National Confab?
My concerns about the National Confab. First of all, I have to commend President Jonathan for creating a fertile forum for Nigerians to come together to discuss issues affecting our nation’s existence, past, present and future. That’s quite commendable. It takes someone with guts to do it.
I’m afraid that most of the people in the National Confab were part of the problems we had in the past. I believe that if you want a different result, you must do things differently.
We had people who did nothing about these same issues when they had the opportunity. Now you call another conference and all of them rush there. More so, Mr. President can’t control all those who go there, then, they rushed there to just discuss and come up with old ways of doing things. It bothers me stiff. It gives me grey hairs. It gives me great concerns.
We don’t want to be bystanders, watching things as they transpire, sit down and complain. That’s why we are coming out again as the New Deal Organisation to contribute various programmes and activities that are required to proffer tangible solutions. That brings me to the introduction of the New Deal Organisation’s Parents Against Crime Together (PACT) and the Youths Against Crime (YAC) programmes.
These are two separate programmes we intend to bring to Nigerians and intend to run and approach the National confab to re-awaken them to their responsibilities and try to drive the process.
Do you have faith in the outcome of the National Confab because I recall we’ve had several talk shops like this that never yielded any fruits?
I like to have faith. I believe sitting there to talk about things is a break through. It is up to us, good Nigerians, that mean well for the country to rally around, check on conferees if they’re misguided or lose or lack focus to help them remain focused. They represent us. We can guide them in the areas they should go. Our parts as citizens is to ensure the National Confab succeeds. For anything to succeed, you must be critical of it, so you can cover all the grey areas, fix the problems so we can come out clean and sweet.
So, we’re going to criticize them and we’re going to work with them to fix areas that they’re not doing well.
Let me test your faith in the National Confab. For about two weeks, conferees debated, fought and struggled over how many times Christianity was not mentioned in the Constitution and how Islam was mentioned 21 times. These are trivial issues to the Nigerians on the street. Can you have faith in such level of conferees?
It is interesting that you raised the issue because that’s one of the reasons we had to come out now. Yes, you are right. there were reports in the media of members sleeping at the conference, one playing scrabble etc. Religion was at the forefront of discourse as well as, leadership, rulership and decision making of this country, ethnicity, threats of walking out if a section don’t have their ways etc. I’ll advise Nigerians to stay calm. You want to test my faith. I believe we can change them. If they’re sleeping we must wake them up. If they’re misdirected, we need to guide them. I don’t think Nigerians’ problem is religion. Ethnicity is not our problem. Nigerians’ problems as far as the New Deal Organisation or Daniel Kanu is concerned is the Nigerian mindset.
What I mean is, we need to go back to family values. We need reorientation on the things that matter to our people. The success and welfare of the citizens is more paramount.
Religion does not feed anybody. Our problem is not how many times Christianity is mentioned in the Constitution or Islam is mentioned in the Constitution. As a matter of fact, they should not be there in the first place.
Government should run devoid of religion and culture. Government is government. The idea of putting traditional rulers in government is like oil and water. They don’t mix.
My dad is a monarch. When people come to resolve conflict, his yardstick for judgment is not based on principles of fairness or rules and regulations. It is based on Oh! My son, forgive this one, he’s your brother.
That doesn’t address the problem. the problem is, who was right and who was wrong? When you start mixing these issues up, you’ll mess things up.
People should be employed in government based on their capabilities, knowledge base, competence, performance etc not their religion or ethnicity. Until we start making decisions on such pedestal, that is when we can make progress.
Going back to the issue of faith, we need the media. Let me add, the Nigerian media is one of the most vibrant media in the world. They are vibrant and productive.
Are you not afraid that some conferees are bidding to play government script, the reason, we don’t know yet.
To some degrees, a government that sets up a conference must have some level of influence when you give them a guideline and they are crossing the lines, you call them to order.
For instance, Mr. President said the indivisibility of the nation cannot be discussed. If there are people making calls for the division of Nigeria, government must be able to have a way of influencing such calls out. Such control must be in the best interest of the nation.
I think Mr. President meant well to have allowed the National Confab. Every conferee has an agenda. The most important thing is to stay focused. Ordinarily, I expected conferees to say this is our country no one should pay us. National Confab should be a civic duty.
There are fears that the Federal Government has plans for tenure elongation but they probably don’t know what to do with it. What’s your take?
Reason why I don’t have that suspicion is because we have a Constitution that says Mr. President can contest twice. He has only contested once. Every Nigerian has an opinion. The last thing I heard was as Vice President he contested as a running mate to Yar’Adua, that period he was in office as President was not counted.
He has a right to contest for a second term. I believe President Jonathan has a right to contest for a second term so why does he need the National Confab to window dress tenure elongation if that is true?
You told us of PACT. What is in it for the average Nigerians?
Excellent question. The problem of Nigeria is not about the Constitution. It is about having rules and regulations that govern us. We have enough laws. You can have the best laws in the land, if you don’t have citizens who obey laws, respect each other’s cultures and values, the country will not work.
As of today, some adults, youths and children don’t know that if you take someone’s property without permission that it is a crime.
We believe that our nation’s problem is actually orientation. Every day we sit and complain about our leaders. What pool are you electing such leaders from?
A corrupt electorate will elect a corrupt leadership. We have people who can do it. The only way we can salvage the land is to choose our leaders from a different pot.
In the PACT, we’ve come up with 10 responsibilities of the children to the parents and 10 responsibilities of the parents to the children. We want parents to sign the social contract with their children. Make a re-commitment to their kids and the kids makes same to the parents.
We must go beyond lip service to the issues of this nation’s development.
Nigerians, it is believed cannot have principles on empty stomach with daunting hunger pangs. How do you orientate people with their belly not full?
Abraham Maslow’s theory also dealt with this issue. Lenin said so too. Jesus also said that man shall not live by bread alone. That means it takes sacrifice for you to get there. In Nigeria, we want it the other way round. Sacrifice is the key.
Good morals are products of sacrifice. There are nations where if you park your car and you come back three days later, nothing will happen to it. Why? Because they don’t steal. They don’t lie. We live in a nation where deception is seen as politics.
We have political leaders who support more than one candidate for the same position. Before election day, he’s supported five different candidates. It is deception but smuggled and called politics. Such leaders collect money from each of such candidates. It is simply deception.
People feel betrayed by such actions. We must change this orientation. PACT will stand up and renew every Nigerian with the family. Changing things from the top won’t work. We have to change how we respect each other, love strangers, etc
How did you come to the realisation of moral re-awakening of the nation?
It is nothing I just realized or just drew up. It’s a core fundamental value that Daniel Kanu believes in. in 1996, I needed a tool to orientate the nation which General Abacha was. Through that programme, a lot of Nigerians especially the youths were empowered. Many became governors, senators House of Reps members etc. Abacha was the vehicle to deliver these things.
Any people that want success need a vehicle to get to their destination. In USA, the youths supported Obama. They went all out for him.
We wanted the same youth empowerment under Abacha, reduce our imports, rebuild our factories, suffer for 10 or 15 years and build a nation with manufacturing base. Or else, we’ll continue as a consumption based economy.
The only income we have as far as I am concerned is crude oil. In a nation of 180million people, with our fertile land in all parts of the country, and we don’t utilize these things and we call ourselves the giant of Africa. Then, we need to align with a President that will push the cause of the people. If it happens to be Jonathan, people should respect other people’s opinions.
You had Youths Earnestly Ask for Abacha. You claim you are not political. Ain’t you afraid that this can be misconstrued again that you are using moral re-awakening to run a political project?
Very good. In 1997, I led the Youths Earnestly Ask for Abacha. When he passed away, we attempted to register a political party to continue our agenda to empower the youths. The Masses Democratic Party (MDP) nicknamed the Youth Agenda. We were not registered. We joined the PDP. I stayed in PDP. In 2002, I contested in the primaries under the New Deal programme. I actually won the PDP primaries in the AMAC/Bwari federal constituency. Obasanjo annulled my victory. Why? That I didn’t present my elementary certificate. These elements claim to be democrats.
The ulterior reason being that they don’t want me to push a youth agenda in this country. There was an attempt to stifle the youths of this country. See where we are today. The youths have been stifled and have become tools in the hands of terrorists, thugs for politicians etc
To some degree, I’ve been vindicated that you must pay attention to the youths. In 2004, when we started the New Deal Organisation, we tried to push employment package for the youths.
Again, in 2007, I went to contest for the House of Representatives, Obasanjo and his elements disqualified me. It is not like I’ve left the scene or that I left politics, I just I didn’t believe in confronting them.
I felt if they can do it well, let’s wait and see. Here we are again at a National Confab discussing the same issues I saw in 1996.
I feel disappointed in our past leaders to be honest with you. I feel disappointed that they do not have a vision that the young man had.
My company bided for oil well, got it approved and Obasanjo cancelled it, and awarded it to another company. I developed a project to protect the environment in the South-South, the same elements stole the concept.
Every good idea you have to develop this nation, someone somewhere hijacks it in the name of Due Process. As a youth I suffered the way the Nigerian youths are suffering now. We need to stop how people’s ideas are being stolen.
If that continues, you’ll have a frustrated youths. If your youths are frustrated, you’ll have high crimes in society. They become an enemy to society and government. We need to address these injustices I suffered and many others are still suffering.
We need to respect people’s unique ideas if we must progress as a nation and stop stealing people’s concepts and projects in the name of Due Process.
Have you forgiven Obasanjo?
I call myself a Christian by spirit. Yes, I’ve forgiven Obasanjo. Though, I feel sorry for the Nigerian youths for the collateral damage that some of their decisions have caused.
I forgive him because God says we should forgive. Forgiveness is not for him but for my prayers to be answered.
Don’t you think Obasanjo was a captive of people around him? If that is true, don’t you think Jonathan is a captive of people around him too?
It was said that Abacha was a captive of some people. Some said no, he was responsible for all that happened in his government. Obasanjo has to follow the same route. He has to take responsibilities as a leader. Leadership is about taking responsibilities. As a hard man, he’ll be happy to take responsibility. I don’t think he will want to blame anyone.
A good leader will be responsible for the actions of his team.
Is your project not politics but truly to raise the honesty, integrity and morality bar in the society?
First of all, what we are doing is not about politics but there’s politics in everything. There’s politics in family business, corporate world, church, mosque etc.
You can’t succeed in programmes like this without government involvement. So we invite all governments at all levels, all political parties, all Nigerians etc to come join us.
Are you campaigning for Jonathan?
We at New Deal Organisation are campaigning for reforms, re-orientation of our people and at the end of the day, if we see a leader we feel fits that shoe, who thinks and shares what we stand for, its our civic duty as responsible Nigerian citizens to support such candidate(s) at levels from federal, state, wards or community level.