Ambassador Chief Gabriel Chukwuma Oyibode was among those who in 2015 wanted to be Delta State governor. The estate surveyor, philanthropist, businessman, and politician in this interview with ANTHONY ADA ABRAHAM in Abuja, disclosed that it is good to submit to authorities, it is good to have mentorship but not political godfathers.
As a stakeholder, what’s your take on the state of the nation?
Well, for me, the administration of the All Progressives Congress government is not doing very well in terms of economic policies. The policies so far have been so inconsistent and people are yet to begin to feel the dividends of democracy especially when it has to do with the promises which the APC government or as a party promised the Nigerian people during campaigns. I will score them below 40 percent so far in terms of economic policy. You see today, the recession, the economic downturn has eaten so hard on the common man that it has become very difficult for businesses to thrive and for the common man to earn a living. It’s not been easy. Even people in the villages or rural areas feel the pain and it is worrisome. If you talk about security, I could score them well. The government is doing well in the aspect of security challenges, fighting insurgency in the northeast or militancy in the Niger Delta area. So far, the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari has done creditably well in trying to stem the activities of the insurgency. Coming to the aspect of corruption, I will score him very high because the corruption fight that he has undertaken so far has yielded a lot of fruits; a lot of dividends in the sense that there is now sanity in the public administration. People now do things with the consciousness of doing the right thing because corruption has eaten so deep into the ways and fabrics of Nigerians. To a large extent, even the low in the society imbibe the culture of corruption and so it is in all strata and as a result, it has given the nation a very bad image among the League of Nations. For me today, in the civil service, people now do the job with due diligence. People now earn their money; they go to work when they are supposed to go to work, they carry out their responsibility the way it is supposed to be done without even being influenced. The fight against corruption has really yielded some positive results; people do things with fear now unlike previous administrations that people do anything with impunity in respect of employments, contracts and others. You give contracts to friends and cronies, contracts to those who can influence them, maybe the highest bidder and all that. But now, due process is being fully observed in procurement procedures and that is a very big plus to the government.
You contested for governorship in Delta State in 2015, please share the challenges you encountered?
I contested for the office of the governor of Delta State in 2015 under the platform of the PDP. It was very interesting. Although I had never been involved in politics and that was my first shot. I went into it because I felt I need to give my people good governance, I need to rescue Delta State from decay and poverty and provide quality education to the common man. That was why I went into it. Unfortunately, I went under a political party that is so engrossed with this godfatherism syndrome and political juggernauts that go into politics with the aim of making money. A lot of people see politics as business, an avenue to cajole people, tell all forms of lies to get money and at the end of the day, they show you the other side of them.
It was an interesting venture anyway but unfortunately, the other side is not interesting because when you deal with people thinking you are dealing with right minded people, people who share the same view and the same ideology with you and you never knew that most of them are sycophants, political stooges planted into your camp to run you down and destabilise you. That was one of the experiences I had at the end of the day. It played out at primaries, where I got to know there are lots of fake people in politics; traitors, sycophants, liars, all these I got to know and these are the challenges. I just hope that Nigerian people and the political class will have a new frame of mind where they see politics as not just a game where the winner takes all but as a process to give good governance to the people and that is one of the greatest challenges. Another challenge I had as a green horn in the political class was that I never had a godfather and I never had a sponsor. So, those were very serious challenges that I encountered because I came out from nowhere. It was very difficult for people to believe my agenda, my purpose, and my determination for the people. Though I was well accepted because the people, populace, the electorates were interested, seeing a young and vibrant man like me coming out on stage but unfortunately I was never given the opportunity to go for the general elections.
Do you believe in godfatherism in politics?
There’s godfatherism in politics. To me, I do not believe in godfatherism but mentorship. I believe in mentorship not godfatherism where you handpick your most loyal person whom you think you can control when in power. You install the person or impose the person as against the popular interest of the people. So, for that, I don’t believe in godfatherism; I don’t like it and I will never like it but it is good to be loyal to authorities. It is good to submit to authorities, it is good to have mentorship but not godfatherism.
How do you think that godfatherism can be eradicated out of Nigerian politics?
Godfatherism can never be eradicated from Nigerian politics or from politics. What I’m saying is that godfatherism with integrity is okay but not godfatherism with favouritism. In the political class, you cannot push away the elders of the party, the founders of politics or the political movement. You need their political and fatherly advice and experience to move the political party but they should lead right, they should lead with integrity, there should be sanity in the system. I am not against godfatherism but there should be a total reorientation of the system or of the mindset of the people, have the interest of the people you want to give leadership to in mind. That is my take.
Tell us about the Gabriel Oyibode foundation?
Gabriel Oyegbode foundation is a non-profit organisation. The truth is that I have been a philanthropist for a very long time; it is something I like doing as somebody who grew from grass to grace, as a homeboy, I know what it means for somebody to be in want, I know what it means for somebody to be in plenty. I know how I grew up and I know the challenges that I faced when I was growing up. So, being a virtue which God has given me, I do not withhold from the common man and that gave birth to Gabriel Oyibode foundation to enable me reach out to the less privileged; to those who are in need. That is why Gabriel Oyibode foundation was born.
You are the chairman of Geotag Oil and Gas, what are the challenges facing the oil and gas sector?
When we started, we talked about instability in our foreign exchange policy. So that is the major challenge apart from the dwindling international oil price. For now in Nigeria, with these two factors, the instability in the oil price and the poor forex situation in the country, it has made it very difficult to continue in business. Today, a lot of oil giants are folding up in Nigeria because of this challenge we are talking about. I am not at the helm of affairs of government, I am not the CBN governor or the Minister of finance, Minister of budget and economic planning but I expect to encourage employment and to increase our GDP in Nigeria. A better response should be put in place to encourage every sector, not just only the oil and gas because this policy is affecting every sector. We hope that the government should look more into that and see what they can do to liberalise the foreign exchange policy so as to encourage businesses, private sector and even more investors to come in.
You are a conflict resolution specialist and also a stakeholder in Nigeria and the Niger Delta region, how do you think the FG can bring relative peace to the Niger Delta?
In every conflict situation, there is a remote cause of conflict. So, it is very important for government to unravel the remotest cause of this conflict. If you are able to know the cause of every problem then you should be able to know the way around it to solve it. Find out what the agitation is all about then, as a good leader, you listen to people to find a solution. When you are able to solve the remotest cause of a conflict and a crisis situation, then you would also be able to know what they want, what you can do for them to assuage their grievances. Again, if their demands have provisions in the constitution, then implement it. For instance, if their demands are 10 and you promise that out of these 10 because of the present economic situation or because of circumstances beyond the control of this present administration, you will be able to do 1 to 3 and in the course of doing 1-3 we would like you to lay down your arms, stop destroying the environment, stop destroying national assets, stop destroying the common wealth of the nation. Let us start with this; I think the people will listen.
Do you think youths are leaving up to expectations in Nigeria?
What do you want the youths to do? When, they are not being encouraged. They need encouragement, they need motivation, they need empowerment and anything short of these becomes very difficult and that is why the youths take to the streets and take to every form of criminal activities in other to survive because they are frustrated. When the youths are not meaningfully engaged in the society and in governance, you leave them with no option but to take to the streets and they practice all manner of criminality because they are frustrated. They could go into robbery, they could go into stealing, militancy and insurgency and that is exactly what is happening in Nigeria today because they are not meaningfully engaged, the government needs to give them more incentives. The present administration is doing its best but they need to do more.
What area do you think the legislature hasn’t gotten it right?
The legislature is doing well but they still need to improve, one thing is to make law another thing is to see the law being implemented. Our problem today is not all about legislature, we have good laws even though some seem to be obsolete to meet with the needs of the present economic reality. We have good laws in place but the problem is implementation, how well do we implement these laws? How does it affect the interest of the common man? Where does it place us in the League of Nations? It is implementation and it has to do with integrity leadership, to lead with integrity.
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