LAGOS, Nigeria. The Presidential candidate of the National Conscience Party, Mr. Martin Onovo, told a journalist with Punch his political aspiration and why he is confident of winning Nigeria’s presidential election scheduled to hold in February 2015.
You’re a petroleum engineer, have you always been interested in politics?
Every responsible person should be interested in who leads his/her country and how it is governed. You are not immune from the consequences of bad governance because you are an engineer or a journalist. We all suffer the consequences of bad governance like insecurity, inflation, unemployment, corruption, poor power supply, weak healthcare system, poor education, high poverty rate, and so on. We must all ensure that only the right people get to public office. If good people refuse to participate in politics, then they must accept to be led by bad people.
What’s your opinion of Nigerian politics?
Democracy has two pillars; the rule of law and the integrity of the ballot. Both are absent in Nigerian politics today. What we have today in Nigeria is a ‘criminocracy.’ An NCP government will restore the rule of law and the integrity of the ballot.
How will you describe good governance as you would want to provide it if elected president?
Good governance simplified is, the efficient use of the resources of the country for the security, welfare and prosperity of the people.
How prepared are you for the responsibility of leading Nigeria out of its current socio-economic problems?
I am obviously the most prepared candidate as you can see from our vision. We have witnessed misgovernance in Nigeria. We have identified with Prof. Chinua Achebe, Prof. Wole Soyinka, the Hon. Justice Muhammed Uwaiz, Prof. Ben Nwabueze, and so on. We have the solution to Nigeria’s problems.
Why are you so confident of your chances in the election?
I am supremely confident because I think properly and I believe that most Nigerians think properly and will do the right thing by voting for the National Conscience Party. We have promised to reduce fuel price by improving domestic crude oil refining, which translates to lower cost, but the incumbent oversaw the subsidy fraud. We have also promised to increase minimum wage by decreasing the maximum wage while maintaining the wage bill; meanwhile, the incumbent government has been delaying salaries and owing pensions. We will spend about $9bn to double power generation in two and half years. Since 1999, Nigeria has spent about $51bn on power, according to the Financial Intelligence Magazine report, but generation has remained at the same level, which is about 3,000MW. So, every reasonable voter will vote for NCP because the NCP is committed to serving the Nigerian people and has done so since it was founded.
But some people say the contest is between President Goodluck Jonathan and Gen. Muhammadu Buhari and that other aspirants like yourself are only adding up to the number.
We think differently. The majority of Nigerians see the two candidates as the problems with the country. Their parties have been indicted for rigging elections in the past. They have brazenly violated Section 91 of the Electoral Act on election finance. They both deploy slush funds. Jonathan, globally reputed to be clueless and Buhari, an old grandpa, cannot win in a free and fair election. Nigerian people have openly rejected both of them but the corrupt power brokers in the country still wish to impose one of them on us by manipulating the process. We are sure they will fail.
You are clamoring for a young, world class professional as president, what makes you think he or she would perform better than the old folks?
We will most definitely do better with their support because we have the vision and vigour to lead. We have modern skills and knowledge. We have a broader outlook and contemporary worldview required to drive growth in the modern world. In Nigeria, generally speaking, excluding the exceptions, early retirement age is 45 years. Regular retirement age is 55 years, compulsory retirement age is 60 years and life expectancy for men is 49 years, according to the 2013 In-country World Health Organisation report.
Funding is a major issue in Nigerian politics, are you pretending not to have money?
Some candidates are using slush funds and this is very corrupt and dangerous to national development. We should be interested in the source of the trillions of Naira that parties in power are spending on these elections. Also, the Electoral Act (Section 91 – Election finance limits) is being violated with impunity. The Independent National Electoral Commission must disqualify them, otherwise, the election is being pre-rigged. Section 91 of the Electoral Act states that, “The maximum election expenses to be incurred by a candidate at a presidential election shall be N1bn.”
It seems to be the norm in Nigerian politics to have godfathers. Do you have a godfather somewhere?
My godfather was the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi. He was a great patriot and legal luminary. He was the father of legal activism in Nigeria. He loved and worked very selflessly for Nigeria. We are very proud of his legacy.
Since he’s dead, how do you plan on winning without a living godfather?
Very many patriotic Nigerians are working selflessly at their own cost to ensure that we win. The majority of Nigerians will vote for NCP in a free and fair election because they know that we will represent their best interest. Our people know us and we know them; they love us and we love them. Our founder and our legacy of patriotism and integrity speak for us.
You’re sometimes on television analysing the petroleum sector, what is the solution to the crisis we currently have in the oil sector?
We have always seen the need to diversify the Nigerian economy since the first oil glut. But successive illegitimate and corrupt governments have been so ineffective that they have been unable to diversify the economy. We will expand the downstream oil sector to exceed domestic consumption and gain revenue from exporting petroleum products. We will improve agricultural production, exploit solid minerals and generally achieve a quantum leap in the productivity of all sectors starting with increased power supply and lower fuel prices. We will improve our national work ethics.
How can we deal with the economy that seems to be on the downhill?
The only way to improve an economy is to improve productivity. To achieve a remarkable increase in productivity, we must control corruption and improve our national work ethics. Corruption does not only divert development funds to wasteful ostentation, it also discourages the productive workforce. We will control corruption using our 4Es anti-corruption strategy. We will expand the downstream oil sector to exceed domestic consumption and gain revenue from exporting petroleum products instead of crude oil. Our leadership by example will motivate the Nigerian workforce.
People say we over-rely on oil, what else should the government be doing?
It is the illegitimate and corrupt political office holders that over-rely on oil, not the over-exploited and impoverished Nigerian people that are made to pay exorbitant rates for their own petroleum products. Our government will improve agricultural output, exploit solid minerals, improve manufacturing, tourism, and so on. It is very annoying that a basic necessity like electric power supply is still a challenge in Nigeria. South African per capita power is about 60 times Nigeria’s per capita power. We will use only $9bn to double power supply in two and half years. This will still be too low to power the Nigerian economy but it will be better than what we have today. With improved revenue, we will do more. We have promised less because we know we can do more. That is integrity.
You also said you are going to reduce fuel price, how do you hope to defeat the cartel in the oil sector?
What cartel? Is there a cartel? Please let us know who the members are, what they do and how they do it. Is the cartel stronger than our Department of State Security? Are its members in government? We will decrease fuel price, simply by improving domestic refining which as you know is cheaper than the current perversion of importing petroleum products. We will revamp and upgrade all existing refineries and also build more refineries.
Every administration promises to improve power supply but each one of them has failed, why do you think Nigerians should believe you on this?
I am a world-class energy expert with international work experience. We have done similar projects in our careers in the oil industry where we independently, power ourselves. We speak with our professional authority and integrity. We have given specific and measurable key performance indices. We signed and published our campaign speech so that all Nigerians can hold us to our promises. All attendees and media personnel at the NCP public presentation of its presidential and vice-presidential candidates got a signed copy.
What about the Boko Haram crisis, how should Nigeria tackle it?
Boko Haram is one of the natural consequences of corruption and misgovernance. Government has lost moral authority because of its illegitimacy and corruption. Therefore, it has become very ineffective. Moral authority is critical to leadership effectiveness. We will motivate, train, equip and arm our security forces to improve Intelligence, surveillance, response time and capacity. We will restore the pride and effectiveness of our security forces. We will robustly confront and expel Boko Haram completely from Nigerian territory. We will correct the social weaknesses that result from misgovernance that led to Boko Haram insurgency and increased crime rate all over Nigeria.
You said recently that if elected as president, your government would expel Boko Haram, don’t you think the target is too bogus?
Bogus? We need to expel Boko Haram from our territory. We can expel them. We will most definitely expel them when elected. Our forces are larger and better trained than the senseless rag-tag band of Boko Haram cowards. We will motivate, equip and arm our men better to defeat Boko Haram if they do not surrender after a stern warning. Only a bad government like the illegitimate and corrupt one in place now will tolerate Boko Haram after the incident at Federal Government College, Buni-Yadi, Yobe State where about 59 of our children were killed in horrific circumstances.
During the 2011 general elections, you also said you would sacrifice your life for the development of your people (Nigerians), if the sacrifice involves you leading soldiers to Sambisa forest to rescue the Chibok schoolgirls now, are you ready?
We will all die sometime. Nobody lives here forever. Can you confirm that the girls are in Sambisa forest today? We will first determine where the girls are, who is detaining them or keeping them from their families and then, we can take appropriate actions for their rescue or ransom. There is a story that they were sold or married off. We will acquire intelligence information, confirm it and then act appropriately.
Some people have described you as a political novice, that you have had no tutelage and experience. Don’t you think you need some experience?
I am a world-class engineering and management professional. I have international working experience. Specifically, I worked very successfully in Europe, the US and Nigeria. I was also a student politician. I was a labour activist; I ran for senate in 2007, I aspired for the presidency in 2011 and I am running for the Nigerian presidency today as the best candidate if we use the universal criteria of vision, vigour, integrity, competence and national acceptability.