Former National Secretary of the Peoples Democratic and immediate past Chairman, Board of Trustees of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund, Dr. Musa Babayo spoke with reporters.
Q: One is tempted to ask whether you stay in TETFUND has temper your involvement in active politics?
A: No it didn’t, really. It rather enhanced it. Every calling, every position of trust, of responsibility that a person occupies creates an enabling environment for him to connect; to connect with critical stakeholders within that operating environment. Politics is about connection with critical stakeholders in different segments of the society. For you to do what you are required to do and do it well, you have to put people first because people are the recipient of your own individual efforts and by extension the efforts of all others that you are saddled with the responsibility of managing.
Q: Should l say you connect more with those in the educational sector this days than with politicians?
A: Exactly! I will say yes. I connected more with those in the educational sector because that was my immediate constituency. I had the responsibility of servicing them, identifying their needs and segmenting those needs and developing specific products. In this case, projects that will not only meet their expectations, but exceed them. That is the challenge of pursuing actions, policies, strategies, strengthening your internal systems and procedures that will help significantly in your effort to restore, to consolidate and rehabilitate educational infrastructure in all the tertiary education segment. Not only the educational infrastructure but also the most important resource in any set-up in any organization and that is the human resource. At the fund, we had a rare privilege and honour to do those things that in our own judgment and opinion had and is still impacting significantly on the human resource.
Q: Is it right to say that your involvement with Tetfund took you far from politics and that that created some vacuum in your party?
A: Well, I don’t think it’s true, rather I will say it was enhanced. Enhanced because you have values that you have added and you have impacted significantly in helping government connect with its important constituents because governance is about people, governance is about getting things done and adding value to peoples lives. If those in government fail to connect with the people that they are entrusted with the responsibility of managing, then one will safely conclude that the government is not doing well.
Q: So, can say if Babayaro had contributed so much to human development in such a big way, therefore should have commanded a political position by now either in Bauchi or at the federal level?
A: Well you know politics is a management of interest. People come from different tendencies and like bureaucracies, not the best sometimes rise to the top.
Q: You spoke about tendencies, where do you belong?
A: Well, I belong to a tendency that has at its central pivot the development of the human factor. When you take that central position and your concerns at all times are to do those things that will impact on lives, the chances are that your tendency will be people centric.
Q: Are we talking about a typical Nigerian politician here?
A: Well, yes am talking like a typical Nigerian politician but when you pursue those tendencies, because in politics the right way to go for me is to enhance the level of morality and ethical values. Politics of morality in my judgment is what will lead to economic prosperity for citizens of Nigeria.
Q: Are you referring to former national secretary of PDP?
A: I am talking about the former National Secretary of the PDP
Q: Did PDP enhanced the prosperity of the people?
A: Well it does to a point, but there were disconnects.
Q: Can you tell us more?
A: Disconnects basically with its core values. The values of integrity, equity, justice and transparency. These were the values on which the PDP was built. And when you have a disconnect between what happened in our very recent history , with what it ought to be, then you begin to see a process of decay and failures on the part of the people that had the responsibility or were charged with the responsibility of managing this enterprise, that political platform.
Q:Could that be the reason you came up with the three R agenda?
A: Exactly. I wanted to reconnect, I wanted to rebuild and I wanted to redirect because unless you move the political party back to those founding principles, the chances are that you may not be able to achieve your vision.
Q: Why didn’t you get it, the President didn’t want you?
A: I wouldn’t say the President; rather the party…Like I mentioned earlier, politics is an aggregation of interests. Probably quite a number of other tendencies were of the opinion that those three R principles will distance them away from achieving their own personal political objectives. Those were not their interest and they felt this gentleman, shall he have his way, chances are that we may be far away from the realization of our own political philosophy, political goals and aspirations and therefore those tendencies may have come together to stop us.
Q: Were you not the candidate of the core north and Jonathan feared the core north?
A: Well, I was a candidate from the North East. The chairmanship of the party was zoned to the North- East which is part of the core north and I vied for the position together with eleven others and I emerged. The closest rival to me had two votes. Unfortunately still, like the bureaucracy I mentioned earlier, the best doesn’t always get to the top. In this case the winner of the primaries was stopped.
Q: What did Jonathan tell you, did he call you to step down?
A: Well that was basically what it was. Yes to step down, other interest, groups and tendencies within the party had probably the same opinion. But one thing with electoral democracy is not about the face of the candidate, your likeness or dislike for him/her that matters, once there is a contest and someone emerges, everybody has a sacrosanct duty to respect that particular electoral outcome. That is democracy.
Q: So After that disappointment, were happy to move on?
A: I was happy to move on because of my belief that I have a responsibility to add value to the Nigerian project and that to me, is more important than any other thing. Every other thing is secondary and I was just concerned about looking at the big picture and the big picture is my country Nigeria which I had the opportunity to serve and I said I should do it well. With PDP or no PDP, politics or no politics. Every Nigerian has a civil responsibility to do those things that will add value to his fellow men and women.
Q: Did you see the 2015 election defeat coming?
A: I will say yes because you need not be a soothsayer to make political predictions. I knew the contest would be tough because we were approaching the elections from a position of significant weakness.
Q: Significant weakness, how do you mean?
A: What I mean basically, coming down from the convention of 2012, you need a vehicle, in this context, a political party that is strong, focused and vibrant to promote those values that I mentioned earlier on to drive the process forward. Unfortunately we had a disconnect, from day one. You know all that happened, the expulsion of critical stakeholders from the party, their movement into a new party and so on and so forth. Most importantly Nigeria and Nigerians were ready for a paradigm shift, ready for change.
In Politics unlike business, the most critical resource is the human person not money. When we are dealing in elections, money facilitates in terms of logistics, but if you disconnect your platform from the people, it often leads to tragedy.
Q: But Nigerians would say the President lost the election because he disconnected with the people not with politicians?
A: Yes, with the people, this is the primary responsibility of a political party. A political party in any organized political set up is to collate ideas, aggregate those ideas, develop specific key action plans and you do that not in a vacuum. You generate ideas from the market place; you need to go to Wuse market, for example, and listen to the butchers what is of interest to them. It is a power bloc within that particular market setup. If you fail to carry them along you may most likely loose their votes and of course the elections.
Q: The PDP was full of itself then?
A: Probably arrogance.
Q: Are you beginning to restrategize in Bauchi politics?
A: Unquestionably yes, from the day the other contest ended, the new one commenced. At the group level, I will say no, we have not, basically because 2019 is a long way to go. It is a long way to go because the responsibility of each and every one of us is to help those that God has entrusted with the responsibility of managing our societies to manage well.
Q: So you are supporting the current governor in Bauchi now?
A: We must support the governor in Bauchi now to succeed. His success is our collective success; the time for politics will come but it is not the time now.
Q: I Thought you wanted to be governor?
A: People thought I wanted to become a governor, but I was never part of the process that leads to that, but desire to become one does not preclude my responsibility to help those who are in charge now to do it well.
Q: Do you still want to be governor?
A: That is for God to decide. I want to have a steady growth in my political and professional career, where it lands me, I leave it to God. Like I mentioned in passing earlier, what it takes to become whatever I am capable of becoming I will do. I am a professional in politics. I am doing whatever is required within my own small corner to add value to my society, to my community and to my nation. The time will come when it will be up to everyone around you to morally encourage you to move and then you move in a particular desired direction. Quite a number of tendencies and personalities in this country, we have known in our political history, that wanted to be senator but ended up being president, others wanted to be president, they ended up being members of the House of Representatives so it is not what you want to become that is important but what is important is what you can do to help in changing people’s lives…So should I have someone who believes in those core values of integrity, the value of service, the value of building and moving the society forward, the values of strengthening our institutions so that this country can begin to dance, I also have a responsibility to support that person.
Q: Is that the man, Buhari?
A: Of course yes, because that is what he symbolizes.
Q: Are you hopeful?
A: I am hopeful, I am extremely hopeful that this society will change under his leadership.
Q: A PDP Man is talking sir?
A: Yeah, yeah.
Q: A PDP Man hailing the President?
A: Exactly, the president is the president of Nigeria, he is not the president of the APC, he is the president of each and every one. The president took an oath of office and also of allegiance and it is our responsibility based on his antecedents; based on his track record, to support him and I have no shred of doubt in my mind that he will deliver.
Q: But your party keep releasing statements that the man is too slow?
A:Basically, you know, when people talk of being slow or being too fast, I laugh. Whenever you take up an assignment, the first thing you do is to conduct a detailed internal diagnostics study of your own internal environment because you have to know basically the depth of your problem. You don’t begin to prescribe solution; you don’t begin the treatment of health when the diagnoses are not complete. You may not get it right, if you do that.
Q:Some Nigerians are saying that the President ought to have done his homework before assuming office?
A: There are works that you simply cannot do from outside, you need to be inside before you can do that. If a patient goes to see his doctor, the doctor will first attempt to know the patient’s medical history. He will not prescribe Panadol for you simply because you say you have headache or will he give you Buscopan simply because you have stomach pain, he will want to do something much more, to diagnose, inorder to give you the right treatment.
Q: During the unveiling of your book, Economic Diplomacy and Nigeria’s Foreign Policy, you called on the President to tackle corruption?
A: Yeah! Of course, I do because as I mentioned in the concluding part of my remarks, I said corruption is an evil. A corrupt person cannot provide leadership at any level. Be it at the family level, at the community level, and at governmental level. A corrupt person is a disgrace to himself, to his family, to his community and indeed to his nation. I use the metaphor because corruption is like a cancer that must be excised. Corruption deprives people from economic prosperity. Where you have leakages, an example is when you have 2 or 3 leakages on top of your room and it rains heavily, the chances are that not 3 or 4 or 5 buckets will be enough to contain the inflow. In real financial terms, that is significant; something is lost. The responsibility of strengthening internal institutions requires a focused and purposeful leadership. No matter how hard you try to reduce or completely eliminate some level of unethical conduct at whatever level, if the leadership is defective, the chances are that you might not be able to achieve much. It is only a leadership that is focused in fighting corruption and other forms of unethical conducts that will insist that institutions must be strong
Q; Do you realise your call may affect most PDP members?
A: I wouldn’t like to say it will affect members of any political tendency. Corruption is a problem; it is a national problem, it is not a PDP problem, it is not an APC problem, it’s an issue which all of us must support the president to fight for the benefit of the nation.
Q: But is it that PDP symbolises corruption?
Q: In politics, you say whatever you need to say to help you sell a brand. In local parlance they say if you want to know who your father is, simply be a politician because someone else will come from nowhere and give you your genealogical history, where your grandparents were born.
So merely simply saying A is this or B is that are not sufficient grounds to conclusively pass judgment. I would not want to be judgmental, I only want to give you an example, when you are stopped at the traffic light and there are beggars knocking on your door begging for alms, maybe a group of 3 or 4 looking for small change from you to eat and then you bring a piece of note maybe N20 or N50 or N100, depending on what you can afford, wind down your glass and ask the 4 or 5 of them to come together and tell them to share among themselves, the chances are that the guy who receives it will run away, that is corruption. When things have degenerated to a level where the moral fabric of the nation is compromised, it requires a fundamental change of attitude and in every change situation, the most difficult change is the change of attitude. When people are required to be morally upright, you need a dual combination of moral suasion and in stubborn cases a stick to cause a change.
Q: Does Buhari have the strength?
A: I believe he has the strength, his moral focus and postures have sent strong positive signals not only to those who are undermining the institutions but have sent strong signals to every sector that the new sheriff in town is only not corrupt but incorruptible. Even without his express directive, key sectors were going into auto-correct on his emergence and eventual swearing in. What was responsible for that to happen? Trust, confidence and belief by the Nigerian people and Hunan operated systems that under President Buhari, a new way of doing things, in line with best practices will be the new order.
Q: So, things are already happening?
A: Things are happening already, and in the positive direction. I believe strongly, politics aside, that this is the right way to go. The change has begun and the change of attitude in itself. If you are able to stop every person who undermines institutions from undermining it and then do nothing, that is a monumental achievement.
If a teller in a banking hall can simply refuse to allow his customers to defraud his bank and does not do anything else like not attracting new businesses to the bank, not doing any other thing that will add to the gross earnings of that bank, the bank is on the right track because if you have a shop and you are unlucky that your shop keeper is a thief then the chances are that one day you will open the shop and you will not find a single item on the shelves.
Q: So the fear of Buhari should be the beginning of wisdom?
A: Yes, it should be the beginning of wisdom but that fear should be in the positive sense because the fear is providing leadership and he has started providing good leadership from what we have seen. Fear can be negative; fear can be positive, so I am emphasizing on the positive aspect of the fear and that is what the people should be concerned about and that is keying in to the anti-corruption crusade of the president. Being partners in the developmental agenda; so that together, himself and ourselves, helping him, will be able to place this nation on the path of sustained growth and development and that is the key to economic prosperity.