Trekking is not enough – Rupert Ojenuwa tells Buhari, Atiku

The recent show of fitness by Nigeria’s president Muhammadu Buhari and presidential hopeful Atiku Abubakar has generated a buzz in Nigeria’s political space. While some has hailed the 800m trek by Muhammadu Buhari and one Mike trek by Atiku Abubakar as a demonstration of a clean bill of health and readiness to lead Nigeria, other think Nigeria deserves more than trekking leaders. 

In a recent interview with The News, convener of Restore Nigeria Initiative (RNI) Rupert Ojenuwa, says Nigeria needs to address its leadership challenges instead of hailing trekking leaders.

Read the interview:

Q: Restore Nigeria Initiative is gathering momentum with many Nigerians signing up as members. What is the trick?

A: There is no special trick except that Nigeria is in dire straits. Our nation is at the edge of the cliff. There is the need for our nation to be restored. We have continued to nose dive steadily. This isn’t about any particular leader or political party. If we continue this way, the future is bleak. How can more than 70 million Nigerians live in extreme poverty? How can Nigeria continue to overtake other nations in bad records, without us ever setting world records in the good aspects of life? Do you know how many youths litter our nation without a job without any fault of theirs? Worst still so many who have jobs have lost them and nobody seems to care. Nigerians are resilient people but even resilience has its own elasticity. There must be a stop to these things so that our nation can become what it ought to be.

Q: How do you hope to stop this through the Restore Nigeria Initiative?

Restore Nigeria Initiative is born out of the need to ensure that Nigeria is led by quality leaders. First, we’d like to work to put an end to rulership in Nigeria. We need leaders and not rulers. Through RNI, we like to have “sit down” with the political class and interview them. I believe that the best man is who we need to rule the nation. Whether the man is Buhari or Atiku or Saraki or anybody, let him just be the best man for the job. The youths form majority of our population and if the youths vote for a particular candidate, he will win but we shall not vote for mediocrity. After speaking with the aspirants, we shall then decide by vote who to support. Every member of RNI will vote based on the performance of the aspirant during our interview. Plus RNI hopes to provide alternative policy as well as fine tune policies where necessary.

I wonder why you are not talking about running for President or supporting a youth like Sowore or Fela Durotoye

(Cuts in) I am still consulting. Just kidding. You see, we have a nation of close to 200 million people. The youths, I believe will stand a better chance in 2023 but that is not to say that we can’t support a youth but our priority prerequisite is first about capacity to deliver not just about being a youth. Being a youth will be an added advantage when such an aspirant demonstrates capacity to deliver. What’s the use of having a youth who will make things worse or an elder who will make things worse. The first thing any Nigerian youth should think about is ‘Does this fellow have what it takes to take us to the promise land, if he doesn’t we thank him for his time and endorse the best man.

Why do you think the youths stand a better chance in 2023 and not 2019?

2019 is just months away, Nigeria is wired such that you need to be extremely popular to win an election. If you look at your popularity in Lagos in isolation, you will be tempted to think that you are extremely popular but don’t forget we have people in the villages who will be voting, many of whom may not know your name. But it is good to begin attempting now as a youth, it will help build popularity. However like I said before, our nation is in a precarious situation and we need the best man who will help take us out of the miry clay. Whether the fellow is a youth or an adult should not matter. It should be that the fellow is fit but first and foremost should demonstrate capacity and the will to take us to Eldorado. Having said that the youths should not just join in the race for president, they should sign up for Council Chairman, States and Federal Houses of Rep, Senate, etc. You build a CV and trust better from the bottom up.

President Buhari and Atiku Abubakar showed Nigerians how fit they are. One trekked 800 meters while the other 1 mile. Shouldn’t that suffice?

I am happy they are strong. A medical report would be preferable though. We shall talk to them about what they will do differently and make them paint the nation of their dreams. If that is consistent with progress, with greatness, with equity, with peace and with youth participation and they show capacity and will to deliver and also commit to an MoU before public glare, we shall see about that.

RNI is also advocating for an MoU with aspirants to have youth participation in governance.

Absolutely. The major reason we don’t have many youths with the required political credentials to pursue presidency is that there is not enough youth participation in government. The next Nigerian leader must commit to ensuring that youths make up to 50 percent of their cabinet.

Supposing I want to join, am I allowed and what are my benefits as youths?

(Laughs). Absolutely. Just go and register. The benefits are many. One, you shall reap a better Nigeria. Job opportunities for registered members and we may support any legitimate aspiration of any member provided he/she has capacity.


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