I complete my exclusive interview with Dele Momodu who believes he is Nigeria’s Obama and is confident he will win the 2011 elections just right around the corner. The interview was impromptu and on the eve of Momodu leaving New York to return to Nigeria after the Nigeria Reunion Convention.
In Part I of my in-depth cut to the chase interview with Mr. Dele Momodu, we addressed his political qualifications, campaign finance and infrastructure (unemployment, power). Part II addresses national security, law enforcement, the legislative and judicial branches of government, fashion and textile industries, foreign direct investment, his health (lessons from Yar’Adua ) and so much more including his agenda for the citizens of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Yes we covered it in one hour. A little over 56mins. Print to read at your convenience, share on facebook, twitter, share with your friends and begin the dialogue on who should rule Nigeria come 2011. YOUR VOTE COUNTS. Get Involved! #Enough is Enough! #Light Up Nigeria, Let’s go there!
DELE MOMODU ON NATIONAL SECURITY
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: Let me highlight a point you just made. You talk about “tackling the mafia.” Beyond what EFCC has done, under the Dele Momodu regime, how do you intend to have the rule of law upheld so people can feel safe? What about the legislative and judiciary branches how will they be strengthened with you in power?
DM: This all comes under what I call National Security. The difference between developed and underdeveloped nations is the ability for a nation to protect its own citizens against internal and external aggression. In Nigeria is it impossible to do that because our police are not equipped to start with. They are not well paid. The insurance scheme for them is not well defined. Under my administration, I can assure you that one of the most important thing I must tackle is national security. You can never see a situation where a great nation cannot defend herself. If you look at America today, you know that when the soldier’s go to war, they are well equipped to go to war. In Nigeria, I am not even sure we can fight a war today. Our Air Force is virtually grounded. We have some of the brightest pilots on the ground but there is nothing to work with. In our Navy, we do not have naval ships that can even police our international waters. That is why the issue of illegal smuggling has been so bad in Nigeria that people can just come in with their ships, load our oil and just take away because the Navy cannot fight.
Now, (as) to the police in particular, there is no nation where you don’t empower your police. In Nigeria if a policeman arrests you . . . (can’t hear him line becomes static) . . . even when you go to parties, all the police individuals gathering have their girlfriends. If you are having a social function in Nigeria, half of the place is filled with people with guns, openly. That must stop. We must, first, pay our armed forces very well. When they are well paid, it will reduce the issue of people being paid bribery of 50Naira to cover up crime.
DELE MOMODU ON A MODERN JUDICIARY
DM: The judiciary must also be well maintained. In Britain, I can tell you that the judges earn more money than the Prime Minister of Britain. We have done our research. (A)lso we have refused to go digital. We must upgrade our courts.
I have had experience before in the ministry where you send a letter and in less than one day, nobody can trace that letter. You send the second one and it disappears again. It is because we are using the analog technology. So it is very important for us, under (my) administration, that we modernize Nigeria. How do you do that? You be the leader who is already exposed to all of these technologies. Those in power in Nigeria are not willing to change anything. They are set in their ways and do not want to change these things. To change the status quo in Nigeria requires a lot of courage and most leaders do not want to risk that because they are looking for second and third terms. For me, from day one, you will have a leader who hits the ground running. You will have a leader who will roll up his sleeves and be able to wear a t-shirt and jeans and match into the field with the people of Nigeria. You are not going to have a ceremonial leader in Dele Momodu, I can tell you that.
DELE MOMODU ON COUNTERFEIT/SMUGGLED GOODS IN NIGERIA
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: Counterfeit products are a main issue that affects Nigeria, especially from China. With respect to customs, and still on the issue of National Security, what are your intentions with the Nigerian Customs to help tighten national security?
DM: What has made it very attractive for someone to bring all these second hand (goods) from abroad is because we have nothing. If there is a vacuum, you must fill the vacuum with something. Most of our industrialist have gone bankrupt right now because it is cheaper to bring things from abroad than to produce locally. So, what I will do is encourage local production. I have had the privilege of going to India and exploring India. When they ban something the customs makes no money. In Nigeria, when you ban something, it is the customs that will now make money from it because there are smugglers and there is bribery. So, it is important that we build an enabling environment for our industries to be able to produce locally at cheaper rates. If you have to bring in tax relief, incentives, you better do that. But like I said the people you have there are not just interested.
Who are these smugglers? They are the wives, brothers, children, whether directly or indirectly involved. The Chinese people will look elsewhere if they know that by the time they bring their products to Nigeria, we have better products on the ground at comparable prices than what they are sending. There really is no big deal in terms of resolving these issues. It boils down to what I have been saying over and over again: it is about the leadership. The leadership is so irresponsible and so reckless we can’t be bothered about our own national security. We don’t know that we are a dumping yard for all the toxic waste in the world and it is just a shame that our leaders are so unpatriotic. If you love your country, you will make sure you protect that country with everything.
DELE MOMODU ON NIGERIA’S TEXTILE & FASHION INDUSTRY
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: You mentioned agriculture and your nephew not being able to find a job. For what we do here at LadybrilleNigeria.com, agriculture is a key part of the fashion and textile industries because we need the raw materials for the first phase of the fashion cycle. What are your plans to grow the agricultural sector so our textile and fashion industries can make our own Ankara, Adire, Aso Oke and whatever the case might be.
DM: I have had the privilege of studying the Awolowo, Tafawa Balewa, Azikiwe years in Nigeria. I can proudly say that when I was growing up, in fact one of the songs that I was taught in primary school when I was growing up was:
“Education without cutlass at home is incomplete,” that is what they taught us. But this oil thing just came from nowhere and destroyed everything for us. I can tell you in Ghana where I live, if you go to the airports, everyday they are loading pineapples, tomatoes, cocoa products that are well packaged. And I say (in a passionate voice), “Nigeria is much bigger! We have the population to drive anything!” Do you know in Ghana they produce their own chocolates? In Nigeria, we must bring everything from Belgium and the Netherlands. We have enough cocoa in Nigeria to produce all the chocolates for West Africa. It is about marketing. Once you have a leader who has the understanding (goes into another thought) if you look at Ovation, why do people talk about Ovation fourteen years later? It is because we have managed to maintain our quality so even when there are other magazines, we don’t feel threatened because we know our quality is constant. That is what a nation needs. But, a nation where everything is wishy-washy, everything is about making money and they don’t worry about whether the quality is good or not, that nation cannot make progress. I recall we used to hear of the groundnut pyramids in the North. All of these pyramids have collapsed. These are things we must return to, urgently.
It is because everyone wants to get rich and nobody wants to take the time. But, I have been a long distance man. When we started Ovation, everyone told me you cannot maintain this quality. Fourteen years later, I am spending more money to upgrade what we are doing otherwise you will become irrelevant in no time. To the issue of agriculture, we have everything it takes. But, what our leaders have chosen is to buy fertilizers every year. If you see the budget of fertilizer it is about 60billion Naira. (In a passionate voice) For God’s sake do we have the poorest land in the world?!
You hear about contracts and people buying jets and the farmers are suffering! Fortunately for me, I come from that background where I have lived most of my life with farmers. I know it will not take too much to produce. One of my heroes was a man called Chairman Mao. I know that the first thing China did was to win the war against hunger by going aggressively and doing what they call the “Green revolution.” It is the model we need in Africa. . . Food is the cup of security. If you remove food out of poverty, poverty will disappear. Every nation (goes into a different thought) Even to eat ordinary cornflakes, you must wait for Kellog from Europe or America. That is really crazy. That is crazy when you have all the corn in Nigeria to produce your own cornflakes and other products, ogi and whatever variants you can get out of it.
DELE MOMODU ON SMALL BUSINESSES IN NIGERIA
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: I wanna cover a lot more subjects and have only 20mins left to work with. So, let me get into it.
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: In the USA, small businesses drive growth and employ millions. In Nigeria, it is a challenge to even establish small businesses much less get loans from a bank to do business. What are your plans for the small businesses and the emerging middle class in Nigeria?
DM: I would take the Asian model. If you look at Britain today, Asians have taken over the economy of Britain. Why? Because they were able to go for those businesses we need everyday while others were looking for something that will turn them into millionaires. They went for the corner shops and they went for the small things we need everyday. Today, if you want to buy anything in Britain, you go to the corner shops and most of them are (operated) by Asians; if you are looking for brick layers, carpenters etc. So there is so much that can be done. If we can eliminate corruption and have people come up with business plans that are workable, there is so much we can do for Nigerians. You can change the lives with as little as 50,000 Naira in Nigeria. Look at the people selling plantain chips on our streets. You can (these businesses) into a lucrative business if you can encourage (better) packaging (of the products). You will see that those things can be exported to the supermarkets abroad. Other countries are doing this. If you fly British Airways (BA), there are nuts (Macadamia) they serve that are produced in Kenya. The way they are packaged makes them marketable. If you fly first class on BA, you will find all these products from Kenya but none from Nigeria.
We are flying the most on earth. We can use our clout to get our products into the international market.
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: Speaking of that, Nigeria is a hot destination for multinationals. The entertainment and creative industries is growing so fast. Everyone wants a reality tv show etc. Let’s address taxes that may benefit Nigerian citizens from this surge of foreign businesses in the nation. What are your intentions for Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) in Nigeria, among other foreign investments in Nigeria?
DM: If your image is flawed, (it is hard to attract investments in your country). Look at Ghana. They are practically driving us away from Ghana because nobody trusts us. They believe we are coming to destroy their economy and society. But once you can get the leadership to trust you, you will find that everybody wants to be your friend. That is what happened to Obama. But, when you continue to have bushmen and illiterates in government, it is an issue. No matter where we go, we are a laughing stock. Look at what happened to us recently in soccer. We said we are banning our guys for 2years only for us to reverse. We act before we think. So, it is very vital that you have a leadership in place that the international community can respect. I have interacted on the highest level and met a lot of presidents all over the world and I believe this will help link us and help get us the international support that we need.
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: Since you bring up Ghana, let’s talk about relations with our neighboring African countries and our allies. Give me specific bullet points on a few things you intend to do when you get into office with respect to strengthening our existing relationships and building new ones?
DM: Nigeria is in a very unique position in the world and despite how bad our situation has been, no one has been able to ignore us. I have traveled to over 60 countries and I didn’t just go there to do business. I made sure the image of Nigeria was uppermost in my mission. I have been going to Sierra Leone for (some) years now. In 2001 I went as a private citizen and had the United Nations give me a package to give to our soldiers the peacekeepers. This is something our President and leaders should be doing. So, I have interacted at the highest level in Gambia, Sierra Leone, Ghana and I have seen what it takes to survive in those countries.
When I get to power next year by the grace of God, I will be able to tap into a lot of these things. I have gone as far as South Africa. I remember my meeting with the President last year in Pretoria and the first thing he said to me was, “Chief if Nigeria gets it right, the whole of Africa will be fine.” What he said was very instructive. I know that South Africa is our biggest rival on that continent today but there will be that mutual respect if we have (strong) leadership. We are determined to make sure this time we get it right.
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: Three more questions Mr. Momodu and then I’ll let you go.
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: I remember the song, “Nigeria go survive.” Part of it said, “Stay and build your country.” You mentioned living in all these countries which is great. But why aren’t you living in Nigeria? Why live in Ghana. Why not stay and build Nigeria?
DM: It is a question that I get asked so many times. I live in London, Lagos, Abuja and Accra. I work in Ghana. I do mainly my production in Ghana for Ovation because of electricity. A lot of businesses are moving out of Nigeria because of electricity. When I get to office that will be my priority. Even now, I hear a company like Coca cola is considering doing the same which is unfortunate.
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: Actually, based on your response let me within the framework of my last question deal with your health. Last year the nation was incensed because Yar’Adua left the country and we didn’t really know his whereabouts. Do you think the country is ready for someone who will live on different continents? Is your intention, should you become President, to live in Nigeria?
DM: That is what I am telling you that I live in Nigeria but work in Ghana. I print the magazine in London, produce in Ghana and we now take the magazine (globally). I live in Lagos, my wife lives in Lagos, two of my kids who were born and brought back to live in Lagos. People are taking kids away. I brought my children back to experience Nigeria.
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: Got it.
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: Let’s keep things close to home. In my introduction on this interview, I mentioned the Jos crisis. Domestically, we continue to have ongoing conflict with Christians v. Muslims, North & South. For all and especially youths who I believe will have a big say in the 2011 election, it is very frustrating to see these conflicts that is also magnified on the international front. Delve a bit into how you will handle these kinds of conflicts under a Dele Momodu regime.
DM: My grandparents were Muslims and my parents were Christians. So, I am come from both worlds and understand that it was the politicians who divided us. In fact for me if I win the election, it is a revalidation of the June 12th, 2010 election. I promise to revalidate that election because that day June 12th, 1993, Nigerians spoke in one voice. There was no division.
Two muslims contested for the election and nobody, not even the Christians, complained. They contested the election and they won fair and square. [N]igerians really want to live as one people. Fortunately for me, my father came from the South-South while my mother came from the Northwest. So, I have the privilege of being the son of an interethnic marriage. That background will help me penetrate and deal with this issue. If you look at Hausa people they are wearing aso oke and aso ebi. Before Ovation, it was impossible for a photographer to go to a wedding in the North and take pictures of women with their faces showing. So, for me, they are human beings like you and I. There is something called trust and mutual respect. If the Northerns know that they can trust their leadership, these issues will resolve themselves. If they know that Dele Momodu because he is a Yoruba man will not act (against their interest) . . . (goes into different thought) Within Ovation, my staff is very diverse not based on ethnicity. My Editor-in-Chief is an Ibibio man named Efiok. I didn’t care where he was from just that he was qualified.
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: Final question. We just had the Nigerian senate embarrass us with their fight. They embarrassed Nigerians worldwide. How do we open the legislative process to the public at large and youths in particular so we know that the country’s legislators are furthering the people’s agenda? “Enough is Enough” rally is an example of a showing that Nigerian youths are fed up!
DM: I am a communicator. What I have learned in observing the leadership in Europe and America is that leadership speaks to the people. If there are issues that affect Nigerian people, I will be a part of the “Enough is Enough” rally as a leader. When you see a leader demonstrating on the streets, you know the war has come. When you see emperors in power, they are there to enjoy the perks of office. Most of them have never enjoyed anything in their private live. So, they feel this is the opportunity for them to butter their own bread which is unfortunate. You are going to have a leader who does not have any bread to be buttered. I have already buttered my bread. I am already employed and I will remain (employed) when I leave power. [P]art of the reason why people act like that they will die in power is that they come from impoverished backgrounds. They feel they have to steal when they are in power because when they leave office, they will return to poverty so they feel have to steal.
LadybrilleNigeria.com: (laughs) That is an interesting view. Any final words to Nigerians reading this?
DM: They should keep hope alive. Help is on the way. I have been reading a lot of books on Obama and it’s like the books were written for me. The latest one I have read is one called the Audacity to Win. I can tell you it has taught me a lot of things and just like people said it was impossible for Obama, they say that with me. I know clearly the direction I want to go and we shall arrive at that destination by the grace of God.
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: Actually I am going to cheat with one more question since I have 4mins left. Let me flesh out the health question. There are no guarantees in life but have you had your checkups and how is your health so the country need not worry about, God forbid, you passing away like Yar’Adua.
DM: I can assure you that I am a very selfish person and I love life. I don’t want to die after all of the wahala I have suffered most of my life. . . I do my checks regularly. You will never hear Dele is down for a minute. take care of
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: Thank you so much. I know you are very busy and you are traveling tomorrow.
DM: (Cuts me off) I can tell you and I am not trying to flatter you. This has been the most vigorous interview I have ever had.
DM: [M]ost Journalists I come across when they ask questions they are not fully prepared. I don’t know how long you had for this?
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: I didn’t do anything. This is very impromptu. (laughs)
DM: In fact Banky W is sitting next to you and has been listening.
LADYBRILLENigeria.com (laughs) (in surprised tone) Oh heyyy! (laughs) Banky how are you?
BankyW: I am good how are you doing? That was a really good interview.
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: (laughs) Fine. . .Oh my God! You just heard me go at it. I had no idea you were listening! (laughs)
BankyW: I thought you gave a great interview. . . I am in the process of having my own interview with Dele myself.
DM: Thank you so much. Thank you for your passion, I think that’s the word.
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: (Laughs) Thank you. Dele, safe travels. Banky, safe travels please
DM: No problem. Thank you my dear.
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