Dr Sina Fagbenro Byron (SFB), a former Governance Adviser with the British government, DFID, an economist, teacher, lawyer, Information Science technologist and a PhD (Humanities) holder from the Commonwealth University, Belize, is a presidential aspirant on the platform of KOWA Party. He speaks with Deputy Editor, DAPO FALADE on his ambition and why many Nigerians are seeking for the office of the president.
You were not known to be a public figure. What do you have to sell yourself to Nigerians?
I have worked as a teacher, a legal practitioner, a legal adviser to an oil company, for a period of time, a Governance Adviser/Head of South West Regional Office, DFID. From there, I retired as the head of the Lagos Office. During my period there, I was also the Head of the Enugu South East Office. At another point in time during my stint with DFID, I was also in Abuja as the Governance Adviser. That is what DFID does essentially in partnership with the government and the people where it is located on development issues, poverty alleviation, achieving the MDGs, improving on governance and human development, health and economic growth. That is basically what I have been doing for the past 10 years before I retired in 2015.
What is your political experience before now?
In the younger days, we had things like being a member of the Students’ Representative Council at the University of Ibadan, president of the Law Students’ Society, PRO of the National Economic Students’ Society. But more recently, I ran for the local government chairmanship election in Eti Osa Local Government Area of Lagos State, some 17 years ago on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Unfortunately, due to party policy, we all had to withdraw from that election because former President Olusegun Obasanjo had an issue with former Governor Bola Tinubu for creating extra 34 local government areas in the state. So, we were all asked to withdraw. As a matter of fact, I had an issue with that because I think it was a wrong decision by PDP.
I think it was a mark of impunity by Obasanjo because it was not really a party position; it was his personal decision. That was when I started feeling a kind of negative vibe from PDP when I was there and I sought of withdrew and went back into my profession; I went back into consultancy and some few other things.
But because I am a political animal, so to say, sometimes I, together with some other people, joined a movement that later became the KOWA party in July, 2009. So, I am a foundation member of the party, along with some others who may be known to you, including Chinua Azuzu, Fola Adeola who was a major driver of the party, Muktar Bakare, Remi Sonaya, Mark Adebayo, the current General Secretary and Mallam Boboyer, are national chairman, among others. But because of the nature of the work I was doing then, working for the British Government which was funding and supporting Nigerian elections; I had a diplomatic status and I had civil service responsibilities so, I could not, obviously, actively be involved in politics.
But I took an early retirement in 2015 for the purpose of being involved in the 2019 elections. It was a determination; I need not to retire until I am 60 years old and I don’t turned 60 until next year. But I retired early in order for me to join the fray.
The race for the presidency has become an all-comers affair. What do you think will give you an edge over the numerous others who have so far signified their intention to contest for the same post?
In the first place, there is a vacancy and that is why there are many people coming into the fray. And many people are coming for different reasons. For me, I will say the chances are 50:50:50 for me and 60 for the rest of them. Now, what will give me an edge? The qualifications, skills, knowledge, attitude and, particularly, the ideas. In any case, there are so many others things that you cannot measure. Yes, to an extent, you can measure the passion; you can also measure vision. However, I believe that whatever will give me an edge will unfold. One thing that I know for sure that will give me an edge is the party upon which I stand and that is KOWA.
Why KOWA of all political parties?
Let me go back a bit: If you look at the exchanges between PDP and the All progressives Congress (APC), it is very clear that neither parties can be excluded from the problems we have in Nigeria today. Each party as much as confess that it has been condoning corruption and impunity. They are playing a politics of divide and rule, politics of exclusivity, politics of god-fatherism and money bag. So, Nigerians have grown an appetite for something else. I believe that Nigerians deserve something else.
I believe that the greatest population in the today is the youths, at least, over 70 per cent of the population. If somebody was born when Obasanjo was sworn in in 1999, such a person would be 19 year-old today. You will find out that most of the youths are yearning for something different. Even those who are slightly older, especially those who have had the experience of APC and PDP are looking for something different. I believe that KOWA is fresh; it has some records and people who are associating with our party are people who have demonstrated credibility.
But the party has not been known to have been winning elections across the country…
Yes, it has not been winning elections yet, but even the Bible says to every man on earth is time and chance. Number one, the time has to be right. Number two, the chance has to be there. Because of the irresponsibility of governance and services by the two so-called big parties, they have created the chance and that is why I said earlier that a lot of people want to step into the space. This is because there is a vacancy and a lot of people are demanding for a real and positive change from the present change that we have.
Why are you insisting that there is a vacancy when we all know that there is a sitting president who has also declared his intention to contest for a second term?
He has said he is coming out again, but there is a vacancy because he has to reapply for the job and by so doing, he is to put himself on the ballot and re-present himself to Nigerians whether to accept him or reject.
The next general election is less than one year away. What is KOWA doing to make it acceptable to all Nigerians and thus improve its chances in the elections?
That is an excellent question. Number one, the KOWA leadership is appealing to its own base and trying to build its own party. You will agree with me that, for example, to win the presidency in this country, you need to win, at least, two-thirds of the states and you need to be there sufficiently to be able to garner, at least, 25 per cent of the total votes. That means, you have to be on the ground. So, the first thing the party is trying to do is to be on the ground in all the states. We are already in the news, on the lips and on the mouth of a significant number of the Nigerian population.
Yes, we might not have entered power before, but people know of KOWA, that is the party with the telephone as its symbol; that is the only political party with a modern technological instrument. So, as far as I am concerned, one year is short, but it is also long; in politics, they say a day can be too long. KOWA intends to go into that election very clear in terms of its agenda; united and then we will do our best to set our case before Nigerians. But it is up to the people, particularly the media to let the people know that they have a choice. The first way that we can shoot ourselves in the foot is to believe we don’t have a choice.