In his first major interview after the presidential election, the presidential candidate of Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party (ANRP), Tope Fasua, shares his experience and what is next for him and his party:
How would you describe your experience as a presidential candidate?
It was enlightening, liberating. It afforded me the opportunity to see Nigeria, document our issues, our opportunities, our advantages and selling points.
I never had headache or got tired for one day as I moved through Nigeria. I enjoyed the experience. I mixed with the people and learnt from them. I am a changed man.
Is your party going to challenge the outcome of the election in court?
No way. But anyone who wants to approach the courts is free to do so. I think the process was fairly okay even though archaic.
The next elections should at least be partly electronic for those who choose to. There are ways to prevent double voting. Electronic voting will also reduce costs and wastage.
This country must move on and begin to do things like normal people all over the world at some point. So, no courts.
I am thankful I never had the illusion I will win the elections. I thought that I should have something around 20,000. Alas, it was not to be
You polled 4,340 votes nationwide, are you disappointed?
Not at all. I felt bad though for colleagues whom I expected will clock millions. When I started seeing their numbers I didn't feel that let down by what I was seeing for myself.
Imagine our main guys scoring 33,000, 21,000, 17,000. I am thankful I never had the illusion I will win the elections. I thought that I should have something around 20,000. Alas, it was not to be.
Is it that Nigerians were fully sure that it is a race between Buhari and Atiku and so did not want to 'waste' their votes even on the best ideas?
If that is the case, I am indeed grateful that 4,340 people were crazy enough to have wasted their votes on me. I came 36th in the elections, somewhere in the middle of the league table (Laugh). I didn't do badly.
Now that a winner has emerged, what’s next for you and your political party?
We’ll keep building the party. After the whole election period we’ll call a big meeting and pick up the pieces. We remain watchdogs to whoever is there at any point in time. We know that we can do much better than this as a people.
What are your takeaways from the 2019 presidential election?
My biggest discovery is that we are deliberately devaluing our most important resource; our human resources. We are chasing crude oil everywhere but leave our children north and south in a state of neglect.
We are not concerned that they are not speedily catching up. I have decided to do something about the issues I was able to corroborate on the streets myself, even as a private citizen.
I also realised that social media matters little, that the sitting government always has some rigging - or result writing instrument open to it (why I don’t quite pity Atiku because he has been a beneficiary) - and that a certain aspect of the results are totally random. I discovered that we must keep trying to rescue our nation.
I think the process was fairly okay even though archaic. The next elections should at least be partly electronic for those who choose to
What were your best moments during the campaign?
My best moments were the times I summoned the courage to enter public schools in Zamfara, Katsina, Alabata in Oyo State, and Igbere in Abia State.
The trips were solid. There were scary moments too, like my night trip between Enugu and Akwa Ibom through very bad road at night, or the early morning trip from Saki to Ibadan when we were literally in the clouds.
I also went as far as Yobe by road, through Boko Haram territory. I came back on that journey to Maiduguri, in a commercial Golf car, nondescript.
Then there were moments I visited traditional rulers. There were also the debates. I was glad to get onto the one aired by TVC and the one organised by CDD.
My biggest discovery is that we are deliberately devaluing our most important resource; our human resources
What surprises did you find traveling around the country during your campaign tour?
A day after leaving dry, sunny Maiduguri, I was flying into Calabar, viewing the River Calabar as it snaked through deep green mangrove forests. It was like being on another planet.
I realised Nigeria is a proper country. That is how the USA is as well. From Alaska, imagine leaving the cold for parts of Southern California or Vegas where it is desert and hardly rains!
There is nothing wrong with Nigeria. It is as a country should be. But we must learn to cooperate for progress among ourselves. If we had unity of purpose, we can achieve a whole lot.
Discovering that in many public schools - especially up north - the school buildings are there but no one gets taught anything all day, was a real eye opener.
On the two different Mondays I had the opportunity of viewing public schools up there, there were zero number of teachers teaching the children.
Were there things you would have done differently?
Absolutely nothing. I tried my best. I knew I couldn't win and did not delude myself. But I also needed to watch how things pan out and I had ideas to dump in the space.
I have been discussing for example - on crude oil vs palm oil, on tertiary education and its potential powers in transforming Nigeria, on the environment, on public service repositioning in Nigeria, on the need for us to recalibrate our growth rates at double digit, or on my humble discovery that our budget is the smallest per person in the whole world and our unsustainable debt level.
These are priceless issues which go beyond politics. And win or lose, the experiment of contesting is priceless.
I also realised that social media matters little, that the sitting government always has some rigging - or result writing instrument open to it (why I don’t quite pity Atiku because he has been a beneficiary) - and that a certain aspect of the results are totally random
What do you expect from the President Muhammadu Buhari's second term?
He has said the second term will be tough and people are busy interpreting it in different ways. The simple thing is that the economy has tanked and the society has gone to pieces.
People will soon start moaning and complaining but the man told them that times will be rough. I hope the man finds better people to work with.
I hope he does so on time. Some people have asked if I will work with him if he calls me in. I doubt if that will happen because there are too many hungry lions in APC waiting for appointment.
Anyone who waits for such call is wasting their time. We can contribute from outside. I am generally wary of Nigeria and her future.
I went to places where they didn't know Atiku Abubakar. It was when I knew that even a merger will not work this time
There are assumptions that the electoral defeat of outliers at the poll could be a catalyst to present a formidable front in the next election. Would you honour an invitation for a merger? If yes, which party would you consider merging with and what are your conditions?
Acceding to a merger will not be my call but that of my party CONGRESS. Not even an EXCO decision. But we are very open to such mergers of like minds especially with reasonable groups.
Some people are unreasonable so it’s best to avoid them. Some are already talking about 2023 already and that is good.
I however urge them to expand the circle beyond the superstars that they know for now. There are people whom they've never heard about who have the passion for repositioning this country.
It was when I started traveling up north that I realised that many of the young chaps running had not figured out what to do with that palpable poverty and illiteracy.
It was when I knew that Buhari will win. I went to places where they didn't know Atiku Abubakar. It was when I knew that even a merger will not work this time.
Are you prepared to publish a detailed account of how you financed your campaign?
Done already. Check my twitter and Facebook pages.