Ibrahim Wala is the Director of Media and Publicity of #IStandWithBuhari. In this interview with PREMIUM TIMES’ Festus Owete, he speaks on the group’s plan to organize a nine million man march for President Muhammadu Buhari across the world as well as other issues.
PT: Your organisation, I Stand With Buhari, sounds political. What basically is your goal and why do you have this organization at this time when there are no elections?
Wala: It may sound political but the name was carefully articulated to connect Nigerians with the good leadership traits of the man, Muhammadu Buhari. Understandably, the name rings a political bell because of the name Buhari, being a politician. Do not forget that he is the same man we all stood by because of his good characters as a leader.
The mere fact that the name dominated the space in every political news page during the campaign for the elections, everything connected to it (name) must be seen as political.
With all sense of responsibility, we agree with those who say #IStandWithBuhari is nothing but politics. However, the#iStandWithBuhari is an affirmative statement by Nigerians, in total support and solidarity with the actions and leadership style of President Muhammadu Buhari to change Nigeria. We must also understand the importance of coming to terms with the reality that election was a mere transitional stage. The stage we are in today is the moment of regaining all we have lost during the elections. The most important thing to do as a nation is to forget about our political differences and all that has happened to us in the days of context. These are the days of action and development.
PT: Are you saying this has nothing to do with President Buhari, the politician and his party, the All Progressives Congress?
Wala: This is about our own Nigeria; it is not about drumming political support for the person of Mr. President. It was intentionally conceived for the purpose of building a platform that will help in sensitizing Nigerians on the importance of effective governance. It is through such interactive platforms that Nigerians can easily be informed on the policies and programs of the administration of Mr. President. We must not continue with the “I don’t care” attitude. If we do care in the process of choosing our leaders, we must also care when they are in office.
PT: Why now and why standing only with President Buhari?
Wala: This is it! I was waiting for you to ask. I must commend Nigerians for taking advantage of the new media as an instrument of change. First and foremost, the effective use of social media prompted Nigerians to the level of systemic decay in our country. The avalanche of information relating to corruption, impunity, bad governance, poor level of infrastructure, etc, coming out on daily basis overwhelmed the entire citizens. Before you knew it, there was a subconscious call for action because Nigerians understand what went wrong. This means that we knew our problems and without mincing word, we had our solution.
The solution was the outcome of the 2015 presidential elections. On the list of issues responsible for bringing Nigeria backward is corruption, which is more like a Starfish. It has strong tentacles that is capable of transmuting into multiple starfish, especially at the point you want to kill it. Despite all the ceremonial effort to kill corruption by the past administrations it has instead led to a state of failed economic, social and political institutions resulting in unemployment for Nigerian youth and looting of our aged parents pension funds and leaving little or no hope for the present and future of Nigeria. Understanding that the task ahead for the government is huge, it’s also clear that corruption will fight back.
Therefore, #iStandWithBuhari represents a wake up with physical and intellectual revolution strategies to create and guarantee the future of the Nigerian youth by showing solidarity with the principled character and ideologies of President Muhammadu Buhari.
PT: Are you aware that many Nigerians are becoming impatient with the president because they believe he has not lived up to expectation? Some of them believe he is only focussing on corruption leaving other areas unattended to.
Wala: The previous administration depleted our treasury and we saw the revelations from the EFCC that has to do with the so called respected elders and individuals in high places bleeding our resources without considering what the future holds for the younger generations. This means that Nigeria has been stabbed and it is bleeding furiously before the emergence of the Buhari’s administration. Since the nation has been stabbed, the only way to cure the nation is to remove the arrow of impunity and there is no such way that the arrow can be removed without the body (Nigeria) filling temporal pain to enjoy the everlasting comfort. This explains the need for deep-rooted institutional reforms by way of expunging all the corrupt elements within the institutions. Glad to know that every man and woman on the street understands and appreciate the situation we are in. What sacrifice for a better for a better!
PT: How do you intend to achieve with this?
Wala: If you now agree that the ultimate objectives of the #iStandWithBuhari initiative is to galvanize the entire Nigerian citizens into giving emotional support to their president, then we must also agree on how it can be achieved. But before we dwell on that, let’s take a look at the direction Mr. President is headed – fight against corruption, zero tolerance to impunity, building a stronger economy that will foster financial inclusion for all, building stronger institutions, empowering the masses, compliance with Treasury Single Account, good governance, restoring global confidence, etc. None of these can be said to be for the benefit of a particular political party. They are all instruments for developing a nation for the collective benefit for all. In achieving this task, the #iStandWithBuhari Organization has carefully developed strategic programs and activities that will ensure easy implementation. The most prominent of the programs and activities is the AFFIRMATION MARCH which is coming on March 31, 2016.
PT: Is this not another million man march in the making? We saw a similar thing in the days of the former military head of state, Sani Abacha and in the days of Goodluck Jonathan when a group, Transformation Ambassadors of Nigeria (TAN), organized rallies for his re-election.
Wala: Why do you think the previous leaders agreed with the idea of the million man match? The answer is simple. Even when Abacha was a military dictator, he knew very well that there is power in numbers, there is power in people’s opinions and this is what democracy is all about. Therefore, in justifying democratic objectives, the people must be involved and these people must be in numbers. For us to affirm to the President our moral support, we must mobilize Nigerian citizens on the basis of a roll call. Everyone’s opinion must be counted and affirmed because the only language that politicians understand and appreciate is the language of mass mobilization.
To respond to the part of your questions that relate #iStandWithBuhari with TAN, I must totally disagree with you because TAN was a campaign instrument towards the difficult period when there was little hope for the friends of the then president. It was strictly meant to ensure that their principal won the election. Ours is about encouraging President Buhari to stand firm in achieving his noble objectives which is in the interest of the nation.
In essence, this is the reason why mass mobilization is relevant in a situation where few are justifying their selfish and hidden agenda against the wish of the entire citizens. Our wish is to let us end corruption so that any other thing will fall in place. On this note, the Nine Million Nigerians Anti-Corruption Day Global Affirmation March is scheduled to hold in Nigeria and all major cities around the world simultaneously on Thursday 31st March 2016. The Nigerian venue for the March is Abuja.
PT: How do you fund your activities?
Wala: Permit me to highlight key notes in some of the document we made public, which captioned “What We are Not” They are “Not a political organization,” “Non partisan and not affiliated to the APC,” “Not illegally sponsored by Government,” and “…also not personally sponsored by PMB or a politician.” and We are not TAN and we can never tarnish our image. Expanding on the aspect of funding or sponsorship, #iStandWithBuhari is an independent organization that is mindful of integrity and also frowned at corrupt practices. We will not take part in any form of indecent activity or accept to be used as a conduit pipe to any public office holder in the name of seeking for sponsorship or any form of financial support. One of our core values is the fight against corruption and abuse of law. This is why we restrict our sources for funding to the following: Contributions by members of #iStandWithBuhari; sales of merchandize or souvenirs (branded TShirts, mugs, key holders, calendars, etc); transparent fund raising process and partnership with local and international stakeholders and groups.
PT: So, after President Buhari’s days in office, what happens?
Wala: #iStandWithBuhari as an organization will surely outlived the days of President Buhari in office. The characters of role models in leadership positions have always outlived their days. Why are we still reading about the likes of Martin Luther King, Abraham Lincoln, Nelson Mandela, Zik of Africa, Sardauna of Sokoto, etc?