Thursday, 13 September 2012

The Japheth Omojuwa Interview

(The answers of the interviewee remain as they are because they are his opinions; not our claims)

Q: Mr Omojuwa, I understand you are the Director of African Operations for the Prometheus Institute (USA), the Editor of African Liberty, an Assistant Editor for the ATLAS Economic and a Research Associate at the IMANI centre for Policy and Education. Now, those are huge responsibilities, how do you combine all these functions without performing below expectation? Are they not too much for just a person or are they just figurehead roles?

A: (Laughs out loud) They are not figure head. I have not had much to do with Prometheus Institute of recent. Most of my recent works have been with Atlas and Heinrich Boll Stiftung. There are a couple of agencies I work with too. They are consultancy and contract stuff with a lot of freelance writing. I have a staff and volunteers so getting to get things done is not that difficult.

Q: You are always perceived in youth-centred media and most nation-building projects. This makes one curious if that has always been your aim since childhood or if you just developed it along the line. Could you briefly highlight the main events and achievements surrounding your upbringing from primary up to tertiary level of education? How would you describe yourself as a child?

A: As a child I was very curious. I read a lot of Tell Magazine from age 9 and read all about June 12 and the Abacha years. I was obsessed about the whole thing. It has nothing to do with aim, this is just who I am. If I could choose, I'd let Nigeria be and just focus on my life and my business. But it has nothing to do with choice really. This is me. I have held a position from my primary school to university years, combining the same with excellence in sports and academics. I do not want to identify specific achievements but anyone who knew me from my early days would tell you I am where I ought to be.

Q: You played an active coordinative role in the January 2012 (OCCUPY NIGERIA) protests against fuel subsidy. You were seen on TV at various roundtable sessions and your impacts were also felt online via social networks like Twitter and Facebook. Yet, a lot of those protesting do not even understand the economic concept of subsidy removal. Why were you very involved in the demonstrations? Is it not perhaps based on some political ambition you may be nursing yourself? What specific impacts can you say resulted from your personal efforts?

A: I was involved in the protests because I am a Nigerian and I saw that my income was going to be halved by a government known for culturing corruption and condoning looting in the subsidy process. The highest we paid for subsidy before President Jonathan was N640 billion, how come it became N2.6 trillion in one year? The numbers were jacked just before and after the elections. Why should Nigerians pay for your election spending under the guise of subsidy removal? I may not be poor but the fact that we have 112 million poor people in Nigeria and still counting means I could become poor or have less to develop business ideas because you have dependents. 

I don't nurse ambitions. I just create values and produce results. I was born to impact the world. Nigeria is a little part on that path. I do not talk about my personal efforts. Nothing would have been achieved in January if it was the effort of just one man. We all did it!

Q: It is often said that talk is cheap and we know that most Nigerians are fond of criticising leaders whose shoes they have never occupied. Do you think you would perform better if you were Nigeria’s Mr President or the Finance Minister? What do you think about the thought that certain persons belong to an untouchable cabal that is stronger than government?

A: Would I have done better as President? Well, I do not think anybody could do worse than this president. 112 million poor people is just a tiny reflection of his incompetence. My antecedents would say yes. I have succeeded at every sphere of leadership I have held. Because I have never been the President of Nigeria, the best way to answer that question is to check my track record. Failures and nonentities should not run for office let alone as President. Antecedents and pedigree should count. Competence must matter. Until then, it will be the same accidents we get from the crop of charlatans we have. If they used their money to make you President, it would be hard to convict them for recouping same. I am just stating a scenario not saying that happened - nor that it did not happen. We all know.

Q: In 2011, your blog was awarded the best Nigerian political blog. What is the justification for your blog coming first and what body awarded you? We also noticed a great change in the visual appeal of your web blog soon after you were declared winner. Was there a financial incentive from the award organisers to that effect?

A: Nigerian Blogs Award organised that. It was a worldwide poll by Nigerian citizens. The voters alone can tell you why they voted . We were planning an upgrade at the time so everything just sort of happened at the same time. There was no financial reward involved.

Q: What suggestions do you have for the government as regards its policy formation and implementation for Nigeria? What are the shortcomings you have observed, your recommendations and any commendations?

A: Sincerity! The Nigerian government is a bunch of lies and a grand scam. It is not about the right policies; it is about the fact that these ones do not care about what happens to the Nigerian people as long as they and their cronies are fine. Why would a First Lady quickly get a 10-year visa just a week after inauguration if they had plans to make Nigeria better?

Shortcomings? Where do I even start? Everything they do is an accident and more accidents will come from them. It is their way. It is an expression of their element. They are incapable of doing right. Recommendation would be for them to at least spare a thought for the average Nigerian on the street that is not amongst "those of us in government."

I'd like to commend the few good men in office who despite serving in the worst government Nigeria has ever had are doing something to make a difference. The Director General of the National Bureau of Statistics is one of them.

Q: Now, let’s get personal. No man is an island, so you must have some strong men and women around you. Who are your friends, mentors and role models?

A: My friends are too numerous to mention. For mentors that'd be Nasir El-Rufai who without a doubt was a stellar performer as a public office holder. The ongoing sham called a probe cannot change that. Aunty Oby Ezekwesili stands out too. Richard D. Johnson is a great inspiration. Uncle Victor Ola, Mr. Paul Olaleye, Tom G Palmer, Matt Harrison, Franklin Cudjoe, Soji Apampa and many others have influenced me in so many ways.

Q: One of your email addresses refer to its owner as a “perverted celibate”. What is the concept behind it? Are you never going to get married or are you a kind of secretive pervert?

A: One of the works that sold me out on the internet is my fiction "The Diary of A Perverted Celibate" The whole idea came from the theme of the book. I intend to get married. If I was a secretive pervert would I say it in an interview? (Laughs out loud)

Q: If you are not celibate then are you in a relationship? Who is she? When will you start a family together?

A: There is time for everything. When the time comes it will be made to happen.

Q: We heard you are a libertarian. What does that mean? Does that grade you as some sort of freethinker?

A: You use too many words (laughs). I am a proponent of libertarianism, a political philosophy that upholds individual liberty, especially freedom of expression and action. I believe that big governments will often result in big failures. I believe free markets and that economic justice is about having free men and free enterprise and by this I do not mean cronyism as is the reality today.

Q: What is your idea of religion? How does it affect your lifestyle?

A: I am a Christian. It is who I am. It is not a lifestyle for me it is my life. I believe everyone has a right to his/her beliefs and I do not believe my beliefs are superior to other people's. They are just my beliefs and they guide my existence.

Q: What are the most important lessons you’ve learned in life and how do they reflect in your decision-making?

A: Believe - Begin - Become. I have since learned that it is not enough to know, you have to put what you know to work. The same people attend the same seminars they attended two years ago and hearing the same things they heard. What did they do with what they knew or heard the last time around? They hardly do something about it.

Q: What is your daily routine like and how do you define a perfect day?

A: Up from bed. Pray. Reflect. Post articles online. Interact on twitter. Reply and send emails. Make phone calls. Go on a business date or two. Travel. Pray. Sleep.
A perfect day is a day I can tick all the boxes on my to-do list and even write out other things I achieved that were not there. A day where I know someone somewhere would go to bed thanking God I lived to be of help that day.

Q: What or who has been your foremost driving force in life and what are your core values?

A: Persistence and Competence. If I can do something really well, I'll do it before Royalty and become a royal at it.  Action. Belief. Integrity. Excellence. Competence. Those are my values.

Q: Where should we expect to see you in your life about five years from now? What would you be doing?

A: Five years from now I'll be an African Ambassador to the World. I'd have trained 1 million young Africans on leadership and accountability via the internet and trained a few less at events and conferences. I want to meet more Nigerians doing great things in yet unknown places. There is work to do. 

Q: Share a piece of advice with those who aspire to become something or get somewhere but are wondering if it will be possible.

A: it is possible. If you keep getting better at your ability and you keep using the new tools of interaction you will definitely achieve your goals. The world has become flat. You need new tools to experience that. I have achieved not a few things by making new media tools like Facebook and Twitter useful tools for my talents. Do not stop evolving but most crucially get started already.

Thank you very much Mr Japheth Omojuwa. Looking forward to sharing another time with you sir! Bye!