interview By Ebuka Onyeji
Eunice Atuejide is the presidential candidate of the National Interest Party (NIP). With the withdrawal of a former Minister of Education, Oby Ezekwesili, and Rabia Cengiz of the National Action Council (NAC), Mrs Atuejide, 39, remains one of the very few women still in the presidential race.
In this interview with PREMIUM TIMES’ Ebuka Onyeji, the lawyer explains why she would use legal actions to “stop” President Buhari from being sworn in if he wins the election.
She also discussed her own chances and how she intends to keep running for president until she wins.
PT: You said you will keep running for president till you win. Can you explain?
Eunice: It may be a tough journey and how long it will take me I don’t know. So I have to start. If I get elected this year, I should be ready to serve again in 2023. Whether I win or lose, I will still plan for 2027. I want to be the president of Nigeria and that’s my aim. No matter how long it takes, I will invest my time.
PT: Is this your first time of contesting for any position?
Eunice: I contested for the deputy secretary of the Inter-Party Advisory Council and I won. So, now that I’m doing it at the national stage, I believe I will win.
PT: What I mean is have you contested for any political office in Nigeria?
Eunice: No, I have not.
PT: Why are you running for the presidency?
Eunice: I have always been interested in the presidency. I want to help my country and not just my constituents. I believe in working together with everybody from every corner of the country and the office of the presidency is the only position that can give me such power.
PT: Many are saying women contesting for the presidency are only trying to test the ground. Is that true?
Eunice: It is not my problem. I’m in the race to win. I could be president because I’m running. I understand there are reality and effort. I will sue Buhari and they are going to check him whether his mind is sound enough under section 137 (C) of our Constitution and once the court orders that check, we will know why he is having early memory loss problem. He definitely has that behaviour because of his age and how he forgets that he sent people to do things and they don’t do it. We are going to eliminate Buhari and if they check Atiku and he has the same problem, he’s gone. If they check Moghalu… . By the time they eliminate all these people then we will know how many of us that remain. I could easily become president. So, why should I not go on and keep trying until I win when I have a great idea about how to become president?
PT: On this your plan to sue Buhari… Are you saying Buhari is not fit to run?
Eunice: He is not fit to run for the presidency in 2019. The reason is that we’ve seen him say he does not know that the IGP did not go to Benue. He forgets things. He talks about things in the 80s as if they are happening now. These are normal for his age. Our Constitution says if you don’t have a sound mind, don’t contest. So, if you are that old and the natural effect has started to tell on you, the reasonable thing is not to contest. People like me will throw him out. The wife has been complaining and I believe it is because Buhari did not have the mental capacity to rule the country… He doesn’t need to contest and if he is doing it, we will stop him.
PT: How do you want to go about taking legal action against Buhari if he wins the election?
Eunice: I have already started. We will file the matter and serve him before the election. Let’s see if we can stop him even from contesting so that we see if we can create chances for people like me that are contesting. We have to stop him before it happens. Even after it happens he can still be nullified.
PT: You are running under the National Interest Party (NIP). From our research, the party does not have the structure that is needed to galvanise support. How do you think you will win with the party?
Eunice: A lot of people make the mistake of thinking that structure is how many buildings you have. It is about people around working for you and we have many at NIP. We operate many of our work online so what I do is to sit in this my house and operate 8,000 people from any area of Nigeria that I need. So, we don’t need to do the PDP or APC style of renting thousands of buildings all over the country. What we need to do is to gather people together to work for us and we are doing that.
PT: How are you financing your campaign and what are the challenges?
Eunice: Most of the challenges are that many people don’t believe in putting their money in Eunice’s campaign when there are Atiku and Moghalu and others. The challenge is that we personally have to fund ourselves and you can see that we in the race and trying to make sure that nobody says we are dull. We are getting the attention and gaining the followership we need and I think that’s important and whatever the results of the elections are, we learn our lesson as we prepare for the next one.
PT: Have you thought about forming an alliance with maybe some people like Moghalu or some others in the race?
Eunice: I started that forming of alliances. NIP was registered on 14th of December, 2017 and got a certificate on the 10th of January, 2018. From that 10th to June, all I was doing was battling to get all these people to work together just provide one of us as the leading figure and the rest of us will follow. That was the idea. I was not initially interested in running; I was interested in getting the right people together under one roof. But my people refused. Sowore, Moghalu, all of them were saying they must be the one and if it is not them, nothing was going to happen because nobody else can do it better than them. How do you go against the APC people that gather once it is election time? Whatever their differences are, they sort it out and come as one front. See how the Atikus are together coming as one. All of us here now are like six or seven or eighteen because we refused to work together. So let’s live with the consequences hoping that the next round we will have learned our lesson. I worked hard. They still call me but I tell them I have seen their colours. Let them continue, I’m not interested in any of them now.
PT: Let’s talk about your policies. One of the major issues the country is facing now is security. What are your plans on that?
Eunice: My plan is first is to remove those in charge of our security agencies so far. They need to be retired and replaced with experts from all parts of Nigeria so that people will not use their sentiment about the strategies to deal with security in Nigeria. It should not be politicised. You have to remove all of these elements and replace them with better people.
PT: Many believe one quick way to tackle the country’s security challenge is to have state police. Do you believe in state police?
Eunice: I don’t believe in state policing for now because Nigeria is too polarised and the way our politicians are; you will find out that they even use police against us. I’m one of those who says let’s continue with federal police but put competent hands.
PT: If you become Nigeria’s president today, what are your immediate priorities?
Eunice: Power is the most priority for me because if that is solved, education, health, and everything will be working, production costs will be low. I am very sure we can export electricity in Nigeria provided we have everybody doing what they need to do well.
PT: What would be your position on same-sex marriage.
Eunice: I won’t support same-sex marriage because it doesn’t go well. However, there is no reason why someone should go and knock on another person’s door for having same sex. As far as they are not children getting molested I beg, leave them alone. Concentrate on them when they come to the street. Leave gay people with their problem.
PT: We have a tax system that seems not to be working? What is your plan for taxation in Nigeria?
Eunice: Taxation in Nigeria is lackadaisical. We have to improve that. It is an important aspect of the economy. We should have a formalized way of getting the tax of the small traders too. I will bring policies to formalise that, including for the traders.
PT: Do you feel there are hurdles that may mar the election?
Eunice: My biggest concern is the selection of Amina Zakari. We are already disadvantaged. It is too lopsided for me. INEC said it is trying to curb rigging. Even Oga Osinbajo is doing indirect vote buying. However, I am happy with accreditation and voting simultaneously. I am okay with INEC measures but the people they are bringing in to man the sections are the ones we feel they may manipulate results.
PT: Since 1999, the space for women has been slim. What are the challenges holding women back in politics and how can it be tackled?
Eunice: I think people think it is a man’s world. That’s the problem. Women also don’t believe to fight for themselves. If we have more people like me, we can go places. There are good women in Nigeria but our structure marginalises them. Most women were stopped at the primaries. Why will you go to APC and PDP where they won’t allow you. We need to come together. At least 80 per cent in our party would have been women but they felt we don’t have money and popularity.
This project is powered by the Centre for Development and Democracy (CDD) with support from Ford Foundation. The initiative is aimed at enhancing issue-based campaigns ahead of the 2019 general elections.