In an Exclusive interview with Musah Ibrahim Musah Editor at AfricaNewsAnalysis (ANA), Hon Kenneth Gbandi spoke among other issues, the forthcoming Nigerian Election postponement, President Goodluck Jonathan’s chances in the election, NIDO and the Media Summit etc.
Hon. Kenneth Gbandi need no introduction in Germany, his activities of over 20 years speaks for him. Africa Day Celebration, Miss Africa, Germany, Miss Nigeria, Germany, the African Football festival Hamburg, Nigerian Community etc. are just a few of his playgrounds in the last 10 years in Germany. Apart from being the founder and CEO Heritage Media Network Germany, he is equally the Executive producer of African Heritage Radio and TV in Germany and the Editor-in-Chief of the African Heritage print and online Magazine, a magazine that highlights and displays the achievements and happenings of Africans, Afro-Europeans and their associates in the fields of Business, Travel, Politics, Fashion, Culture and Arts from around the World. In addition, he is the publisher of Nigeria Year Book Germany and the International Representative of the Abuja Digest.
Hon. Gbandi holds a Masters in Peace Research and Conflict Mediation from the University of Hamburg and was a research fellow at German Institute of Global and Area Studies (GIGA) Germany. In Nigeria, he had his Bachelor of Science degree in Geography and Regional planning from the University of Calabar, Nigeria before travelling to Germany after his Youths Service with a State award distinction for outstanding service. Since his so journey in Germany dating back 20 years now, he has practically been found in everywhere that Nigeria and Africa affair is the focus point. Gbandi is officially the President of Nigerians in Diaspora Organization Europe, German chapter, the coordinator of the Media Commission African Union African Diaspora, Six Region (AUADS) Germany, a board Member, State of Hamburg Foundation for Migrants, the representative of the Africa Region and the Speaker of Anti Discrimination Committee of Hamburg Senate Integration Advisory Council. Gbandi was the project officer of the defunct Nigerian Professionals and Entrepreneurs in Germany (NIPEG), a founding member and the first Sport Director as well as a member of the board of trustee of the Nigerian Football Club Germany (NCG FC) Hamburg
His media organization has won many awards including; Best Media/Promoting Black Heritage, Culture and Awareness from Atlanta, USA in 2013, a Martin Luther King Jr. Foundation co-initiative. The TV media format (Afrika Outlook) also won the Fink TV Special Award in 2013 from TIDE and Studio Hamburg, Germany and the media also won the Best African Media in Germany from the African Youths Foundation, Bonn, Germany, and the list go on and on.
After many weeks of unsuccessful attempts to speak with Hon. Gbandi, since his nomination to President Goodluck Jonathan Presidential campaign organioztaion, we eventually tracked him down for an exclusive interview. We will be discussing his experience so far with the Presidential Election Campaign, his views on the postponement of the election, chances of President Goodluck Jonathan, the role of the Diaspora especially NIDO in the Nigerian pre and post election and others issues of importance to the Diaspora.
Q: Sir, congratulations for your appointment to President Goodlucck Campaign team. Were you expecting it in view of your many activities with Nigerian officials?
A: No, never in the world did I expect to have the honour of been called to join the reelection of Mr. President. I first heard of my appointment from Fred Elike, a friend in Nigeria, who called to congratulate me on the nomination/appointment. I told him I did not know what he was talking about but he kept shouting in excitement go and check the dailies! Go and check the dailies! At that moment, it occurred to me that a week before I got a call from my current Director, Professor Nick Ezeh, who asked me to make sure I check the dailies in the coming days for a special announcement. When I inquired further, he simply said “keep checking the dailies”. I checked the dailies throughout the night, and later saw my name listed as a member of the PDPPCO. I called my director in the morning for further confirmation and he just said, „Gbandi, pack your things and be at the inauguration in Nigeria.“ So that was it. But let me add this important point, I gladly accepted and joined the PCO out of my personal conviction that every Nigerian of my generation should have nothing to do with GMB, not because he is a bad man, but because he has been around in the last 30 years deciding what happens to my generation and if he cannot fix it or advice on how to fix Nigeria is the last 30 years, he cannot do that in the next 8 years especially at his age. So this was an opportunity to propagate my opinion.
Q: What has been your experience so far?
A: I am profoundly grateful for the recommendations from Prof. Nick Ezeh and totally humble that Mr. President found me worthy to join his re-election effort. I tell you, all the names have to be approved by Mr. President one after the other. So I am totally grateful and humble at the same time. I have been dealing with Nigerian government officials for the past 15 years. I have interviewed prominent policy makers including the likes of president Obasanjo, I have been in a few selected Media houses to President Jonathan Press conference in Berlin, and I have hosted Governors, Ministers and Special advisers both at State and Federal Levels. I was involved unsuccessfully in a media strategy development for an election campaign in the past and so on and so forth, so I thought I know how to deal with such situation on the ground, but being personally involved is a different ball game. I am guilty, like most Nigerians in Diaspora who have a totally different perspectives about Government and the situation in Nigeria. It is no wonder that people from the Diaspora when they get back home , they suddenly think or act differently contrary to our expectation. The reason is simple, the dynamics at home is not very visible form an outsider and you must learn how to balance the reality on the ground in other to function effectively. First is to know the rules and play it safely.
Q: There is this controversy with NIDO America Endowment of President Jonathan. What is your take on that?
A: I am not only a member of NIDO world family, but I am the president of NIDO Germany. After serious consultations with my executive and the general house, I decided to hand over to the Vice president temporarily until the next election. The constitution of every organization, including NIDO must be respected. I am not a member of NIDO America and cannot speak for them, but I think the issue is what concerns every other Diaspora organization. To be honest with you, it is very unfortunate that most organizations including NIDO are not thinking strategically on certain issues in my opinion. NIDO have been in the forefront of championing The Diaspora Commission and the Diaspora Voting right, little progress have been made in this direction over the years which in my opinion is due to lack of a strong lobby effort from the organization and stake holders. After our appointment to the PCO, one of the founding stakeholders of NIDO, Lola Visser-Mabogunje pointed out in NIDO internal communication that myself from NIDO and Dr. Peter Mozie from ANID were appointed as members of PCO and felt that it could be a good opportunity for NIDO to find modalities to lobby for crucial issues that are important to the Diaspora. Apart from a very few, the interest was apathetic. What is most astonishing is that some are saying that we could not do anything about this now but suggested the next legislative period, which is after the election. I ask myself when do you lobby a politician most for a particular policy change. Is it when he no longer needs your votes or when they need your at most? Do you lobby them before their election or after they are already elected, then you began to make your request? Don’t get me wrong, lobbying is a continuous process, but timing is also very crucial. More over if a particular political party appointed two individuals from two major Diaspora organizations; it means that party have the Diaspora interest at best. Sorry, I am campaigning for PDP and not for the opposition party and so no apology if I say that President Jonathan and the campaign team to the best of my knowledge have showed concern and recognized the role of this two Diaspora organizations. There could not have been any better time than now to get a commitment on the Diaspora Commission and Diaspora voting right, but I guess the window of opportunity is not so wide open now. I deliberately did not want to join the debate so as not to be seen as using NIDO platform to campaign for Mr. President. It is too late? Well I will do it differently if I am the Chairman BOT of NIDO Europe.
Q: The postponement of the election was considered a coup by the opposition. Was it absolutely necessary or is it that PDO panicked and shifted the election to buy more time?
A: Haaaaaaa, very funny panicked, from whom? To echo the PDPPCO Media Director FFK, PDP is ever ready. APC is a party to beat any time any day. They have nothing to show apart from a well engineered and well funded media propaganda. Let me be honest, if it is possible to take as many Diaspora as possible to tour Nigeria and notice all the transformation that have taken place in the last four years and that is still ongoing, you will be amazed why very little of this is heard in the Diaspora. The reason is simple. We have a president that does not believe in grandstanding. Mr. President believes that you do not necessarily need to publicize your good work because there are there for all to see and will speak for itself. I took a slightly different approach; we do not need to sing halleluiah for Mr. President but it is important that Nigerians and the world should see and know what is going on in Nigeria. Now on election postponed, I do not need to over flog the issue as the PDPPCO media director is already doing a fantastic job on that. But, just a few clarifications to your question, take the issue of the PVC distribution. INEC admitted there are problems with distributions; I hear in certain quarter that INEC cannot force people to collect their PVC. This is absolutely rubbish. I was in Abuja, Port Harcourt, Asaba and the towns in Oshimili North including my town Akwukwu Igbo as well as Illah, Atuma and others and the impression is the same. They want their PVC but they cannot get it. This does not look like absolute readiness to me, but let us leave that for another day. We have a serious security issue in the northern part of the country. The government has been collecting information, personnel are being trained and military weaponry are being sourced. I believe you can see the result and the progress. Again I hear the people ask the question why now? Up till now we know that Boko Haram operates with impunity, because they somehow seem to be one step ahead of the military, don’t ask me how? Ask all the double agents in the Government. Now you want Mr. President to discuss national security on Facebook and social media, so that Boko Haram will continue to be ahead of our Military? “NEVER AGAIN!” There are no particular times for National Security consideration, most importantly the postponement is within the consideration of the constitution. Let the end justify the means. Nigeria First!
Q: What do you think about Buhari?
A: He is a Nigerian known to me since I can understand what Nigeria is all about. A former military leader that overthrew a democratically elected Government that lasted only 20 months in office and still wants to rule over me and my generation 30 years after.
Q: So what are his chances in the upcoming election?
A: Chances? I do not know if he has any. Nigerians are sophisticated enough and know that you do don’t change a winning team and you don’t change a C-in-C in the middle of a war. Silent majority of Nigerians are aware that you don’t transform from good to bad. Honestly, I do not wish to experience a situation of a President in incommunicado and we have the likes of Tinubu and Amaechi, telling us that the President is in Saudi Hospital or in Germany or US taking medical treatment and can rule from anywhere in the world. You do not give what you don’t have. At 73 years of age Buhari have nothing to offer my generation any more. We are wishing him a happy retirement.
Q: What is your plan after the election?
A: By his grace President Goodluck will be re-elected as the president of Nigeria and I will consider my job done. I will pack my things and head back to Germany to my family and my community and continue from where I stopped. That is my plan
Q: Will you turn down an offer to stay behind and continue with your work in the service of Mr. President.
A: Haaaaaaa. It is not as simple as that. In one of my interviews, I guess with your media network, not quite sure, I said I will be available to serve Nigeria when and if I am asked to, but not at all cost. I have a Media Network and a State Project in Hamburg Germany and I have people in my employment who are my primary responsibilities for now. I need to take care of them. I have been serving Nigeria, in various capacities since my university days and since I have been in Germany also. I do necessarily Need to be in Nigeria to be a servant of the People. I will continue to do that in my own way and conviction irrespective of position and who the president of Nigeria is. I believe in my generation and I believe in Nigeria for me that is the most important.
Q: What is your prediction for President Jonathan’s second term in office if he wins?
A: Well I am an optimist, but more so fact speak for itself, there is nothing like if! I already see Mr. President in his second term that is more determined to tackle on the challenges the country are currently facing; insecurity, creating more employment, continuing the hard fight against corrupt practices. I also see a president working hard to consolidate the gains of the transformation agenda in the areas as technology, health care, financial and banking services, as well as telecommunication, information management, and agriculture. I am very optimistic that come 28 March we will be celebrating the re-election of Mr. President.
Q: You have built one of the most impressive Ethno Media Network in Germany. What is your drive?
A: Well, I have been fascinated by the role of media especially in a stress afflicted communities, believing that a strong and fair public media promoting diversity can mediate disproportionate communal relationships. The coming of the Social Media have taking the strategic importance of the role of the media in helping to shape public perceptions to an all time high. Nigeria has recently overtaken South Africa as the largest user of Facebook in Sub-Saharan Africa with over 11 million Facebook users. This underscores the need to have strategic media plan for pre and post election in Nigeria.
My first degree was in Geography and regional planning and my Masters in Peace and security, so my interest in media which started during my university days as director of one of the most vibrant press club at the University of Calabar is still my driving Passion irrespective of my academic directions.
Q: We received your invitation on Continental European Media Strategic Support. What is the objective?
Before my nomination /appointment as a members of the Goodluck PCO, I have followed the development in the media with total apprehension on the dominance of the opposition party based on a total media stunt and fabricated reality, designed to create panic and dissolution among the Nigerian electorates and the international community and for a short while it looks as if this propaganda is working. I saw my nomination as a God sent opportunity to join hands in correcting the greatest media stunt in the history of Nigeria and thank God Nigerians can zip the facts from the fictions.
In my letter to my Director, Prof Nick Ezeh requesting for permission to travel back to Germany to organize this media summit, I made my opinion clearly that the turnaround and strong media presence of Mr. President and the PDP Presidential Campaign Organisation (PCO) in the last weeks can at least be described as a masterstroke and the Director of the Media FFK and the Directors of the various Directorates should be highly commended for the strategy and focus leadership. This is the part that the Media summit is envisage to compliment in a pre and post GEJ election. The good work and all the achievements of Mr. President were kept as humble as the Mr. President himself, who does not believe in grandstanding, but unfortunately the opposition took advantage of this. It is true that the rehabilitations of our roads, railways, building of new universities and schools, construction of new power stations, new initiatives in our agricultural sector etc. that are making our economic one of the fastest growing economies in the world and other success stories are not filtering down to the grassroots as it should be. This summit is designed to take care of such problems in the future and that is why it is tagged beyond March 2015 election. The idea is to design a blue print that will be used to promote and explain to Nigerians and the international community using the regular and social media how the transformation agenda is touching the life touching the lives of Nigerians. The blueprint which will be a continuous process is want we want to achieve and wish to use this opportunity to invite you and those entire believers of this project to the summit.