…Lists priority areas Tinubu should pay attention
By Daniel Kanu
Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa, former presidential aspirant on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and president, Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, in this exclusive chat with Sunday Sun, speaks on the areas of priority attention for President Bola Tinubu, the Buhari legacy, what Governor Alex Otti should focus on in Abia State, and the challenge before the National Assembly, among other national issues. Excerpt:
Now that President Bola Tinubu has been sworn in, what is your expectation and what do you think should be the areas of priority attention for his government?
I believe that he seems to have a fair understanding of the issues listening to him at the inauguration. For me, there are three key areas of fundamental issues he must look into. First is the security of the country, which is primary and I believe he knows so. Second is to look at the economy and I believe that his attention to trying to bring convergence to the foreign exchange and trying to minimise erosion of funds through the subsidies, and direction to improve Nigerian competitiveness which in the end will attract more investment to the country. I think those are part of the fundamental issues, but the methods is what may have to be adjusted, for instance, the subsidy. The impact may be too much without any compensating mechanism. It might draw many people into poverty. So, while it is a good idea, the implementation needs to be tinkered with, so that it doesn’t turn out to look as if it’s a punishment to the people. It is something that needs to be done and must be done; the difference is in the method of doing it. He must factor some remedies. The economy is a serious issue to focus on and part of the issue is: how do we push and boast production and make Nigeria competitive so that you can attract investment because investment with businesses and programmes and projects create jobs and jobs create wealth. So, if you want to improve or build the economy you must look at how you can attract investment both local and domestic. So, these two issues of Naira exchange rate and subsidy, which seems to be gulping our national income are things that should be looked at and it is good that he is looking at them quite early. They are hard decisions, but they are decisions that have to be taken and you must factor in some remedies, and ways to cushion the effect because you must be looking at those at the bottom of the pyramid. The third crucial issue is national unity. He is inheriting a fractured nation; his election also hastened the fractionalization of Nigeria, it brought out our fault lines much more evident. He must know that people are angry, people are not happy, people feel discriminated against, people feel maligned, people feel abused, people feel being made as if they are not part of the country, so there is anger, there is unhappiness and he must find way to reconcile Nigeria. Without reconciling Nigerians the issue of insecurity will not abate, insecurity will not be better because they will not be willing to cooperate with the government. If Nigerians are not in good mood and in high morale, productivity may not improve. So, while security and economy are on top, the unity of Nigeria is the base on which they thrive. The two pillars of security and economy have to rest on a united country. There are many, many things, one million things he can do to signal or show that he is about to unite the country.
What also do you think that the 10th National Assembly should focus on?
For me, as I said in my book: “Nigeria need for the evolution of a new nation”, I said that the three arms of government are three sides of the same coin, so they are supposed to be autonomous, independent, but they are independently united, they are autonomously united, so they are not supposed to be working at cross-purposes. It is one government with arms and the Bible says the body is made up of different parts and if those parts are working differently there will be no peace in the system. So, first, they must have a common vision. The reason they seem to have issues is that sometimes, they don’t find a uniting vision which is also part of the thing that any government must do. You must create a vision that all Nigerians will buy into, and, therefore, if we have one vision then it becomes easy to be sure that all of us are following the same direction and if somebody begins to pull against that direction then you correct the person. So, if a country has no united vision which they are pursuing then everybody will be looking at things from their own perspective. That is why the DSS can go and be fighting the EFCC, it just shows that there is no common vision, they don’t understand what they are set up to do, they don’t know the end purpose, they know their activities, but what is their activities supposed to result in? So, we must focus on the vision. And once you focus on the vision then the National Assembly will know its own role to propel that vision. The executive and the judiciary will know their roles, the private sector, non-governmental sector, educational sector; all sectors will know the roles they are assigned to do. Then the national government, which is the executive, will be coordinating the roles of every sector. So, I will wish that the National Assembly focuses on ensuring that every decision they will take, every law they will pass must be focused on making life better for the ordinary Nigerian. The essence of governance is to lift Nigerians from the low level or where they are to a high level of quality of life. That is how you measure good governance. Good governance is not necessarily measured by the number of roads or bridges or whatever, it is: What is the quality of life of Nigerians and if I were any president, I will start from that question. What is the per capita income? What is the protein consumption per capita, what is the life expectancy per capita? Today, there is a baseline, and then in the next one year we see if there is any improvement in per capita income, per capita protein, per capita health statistics, life expectancy, infant mortality, maternal mortality, purchasing power parity etc are they moving in the right direction? Do they have more purchasing power? That is the way you say you are building a nation and that you are adding value. Everything else you do must be directed toward achieving this goal of improving the quality of life of the average citizen. So, I am asking the National Assembly after they finish fighting and paying $200, 000 and $500, 000 to get to various principal positions, will they find time to focus on what Nigerians expect from them or will they be busy looking for how to recover the money they have invested in trying to get to office. The whole context of politics and governance must change, it must be sacrifice and if its sacrifice, I don’t think anybody should be spending money trying to be senate president or wanting to be the Speaker. The House members should look at the best among them. They just look out and vote the best among them and make the person like the head monitor, like the senior prefect. That is all that they are supposed to do. These politicians have changed Nigeria and monitised everything and completely disrupted our value system. From what I am hearing that they are all paying, just to be presiding officers. It is very insulting and I think to every average Nigerian. It gives me little hope because after spending such huge money, after making all the investments they will go back to be looking for how they will get back their money and there will be little time left to lift Nigeria. They should focus on improving the quality of lives of the people and they should please stop creating new agencies. Every law they make they add a new agency, and there is this multiplication of agencies. Every law they make now they put an administrative structure behind it which the government will pay for. They can make laws without creating agencies, we don’t need them, strengthen the ones we have. Most of the agencies should be merged, they are doing similar things.
Does it bother you that the Southeast zone has gradually been schemed out as the zone did not get the president, and vice president, and the Senate president position is gradually eluding them?
It doesn’t bother me anymore because it is clear that Nigerians are not interested in equity and fair play. All these people talking about equity, I laugh at them…Where does equity start and where does it end? Equity and justice come into play when it concerns them. Power, for instance, has gone round and now when it came back to the South it went back to the Southwest, it has not gone to the Southeast and nobody raised his voice for equity and fair play. For me, I have given up on all that as it doesn’t make sense anymore in Nigeria. It is survival of the fittest, those who can fight, who can manipulate, who can maneuver, who can bribe etc, that is the way to get to the office in Nigeria, there is no more place for equity, justice, and fair play, or merit. So, when they raise the issue now, I laugh and I am not interested in it anymore. Let them run Nigeria the way they think it’s best, one day, God in His Infinite mercy will re-balance the situation. Even some people from the Southeast were not in support when we were talking about shifting the presidency to the Southeast, they were supporting other people, so what is the basis for such now? There is no sincerity among most people calling for justice. They want justice when it suits them and will kick or ignore it when it does not suit them. That is not what justice means.
Judiciary, they say, is the last hope of the common man and now that the Election Tribunal is going to deliver judgment on the election result, particularly the presidential election, what level of confidence do you have in the judiciary?
I have been one person who has refused, despite popular views to lose hope in the judiciary because I have observed sometimes that somebody wins a case and he will praise the judiciary that it is the last hope of the people, but the person who loses will say the judiciary has not done well. So, I believe that we should believe that the judiciary will do what is right, we must have that belief. If they disappoint, then we leave them with God, there is a judge who is above all judges. The truth is that when there is a disputation, political disputation, almost, all the participants want to influence the judges at every level. Many of us condemn it yet we do those things. I can assure you that most of them, at least, I can’t say all of them, are struggling to influence the judiciary in one way or the other, and if it doesn’t go their way they say the judiciary is corrupt and if it goes their way they say the judiciary is the last hope of the common man. So, I have decided that whatever the judiciary comes out with …thank God we have appellate opportunity, if you don’t win at this level, you go to the next level, I think two to three levels and if at the end of those levels I lose, I am prepared to take it. The judge is not god, if they have judged wrongly God will judge them, it’s not me that will judge them. I believe they should have some morality, sense of purpose, feeling a sense of accountability to God the creator and to conscience. I hope and pray all the time that the judges should do justice to what is before them and God will make them do it.
What are you expecting from your new state governor, Dr Alex Otti?
My expectation from Governor Otti is to be able to focus on the strength of the state. The state has a lot of competencies, and differential advantages to focus on. Three things he needs to do are: To make things easy for the private sector to operate. Most people in Abia are private sector people, we are traders, we are businessmen, so Otti should focus on taking away everything that will stop people from doing their businesses and prospering. People for all I know are not asking for a handout, no Igbo man asks for a handout, what they want you to do is take away all the obstacles on the way so that they can do business. So, anything that will promote business he should focus on them. Secondly, he should show transparency because that is one of the things that have lacked in the state, transparency, and integrity in disbursing the resources available to the state. And the next is to be even-handed, and that is to make sure that every part of the state should get a feeling of government. Whereas you focus on Aba and the state capital, Umuahia, that is fine, but there are 17 local governments and he should make sure that every local government has something, has a project, a programme that will make them know that they belong to the state. He should focus on building the economy, and allow the economy grow by just creating the enabling environment, that will be good. Let him ensure that all bottlenecks on businesses are removed, all these private agencies collecting taxes, putting road blocks on the road, blocking people from going to market and all those kind of oppressive actions, he should take them away. Let him spread appointments, projects across the state and that will bring the unity he also needs to succeed. Given what he said in his inaugural speech, I think he is on point.
Let’s know from your point of view the legacy that former president, Muhammadu Buhari, left behind?
To be sincere, it’s very difficult to point out a true legacy that the president left behind, I don’t know what that legacy is because I don’t see his footprint in the economy, look at the way he handled the currency exchange, look at the way he left the fuel confusion instead of deregulating in piecemeal or gradually, he started postponing it and now put a booby trap for in-coming president. Is it the legacy of discrimination? He declared that he was going to discriminate against some of his constituents and he did it. He was determined about it; he said it and he did it. He was completely negative and discriminatory to the Southeast, so what is the legacy. Is it in security? When he came there was insurgency in the Northeast, but as he is leaving insecurity has gone to the whole country. So, what is the legacy? Is it in the economy? Exchange rate is up to the roof, interest rates are high, joblessness is the highest, so somebody should tell me the legacy. Is it the legacy of aloofness? Look at the other day the DSS and EFCC were fighting, if it was Buhari nobody will say anything and they will continue in the show of shame, but you saw what happened now. The President (Bola Tinubu) immediately instructed the DSS to leave the place. That is how presidents do, but Buhari was aloof. The different segments will be fighting each other, Army will be fighting the Police, and he will say nothing. He was absent in leadership. Most of the projects he claimed he finished were projects started by President Jonathan. Jonathan almost finished the Kaduna-Abuja…He finished rail lines, it was the commissioning. If there is any legacy if I must find one it is that he did not abandon the projects, which the previous government started. He continued the Niger Bridge, the Niger bridge project was on, and he only came and changed the model. It was supposed to be done by a PPP model that has been initiated already, I know that for true and he now came and changed the model and then increased funding. Lagos-Ibadan Expressway has already been started, Benin-Shagamu was already started, Kaduna-Maiduguri was already ongoing and many others. So, he finished those projects and those are the things I can probably remember, otherwise there is really nothing to remember Buhari for that you can call great legacy which he initiated. He can be remembered as a man who came and spent eight years of Nigeria, most of it absentminded. Thank God he has finished.