From Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja
Amidst controversy on whether or not the Presidency should shift to Southern Nigeria in 2023, former chairman, Nigeria Economic Summit Group(NESG), Sam Ohuabunwa, has said it would be unfair for the North to retain the position, beyond 2023.
Ohuabunwa, who is a presidential aspirant on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP), noted that in a multi ethnic and multi religious country like Nigeria, zoning is necessary to ensure equity and justice.
The presidential hopeful, who spoke in an interview with journalists, in Abuja, also bared his mind on his aspiration and other issues.
Recently, you indicated interest to run for the Presidency on the platform of PDP. Why do you want to be president?
I am contesting for the Presidency because I believe I have the competence; I have the character, I have the capacity. I have all that it takes. I have been thoroughly bred and prepared for the office and I told you it was long in coming. It was just that I was not getting the right signals; I didn’t have the right courage to own up.
I am competent to be the president of Nigeria and I am qualified; and I can compare with the best one-on-one. You and I have been in this country and this country has been led by different presidents and Nigeria has failed to achieve its manifest destiny.
The countries we started on the same level as third world nations, underdeveloped nations, developing nations in the 60s and 70s have all risen. Some have become first world, developed nations, industrialized nations. Nations like Singapore, South Korea, Malaysia and even China, United Arab Emirate.
United Arab Emirate was a desert. As director in Pfizer, we used to go and watch the Arabs do sports on the sand domes but in our generation, some men dreamt and built global capital where everybody is going to. And our nation, rather than become a country that will unite the people, we are getting disunited. Our country rather than be a safe country to live, has become a killing field, people are dying, as if nobody is able to halt it.
I have a strong motivation that I have what it takes to rewrite the story of Nigeria. We want to rewrite the narrative, turn our country around because I have been trained to produce, to create wealth; that is all I have done. I am a trained leader. I have the competence. I want to drive Nigeria away from this chronic underdevelopment to a nation of a developed people, that all of us can be proud of and where we can feed ourselves and export and contribute to the international community.
One of the issues that seems to be dominating discourse in the run up to 2023 is that of age. Some persons are saying that the president we have, at the moment, is too old, that we need a younger person. In 2023, you would be 73 years old. Don’t you think it could be an impediment?
Well, if age is the only consideration, then it will be tragedy. If any group of people just thought about age as the only way to select their leaders, it would be tragic. Ojukwu was a young man, Gowon was a young man too, two of them couldn’t manage Nigeria. They threw us into battle that we have not come out from. If they were older and more experienced, probably they would have sorted out their ego and differences that brought us to where we are.
We have young leaders. Some governors are young. We have seen their performance. Leadership is influence, ability to envision and deliver a result, it is not 100metres dash. There was a Malaysian or Venezuela leader that was almost 90, they had to bring him back. What is the age of Trump? What is the age of Biden? What you need is wholeness of body. There are people, who are my age and cannot do what I do physically, first and foremost.
So, if God gives you a good body, age is chronological, it’s in the mind. God has given me a good body and a good health. I am mentally strong. I am spiritually strong. So, you need body, soul and spirit to perform. If there is deficiency in any of them, you may have problem.
So, age should not be the only consideration; we should look at competence, we should look at what you are bringing on board. Leadership is not running for 100metre dash. In fact, it is more or less a long distance run and you can take it as your pace. Beyond that, any good leader knows that his primary responsibility is to hire those who will work with him.
If I am CEO, my major job is to hire my executive team- my GMs or executive directors. If I am president, my job is to hire my ministers, my heads of MDAs. My job as a leader is to set the vision, provide the resources, develop the KPIs and evolve a monitoring mechanism, to make sure that every body at every period, we are looking at how we are working towards that vision and accomplishments. And if you are doing well, we will commend you, if you are not doing well, we will train you and if we train you and you are not doing well, we will take you off and put somebody else there; I am result oriented. Yes, age is important. But it is not overriding.
Do you think zoning and rotation has outlived its usefulness as some argue?
It has not. In my book, “Nigeria need for revolution, 2010”, I said zoning is critical in a multi-ethnic, multi-religious country where you have minority and majority. If you don’t zone, you are going to perpetually keep people as slaves. And if you want unity, you must bring inclusiveness. That is my point.
When we get to the point where we become politically sophisticated, we have dealt with all the mundane issues, we have dealt with housing, education, transportation, health, we have defined our assurance to accommodate people, we have mortgage system that people have houses, we have educational system that ensures scholarship, you have bursary, student loans, when we take care of this mundane, then it will become unimportant.
Secondly, when you have leaders who are dispassionate, who are detribalized, who mean well and they run the system once or twice and the man from the North does not see the difference between what the president from his own area did and the one from another area. It will naturally become unimportant.
But if you say there is no zoning, no rotating; after President Buhari, somebody from Katsina should also become president because the moment it is not Katsina, you have started rotating. You should say anybody; his brother can succeed him. And I will tell you how the rest of Nigerians will take it.
The federal character principle as enshrined in our constitution, when you apply it to the presidency, it means that one state, one group cannot dominate it, otherwise the federal character has no significance. Even the 1999 constitution, it may not have said zoning, but there is federal character. What is federal character? Let not one group or one state dominate office.
In the presidency, there is one office, that is the president. So, if you don’t rotate and rotation starts with exclusion, if you don’t exclude anybody, then there is no rotation, everybody is free.
So, those arguing we should not rotate are being clever by half because all of them who are arguing that we should not do rotation were the same people that argued that there should be rotation. I have lived in this country, and I can send them their recordings of when they were making cases, “ it is the turn of the North” . Now everybody is saying it is not important, I am not in that business.
But my point, as I have said, I am not coming because of rotation but rotation is for equity, justice and fair play and I am a man who believes in equity and justice. I don’t change my principles, because it suits me or it does not suit me. That is the problem of the class of people we have in this country. Men who can change in the morning. In the afternoon they are something else, and as long as we give them leadership, our country will remain the way it is, because they change like chameleon.
The economy is in a terrible state, what quick fix will you make to turn things around, if elected president?
Three things. First is that we will quickly prioritize our expenditure profile. Quickly. We will review our expenditure profile. The money that Nigeria has can do twice what it is doing. Those who are working, we are going to adjust their salaries and make their salaries something that will give them living opportunity.
We are going to index salaries to inflation, salaries to devaluation. The day Nigeria devalues, salaries are adjusted, especially those that government employed. The day inflation grows beyond 5 percent, salaries are automatically adjusted. We must maintain a minimum standard of living.We are going to provide health insurance for everybody, those who are not working, government will provide them health insurance for them.
We are going to introduce high level of scholarships, bursary and student loans, so that parents will be relieved of the pressure of looking for money to pay school fees. When we have done that, we will therefore remove the necessity for corruption from amongst us. Those of us who are God fearing will keep away; because many are compelled to compromise because of the realities.
There is nobody that is paid salary in this country that he can go home with it because of inflation and devaluation. So, if we address it, it will make the government more responsible in ensuring that they don’t allow devaluation or inflation to keep occurring, because they know that there is a contingent liability.
So, the issue in the economy, because that is where I am going, you can’t discuss the economy and remove the people; every often people plan to build bridges, the people that build the bridges, you don’t know whether they are happy or unhappy, whether they will mix the concrete well.
So, the first is to deal with ourselves and make sure that we all understand that we mean well and it is good for our good and our children. The moment we do that, the next thing we want to do is to turn things around and begin to see how we can get investments; because investments are the only reason you can turn the economy around- foreign investments, domestic investments. I am going to start with Diaspora investments and attract the Diaspora Nigerians and to do it, you need to do three things; create the security of lives and properties; institute law and order; ensure that you have micro economic stability and policy stability and finally throw in incentives that will make Nigeria investment-friendly.
These are some of the things we will do, while we are now looking at our agriculture, which we can ramp up. Agriculture doesn’t need 10years planning. Every state has some crops, commercial crops that they can grow in commercial quantity, process and export.