By Wilfred Eya
Chairman of Udom Emmanuel Campaign Council, Senator Gabriel Suswan has said that Nigerians should vote for the next president of the country purely on capacity and competence. In this interactive session with journalists in Lagos, he gave reasons why the Akwa Ibom State governor should succeed President Muhammadu Buhari in 2023.
Why are your reasons for supporting Governor Udom Emmanuel to be the next president of Nigeria?
He has so much on ground that has shown that if given the chance that he has the capacity to lead Nigeria. In Akwa Ibom, he has done some of the things that even the Federal Government has not been able to do. It then means that if he controls the national policies, this country would witness very positive changes. His campaigns are not going to be based on rotation of presidency or not; no, he is presenting himself as somebody who has a conscience and somebody who merits to lead Nigeria. He is presenting himself not because this thing is zoned to his mother’s place but that he has what it takes to be the president of Nigeria. What has happened in the past was that everything was based on primordial sentiments. I am talking about sentiments of what the Hausa people call ‘namu’ which means he is our own. People have come to believe that if my own is not there, we are not in charge and we may not benefit. Here is a gentleman that is highly detribalised; a gentle man who has worked with all sorts of people and who has worked in all sectors. He has shown that he would be able to run the country without thinking that I am from Akwa Ibom and the South-South and that this is the only time that the South-South people would benefit.
He wants Nigerians to have the benefit of enjoying the dividends of democracy. So, his campaign basically would be around rejuvenating the economy of this country. You know that our economy is completely down and if you have a president who would come when they do presentation on power points but cannot appreciate what they are talking about; or somebody who does not know people have a high MPR and that it has a trickle down effect on the general economy, then there is a problem. Once the private sector cannot borrow from the banks, poverty sets in and that is what is happening now. But if you have a president who has the background and who can say what are we going to do through borrowing that individuals, private companies and small scale enterprises can go and borrow at very low rate and create employment in the country. We need somebody who has the basic knowledge of that. This is a gentleman who knows how to create money. He has said it that there is a difference between money and cash. You can have cash but you would not have money and cash depletes very fast. So, he knows how to create money and that is why as a sub-national government, he has been able to create one of the most efficient airlines in Nigeria. So, it is not about cash; if it is about cash, he didn’t have the cash to go and buy an aircraft. But the truth is that he knows how to create money and that is why that airline is running and running efficiently. Those are the kinds of innovations and creativity that we need in the system at the highest level. With all the cash we have, Nigeria has not been able to establish an airline but here is a state that has no money but has the most efficient airline. These are the kinds of antecedents that we need to look at.
” Even during the military time, Nigeria had a foreign policy that was focused on Africa and that was how we were able to liberate countries like Namibia, South Africa and the rest of them. But now, what would you say is Nigeria’s foreign policy? Is it about building a rail line from Katsina to Niger Republic?”
Your zone, North Central is saying that 2023 should be a time for them to produce the president but you are here supporting somebody from the South-South; why?
So, it is not about where I come from because where I come from has taken us to where we are today. It is what has created mediocrity in the system and once you have mediocrity ascend the throne of leadership in a county, you know the consequences that follow which is what we are experiencing today. So, Udom’s campaign would be around revamping the economy of the country which he knows like the back of his hands. His campaign would also revolve around addressing the infrastructural deficits in the country. Infrastructure is about housing, roads, healthcare, transportation and so on. Any president worth his salt, would seek to improve the power situation in our country. It is only with power that you can have industries. It is only with power that the nation’s economy can grow.
I have told you a few things that this gentleman has done that put him over and above others. It is becoming like a Gordian knot for Nigeria to operate an airline. Here is somebody who has built a factory for syringes. In the entire Africa, apart from South Africa, the biggest syringe factory you have is now in Akwa Ibom and they are now exporting it even to Europe. I am just mentioning but a few. In my capacity as the chairman of our committee I know that there is an American company, they are begging even today that they want to come and build an over 300 megawatts power plant in Akwa Ibom. This is because they have seen the enabling environment and they have seen a serious person at the helm of affairs in the state. We are talking about power and here is a place where they said let us come and build a power plant. They are not asking for money or any guarantee; they want to bring their own cash because they have seen the environment that is conducive. One needs to go to Akwa Ibom and see it for oneself. When somebody was saying that he would take Nigeria to bottom, you people did not listen. Governor Udom is saying he would take Nigeria from bottom to the top by addressing some of the challenges that we face today. Can you go as a Nigerian even in Cotonou here and talk with your head up. This is because you do not have a foreign policy that addresses issues that concern us. Even during the military time, Nigeria had a foreign policy that was focused on Africa and that was how we were able to liberate countries like Namibia, South Africa and the rest of them. But now, what would you say is Nigeria’s foreign policy? Is it about building a rail line from Katsina to Niger Republic? But here is a young man who understands the nuances of foreign policy.
So, you do not believe in zoning?
Other people are talking about zoning but we have gone beyond that. If we continue that way, you would wake up one day and your children would be stoning you in your house. And so we need something different. Go to our embassies and you would regret being a Nigerian. I have been to some of them. This is very serious because when you talk on the foreign scene, people take you based on how they see your country. If an American Ambassador walks into our embassy for instance in Paris, if you talk, he will think you are a joke. What is our stand in the international community on any issue?
In the circumstance, what is the way forward for Nigeria?
We need a young man who has the intellect and exposure to take actions that would improve the image of the country. Udom would be able to give the poor man on the streets his life back. Like former US president Trump used to say, they have taken our country. They have taken our lives. This APC has taken our lives from us. None of us has any life again except those of us who pretend to be at the top. The pressure is overwhelming. We need to get our lives back and the only way we can get our lives back is to get somebody who understands how to revive and resuscitate the economy of this country. Look at Lagos which is supposed to be the economic hub of Nigeria! That is when you know that this our country is gone. Before, most Africans would scramble to come here to buy products but now they no longer come because they would not make profit; our Naira has gone. The currency of Benin Republic is stronger than our own. As a young man practicing in Lagos as a lawyer, any time I wanted to feel like a big man, I would take small Naira and go to Ghana. When I changed Naira then, I would be behaving as if I was a millionaire. Can you do that now? No. Governor Udom understands this and it puts him above others and makes him the best for the job. Look at the borrowing and the deficits; that is over N7 trillion. So, you have a budget that is not implementable. That means that you do not have a country. It then means that the leadership of this country has no clue about what is happening to you and I. Udom understands the situation.
What is your view on the consensus arrangement by some aspirants of your party from the Northern part of the country?
I am one person who believes in ability and capacity. How can you believe for instance that as a Yoruba man, the only way you can benefit is when your tribe emerges as the president. The belief was that the only way Northerners can benefit from the leadership is that a Northerner can be president. Today, they are worse off for it. Ask any Northerner on the street. He would prefer that a white man be president than the situation we have today. So, the philosophy and the theory of ‘namu’,(he is our own) no longer exists. So, that brings me to the issue of consensus; consensus for what? For mediocrity or what? The question is if they decide that I am the consensus candidate, do I know how to take us out from the dungeon where we are today. We should be more interested in competence than any other thing.