Eziomume Solomon, Nnewi
Senator Patrick Ifeanyi Ubah, who represents Anambra South Senatorial District at the Red chamber of the national assembly speaks on last week’s protests in Nigeria, his strides at the senate, and ambition for the 2021 governorship election in Anambra State.
What is your personal view about the ongoing #EndSARS protests across Nigeria?
While Nigerians were tackling the protracted COVID-19 lockdown, the frustration of young Nigerians, due to SARS’ activities, snowballed into a sustained popular protest that gradually saw states like Anambra, Abuja, Lagos, Enugu, Imo, Benue, Rivers, Cross-Rivers, Edo and others being literally shut down by the protesters. SARS reportedly operated torture chambers in different parts of the country where, and in the bid to extract self-implicating confessions from crime suspects in their custodies end up killing or maiming them. The anti-SARS protests are no more than a metaphor for the people’s frustration with the state of affairs in Nigeria.
The situation calls for comprehensive police reforms. The reforms should not be in terms of legislative enactment or amendment. We have had enough of that. This is not a matter of legislation. All you need in the police now is retraining and re-equipping the police, plus police welfare reforms in practical terms. Did you know that some police officers have no accommodation? They live right inside the police stations. They sew their own uniforms, buy their own boots, kit themselves literally in order to do their jobs. If you’re a police officer and you buy your own working kits, for which government had made budgetary provision, don’t you think that recouping your money through taking of bribe on the road will be seen as fair enough? This is what promotes impunity and extortion among police officers. What you see as police brutality is a result of the fact that police officers work under extreme difficult conditions. They see the state as having abandoned them; hence, they take their frustration on the citizens. Regardless, there are members of the police force, who are simply bad. Even if the best conditions of service are afforded them, that won’t stop them from being bad officers. Such policemen should be identified and profiled.
Nigerian youths are now feeling cheated by reason of where their leaders have placed them. Unemployment and underemployment, systemic decay and maladministration in some quarters have made the average Nigerian youth lose confidence in certain government agencies. Some of the angry youths, who took to the streets to protest are hungry. There is the saying that a hungry man is an angry man; so, I am of the view that government and the political leadership should find a way of accommodating the youths in the decision making of government; by accommodating their varied interests. By accommodating their interests, I mean creating employment opportunities for them.
Over the years, even before I became a senator, I have made frantic efforts to ensure that majority of my people in Anambra State, and Nnewi in particular, are empowered with hand works and monies to set up their individual businesses.
Are you impressed with Buhari’s address to the nation over the #EndSARS protest?
I wouldn’t want to discuss that. However, it is necessary to point out that throughout his address, the president did not discuss or mention Lekki Toll Gate shootings, which was the burning issue as at the moment.
What is your advice to the ruling class about the present scenario in the country?
Leaders should seek forgiveness from Nigerian youths, who have been bruised terribly. For the nation to move forward, the fatal wounds inflicted on Nigerian youths over the years should be consciously made to heal. The older generation still lording over the country needs the forgiveness of the youths. The trust deficit must be bridged so as to regain their confidence. The youths have been badly bruised and their scars must be well taken care of. The youths are telling us something, not in words, but in actions. They are speaking in their own manner, because, people speak differently; some speak in parables too. The older generation is managing the resources of Nigeria and the youths are telling us that our management is poor; they cannot be silenced, they must be heard. If there is right to life, then, there is right to livelihood. Giving them job or engaging them is not a privilege, but a right. There is a trust deficit between the people, especially the youths, and the successive political leadership. Nigeria is now in a situation where the rich cannot sleep because the poor cannot eat. From this moment, the political leadership must be very sincere with the people. As politicians, we must mean what we say, and say what we mean. The youths feel cheated because, the older generation had better opportunities at their time. The youths need to know that we are listening to them. The youths should be able to hold us accountable. The engagement of the youths is pivotal. The huge percentage of our youths are idle; in fact, over 80 percent of them because, when you see someone carting away food items, then, there is a big problem. A bruised mind is very dangerous to handle. Young people are beginning to ask questions. If they were gainfully employed or engaged, they will not come out in their large numbers. Government must create jobs; it must find ways for the youths to earn money. The government must be ingenious in finding solutions to these problems. Let’s assure our teeming youths that they are not alone. If China can create jobs for billions of its citizens, then, Nigeria can also do it. What Nigerians witnessed among the youths in the past week was a deep-seated resentment from the people, who feel a certain state of hopelessness.
What is your advice to the youths about the present uprising?
My advice is that the #EndSARS protesters nationwide should withdraw from the streets. Their agitations have since reached the authorities in the country. The genuine protesters have made their points loud and clear enough for those in authority to hear them and do the needful. Youths should stop their street protest for now, to prevent the hoodlums, who have hijacked the hitherto peaceful exercise to continue with their condemnable acts, which include vandalism, arson, looting, and killing, amongst others. I believe that our good youths didn’t plan or bargain for the eruption of violence that occurred in the country. I, hereby, call on all well meaning youths in Nigeria to put a halt to the protests and give the government some time to make true their promises. I urge the government to be circumspect by urgently attending to the demands of the #EndSARS protesters. I charge protesting youths to embrace dialogue as an avenue to restore peace. The youths should be patient and give government time to see fulfillment of the programmes. Mr. President urged Nigerian youths to stop protest that their agitation is heard loud and clear, and that their demands would be looked into. I believe, personally, that the programmes of action of the government on the demands cannot come to fruition without a peaceful and calm environment. Youths should stop indulging in destruction of public or private property and investments. I call on the federal government to liaise with states to stop the crisis as well as put forward sustainable programmes meant to check police brutality against youths and engagement of youths. I use this opportunity to commiserate with the families of all those, who have lost their lives during the nationwide protest. I call on the government no to ensure that their death were not in vain.
Among the bills and motions you have sponsored, which one gives you pride and sense of prestige as senator?
It is the Deep Offshore and Inland Basin Production Sharing Contract CAP D3 LFN, 2004 Act (Amendment) Bill, 2019. This bill was co-sponsored by Senator Akpan Albert Bassey and my humble self. The bill passed first reading within 24 hours of presentation of my motion on the recovery of accruable oil revenue; because of its importance and the need to augment the national budget through additional accruable oil revenue. This Bill, which was described by my fellow distinguished colleagues as one of the epoch making bills in the 9th Senate, was borne out of the compelling need to checkmate the systemic negligence and non-review of the PSC Act, which has made the federal government lose about $21 billion over the past years. According to the Ministry of Finance’s projected 2020-2022 Medium Term Fiscal Framework; if the bill is passed, N160billion will be earmarked for the 2020 fiscal year, N320billion for 2021 and 457billion for the 2022 fiscal year as federally collectible revenue accruable to the Federal Government as a result of the review of the PSC agreement Act. This marks the beginning of a new era in the Nigerian Petroleum landscape. It is, therefore, my expectation that the bill, if passed into law, will yield significant results in stemming the systemic financial leakages in the Nigerian Petroleum Sector and optimally increase our nation’s revenue base, so as to ensure that government serves our people better. The bill is premised upon Section 16 of the Act, which allows for periodic review of the Act. Section 16(1) of the Act, which provides that where the price of crude oil at any time exceeds $20 per barrel, the share of the government in the additional revenue shall be adjusted under the PSC to such extent that such adjustment will be economically beneficial to the government of the federation, and address the deeply entrenched financial leakage in the Nigerian petroleum industry. As the vice chairman, Senate Committee on Petroleum (Upstream), I am decisive about taking intentional steps to entrench transparency and accountability in the Nigerian Upstream petroleum industry, so as to increase the federal government’s share of revenue accruing from oil trading. I am proud to be a major contributor in this national revenue boosting bill, which is part of my early legislative inputs in the Senate. I want to express gratitude particularly to the Senate President, Senator Ahmad Lawan, and the entire leadership of the Senate, most especially my chairman in the Senate Petroleum Upstream committee; Senator Akpan Albert Bassey, for his support and efforts in making this bill a reality.
What informs your decision to succeed Governor Obiano in 2021?
I believe I have managed both human and natural resources as a private person. I believe too, that I have gathered more experience more than any other person in the race, striving to succeed Obiano. I also believe that I have given my heart, more than any other person, to Anambra State and its people. Every Anambra man and woman will also agree with me that I have all it takes to fix the state, to become truly, the envy of other states. I also stand to challenge anybody that thinks he has more experience on what to do to fix Anambra to come up for a debate or discussion. I took a step to become governor in 2013; but Governor Obiano took it. Again, I will take a shot, and I believe, this time, I am going to win.
What is your word to Anambra people?
I advise my people – Anambra people, to continue to analyse my antecedents and achievements, both as a senator and as a private person, to help them make informed decision on who becomes their next governor. I am very convinced that if it comes to those that have visible investments, things anybody can hold onto and say that somebody is an experienced manager of resources; I think, I am one of those to be mentioned. I will continue to ask Anambra people to put me in their prayers. As a son and citizen of the state, I have done a lot of things, which none of these people contesting with me has done. I am not the ordinary politician that will, after winning election, disappear with the people’s mandate. I am always there with my people. They gave me the opportunity to represent them at the Senate, and I did not disappoint them. If they entrust me with the fortune of Anambra State, they will also be rest assured that I will not disappoint.