Professor Pat Utomi is an economist and management expert. He speaks on his experience as a Delta State governorship aspirant on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and also said that unless the country is taken back from the ‘elite’, it will never make progress.
You have been involved in active politics for a while but have the perception that you are more of a technocrat and not a career politician affected you in anyway?
It’s a folly that in Nigeria, politicians are seen as people who have held different public offices, but that shouldn’t be the case. A politician is one who has undergone several leadership trainings. I want to correct that impression; Barrack Obama was an international inspirational speaker besides other leadership trainings he has. Donald Trump was a successful business man before becoming a president. I was appointed as an adviser to the president of Nigeria at age 27, under the leadership of Shehu Shagari so I’m not new in the political sector. I started as a student leader in the university, then we had a major crisis which was called ‘Ali must go’ in 1998, where I led the protest.
What are factors that might have contributed to the failure of your governorship bid during the 2019 APC party primary in Delta State?
As far as I’m concerned, there was no primary. It’s not worth talking about. It’s unfortunate that Nigeria is a country where people do whatever suits them and walk away freely. Those who organised that election should be jailed today, but because in Nigeria, everything goes, you can get away with heinous crimes committed against the law.
There was no primary, it didn’t take place. Of course there were different political groups and one group actually nominated me, the other one that was influenced by the national really did not take place, the evidence is all over and courts have ruled on that. The tragedy of Nigeria is that people, who should be walking in shame, walk with impunity. It’s amazing and we have now allowed and accepted it like a norm and give them places of honor.
What are the practical steps you would recommend to stop the abnormalities existing in the political system of Nigeria?
I think what causes this is because we have an elite that has come to be very dependent on the crumbs they can pick up from power dominating the society, who are also depending on oil. These elite run from the truth to avoid being cut off from enjoying the crumbs; they don’s condemn or question what the people in authority do. I don’t feel any respect for people who have power in Nigeria; I don’t, including people in the commercial class, because many of them have a relationship with people who have captured the country, creating a massive time bomb of poverty, economic crisis and job scarcity.
This economy certainly cannot grow the way we are. What we have in Nigeria is an over layering of a number of things; one is state capture. Some elite have captured the state and the people who succeed in business are those who have connections with these elites. In a country where the biggest risk to doing business is regulatory business, government is the more reason why you are likely to fail. When you lay regulatory capture on top of state capture, then you envisage seeing a country that will not make progress. The fact is that a time bomb is ticking; I may be in my grave when it blows out, but it will surely blow out. No question about that. Thinking people must find some way to approach these elites who have captured the country, and tell them of how they are creating a nightmare for our children and grandchildren.
What are practical actions that should be taken to confront these elite whom you said have captured the country?
We need a new NADECO to liberate Nigerians because the country is going down. Professionals need to begin to organise and look at what is wrong with the country, and begin to march on the streets by way of protest. We cannot continue like this, everywhere you go there is violence, crisis and hardship. I predicted all of these things going on today 25 years ago. Several books have been written concerning what we are experiencing in the country today. An American called Robot Kaplan, wrote a book, ‘The Coming Anarchy’ and exposed what was coming to us. Karl Maier also wrote the book, ‘This House Has Fallen: Nigeria in Crisis.’ We all saw these predictions forthcoming. Why can’t people say, it’s time to take our country back and save it on time. That’s what we need. No matter what anybody says, I have done my bit; I have risked my life repeatedly, not in my own interest, but for the sake of the common good, so let history now judge.
If you have the opportunity to be part of President Buhari’s cabinet, what sector will you consider exigent to look into?
The biggest challenge Nigeria has is a clear national strategy of where it is going and a passionate team of implementers who can create an entrepreneurial capitalism that can that have the educational system that can provide the skills for young people to become entrepreneurs. In other words, stem education is very critical, and how you create jobs out of those. To contribute to the society, I try to see whether through private and social enterprise, I can help advance these things. I don’t need to be in government to do them. I could make a lot of money getting contracts for my pocket, but I have never chased the contract or any oil license, not because I don’t know that’s how to make easy money in Nigeria. I have always thought of how to drive capital and knowledge towards impacting human beings and changing their lives. It’s more enriching to do well and do right than just having lots of money. The wealth of who I am comes from inside of me and not from how much wealth I have. The definition of my life is that my self-worth has always exceeded my net-worth.
What are your thoughts about the future of the youths, especially with the current economic instability and job insecurity?
It is obvious that the elite have set the country backwards; I mean those who have ruled badly in the past. So if you will allow these setbacks define the success of your generation, then you are not very wise as a youth. Pretend they don’t exist, and build your own future. The starting point is that if you don’t have the right knowledge, you will not be able to function in the new world of struggle we have stepped into. Officially in 2020, the world enters industry 4.0, which means the fourth industrial revolution. This is where robots, artificial intelligence, and block chain technologies will emerge. So how will you function if you don’t have knowledge? The government needs to emphasise stem education, science and technology, engineering, and, mathematics. If there are no good policies to drive these factors, they will fail. In variety of ways, I have tried to engage young people. I am currently working with a British school to introduce in Nigeria, design and tech at primary school level. I implore the youths to use the ‘yes we can attitude.’
Considering the outcome of the June 12 struggle, do you think true democracy is being practiced in the country?
It was a foundation on the struggle for democracy, but the painful part of it is that, it was an incomplete struggle. When I was in the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, a Professor of Sociology, Ikenna Nzimiro, would always talk about the unfinished revolution. Sadly, there’s a paradox of truth in that. June 12 stands to remain the beginning of an unfinished revolution. Some of us nearly gave our lives in that revolution, at least there were two assassination attempts on me as a result of that struggle, and it’s heartbreaking that we ended up with charlatans in the name of politicians, and the country is worse today than it was then. Any system of government that has failed to add value to human progress, will force a finish of the revolution otherwise, Nigeria will be the road to Somalia.
Will you run for any political office again in future?
Ironically, I have never planned to contest for any political office because of my approach to life. Every contest I have been in has been by people saying ‘we need to do this and you should do it.’ The fact is that I can make impact in the society without a political office. However, I am also duty-bound that when people choose me to contest, I have a sense of duty to respond to their yearnings. If you look at mypolitical history, you will discover that there’s hardly any leadership position I have ever indicated interest in. Even for a simple as the president of University Alumni Association, I was called to take the position. So I can’t tell if there are ambitions to run, but if I am chosen as a candidate and I see the need to run, thenprobably I will.