Aloysius Attah, Onitsha
Senator Chuka Utazi, represents Enugu North in the National Assembly on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). He has advocated that the country should be restructured so that each state and geo-political zone in the country would develop at its pace. He also speaks on other topical issues
As the 8th Senate was winding down, you set an agenda for President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration by moving a motion that a national emergency on issues like unemployment should be declared. What motivated your action?
As the senate was winding down, I thought it wise that there must be a take home that summarises the activities of the 8th senate and the hallmarks of its experiences, the high points and the low points as it affects the welfare of the people. I looked at all those issues that have made it impossible for this country to move in the right direction in terms of security for all parts of the country, especially in the north. We were talking about insecurity in the North East, today North West has joined. I looked at all that scenario, and then I went back to the issue of unemployment.
Every year, people graduate from school, yet they can’t find jobs. Some have been unemployed for ten years and this situation has caused an upsurge in criminal activities like kidnapping, robbery and the likes. People are now afraid of travelling by road because of the risks. I looked at all these issues including the deficits we have in infrastructure that has made it impossible for the business community to dictate the direction of things in the country. Normally, government doesn’t create jobs, it is the private sector that drives the economy but for this to happen, the government has to create the enabling environment. Number one is electricity which is the fulcrum on which every other thing revolves. We looked at all these issues and I said, as we are taking into consideration what has happened in the past four years, it is also very important that we set the agenda for the incoming administration to ensure that things work out well for our people.
Security experts are of the view that it is unemployment that is fueling insecurity. Do you share this view?
Yes of course. That’s why I said in the motion that creating employment is very important for our people and that a national emergency on unemployment should be declared. My colleagues concurred and said that an industry should be established in every locality because there must be something to occupy the people. I’m not trying to run down President Buhari’s administration but the fact is that all of us are in it together irrespective of party differences and it is our duty to ensure that the government succeeds. We must ensure the happiness of Nigerians and that was why that motion took almost the whole business of the day, setting agenda for the then incoming administration. In setting this agenda, there is need to adhere to the advice given by Machiavelli in “The Prince”, he said that “in order to judge the capacity of a leader of a state entity, that capacity is exhibited in the capacity of the leader in recruiting the right kind of people to work for him. If he succeeds in recruiting the right kind of leaders, he succeeds but if he fails, then he has failed in that aspect and also failed in other things.” We advised the government that President Buhari’s second tenure should not be job for the boys. Don’t say that this person is a great campaigner or chose your team out of nepotism but they should be chosen based on capacity and competence.
I have always given the example of Barrack Obama who is son of an African Immigrant in USA; in many countries including Nigeria, that can’t happen but Americans voted him because he was competent for the top job. They knew he had the answer to many problems facing Americans at that time. There were issues of depression, mortgaging and shutting down many companies, but Obama in less than four years recapitalised the economy and succeeded because he was competent. People forgot about his colour and today, having stabilised the economy, they needed somebody like Trump to do certain aspects of the job and that’s why Trump is there now.
We have many competent hands that are doing great things but they are not politicians and have nobody to speak for them but when you give them the oppourtunity, they can turn things around for this country. God has blessed us with enormous resources but where we have problem is in managing these resources. So if this government is going to look into these things properly, they should fit square pegs in square holes and round pegs in round holes. What we expect from the President now is the legacy he is going to leave behind in these four years because the last four years was bedeviled with so many problems. He must also set quarterly goals and timeframes to assess delivery and performance and should ensure that non performers are weeded off no matter the political leanings.
Hardship doesn’t bear any party or religious colouration, the interests of Nigeria must come first. Yes, we want foreign direct investment but the investment where a person who manufactures goods will go to his country and get it here, then our people will go over there to buy and the same person will come over here and open the same shop and start selling what Nigerians should be doing, you are putting Nigerians out of business. We must ensure there are safety nets around businesses here and Nigerians must watch it with the way Chinese people are taking over everything in Nigeria including churches.
You also said something in the motion about increasing the number of security agencies in Nigeria. Why do you think that is necessary?
What I said is that the security agencies should employ minimum of 100,000 personnel yearly across board. We have so many idle hands in the society and we said that if the police employ much people, they will be doing the job. We complain that we don’t have enough police to protect the people while there are so many able bodied men jobless. We wanted to bring in the Peace Corps and they said no to that. How can one policeman manage 500 to 5000 people? If you go to America where they are practicing the same type of presidential system we have now, hospitals have their own police, private parks etc. This is a federal system which means that it is a partnership of the states that form the federal system and not one unitary government. Yes, the Inspector General of Police said we shall go back to the constabulary system and that brings up the issue of practicing true federal system in Nigeria.
We regard governors as the Chief Security Officers in their states but it is not so in practice in Nigeria, it is merely on paper. If he cannot give orders and sanctions on the police then he is not in charge. The issue of restructuring is also another thing this government must look into. This thinking that once you go into restructuring in Nigeria, you dismember this nation is not true. Restructuring is the only way we can get things done in this country faster. We are going to China today but we know how they started with special economic zones. When they started in the late 80s many people didn’t understand them. They will come into this area, practice capitalism and by the time they did the incubation and opened up to the world, many were surprised.
Let our own restructuring be done in such a way that people will be allowed to pursue their destinies in any area that they feel they can do best like the Chinese did. You don’t come here to control and regiment everything. People who are fast should be allowed to move at their pace. Everybody should not be condemned into taking one instruction. Let people move, have their universities, handle their own JAMB and people who are qualified are admitted. You said all universities must be monolith, someone with score of 300 may not get admission but you give another who has 115, that doesn’t help anything. Let those who are not moving fast be allowed to move at their own pace and let the fast ones move at their own pace too and Nigeria will be better for it. Let this government be courageous to look into restructuring in the amendment of our constitution. If we do it, Nigeria will be better for all of us.
Talking of the South East now, there is still the saying that because the Igbo didn’t give Buhari block votes, they should not expect anything. What is your take?
Political patronage should not be the basis in selecting the competent team that will work for this government or where development should be taken to. What should be the determining factor is competence. If you find an Igbo man to be the best for a particular job, don’t deny him of such because of election pattern of voting. Election has come and gone and it is time to give competent people oppourtunity to deliver. Obasanjo did it in his time. Okonjo Iweala and Oby Ezekwesili never belonged to any political party then just like Charles Soludo and they acquainted themselves very well. Adesina who is now President of African Development Bank never belonged to any political party when Goodluck Jonathan appointed him and today he is a pride of Nigeria and Africa. Get people who are competent and put in place while you find a way to favour the politicians. Whether Igbo voted or not, recognise the competent ones among them. That’s what we do in football teams and when you want to bring federal character in the national team, the team cannot go anywhere. National interest of the country is at stake and not a party position.