Senator Prince Bassey Otu, a two-time Federal House of Representatives member represented the Calabar Municipal/Odukpani Constituency of Cross River State, in the lower legislative chamber from 2003 to 2011. He was also elected Senator for Cross River South in the April 2011 elections, running on the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) platform.
He contested the Senate seat again in 2019 on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC), but was not successful.
In this encounter with Sunday Sun, he speaks on the Nigerian condition, giving kudos to President Mohammadu Buhari on his journey so far, among other crucial issues. Excerpt:
Nigerians are complaining that things are hard; do you see the trend as a global issue or something just peculiar to the country?
I think this issue can be looked at from two dimensions, there is a global issue which is informed by some factors, which is almost prevalent in a majority of the countries, but there is also the local issue as it concerns Nigeria. The problems we are facing now when one wants to explain it a times people begin to query, that you have been in government, they begin to query the present party in power that they have been in government doing nothing. If the truth must be told, the problems we are facing today are the profligacy of the past, savings were not made when we were making or getting proper and huge returns from oil sales. I can tell you that this is the first government that is actually trying to make sure there is a proper backward linkage to the economy. You know before money used to come in through corrupt sources into the economy, but right now, there is an increase in productivity, what you are paid for is what you produced not people sitting down and collecting huge jumbo, carrying briefcases and making crude quick money, but now you work for your money. So, I believe that with time things will get better. For instance, if you look at the agricultural sector almost all the value change have been put in place, the moment they move into some SMEs, that particular sector will be booming, then they move into other sectors and before you know it the money generated in the economy will come back into the economy, people can now earn money and have value. So, those are the problems that we are facing now, coupled with this insecurity which has been on with us for quite some time now, not allowing people in some parts of the country to go to their farms. And when these farmers are afraid to go to their farms to do farm work, definitely it will have its adverse effect in terms of food shortage and all that. But what is important is that the government is not folding its arms rather government is aggressively addressing the situation, the government is trying very hard. Some of these things are not going to change overnight, you know, it takes some time, so we need patience and I am optimistic things will get better.
But most Nigerians will not agree with your view because they think that the government has not done enough?
The type of insecurity that we are witnessing today is something that has never happened to us before. You know a group of people somewhere just waking up to go and kill people. It has never happened in our country. And the proliferation of arms from some of these countries like Libya, Sudan, etc has caused too many problems for us. So, this is the first time even the security agencies are tackling a multi-faceted crime of this nature, but the problem with this particular crime is that it takes life, that is why it’s so painful, but I believe that we all have to be our brother’s keeper and these people don’t come from the blues. So, as people see them or notice suspicious movements they should be able and quick in reporting to security agencies and then over time, all this will come to pass. I believe it is a passing phase and it’s just for all of us to be committed to the country and say look: we want Nigeria to be great and I tell you we will be great.
Looking at the crop of the new ministers, do you have hope that this collection will take the country to the next level as promised by the government in power?
Yes, I think so. I think they will perform and why I think so is because I don’t believe in very big names and very long qualifications. There is natural wisdom which God has given to some people and you cannot know what they can do until you see them in office, all we want from them is to know that they are serving Nigerians, all we want them to know is that Nigerians are hungry and they want to see change, they want to see positive action in the right direction. The moment things are done collectively towards a properly sustainable, systemic input, I think that will be all right. If you check those eras of profligacy we had ministers with big names, but what did they achieve? There is a proper foundation we have not laid for this country so we must put all into consideration.
So, you think that President Buhari is on the right track?
I think Buhari is doing his best and he alone cannot drive the change. He has done his own and is still doing it, so it’s left for other Nigerians to do their own. The problem I see right now is: there is too much concentr ation on issues of conflagration, federation, self –actualization, independence, etc, those things will be difficult in Nigeria, it’s better to let people know. Even a wife that you marry is not easy to divorce; when you do that there will be injuries all over. It is not easy that people that have lived together for ages, since 1908 to begin to say they no longer want to be together except everybody will accept on the round table then there will be no issue and if people don’t accept then there is going to be a problem. You know when this thing started some were saying it should be regional government, from there to 12 states. How many states do we have now? If you continue with states there will be more than a hundred entities looking for their state and that will not lead us anywhere. The sooner we know that there is no other country for us than Nigeria the better, the sooner all of us come together and say, look let’s make Nigeria work, we have the resources, we have got everything to make this country work, so what is the problem? I tell you from that level we can move on. Nigerians must resolve to make this country work.
Do you think that the structure of this country is faulty as some people will make us believe?
It is good for us to come together and discuss these issues, issues on how to become stronger, issues of unity and peaceful existence. There is no end to discussions and dialogue on how to make the country a better place for all Nigerians. The moment we all feel Nigerians come together and think for the common man for the good of all, the better. You see, those people that steal us dry, they don’t know whether you are coming from the North, South or East, they put their heads together and steal, so why can’t we unite, put heads together and develop our land.
But we have had a lot of conferences that can fix Nigeria like the 2014 conference of ethnic nationalities, but there is this problem of implementation?
You see the moment you begin to implement it you will find a group of people that will tell you, no, it’s not right it should have been like this or that, saying that they are at a disadvantage and all that. What we need first and foremost is to build strong institutions that are bigger than individuals, once we can move in that direction then whatever contributions individuals will bring to the table may begin to count. But where there is this tribal sentiment where the champion has to be one who is trying to see if he can curry power to his territory or emerge himself as the leader, then we will continue to have a problem.
What is your view on the suspended RUGA project because most Nigerians are still apprehensive over the issue?
I have not really studied the details of the RUGA project, but I believe that what is in modern agriculture as regards cattle is that if ranches can be set up the better. I do not think that the movement of cattle or allowing them to roam on the road is the best as countries have gone beyond that. I think the modern way is in ranching and that will even give you higher quality breed if done in the way it should be done.
What is the future of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in your state, Cross River State?
The future of APC in my state is in the hands of God. Once everybody comes together we will be strong. I believe that the baptism of fire has a kind of injected some clairvoyance. Of course, one would expect divergent opinion on issues, but with dialogue, there is nothing that you cannot achieve. So, the future is good and in the hands of God. We will surmount all the challenges, God’s willing.