From Fred Itua, Abuja
Mr. Mbang Rex David is a young entrepreneur and an upcoming politician. He’s a native of Boki Local Government Area of Cross Rivers State. He’s a member of the All Progressives Congress (APC). He speaks on state of the economy, the forthcoming national convention of his party among other sundry national issues.
It appears you have been involved in politics for some time. What motivated your venture into politics and what is your opinion on youths’ involvement in politics?
A patriotic citizen needs no motivation to get involved in politics. Politics is the field where decision makers emerge. The decisions made by political leaders affect each and everyone of us, so anyone who wants a good deal for himself and that of his family, will be interested in what happens in the political scene.
I started politics from my days in the university as Department/Facility President, I later served at all levels in the Action Congress, Action Congress of Nigeria and now All Progressives Congress.
I have been a youth leader in a state that’s not my state of origin. That’s to tell you my kind of person. I have been an ally of Ijaw Youth Congress, Arewa Youths Consultative Forum, National Association of Nigerian Students and many other groups. I am currently the President, National Youth Summit Group organizing Nigerian youths to realize their greatness. Politics, for me, wasn’t an option but a call to serve humanity. I am that person that couldn’t see a person being intimidated or harassed on the street without stopping. Trust me, I can’t stand injustice. So that is what motivated me to join politics.
Sadly, my fellow youths have not been given a fair opportunity to participate in the politics of today. Considering so many factors, it is quite difficult for a youth to match up to a politician who has been in the game since 1999. That aside, I encourage my brothers and sisters to hinge on things that give us advantage. Things like youthful strength, social media and the entertainment industry are just a few things we have control of. If we capitalize on these and remain resolute, I believe 2023 will smile on the youth of this great nation and give us an opportunity to contribute to national development.
Talking about National Development, what is your take on how your party, APC is handling the nation’s economy?
There is a popular saying that “Rome was not built in a day”. This applies to everything great. The economic condition of a country is dependent on so many past, present, and future factors. Nigeria is not different. Even with the global effect of the Covid 19 pandemic, Nigeria should do better; but I am more concerned on the pathway and direction we are headed.
The rejuvenation of our railways, expansion of our ports and reconstruction of key road networks, shows we are heading in the right direction. For the first time in a very long time, Nigerians are using the trains.
Nigeria has the potential to be one of the greatest countries in the world. All we need is, patience, patriotism, and a plan. I see this administration has a plan, what we need now is patience and a patriotic citizenry.
You earlier said something about your entrepreneurship side. How has it been, being an entrepreneur in Nigeria and what are your thoughts on young entrepreneurs in Nigeria?
Like I said earlier, you must have a source of livelihood, before venturing into politics. If you are a full-time politician, politics can’t pay your bills, only stealing can. This has motivated me to work harder to maintain a standard convenient for my family and I.
I have business interests in the oil and gas sector, agriculture and in graphic designs/printing production. Managing these businesses has been tough through the Covid 19 era, but my desire to be a self-dependent individual has made me push against the wall to achieve my goals.
I am encouraged when I see youths my age succeeding in business and encourage others, not to lose faith, but get motivation from the success of others.
With the new Petroleum Industry Act, how do you think it will affect the Nigerian local content law and mitigate unemployment in Nigeria?
It is already affecting the industry, positively. Let me take practical examples with the new NLNG Train 7 project in Bonny. The Oil and Gas Industrial Park projects at Emeyal 1 community in Bayelsa State and Odukpani in Cross River State. These projects have large local content presence. Thanks to President Buhari for finally giving us the PIA, the Content Development and Monitoring Board, (NCDMB) and the House Committee on local content led by my kinsman, Legor Idagbo, who just recently intensified their oversight functions, insisting that majority of the services needed in these projects, be sub-contracted to Nigerians.
There’s no reason why foreigners should be handling more than 20 percent of any project in the country. Nigerian youths have vast experience in the Energy, Construction and Transport sectors and we are ready to continue to give our best to the growth of our nation. These projects and many more are already employing thousands of youths, because of the PIA, and with the full take-off of projects like Train 7, over 10,000 youths will be gainfully employed directly.
In all these, we must not forget the community cooperation factor. Without an enabling environment, none of these will be possible. Cross River State is playing host to one of the biggest NCDMB projects because of her peaceful nature and the industrial park when in full use will employ thousands of youths from the state. So, there’s a correlation between peace and progress. Let youths from other areas take a cue from Cross River State, Bonny Kingdom and other peaceful communities and you will ‘begin to see the economic growth that only a peaceful environment can bring.
With the increasing interest of Youths in ICT related activities, how do you suggest young Nigerians take advantage of that and take charge of the space like is seen in the entertainment industry?
The youth are already taking charge of the space. Look around. Most of the very successful IT firms in Nigeria are owned by young people, below 40. Most of the companies are global now. What is missing is self-awareness.
We have not realized how great we are, as youths. We ignore our strengths and focus more on our weakness. We have not realized the power of working together.
I always encourage my peers to network, gather together and work more in teams rather than running solo. There is a lot of wisdom and potential scattered around us. Our ability to identify allies and potential alliances is key to our collective success.
The Cross River State Governor, Ben Ayade, recently defected to the APC. What’s your take on this and how does it affect development in your state?
My governor’s move to the ruling APC was a great move. There is nothing better than working in synergy, with the Federal Government. The major problem I have with the PDP is, they are not patriotic enough to desire a successful APC administration. Rather than make contributions that will help the general progress of the country, they will capitalize on negative issues, issues that have lingered long before the APC government took charge.
The toxic nature of the PDP has given many top politicians reason to leave them to a more patriotic and accommodating party like the APC. I believe the toxicity of the PDP contributed to the decision of my governor. Even when he was in the PDP, he focused on the industrialization of the state and welcomed the contributions and inputs of both the APC and stakeholders key to the collective progress of Cross Rivers State.
Now that Governor Ayade is in the APC, he is more focused with less distractions. He is focused on industrializing the state, manufacturing, healthcare and education, shows his resolve to put Cross River State on the list of top states in Africa. This is the kind of spirit Nigeria needs at all levels of leadership.
Your party, the APC, is expected to be holding its convention in February. The apprehension out there is that it might self-destruct after the convention due to the numerous interests and disagreements across various states in the country. What are your thoughts on this?
Wherever there is interaction, there will be friction. Being the largest black political party in the world comes with its challenges. But trust me, the APC will come out of its convention stronger and more united.
I only have one advice for the party and by extension, other political parties in the country. The youths must be given more opportunities to serve. We have so many offices to be contested for, why can’t the parties give 40 per cent of these positions to young boys and girls to infuse life and energy into the system.
We have shown capacity in the entertainment industry, ICT and Social media space. We have what it takes to take this country higher. Nigeria hasn’t reached its full potential because the youth have been relegated to the background; look at it: behind every successful leader, there are youths working hard. These youths are the engine room, and the brain box. Until we as a nation, tap into this, a lot of challenges will remain unsolved.
Elections are coming up. Do you have any political ambition?
I am more concerned with the progress of the country and its citizens. I have seen that the foundation of any good government is the political party. So, I will be focusing more on political party activities. If majority of my fellow youths get involved in the activities of their political parties, it will go a long way in bringing the much-needed energy into the Nigerian project. This will instantly change the Nigerian story.