By Sunday Ani
Ahead of the 2023 presidential election in Nigeria, the President of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa, has declared his intention to join the contest.
In this interview, he revealed why he wants to be the president of Nigeria after President Muhammadu Buhari in 2023, how he plans to turn around the country’s economy so that Nigerians can prosper and enjoy, and why other Nigerians should concede the presidency to the people of South East zone among other issues
Why do you want to be the president of Nigeria?
I am motivated to offer myself because like many Nigerians, I have been concerned that our country is not making as much progress as we expected it to make. We are concerned that our nation could be better for our children and grandchildren. We are concerned that our country that used to be a beautiful and peaceful nation has turned into a turbulent nation and so much is not working over these many years. We are concerned that we have written many strategy documents and nothing seems to be working. I was involved in writing the ‘Vision 2010 and 2020,’ documents. I have been involved in advocacy all my life through the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Nigeria Employer Consultative Association (NECA), Nigeria Economic Summit Group (NESG) as well as Nigeria-American Chambers of Commerce to see that our country, Nigeria, becomes globally competitive; a country that is respected in international fora and a country that Nigerians love and are willing to die for because the country loves them and is ready to protect them. I have been concerned that when we look at all the human development index, Nigeria seems not to be making as much progress. Since I was born into Nigeria, I have been told that we belong to the third world, and at this later age of my life, I am still in the third world; a developing world or less developed country where life is brutish.
You are not a politician, and do not have any structure; what gives you confidence that this project will be a success?
First and foremost, heaven and earth belong to God. He runs the affairs of man. We may pretend that we are the ones running it but God is the one that runs the world, whether we like to believe it or not. So, first, I have a motivation and a leading by God that this is something He will like me to do. Secondly, I have also heard the voices of many Nigerians who believe that we can do this together. And finally, I believe that the structure will come. Nobody can offer himself for a political office in Nigeria without a political party. So, I believe that as we move on along the line, the proper political platform that we will use will emerge and through that political platform, the structures will be available. But beyond that, today, Nigerians are tired of all those old structures; they are looking for new structures.
Which party platform do you intend to contest the presidency?
It is open. That is we are still looking forward that God will lead us to the proper political party platform, which will now come with its structures.
You know that the presidential election contest in Nigeria involves building bridges and creating networks. How much of these networking and bridge building have you done, particularly in the Northern part of the country?
We are doing that. Every story starts with once upon a time. One day is the beginning of a journey. This journey has started about a year now even though we are still asking if it is for real. But, we have come to the conclusion that it is for real. So, we have begun to consult across the spectrums of this country – up North, down South, East and West, we are consulting. For example, on January 20, we are going to be launching a new Nigeria group, which is a politico-social movement we are introducing as a way of galvanizing Nigerians to understand that we all have to wake up, work hard and come out of our comfort zones and work to ensure that Nigeria becomes a better place. I used to tell people that Nigeria worked for me but it is not working for many people.
Money plays enormous roles in Nigerian politics; considering the caliber of names that are being bandied around to contest for the presidency, do you think you have the war chest to match them?
Money is not my strong point at all. If it is about money, I won’t be in this race because I don’t belong to that class. But, I will like you to know that Nigeria is changing. Yes, our country has been riddled by corruption; people steal money to contest elections. They engage in all kinds of criminal activities just to contest elections. They bribe voters to vote for them, bribe the electoral officials to change the votes, bribe soldiers and police to support them and that is what has happened over the years. But you see, there is always the beginning of a thing and there is always an end. That end is about now. Money plays a role in politics, even in advanced countries but in a different form. You use money to sell your ideas, your vision; you use money to work out strategies to govern and win support; that money God will provide, friends will provide, family will provide and supporters will provide just the way it is done in developed countries. People provide the money to support the cause they believe in and that is why when those causes come, they are responsible to the people, not to individuals or moneybags. So, we are hoping that money will not play that kind of negative role it had played in the past because we are in a new nation. I give you a small example why I am confident. When this group of young people called the #ENDSARS started their campaign, people said it would not last, and that Nigerians can’t sustain any protest but eventually it was sustained. One of the governors even promised that he would put down more millions of Naira to solve their problems but they told him to keep his money because the protest was not about money. That gave me a lot of hope that maybe, at long last, Nigerians are coming to realise that this money they collect from politicians every election year doesn’t help. The way I see things happening, I want to believe that in 2023, people are going to be persuaded to vote according to their conscience, belief and wishes and money will play a less destructive role. And, I also believe that the President seems determined to give a free and fair election. What we saw in the Edo and Ondo elections gives us hope that maybe at the long last, the wishes of the people will begin to count.
If you become the president in 2023, how do you plan to transform the economy so that Nigerians will begin to experiene prosperity and better life once again?
The ‘Need for the Evolution of a new Nation’ is a book I wrote 10 years ago. In that book, I gave my economic blueprints and I didn’t write it because I was interested in the presidency; I had no such thought then. I just cast my vision of the kind of Nigeria we are looking for – a first world nation. And a first world nation is essentially driven by economy and economy is determined by understanding the factors that promote it. What we are going to do is to unleash those factors. First is to create law and order where life and property are protected and where rules and sanctity of contracts is obeyed. We are going to attract investment; both local and foreign, because when investments come, they create businesses, which in turn create jobs, and jobs create wealth which drives poverty away. Our major focus will be to attract investment in Nigeria. Nigerians have money but many of them are investing outside the country. We are going to make Nigeria a safe haven for Nigerians to bring their money back home and invest. And, we are going to make the country attractive for foreign investors to bring their money and invest. We are going to make Nigeria a preferred destination for investment so that investors will come to Nigeria and invest their money.
Two, we are going to promote local entrepreneurship. Every child that goes to school will be taught how to create wealth. It will be a compulsory subject. Whatever course you are studying, you must pass that course on wealth creation or entrepreneurship so that when you come out from school, you already have the knowledge and orientation to create wealth and business and employ people. If you need to be employed, it will just be to get experiences and to have time to generate resources for your business, not because you cannot do business.
Three, one of the first things we are going to set up is what we call small business administration. It is going to be the most important instrument that we will use to promote entrepreneurship and economic revolution. This small business administration will be a place where all the young people who have business ideas can go and get help. We will have it in every local government area. If you have a good business idea as a young person, bring it there and they will help you develop a business plan, get funding and get assets, including landed assets.
Finally, anybody desirous to do business in Nigeria will have government support; the support may not be financial but we will encourage you even without giving you a dime. You will be proud to want to set up a business because the government is going to support. The same way we have agricultural extension officers who are supposed to go and help farmers; we are going to have industrial extension officers who will help every business person who wants to do business. We will set up mentorship and apprenticeship where we will approach successful businessmen and ask them to be mentors to X number of young people who want to do business, especially in their line of business. And the government will take it that such businessmen are investing in the training and growth of the nation and they can be given tax incentives and other things that will make them do it joyfully. These are just snapshots of the industrial and economic revolution that we intend to bring onboard because our mission is to make Nigeria a first world nation. And you can’t become a first world nation if you don’t increase your productivity.