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Barr. Chief Johny Ucheaga
Johnny Ucheaga, Secretary Police Equipment Foundation (PEF) and chieftain of the defunct National Centre Party of Nigeria (NCPN) has tasked Nigerians to vote a candidate that will unite country as our next President in 2023.
The Uturu, Abia State born political strategist and legal practitioner, in this interview with DICKSON OKAFOR, urged the contestants to see the Presidential race as a contest and not a war.
President Buhari has spent about seven years in office. How would you assess his administration so far
First, I will start from the positive aspect of the present administration, I mean what the President Muhammadu Buhari led administration has achieved and what they have not achieved within seven years in power. They have worked very hard on infrastructure. For example, the continuation and near completion of Lagos-Ibadan Expressway which is also a major access into Lagos, Nigeria’s economic capital. Again, the Second Niger Bridge is a key project in the South-East that is nearing completion. Also, the Lekki Deep Blue Sea is another laudable project by the Buhari administration. And the Abuja-Kaduna rail project. Most of these projects were not started by the present administration, but by past administrations, and President Buhari decided to continue and complete them. Of course, you know that in the past, some administrations saw such important projects and abandoned them because it was not their projects. But I give credit to those who started those projects which the government continued and completed. However, there are so many more. On the unfulfilled campaign promises this administration made to Nigerians, I will start with the revival of our refineries. It is unfortunate that Nigeria does not have a refining capacity as an oil producing nation and up till now, the present government could not revive one of our refineries. I hope that in a year’s time, by the grace of God, we will have refining capacity. The way the old refineries have been run is such that they could not meet our crude oil need. But the present administration has done much on our refineries by helping in setting up Dangote Refinery. Again, because its financing cannot come if there is no sovereign guarantee for it and if there is no government participation in one way or the other, there are a lot of micro refineries called modular refineries in operation set up by this administration. The problem is that some of these things take time to be accomplished and this is happening in the midst of a pandemic and insecurity. Therefore, the low cost of our primary export which petroleum is our major problem. So, I expect any of the major contestants who wins next President of Nigeria to unite the country.
Many have argued that the nation’s economy is poorly managed by the Buhari administration. What’s your take on that?
Yes, it is an economic question, but I will attempt it. Elementary economics teaches us demand and supply. If you have less supply and there is more demand, price will go up and if you have more supply and less demand, price will go down. So, it is the security challenge that has something to do with it. Those that are farming in small ways in the North or those we call peasant farmers, when they go to farm in their land they get kidnapped for ransom and their whole village cannot provide the money so they left their land. Now when you go to the streets of Lagos, you see most young men riding okada until recently when the state government banned them in some areas in Lagos. Those are the people who used to be farmers and they are now Okada riders. So, who is producing the food? Therefore, if there is no producer of the food, the price of food will go up and that is what is happening in Nigeria now. When you say Nigerians are suffering, it is the downtrodden that are suffering, but the rich ones are feeding well. In any system where more money is available than it should be, inflation will set in and when there is inflation it is the poor that will suffer. Now the chicken has come home to roost.
Looking at the deficiencies you have highlighted, who among the Presidential candidates do you believe if elected President can revive the nation’s economy?
We are very lucky with the calibre of people that are in the race with the intention to serve Nigerians as President. Meanwhile, there are over 18 presidential candidates in the race to govern Nigeria. Some of them have governed before in smaller territories as governors of their states or as Vice President and many of them did well in that capacity. Don’t forget that governance is not a one-man show because it is not one man that governs a country. This we can see in the last seven years of President Buhari. He is not the only one governing Nigeria. This is important because a tree cannot make a forest. It is the attitude and circumstances in the mindset and the interplay of the political forces both locally and internationally plus the economic forces as well as religious forces that shape an administration. Meanwhile, because you are not handling one thing, there are so many moving parts and if you concentrate on one person you may miss the point. In the case of Nigeria, our system has reduced quite a lot. We are hearing that some of the people who are to protect us are among the people training and arming the people who want to destroy us. So, how do you talk about that? Is it the fault of the President? It cannot be. No President, no matter how deranged the person may be, would want to undermine himself. Therefore, there are so many moving parts with a lot of people having different objects. The situation is so bad that some people are ready to sell their country for a pot of porridge and that is agonizing. For a person to have N100million either contributed by friends or some imaginary friends to buy nomination form for an aspirant, but they cannot contribute such amount for someone who wants to set up an industry.
Some Nigerians have vowed to vote out APC in 2023because of the state of the nation. What is your view?
It is a familiar thing because no party has ever governed Nigeria and was popular till the end of its reign. Even though they may be popular when they take over power, but at some point they will no longer be popular. There was never any time political parties were popular to the end. If you talk about the defunct National Party of Nigeria (NPN), many people were not happy with the party. It was because of the unhappiness of Nigerians that made the Army to believe that they would take over government of President Shehu Shagari and nobody would protest. In fact, when they took over government, students and labour union members came out rejoicing. So, it’s not new. When the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was also in power they became so unpopular that some of its members left and paved way for this amalgamation of political interests that emerged as All Progressive Congress (APC). It’s something we are familiar with hence political parties that form government are not usually popular not because they don’t have good policies, but that is due to our political organisation. If you go back to the 60s people were condemning the Northern People’s Congress (NPC), the National Conference of Nigeria and Cameroon (NCNC) and were saying the same of the Action Group (AG). It was the AG that was governing in the Western Region and had a problem that resulted to “Operation Wet e” where people lost their lives. Also, in the North, the dominant party, NPC had it own clash which led to Tiv’s riot. In the Eastern Region, where NCNC was reigning there was problem between the Igbo and the now South-South. Historically, Nigeria has continued to have negative feelings about the ruling parties since independence in 1960. Mind you, I’m not justifying what is happening, but all I’m saying is that it is not unusual
What is your take on the clamour that another political party should be elected to take over from APC in 2023?
Right now we have over 50 political parties in Nigeria until INEC trimmed the number. There are so many parties, which one do you want us to replace APC with? Are there no good people in the ruling APC? The parties that are governing Nigeria are the ones who have managed to organise themselves. Those small parties you are talking about, how come they cannot become big? It is because of disagreement with one person trying to dominate. They don’t want anyone to share power with them, hence the leaders of these small parties would rather be in charge and not to be in government as they cannot share power. Every time you hear there will be third force and you hear grammars that can fill up containers, but nothing positive comes out of them.
There were agitations that the next president should come from the South-East so as to give a sense of belonging to that zone. Eventually, none of the two major parties gave their presidential tickets to a South-East person. Can an Igbo man still emerge President in 2023?
Are you saying that the South-East is excluded from Nigeria politics? I beg to disagree. What do you mean by Igbo has not tasted power? Where do you situate power? In the present dispensation, we’ve had how many Senate Presidents of Igbo extraction? Five who are from the South-East. We have had ministers, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, we have our own governors and Igbos are occupying other federal positions. Are those not powers? What kind of power are you talking about?
We are talking about presidential powers in 2023
If you are talking about the next President of Nigeria it is the decision of Nigerians on who becomes the next President.
Why does it sound difficult for an Igbo to become the next Nigeria President?
Everybody is writing and saying it is the turn of Igbo to produce the next President of the country which is like a drama. To me, South-East has no problem of producing the President of Nigeria. Mind you, the Presidency has come to three geo-political zones – South-West, North-West and South-South. South-East is one the three zones that are yet to produce the President. So, it will not be too hard for South-East to clinch the Presidency because they are doing their best. Among the people aspiring for the Presidency in 2023 in all the political parties we have some from the South-East. This is politics and what is important is that South-East is not excluded from any position in Nigeria. As I speak with you so far, South-East has not been excluded from contesting the number one position in the country. Because South-East was and is still relevant, they called us Eastern region because there was a leader in the person of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe who was a leader and people believed and trusted him.
Students are still at home because ASUU is on strike. Do you see the Buhari administration resolving the dispute soon?
I have issues with government’s funding of education and I also have issues with ASUU on the frequency of their strikes. In the last 20 years, you can count on your fingers how many times they have gone on strike. One of the agenda for the incoming administration is to resolve and find a permanent solution to the ASUU and Federal Government’s dispute on education funding.
Culled from The Sun Online.