Nigeria’s electoral process disenfranchises many citizens, needs overhaul — Ohuabunwa
Mazi Samuel Ohuabunwa is a politician, pharmacist and business executive. He is the founder of Neimeth Pharmaceutical and the past president of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN). Recently, he declared interest in the Presidency on the platform of PDP ahead of the 2023 elections. He spoke to NGOZI EGENUKA on aspiration and how he intends to govern the country differently if elected, among other issues.
As the first South-easterner to openly declare interest in the 2023 Presidential race, how would you weigh your chances if the ruling and the opposition parties zone the Presidency to the East?
First, I am not vying for the role because I am from the Southeast, but because I feel inspired, motivated, competent and a worthy competitor. I do not have an advantage because I am from the Southeast but because I am a Nigerian who believes that I am competent and can take Nigeria from being a third world country to the first world and to build a country that works for everybody.
Now, if the Presidency is zoned to the Southeast, it may increase my chances because it would eliminate competition. We would wish that it is zoned to the Southeast because it will prove that our sermon on equity, justice, fair play, love and reconciliation has been heeded. This to a large extent will remove complaints about injustice, marginalisation and discrimination. I do believe that there are so many men of goodwill who think that it is fair to have the seat of power in the Southeast because it would heal Nigeria and bring tremendous change, as the South-South and the South-West have had their rounds in the seat of power.
What is your vision of nurturing a better Nigeria?
We have a vision and a mission. The vision has two components. The first is to take Nigeria from third world to first world, which is purely economic. The second is to make Nigeria a country that works for all, bringing healing and unity to the country. These are the two things that are in sour scarcity in the country today. Our economy is poor and this has kept us down, making us a country with the highest level of unemployment and poverty and these things have poisoned the society and dislocated the social equilibrium. Even insecurity is as a result of joblessness and poverty. When you build a Nation where people feel a sense of belonging and they are being treated fairly, it reduces injustice. Injustice is a contributory factor to insecurity.
This is how we communicate; we have been to 32 states and we have four to go and we have been establishing the New Nigeria Group. Nigeria has great potential, the problem is how to organise this potential, make it kinetic and something we can touch. Our party leaders have tried and we must give credit to them as they have weathered the storm from our Independence till now but we have not gotten the right formula. If we have, then I would not be here. I have been involved in developing strategies; Vision 2010, Vision 2020 in all forms of economic blueprints. Our procedure is to tell the story as it is, whilst moving to the different States in Nigeria cutting across all demographics. This is also the reason we are talking to you because we believe that without the media, we can only touch a small fraction of the people. But the media will help spread our message across to the people.
Nigeria has to be significantly better. One of the things I say often is that we need to recreate Nigeria so that it works for the young people because it worked for me as a youth but it is not working for my children. If things are done well, we believe that the proposition by Nigerians that we should have a workable electronic voting and transmission system should be acted on.
The security agencies in Nigeria have displayed efficiency in tracking down secessionists. However, the government has not deployed these same strategies to combat bandits and insurgents. Why is this so?
This question has been asked several times and it is difficult to understand the reason behind this. In our present day and with modern technology, I do not know why this problem lingers.
The economy is at its lowest ebb and unemployment rate is now highest in the country’s history. Are there quick fixes as things continue to go south?
Well, there are opportunities to change the matter fundamentally. The first step is to understand how jobs are created and if this has been discovered, things will begin to change. Jobs are created by focus on investment. When an investment is productive, it helps establish businesses and execute projects. These projects and businesses create jobs. The jobs create wealth and wealth drives poverty away. If I become President, my single-handed focus will be on how to attract investments.
How can we solve the problem of not finding a solution before taking drastic actions that will destroy people’s income streams?
It is a demonstration of ignorance of wealth creation. In order to foster economic growth, there is need to plan alternatives that will be beneficial to both the government and citizens rather than depriving them the opportunity to make a gainful living. When a person is rendered unemployed, there will be a rise in the social disequilibrium and the possibility of crime. An economy is built by a number of economic interventions and interactions happening daily.
You are 70 and there have been talks on generational power shift, don’t you think its time for younger people to rule the nation?
I believe that youths should have more opportunities than they currently have across board, but not necessarily in one position or another. The reason is that we have seen younger people assume office and have not done better than the older people. You don’t decree such occurrence. It’s an evolution. For me, youths have a lot of innovation and energy and so should be given more roles. But it mustn’t be in a particular office.
If you search history, of the most successful presidents in the world, you find that most of them were at their older years, within late 60’s and 70’s.
Secondly, what is important is health, not the chronological age. So, we need a healthy body, mind and spirit to run through the issues Nigeria faces. What we need is an experienced leader to juggle all responsibilities that come with leadership in the country. There are some people that are young but not healthy and vise versa. I would like to be a Nelson Mandela, a much older person that set the pace, united a country and handed over to the youth, because this country needs the operation for younger people to step in, as the work that needs to be done, without undermining or undervaluing young people, requires elders to hold their hands.
If I become the president, the electoral system would be reformed completely. The electoral process disenfranchises most Nigerians as many who take the pains to cast their vote find out that their votes do not count. After many years of such experience, many Nigerians don’t bother to register or vote, leaving the process open for the politician to manipulate. Electronic voting would eliminate the need for ballot boxes and papers, multiple voting, number of electoral officers, human errors and rigging.