‘We need a country where all citizens are treated equally’

Convener of New Nigeria Group (NNG), Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa, is a former presidential aspirant on the platform of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and Vice President of Nigeria Economic Summit Group.

Sam Ohuabunwa PHOTO: Sam Ohuabunwa. Facebook

Convener of New Nigeria Group (NNG), Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa, is a former presidential aspirant on the platform of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and Vice President of Nigeria Economic Summit Group. In this interview with OBIRE ONAKEMU he speaks on the state of the nation, dwelling more on how best to run the country for the benefit of all the citizens. EXCERPTS:
What do you have to say about the current security challenges in the country?
The truth of the matter is that our country is in dire state. It has never been in this situation as long as I can remember when we were facing existential threats. At the same time, there is insecurity. Everywhere is unsafe and there are economic threats because poverty is growing and there is high level of unemployment and social disequilibrium. The country is in a state of distress that we haven’t seen for quite a long time. That is the situation as it is now.

With the ways things are now, do you see any hope of Nigeria getting over the insecurity challenge soon?
Yes, there is hope. The only issue is that that hope cannot be based on current managers of the economy and the security situation. They have shown a high level of incompetence and inability to manage. They need help. As far as they are concerned, they seem to have reached their limits.

So, what do you think is the way out of this terrible situation?
It is to have a different way of driving the polity. The way the country is being managed is what is causing the problems. We need a change in the way the country is managed and we need to be more consultative and be willing to take on board different discussions. We need to be more empathetic to be able to get the views and inputs of the citizens to help solve, especially the problems of insecurity that requires collective action of the different ethnic nationalities in the country.

Nigerian leaders need to go and talk to the people who owe the country and get an understanding of what the problem is. We also need the help of other people. Trying to solve the problems by ourselves is not working; we need help for security.
For economy, we need to change the economic paradigm. We need to do what we can to attract investments in our country, cut down costs, increase focus on export trade and increase our foreign exchange earnings because we have foreign exchange short falls, excessive borrowing and excessive expenditure. If only we can manage these assets, the economy will come back to life.

Looking at the way we run the economy, coupled with high level of corruption, do you think we can really build the Nigeria of our dream?
No way! I am a proponent of new Nigeria; a Nigeria that is globally competitive. I propose that if we want to take Nigeria from third world to first world and build a country that works for us, we cannot achieve that with this level of thinking and lack of appropriate plan.

We need to have a vision for our country and then, be able to motivate a high level of productivity; restructure the country to compete with the rest of the world. We need a leadership that will motivate Nigerians, remove all the shackles that are disturbing and preventing them from moving at the rate that would help them to catch-up with the rest of the world.

How do you think Nigeria’s diversity can be harnessed for the greater good of all of us?
It is to have a leadership that understands that Nigeria is a diverse nation – diverse ethnic, diverse religion, diverse demographics and so many other different areas that bring diversity. The diversity is supposed to be utilised as an advantage for our nation so that the weakness of one group is compensated by the strength of another group. That is why we have these variegated rainbow countries. But people are not utilising them. They are rather discriminating or marginalizing, and importing and practising nepotism. There is ignominy and religious bigotry. These things are upsetting many Nigerians.

We need to run a country where the citizens are treated equally and equitably. There will be no distinction between Mr. A and Mr. B. The law applies the same way and opportunities are the same. Any child born in Nigeria, whether you are born in the North or in the South, you have the same opportunity. We should not discriminate against anybody by saying don’t go to school, don’t go to universities, wait for other people to go before you go because you come from one part of the country.
Appointments that are made are so one-sided. You now begin to wonder why this is so and whether these people know that this country has more people than one group. That is why the federal character was put on our constitution, to favour every part of the country. But now, some people have jettisoned it and they do what they like because they have power.

What is your comment on the monetisation of Nigeria’s electoral process and whether or not it undermined the integrity of the 2023 general elections?
Nigeria’s electoral process has always been undermined and the integrity has always been doubted. From 1999 till now, they have been in different shades. The late former President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua admitted in 2007 that the election that brought him to power was very fraudulent but he was determined to give us a fraud-free election. But till this 2023 presidential and gubernatorial elections, things have been getting worse with no hope in sight.

Monetisation is what is tearing the political and electoral systems apart at this moment. Everyone witnessed what happened at this 2023 presidential and general elections. The truth must be told, monetisation in Nigeria’s political landscape is a terrible culture that is causing the difficulty to understand when people win election. Do they win election because they are competent, capable and popular or because they are the people who were able to pay more money than others? This is currently causing disorientation and confusion and so it’s not easy to know who wins an election based on competence, character, capacity and courage as somebody can now win an election because he is the one who is able to dole out more money. We must find a way to come out of this mess. Monetisation is not good for our polity., it is not putting democracy in the proper place it should be. And that is why a group of thought regards democracy as one of the worst forms of government. We have to look inwardly to our attitude and actions if only democracy is the form of government to live by and practice.

But fundamental to it is that we must help Nigeria to reduce poverty, which is driving a lot of Nigerians to corruption or vote selling. We must also show an example with vote buyers. We know the vote sellers during election. We know the real thing but we keep chasing shadows.

Nigeria must find a way to improve upon the wellbeing of the people, increase their wealth for them to take care of themselves, meet their minimum needs to be better enlightened and to also have redress when people feel that their cases have not been properly handled.

When a government comes to power, the drivers need to show that they have the wellbeing of the people in their mind. When they do this, may be the people will be more confident in the system.
What is your reaction to the emergence of Tinubu and Shettima as the All Progressives Congress (APC) Muslim – Muslim president-elect and vice-president elect of Nigeria?
They see it as the only thing that can win an election, but you all saw what happened in the February 25th presidential election, a very painful incident. They just believe that a Northern Christian as a vice can never help to win an election. And that is a very terrible thing. All of these will bring terrible consequences to Nigeria, dislocating orderly politics. The country is already agitated and in a state of disequilibrium and dissonance. When you add all these, you are stoking more troubles and can lead to anything for our country.

Do you think this Muslim-Muslim ticket is capable of leading Nigeria to disintegration?
l must say that Nigeria is very tough and resilient. There are things that threatened the unity of the country and yet the country stood its time. l do not believe that it will lead to that, but for me, the truth of the matter is that when you keep a country on its edge, then we cannot concentrate, we are fighting fire. Those who are offended may not be like you and I who may just be thinking about it on the media or who express their views and move on. They may go beyond that and that is why these proliferation of non-state actors causing troubles and harming innocent people. They take their anger and frustration on the innocent people. So, l do not foresee disintegration, what l foresee is a further dislocation of the social equilibrium and non-state actors using that as an excuse to cause mayhem on the nation.

This country will grow by the Grace of God to a level when we would not care whether it is a Muslim-Muslim, Christian-Christian, Southern-Southern or Northern-Northern. We shall get there but it is a long way to go. The Americans have reached that stage but it took them over 200 years of democracy to get to that level where they have established a system that doesn’t recognise all these divisions and identity policies. The fear is that three quarters of the people who would work in the government, who would get contracts, who would be considered for anything would be the people that answer names that Muslims answer. Check the president’s interim, most of the people who run the national security agencies are from one part of the country and the president doesn’t care. These are the things that make people jittery and begin to think that maybe we need people from our side, maybe we need people that talk like us, look like us and go to the same place of worship. We need a governor or a president who would run the country or state and show that he or she is running a multi-ethnic diverse nation, giving everyone a fair chance and soon, people would not care. But unfortunately that is a long way off. God will help us to get there one day. l’m sure we will, but not now!
What do you make of the impact that Peter Obi, the presidential candidate of Labour Party (LP) made during the February 25, Presidential Election?
The dynamic of 2023 election was not exactly what we have been seeing in the past. There was a high discontent with the old order; people were worried that they wanted to see something new, hear something new and that really influenced more people especially the youths to vote massively for Peter Obi. One cannot rule out what has always been called divine factor. God intervened in this 2023 election and He did it for Peter Obi. There were surprises. One needs not underestimate anybody. You may say that the small newer parties may not have as good chance as you have but you must recognize that things can change and there can be divine intervention. Any presidential candidate that takes any other party for granted is actually taking a risk. And that was what happened in the February 25 presidential election. Every candidate should be taken seriously; every party should be taken seriously and do your utmost to know how to communicate to Nigerians to win their hearts. That is the challenge that stands before all the parties.

How would you end this interview?
By encouraging Nigerians not to lose hope. The time has come for Nigeria to become a country that will aim to be globally competitive. We will be like other countries that are developed. We are tired of being perpetually developing without becoming developed. We are tired of being perpetually called potentially great country without becoming great. That is what I have heard – potentially great. There is every need to turn it kinetically. We have been a third world country since I was born. Why can’t we be a first world country, a developed country? That is the drive for the New Nigeria Group (NNG) and the new Nigeria that we seek. Also, we want a country that works for all, where we are at peace with each other, where there is no discrimination either by age, race, sex or other divisions.

Let people get fair opportunities.
Of course, we do know that in a multi-ethnic group, one has to be deliberate in balancing, in bringing inclusion. lf l am the president, in the first one year in office, l’m going to make appointments in circles of order. You will see my appointments in order of South-West, South -East, South-South, North-East, North-West and North-Central. And by the time l would have done that for one year, people would then known that there is no difference. There will be no difference whether it was a Northerner or a Westerner or an Easterner or a Southerner. That is the kind of a nation that we are looking for; where one can be proud of his or her nation and be able to attract foreign investments because without foreign investments, our economy will not grow. That is my advice. Let Nigerians be hopeful and be rest assured that all will be well.

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