A presidential aspirant on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party and Akwa Ibom State Governor, Udom Emmanuel, has claimed he has the magic wand to end agitations, banditry and all forms of criminality in Nigeria, if given the mandate to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari next year. Besides, Emmanuel, who spoke with select journalists in Abuja recently, also revealed his plans to fix the nation’s economy, ensure the unity of Nigeria, as he also addressed other pertinent issues. Sunday Aborisade brings the excerpts
You’re aiming for the presidential ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). We want to know why you’re making that move.
I wish to thank our party, the PDP for showing the difference between the time we were in power and the time another party had been in power, in the past seven years. If we didn’t give chance to another party, Nigerians would still think that the messiah is yet to come. Now, the person they thought was the messiah is in power and the difference is clear. On the issue of having the capacity to become the president, I want to believe that my curriculum vitae is in the public. In terms of capacity, in terms of training, in terms of exposure- because your vision is limited to your exposure. In terms of education, in terms of antecedents, and in terms of private and public sector balancing. Above all, the sincerity of purpose in serving Nigeria because that is what make up decision-making. If we look at all these put together, you could see that whenever people keep challenging us that we had all that God has provided for us, but what we don’t have is leadership. There is no trait of a good leader that you would not find, by the grace of God, in me. Since I possess all these qualities, it gives me the courage to step forward and ask for the mandate to lead Nigeria.
If you invariably become the president, why do you want to take up the responsibility of fixing what cannot be fixed by the present administration?
Regarding the fact that Nigeria is in a mess and why do I want to go and carry the whole mess, it is the same question that even my children had asked me and I have to tell them that from my leadership book, I read that there was a point where the water was bad, just as the way the Nigeria’s water is bad now, it was only one man that God showed something by asking him to put salt into the water and it was made good. So, what I need to let Nigerians know is that shying away from the problem would not allow the problem to go. Also, ignoring the problem will not allow the problem to go. Likewise, criticising the problem can never let it go. If you have a problem, you must tackle it headlong. If the waters of our economy, of our social structure, and of the unity and security of this country are bad and God is about to do something, he will not wait for somebody. If you don’t step out, God won’t come down to fix it. He will definitely use a man. God must use a man to rescue and restore Nigeria. He will look for such a man that has the capacity. I think in this case, I believe that I possess all that it takes, and I can guarantee that I have what it takes to get things working again. So I am not afraid to take up the challenge because somebody must definitely correct the bad situation. If we don’t correct it now, when are we going to correct it? Shall we allow the whole country to crumble? What would our children ask us when they know that we had all it takes to fix the mess? We are stepping up today very well to say Nigerians, here I am, vote me. Then, let us see what would happen within the period that the constitution will allow me to do my very best and I am sure we would be able to rescue and restore all the lost glory and the past things we use to enjoy in this country.
Why do you think you are the man that should emerge as the flag bearer of the PDP out of the 15 of you who have so far shown serious interest?
We have 14 aspirants, plus me, making 15. All the people in the PDP are Nigerians. They will vote for me. I have presented my CV and they can see. As a leader, you don’t just wake up one morning and take up the mantle of leadership. God must have prepared you to be a leader. If you look at who God has prepared for 2023, I think I am the one. Outside that preparation by God, you must also be trained. In this race, how many trained leaders do we have? By the last count I still believe that looking at our ages in the race, let anyone come and say whether they were trained by the top three. The likes of Price Water, Arthur Anderson and the Deloitte of those days. Let us leave the preparation of God that we have not seen and let us see those who had been trained to be leaders. Let any of the aspirants come out, apart from what they had promised, and show us what they had done. In my own case, I have a lot to show. I can match my capacity with what is on ground. For example, let us consider certain things that we put on ground. How many other aspirants had done so either in the private or public sector and have them to show? I had managed the private sector and after my exit, my employers were the best in all ratings including Moody’s. I came into the public sector at a time we suffered two recessions and the COVID-19 pandemic. Even with that, we’ve always been top in foreign direct investment, which means we have our capacity and something to follow. In the areas of challenges in Africa, we’ve taken it headlong and received results already in terms of infrastructure, and the three gateways that can actually make things better in in Nigeria.
When you eventually emerge as the President of Nigeria, how do you want to positively engage the youths in productive activity to stem the ongoing brain drain?
There is no how the economy can be better if you are not taking care of the youths? No matter how you speak, it is grammar. Once you fix the economy, you had fixed the youths. The two must be addressed simultaneously. While you are promising youths what you are going to do for them, you are also preparing for an enabling environment that would get them engaged. Right now, even as a state governor, I am working on a deep sea port that would employ over 5,000 youths overnight. We have attracted fertiliser industry and two petrochemical industries now. Work is ongoing on them as I am talking to you. We have an LNG project that is private sector driven, coming to our state. These are things that we have on ground that is attracting what will be a better living standard and a better per capital for the youths. There is no how these projects would not employ the youths. If I am given the chance of becoming president, I am one of the major advocates of capacity building. The problem we have is not unemployment. Capacity building will dovetail to the fact that we need to review the entire educational curricular from the basic to tertiary. This can only be done based on what we have and what we can give which will take care of the youths. Also, since the management principles are the same, I have managed a state successfully, nothing stops me from effectively managing the entire Nigeria. For me to attract direct foreign investment, it means there is reasonable security and safety in my state despite the fact that it is the same country and same youths in Akwa Ibom that we have in other parts of the country. It means we adopted persuasion, involvement and engagement of the youths. If we can do this at the sub national, I can also push this into national. I have a lot to show that will also speak to the fact that we have a solution to the country’s problems.
Will you support the idea of a consensus candidate if your party bring it up?
No one can go far in life without discipline. If you don’t have discipline, you should know what to expect. If you don’t respect certain structures and systems then you are gone. I am one of those who believe that party is supreme. So, whatsoever the party says, I am going to abide by it because I am a party member. If I don’t want it, then I can go to another party. As far as the PDP is concerned, whatever the party comes up with, I must abide by it. If my party agree on consensus, it is going to be Udom Emmanuel because of all these things that I have told you. Throwing the ticket open, to both the North and South does not eliminate the qualities I am bringing to rescue Nigeria. If the PDP really wants to rescue Nigeria and restore the lost glory, they know it is only one man that can do it for now, who has thrown his hat into the ring. There are other people but they have not shown up. For the man who have the strength, the energy, capacity and any other things it would take, is me. Nigeria doesn’t need an 80-year-old man.
Governor Wike said he had invested so much in the PDP hence he deserved the party’s ticket. What’s your take on this?
So what’s wrong in that? There is nothing wrong in that. Everybody is an aspirant. Go and check the meaning of that word -aspiring, aspiration. It doesn’t take anything away from him. He has the right, he is a citizen of Nigeria. He can request for it. It is like, at times, I don’t understand why some people misinterpreted some things. For instance, someone once ask me why Wike and I are in the race despite being brothers and I ask the fellow, why should being brothers stop any of us from running? It means that we are trying to let the world know that if we are looking for human capacity, we have it in excess in the PDP. If we don’t have excess, it means only one of us that would have shown up. That is why we are now giving Nigerians the options to choose who they want. Even if 10 aspirants came out from the same region, there is no love lost. We were first brothers before we became aspirants. It doesn’t affect our friendship and love for one another. What we are telling Nigerians is that, you people said you’re looking for a good leader, we are now saying that we have more than enough from our own region, just pick one.
Are you not scared that the current security situation in the country could frustrate plans to achieve free, fair and credible elections next year?
I can bet it with you that the day those youths hear that I am the candidate of the PDP and I am stepping out as the next president, they will down tool. This is because they are looking forward to somebody like me to take over. It has once happened in my state. There were three local government areas where youths were in the bush, causing a lot of havoc, but when I emerged governor in my first term, they said I was the type of governor they were looking for and they voluntarily came out and surrendered their arms. The video of the incident is in the public domain. Today, we are all working together. Those people perpetrating insecurity are waiting for someone like me to emerge so that they could lay down their arms because I carry hope. What makes people go into these criminality is because there is no hope. Youths of this country are travelling to live and work abroad because they could not see hope here. Once they see hope, they would not leave. They won’t go anywhere once they see that someone is coming to improve on the GDP and not to bring it down by 22.3 per cent, they would stay. The agitations are going on because they could see total loss of hope. How can we wake up in a country and the leaders are not providing any direction to follow? The factories put in place by our past leaders in northern Nigeria are no longer functioning again. So, the youths are not engaged, they are idle. They saw that the country is sinking but they need someone who would come in, speak to those problems and proffer solutions. Here is a man, who knows what to do and how to do it. You will see, the youths would embrace my emergence and would offer to lay down their arms and work with me. We would start the process of engagement with them, and their communities the moment I emerge as the presidential candidate of the PDP. We will surely listen to their agitations and offered solutions to the problems confronting them. They are actually needed a listening president. If we ignore them, the problems would linger, so we would find a way to interact and interface with them. That however, does not mean that we would tolerate illegality because we have to separate agitations from illegality. Genuine agitations are there while illegality and criminality are also there. The concept of behaviour is individual and environment. If we create an environment that would not make such behaviour to thrive, they won’t go into it and rather embrace what the environment offers.
The general expectation was that the PDP will zone its ticket to the South, but this did not happen. Are you not disappointed that the contest was thrown open?
My leadership book says all things work together for good for those who are the called. Some of us who are the called would not fear any situation, sudden development or challenges. It is a challenge so that nobody would say had it been they let the contest open, he could not have emerged. At times you emerge in a grand style that would make such victory beautiful and sweet. I’m very happy that the contest is left open so that when I emerge, the whole country would know that I actually deserve to win. That alone is a bridge builder. Although by right, based on our party’s constitution, that is what could have been done but the party is supreme. Where ever they say we would go is where we would go. In 2015, no Southerner bought the form because we believed at that time that the current president did four years hence the North had four more years left to complete it. When it comes to the issue of zoning and what the party constitution holds, a party is just a platform. So, it doesn’t actually matter if the party decides to create an open contest. I can’t complain. Even if they choose consensus, I am of the firm belief that looking at what we have done at the sub national, national and international levels. The people want to see whether your signature is recognised at the international level because that also is very key. It is when people see what you have achieved at the private sector that they will trust you with handling their affairs at the public sector. They are looking for someone who would live above board despite being a politically exposed person.
How far have you gone in building bridges at the sub national level in Akwa Ibom? What have you done to build bridges across party lines which you would need to emerge at the national level?
I launched a moral rebirth the moment I became the governor of Akwa Ibom State. It was inculcated in everybody that what you have is what you need to get to where you want to get to. We also believe that once the passion is right, nothing is impossible. The third pillar is that we must rise above biases whether gender, religion or ethnicity. We used the moral rebirth to build bridges. We have removed all forms of sentiments completely from our polity. If we call a stakeholders’ meeting in Akwa Ibom State, all known names would be in attendance because we are all morning in the same direction. We don’t also discriminate in terms of development. There is no single local government area that we have not put at least a project. We have touched all the 31 LGAs. We are also paying serious attention to the riverine areas that were completely neglected in the past. This has also helped in building bridges so that the people would have a sense of belonging. We shared the three major positions among the main clans. The Governor is Ibibio, Deputy is Anaang and SSG is Oron. We would carry the whole six geopolitical zones in the country along. We won’t concentrate appointments in only one section of the country and ignoring the others.
In case former President Goodluck Jonathan emerge as the candidate of the APC and you are the PDP flag bearer, how will it be convenient for you to campaign against him?
Try and check people’s pedigree and align it with their behavioural pattern. We’re not used to discussing individuals. If you check all my campaigns, from 2014 to date, I have never mounted a podium and then discuss a person or another political party. Once I’m on the podium, I tell the people what I can do and what I have done so far. I have a belief that if I start mentioning another political party, I’m actually promoting that party. Politics is not about discussing people, it is about discussing the issues at stake. All powers belong to God. He gives it to whosoever He wishes. It doesn’t matter whosoever God wants to give it to. However, it would be wrong for someone of my own background to sit people down and begin to discuss the personality of a former president. Haba!!! I only know of PDP, I don’t know anything about other parties and their flag bearers.