Emmanuel Umohinyang, a lawyer and the Convener of the Re-elect Buhari Movement (RBM) spoke on President Muhammadu Buhari’s recent trip to China his chances of being re-elected, among other issues. Excerpts…
Do you think it was expedient for President Buhari to have visited China. Why is the President taking China seriously?
The government is looking at partnership and I think the government got the best deal from the Chinese summit. Don’t forget that China is the best second economy in the world and when you try to tie yourself to a particular country or a particular continent, it may not augur well. China is a very big investor in Nigeria. That was not the President first trip to China, and in the entire trip, he has come out successful. We should also commend him that he had been able to show leadership on the African continent. I think the summit fetched the government over 10 billion dollars in deals and MOUs. I remember the President holding meetings with Chinese investors telling them they need to come and fix the Mambilla hydro plant, so the government is looking at investors to see what they can offer and what the country can do. I think it’s a matter of give and take, the government has done well by attracting such a huge investment to Nigeria.
BUt there are insinuations that the West is not happy about it.
I don’t think the West should be unhappy, Nigeria needs investors. We need people who can drive our economy, people who can help galvanise our battered economy. I think we should give the government that benefit of the doubt. We should not really bother ourselves about whether western countries are happy or not with Nigeria going to China. We have also made it clear that the country is not tied to the apron string of any country. We are a sovereign nation. The President has also visited the US, and I don’t think the Chinese government showed any reservation about us going to the US. We are open to investors, we are not been teleguided by anybody, and I want to thank the President that he has taken the pain to bring investors to our country. He should not really bother about what the West or the European Union will think, all we need are people who will invest in our country, improve our economy and most importantly, get the best deals from those coming to invest in our country
Critics have described Chinese loans as dangerous. What is your opinion?
Those making that comment have not provided an alternative, so we must be wary of armchair critics. If you want to criticise constructively, give us alternatives. If the Chinese loan is dangerous, let us know the alternative you have to offer. Nigeria is not going into any deal with eyes closed. Don’t forget that whenever the President travels, he travels with experts, he travels with best we have in our country, so the whole thing is not between our President and the president of the other country. It’s between experts, an MOU is signed and it is for the benefit of both countries, not a case of one-sided agreement.
How do you juxtapose government’s fresh borrowing plan and plan to distribute the Abacha loot from Switzerland to the poor?
I think we should get it very clear. The Abacha loot that was recovered from the Swiss government needs to be seen from the right perspective. The Swiss government gave a condition that the recovered loot must be tied to a specific project. What is important is to get our money back. If we use the money to bring our people out of poverty, what is wrong with it? People will always criticise government without proffering alternatives. I think the government has done well based on the agreement that they had with the Swiss government that the money be tied to specific area our lives. There is nothing wrong with bringing Nigerians out of poverty with the loot that was recovered from the Swiss government. These Nigerians are not taking the money out of Nigeria, they will invest it here in our country. Government did not unilaterally take that decision. It was an agreement between Nigeria and the Swiss government. Government is only complying with the MOU they signed.
Is the move not a new brand of colonisation?
It’s not. We should not forget that the money looted during the Abacha era was looted out of the country. Even the UN does the same. They attach the money to a particular project because of the fear that in the past, the money was re-looted. They want to be sure that as they release the money, it is used for what you said you are going to use it for, and they do a follow up. They do a follow up to ensure that that which you have promised you to sticking by it. It has nothing to do with colonisation.
How do you react to the criticism that this government has penchance for taking loans?
There is nothing wrong if you incur debt provided such is used for the development of the country. That which is bad is what we were doing in the past, when we went into massive debts and this money were looted by some people. We have a government now with the flagship of prudence in managing human and financial resources. Don’t forget the debt we are talking about is not the making of this government. The difference between this government and the previous one is that government is using this money for the purpose they are meant. It is not money for people to share. It is not family affair money. The government is putting its money where its mouth is. That is the difference between the government of President Muhammadu Buhari and the previous administrations.
Compared with the number of foreign trips, is Nigeria getting the right dividends under this government?
One of the things we have to acknowledge is that Nigeria has regained the respect that it lost in the international community. For those of us who travel a lot, we knew the undignifying treatments we were subjected at various airports around the world in the past. The very minute your green passport is flashed; you were separated like somebody with a leprous hand. That is no longer the case. We have regained respect in the international community because they now see that the new sheriff we have in town has come with a quantum of integrity. The integrity of the president cannot be questioned, even by world leaders, they have so much regard for our President. Government has become more prudent, the money spent has been in the all overall interest of all. We have moved away from those days when they say “share the money” or when corruption is reported, they say it’s a family affair. Now, if you steal and you are caught, you’ll be punished. Do you think this government has performed despite obvious gaps? Of course, yes, considering where we are coming from, and I wish we had had the President much earlier. The Nigerian story would have been different now, but we much must not lose sight of the fact that it is much better we have him than not having him at all. What the President is doing now is that he is rebranding the country and showing us the road to prosperity. I think we should commend the President, we should encourage him. We are not saying the government has not made mistakes here and there, but the mistakes are corrected. When the government is doing well, we should encourage them and when they are not, we should criticise them and proffer solutions. From my stand point, the government has done very well. In 2019, he should be returned to office.
The President has continually said defections will not affect his second term, is he not been boastful?
If you know the President, he is not given to boasting. The President is someone who tells you something in the morning and will tell you the same in the next ten years. He is very constant. As constant as the northern star. I may not be able to speak for others. Coming to your question, I think it is a tradition in Nigeria that towards an election, you have some people moving from one political party to the other. That is why I have proposed that the constitution needs to be amended so that we can give some elements of stringent conditions that will make it very difficult to move. We are not saying they should not move but cogent reasons must be given. It’s very unhealthy for our democracy. Thankfully, Muhammadu Buhari is like a political party on his own. He is one man who can win an election without a political party. One man who has showed that he can win election from his home is President Muhammadu Buhari. He has that block votes already.
Do you think the APC can make in-roads into the South-South and South-East in 2019?
There is no where you put your eggs in one basket. What happened in 2015 was a tragedy of all time. The South-East and South-South put their hope in former President Goodluck Jonathan. I have always maintained that we must vote for a President, governor, senator, House of Rep member who will deliver on his promises. The man called Jonathan came and said he was Azikiwe, Ebele I think he used that make them buy into his charade. Not only was Jonathan defeated in that election, the South-East paid dearly for putting their trust and hope in one man. However, I am happy that the government came in and showed the South-East that we don’t care where your vote had gone. The fact is that the President is the President of Nigeria and he showed that clearly with the amount of projects in that zone. I like the way Alhaji Lai Mohammed went about it. Challenges have been thrown at him and he has responded accordingly. Lai Mohammed responded in Ilorin that projects had been executed in that zone and they threw the other challenge that he should publish the projects. Not only did he publish those projects, he attached the amount spent and the completion dates. Facts are scarce and its shuts your enemy up. The government has through similar instances said when we say it, we do it. For our brothers in the South-East, they should look at the previous administration and the Buhari administration and deal with issues based on performance.
What are your thoughts on the altercation been Governor Emmanuel and Senator Godswill Akpabio?
When it was reported in 2014 that the governor has been picked to contest, I was one of those who had so much hope in Emmanuel. These were my reasons- one, for a man to have risen to the level of an Executive Director in Zenith Bank; you should be able to manage human resources and material resources. Two, his youthfulness was also what I appreciated. The third was his manifesto. It was splendid. Three years after, I must confess that I am disappointed in the governor. He has done more of newspaper development. This was a man who was brought from obscurity to prominence by the former governor. If the governor had said he stopped some of the projects of the governor, based on certain infractions, some of us would have queued behind him and tell the former governor to come and account, but that has not been the case. The governor said that there was no furniture in the hotel built by the former governor in the Ikot Ekpene area. He said he needs about 9 million dollars to furnish that hotel. I visited that hotel and to my surprise, this hotel was furnished from the first floor to the last floor. Two days before the exit of the former governor, they had dinner in the same hotel. All that was needed was the tarring of the road leading to the hotel. The governor only plays politics with the development of that state which is unfortunate. In 2019, we should get our PVC and vote out Emmanuel because he has reversed the gains of the Akpabio administration.
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