Nigerians must not gamble with 2023 polls, says Rep Umanah

Hon. Aniekan Umanah, a former Commissioner for Information in Akwa Ibom State, is currently the member representing Abak/Etim Ekpo/ Ika Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives. In this interview with TONY ANICHEBE he speaks on some challenges confronting Nigeria and the possible solutions, even as he commends Governor Udom Emmanuel for his efforts at changing the fortune of the state through industrialisation and robust infrastructural development


What would you describe as the high points of the PDP Government in Akwa Ibom State since 1999?

I must say clearly that Akwa Ibom State has remained a lucky state under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) since 1999. Various administrations in the state since then have acquitted themselves creditably from any angle you look at it.

Whether in terms of infrastructures or human capacity development, or in terms of industrialisation which is gaining ground with the present administration or in terms of Foreign Direct Investment, agricultural development, youth development, educational and health care development. It has been steady progress and I must tell you that the PDP has made Akwa Ibom State proud.


What is your take on the last PDP primaries in Akwa Ibom State?

The primaries have come and gone in a very peaceful and cordial manner. Candidates have emerged across the board and we are now getting ready for campaigns.


Do you think that the party is still intact after the last primaries?

The party remains united in Akwa Ibom State. The state is the bastion of PDP in Nigeria. The party has remained united under our leader, Governor Udom Emmanuel. The leader has led the party well and it is waxing stronger in the state. The party is in every nook and cranny of the state, meeting its obligations and ensuring that Akwa Ibom people are proud to have a PDP government.


What is your opinion of the APC Mulism/ Mulism ticket for the presidency?


In my opinion, I think it is important for leaders to always listen to the yearnings of the people they lead. In a totally divided and polarised country like ours, there must be inclusion in every political permutation for peaceful coexistence.


It is important to galvanise all interest groups in line with our diversities for now. Ithinkallpoliticalpartiesshouldworktowards ensuring that the interests of all groups are considered, for people to feel a sense of belonging. Democracywill beseentobeintrue practice only whenthereisfullparticipationofvariousinterest groups in the body politics .


What is your take on the raging insecurity in the country and its effects on food security and worsening poverty in Nigeria, do you think that the military is doing enough?

The insecurity in the country has reached a worrisome and brazen dimension. The terrorists and bandits have held the nation by the jugular and it’s time to rise to the occasion by being frontal on this matter. After all, the responsibility of government is the protection of lives and property of citizens and government is there for the wellbeing of the people.


Security of lives and property and the wellbeing of the people remain the primary responsibility of the government.


Government must not fail in this area because failure will raise a question of competence of the administration or its commitment or capacity in solving the problems of the nation. The insecurity matter has continued unabated; it started in the North-East and moved gradually to the North-West, now Abuja and parts of the South-East and various parts of the country. It is very worrisome as nowhere is completely safe.


The recent donation of N1.5 billion by the Federal Government of Nigeria to the government of Niger Republic in the face of the worsening poverty has been criticised by Nigerians. What is your view on this?


It is possible that countries can support others but coming at a time when the nation is in crisis and at a time when universities are shut down for half a year with the strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), such a move leaves room for misinterpretation. I understand that in diplomacy, such support and collaborations happen but the timing is not sitting well with Nigerians .


How do you react to the disclosure last weekend that the current insecurity in the country has international dimension, support and conspiracy?


I heard all that, but as a sovereign nation, are we going to fold our arms and watch our nation collapse? No! We must as a nation explore avenues to tackle the menace and ensure that Nigeria remains safe and the government must live up to its promise to provide security for lives and property of the people. So what matters most at this point is the safety of Nigerians and not the international collaboration or conspiracies.

What is your message for Nigeria parents, government and ASUU as the ongoing strike bites harder on students?


I have said it several times and I can say it again that what is happening is a needless disagreement. I do not see what cannot be resolved in a dispute. Every crisis starts with talking and is resolved in a dialogue as long as there is sincerity.

If the government was sincere, the ASUU crisis ought to have been resolved. Mark you, keeping a youthful population idle for such a long time spells doom for the country in the area of security. The children have remained at home for too long and it is not good.


If you look at the list of ASUU demands, primarily the failure of the earlier agreement, I think it is good for the government to look critically at it, if there is failure on their side, accept it and move forward with sincerity in solving this problem.

ASUU people are Nigerians whom we know and government officials too are human beings and no issue is too big for the leadership of this country to intervene even directly. The problem is quite worrisome.

Power situation in the country is at a very terrible level leaving Nigerians groaning. What is the government doing to address this problem?

I cannot speak for the government on the issue of power but I can speak for myself and ordinary Nigerians. The power sector is a sad story of massive failure. How can a country of over 200 million people talk about 4,000, 5,000 and 6,000 megawatts of electricity?

How do you distribute or share such meagre power generated? That is why nothing is working here, no real sector, no industry is working and nothing will work because power is at the bedrock of industrialization, it is the bedrock of economic activities and quality livelihood. Nobody can successfully run business on diesel and generators. Nigeria’s energy sector is a big circle of failure just like so many other things in Nigeria.

We are almost at the point of a failed nation. We cannot provide power for our people or provide the enabling environment for business to thrive for profitability. Look at the foreign exchange market, the collapse in the educational sector, the trouble in the aviation sector.

In fact every sector is almost on the floor, the country is at its knees. We talked about insecurity, we must rise up as a people to address these issues. Government must take up and properly address these challenges to the happiness of Nigerians.

If this does not happen then we are doomed as a nation. If the government does not have a solution to these problems, they should invite those who have ideas on how to solve the problems.

How can we stay in a country where we budget between N15 trillion to N17 trillions in budget and debt repayment and subsidies on petroleum almost take three quarter of the budget with nothing left to do anything sending the government to keep borrowing more. We must address this issue, but not by further improvising the already improvised Nigerians.

We are daily encountered by our constituents as legislators to know what the government is doing to reduce poverty, enhance the economy for better living for Nigerians, a question at times we have no direct answers. The country is in a sorry state with thousands of youths unemployed despite all the interventionist programmes. They have not addressed the kernel of the matter by just dancing around the circle.

Do you think the current security situation and inflation in the country will affect the chances of the APC in the 2023 election?

The ball is in the court of Nigerians. If you send someone on an errand and he is unable to deliver, next time you try the next person, that is the alternative, the PDP is there as a functional alternative. I remember when Nigerians were complaining that the PDP didn’t do this or that and they voted APC in 2015.

Today with APC in the saddle the dollar to naira exchange rate the APC met at N185 is today up to N700 in the parallel market. Look at ordinary staple food like rice and everything you can talk about, Nigerians are suffering and the difficulties are much. We must rise up as a government.

The fateofNigeriain2023resideswithNigerians. If we want to sell our votes or conscience for a pot of porridge and turn around to complain again then that will be too bad. Nigerians must rise again and do what they need to do to make sure we return to the right path in 2023.

How do you describe the allegation by the PDP that the N20 trillion loan that the Federal Government took from the CBN was a euphemism for printing money for the government?


Whether the CBN is printing money for FG or lending money to it, the issue is the nation is insolvent. How do you make money when there is no production? The real sector is on the floor, what is the percentage of export we are undertaking to earn foreign exchange? It is a consumption economy and when you are consuming what happens?


When you are unproductive, whatever you are consuming, the day you don’t have it, you go begging. We are sitting on a mono product economy which is oil. The world has moved beyond one product economy, oil and gas is good and has helped us, but we ought to have used the benefits of oil and gas to diversify and build productive capacities that would have put this country on the track of economic prosperity.

We have enough available land, agricultural produce, solid minerals in the quantum that if it is consolidated. The way we consolidated oil, then we will have the country but more importantly I think what we need most is true federalism. This is because the current situation of the monthly congregation in Abuja to share the bread makes us a lazy country. Laziness has killed the spirit of competition.

Akwa Ibom alone has enough to offer Nigeria and the world and earning a percentage of their revenue. What has happened in Akwa Ibom in the few years of Governor Emmanuel’s administration where everybody is planting all Agricultural produce shows that it takes leadership to turn things around to make people see the direction for self-sustainability.

Look at the industries attracted by the government. Today, flours are produced in commercial quantity; syringes are produced in millions for export from Akwa Ibom. Look at other factories all working in Akwa Ibom. If every state is working at this rate with investors and partners, Nigeria will have a lot to offer to the world and that will automatically bring in foreign exchange and the country will be taken out of the present doldrums.

Look at Innoson Group, a local automobile producer. Before now we have Steyler Motors Volkswagen, in Lagos, ANAMCO in Enugu. Even though they were assembly plants, they employed a lot of people and the vehicles were sold around Nigeria and other West African countries. There was technological transfer and knowhow with so many by-products feeding those industries.

Today all have gone. Through private efforts Innoson came up, that is the type of effort that should be encouraged by all levels of government in Nigeria to ensure that we produce more Innoson in different parts of the country. We would like to see the emergence of Innoson type in the six geo political zones and when put together we dominate the West Africa and African market. Government must provide the incentives and the enabling environment for these to work. Every vehicle you see in this country is made abroad, meaning we are still working for the foreigners because we still buy their parts. It is also sad we produce crude oil to sell to them to refine and they resell to us. The story of Nigeria is a story of one step forward and fifty steps back-ward.

You have secured your party’s ticket to return to the House of Representatives for a second term. If you win the general election, what are the expectations from you this time around?

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