Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa, a presidential aspirant on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), is a former president of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria and ex-Chief Executive Officer of Neimeth Pharmaceutical. In this interview monitored on Arise Television, he speaks on his presidential ambition, his master plan for the country, the quest for a president of Igbo extraction, among other issues. ANAYO EZUGWU reports
Why do you want to be president of Nigeria? Is it because you think the time is right for a president of Igbo extraction or because you think you can make a difference?
Essentially because I think I can make a difference. I believe that our country has been in a conundrum, moving around in a circle, not attaining the kind of growth, economic prosperity and kind of global competitiveness that we have expected from the country.
I believe I can make a difference because I think Nigeria needs a leader that understands how we can propel our country to unleash all the potential for creative accomplishments to take to become a productive nation and deal with the lingering issues of poverty, joblessness and sometimes getting to hopelessness.
A country so blessed as Nigeria ought to be a true leader in terms of contributing to global growth, economic growth, creating a nation where everybody lives in happiness. But now we have a nation where there is so much insecurity, so much pain and I can’t continue to watch. So, I think I have to make a difference by bringing all that I have received in life, all the training, all the experiences that I have had in wealth creation, in issues concerning diversity to be able to unite our country and be able to promote a high level of economic prosperity for our nation because our problem is essentially poverty.
Of course, we have other issues of injustice, inequity, corruption and insecurity but the principal thing is how to make Nigeria a producing nation, a wealth-creating nation that can feed its people and be able to provide support for the rest of the world; earn foreign exchange in a diversified manner and not just depending on oil because there is so much we have in this country that can earn us foreign exchange.
From human intellect to art and culture, agriculture and manufactured products, we have everything. We have solid minerals but we have not been able to understand how we can create an investment haven that will attract people to bring investment into the country and those who are in the country to raise their stake for us to become the industrial hub for Africa, which I believe is possible.
What about the Igbo agenda because you have been quoted as saying that this is a way of showing that Ndigbo also have candidates or aspirants?
Yes, I haven’t come because I am Igbo. I come because I feel I am a competent Nigerian who has lived in this nation. I have been trained and had the privileges of enjoying a good nation but I’m seeing that the country we are leaving behind for our children is not the country our own parents left for us. So, we need to change the story and change the narrative. Of course, in Nigeria, everybody speaks about equity, justice and fair play and in the party that I am in, which is the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), rotation of power is part of what we have agreed to do.
In Nigeria, we talk about power sharing, power rotation and federal character. All these speeches are about how to build ownership in a country where you have diverse people, cultures, ethnic groups and religions. It makes sense to often plan how you can make sure that every section of the country has an opportunity, Today, there is a large poll of opinion saying that the South- East ought to be given an opportunity to produce the president. But I am not here because of that; if it happens that’s nice, if not, I am ready to compete with the best in the country.
Your credentials as a businessman is well known but what is your political profile; how will you manage, inspire and unify Nigerians if elected. Also, what is your structure like across the country?
First and foremost, I have been in the country for a very long time and I have run organisations that are multidimensional. I have been involved in the Nigeria Economic Summit Group (NESG), in running the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) as president, president of Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA). I have served the country.
I have served in several presidential committees, several task forces, several boards and I have played advisory roles. I was involved in fashioning Vision 2010, Vision 2020 and the Nigerian Economic Reform Conference. So, I understand how the country runs and we know the history and how the First Republic leaders of our country organised this country, how they agreed to relate to each other and there were constitutions in 1959, 1963 and 1979. The country was built on a basis where we understood our diverse nature as a nation and we strived then to relate with each other but somewhere along the line, the relationship was broken.
So, what we are trying to do with the experience we’ve had is to cause the country to make a return and become one. To do that, what you need is an opportunity for the owners of the nation to decide how they want to run their country in order to ensure justice, equity and fair play, so that every child born into this country feels he or she is a citizen of the country. We don’t give the impression that there are second class or third class or people who are preferred, which is a sign of what is lacking today. The moment we have an opportunity to enthrone justice, fairness, equity, we will be able to deal with the issues.
In the New Nigeria Group, which we have set up, we have structures across the states and we maintain that Nigeria can become a first world and also a globally competitive nation as well as a country that works for all. Today, this country is not working for everybody. It is working for some special people, others are ignored. We need to be sensitive to the needs of different people, who constitute our country in terms of demography and ethnic nationalities. Look at our youths, we have a joblessness rate of about 53 per cent of the youth population and there is just no hope. When we went to school, it was on scholarship.
I finished school in June and by July I was working. Three months after I started work, I was given a car loan. After that, I changed work and started working at Pfizer. Three months after I joined Pfizer, the company gave me a car and as a young pharmacist, I have three cars in my garage. Today, there is no opportunity for young people to get jobs not to talk of getting a car or a house because we don’t have mortgage.
We don’t have the opportunity to get a lease and opportunity for young people to be fully employed and not just work for people but exercise their creativity and create jobs. So, we are going to come up with that kind of mindset to mobilize our people and create op-portunities for economic expression. So, the New Nigeria Group is our political movement but we have taken that into our party, so that working with the group and PDP, we can take back our country and restore it to its manifest destiny.
Many Nigerians would be shocked to know that you were part of those that drafted Vision 2010 because it was a failure but what are you going to do in terms of solving the problem of illiteracy and education in the country with massive out-of-school children?
Secondly, why are you joining PDP; the same party that Nigerians rejected in 2015? Vision 2010 was completed but it was never implemented, so that is why it failed. Crafting the vision and those who implement it is a different thing. Ours was advisory because we finished crafting the vision and the Head of State, General Sani Abacha died and the succeeding head of State didn’t want to touch the Vision 2010.
He decided to go for a medium-term economic development strategy, which is the NEEDS. It was when President Umaru Yar‘Adua came that the Nigeria Economic Summit Group (NESG) started pushing again because if a country fails to have a uniting vision, that country will not make sustainable success. So, we have always said that lack of vision is our problem. Today, this country has no vision and we don’t know where we are going to. On the issue of why PDP, there are two parties in this country that I believed are the leading parties.
All over the world, we have two major parties in most jurisdictions. In Nigeria, it is PDP and the All Progressives Congress (APC). For all we know in our country, there is no political ideology, people do what they desire to do when they have an office because if you ask me, what is being done today, I don’t think it is the APC ideology because we read their manifesto. What is in the manifesto is not what they are doing and people who were in PDP have moved to APC and some in APC have moved to PDP.
So, political platforms in Nigeria are essentially an opportunity to get to the levers of power and then implement what they believe is right depending on who you are dealing with. Nigerians don’t like APC and they don’t like PDP. They rejected PDP in 2015 but they will accept them in 2023 because that is what happens everywhere.
They have tried APC and they know that PDP is better than APC. For most Nigerians today if you give them APC and PDP, the majority of them would tell you that when PDP was in power we recorded some growth. There was double-digit growth and Nigeria became the leading economy in Africa. We had education improvement to the extent that we even had schools built for Alamjiris but those schools are abandoned now. Education is critical and no country will succeed if it does not pay attention to education.
Education is the highest investment because what makes any economy move are the people and the greatest investment in the people is education and healthcare. When you give them education, you are preparing for the future because through education you prepare the capacity of the people, not just ordinary human numbers but people who have been trained to learn how to solve problems. The essence of education is to learn how to solve problems. In our own time, we did not just learn how to solve problems but everybody that goes to school would learn how to solve problems and how to create wealth.
It doesn’t matter what you read because there are problems within every profession that if you put investment behind it will create wealth. I have proposed in our master plan that in your final year in the tertiary institution instead of this one year spent doing projects, you would do the business plan. Every graduating student would come out with two business plans and will approach a small business development plan that we would set up to look at your plans and decide which of them is more viable and give you the go-ahead to carry out your market test. If you do a market test and that product is saleable, then you are led to a funding organization to help you start your business. The government would be interested in business, not the way it looks like we are begging the government to be interested in business and most times it becomes an impediment to business.
They give you multiple taxes and create impediments for you and that is the greatest problem because I have said that solving Nigeria’s economic problems which are at the root of corruption starts with understanding how to attract investment. So, if you create an investmentfriendly environment, investments will flow and those investments will create programmes, businesses and these businesses and programmes would create jobs and jobs would create wealth and wealth would diminish poverty. It is a straight-line relationship between investment and poverty elimination and it is not the work of the government to employ people.
Government is to stimulate, support and motivate the private sector and the private sector would create businesses and projects which will now employ people, those employed will create wealth, which would be distributed and poverty eliminated. That is our central pursuit and this is why Nigeria is the way it is. Investments are not coming; we depend on oil for our foreign exchange earnings and we are not earning substantial foreign exchange from anywhere else whereas we can earn foreign exchange from our drama, arts and culture.