By Sunny Edemenang, Uyo
The Presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP), and two-term governor of Anambra State, Mr Peter Obi, recently visited Akwa Ibom State for his campaign. Speaking with newsmen before the campaign rally, he revealed his plans for Nigeria if elected president of Nigeria next month including the development of the Niger Delta region, and making Nigeria as a country to work again. Excerpts:
In 1983 the Senate approved the establishment of Ibaka Deep Seaport here in Akwa Ibom. If you become the next president what is your plan for that project?
We are talking about how we compete in the world today. You compete by producing something that you export. So we are not doing Akwa Ibom a favour by developing the Deep Seaport, rather Akwa Ibom is offering us a space to develop an export channel which I am going to develop. Akwa Ibom can become a processing centre for export. I want to change it to a processing centre for export. The reason our currency is collapsing today is the function of our reserve, as we have no reserve.
We have a problem because we’re not exporting anything. If you are exporting something, you won’t have a dollar problem. Vietnam doesn’t have a dollar problem, and Malaysia which is less than 50m people does not have a dollar problem. In Nigeria, everybody is waiting to share money from oil. I will remove sharing formula and replace it with the production formula. So we are not going to waste our money.
One of the presidential candidates said if he wins the election he will sell the NNPC. What is your take on that?
That is where we are having problems because we are dependent on oil. Oil is a diminishing asset that’s not giving anybody, anything. Oil contributes less than 10 per cent of our Gross Domestic Product, GDP, but it contributes about 50 per cent of federal government revenue which should not be. If we are a productive country, we can earn more money from other areas apart from oil. Akwa Ibom can earn more money from other things but we just believe in consumption and this formula of sharing. We don’t believe in production and that’s why I keep saying that the reason millions of people have been thrown into poverty is that Nigeria is not a producing country.
Because we are waiting to share money from oil, we have our people living in poverty, it can’t continue. We have vast uncultivated land in the north and people are looking for oil. If I become president, within a few years I will devote the money from oil in trying to ensure that we clean up, and be able to develop Niger Delta for what they have suffered. Then resources from other places will be used to develop the areas.
I am a champion of fiscal federalism so that people can become productive. So, I am not going to sell the NNPC, it is the least of my problems. My problem is to create a future and allow the country to work again. NNPC is not even producing anything today, it’s not making any profit, and it is not contributing anything today.
Power distribution is a major challenge Akwa Ibom is currently facing. How do you intend to address the issue?
In my manifesto, I was very clear about the power issue. As of today, our generating capacity is about 12,000 Megawatts. We will do everything possible to solve the issue of power. We are going to support existing facilities, and increase and decentralize the transmission to ensure that what is being generated is being distributed. Additionally, we will support every other method. In South Africa, they are 60 million people and they generate almost 50,000 megawatts.
And the president in the past few months declared an emergency in power and authorised anybody can generate up to 100 megawatts without a license. We are over 200 million people, we generate only 5,000megawatts, what do you think I will declare in the sector? War.
In 2019 you were running mate to Atiku Abubakar on the platform of the PDP. He is still the presidential candidate of the party for the 2023 election. Why are you not with Atiku to contest for the presidency this time around?
I have a background as an Igbo man. In Igbo land, if you are learning a business, you stay with your boss and when you finish he will settle you. Now two of you will be doing the same business and looking for the same customers who will now decide who is the best. The customer may decide to continue to buy from the Oga, or from this new boy, that the product he is selling is better than that of the Oga.
How do feel about the recent comment from your own governor, Professor Charles Soludo that you cannot be the next president?
My state governor is my brother and I wish him well. I want him to do very well. If I care about people’s comments I won’t be here. People have the right to their comments and there is freedom of speech. That’s what we preach. It’s not everybody that’s here that likes me, there are people who don’t want to see me here. If everybody here likes me there is a problem. That’s life. So wherever we find ourselves in life it is only by God’s grace, because He gives it.
Your opponents have said that Labour Party doesn’t have the structure you require to win the 2023 presidential election. How will you respond to that?
You are the structure. The structures they have today are the structures we want to dismantle, the structure of criminality; a structure that produced 133 million people living in poverty; the structure that produced 20 million out-of-school children and made Nigeria surpass India in Infant mortality; the structure that destroyed us. We want to destroy that structure. We want to build a better place for our children, a better place for all of us.
The driver that brought me here, I asked him, who will you vote for, I want you to be honest. And when he finished telling me I said to him, you are from Akwa Ibom, can you show me one thing the Federal Government has done for the people of Akwa Ibom? That is the structure you are talking about, a structure that destroyed the country and threw everybody into poverty.
So we want to build a better structure, and the people are the structure. Leadership in Nigeria is a problem, but the worst problem is the people who have refused to say no in the face of bad leadership, and who are celebrating the criminality of the country. That is what we want to stop.
So you are the structure, I do not need any other structure, if you believe in it we’ll change the country, if you don’t believe in it, one day when they start they will not spare any of you. Today you can’t move around, you are scared, everybody is scared to move around in Nigeria. Is that a structure you want to maintain?
Since you have observed that Akwa Ibom lacks federal presence if you become the next president, what are you going to do about it?
You can imagine that the next president is your in-law. You can only imagine it, I won’t say more than that. For me, I am home here. That is why I asked what did they do for you.
In your manifesto you said you’ll pursue anti-corruption aggressively. But in Pandora papers, a consortium of investigative journalists mentioned your name among 10 Nigerian politicians with secret companies and assets. How are you going to fight corruption given the public report?
I was mentioned in Pandora. Go and read my statement on it published everywhere. What they said is that I have Trust. Trust is a legitimate means of saving all of the World. Before I became the governor of Anambra state, while living in the UK, I already have documents that proved that I have the highest credit rating, and my bank in the UK gave me an overdraft of over 7m dollars and I have proof of the net worth of over 50m dollars.
I won’t throw away my money or do you want my wife and children to be suffering? So when I became a governor I put my money in a Trust for them. And the Trust wasn’t bearing anybody’s name. If you go there you will see my name, my wife and two children. And I said to go there, if you see any kobo, while I was governor that went into that Trust, confiscate it. But you cannot tell me to throw away what I have and leave my children on the street, no way. I was a very comfortable man before I became governor.
I was chairman of a bank before I became governor, and I was the only person serving in three banks as a director before I became governor. What I am saying is I don’t want people to continue to do what they are doing here by stealing public money. I will fight corruption, and to prove that I will fight corruption, I was governor of Anambra State for eight years. But go to Anambra State and let them show you where their money is missing. I have been saying this for eight years and nobody has challenged it.
The day I left the office I was not owing gratuity to anybody, I was not owing Pension or salary and I was not owing any contractor that fulfilled his obligation, not one. And I left money in three banks in Nigeria here. I left Access Bank of Nigeria 50m dollars at the time I left, and over 10 billion naira for the State. I left Fidelity Bank run by Nnamdi Okonkwo at that time 50 million dollars and over 10 billion naira, and I left Diamond bank 50 million dollars and over 12 billion naira. These are state money, these are physical cash. I bought shares in Companies, I invested in corporations on behalf of the state.
Nobody asked me to leave behind 150 million dollars, nobody asked me to leave behind N30 billion. I would have left the state in debt, but I didn’t do that. If anybody said he is going to fight corruption let us know where he had served and what he had left behind. My Speaker came to me with a Law saying that they would build a house for me in Awka and Abuja, that it was my entitlement but I sent him out of my office. Since I left Anambra State they have not bought me a bottle of water. You can go and check it, I have never received a kobo from Anambra State.
I told them I have done my job, I am going home; God gave me enough. I have served as Chairman of the Security and Exchange Commission in Nigeria. Go and ask them if they paid me one naira as a sitting allowance. I can fight corruption. So, I was mentioned in the Pandora case and I can defend it anywhere. It is a Trust and that Trust belongs to me and the investment belongs to my children.
How are you going to address issues of insecurity, and education if elected into office?
Education is the most critical investment any nation can do. One of the problems of Nigeria today is that we are not educating our people. I will fight the issue of insecurity because with insecurity you cannot talk about investment, even local people cannot invest. So I will make sure that we deal with the issue.
And how are we going to deal with it? There are so many things we will do including having multi-level policing, from local government to state, to federal. We’ll ensure we train them, and equip them properly, and we will get things going. Go and check anybody who is promising you anything, let him show you an example of where he did that thing he is promising.
I have a background as a businessman, everybody knows my name, they know the year I was born, and they know the schools I attended. I may not be the most educated among the candidates because I am a trader, but I have the privilege of passing through a number of schools no other contestant has passed through.
I didn’t say I am the most educated but I am the only person who can say I am an Alumni of Oxford, Cambridge. I have classmates everywhere, I am not claiming anything. So if you see people saying how can this man continue to claim that he is clean? For leaving 150m dollars and 30 billion naira, who else left money?
Everybody left debt. But Nigeria is a place we celebrate criminality and then penalise those who are doing well. So my own has become news because I have Trust. If you want, as an investigative journalist, I will pay for your ticket to go and see the Trust. Next year’s election should not be by tribe, let nobody tell you it’s about religion. It is what they use to confuse us. Nigeria is suffering, so let nobody tell you that it is about a tribe.
I am an Igbo man, and I am not contesting this election because I am from the South East. I am contesting this election because I am a Nigerian and I’m qualified. I don’t want anybody to vote for me by pitying me. We have about 60 per cent youth unemployment. Our youths with so much energy and in their productive age are doing nothing.
I am a Catholic, go to Dubai, the Catholic Church in Dubai was built by a Moslem. The Queen gave the land which was used to build the Mosque in London, the queen is not a Moslem. And stop listening to all these parties telling you about structure. They brought Nigeria to where it is today. When we started this democracy, we had less than 50 million poor people in Nigeria, today it is 133 million people and growing every day.
Nigeria can feed itself, let’s bring people who can focus on helping Nigeria. Let nobody tell you it is his turn, or tell you, you have to wait for next time. It is the turn of Nigerian youths and women to take back this country. Your children are suffering. We have children who have gone to school and cannot find jobs for years and someone is saying it is his turn, which turns? It is your turn to retire.
Let those people who want to be president come here as I came here and speak to you, not through their spokesperson. You don’t campaign anywhere in the world through a spokesperson, you go personally. If you are looking for a job, you go for employment directly, that is why I am here. I want you to go to the nooks and crannies of Akwa Ibom and tell them that somebody is determined to change Nigeria. Hold me responsible if I don’t change this country.
I am talking to you directly, my name is Peter Obi, there is no Pseudo name, that’s the name my parents gave me, so nobody is in doubt of my background. And I am not going to govern from Abuja, I am going to be in every state. So it is a job that requires physical and mental energy. We are all Nigerians, nobody is more entitled than the other.
Let’s talk about how we will better Akwa Ibom. You cannot drive from here to Calabar, and somebody is telling you to vote for them again, and somebody is telling you about structure, which structure can you use to tell people that you cannot drive from here to Calabar? Is that structure worth using again? Let’s stop the abuse of Nigeria.
Some persons are calling for the rights of Lesbian, Gays, Bi-sexuals and Transgender. How will you react to such calls?
For me when people talk about the issue of transgender and all that, I tell them that, that is the least of our problems. I am talking about how to pull people out of poverty. I am not going to bother myself with how they want to live their lives. It is a non-issue. We have more than 130 million people living in poverty, that is my care, that is what I want to bother myself with, and that’s where I want to spend my energy.