Road to 2023: Tinubu/Shettima not competent to lead Nigeria –Utomi, Labour Party chieftain

Posted by News Express | 10 August 2022 | 348 times

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Professor of Political Economy and management expert, Pat Utomi is a chieftain of the Labour Party. He is also Chairman of the National Consultative Forum (NCFront) and founder of the Centre for Values in Leadership (CVL). In this interview, he discussed Nigeria’s development challenges, how to overcome them and why the country must elect competent, credible leaders in 2023.

NCFront/ Labour Party recently floated a ‘Big Tent’ initiative, can you walk us through what it is about, is it a form of shadow cabinet?

The Big Tent nomenclature is a shadow team in many ways, but we are focusing essentially on a Rapid Response Policy Team (RRPT) because many cheap things have fallen through the crack in Nigeria. Look at the embarrassment of the power sector for instance, we keep talking about how we want to make progress but looking at the focus on revenue and sharing revenue versus the focus on production, you will agree that we cannot go anywhere without power. That is why the manifesto of the Labour Party, and the Peter Obi campaign focuses on moving away from sharing revenue to creating a productive economy. But you cannot attain this without power. We are in a situation where for years successive Federal Governments have mismanaged the power sector but because there is no RRPT that challenges positions taken by the Federal Government and proffers an alternative on a continuing basis. The implication has been that the people cannot find a reasoned option based on which to hold the government accountable for its actions. The result is that the Federal Government has spent billions of dollars on the power sector and achieved nothing.

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is an opposition party, just like the All Progressives Congress (APC) was for 16 years before coming to power in 2015?

For years, both the APC and the PDP mismanaged the power sector which is fundamental to production and manufacturing because nobody was telling them what they were doing wrong. Our RRPT is not strictly speaking a shadow cabinet because it is not an organ of the party. The RRPT is there to provide a perspective on policy, critique the current one and proffer an alternative. Members of the RRPT are drawn from different sectors and age brackets and they have clear targets with all seriousness. Take the country’s finance for instance, Nigeria is technically bankrupt because we have not managed the sector properly. India and other countries with similar colonial experience as Nigeria were able to manage their finance. We must institute a disciplined system where the people trust the government to do what it says it will do. In the world today, capital is concentrated in a few hands; few men in California, United States have more capital than all the countries of Africa put together, but some of these capitals could be attracted to Africa, Nigeria included if we had an environment that is trustworthy.

In what possible ways could this capital be brought into Nigeria?

Nigeria could compile a register of its assets and make them available in such a way that investors can come in; look at the old Federal Secretariat in Lagos for instance, this is an enormous edifice located in a prime area but it is lying idle. This property could be used, I can tell you that we can attract up to $2 billion worth of investment that will transform the place and create up to 1,000 jobs, that will make tremendous impact on the country’s economy, but the nature of our financing structure has not enabled us to create those jobs.


How many people are in this RRPT?


There are 37 people in the RRPT, and they are looking at all aspects of Nigeria’s national life, finance, agriculture, security, infrastructure, rule of law and other areas. The names of members of the RRPT will be released soon.


The National Assembly is threatening to impeach President Muhamadu Buhari over the rising insecurity; why now, the issues raised by the lawmakers are not entirely new?


I can’t say the motive driving the action of the lawmakers, they are the only ones that can answer the question of why now. But if these lawmakers are serious, they should also be impeaching themselves; it should be a mass purge in the entire administration cutting across the executive, the legislature and in some instances, the judiciary too.


The Muslim-Muslim ticket of the APC is still an issue, what is your take?


The mere argument of somebody saying that the APC ticket is about competence is an insult to Nigerians because they are saying that these are the only competent people in the party. Moreover, I don’t even consider Bola Tinubu and Kashim Shettima as the most competent people to lead Nigeria right now before we even begin to talk about the fact that they are both Moslems. If we are honest to ourselves, the whole idea of representative government that reflects the geography of a place, its culture, ethnicity, and all of that did not derive from the idea that incompetent people should be selected. The idea of affirmative action derived from the work of Tomas Kingsley, in his book titled ‘Representative Democracy’ suggests that when the team reflects the different groups, administration will be better because the team will reflect the nuances peculiar to the different groups. That is why we have a Federal Character concept in Nigeria. So, there are many flaws in that Muslim-Muslim ticket; it does not give a sense of belonging to all.


What in your opinion is the major task the next President of Nigeria will face; Atiku Abubakar, the PDP candidate believes it is uniting the people?


Uniting the people is made more difficult when you know it will be fair for certain people to have a shot at something they have been shut out of but you deny them that opportunity and turn around to say you are coming to unite them? There is a challenge of logic in that thought processing.


There are, however, many problems in Nigeria, if you look at the country today, one of the greatest challenges is a mismanaged economy. One of the key issues we talk about is how to move away from an obsession with revenue sharing to production. What we are saying in the 3rd Force is that we will be a production-driven economy. Every part of this country has certain endowments, and we need to tie the education system of the different parts of the county to the competitiveness of their endowments. Students from different parts of the country should be able to understand the endowments of their area in addition to whatever they are learning in school; this way they will be able to maximise the value chain of those endowments.


Another major issue to deal with is infrastructure to drive this country forward. The current logic of managing Nigeria is that when revenue comes, a portion is put into road construction; for instance, the Gen Yakubu Gowon military government constructed the Lagos -Ibadan expressway in two years, the current civilian administration has so far spent over 20 years to rehabilitate and expand the same expressway and it is still work-in-progress. Several things need to be changed in Nigeria urgently, including mind-set.


What concrete steps will Labour Party take to address insecurity for example?


There are simple direct ones and there are more complex ones. Security is a local function, so this idea of a federal police doesn’t work for us. We should have local policing. As a graduate student in America, the university I attended has a police service, the city has its police, the county has a police force, and the state has a police force. America ensures that the police is protected from being used against perceived enemies of the local authority by having a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), which comes in if the issues in question centres around human rights. Another approach is to ensure that the people are educated and can be gainfully employed; this will reduce the chances of people being recruited by the terrorists because economy has great impact on the security system. Another critical factor is intelligence, somehow intelligence is not deployed in ways it can save lives and we will engage foreign partners.

Labour Party did not perform well in the Osun State governorship election giving the impression that the growing popularity of the party is centred upon Peter Obi as the Obedient Revolution has not rubbed off on other candidates of the party?


That is a very unfair assessment of the party; the Obedient Movement came along after issues like Osun had been settled. Osun was about taking back a mandate that was stolen four years ago, the people of Osun wanted to reverse an injustice. It will not be fair to assess Labour Party that was hardly involved in the Osun electioneering until the last three to four weeks on the basis of that election. More importantly, you are talking about a movement not a political party, the movement has certain broad goals, so you will lose sight of the bigger picture if you try to judge the movement based on the performance of a political party.

The APC and the PDP are often referred to as different sides of the same coin, what will be the case if either of the parties wins the 2023 presidential election?

It will be a devastation for Nigeria if either the APC or the PDP comes to power in 2023, the youths of this country are already so angry and fed up, everybody is trying to flee from Nigeria. I can’t say what the fate of Nigeria will be if either of these parties comes to power. (Daily Sun)


Source: News Express

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