By Daniel Kanu
Senator Nkechi Nwaogu represented Abia Central Senatorial district for three consecutive terms on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) before she defected to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). The former Pro-Chancellor of the University of Calabar in this interview with Sunday Sun, speaks on the campaigns and its mudslinging, the president that Nigeria needs at this crucial time, the abysmal performance of Abia State government, and the great efforts of President Buhari that Nigerians have failed to acknowledge, among other national issues. Excerpts:
Let’s get your reaction on the campaigns so far, particularly on the issues of conversation?
I feel that the politics of the 2023 general election has deviated from what it was or used to be, there is no civility again as some people are even promising Nigerians what they lack the capacity to offer, some are promising things that they have no knowledge on how to actualize them. So, when people are making these promises they, Nigerians, the electorate should pin them down on how the person will do it. Insist on asking them how they hope to achieve such promises. This is important. It is not, I will give jobs, I will stop corruption, I will give steady power, I will make a short person to be tall etc, they say all manner of things, abuses and all that against one another, that shouldn’t be the spirit of political competition, it’s not a game, it’s a competition and should not be a do or die issue or full of mudslinging and abuses, no. Nigeria today needs a president who has a known track record. The issue of I can do it better than the old people should not arise. You can’t give what you don’t have, there is no rocket science on that. That is why Nigerians must be careful in making their choices. We need a president that has evidence of versatility, one that, probably, might have the potential spirit of uniting this country that has been ravaged by all manners of factionalizing issues, harping on things that divide us instead of things that will bring us together as a nation. I think we need a president that we feel we can trust, mind you these are all subjective because there is no trial period that you will say okay, after six months or so you will remove the person. Once you vote for the wrong person you are done with, you are trapped, we need a person with proven track record, one with the capacity and competence to do as he or she promised.
Are you confident that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) will make good its promise to deliver a free, fair, and credible election?
I am not and I think they are just telling us that all is well, but for me, I don’t think so. It is as if the more you look the less you see. Look at the simple PVC that they are distributing, it has become a herculean task, ordinary distribution, they have made it to be so difficult. Look at the website they said they opened for ad-hoc INEC staff that website has never opened. A lot of people who wanted to participate as ad-hoc staff were unable to access the website. I am just waiting for next month because this thing that they are saying that all is in tact, that all is well, all is not well.
How will you react to the debt of about N77 trillion this government has incurred and will leave behind, are you really worried?
So long as you know how these debts were incurred and if they were not on consumables. Every nation, even the United States of America, Russia, every nation on earth have mounting internal and external debts. We have to look back to see how we incurred the debt. So, for me, it needs analysis. The figure as it is, is not an unusual thing for a nation that was coming out of recession. How do you come out of a recession, you have to reflect on the economy and how do you do that, you impact into programmes and projects like infrastructure, you build roads, put other infrastructure in place which is expected to create employment, boost the economy and add other ancillary benefits, but if it is wasted, if it is frittered out through frivolous things then that is when we should really be in trouble.
Let’s look at women in politics. Are you satisfied so far?
Of course not, I am not in any way satisfied with what we have. I have always cried and wished that more women would have been given the opportunity. Take, for instance, myself, I was consciously and deliberately denied a ticket to go back to the Senate. I repeat, consciously and deliberately denied the ticket. They made sure that I was not given the ticket and I am sure that is how it has happened in many other states for various positions. A situation where all the parties do not have women at the higher echelon of the National Working Committee, NWC, of the various parties speaks volumes. All efforts to create a female constituency either as the House of Representatives or the Senate failed through the Constitutional Amendment. I am not happy, but what can one do?
When you look at Abia State politics and you are to make an assessment, how do you score the government?
The performance in terms of governance is abysmal and unfortunately, I cannot see light at the end of the tunnel in terms of redemption. You see, Abia State needs to be salvaged, but I am not seeing where it is coming from.
Even with the APC candidate of your party. What of if he wins?
Who knows, maybe in future, we shall be appointing governors to see if we can put in some good people. But all hope is not lost.
Nigerians seem not to be happy with the APC government, your party, looking at the state of the economy, and security challenges, among others?
The thing is that when a blind person touches an elephant at the leg the person will say it is hard and long. Another person touches the same elephant at the ear and will say it’s so broad and soft, there could be many descriptions. In the last three, or four years there has been a worldwide inflationary attack, but some people do not want to look at it that way, Nigeria is not in isolation. Also for some reasons, people do not want to appreciate even the good things that President Buhari has done. Since 1999 when Ndigbo were yearning for a second Niger Bridge, successive governments have come and gone, we have been voting for them blindly, but it’s only the person that you refused to like that has done it. He promised that he will do it and he did it. The same President Buhari has rebuilt Ajaokuta Steel into a steel manufacturing factory. The same President Buhari said we must have a Single Treasury Account, other governments before him could not do it. Let me tell you, the area that I have found lacking and I do not know what to say about it is the area of our refinery that seem to have defiled every solution offered because there is no reason, absolutely no reason that sector should be the way it is. In my little years of study with my doctorate degree, I cannot get my brain to comprehend why the refineries are not functioning. There was a time I was the Senate committee chairman on gas and we did our part for that four years by making sure that Nigeria was able to record the needed dividends, sent to the federation account as against the money staying in the ministry. Today, in the United Kingdom, inflation is at 14 per cent and in the last 40 years, it has never been like this. Today, in America, inflation is about eight, nine per cent, it has never been like this in the last 30 years. So, many nations of the world are having a hard time, but all I can say is that we can manage our resources better than some of them are doing. The idea of keeping some ministers and DGs etc since 2015 to date, keeping one person there, especially those with nothing more to offer….You cannot put nothing and expect a different result, I think that is wrong, but I think President Buhari has done his part and today there are things he has done that we can be proud of, the single treasury, electoral act, today the Central Bank has been able to change our currency, I think in April there will also be census exercise for our population, so I think this government has touched a lot of things which other presidents before him dreaded because they did not want to offend anybody. Of course, there are few areas one expects that things will be better….
(Cut’s in) Like in the area of insecurity?
No, I do not think that way. He has done his best. Before we thought it was just in the North, but today our brothers are killing their brothers, killing their families. It is sad because these are the things we used to read in the newspapers, but it is with us today. It will be wrong to blame the government for some of these things. A lot has been put into security, no doubt and the government one can say is on top of it. It may not have subsided, but the government is not relenting in its effort if you have been following the commitment of the government. Of course, they may not have tackled it in the way, who knows another person might be able to tackle, but he has done his best and needs commendation.