I will make a good president - Orji Uzor Kalu
Former Abia State governor, Dr Orji Uzor Kalu, believes that he will make a good president if given the opportunity to lead the country, given his track record.
He also speaks in this interview on the two years of the Muhammadu Buhari administration and the need to sustain the nation’s democracy through adherence to the rule of law
It is two years since the All Progressives Congress (APC) came to power following the defeat of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2015 presidential election. How would assess the present administration in terms of governance?
We have experienced both the good and the bad. Overall, the APC administration, honestly, has also done fairly well in terms of where they want us and the country to be. The APC came into power on the premise of fighting corruption; premise of diversifying the economy.
It came on the premise of trying to build a New Nigeria, which has always been what every administration will say. Yes! There has been some improvement in terms of addressing the security challenges in the North-East and partially in the Niger Delta.
But we are not yet there! And the most difficult thing or challenge has been the economy. However, gradually, we are making some progress. Government needs to go into massive investments on roads and infrastructure; which is what the APC government is doing now.
So, I am hoping that gradually, slowly but steady, we will be easing out of recession. Recession won’t be over in one day. It is funny when I hear people say we will ease out of recession in three months. It takes a couple of years and is a gradual process.
Both the World Bank and International Monatary Fund (IMF) are saying that we are gradually going to ease off. I used to be a good advocate of devaluation the naira to get it right, but today, I think the Western countries cannot continue to ask us to devalue the naira because we have a monoeconomy.
We have a single product we are selling to them, so at every time, the naira is on the receiving side. In the last 20 years, I have never heard the dollar being devalued; I have never heard the British pound being devalued.
Something is wrong somewhere. The only currencies being devalued are mostly African countries. What parameter do they use to market this stability of our currencies? The government, on the other hand, needs to do something about the issue of rule of law. Obeying court rulings and orders will go a long in deepening our democracy.
If the court says you should release Sambo Dasuki, you must release him! It’s the order of the court and that’s the beauty of democracy. For example, if the say you must detain Orji Uzor Kalu, you must detain me, because that is what the court says. The people are only seeing the hardware of democracy we have not been able to build the software. The software of democracy is respect to human rights, court orders
As an entrepreneur of note, what quick major steps do you think government should take in the short term to address challenges facing the economy?
China for example, 30 to 40 years ago, started by first producing enough food for people to eat. We should look for a strategy, go into massive food production, then after feeding ourselves, the second thing will be to export. And we have the capacity!
The government should go to places like Aba, Onitsha and Abeokuta, where people are conversant with technology and invest. There are many technologies we are importing that we don’t need; we can manufacture them here.
As governor, I encouraged President Olusegun Obasanjo to plead with those engineers who worked for Biafra to return, for them to be deployed to the Defence cCorporation in Kaduna to start manufacturing equipments and arms for export.
This is one of the things that we can use to come out of recession. We don’t need to depend on oil. This country is enormously rich that we don’t need the crude oil. The country can make money if there is stability and security. If people can move from the Sahara Desert to Atlantic Ocean without anybody molesting them, people will like to come from across the world to invest in Nigeria. Tourism can bring in $100 billion investment every year in Nigeria. I must also say that the greatest disservice that has been done to this economy is not giving us electricity. Poor power supply is a big setback and there is nothing we can do to develop without electricity.
The Obasanjo administration expended billions of naira on the power sector yet nothing came out of it. Then there was the privatization of the sector, but Nigerians have more darkness than we experienced in the past. What is way out?
To be honest with you, the privatisation of the power sector was not the right thing to do. I had suggested that major corporations take over our electricity. If you want to help Nigerians, bring a company like General Electric and tell them they you will own 55 per cent and others will own 45 per cent.
So, all these Discos and Gencos will be part of the process. If I were to make that decision, the federal government at all time will retain 25 per cent on all the power plants, the Nigerian populace will invest 30 per cent, while the foreign companies will invest the rest and they will be able to manage and run them.
Recently you joined the APC and the fortune of the party in the South-East seems to be changing rapidly. What is the secret?
The secret is that some of our religious leaders, who have been preaching against APC as Islamic party, have stopped such preaching. I joined the party on November 16, 2016, but my brother has been with the APC and they fought alongside with Buhari, but I remained in Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA).
I have been in opposition for 10 years and there is no other Nigerian politician that has been in opposition for 10 years as I did. I have just changed party for the first time. To sit where other Nigerians are seated, is the reason I left; otherwise I wouldn’t have left.
As a former governor of Abia State, you reportedly put the state on a sound footing of rapid growth. From the time you left office till date, do you think successive governments have built on that?
The man I left office for did not do the thing he was supposed to do. And it was the press that promoted them and wrote things that were not true. If the man I handed over to had followed the policy we had, not abandoning what we were doing, we would not be where we are today. I don’t want to criticise the present governor because I have not really assessed him. And I have not been to Abia to see what he is doing, but I want him to buckle up.
You have contested for the nation’s presidency in the past. Are you still nursing that ambition?
I contested for president in 2007 and I came third with 5.8 million votes. This shows that I am a marketable candidate anytime and in any election. I am prepared for the job because my political exposure has equipped me for any elective post in the country, including the highest office of the land. Let me tell you, I can manage the economy very well and even do better in the area of security.
Mind you, I was a governor at a very young age. If there is a chance for me to be president of Nigeria, I will make a good president. If Goodluck Jonathan could become president, I will make a better president.