You Need 3 Years To Judge A President -Nze Nwankpo
Nze Akachukwu Nwankpo was a special assistant, technical matters to former president Goodluck Jonathan and in this interview with RUTH CHOJI, the former secretary of SURE-P stated that a president needs to spend three years in office to be appreciated. He also spoke on some other issues.
As the former secretary of SURE-P, what are some of the legacies of the concept?
SUPRE-P was a well-intentioned program. I had a committee of a lot of interesting people working with me. At the design point, we created so many nice programs and they were meant to achieve so many incredible results but the committee would sit down and create issues that hindered those programs from seeing the light of the day. If you take for example the issue of road maintenance, the plan was for us to acquire road maintenance equipment and restore back the FG roads. We had a clear plan to procure road cutters that would maintain the roads and keep them in good order. The committee was doing that by discussing with the ministry of works and FERMA, but a committee was set up which took over and I am not sure if it was ever implemented. That program was supposed to help us manage the works funds. It was supported by some Nigerian philanthropists who paid for some of these things. We ran a program for the staff with experts from Dubai and other countries. The committee said they don’t want it. it is a painful story for me because it is a committee which had a chairman and the rest and anything must go through vote, they make a vote and you go with it. So for me, I am not proud of what happened at SURE-P. We did a bit but we could have done more.
Is NIPP working now?
When Jonathan was vice president, Late Yaradua asked him to take over the power sector and he appointed me to work on this project. I worked extensively on this NIPP project. All the projects were abandoned after Obasanjo left. But the current permanent secretary, ministry of power was the executive director, projects. He had abandoned the project because they weren’t taken care of him. I found him and brought him back, we worked, guided by his sharp thinking. We developed a program and returned all the contractors who finished their work. We did behind the scene work to get the NIPP back. We set up the presidential task force on power which was designed to make effective efforts to give Nigeria power. It was the period when people who were concerned with power indicated their interest. My position was that, you cannot privatise something that was not alive. We are supposed to start from restoration before we get to commercialisation. Once it is fully functional, the investors can come in and invest money in it. But we went from a limping power sector to commercialisation. So we did not attract the real investors because they couldn’t see the interest in a sector that was not functional. That miss-step was occasioned by people who believe they know all.
Why didn’t you try to talk to the then president about it?
It was a situation of the majority carries the day. When a president is surrounded by about 18 people and everybody is talking about the same thing, it is difficult to hear the lone voice in such a gathering.
Going back to the south-east, there have been complains of marginalisation by the zone, do you share such views?
This administration has stated its policy at the beginning, that if you only give them five percent vote, you will get five percent representations from them. We know President Buhari that when he says something, he tends to mean it. At least he said his wife belongs to the kitchen and when questioned, he said, ‘but she knows she belongs to the kitchen.’ So, whether the president is pursuing that policy or not, I don’t know. If you look around, not many south-easterners are around.
Coming back to the PDP, are you worried with the state of the PDP?
PDP is just a party that lost elections. There is no philosophy in any party in Nigeria. The crises is forcing PDP to become a party that is looking for philosophy which is interesting. They are reeling back from the loss of power which they also caused because PDP is the one that gave birth legitimately to APC. If those characters that move up and down are what you call PDP, then it has no philosophy. What Buhari is doing by saying that, he belongs to nobody will force people to find where they belong. So you don’t have to wait for somebody to tell you where they belong now for them to find something to do. For PDP to survive, they must find a philosophy. If Buhari decides to come out in 2019 and takes over the APC like he has taken judges out of their homes in the night, who will stop him? The remaining ones might decide to join PDP and if somebody has taken PDP, they may decide to form another party. I would think that PDP will take the mistakes they have done and what the APC is doing now and turn itself to a formidable party with good philosophy. Nigerians don’t have the mind-set of the PDP and the APC are not thinking of party now, because they are battling with hunger. So if the PDP can be used to get Nigeria out of its current situation, then the party must do something to resolve the crises.
What is your take on the state of the economy?
Worry cannot describe the way I feel about the economy. The economy puts you under strain like every Nigerian. For me, the state of Nigeria is a wakeup call because our potential as a country over time has not been put to use. That potential goes in regard to human, natural resources, our environment and population. Our gifts in Nigeria are immense. Nigeria has the savannah, the oceans and the desert, hills, lakes, rivers and the rest. As a county with such diverse and incredible resources, we have not been making use of our potentials.
This government came under the mantra of change. Is this change working for us as a nation?
If we talk about the Buhari administration in connection with ‘change’, what this government called ‘change’ is yet to be manifested. If we use the word ‘change’ and they try to align it with the way we understand ‘change’ in real life, it can be positive or negative. It can vary. So what change are we experiencing now? I don’t know where they were going in the first instance, so I can’t say where they missed it. In the beginning, there was inconsistency in policies. They said they would deal with corruption but the pattern with which they intended to deal with it was not laid out. They started somewhere but where they will end, nobody knows.
What advice can you give this government on how to get the nation out of this recession?
I am not an economist but common sense advice is that, if you look at every nation and take particular interest in China, you will discover that the rural areas in today’s environment contain more potentials for us. So I will the government to take two steps. The first is to look at the research section in our universities and deploy educational trust fund to research in our universities. Secondly, they should also go to our rural environment and look at those things our people do best in every local government and village.
We are over 170 million people and each place has a pattern of consumption. There are things people consume in our villages that are there, they can be sold, consumed and even exported.
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