• Thursday, July 18, 2024
businessday logo


2023 guber: I want to improve the livelihood of Cross River indigenes – Usani

2023 guber: I want to improve the livelihood of Cross River indigenes – Usani

Usani Uguru Usani is the former minister of Niger Delta Affairs and the governorship candidate of the People’s Redemption Party (PRP). In this interview with MIKE ABANG, he explained why he wants to become the next governor of Cross River State. Excerpts:

Why do you want to become governor of Cross River State?

My desire to be governor of Cross River State is based on passion for improved livelihood of indigenes of Cross River. And that itself has different sub-elements that form that passion. One of them is let me call it good education in the primary and secondary levels in what you call public schools and missionary schools to deliver what I had which has contributed to the quality of knowledge that I’ve acquired through learning, is the fundamental in my aspiration.

Number two, because I know that I have prerequisite experience over time in the policy process and administration, I think am properly equipped for that. Again, the agenda for every politician seeking public office seems to have the same language but the difference is in the strategy and approach to determine the success one can make.

And I know that given my sense of openness, accountability and transparent administrative prowess, it is possible to build greater confidence in people that I’ll be governor. So, I want to restore that confidence in the mind of the people to believe government and also be part of the government.

So in sum, that’s the motivation. It is not just because I want to be relevant, if it is because of that, having got to where I got to, I would have known the Nigerian way and things to do to remain at least in perpetuity of political appointment but I wouldn’t trade off the interest of the common people. So, I have a target, I have a goal. It’s a promise, it’s a covenant; it’s a pledge.

As a former Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, can you tell our readers what is the true position of the East West Road?

If you wouldn’t mind, I’ll give you the comprehensive story of the East-West road. First, I’ve had an open broadcast to say the design of East-West road had an issue; it was intended to fail from the beginning. Incidentally, the various sectors awarded to various contractors suffered various setbacks and from what had been done, as I came, could not be undone.

The requirement to finish the East-West road at the time according to the contractors’ request was 92-93 billion naira, and I was able to secure approval for 100 billion naira. Then the office of the National Sovereign Investment Authority which warehoused this money before I left was vetting the claims of the contractors, as well as the resolution the ministry made to that agency to confirm before they start releasing money.

Maybe, their pace couldn’t match up with the time frame and after two or three discussions; I had to leave office, what went on further I do not know. But the completion of the East-West Road, I think is a serious task especially now, given the fact that the liquidity of government is set to be depreciating daily under high rate of inflation. That amount I mentioned, probably if you need to re-evaluate the need for that completion will be two or three times what was needed then, which makes it even more difficult to accomplish.

For the sections that have been under construction before I came, I had little to do about that because like I said what was done could not be undone. But the section that was now to be initiated and completed, I took personal attention to it; again I found that the mission was ab initiio made to fail.

It’s as if we’re interested in just getting records signed off and all that. One of the conditions then was, when I came and found the agreement signed by CECC, every cost element on that agreement was quoted in dollars, including supply of sand, including digging gutters, including water supply and I perceived there was something dangerous there.

Number two, the design of the project was Section 5 of course, it took off from Oron where Section 4 ended and terminates in Calabar or Cross River where Section 5 was to end. And given this situation, what I saw in the design for the project to terminate at Edgerton Road which traverses Watt Market. With my knowledge of physical planning practice and transportation management, I knew that these were going to be a disaster for the city.

And even now you know that between Eleven-Eleven and Edgerton and towards the psychiatric hospital you know the traffic situation, then to suggest that a road that takes off from Edo-Delta boundary down to Cross River and having traffic that will probably be coming this way from states like Lagos, Ondo and the rest, it will mean that for a whole day a vehicle may be standing for like six hours without moving; so, I decided to cancel that design.

And we had to call a conference of all the communities and ministries involved from the two states, all the engineers from the ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, commissioners for works for the two states and we had a whole day deliberation and at the end of it, we agreed that we should get a team of engineers to study the project and advise otherwise.

At the end of that report, we had projections for alternative routes from which one was selected and feasibility awarded and the design was now done. With that, the design was intended to empty at Tinapa junction which will give a bit of ease for traffic flow.

When that had been done, we took the project back to the Federal Executive Council to approve for bidding, the council advised that rather we go back and negotiate with the former contractor, which wasn’t my pleasure.

And at the end of that negotiation, the amount was even more than what was required from section 1-4. Besides, the design was only one phase awarded not the complete project, knowing Nigeria, if that one phase had been done, maybe one arm of the bridge done, at what time will they consider doing the other arm? So, we had another design, and so we couldn’t go on with that cost.

At the time the Council advised that let’s still renegotiate with the consideration to advertise the project, which is what we would have done over a year earlier by my own opinion. That was agreed at the executive meeting but I never got the extract from the secretariat of the council till I left office on reasons I do not know.

So, those are the conditions that made it impossible for us to complete it at the time because it would have been useless for you to say you’ve finished the project; spend money and at the end it will not be usable. So, the processes of government based on the defect of the failed design couldn’t make that project complete. I applied to review the contract but I didn’t get the approval. The projected funding for that project was originally insufficient to even initiate the last section not to talk of completing section that were already in progress.

Why do you say you are the most misunderstood person in Cross River State?

I will rather say that first; I don’t want to define myself as strict because of the description we give to the word strictness. I will say I try to be thorough and I wasn’t frustrated because I don’t give up on anything until I get to the point I think I have achieved what I want to achieve.

I couldn’t have been in the ministry forever despite the antics; which I think some were deliberate; if I had opportunity I would have continued and I would have done it. So, rather than get frustrated, I was disappointed but not frustrated.

My disappointment was with the attitude of people who at one-point wanted to blame others more than themselves, which is attitude all of us have. When we lament about disaffection, we are always pointing fingers; we never see our own fault in the processes.

Knowing that government continues, as I came in, one day I will leave; so I was doing everything as if I was to leave tomorrow and this is why within the period. I will have to send you the things we have achieved in the nine states of Niger Delta, not just Cross River.

Some of the times I am limited to talk about Cross River because this is where I have my ambition but there’s no state left out where we didn’t do things on massive forms with the management ability and the limited financial backing we have in the budget.

We did very well within the short period. Again, as I talked about strategy and approach, not the volume of money one had but how it was prudently applied that gave us the result we had; after all people had had more money than that but the results were different.

It’s impossible for someone to be in a position of governance and come out without claims of failure. In as much as somebody will not say perfectly there’s anyone who scores hundred percent in office, it is not possible also to say somebody had not achieved success in at least any small area of the administration.

Number two, it’s also dependent on what the administration is being assessed and APC as a government looking at some of the promises made before, maybe there’s no access of prevailing information and situation, they thought they could do certain things, in such circumstances, they’ve not met up with the marks, but in other circumstances, they have, for instance when they say school feeding program, comprehensively done or not, they done what have not been.

N-Power palliatives, they have done market money they have done. In each of these you can’t say it is hundred percent scale accomplished but they’ve achieved some promises in some areas and in some, they’re not able to achieve like every government.

So, people’s assessment can only be unified when we take sector by sector assessment with objective view points and evaluation of the performance to be able to draw a conclusion on the collective accomplishments of government either as failed government or the government that has performed by whatever degree.

What are your chances in 2033?

I have held executive positions and so the assessment is for them to make, if there’s any misgiving about my performance, people should be able to raise question and be educated. I am certain that I am equipped physically, psychologically, spiritually to achieve what I set as target for myself but to be able to do that is only when I’m elected and ticket be elected is the decision of the electorate, so I leave it to them but I’m optimistic that with reasonable consciousness of Cross River people this time around, they will know who to choose.

I am not a pretender and I don’t promise what I will not do, I don’t also act to impress people. I act based on set goals and if those achievements impress anybody but with a set motive to make anybody impressed, like when politicians buy ten motorcycles, we have to hold a playground concert to give to people and declare; it is not my style.

I have done those things multiple of times without anybody hearing but when occasion demands I bring them out for verification; so, I am set for the job and I have prerequisite experience to do it and I have good strategies for success, tested and proven that can enable us achieve what we set for ourselves. I believe that when the election holds, we will succeed.

Read also: Five big ideas for the presidential candidates

What is your assessment of the Buhari administration?

In 2015, every Nigerian believed that his administration would be a rescue for the country; so, I was not alone in that belief and so down the lane whatever variants that we have between our perceptions, the assessment and the outcomes become individual’s to some point and sectoral to so extent. Today, we can only say whatever we are passing through our country is reasonably and seriously threatened. As all of us are victims; so, also all of us are accountable to certain degrees.

I don’t like speculation, it is not everything we are happy with and it’s not everything we are disappointed with. Yes, Nigerians are not happy with the state of the economy because life is obviously difficult and the president himself on several occasions in his public address has acknowledged that while he kept appealing that Nigerians should be patience with him. Taking his rough assessment he has seen that the economy has not been was he expected to be.

In terms of security he also accepted that it’s a serious challenge. Just few days ago when the national security adviser spoke, he reiterated that opinion so giving a personal assessment on what they administration itself has accepted could amount to nothing because the administration on this two wrongs of governance has given its own view point, so if we take it as our national situation then we’ll not even need personal opinions.

What is your take on Muslim-Muslim ticket of APC?

Religion is a thing of faith that’s for your spirit and for your soul, totally private. I will allow religious practice as individual location or conviction that’s the background. For the Muslim-Muslim ticket, I will say it’s an expression of profound cowardice.

So are we saying if APC had taken a Christian Vice-president, then it should have been our choice or because PDP has chosen a Christian vice-president then it is our choice, or because Peter Obi has chosen a Muslim vice-president then it is our choice?

Governance is far and different from that; it is based on the Constitution and laws we have in Nigeria. For God’s sake, if you say because of religious sentiments, you want your religion to be accommodated, yes, at what level? In what capacity?

Because as a vice-president, for instance, now all of us are criticising Buhari but we have a Christian vice-president in the past, so if that suffices, why should we then be complaining about Buhari? Theoretically speaking, it is the people who are politically confused and who are unable to stand firm, anchor on assessment of objective situation.

It is proper to say I will vote for a Christian president or a Muslim ticket and stop talking about the combination of their ticket because the partisan consecration that amounts to the combination of individuals on one ticket are beyond the reach of any religion.

They don’t call Imam or Pastor during that consecration, they don’t call you to their board meeting when they take those decisions, so people should stop expressing their cowardice in the guise of Muslim-Muslim ticket; for me, it is inconsequential.