Emmanuel Umohinyang, a lawyer and loyalist of President Muhammadu Buhari is the convener of the Re-elect Buhari Movement (RBM). He was in China with the Nigerian leader during his recent China-African summit. UmohInyang speaks to Shola Oyeyipo, on the gains of the summit, the performance of Governor Udom Emmanuel and the chances of the President in 2019
Do you think it was expedient for President Buhari to visit China following the backlash over alleged comment?
I don’t think government should worry about such comment reported in Financial Times. No authority was cited except an anonymous source. It is neither here nor there. Looking at the Donald Trump administration, he has made nonsense of American presidential system of government because the man does not look through the window of diplomacy. I don’t think Nigerian government should dignify him considering the way he has behaved since he came on board. The government has done well by not responding.
Why is the president taking China seriously?
The government is looking at partnership and I think the government got the best deal from the Chinese summit. Don’t forget that China is the best second economy in the world and when you try to tie yourself to a particular country or a particular continent, it may not really augur well. China is a very big investor in Nigeria too. I think the summit fetched the government over $10bn in deals and MoUs. I remember the President holding meetings with Chinese investors telling them they need to come and fix the Mambilla hydro plant. So, the government is looking at investors to see what they can offer and what the country can do.
How do you react to insinuations that the west is not happy with the development?
I don’t think the west should be unhappy. Nigeria as a nation needs investors. We need people who can drive our economy – people who can help galvanise our battered economy. I think we should give the government that benefit of the doubt.
We are a sovereign nation. The president has also visited the US, and I don’t think the Chinese government showed any reservation about us going to the US. He should not really bother about what the west or the European Union think. We need people who will invest in our country.
Critics have described Chinese loans as dangerous considering what we are hearing from other African countries. What is your reaction to that?
Those making those comments have not provided an alternative, so we must be wary of arm chair critics. If you want to criticise constructively, give us alternatives. If the Chinese loan is dangerous, let us know the alternative you have to offer. Nigeria is not going into any deal with eyes closed. Don’t forget that.
How do you juxtapose government’s fresh borrowing plan and the plan to distribute the Abacha loot from Switzerland to the poor?
I think we should get it very clear. The Abacha loot that was recovered from the Swiss government needs to be seen from the right perspective. The Swiss government gave a condition that the recovered loot must be tied to a specific project. What is important is to get our money back. If we use the money to bring our people out of poverty, what is wrong with it? People will always criticise government without proffering alternatives. I think the government has done well based on the agreement that they had with the Swiss government that the money be tied to specific area of our lives.
Is the move not a new type of colonisation?
It’s not. We should not forget that the money looted during the Abacha era was looted out of the country. Even the UN does the same. They attach the money to a particular project because of the fear that in the past, the money was re-looted. They want to be sure that as they release the money, it is used for what you said you are going to use it for.
How do you react to the criticism that this government has a penchant for taking loans?
There is nothing wrong if you incur debt, provided it is used for the development of the country.
Do you think this government has performed well despite obvious gaps?
Of course, considering where we are coming from. I wish we had this President much earlier. The Nigerian story would have been different now, but we must not lose sight of the fact that it is much better we have him than not having him at all. What the president is doing now is that he is rebranding the country and showing us the road to prosperity. I think we should commend him. We should encourage him. We are not saying the government has not made mistakes here and there, but the mistakes are corrected. When the government is doing well, we should encourage them and when they are not, we should criticise them and proffer solutions. From my stand point, the government has done very well. In 2019, he should be returned to office.
APC is making in-roads into the South-south and South-east, can the party do well in these zones in 2019?
The man called Jonathan came and said he was Azikiwe – Ebele. I think he used that Azikiwe to con the South-east into buying into his charade. Not only was Jonathan defeated in that election, the South-east paid dearly for putting their trust and hope in one man. However, I am happy that the government came in and showed the South-east that we don’t care where your vote had gone. The fact is that the president is the president of Nigeria and he showed that clearly with the amount of projects in that zone.
I like the way Lai Mohammed went about it. Challenges have been thrown at him and he has responded accordingly. Lai Mohammed responded in Ilorin that projects had been executed in that zone and they threw the other challenge that he should publish the projects. Not only did he publish those projects, he attached the amount spent and the completion dates. Facts are scarce and it shuts your enemy up. For our brothers in the South-east, they should look at the previous administration and the Buhari administration and deal with issues based on performance.
Akwa Ibom will definitely be a state to watch in view of the altercation been Governor Emmanuel and Senator Akpabio, what are your thoughts?
When it was reported in 2014 that the governor has been picked to contest, I was one of those who had so much hope in Governor Emmanuel. These were my reasons; one, for a man who rose to the level of an Executive Director in Zenith Bank; you should be able to manage human resources and material resources. Two, his youthfulness was also what I appreciated. The third was his manifesto. It was splendid. Three years after, I must confess that I am disappointed in the governor.
He has done more of newspaper development. This was a man who was brought from obscurity to prominence by the former governor. If the governor had said he stopped some of the projects of the former governor, based on certain infractions, some of us will queue behind him and tell the former governor to account for his tenure, but that has not been the case.
The governor said that there was no furniture in the hotel built by the former governor in the Ikot Ekpene area. He said he needs about $9million to furnish that hotel. I visited that hotel and to my surprise, this hotel was furnished from the first floor to the last floor. Two days before the exit of the former governor, this governor and the former governor had dinner in the same hotel. All that was needed was the tarring of the road leading to the hotel. The governor only plays politics with the development of that state which is unfortunate. In 2019, we should get our PVC and vote Governor Emmanuel out because he has reversed the gains of the Akpabio administration.