- Says economy was already bad before he became minister
The immediate-past Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, has declared that Nigeria’s hope lies with its vast human resource and not oil, just as he indicated his desire to retire back to his law firm after about four years of service in the President Muhammadu Buhari cabinet.
Udoma, who spoke at a send-forth party organised for him by the former permanent secretary of the Ministry of Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Fatima Mede, in Abuja, Thursday night said the nation was blessed with some of the most intelligent, hard-working and enterprising people on earth.
“The oil price will come up and go down, but we have some of the most intelligent, hardworking enterprising people in the world, not just in Africa because I have been in many African countries.
“I went to primary school in Uganda where I did very well in mostly everything till I came back in Nigeria. In Nigeria, we are so competitive in every field. You travel to any part of the world, to any university in the world, Nigerians outperform almost everybody else,” he said.
While appraising his time in office, he revealed that he never expected to be given the Budget and National Planning portfolio, noting that as at the time President Muhammadu Buhari came in, the economy was in serious trouble.
He said: “I have to say that when we came in, it was not easy at all. I didn’t expect Budget and National Planning and at that particular time, when the economy was in serious trouble. I was coming as Chairman of Union Bank and we sought some consultants to take an analysis on how they saw the economy going and it didn’t look good at all.”
He stated that when he came in as minister, he had just few weeks to prepare the budget and had to start with the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) which usually takes about two to three months before starting the budget which he said, takes the same time. “We had to do everything in six weeks. But, I am very happy that I came in and with the support of two hard-working, dedicated and supporting women–my minister of state, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed and my former permanent secretary, Mrs. Fatima Mede. And I have to say that having both of them at that time gave me the foundation on which I built.
“The beginning is so important in everything that you do. If you start well, you can then go along and finish well and she ensured that I started well and I’m eternally grateful to Mede. The things that have been achieved, I think it is important to continue to build on that and I was very struck by the president’s speech on Democracy Day.
“It is a speech that gives me hope; gives me a sense that the ‘Next Level’ will be much more better than where we are and I think it behoves on all of us to continue to work together as a people because, the hope of Nigeria is really in the people and not in our oil.
“With that form of talents, working together with each other and believing in ourselves, we don’t have to launder our image because there are so many good things in Nigeria but just that sometimes we knock ourselves and we complain a lot and so on. But, if you really look at the positives, you will find out that there is so much in Nigeria,” he added
On his decision to retire to his law chambers, he said: “I started the firm with just myself and the clerk and my dream was to create a firm that can stand any other American or British law firm to build an institution.
“And right now, we are over 600 lawyers in the firm and more than 10 partners. We are growing and I hope we will soon be hundred.
“It is a law firm, one of the two largest law firms in the country. And, I wrote the rules. It wasn’t by negotiation. I wrote the rules that by 65, you retire and I want to keep by those rules. That is why I said I will go and sort out all that. That was the reason why I said I want to go back and sort things out,” he said.
The former minister stated that public service was something that everyone should be willing to do, adding: “but it can take many different forms. I’m willing to work in public service but I don’t know in what form yet. Although, I have not been offered anything. So, until I’m offered before that conversation.”
Further reminiscing on his service as a minister, he said: “I want to say that working together as a team under President Muhammadu Buhari, we actually achieved a lot. Though, we are not where we want to be, we are at the beginning of a journey, working together. I believe that we will get there.