Nseobong Okon-Ekong interacts with Dr. Jamilu Isyaku Gwamna, an All Progressives Congress chieftain and Managing Director of Kano Electricity Distribution Company on Nigeria’s independence, democracy and good governance
How would assess the economic, political and social development of Nigeria since independence?
We have made some achievements as a people, but we are far from the expected destination. Nigeria is so blessed that our resources can cater for the whole of West Africa. But years of mismanagement and waste has kept us weak even when we are a strong nation by our resources and manpower. We would have been there if only we had a sincere government over the years. Corruption has robbed us of our place among the comity of nations. Nigeria is complicated today not because of our diversity as a people but because of the nature of corruption that has taken our commonwealth into the pockets of a few. With the current administration in place and the willingness to fight corruption; I think we are gradually getting back on track. This is the sincerest investment in terms of good leadership and I commend President Muhammadu Buhari for being focused in spite of the several attempts being thrown by corrupt persons to distract him from the task of governance.
You speak so well of President Buhari but some Nigerians believe that his approach to governance is slow
Anyone that is serious about developing the country will do exactly what Mr. President is doing in agriculture and social investment programmes. We have had agricultural interventions by past administrations but how many worked to give farming the prominence that it now has? Many persons today are investing in agriculture all because the administration of President Buhari has done a lot to make agriculture lucrative and fashionable even to the youths and that’s why many are making a vocation out of the sector while the social investment programmes has been on and running with ordinary youths getting N30, 000 which many workers at the state level do not receive.
Believing that Mr. President is slow in his approach to governance is not bad, but I ask, the years of speedy implementations of policies by previous administrations; where has it taken us? It is not the speed but sincerity. If you are slow and yet get it settled whenever you do things, it is far better than quick implementation for personal aggrandizement that has brought us to the level we are today. Personally, I am not concerned with speed but that the right thing is done with sincerity of purpose. We have a country that we must guide and allow for the right things to take shape.
Why should Nigerians consider October 1 a special day?
Independence is a gift to every individual and by extension Nigeria as a country and people. When a man is given the right to exercise his or her divine gift, there is nothing better than that. Many will be quick to see the negative in the country but every nation has its challenges and these challenges sometimes consume the growth and development of the country. Today is special because we got independence as a nation and we are celebrating together in spite of our differences and challenges, tribal divide and ethnic consideration. Nigeria is in unity and all credit goes to the ordinary people in the farthest rural areas from Kano to Calabar, Katsina to Akure, Ibadan to Umuahia, Aba to Makurdi. That we are still together lends credence to the fact that God cares about Nigeria and that’s why statistics and figure of specifications that the country will break up have continued to fail. I think it is a special day because we still have a country with such diversity that has contributed immensely to our unity.
Are we making the right political moves as a nation?
The uniqueness of politics is best appreciated when we go down to the grassroots to see how it is run. Politics has done a lot to move countries like America, Canada and many other developed countries to the level where they are today. The framework and platform that politics provide are enough to institutionalize progress and development for a nation whose leaders are sincere in terms of their purpose in leadership. When the purpose of a thing is not known, the inevitability of abuse is certain. Over time, many politicians in Nigeria have seen politics as either an occupation or a platform to make ends meet while other developed countries see it as an opportunity to serve the people who gave them their mandate to do so.
I commend Mr. President for changing the political norm in that regard. He has made politics more people driven than money driven. We must find our compass politically because of the power of politics as a tool for revolutionizing development.
You just mentioned elections which is key to democracy, how do you perceive the norm of elections ending in courts?
Politics in Nigeria is unique and to be very frank, Nigerian politicians are some of the smartest in the world. They know what the people want as well as the weakness of the people. Some of them take advantage of the weaknesses of the ordinary man as a ladder to gain power and when they do, become unreachable and highly immune to certain criticisms. Not until there is sincerity of purpose, we will continue to end our elections in courts.
I am not saying the rights of politicians to go to court isn’t a right. As a people we must allow for national interests to take the center stage in our quest for governance. For instance, there are matters in the tribunal that ordinary investigative journalism could unravel but you see such in court for months. In such matters, the challenge can be thrown to the media through a simple press release instead of going to tribunal to seek a knock out of your opponent through frivolous technicalities. We must learn to know when the people speak loud and then get some pride by not wasting the time of Nigerians and heating up the polity for personal reasons by going to court.
What recommendations would you put forward to mitigate elections ending in courts?
The most important thing to note is the fact that it is the right of anyone to go to court in a democracy to seek redress when aggrieved and that must remain the case in the interest of peace and unity. We can’t deny anyone his or her constitutional right in court. The only recommendation I have is what Mr. President has initiated and I want to see that being strengthened. The issue of independence for the electoral body is very key. I observed the past elections meticulously and I discovered that President Buhari did not interfere with the electoral process with a view to influencing the result. That is the way to go. We must learn to allow the process and system to run in accordance with the laws of the land. Nigeria is a country with laws and when people allow for desperation to build houses in their hearts, then you would have more cases in court than ever. Politicians must learn to accept defeat especially when justice has been followed and seen to have been followed.
Having been a grassroots politician and businessman, what would say to the people as we celebrate independence?
The people are the major reason we still have a country we now call our own. Nigerians from north to south, east to west are extremely passionate about what they believe in. My call is for Nigerians to believe in Nigeria; that we can build and make her better again for posterity. When Nigerians believe in peace there will be peace. We can be different from what we believe in. Many of our people still believe that retaliation is the best way and not the law. This is one of the major impediments in the fight against insecurity and other crises in some parts of the country. My message is for Nigerians to believe in peace because without peace development will elude us.
We have come a long way as a people. Let’s support the current administration and see how we should contribute our quotas to better our present situation.
As a major stakeholder in the power sector, what exactly do you think are the challenges of the sector?
The issue is, in our country everything bows to the authority of politics.
Those who pilot the affairs in the sector must steer clear of politics so that power sector can experience the expected outcome for Nigerians to feel the impact. Without politics, we can achieve the feat of Egypt where in one year and 6 months, got additional 10, 000MW. Also, the Ethiopians are building a 6, 450 MW dam at the Nile River. So, if it can work out there, it can work here in Nigeria too. This is why I commended the new power deal by the Federal Government with Siemens that is at the fore front of Egypt’s recent power reformation.
You are in the distribution chain of power sector, what challenges are you facing as a DisCo?
We also have our own fair share of the problems in the sector. Chief amongst these is the issue of power theft. This is a major issue and it can come in form of illegal connection, meter by-pass and other economic sabotage in transformer theft and so on. We have had to count our losses in that regard and people are still in the business of doing damage to us.
Also, the refusal to pay bills is another challenge with some customers piling up debts amounting to billions of Naira and that is not good for business. Customers must learn to pay their bills because we also purchase power for distribution.
What is being done to address these challenges?
We have gone very far in ensuring we tackle this issue and we are making progress. One major channel we have explored is the sensitization approach where we have been able to meet members of several communities and youths to make them know the implication of their act on not just KEDCO but Nigeria and the economy of Northern Nigeria. We are working to have a special investigation and prosecution tasks force on electricity offenses to address that. We also frown at staff assault and legal actions being calibrated to ensure that those that embark on assault on staff or damage to our equipment are made to face the full weight of the law.