Dr. Uchechukwu Sampson Ogah, a former banker turned politician is the President of Masters Energy Group, a conglomerate with over 15 subsidiaries. He is one of the gubernatorial hopefuls in Abia state with serious consideration from the powers that be in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). In this encounter with newsmen in Abuja, and as part of the commentaries heralding Nigeria’s Democracy Day, he bared his mind on a number or issues concerning the country’s political economy.
You resigned from Zenith Bank Plc as an Assistant General Manager in 2007. Not many people would do that. Was it not too much of a risk?
You can call it a risk, and yes it was. But it was a planned exit and I thank God I did. My advice to people is, ‘if you have a dream, test that dream, and put God into it. It works.’ Today, our organisation, the Masters Energy Group has huge presence and interests spanning across oil & gas, banking, insurance, aviation, shipping, dredging, logistics, construction, travel agency, power, manufacturing etc.
It appears you forgot one more interest, politics. Your admirers say they easily find you among politicians lately. What is the level of your involvement in politics?
Well, every human is supposed to be a politician. It is natural. If you say that before now, one had remained simply a loyal party member, contributing not more than a football player would do from the bench, you would be correct. And if you say now one has decided to show greater interest and go in with the hope to interact closely with other players in the field, you would be correct.
When an individual decides to do so, you find out that all kinds of scenarios would throw up. Other players may be jittery, and sometimes hostile. However, you would find a lot of others welcoming you, especially those who mean well for the party and the society. In politics, there is a word called consultation. That is what we are doing now. So I cannot tell you that A or B has happened in terms of contesting for a position or not.
How do you rate the Transformation Agenda of President Goodluck Jonathan?
The Transformation Agenda is already showing signs of hope for the country. Some sectoral achievements so far lend credence to this. Only a blind critic will not see that transformations going on all the major airports in the nation, the roads, healthcare, and all the sectors. The President has also done well in the area of infrastructure, telecom, banking reforms, job creation and skill acquisition. There have been tremendous reforms in the oil and gas sector, and much more in the application of proceeds. In 2012, when the President asked to withdraw oil subsidy, Nigerians cried foul. Many did not even want to hear what he said the savings would be for. But today, there is not just steady availability of petroleum products in the filling stations as he promised; Nigerians note with delight the huge milestones being achieved with the Subsidy Reinvestment Programme (SURE-P).
As you are aware, SURE-P savings are shared 41% federal, and 59% states and local governments, and each level is supposed to invest it according to the mandate of the SURE-P, which is the provision of infrastructure, road, manpower development, agriculture, education, security, poverty eradication, health etc., down to the grassroots. Nigerians are enjoying the dividends today. It took the wisdom of Mr President to think of it; it took his courage to effect it, even against the odds. It took his transparency to implement it. That is just one example of the many aspects of the Transformation Agenda put to work.
You can therefore see and feel the transformation in our judiciary, and electoral processes. It is no longer ‘party-in-power must win at all cost,’ which hitherto extended to court processes, judgments and the rule of law. Today, Nigeria witnesses a very vibrant press, eloquent and audacious opposition, virile civil society group; nobody in Nigeria is suffering any form of inhibition or oppression based on his views or choices.
People are wondering how the transformation agenda is impacting on the economy?
The Nigerian economy has ballooned. If you keep listening to those who have scores to settle with President Jonathan, you would not know what is happening in the economy. Experts who rated the Nigerian economy and said we have overtaken South Africa as the biggest economy in Africa are not Nigerians, and they were not paid to do so. They used globally accepted economic indices to test our economy Every day, investors are streaming into Nigeria in groups and as individuals. Open the newspapers, you read of one business delegation or the other coming in. A business newspaper published that today foreigners have built retail malls in 10 cities in Nigeria. The transformation in the power sector is something that is very cheering and you can see how it became a fillip for foreign direct investments (FDI) into our economy. We used to travel abroad to invite investors, but today we don’t; they come on their own. If our economy is not progressive, investors would not risk their money.
While pronouncing his Transformation Agenda, President Jonathan promised 5 million jobs yearly, we have not seen that happened.
As I said, the agenda involves the creation of employment, development of industrial clusters to promote SME development, review of university curricular to align with industrial job requirements, and so many other things. But you know mapping out how to implement these things are not easy. So, we have to give them time. Moreover, if you recalled, just recently the federal government in a determined attempt to find a lasting solution to the unemployment challenge in Nigeria set up technical committee to develop a databank for the unemployed persons in Nigeria. You have to bear in mind that the transformation Agenda is an ambitious programme.
What is your take on the Boko Haram question?
It is an unfortunate development in our history as a country. It is even more unfortunate that their demands are not what any Nigerian can fulfill. Doing so means dismantling the country, whereas unity is what is on everybody’s lip. However, I think it is their own way of protesting over lingering impoverishment, unemployment, and lack of infrastructure. I congratulate the President for reintroducing the amnesty carrot to the Boko Haram terrorists.
If I were among the elders in the region, I will encourage them to ask the boys to embrace it. I imagine what a full blown rehabilitation programme would do to the northern region as a whole now. I imagine the number of youths that will benefit from local and oversea capacity building programmes. I imagine the surge of foreign investments into the North. The level of bloodshed going on in the country is uncalled for and completely avoidable.