Sam Ekwueme, aspiring to represent Igboetiti/Uzo-Uwani Federal Constituency, says his people have not had quality representation in the past 24 years at the National Assembly, hence the clarion call for him to contest. He spoke with Li Aleke.
Why are you in the race?
My motive is to give my people quality representation. In the past 24 years, we have not had quality representation in the House of Representatives. The situation is worse considering the abysmal performance of the incumbent member representing our federal constituency. I had not seen any visible dividend of democracy in our constituency.
Major stakeholders in the constituency have asked me to contest the coming elections to rescue our people. There is a burning desire in my place for a change that will enhance quality representation. When my people began to ask me to run, I had to commission an independent study and the result was what compelled me to throw my hat in the ring for the contest.
At least 95 per cent of those surveyed from various communities in the two local government areas that make up the constituency were of the view that the person representing us today did not do a good job. So, what this means is that there was a 95 per cent disapproval rating for the incumbent. These are the people that are yearning for change.
What are those visible gaps that your constituents have noticed that you believe you can fill if given the opportunity?
My people are agrarian. We need policies and programmes that will enhance that. My people need good education and good health. How has our representative in the past years been able to use the instrumentality of oversight function to achieve good health or quality education or improved agriculture for our people? The answer again is ‘no’. The things that make for a quality life are lacking in our place since the return to democratic rule in 1999. The whole essence of representative democracy is how best elected and appointed officials of government represent their people in government.
In specific terms what laws do you intend to push for that if elected?
There are lots of laws that we need to amend to empower Nigerian women to strengthen the nation’s democracy. Women are the engine of economic growth, the engine of social growth, and the engine of family growth. Unfortunately, there is discrimination against women in our society. So, many laws need to be amended and new laws enacted to empower our women.
Your party promised Nigerians change in 2015. Unfortunately, when they came on board, they offered Nigerians the opposite. Don’t you think the platform will de-market your personality in the coming elections?
When you talk about debt, most of the debts are project-tied debts. They are not debt-supporting salaries or supporting budgets. Projects are tied to debt in the sense that they are tied to infrastructure, and you will agree with me that there is a significant infrastructural deficit. Whether it is housing, roads, electricity, or IT infrastructure, there is a significant infrastructural deficit and for you to feel these deficits, you need external support or external borrowing. That is one.
Number two, the debts are in what we call concessionary loans: a very low-interest rate that we cannot get in the Nigerian financial markets. Some of them have ten years’ moratoriums before we start paying back, and some of them are as low as two per cent interest rate. So, whether we are businessmen or countries, such facilities that will enable us to kick start our economy because without infrastructure, our cost of manufacturing will be so high and the cost of doing business will be so high too.
Therefore, the question should be what are we using those loans for and not necessarily that it is too high or too low. Let us have a conversation about what we are using the loans for. Most of these loans are tied to projects as I said earlier. Riding on the above, we can see improvement in infrastructure, improvement in the road network, improvement in rail transportation, and improvement in most other facilities. Are we making significant improvements in those areas? The answer is yes. I am not ashamed of what we have achieved. But the deficit that we inherited is so huge that it will take a lot of time to feel all those deficits.
Nigeria is today the poverty capital on earth under your party the APC. Nigeria took over the inglorious position from India. How do you explain that?
I don’t know the source of the statistics you are quoting from. Is it World Bank data, the International Monetary Fund, or the National Bureau of Statistics? I am not aware of that data. Yes, there are challenges but I need proper data to be able to comment on that. I don’t want to rely on social media data.