By Dapo Akinrefon
Emmanuel Umohinyang, a lawyer and a loyalist of President Muhammadu Buhari, is the Convener of the Re-elect Buhari Movement, RBM. Umohinyang, who was in China during the recent China-African summit, speaks on the chances of the President in 2019, the gains of the summit and more.
Do you think it was expedient for President Buhari to have visited China in view of the backlash that followed the alleged comment reported to have been made President Donald Trump?
I don’t think government should worry about such comment reported in Financial Times, the US based media organisation and there was no authority that was cited except an anonymous source, so 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 the Nigerian government should dignify him with the way he has behaved since he came on board. Since we don’t have a clear picture of what happened, it is better to keep quiet. Remember, it was the same Trump that said Africa is a shit hole. Recall he later backed out. I think we should not jump into conclusion and the government has done well by not responding
Why is the President taking China seriously?
The government is looking at partnerships and I think the government got the best deal from the Chinese summit. Don’t forget that China is the second best 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. That was not the President’s first trip to China, and in the entire trip, he has come out successful. We should also commend him that he has been able to show leadership on the African continent. I think the summit fetched the government over 10 billion dollars 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. I think it’s a matter of give and take. I think the government has done well by attracting such a huge investment to Nigeria
Critics have described Chinese loans as dangerous in view of what we are hearing from other African countries, what is your reaction?
Those making that comment have not provided an alternative, so we must be wary of arm chair critics. If you want to criticise, 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 our eyes closed. Don’t forget that whenever the President travels, he travels with experts. He travels with best we have in our country, so the whole thing is not between our President and the President of the other country, it’s between experts. An MOU is signed, and it is for the benefit of both countries, not a case of one-sided agreement.
Is the move not a new brand 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. And they do a follow up. They do a follow up to ensure that, that which you have promised you stick by it. It has nothing to do with colonisation.
How do you react to the criticism that this government has penchance for taking loans?
There is nothing wrong if you incur debts provided such is used for the development of the country. That which is bad was what we were doing in the past, when we went into massive debts and the money were looted by some people. We have a government now with the flagship of prudence in managing human and financial resources. Don’t forget the debt we are talking about is not the making of this government. The difference between this government and the previous one is that government is using this money for the purpose they are meant to achieve. It is not money for people to share. It is not ‘family affair’ money. The government is putting its money where its mouth is. That is the difference between the government of President Muhammadu Buhari and the previous administration.
But do you think this government has performed despite obvious gaps?
Of course, yes, considering where we are coming from, and I wish we had had the President much earlier. The Nigerian story would have been different now, but we much must not lose sight of the fact that it is much better we have him now, 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 the President, 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, it should be returned to office.
The President has continually said defections will not affect his second term. Is he not being boastful?
If you know the President, he is not given to boasting. The President is someone who tells you something in the morning and will tell you the same in the next ten years. He is very constant. As constant as the northern star. I may not be able to speak for others. Coming to your question, I think it is a tradition in Nigeria that towards an election, you have some people moving from one political party to the other. That is why I have proposed that the constitution needs to be amended so that we can give some elements of stringent conditions that will make it very difficult to move. We are not saying they should not move, but cogent reasons must be given. It’s very unhealthy for our democracy.