Hon. Amanabo Yusuf Egbunu is a politician and businessman. He was a candidate of House of Representatives of the National Assembly in 2019 on Accord Party platform. In this interview with CHARLES OKOH, he shares his experience in politics, Kogi politics and state of the nation. Excerpts:
During the 2019 general elections, you ran for the office of House of Representative under the Accord Party; why did you contest under Accord Party and not PDP or even APC at the time?
My motive for contesting under Accord party is hinged on two crucial factors. Firstly, my appearance into active partisan politics was borne out of great displeasure with the status quo; especially with the socio-economic realities of my people. Even though I had in my own capacity as an individual empowered many, I realized that to make meaningful impact I needed the platform of political office. So when I decided, I approached the stakeholders of APC and PDP to declare my intention for the House of Representative; but they insisted I had to exercise patience as they were already candidates favored already for the position. Waiting was not an option for me; as that French writer Victor Hugo said: no force on earth can stop an idea whose time has come; I was sure it was time to champion a new era of representation for my constituency. Given the set back with the two parties mentioned earlier, I took time to understudy the other political parties and after going through the Manifesto of Accord Party I was very impressed with the document because it laid out clearly a progressive and visionary approach to achieving the kind of Nigeria I wanted; by far compare to many political parties, the practicality of the road map the Accord Party outlined resonated greatly with me especially being one who all through my life have passionately yearned for solutions to the plethora of challenges we face as a country.
What would you consider as your greatest achievement during the 2019 elections and any lessons you wish to share?
You see by the mercies of Almighty Allah I have lived for some decades in this world, and I have learnt many things and gained real life experiences; but there is one important lesson that has helped me both in my daily activities and especially in business: I have learned over time that there is always a lesson behind every situation; whether successes or failures. When you try a thing first time and you miss it, you already have a super power called experience; it is this power that you retain when you try again and win. Talking about my greatest achievement in my last political outing, I will say simply: experience. As a result of the campaigns, and awareness created during the last election, we have significantly impressed on our people who we are and the values we represent. Today if you go anywhere across the Idah Federal Constituency, there is no one who has not heard about Amanabo. In the course of our campaign we touched all the Forty One Wards of my constituency; and because people knew our antecedents it was easy to understand the sincerity of our campaign promises. Although we did not emerge winner eventually, but we have retained with us this experience and the trust of our people.
I understand that stakeholders from your constituency have been calling on you to declare again for the apex legislative position in the country; but from the feelers around it appears you have not decided to, or may have zeroed on political ambitions for 2023?
Well, there have been several calls from the members of my constituency, allies, supporters, stakeholders of some political parties and associates to declare for the National Legislative position in view of 2023 general elections. The truth is that consultations are ongoing; if after deliberations and I am satisfied with the options available then we shall take the leap again. You must realize that in politics strategy is key; you don’t make a movement when you have not ascertained clearly the possible outcome of such decision. Again, I had considered the realigning with the All Progressive Congress (APC) in my home State but as things are under the current government in the State and particularly with the ruling party under Governor Bello Yahaya; it would be myopic of one to associate with it especially given its woeful performance in the State few weeks ago, delegates of the New Nigeria People Party founded by Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso approached me to be the party’s candidate in Kogi State. Senator Kwankwaso is a politician I have great respect and admiration for; however as I noted earlier, we are still consulting and observing things. No, I have not zeroed my mind. (Laughs out loudly).
There’s this general impression in our country that people who join partisan politics with the aim of emerging as a Senator, Governor or House of Representatives member do so with the intention of amassing wealth. Now in your case you have done reasonably well for yourself as a businessman with established businesses across the country. So what’s your motivation for joining politics?
I think the notion the impression that people go into politics with the sole aim of becoming rich on public funds is a blanket statement that badly portray everyone as self-seeking. At least in my case, as you rightly noted, I have never desired public office with the intention of making money. As an individual I have enough to take care of myself, family and make impact in my community. But then again, the kind of society we think our people needs; cannot be achieved by remaining as a private citizen. To raise my people and build a society that is livable for the majority of my people requires that I become an essential element in the formulation of policies and laws necessary to achieve this. This in summary has been the driving force behind my emergence in politics; I just think our people have not been fortunate to have the right caliber of leaders and it is disheartening. It is time to change all that.
Do you think it is time of the Southeast to produce a Candidate for the number one political office? And what are your thoughts on zoning political offices across the geopolitical zones?
If you look at the trajectory of Nigeria’s political evolution, you will discover that since we began this democratic experiment in 1999 till date of all the six geopolitical zones, only three of the zones have produced: Obasanjo from the Southwest, Yaradua from the North-west, Goodluck from South-south, and then Muhammed Buhari again from the North-west. So do I think it is time for a president of South-east extraction? Well, for equity sake I will say the Ndi-igbo or the South east deserves a chance just as the people of the Middle Belt/Central and other regions of the country of the country who are yet to have a chance at the number one position of the country. Politics is a power game and you don’t seat and wait for it to be delivered to your laps; you must fight for it. I understand the struggles of our South East brothers and sisters over the years; for that I think it is fair and equitable to say they deserve a chance. I must state however, that I am generally a firm believer in merit and competence; we need to always allow our best hands pilot the affairs our nation. We cannot always keep playing the politics of parochialism and expect to be a respected nation on earth. Whoever is capable and shows credible leadership, I will gladly support them regardless of their ethnic backgrounds.
Let’s talk about your home state- Kogi; how do you rate the current leadership and do you think things are a lot better than they were in before the current administration?
Talking about my home state, if you ask me to rate the performance of the current government in the ratio of 1-10, without mincing words, I would score the Governor Yahaya Bello administration 2 over 10. There have been an abysmal performance in the past seven years. Some of us who are young and in politics were very excited when the current governor came into power; but fast forward to the present time; things have gone so bad than they were before he came into power. There have been no single recorded infrastructural projects or a clear agenda for sustainable empowerment for the millions of jobless Kogites in the country. Not to mention the pitiful situation of workers and retirees in the state who have been consistently owed and denied their benefits for years of selfless service. I am not proud of the current government in my State and it is one of the major reasons that I have intentionally restrained myself from the affairs of APC party in the state. We cannot have the opportunity of a state so strategically located and endowed with potentials and yet have our young people all over the place without jobs. It is like begging for food when you live in a garden of untapped wealth and that is the general tale of Nigeria. It is pathetic.