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General News of Wednesday, 27 April 2022


2023: Ayade joins APC presidential race, says Buhari prompted him to run

Cross River state Governor, Ben Ayade Cross River state Governor, Ben Ayade

Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State yesterday joined the growing list of presidential aspirants on the platform of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) ahead of the party’s primaries.

Ayade, who made his intention to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari in an interview with newsmen shortly after meeting with the President at the State House, Abuja, saying he was actually asked to join the race by President Buhari.

His words: “I didn’t come to the President to tell him I’m running, I went to the President to tell him I’m here to join him, to support him in the process of producing his successor to support him and that peradventure power is to go to the South. Peradventure, perhaps it’s to go to South-south, I’m the only sitting governor from the South-south

“The President didn’t allow me to finish and the President said:, ‘I know you and recounted our relationship. I asked him, can I? Because I’m not here for that, unless you say so. So, if you ask me the question, Am I running? My answer is that I am running because the President has said, ‘you go while I watch’.

“I want you to report me intellectually. I want you to understand that truly, outside all the cheap talks, the truth is that my approach to the President is different. I will support the President’s candidate.

“Even though I’m on standby, if I’m available. If you’re my choice, I will support the President’s candidate and the President said ‘you are not outside of my view, go, I give you blessing, go and consult, ensure that you engage with key people while I watch. I think it’s a clear indication that I have the right to go and try, to go and declare, so I will.

“So, I sought a direction with an intent to support the president to assist in my own way to contribute for him to produce his successor, who would understand his government and know how to continue with the programmes of its government.

“But the good news is, the President says, you are governor from the South-south, go out there too and consult. I am happy that you didn’t come here to tell me you want to run, you came here to say you want to support me. Let me watch you as you go out there.

“So, I want to announce to all of you, that having secured an opportunity, a window for a trial and I do so at the instance of the president and I’m willing to stop at any point where it becomes necessary, that I find that my interest does not align with the directions of the president.

“At this moment, as I speak with you, without my request, the President has said yes, I have heard you very well, you have spoken well. I’m happy you didn’t come here to tell me you want to run for president. I’m happy also, that you will recall very well that I have visited your state several times even when you were in the other party”.

On whether the APC might present former President Goodluck Jonathan, as the sole candidate for the 2023 presidential election, the two-time governor, however, did not rule out the possibility of his supporting the former President if he clinches the party’s ticket.

“I have great respect for President Jonathan so I have no challenges whatsoever. I believe that the party leadership will decide the appropriate candidate that will take our party to victory and so if you heard me well, I am just part of the family, absolutely loyal to the President, seeking to run for president and I’m running.

“At any point in time the political leadership of my party, the APC, feels that President Jonathan is the appropriate candidate that will take us to victory, I will turn my support for him. I am never ever going to fight the establishment, the institution, the aristocracy, the spiritual vortex of which God has placed a leader on the country, I will never question the powers of the leader of the country.

“I have never played the politics of antagonism or fights. If you know how I became governor, I became governor by offering to support whoever the governor wants. By a stroke of luck, I became the candidate. The same token… I’m only here to support the President’s candidate and by a stroke of luck he said you to go there and join the race”, he said.

Speaking of what his priorities would be if elected President of the country, Ayade said he would pay particular attention to compliment President Buhari’s efforts in the areas of economy, security and the power sector.

According to him, “As a country, Nigeria is a very populous country, over 200 million people. A very blessed nation. The poverty we have today is not caused by this administration, it is the failure of both leadership and followership. The process of election of somebody into power has no business with capacity. It has no antecedent with what has he delivered. I’ve been a senator with 41 bills, which is the highest in the history of Nigeria Senate, while I was a senator, and a governor with the highest amount of factories ever built by any government, I’m a professor. I’m a lawyer, a governor and the Senator. I’ve worked in private businesses. I’ve driven my business a few successes, and the public sector, I’ve also worked very hard.

“I come with a combination of experience, capacity and intellect. I also come as a man who is divided between a youth and an elder. I have the enthusiasm of a child, yet the wisdom of 60 year old. I’m indeed, an old head on young shoulders. So what am I going to do differently? My priority is to support President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration to focus on security.

Indeed, the collapse of Afghanistan puts a major threat on national security and put in fact far more pressure on Northern Nigeria with an intent by ISWAP to ensure that they conquer West African province.

“So, priority number one is security. And security will be security, which is based on a digital approach to dealing with issues of security. Indeed, wherever you have a challenge in Nigeria, and you put in money, the problem gets bigger. So, we realise that a non-contact intellectual, digital security approach, using sophisticated international partnership to deal with intelligence gathering, and focusing on the fundamental root causes of this criminality, banditry, kidnapping, and more importantly, terrorism.

The facts are traceable to two major crisis, Boko Haram and ISWAP conflicting in each other, one having its link to Al Qaeda, Boko Haram. And ISIS, having a direct relationship with the other group, ISWAP. So, because they have two fundamental sources, where they are at war with each other, it is easy for you to understand the nexus of the security challenge and deal with it and understanding the source of all those young men in their thousands that are coming to Nigeria on bikes, trace them to their roots. And I’m willing to take security as a national issue for full discussion I’m the cause of time.

“I also have to deal with the issue of unemployment. Unemployment is at the heart of this country. A nation with 42 billion tonnes of bitumen yet imported almost every drop of bitumen, a nation with 3 million tonnes of iron ore yet we are challenged with having flat sheets and steel plates. A nation that is number seven in terms of gas deposits in the world, with Russia accounting for 40 per cent of gas supply to Europe. With just 3,425 kilometres of pipeline between Nigeria and Algeria, we can tap into the Algerian pipeline of feeding the whole of Europe and doing over $60 billion out of that pipeline.

“To be able to create a no dollar coefficient that will begin to strengthen our local currency. We must deal with the issue of the Nigerian Naira. I do not believe that the forces of demand and supply should dictate the value of our currency. The value of a currency is a reflection of the integrity of the nation. No foreign direct investment can come into a country whose local currency is not strong enough.

“If a country like Malta, a country like Kuwait will have an irreversible conversion rate. Nigeria has no business subjecting our currency to the forces of demand and supply all things being equal, when we know the concept of ceteris paribus, never applies in real life. Therefore, there must be a structural and normative framework intended squarely to address the exchange rate between the naira and the dollar.

“First October 2023, our Independence Day, the dollar rate to Naira will be fixed. All the oil producing Companies that produce up to 200,000 barrels of oil per day must have their modular refinery running within nine months. And if they doubt where they will get it, I’ll give them the direction. I come from the oil and gas industry, it takes $90 million to set up a refinery of 10,000 barrels per day. If every single oil company has its own modular refinery, we will have no business doing the crude oil swap of 450,000 barrels per day.

“We’ll have no business sending back our dollar that we have sold our crude to go and import refined petroleum products, we will have no business to allow the dollar freefall, because that is the value of your nation. The value of your currency is the value of your nation. You might have a strategic policy that will practice isolationism as a nation. China decided to trade with yourself for 30 years to get out of the woods. We must have a framework that guarantees jobs and must mainstream young people into contracting scheme.

“We must bring back apprenticeship, we must do massive recruitment into our military forces and provide for them sufficient landmass to grow crops to do the engineering, the design inventions.

“Politics is almost merging with our economy. Professors are resigning from the university to run elections for House of Assembly. Because while your professor is earning N400,000, a House of Assembly member is earning over a million. And therefore, there is a dysfunctional structure, in the respect for intellectualism and value addition. Innovation has been compromised and education have been thrown to the wings. Our polytechnics have been reduced to a degree awarding. We must therefore bring back skill”.

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