A lawyer, businesswoman and presidential aspirant under the National Interest Party, Mrs. Eunice Atuejide, tells TUNDE AJAJA how she intends to move Nigeria forward if she is elected as the country’s next president come 2019 election
What inspired your interest to want to start at the presidential level, because people often say it is better to start at a lower level?
I’ve always wanted to be the President of Nigeria. That is the ambition I have always had, even as a seven-year-old child. I have always told my mum, my husband and my children that I want to be President. So, starting at the level I did was because, over the years, I have developed myself for that office and I have a very good chance of winning it. I didn’t develop myself to contest a lower position. It will be unfair to me, my character and my true self to start from somewhere beneath the presidency just because of what people would say. And now that the opportunity has come, it will be unwise to go for anything less.
One thing some people are wont to say readily is that to govern a country like Nigeria is a lot of work and it would seem Nigerians have become impatient for anyone to get there and start learning on the job. What’s your reaction to that?
The only experience our politicians, including military leaders, have shown us that they have so far, from the moment we became independent, is looting. That is the one experience they have mastered and I don’t have that experience, which is very good for Nigeria. When it comes to experience in the ideal political leadership, you can score each of them nearly zero. The experience Nigeria needs is the skill set that I’m bringing to the table. Our leaders don’t have the interests of the people they govern at heart; they don’t even have empathy to put the well-being of people in mind. The greed and stealing by some of our leaders are heartbreaking, and that is what tells me that Nigerians are better off with me who is not experienced at all in that kind of money politics but highly experienced in the kind of politics we need to get to a better destination. Right now, Nigeria doesn’t need politician as its leader, because our politicians don’t have the idea of what developmental politics is about. We just need a committed Nigerian from any corner of this country, and not a gathering of people who want to share the national cake.
People would like to know your educational qualification. Could you tell us about that?
Well, I have done a few things to develop myself. I studied Agricultural Economics at the University of Ibadan. I also studied French and German languages and I did film making at New York Film Academy. I did some acting and Communications Management and I did Business Administration in Germany up to Master’s level. Also, I did graduate diploma in Law and I did Master’s in professional legal practice. I then came to Nigeria to do the Bachelor of Law at Law School. Now, I’m into politics.
Until you started this campaign, what were you into?
I’m a lawyer, and I have handled a lot of transactions. I deal in property, financing, joint venture and I help businesses in Africa and underdeveloped countries to access funding and expand their investment. I bring investors together and that is what I do mainly. But, since the last few months, my only job is running for the presidency, because I’m taking it really serious.
Nigerians seem to be fixated on the two dominant political parties; do you think you can win the election, given that your party is still new?
I’m very sure that I have a huge chance to win this election, because I’m in the Coalition of United Political Parties, which includes some of the biggest political structures in Nigeria. Our agreement in the CUPP is that all the aspirants of the parties under the CUPP will first vie at our separate parties and each party will provide their respective candidates. The job of the CUPP is to pick one candidate from among us to represent all of us, and then every other party, with all their resources and structures, must now back the candidate. So, we will all support the candidate that emerges. In my party, so far, I’m the only aspirant for that office, and in less than two weeks when we would have our primaries, I will be the candidate of the NIP and I will join all the other candidates of the parties that make the CUPP. And my goal is to become that candidate everybody else would support. That is how I would win this election.
Regardless of voter apathy, are you confident you stand a chance or you just want to give this a try, because some other candidates of parties in CUPP are more popular than you?
My plan to become the president of this country is not a joke. When the big parties under the CUPP are backing one candidate, it’s no longer about the party that one candidate comes from, it’s about the structure that is backing that candidate, and that is what we are doing.
What are the priority areas you plan to focus if you become the president of Nigeria?
I have 52-point agenda, but the priority areas are education, security, health and economy, with focus on unemployment and power. We will focus on the economy so we can have jobs. In terms of power, we will make efforts to review those policies that make it difficult for Nigerians to enjoy power. We will make it possible for any company that has the capacity to combine generation, transmission and distribution to do so. In terms of education, we are looking at sanitising our higher institutions and we are looking at improving our vocational education system so that people who don’t want to go to school as academia, especially those who do not have the capacity to go, have a place designed for them, instead of bringing down cut-off mark. We need to allow people to develop according to their own ability. Everybody has different skills and you can’t expect everybody to fit into the same box. Allow people to develop according to their own natural talent and ability. Also, I have good experience trying to bring very serious investors to Nigeria and there are usually complaints about governors, ministers and political appointees blocking investors from coming in, by demanding bribes. It’s horrible and I have had that experience over the years.
What do you plan to do about that?
We will make sure that serious investors come here and do serious business, because that barricade is always there. As president, we will remove all that. Anyone caught involved in such act is out. I will make sure that every entity that wants to invest in Nigeria has live recordings of every meeting they have with our officials. We need to get rid of such persons. Once that bottleneck is removed, we will have more investments and there will be jobs for people. With that, we can even start visa lottery because Nigeria will become so busy. The amount of work that can be done all at the same time in Nigeria is amazing. Talk of tourism, entertainment and agriculture; everywhere you look at in Nigeria is a virgin land and we need to open up the country for these opportunities to be tapped so we can move forward in the right direction. In Nigeria’s health sector, we know what the issues are but we don’t do what is necessary to address them. Our health sector needs help and we need to make the health insurance scheme work. There was a time I needed treatment urgently and I went to the National Hospital Abuja with the hope of using my National Health Insurance Scheme cover. At the end of the day, I was constrained to pay from my pocket. If I didn’t have the money, that could have been a potential death for me, even though I had health insurance. So, one of the things we must do is to develop a compulsory health insurance scheme that would take care of everyone. Those who can pay would pay and those who don’t have the ability, government would take care of them. We would make sure that hospitals and our health facilities are well equipped and we would entrench good maintenance culture. The insurance would help to take care of people and protect their dignity, so that when anyone is sick, they don’t have to go to Facebook to start asking for N25m to go to India. And we will definitely reduce the cost of governance, which is extremely high and deliberately designed to be like that.
From all you’ve said, are you promising that Nigeria would be a more prosperous nation in four years?
I give you 100 per cent guarantee. We will have a much more prosperous nation than we ever had and we will rise to global influence and relevance.
Would you say Nigerians should give you a chance, perhaps it’s time for a woman to try or you think that gender sentiment is needless?
I don’t think women should come and try because the men have failed. I do not believe it’s about the gender and there is no need giving a try to see whether they would succeed or not. I believe in merit, ability, honesty and commitment. So, it’s not because I’m a woman that people should vote for me, but because I have the capacity to lead this country. The critical questions should be that, does this person know what he or she is doing,; does the process this person plans to take us through look feasible? If the answer is yes, it’s okay; but not because I’m a woman.
Do you think Nigerians are prepared for a female president?
I believe Nigerians are ready for a female president and I think people are just interested in anyone that would get the job done and move the country forward. The suffering is too much and Nigerians would go for anyone that can reduce the suffering.
At the moment, Nigeria is largely divided along ethnic lines, how do you plan to bring everybody together?
That is the word; bringing everybody together and making everybody a part of the process. We would ensure that everybody is deeply involved in the process of saving Nigeria. When everybody feels valued and important in the Nigerian project, nobody would want to leave. It is mismanagement and anger that fuel killings and crisis here and there. Nigerians will stay together in peace when they see that staying together is better for them and they know that they are part of the process.
The issue of election funding is crucial, how do you intend to raise the funds?
My hope is that now that Nigerians are beginning to hear my voice and see the vision and the spirit, they will start to release their funds to achieve the result. We have come quite far and in NIP we have already spent a lot, but it’s not having so much effect because we need quite a lot more to win elections in Nigeria. So many Nigerians understand this, it’s just that people are sceptical and doubtful, and you can’t blame them, because most people go there to steal to make themselves big boys and big girls. When they start to see that someone is doing it differently, they would start to donate what they can.
The election is less than 200 days to go; what is your advice to the Nigerian electorate?
My advice is that people should vote right; not because the political party is popular, but because the person we are voting for is the right person. We should use our PVCs to put the right people in power and to those who haven’t registered for PVCs, you are needed and we should make sure that nobody steals our mandate. Whether we have PVC or not, there is role for everybody to play.
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