For many, Barrister Uju Kennedy Ohanenye is simply that kindhearted philanthropist, who gives to the less privileged without expecting anything. The news of the beautiful entrepreneur throwing her hat into the ring for the highest office in the land has been received with much joy. Her entrance into the male-dominated race for the presidential ticket of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has equally been hailed by gender activists. In this interview she speak on her years of giving to the poor and why she is contesting for the office of President.
You seem to love the disabled so much, they constituted a large chunk of your supporters on the day you declared your intention to contest the presidency.
Yes, they are my people indeed, I just came back from INEC where I went to submit a letter over the need to have them registered for the election. I went to FCT and they told me that I should arrange vehicles to bring them from 11th. I want them to be registered. I also want them to be given special concession so that they will be allowed to form their own queue on election day, you know they are special people, they cannot stand for long on queues, so I want them to be given that concession.
Ma, you are contesting on the platform of APC, we thought you were with the PDP, after all you supported Jonathan in 2015.
I supported Jonathan because he was my friend. I paid for adverts on television for six months for him, people were asking me to go and meet him, meet people close to him, but I said no. I wasn’t a card-carrying member of PDP. I saw him as a man of peace and so I campaigned for him. I told those who came that I was not interested in collecting anything from the Jonathan Government or PDP. Now I have joined APC, that is the party I belong to. All the while, I was not interested in partisan politics. People could have assumed I was here or there but the truth is that I wasn’t interested in partisan politics until now.
After I started my programmes for the less privileged, donating health centres, skill acquisition centres in 2010, donating money food, paying off bills and seeing their condition, I feel a woman should come out to rule, the country needs motherly love. Motherly love would help in reducing some of the challenges we face today. The bandits, terrorists and other criminals terrorizing Nigeria today are children from some mothers. And from my findings, if they would have something doing today, more than three quarters of them would not be bandits. If they are shown love, they will surely listen and stop all these nefarious activities. Our President, Muhammadu Buhari is trying his best. But I still feel that a mother should come on board now.
Considering all the challenges Nigeria is facing today, with insecurity everywhere, do you think the best thing we need is female president?
I believe we need a female President now. The men have been trying their best since all these years we can see what they have done. The mother manages the resources in the house, they ensure that the little that is available in the home is managed. That is what Nigeria needs right now. On the day of my declaration, I showed how we can make lasting roads rather than following the style of the West and be using coal tar which is always damaged by rains. The government is trying but the money they are spending now could be better utilized and managed by a woman. If we cut costs on road maintenance as I showed that day, we will make more roads motorable, devoid of accidents.
I believe that Nigerian needs a woman now, more than ever before. This is because it is not easy for people to walk into a woman’s office and start talking deals the same way they can walk into a man’s office. This is because women are very strict. We have our principles. Some of the men that cut corners will find it difficult to meet a woman and negotiate the same way they will do with their male counterparts.
How prepared are you for the pressure of the office, knowing fully well that there is so much that goes into being a Nigerian president with pressures over the economy, security, infrastructure, foreign policy issues, etcetera
Naturally I have so much energy which I underutilize. If you know me well, you will know that I am cut out for this. I am good at multi-tasking. At times I wonder where the energy is coming from. When I am less busy I lock myself up and dance, I play with children to burn my energy. If I don’t do ten or twenty things at the same time, I don’t feel okay. That’s the type of person that I am. That will not be an issue. For me to be able to do many things at the same time it means I should be organized. There is no reason for me to stay working for hours in the office till late. I wonder why those who work late in offices do. Whatever I need to attend to should only take hours. I know there are some Governors who have in the last seven years transformed their states from what they are to something far better than they met it. This is what i am saying, I know I have the ability to transform this country and I will carry everyone along including those you see that are disabled.
What are your priority plans, things you plan to achieve in your first hundred days in office if you get elected?
If I am elected president, the first thing I will do is that I will engage the youths, they are so important and upon them lies the pillars of all we need to do. I will engage them. The second major issue I will tackle are issues relating to the health sector. The best doctors we have abroad are Indians and Nigerians. The corrective treatment or surgeries that I usually carry the less privileged for above, I discovered that there is a Nigerian doctor here in Abuja who can do it and he does it so easily without all the airs that they show when we go abroad.
Majority of the youths we have involved in banditry, terrorism would not be there if they can be engaged. I intend to get them into places where they can make money and have a sense of belonging, we have to get their mind settled. A lot of them do these jobs, they are not sure of being alive tomorrow they will be alive. I intend getting them off the bush and streets.
Fighting for political post in Nigeria involves a lot of money, how do you intend financing your campaign.
Since I was born, I have always found a way to take care of myself, I don’t do government contracts. I don’t even join people in doing them. I make my money the clean way and what I make has always been enough for me. I won’t ask anyone to sponsor me, I know there are money bags all over the place but I believe that I have what I need. I am not interested in any money people probably stole or bent the rules to get. I don’t need it. That is why the God father that I depend on is the Almighty God. Apart from Him, the people I know are the less privileged. They are the ones I have been looking up to for so many years. It is not a human being that puts a man or woman in position of authority but God. What God doesn’t want doesn’t happen. I am depending on God, I am depending on the needy for whom I have been a mother, and I am depending on the little money I have earned by myself and I believe it would be enough for what I want to do.
So what would you do to better the lives of these your supporters?
Many of them need just a little push. Some of them do not need more than twenty thousand Naira to be able to start something. Most of them need financial education, especially the women. They need training on how to take care of their husbands as well as how to manage resources. The cripple and disabled can be of immense use to society. They can contribute their own quota to the society. They will surely feel happy when they are given the chance to do this.
One of the issues we have with Nigeria is the rule of law, as a lawyer, how do you intend fighting this?
The problem with the rule of law affects all of us. Even with my experience as a lawyer, I can tell you that not once or twice I have had problems over this, with the execution of court orders. Believe me, it is a major challenge we have in Nigeria and we have to find a way to tackle this. When people are not punished for breaking the law they tend to commit the same offence again and again.
The problem is that we are the enemies of ourselves in this nation and it will take concerted effort by all to change the system. Let me give you an example. I have been constructing health centres all over the country. It will surprise you to hear that there are communities where I have encountered opposition from leaders of local communities against the projects that I want to construct to help the people and alleviate their sufferings. In Imo State, in told the Mbaise community that I wanted to build a Health centre for the people to use. The chief asked me to bring the money so that he could build it, I said no, he tried to frustrate me. Eventually I completed the project, moved in equipment and informed the Local Government so that they can send nurses and ancillary staff there only for the traditional ruler to say no way. The community has not been able to use the Health Centre till date because the man has refused and health worker be posted there. Indeed, one of the youth leaders moved the equipment I bought with my money to his personal house and locked up the Health Centre. When I informed the police, they moved in but we are back to square one as the place is still under lock and key. How can leaders of a community treat their own people like that. The same thing repeated itself in Kaduna. The health centre there has also not been put to use because they thought it was government money and they wanted me to give them but I refused telling them it was my money.