Wilfred Usani is a lawyer and public servant who has set his sights on representing the Central Senatorial District of Cross River State in Nigeria’s Senate. Greg Betiang caught up with Usani recently and threw questions about this ambition, at him. Excerpts:
Now, not many people know you, can you introduce yourself?
My name is Wilfred Usani. I am presently Senior Partner in the Law Firm, Ethan & Magdiel based in Calabar. I come from Ugep, Yakurr LGA of Cross River State. I had served as Special Adviser on Tourism Development and member of the Cross River State Executive Council under the the administration of HE, Liyel Imoke between 2012 and 2015.
What drives your conviction that you are the man for this job? (i.e Senator representing CR Central Senatorial district)
My desire to serve my people in the senate is driven by: my passion for the progressive reform and development of my society, the strong desire to translate almost 20 years of unbroken democratic freedom in our country into visibly improved socio-economic realities for our people, and the strong desire to join with others in creating a majority of legislators committed to championing the political structure of Nigeria into a proper federation under a negotiated constitution that guarantees equity and fairness to all ethnic nationalities and constituent parts of Nigeria. Again, the very obvious need to propagate a new vision for the development of the Central Senatorial District of Cross River State is a major driving factor for me.
Importantly too, with my background as a legal practitioner of over 20 years now and my public service experience as a former member of the Cross River State Executive Council, I have the right professional training and public service experience that has prepared me to fit squarely into this office and deliver on the vision which I have highlighted above. To answer your question directly my vision coupled with my professional training and public service experience gives me the conviction that I am the right man to represent the Central Senatorial District of the State.
You don’t seem to have been around the political scene long enough, don’t you think it will affect your political acceptance?
I think I will say that having served as a member of the state Executive Council for 3 years and had been a member of the Yakurr PDP Caucus since 2007, I have been in the political scene long enough not to be described as a complete novice in politics. Of course there have been many people on the scene who have been in and out of office since 1999 – much longer than I have been. However the reality today is that the people are crying out for new people with fresh ideas for development. The people are tired of the same old recycled politicians who have nothing to offer them. My relative newness to the political scene is therefore timely and in keeping with the sentiments of the times, therefore it will not affect my political acceptance but rather will enhance it.
Are you buying into the argument that you are too young and inexperienced for the position?
I am neither too young nor inexperienced for the office of Senator. I am a very senior legal practitioner who has served in the State Executive Council where I have demonstrated excellent capacity for policy and legal/regulatory issues. As I mentioned earlier my professional legal background and public service experience prepares me very adequately for the office of Senator. When Distinguished Senator Victor Ndoma Egba was first elected to the Senate to represent us he was exactly my age (47). Prior to his becoming a Senator, he was in private legal practice, just like me, and had served in the Cross River State Executive Council as a Commissioner, just like me. We can all attest to how well Senator Ndoma Egba performed in the Senate and distinguished himself. I intend to do just that and more. I don’t buy the argument that I am too young for the job. In fact I am just right for the job – a perfect fit!
Is there a political void you intend to fill? Point us to it. Again, what political platform have you chosen and why?
I think there is a dearth of young, capable, intelligent and self-sustaining professionals in the political space. I want to fill that void by presenting myself for service to our people. I intend to run for office under the PDP platform. I have always been a member of the PDP.
Lend your voice, for or against the current political agitation that the CR Central Senatorial slot should ideally go to Old Obubra.
We are a plural and multi ethnic society where in order to maintain equity, justice and peaceful co-existence between the various ethnic groups, it is important for political offices to oscillate around the various groups to create amongst them a sense of belonging. This practice is as important if not the most important aspect of our political culture. To this extent I agree with the proposition that it is time for the people of Old Obubra to have a shot at the office of Senator which is an office the people of old Obubra and old Ikom share directly between them. The people of old Ikom have held this seat since 1999. Having said that I believe though that this aspect of our political culture as important as it is should never be practiced at the expense of competence. I personally present myself for service to the people on the basis of my competence for the job and not just as an old Obubra politician. Let me add too that, politics generally involves negotiations and the balancing of interests among interested parties so yes it is possible for us in the senatorial district to have a common ground if the principles and the basis are right.
Now, several persons of Old Obubra extraction, have indicated interest to represent the Central Senatorial district in Nigeria’s senate, is there any possibility that you all can synergise and have common ground?
I am sure whenever such a situation arises we will look at it on its merits. It is important to point out though that the election to the Senate is not conducted by the people of old Obubra alone but by all the people of the central including old Ikom. It is really the people from old Ikom who will be examining the candidates from old Obubra to choose from among them the best person to represent them. Remember that competence will not be necessarily sacrificed for ethnic balancing. So we will need to look at this fact when considering any talk of synergy and collapsing structures.
Was there to be that kind of synergy to have all of you collapse structures for one person, will you accept that kind of arrangement?
Of course I will. Let me additionally point out that democracy has come to stay in Nigeria and slowly the electorate is beginning to realize their power. In a few weeks I intend to publicly present my manifesto – my PACT WITH THE PEOPLE. The people will have this manifesto by which they can measure my performance. If I do not do well, I am well aware that the people can use that to throw me out. So I intend to assure the people that I will keep my promises by putting them down in writing so that it will be the standard by which they can hold me to account.
Often, when elections are upon us like now, a chorus of promises are thrown the way of the electorate and shortly after the elections, none of the promises are fulfilled.How are we know to know you won’t play this same card?
I am a man of honour; I have lived responsibly, I am not about to change and I won’t make promises that I cannot keep. What you allude to is an unfortunate situation in our political system and if I have condemned this practice, I then cannot encourage and act the same, I will be different.
Have you adequately reached out to the electorate?
As we are currently seeking the nomination of our party, we have begun engagement with all the Ward Chapters of our Party LGA by LGA. We intend to tour all the 66 Wards of the Senatorial District. This is an ongoing process.
What are you bringing to the political table?
I bring a new perspective to our politics. My perspective is ideas driven – new ideas to deal with the challenges our people are faced with. This is why I say I will present my manifesto to the people – identifying the pressing problems and what I will do to address them. My desire is to inculcate in our political culture a brand of politics driven by ideology.
We wish you the best of luck.
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