In this interview with PREMIUM TIMES’ Musikilu Mojeed, Festus Owete and Samson Adenekan, Anambra senator and businessman, Ifeanyi Ubah, speaks on his governorship ambition, his business, the Igbo bid for the presidency and other national issues.
PT: You were known as a businessman long before going into politics. Now you are into politics full time. How has the transition been so far?
Ubah: I love being a businessman but also being a businessman does not give me the fulfilment of catering for the downtrodden. Being a businessman was not giving me the opportunity to touch the lives of people as much as I would have loved to touch.
As a businessman, there are limitations to what I can do but politics is made for people at the helm of affairs to garner resources and focus on the people, build infrastructure and do other things that will touch lives. The entire essence of politics is about touching lives and making our world a better place.
PT: But in Nigeria, some join politics just to make money?
Ubah: There are two things about making money. For example, I can talk about myself; I don’t think making money in politics is the ultimate goal because I have made money, and with what God has blessed me with and I will give you statistics to this effect.
I rarely talk to the media. This might be the first time I am granting an interview in the last eight years. You can never see me in all these magazines or attending parties. I am someone that is a bit controversial and highly misunderstood but in the right sense.
Many people often take the other side of my life and it helps me sometimes. If people continue to talk about someone and the person keeps growing and he has never been indicted, he must be superhuman.
If you want to be superhuman, you must be a bit mysterious. Don’t talk often, just do what is right before the sight of God.
To me, politics is where I can derive the fullness of potentials to touch lives, not about business and I can give you statistics of things I have done in this country that have distinguished me.
Let me tell you one. You have never seen anybody that has come to my height in this country that will tell you that he has never had a tax waiver to advance his business or contract. As a businessman and a politician, you can never get me on that.
PT: You have never benefited from a waiver or tax incentive?
Ubah: Never. Never in my life. You know in 2015, I can give you documents where this Lai Mohammed, the minister, wrote that I would have my day in court over subsidy. But I can tell you today for sure that I have never been indicted, my books are there.
The eyes of Nigerians were on Ifeanyi Ubah, that I would go to jail because of subsidy, fraud and other things but I kept my faith. I have kept my words till date (and) my words are as I said it.
Some of those who accused me then came back to compensate me. Many things many of them said about me have been proven wrong.
With all I have done, I kept being focused. When I was disqualified from participating in the senate election, I took a relatively unknown party and I won. I am probably the only person to have achieved such a feat in Nigeria. It is rare for a Nigerian to go into the senate with an unknown party. You will see 65-70 per cent (of senators) belonging to APC while 35 per cent belongs to the PDP, and you are one per cent.
It is about showing that the journey of a million miles starts with a step and that one with God is the majority.
PT: Are you saying you are not going to defect?
Ubah: I would have defected if I wanted. Politics is not that if I go there I will be fighting, making unnecessary noise as an opposition. I am an opposition and I have gone there to justify my capacities, and the record speaks for itself.
PT: You are saying your mission in politics is not to make money. Are you sure about that?
Ubah: I have more than enough (money). Let me give you statistics. In Anambra today, more than 70 per cent of politicians in the state, both those that have retired and still in politics, have passed through my school of benevolence but I have not gotten the desired results.
Not only in Anambra State. I can also tell you that in the entire South-east, there is hardly any governor, outside Hope Uzodinma, that has not passed through my school of benevolence. I have helped them, funding their elections and in other ways.
I have been longing to have a real core Igbo leader from the South-east. They have all not performed as much as I have expected, the reason I have joined politics.
PT: Are you saying that they have failed the Igbo race?
Ubah: I can’t say that. I should be fair to them but they have not met my expectations.
PT: You said you are not in the Senate to make money. But some Nigerians believe you and your colleagues at the National Assembly are there to steal and plunder.
Ubah: If you say someone has stolen, show me what they have stolen or are stealing. I don’t want to presume what people say. I want to fight for my own soul. It may be of interest to you that during #ENDSARS I was the only politician in Nigeria that came out to confront over six thousand protesters in Anambra.
I went in when it was wild. When they were looting. I went in, fought them, beat them and even moved around with them. I moved them to a school where I addressed them and told them to go home, and they obeyed.
PT: How did you do that? Is it because of your wealth or popularity?
Ubah: No, it is not about money. It is about clear conscience. A clear conscience fears no one. See, there are politicians and there are politicians.
If you believe you are a politician, you should have come to confront them because they were agitating against politicians too.
PT: So far, has your entry into politics not affected your business?
Ubah: It has. But it is also good. My business is my business. Thank God I don’t have any business that is a partnership. It affected my business and somehow my workers. Some of my workers have worked with me for 10 years but have to leave because of this. Some went another way round but we will still come back to the business, somehow.
For now, I want to finish my mission in politics. I can’t tell you the timeframe because it is a life mission for me to go to strengthen things and go back to my business.
PT: Is your mission, final destination Igbo Presidency?
Ubah: No, I don’t have that mantra. I can tell you for sure.
PT: Distinguished, you said you are in politics to touch lives, how many of these lives have you touched in the last two years?
Ubah: That is why I can confront #ENDSARS protesters and they did nothing to me. I can’t tell you but they are many. If you want to know, come to Anambra and I will show you. I can invite you if you won’t mind.
If you want, come to Anambra and I will walk with you free without police or any security operatives in view. You and I will walk the streets of Anambra and you will see.
PT: Are you saying you are more popular than the state governor?
Ubah: I don’t know. When you come, you will ask him to walk with you too and you make your judgment.
PT: The Anambra election is almost here and there are reports that you are going to run?
Ubah: I am the only one today that has a ticket. I am going to run. I belong to a party many of them think has nothing to offer. I am going to run on the platform of that party. We have been begging people to contest the ticket with me but they are not showing up.
PT: So you are sure of defeating APGA and PDP to emerge?
Ubah: I defeated them in the senate election, so what is the big deal?
The same miracle of the senate election will happen at the governorship election. The Senate race is even more difficult than the governorship and I can tell you why.
During the Senate election, we also had the presidential election simultaneously. So you have forces that are above the senate. You have the House of Representatives election on the same day.
So, as you are battling with the presidential election, the House of Representatives and the Senate elections were held on the same day.
In 2019, there was a bandwagon effect that made way for the PDP because the former governor of my state was the PDP vice-presidential candidate. Everybody was almost swinging to him. You see Uche Ekwunife was an APC candidate and a few months before the election she migrated to the PDP.
Stella Oduah was in APGA and APGA was trying to play games with her and she moved.
PDP won clearly in the North and Central (senatorial districts) which brought about Uche Ekwunife defeating Victor Umeh who is from APGA. Then in the south where I come from, PDP won the presidential, won the House of Reps, but they couldn’t beat me.
You see, this politics has gone beyond what you people think. It has come into a cleaner form and I don’t believe in manipulation. That bandwagon effect in the North and Central could not affect my election. That shows you the essence of the strength. It is not about “can he go?” Once you are anointed, you are anointed. I believe that I am anointed by God, not man.
PT: The former CBN governor is also going to contest, perhaps on APGA platform. Do you think you can defeat someone like him?
Ubah: I will defeat him by the grace of God because I strongly believe that I have done more than him for my people. I strongly believe that I am more genuine in the cause of my people. I strongly believe that I have a better heart and that my people love me than him.
So, it is not about pedigree. It is not about artificial things, it is about human understanding and personal commitment before the eyes of God and man.
PT: You said you will still run under the Young Progressive Party, how have you grown this party?
Ubah: A revolution can never be televised. When it comes, it comes like Tsunami. Just watch and see.
This politics is not media politics. You are lucky I am granting this interview. I want to remain an underdog, away from the view of the media but you will see two to three months before the election.
I am the only elected personnel from YPP from all elective seats and I am okay with it though I see it as a challenge.
PT: Have you ever come under any pressure to defect to another party?
Ubah: Every day they approach me but I have been turning them down. See, if God elevated me to this position, why should I defect? It means I want to mock God. It means I have no conscience and I want to be selfish. It means I have no regard for people who toiled day and night to see that I emerged under the YPP. It means I don’t understand the importance of not despising your days of humble beginnings. It means I am a normal Nigerian politician, ‘ewedu and amala’ politicians, the ‘come and chop and leave them’ politician. I have a conscience.
PT: If elected Anambra governor, you may end up being the only one because your party does not have members in the State House of Assembly.
Ubah: Who told you? Human management is something that every leader must have in him. Of 109 Senators in the Nigeria Senate, I am the only one from YPP and I am still coping and not complaining. Wherever God tells me to serve him, I will go and leave everything to him.
PT: In the workings of the National Assembly, you have to belong to one of the major political parties before you are appointed to important committees.
Ubah: I am not complaining. There is a leader who chooses leaders. If it pleases him to make me chairman of any committee in the senate, so be it. If he feels he likes me to be where I am, so be it. It is grace. What he has given to me that I have, I am satisfied with it.
PT: Have you been able to take good things (amenities) to your people?
Ubah: Yes. There has always been equity. You get what your colleagues get. It is only how you manage it and share it and your sincerity that matters.
Last year alone, I was able to double my constituency allocation by asking people to donate to my foundation. They donated two times my constituency allocation towards the hospital and other things I did in my state. Those are people who love me and have found confidence in me. Some did not believe in me during the senate election but now they do because of the interventions that I did.
They helped because I am a senator. They may not have helped if I was just Ifeanyi Ubah.
PT: You are in the opposition party but you seem so close to the ruling party.
Ubah: I am a Pan-Nigerian. After elections, we should all come together to work for Nigeria. Ruling or not ruling, opposition or no opposition, the worst that can happen is to put everything on hold.
PT: In the course of this interview, you have spoken much about the grace of God, how close are you to that God?
Ubah: Everything about me is God. My name Ifeanyi is God. The name they call me Ebube Chukwu Uzo is God. I place God before anything. Some of the things that I have done for God, I have not seen any of them (politicians) in this country that has done in appreciation of my love for God.
PT: You want to become Anambra governor but I know that in the time past there were certain cases against you in court. For instance, there is a case involving you and AMCON. Don’t you think some of those cases may work against you in this race?
Ubah: I don’t think that I have ever had a case that is bad. Some of those cases you see me in were targeted at me and every time an issue comes up, you clear it.
During the election, they will ask me some of these things and it depends on the facts that I give to the people. Between now and the election I will be launching my book that addresses some of those things.
Sometimes I get misunderstood and a little controversial, controversial in a good way. Some of those things you call cases fizzle out with time, they don’t hold water. The AMCON case, for example, it is a bank that helps businesses and there was a reason why we went there. We had an agreement but was that agreement implemented? This is not the time to discuss that, but I will say it during the election if it arises, even if it may cost me my election.
I will grant another interview on AMCON, you have asked me about Anambra and I have answered.
I may be the underdog but watch and see. When you ignore a small pot, the foam from that small pot can quench a strong and burning firewood.