Hon. Chukwuemeka Ujam represents Nkanu East/West federal constituency of Enugu State in the House of Representatives and is the deputy chairman of the committee on Telecommunication. In this interview with KAUTHAR ANUMBA-KHALEEL, he speaks on the exploitations of Telecom providers and other national issues
GSM service providers have consistently exploited Nigeria-drop calls, unsolicited messages, high call tariffs etc. What is the committee doing about this?
So far, we have called the NCC to register our displeasure over such exploitations. We have also held a public hearing with all the operators here regarding unsolicited text messages and put to them our position that it should stop and that there should be proper usage of the ‘do not disturb’ function. I personally told them that the ‘opt in’ should be by personal intervention. So, the default and preferred route should be that you can opt out without necessarily having to call your operator to say I don’t want to be disturbed.
The issue of dropped-calls is one that is provider agnostic. All are guilty. As a committee, we have constantly challenged them to improve their services and quality of calls. But at the foundation of it all is proper infrastructure and successful handover of calls from one mast to other. The providers make a whole lot of money from subscribers and we have demanded they do the right thing. We are using every means within our legislative powers to ensure that the exploits are stopped. That is also why we have supported the floor price for internet coverage.
Many Nigerians are of the view that the anti-graft war of President Buhari is lopsided and targeted at certain people. What do you have to say to this?
In the interest of full disclosure, you must recognise that I am of the opposition and it seems that it is lop-sided. Everybody sees that, what I am saying to you is not news. Even member of the ruling party attests to the fact that it does seem to be lop-sided. But we all are for the anti-corruption drive as long as it is not selective. If someone is found wanting, let the person face the full wrath of the law and not be protected because they are part of the ruling system or cabal. There is also the issue of people who have been held for a longtime without trial. That is unfair. The rule of law and rights of citizens should be respected no matter who is involved.
Would you say it has made any achievements with that so far?
Are people scared now? I think so. But, is there theft still going on? Yes. Have they made any achievements? It’s relative. Have they shifted money from pocket A to pocket B? It’s left for us to see. The truth is, this is an examination which result will come out at the end of the day. Nigerians will also show through the ballot, who has done well and who hasn’t. We will see.
There have been defections from your party, the PDP to APC. Recently, the former governor of your state dumped the PDP for the APC. Would it be safe to say that the PDP is heading for the rocks?
Is the PDP in crisis? Certainly. Are there major issues? Most definitely. Has it come to the point of irreconcilable differences? I’m not sure. Are we heading to a one party state? I hope not in the interest of true democracy. Are there defections going on? Yes and everyone is expressing their constitutional rights to belong to a party of their choice. Do I hold personal views? Of course. Are we all politicians? Yes.
In your opinion, what is the future for PDP?
There is a word that comes to mind but I want time to be able to prove right or wrong. Bleak. But as a caucus in the House, we have recently inaugurated a committee to look into the position of things in the PDP. Let’s see what they come up with. I’m part of the team so I cannot say much. There is a committee looking into it. When the findings of the committee are made public, then we can take a position.
For some time now, the debate that the legislature should be part-time has been on. Don’t you think a part-time legislature is cost-effective and better?
I would tell you. This is not a part-time job. I will use myself here. I target getting to the office between 9.30 and 10 am, we start plenary at 11, adjourn at 3. After that, we start committee meetings and you don’t leave there before 6 or 7 pm. You then go for other meetings where you have to network and lobby. At weekends, you go to your constituency. This is not a part-time job. It certainly isn’t if you want to do well.
Yeah, some people may just want to be elected and just come and warm the seats but if you want to put your heart into it, it’s not a part time job at all.
How would you assess the performance of President Buhari in the last two years?
They came with a lot promises, they came with a lot of goodwill but they have squandered the goodwill. It is almost tempting to say they deceived Nigerians. They continue to blame the past administration. There is an adage that says a ‘bad workman blames his tools’. A bad government blames the previous administration. That is my assessment.
I am a representative; I know the hunger my constituents are facing. To them you are their saviour. You try looking for jobs for them but there isn’t any and you empathise with their plight and situation but there is no end in sight.
What do you suppose the government should do to change the narratives?
They should stop making excuses and go back to the drawing board. It is so easy to criticise when you are on the other side of the divide. Let me use the analogy of a football match as an instance. When a game is being played, you watching will shout and criticise but when you are part of the game, it’s a different thing entirely. It is not as easy as you think.
The APC has seen the reality of running a government and realise that it is not easy. Now that they are in government, they should forget about all the things they said, face the reality and be honest. It should also shout for help and not be too proud to call people from the past administration that have the wherewithal to help move the country forward. The country and its citizens have to be put first before political relevance.
Some people are of the view that President Buhari should resign on the account of ill-health. Do you think he should?
I hesitate to take a position because the crux of the matter is someone’s health and it is God that gives good health to us all. So, I wouldn’t want to be seen to be dancing on someone’s misfortune. All I will say is, I wish the president quick recovery and good health. In his absence, the vice-president should act and not coordinate. The constitution says “act”. It is mischief to use the word “coordinate”.
That said, I am not one to clamour because he is an adult and he knows best. It is up to the president to assess his health, to assess the toll it is taking on him and to decide if there is a need for him to step down or not. But I know there are so many political pressures.
Let me say this and I’m saying it without fear or fervor and no partisan bias. Honestly, all of us should consider Nigeria first. Put the citizenry first. If your continued stay in any office is detrimental to the greater good of the nation, you should put the nation first, do the honourable thing.