I am delighted to be appearing today before this distinguished Senate. I recall with very fond memories my two terms in the Senate as the PDP representative for Akwa Ibom South. I feel privileged to have had that experience as the Senate is made up of eminent Nigerians who have distinguished themselves in various walks of life, and who are expected to play an important role in stabilising the polity. Being in the Senate is a unique experience and I, indeed, consider my time in the Senate as truly the highpoint of my career, which is why I bear the title with pride.
When I left this distinguished Senate in 2007 my intention was to concentrate on my professional and corporate interests. And I have to say, with all modesty, that things have gone well for me and I am now the chairman of two of Nigeria’s iconic institutions; UAC of Nigeria Plc. and Union Bank of Nigeria Plc., as well as having been able to play a part in helping my law firm to become one of the largest commercial law firms in the country.
I was therefore quite surprised to have been invited by President Buhari to serve as a Minister in his Cabinet since I have not been very active in partisan politics in recent years. However, after careful consideration, I have decided to accept the nomination for three reasons:
Firstly, I am inspired by the personal example of President Muhammadu Buhari. I am impressed by his integrity, his abhorrence of corruption and his determination to run a transparent and accountable administration. His commitment to get Nigerians back to work thereby reducing unemployment; his resolve to tackle the current high level of insecurity, particularly the menace of boko haram; his identification with the common man and his desire to reduce the poverty and suffering of the masses; and above all, his commitment to re-orientate the Nigerian value system: these all resonate with me. And if he believes I can help him to fix our country, I am flattered by his confidence in me and have therefore decided to answer his call. And I intend, if my nomination is confirmed by this Distinguished Senate, to give my very best in the discharge of what will be a very onerous responsibility, particularly because of the times we are in.
The second reason I have decided to answer the call of Mr President is that I sincerely believe, with all humility, that I have something to offer. I have had extensive private sector experience in motivating and managing large numbers of people, in setting objectives and meeting them, in cost management and driving costs out of operations, and most importantly, in turning around moribund institutions. I also understand the way public institutions work, having been the pioneer chairman of the Corporate Affairs Commission, and more recently, the chairman of the Securities & Exchange Commission, and I fully appreciate the very difficult challenges involved in implementing the public sector reforms which will be required to bring about the change Nigerians want. I have chaired a Presidential Committee that examined the incentives required to stimulate private sector growth in the economy. I have also chaired a Federal Government Task Force that extensively
examined the reforms needed in the oil industry, and supervised the production of a draft Petroleum Industry Bill for consideration by Government. And whilst a member of this Distinguished Senate, I served, for some time, as chairman of the Appropriation Committee, and subsequently as Senate Chief Whip. I will, therefore, not be going into Government to begin to learn about the issues, and the problems. In short, I feel ready and prepared to hit the ground running in tackling the challenges inherent in trying to bring about change in the public sector, and to bring about change in Nigeria.
Finally, these are very difficult economic times for Nigeria. With the dramatic fall in the prices of crude oil, public sector finances are under pressure. Many States have difficulty in just paying salaries. The Naira is being buffeted; the values in the Nigerian Stock Exchange have been seriously eroded and we have experienced significant destruction of wealth as the economy continues to slow down. These are very difficult times. Times in which all Nigerians of goodwill must come together to work with Mr President to salvage the situation. The elections are over. We must now all work together for the betterment of our country. As President Buhari said in 1983, ‘This generation of Nigerians, and indeed future generations, have no country other than Nigeria. We shall remain here, and salvage it together’.
Distinguished Senate President, distinguished Deputy Senate President, distinguished Leaders of the Senate, distinguished Senators; it is for the reasons I have just indicated that I appear before you this morning to seek your confirmation to serve as a Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. I will be pleased to answer any questions you may have for me.
Thank you for your attention.
. Being a statement by Senator Udo Udoma at the Senate on October 13, 2015 during his screening as one of the ministerial nominees of President Muhammadu Buhari.