By Romanus Okoye
Chief Chinedu Obidigwe is the member representing Anambra East/West Federal Constituency, Anambra State at the National Assembly and the Vice Chairman, Environment Committee. He is a former, Senior Special Adviser to Governor Willie Obiano on political matters. He speaks on various issues in this interview.
What is your position on the agitation for the South East to produce the next president?
My view is that every political party should zone that position to the South East and there are many reasons for my position. Igbo are the most business-minded tribe in Nigeria. You remember how they started out after a devastating civil war. With little or nothing, they all launched out and today when you talk of commerce, education, etc you think of the Igbo. Apart from commerce, there are many Igbo competent technocrats, intellectuals, capable of leading the nation. Aside all of these, there is need for balance, equity, justice and fairness. It is unfair to sideline any of the geopolitical zones, especially the South East. The South East is short changed in various forms. The zone has limited number of states, local governments and delegates that come from the area during a party’s national congress. So, if Nigeria is serious about achieving its desired goals, an Igbo man should be voted to manage the country. Ndigbo have a right to aspire to the highest office in the land just like any other group. And they should and will do just that in 2023. Granted, they cannot do that without the support of other ethnic nationalities.
What is the way forward to curb security challenges in Nigeria?
The insecurity situation is caused by many underlining issues including hunger, poverty, unemployment, maladministration, corruption and lack of proper education. What is the actual population of Nigeria? No one can be very specific about our population. Who, where and how many are immigrants. There should be proper records of the population. The same lack of proper record of the population affects our voting system; voters’ register should be subjected to forensic audit. In the Northern part of the country, there are many underage voters. To tackle insecurity, all these must be fixed. A hungry man is an angry man. When people are hungry, it beclouds their reasoning and they can do anything to survive. In other climes, there is social security. People are provided basic things they need to survive day to day. Plate numbers in vehicles should be connected to people’s name. If crime is committed with a particular vehicle, it should be traceable to somebody. Not for one man to have many vehicles with many different numbers that cannot be traced to him. Provision of free education should be made compulsory. A situation where the constitution says the government can only provide free education when capable is not good enough. In fact, that section of the constitution should be made enforceable in court.
What are the chances of APGA retaining the governorship seat in November?
APGA has a very wide opportunity due to many reasons. I have no doubt whatsoever. APGA shall retain the Government House, if not for other reasons at least, to sustain the good works of Obiano’s government. His performance speaks for itself. For us in APGA, the state will only move forward and backward never. The time of PDP or any other party‘s misrule or rascality is over. APC or PDP may work for them elsewhere but not in Anambra East.
Most of them, in APC and PDP are people that have been tested and rejected. Anybody thinking that the PDP has a chance of replacing APGA is dreaming. The current administration in the state has to a greater extent justified her mandate and as such had gained the trust and support of Ndi Anambra both at home and abroad. Imperatively, the only party with massive grassroots support base in Anambra is APGA and I say that with all sense of seriousness. I challenge those who are banking on rigging Anambra 2021 gubernatorial election to bury such idea. At the moment, the state is different and the people know what they want. At every ward, we have capable and visionary political actors. Therefore, the plan by any party to rig especially by PDP and APC is dead on arrival.
PDP when they were in charge messed up the state; they burnt infrastructure. APC does not have any structure in the state. Anambra people are aware of these facts. The governor initiated community N20million choose-your-project which covers all the 179 communities in the state. For the records, APGA government has been very consistent and pro active in providing good governance and there is no doubt about that.
Every Anambra indigene knows that under the Obiano’s administration, security has returned in its perfect nature and security of lives and property of the citizenry remain the cardinal objectives of his government. Governor Willie Obiano (Akpokuedike Global) has not only perfected his determination to leave legacies in that direction but has also made uncountable giant strides. It took the APGA-led government in Anambra State to wipe out all the mess and negative images the PDP created in the state when it was in charge. Under PDP, Anambra’s public establishments were all burnt down including Ikenga Hotels, ABS, House of Assembly Complex, etc and that was the first in history the state recorded zero allocation while virtually all public schools and civil servants in the state went on strike for lack of payment of salaries for over a year.
What is your assessment of Governor Willie Obiano’s performance?
Prior to Obiano’s led administration, Anambra State was one of the darkest state in Nigeria. But when Obiano assumed office, he changed the face of the state. Governor Obiano is widely reputed as one of the most performing governors in Nigeria. The willingly working governor was tagged ‘’Willie is Working,” because of his zeal and enthusiasm in making Anambra indeed a ‘Home for All’.
Anambarians and those in touch with the realities of the state resonate with the good works of the working governor Obiano. Onitsha Head Bridge was a ‘no-go-area’ for Anambarians and investors due to insecurity. Under the past administrations, a sitting governor, Igwes, Reverend Fathers were kidnapped. The father of Soludo was kidnapped. People could not return home, out of fear. With Obiano, kidnapping is no longer possible in Anambra State. He bought over 150 police vehicles for patrol and renovated many dilapidated police stations in the state. Under Obiano, Anambra State now has Airport and many other facilities that make the state a business hub. It took a man of vision to foresee an impending doom and when Obiano saw the present economic crisis, he assembled technocrats in a retreat to arrest the impending situation.
Through the retreat, issues of how to generate revenue without necessarily waiting for the Federal Government was discussed and solution provided. Issues of how to pay workers’ salaries were discussed without dependence on oil wealth, which of course had since thrown many state governments into huge debts.
In his resolve to make Anambra investor destination and commercial hub in the Southeastern part of the country, Obiano came up with a blue print tagged, “the Four Pillars of Development which revolves around Agriculture, Industrialization, Trade and Commerce, and Oil & Gas.
With the blueprint in place, Anambra State was opened to investors by the creation of the Anambra State Investment Promotion and Protection Agency (ANSIPPA). With the mandate of attracting investments and fast-tracking the process of investment in Anambra state, the Agency has attracted investments in Agriculture, Trade & Commerce, Manufacturing, Hospitality, Housing, Electricity generation, Waste management, Health, and Oil and Gas to the tune of $3.2billion to the state and more investments are coming. Today, over 500 youths have been effectively trained in diverse skills and crafts at the Technology Incubation Centre in Nnewi while 500 other youths have been trained at the Agricultural Training Institute in Mgbakwu. With lots of great plans for the Anambra youths and the unemployed in Anambra State, the future can only get better.
In Agriculture, he launched the Agricultural Revolution in Nteje, Oyi Local Government Area. Two years after that action, Anambra State has almost realized the objective of becoming one of the Top-Three agricultural states in Nigeria. Anambra State has become an exporter of farm produce to Europe. The state has also flooded the market with a wholly indigenous brand of rice known as Anambra Rice which is competing favourably with other brands in the market. Gov. Willie Obiano has so far attracted $150m from Coscharis Farms Project in Anaku, $50m from NOVTEC Farms Ltd in Ndikelionwu, $160m from Joseph Agro Ltd rice project in Omor, $220m from Ekcel Farms tomato production farm in Omasi and $50m from the Songhai/Delfarms integrated organic farm project in Igbariam. There are also Grains & Silos with $40m investment in storage facilities, Lynden Farms with the $61m poultry f arm in Igbariam and Tricity Integrated Farms with $11.4m ultra-modern abattoir in Awka. Indeed, the fire of agricultural revolution is raging in Anambra State. A visit to Igbariam or Anaku will authenticate this fact. The poverty index in Anambra has dropped.
With the level of time, energy and resources you expend, are you vying for the deputy governorship position?
I am not interested in being Deputy to any particular governorship aspirant as Anambra State prepares for gubernatorial election in 2021. ‘I, my groups and associates are supporting Prof Charles Chukwuma Soludo for governorship position under APGA come 2021 and we have publicly endorsed him.
At the last count, over 10 candidates are positioning to be the next governor of Anambra State. Why do you and your groups support Charles Soludo?
Professor Charles Soludo is the best candidate. We pray particularly that he listens to our calls and pleadings that he must offer himself to serve Ndi Anambra. He has served Nigeria, Africa and the world and they may still want him but Anambra and Ndigbo need him most now. Soludo is the solution now. Nigeria is at a critical crossroads and Anambra and Ndigbo need to put their best feet forward. This is no time to gamble or for the usual politicians. We need a man that has been tried and tested, with track records for big ideas and excellent execution in order to create prosperity and put Anambra on the world map. Everybody, stakeholders, professionals, businessmen, clergy, grassroots, youths, women—agree that he is the best person for the challenging times to take Anambra to even far greater heights, after Obiano. Soludo has a unique characteristic as a world class technocrat as well as deep political skills and experience. He has been active in Nigerian politics right from his student days during the NPN vs NPP days and has held party positions. Unlike most in the terrain, he checks all the boxes very well.
He blends well as an excellent technocrat and party builder who understand the synergy between policies and politics in a democracy. He campaigned in almost all the 326 wards in Anambra during the 2010 governorship election within one month. All over the state, people still have his posters in their homes and beer parlours: “I Cee Prosperity”; “I Cee Hope”; “African Dubai Taiwan”; “Soludo Solution”, etc
Is APGA planning to merge with other parties?
We will continue to work, nurture and expand the party. We are being careful not to be infected by people from other parties. Very soon, APGA will take over the whole of the South East. Our National Chairman, Victor Oye and his team are determined to take the party to greater heights and I am sure that before 2023, their efforts will yield results and you see APGA winning many seats in different parts of the country.