From Mokwugwo Solomon, Nnewi
Valentine Ozigbo is a governorship aspirant under the platform of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, for the November 6 governorship election in Anambra State. He is the immediate past President and Group Chief Executive Officer of the Transcorp Plc.
In this interview, he looked at the numerous leadership challenges facing Nigeria and the black world, as well as his reasons for vying for the governorship seat of Anambra State. Excerpt:
Why do you want to be governor of Anambra State?
My intention is to serve the people of Anambra State. My desire is to lead Anambra into greatness. I don’t care whether I am the least in the state; my concern is, as governor of the state, to take Anambra to the next level. I want to use Anambra State to give example of what good governance is supposed to be. I want to use Anambra to demonstrate how the story of the black man could be changed for the better. I want to inspire professionals into politics; I want to inspire Igbo people, using Anambra as a starting point. I want to prove that the energy, wisdom, zeal and other potentials with which God endowed Nigerians could be used for good and positive things. I’ve been in discussions where people tell the story of the blacks; where we often wonder if anything is wrong with the black man, especially in the area of political leadership. So, we always ask the question whether we are cursed or whether we are the cause. In our efforts to get answers to these questions, you will find out that the black man will give all sorts of funny excuses as reasons behind our story of woes in leadership and in governance. Imagine the kind of debates Nigerians are having about restructuring the political system. Just to restructure Nigeria, we are having debates! These are the leadership problems we have. Restructuring should be happening regularly! If any area of the political system is not working well, we should figure out how to improve them; so that our country will move forward. That is what we call restructuring. Summarily, I am into the governorship race of Anambra State because I am not comfortable with the status quo. Our country is actually more blessed than most countries that are doing better presently. The problem of this country is failure of the political leadership. Our successive political leadership has failed to get certain things right. These include their inability to entrench competency in leadership. If we knew how to recruit properly; if we knew how to insist on competence, and make it impossible for the incompetent person to emerge as our leader, we will get it right. In China, for instance, it is not possible for an incompetent person to emerge as leader. In our own case, most often, we have the most incompetent persons emerging as our political leaders. Only good governance can guarantee the prosperity of our land, and I want to set the standard of this good governance in Anambra State; if I could be given the opportunity to become governor. As Anambra people, especially now that we are going into governorship election, it is our collective duty to ensure that incompetent person does not rule the state as governor. This is why I am presenting myself. I believe that with competence in leadership across board, and with the right culture, Anambra State will get to the land of glory it has been yearning for.
Generally, the belief is that aspiration for political positions such as the governorship is for money making. What’s your take?
The assertion that people seeking political offices are doing so to fill their pockets is only true to the extent that our people sacrifice competence and integrity on the altar of mediocrity and incompetence. Personally, I am in the race to help change the story of Anambra State for the better. I am not into politics to make money. As a matter of fact, I will be a richer person focusing on what I’m already doing, than going into politics. Accumulation of wealth or money is my least consideration going into politics; the next is fame; because I’ve got all these before I decided to join politics. There is nothing, in terms of material wealth, contacts and fame that past governors get that I’ve not got. None of them is happier than I am, and none sleeps better than I do. So, money and fame are my least consideration. I want to improve the wealth, health and infrastructure of our dear state. During the time of Nnamdi Azikiwe and Michael Okpala as premiers, the Southeast was considered the fastest growing economy. My plan for Anambra State is that we regain the glories of the good old days? So, I am not in politics for money. That might be the intention of most politicians; but some of us are not into the race for money. I am here to change the system, and to change the story of our dear state. We want to come here to entrench lasting legacies.
Having been honoured by CNN as one of the highest promoters of freestyle football; what’s your plan for sports generally?
My intention is to leverage on the energies of the younger generation to help them live better life. I will achieve this by channelling their energies and attention into sports. There are two ways that I want to do this; these are sports and entertainment. Freestyle football is a summation of both sports and entertainment. In 2017, I was watching something in the YouTube, when I saw young people juggling with football all over their bodies. I told myself I would like to invest in that kind of sports, as a way of getting our youths off the streets. When I researched about that sport in the Internet, I found out it had been existing in many continents; but nothing to show for it in Africa. Right there, I called J.J Okocha, met with him and discussed how we could partner with the world body to promote the sports in Nigeria. He gave stringent condition for such partnership; so, I had to contact Kanu Nwankwo and a number of others. I later contacted the person, who supposed to be in charge of Freestyle football. I told him I wanted to organize Nigerian championship in 2017. I met with him in London, signed the contract, and in September, we organized that event for the first time in Nigeria. The championship we organized broke world record by all standards. In 2018, we organised African championship where 12 countries participated. We also extended the record breaking with the 2018 championship. In 2019, we also organized it, and 32 countries participated. In 2020, we could not organize it because of COVID-19. As we go into the governance of Anambra State, we want to break the grounds on sports; we want to set new records in the Anambra State and Nigerian sports. We want to harness the potentials of our young people in sports, so that they would engage themselves actively, and make money doing sports. My government, by the grace of God, will transform Anambra State into an entertainment hub. We want to use Anambra as model of what good governance should be in all spheres of life.
The Anambra State Water Corporation has remained moribund, if elected governor; any blueprint for this all-important agency?
By the time I will unveil my manifesto, you will find out we are devoting much energy in giving safe water supply and good environment to our people. The truth is that you will hardly get a good and healthy urban city without functional water system. It is a big shame that this has eluded us. If elected governor, I will be forming the right partnership with funding agencies and institutions, to fix the water corporation, and make it functional once again. So, it will be the focal point of our government. We are going to devote a chunk of our budget to safe water supply. We shall also partner development financial institutions to get it properly done.
Do you have agenda for fighting crime through job creation?
This is one of the areas I consider as my areas of strength. I am a job creator; I am an entrepreneur. I am a business person. So, my government will create an ecosystem where a number of things will be happening in coordinated and independent manners. On one hand, we need to improve on the quality of sustainable development goals; especially education and health; so that our people will be healthy, safe and secure. We need to get Anambra more competitive. We want people, who are in business to succeed more. We want to make Anambra a fashionable destination. My government will not compel business people to come to Anambra; they will be compelled to invest here when they see that others, who invested here, are succeeding. We are going to create economic hubs; when we do this and Anambra starts to succeed, employment will grow from the bottom to the top. When this is added to what we shall be doing in sports and entertainment, Anambra people will be awash with employment. When this happens, crime rate will also reduce, and people will start to wonder how Anambra happens to get it right.
Who among the past and present political leaders in Nigeria would you take as your role model?
Apart from Jesus Christ, there is no one person I want to be totally like. If I go to the business world, I may like to emulate somebody like Tony Elumelu. I can go to another person and pick other good traits. In politics, I consider Peter Obi as the best governor Nigeria has ever produced. As governor, he achieved remarkable feats. You remember what Anambra State used to be before Obi took over, and the position he left the state after doing much in agriculture, security, education, health, infrastructure, and a lot of things; and still left a lot of money in the coffers of the state. I wish I were the person that succeeded Peter Obi. Peter Obi has been an inspirational leader. I wish I would not be inheriting all the loans that are presently hanging on Anambra State; so that upon assumption of office as governor, I would only be thinking of how to take Anambra State to the next level; not how to repay loans. However, if Anambra State were operating on the kind of loan as being speculated; if Anambra has been so weakened to this present level, then, the state needs an enigma, a visionary and empathetic leader. The state needs a silent performer. This is why I am in the race. Again, Olusegun Obasanjo is another role model, who knows how to assemble the right people to get jobs done and delivered. I will copy that trait from him. I also admire Barack Obama. The former US president understands how to communicate and how to engage people. So, I will assemble all the good attributes of the people I mentioned, I will be a completely different leader that other leaders would like to copy.