A former Commissioner for Environment in Anambra State, Dr. Ifedi Okwenna, is aspiring to contest the forthcoming governorship election in the state on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). In this interview, he speaks on his vision for the state. OKEY MADUFORO reports
Zoning has become the mantra in Anambra State ahead of the 2021 governorship election. What are your thoughts on the debate?
Anambra State is blessed with human resources and when you go round the 21 local government areas of the state, you will discover that. We have men and women who are experienced in various walks of life and they also have the capacity to manage affairs of the state.
In as much as I believe in the zoning arrangement, it does not mean that the governorship is for everyone because the position has been zoned to a particular senatorial district. In zoning we should be looking at the best from that zone and not opportunists.
We are talking about someone who will deliver. I have this conviction that it would get to a stage where there would be no need for zoning and by then all the zones must have had a fair share of the power rotation.
It started with Anambra South, then Anambra Central and now Anambra South, which is my zone and this was aimed at ensuring equity and fairness. However, zoning is not meant to be an all comers affair; we should look at capacity and ability to deliver.
But your party, the PDP as well as the All Progressives Congress (APC) are still silent on the zoning arrangement; some are saying that the contest for the party’s ticket should be thrown open for aspirants across the three senatorial districts to test their popularity…
The PDP is not unmindful of the sentiments that favour Anambra South and it would be fair for the party to go to the senatorial district. The party knows where the pendulum is swinging to and that is the South.
But assuming the party throws it open for all the zones to contest, it would certainly produce a southern candidate because everyone is going south because it would be counterproductive for the party to nominate a candidate that is not from the South Senatorial District. In the last governorship election, the three political parties produced candidates from the North Senatorial District as we had Governor Willie Obiano for All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Tony Nwoye for APC and Oseloka Obaze for PDP.
So, I do not see the ticket of the PDP for the forthcoming governor-ship election going to another senatorial district. I equally predict that the three political parties will produce candidates from Anambra South in order to continue that equity and fairness.
It is being canvassed that the Anambra South contest is between the Old Aguata political bloc and Old Nnewi political bloc, which is where you come from. However, the Ihiala political bloc is also laying claim to the position because former Governor Chinweoke Mbadinuju only spent four years in office instead of eight years?
The contest if for the zone and it doesn’t matter which of the political blocs. Anambra South is a strong zone politically and you cannot wish that away going by voting strength or structure. But when you take a critical look at the blocs, you will agree with me that it is Nnewi political bloc that should produce the next governor of the state. The Old Aguata political bloc has produced two governors; Chukwuemeka Ezeife and the sixteen days of Andy Uba administration, while Ihiala has produced one governor; Mbadinuju.
The Old Aguata bloc has also produced five deputy governors, while Nnewi had only one deputy governor; Dame Virgy Etiaba. Also, Aguata has produced three senators, while Nnewi has produced two senators – Ifeanyi Ubah and Ikechukwu Obiora.
So, we from Nnewi have not produced a governor and those talking about Etiaba should be aware that she became governor when Peter Obi was impeached; she was not elected governor formerly. When someone says he will serve for only one term; it doesn’t stop him from going for a second term.
If elected as the next governor of Anambra State, which areas would be the main trust of your administration?
You don’t just run Anambra State like that because the state has lots of potentials that must be tapped. When I worked with then Governor Peter Obi, we had the Anambra Integrated Development Strategy (ANIDS) and we were able to develop all sectors simultaneously. This time, we will introduce CIDAS, which means Comprehensive Integrated Development of Anambra State. We will anchor CIDAS on the principle Sustainable Development Goals agenda of the United Nations.
It would be a successor to the now rested Anambra Integrated Development Strategy (ANIDS). We will make the state a leading destination for youths in Nigeria and return the state as the leading centre for commerce, trade and industry as well as centre for innovation and entrepreneurship development.
We will create a system where government cares and protects her citizens anywhere they may be and also recreate and own our narratives by developing the Anambra brand and make our people invest in it. This would be private sector driven and that would reflect positively on the socio-economic development of our state.
We will have 12 local government areas that would pilot our agricultural sector and make the state the food basket of the South-East geopolitical zone. We will also create two hundred thousand jobs within four years, which will engage our youths in not only agriculture but ICT, health sector, commerce trade and industry. We will have cottage in-dustries where our youths will work and those who wish to be self-employed would be given the opportunity to establish and develop themselves.
It appears that you are hinging your ambition on the success of your former boss, Mr. Peter Obi. Don’t you think that you may face the same fate as Oseloka Obaze in the last election?
I don’t think so. We all know what happened in the last election and you cannot blame Peter Obi for the fate of Obaze. I don’t want to go into what happened in the last governorship election in Anambra State which a lot of people are aware of. Those who feel this way failed to appreciate the fact that good governance is good governance and people would always associate with it. Obi has not indicated support for any aspirant in the PDP and he has not said that he is supporting me. In politics, people try to give issues like this some kind of primordial colouration to the detriment of capacity and capability. My records are there to speak for me and those that worked with me can tell the story better.
There are too many contestants in the PDP with records of being in politics and the logistics that goes with it. What are chances of getting the party’s ticket?
There is a lot of difference between philanthropy and governance. There is also a difference between being a moneybag and managing the affairs of a state like Anambra and you do not carry those qualities to the real business of managing human and material resources. What our people need is someone who will better their lives and not how much money you have or you can throw about. Our people have become wiser about money politics and they know that whoever that pays his way to power must try to recover all that he invested and that would be done through diverting Anambra people’s money into the private pockets of his benefactors and godfathers. So, they will not let that happen and even in our party the issue of money bags has been taken care of because you can no longer buy votes as was done in past.
The PDP in Anambra State has been out of power for a long time and the party has been facing leadership challenges. Do you see the party getting it right this time?
Our party is one and we don’t have crisis in the state. We have one party chairman – Sir Ndubuisi Nwobu – and he has been piloting the affairs of the party very well. Those days of leadership tussle are gone and it was crises that cost us the position in Anambra State government house, Awka. You were at the reception in honour of our chairman and all the aspirants and stakeholders of the party were there. So, who is the Jonah in our ship? The issue lingered as it were because outsiders from other political parties were sponsoring the crisis. But today, we have changed the narrative and there is no going back in PDP’s journey to Anambra government house.