Published On: Sun, Aug 12th, 2018

APGA philosophy, the only way forward for Nigeria – Adinuba

The Anambra State Commissioner for Information, Mr. C. Don Adinuba has noted that it is only the philosophy of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) that can move Nigeria forward, as according to him, both the country’s ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the main opposition party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) are bereft of strong ideologies and developmental agendas.

Mr. C. Don Adinuba

The Commissioner, who barred his mind in this interview with BusinessHallmark’s Obinna Ezugwu at the State Government Secretariat in Awka, praised the Chief Willie Obiano administration for driving “radical” development in the state.

Excerpts:

From the outset, you identified passion as being extremely important in political leadership and noted that you were confident the Obiano administration will achieve wonders. So far, would you say such has been the case?

Obiano is driving the state almost in a radically different direction. All the indices and indicators are exceedingly positive. Last Friday, the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, presented to the Deputy Governor of Anambra State, Nkem Okeke, who represented the governor, a certificate of excellence. Anambra won first position in the immunisation campaign all over Nigeria. Again, on Monday, there was another first position – students of a high school in Onitsha won the first prize in a competition called STERN, not only in Nigeria, but all over Africa. They are representing Africa in Silicon Valley, San Francisco, USA in global robotic competition.

By the way, an Anambra indigene living in Lagos, is participating, this month, in an international artificial intelligence competition. The governor of Anambra on hearing it, paid for everything. Ours is a governor who promotes excellence. Only the best is good enough for Anambra State. If you are not the very best by global standards, do not come here.

We are on the way to creating a Dubai in Anambra. We are the only state government in Nigeria crafting a 50-year development plan. The closest is Lagos with 25 years. We are on it, even something as simple as placing restriction order on Okada operations in Onitsha and Awka; our commercial headquarters and political capital respectively, was complied with strictly. You now see how peaceful and how safe these cities are. This is the first time in Nigeria’s history that a government would place restriction order on okada operation, and there is 100 percent compliance. They believe in the governor.

Again, Anambra is the only state to stop okada without abandoning okada riders. In Anambra, we are giving them 1000 buses in the first instance, not for them to become bus drivers, but for them to become bus owners; to own buses at no interest and no management charges. These were people who were okada riders, not owners. They were riding okada that did not belong to them. Willie Obiano is turning them, overnight, into bus owners. So, instead of having one passenger on their okada, they now have seven passengers. Thus, they are making more money and living a more dignified lifestyle. This is where we are going.

I’m glad that neighbouring states are borrowing what Anambra began three years ago. In every community in Anambra State, we have been giving N20million for community projects. We do it phase by phase. States that are learning from us: Enugu and Ebonyi, are giving N10million each.

Recently, the governor announced that the state has enough money to go the 8th round. We are just waiting for the communities to come up. There are 183 communities, calculate how much it is. And we are doing it without borrowing a kobo.

For the last two months, there has been no FAAC allocation because of disagreements, but Anambra kept paying workers on the 25th of every month. Before and after the election, we continued and we are ready to pay for the next six months, with or without FAAC. And here is a state that receives one of the least allocations.

If you go anywhere in Awka, there is not one incident of robbery. We have forgotten what is called kidnapping in the state. We are the safest and the most peaceful state in Nigeria. Everywhere you go, come at night, the streetlights illuminate the entire city. The programme is to cover every town in Anambra State, indeed, every village with streetlights. No state has that kind of project anywhere in Nigeria. Yet, we are not borrowing.

Let’s look at the 50-year development plan. You are going to need funds. But for all its industrialisation, Anambra still does about N17 to N20 billion annually in IGR. Isn’t this below its potential?

To start with, no state is optimising its potential in terms of IGR. When the governor assumed office, IGR in Anambra was N400million monthly, but he brought it to N1.2billion and immediately that happened, he increased workers salaries across the board. He later increased it again, thus becoming the only governor in the last six years to review workers salaries upwards, not once, but twice.

But there are indeed leakages in the system, which we are addressing very well. I’m proud to announce that in the last one month, we achieved an increase of N500million monthly. We are targeting N3billion.

You said that the government is giving buses to okada riders, but I spoke to a number of them and they said they didn’t get the promised buses. Indeed, some said one of the requirements is an initial deposit of N100,000 and they say they don’t have that kind of money…?

The deposit of N100,000 is true, it’s a condition you must fulfill. But before then, it must be shown that you are a member of the Union of Okada Operators. So, it’s the okada union that will identify you, not the government. The government will not interfere in any way with this important economic empowerment programme. It is part of the urban renewal programme of the government. The intention is to upgrade these people from being okada riders to being bus owners.

The Governor said he wants to create many Ekenedichukwus (Chief Austin Ejikeme Ilodibe). You know, Ekenedilichukwu started with a small Morris Minor car; a gift from an Irish priest he was serving. He served him so faithfully as a domestic aid. He became a cab driver. From there, he bought more buses and prospered. In his own days, he had the largest fleet of commercial buses all over Nigeria. The governor says if Ekenedilichukwu could do it with one Morris Minor, other people of Anambra State can do it too… that’s people who live here – whether or not you are an indigene is immaterial. Over 90 percent of okada operators are not people from Anambra State. But we do not discriminate, this is for them. They live here, they pay their tax here; they have their children here.

About the N100,000, you must have that. Afterwards, when you must have worked for two weeks, from the money you have saved, you pay a little. The money will be saved to buy more buses for other people.

Most of these buses and tricycles you see are on hire purchase. By that I mean, rich people buy them, give to operators at double of the price and ask them to finish payment in one year. Sometimes, clever ones finish payment in six months. But Willie Obiano says, I’m giving you 18 months, not one year, and no interest.

So, these buses are sold at between N750,000 and N800,000. If it’s manual, it’s more expensive. If it’s automatic shift gear, it’s less expensive. For some reasons, they prefer manual. We are giving to them at the normal price. The government says it is absorbing the interest rates and management charges. These are the poorest of the poor, we do not want to over burden them. They can’t get a fairer deal.

If Obiano wanted to behave like a politician, he could have used a little part of the close to N1billion he is spending to buy motorbikes for them. They would hail him to high heavens as the correct man. That’s what most politicians do during elections. They will take the motorbikes and remain poor forever. They may have accident and die or lose their legs or arms.

Most patients in orthopedic hospitals are victims of okada crashes. At the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital in Nnewi, there is a whole ward called Okada Ward, devoted to victims of okada crashes. Is that the right thing a leader should promote in the 21st century? No, Obiano could have done that with just N20million, but he is spending close to N1billion to do the right thing. We want them to live a more dignified life; we want them to earn a decent living.

Having said that, I can also confirm we have had challenges with implementation of the programme. Immediately we announced the initiative, people came from Lagos, Kano, Sokoto, including those we suspect are not Nigerians. We have been overwhelmed by requests. We have decided that you don’t have to be in indigene of Anambra State, but you must be resident here.

Most of them are not resident. And there are other safeguards so that people don’t take these vehicles and go to other states or even neighbouring countries. We insist you must be resident here; therefore, there must be an attestation from the leaders of your development association. You must belong to a development association who will prove you are here, and you must be resident in either Awka or Onitsha.

If you are based in Nnewi or any other part of the state, you are not entitled – no way. It is strictly for okada riders, not investors in okada business. You must belong to their association and you must be resident in Awka or Onitsha.

The government is demolishing shops close to roads in Nnewi and Ekwulobia, which is understandable because they have encroached on the roads. But is the government going the extra mile to expand roads in those areas which are obviously too narrow?

Yes. People who are blocking the road had been warned, even before I came in, to do the right thing. We are concerned with urban renewal. You cannot go into the 21st century with the rest of the world when you don’t even have motorable roads. You cannot talk of turning Anambra State into the Dubai of Africa with such narrow streets and roads. In fact, today, we began a very important exercise. We are cleaning up the marine parts of Onitsha, it’s part of the urban renewal process.

More importantly, there are reports from the Nigerian Meteorological Agency that there would be plenty of flooding in Anambra State. Already, it had rained for nine days, nonstop. You must have seen some of the havoc caused all over the place. The report we have from the agency is that it would be worse. In 2012, a number of local government areas were partially submerged. The whole of Anambra West Local Government Area was submerged.

We are taking some proactive measures. One of them is that we don’t want people living in the marine parts of Onitsha to be swept away. There are many of them living illegally in those places. What matters to us is their lives; their own safety. They have been warned and asked to leave, but they refused. So, we are going to evacuate them in their own interest.

One of the signature projects of the Obiano administration is the Anambra Airport. Why does Anambra need an airport when there is one in Enugu and another in Asaba?

It’s not just an airport; it’s city airport, the first of its kind. Ours is going to be different. People will be coming here to refuel. International airlines will be refueling here. A stone throw away you will have a refinery by the side, Orient Petroleum. So, you produce oil in Aguleri and refine just a few kilometers away. That will bring an end to aviation fuel scarcity in Nigeria.

People coming from Enugu and Asaba airport will refuel here. I think Osun State is also trying to do the same thing, but we don’t mind when other states try to emulate us. I told you Enugu and Ebonyi are doing the right thing by having their community chose-your-project initiatives. We encourage them.

By the time the Obiano administration winds up in 2022, what kind of Anambra would you like to leave behind?

The governor is in his legacy years. Typically, when a governor gets a second term mandate, he walks leisurely. But Obiano is walking at a rather frenetic speed, like someone still campaigning for reelection. He wants to secure a place in history. He has his eyes on history, not on the election.

While a politician has his eyes on the next election, a statesman sets his sights on the next generation. The things we have are not the regular things you have in Nigeria. We want to set standards in everything we do; in accountability, in credibility. Do not forget that we are the first and only state to invite, not only the ICPC, but also the EFCC.

The EFCC chairman, Ibrahim Magu came here and said he couldn’t believe his eyes with what he saw. Everybody in Nigeria recognises that Obiano is one governor who spends his security votes for the purpose they were appropriated in the first instance. Have you heard of any kind of scandal about him; both in his private and public life?

Nothing is heard except the accusations and counter accusations of saved and misappropriated funds with his predecessor, Peter Obi… Cut in.

I said when a governor tells EFCC and ICPC to come and they came, that resolves the matter. So, whatever money left behind, I have asked you, why are we always the first state to pay salary – FAAC or no FAAC. And I’m saying that for the next six months, we won’t care about FAAC. Roads are being constructed; the longest bridge in the whole of the South East has just been completed. During the recession, Anambra was the first state to articulate and implement a stimulus package. Contractors are being paid. There is peace in the state. In education, we are number one, we are excelling.

There is the news that the Federal Government is refunding, or has refunded N37billion to Anambra State?

It’s complete falsehood. Not a kobo has been refunded. What has just happened is that the process has just begun. We are still far from receiving the funds.

The senate has only approved a borrowing plan by the Federal Ministry of Finance, under which refunds will be facilitated. The Anambra State government came up with the idea of converting the debt into borrowing following the inability of the Federal Government to pay the debt. The state government consequently suggested flotation of bonds or promissory notes.  The approved borrowing plan is a long way to actual receipt of the cash by the state.

The Debt Management Office (DMO), the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Ministry of Finance will now work out details of the borrowing plan for the N37 billion approved, in order to determine the source of funding of the plan. It may also involve the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), if the instruments to be used will involve them.

Let’s look at the events in the Nigerian polity – crisis between the legislature and the executive. Some say our democracy is in danger. Do you share this concern?

The impression I have is that neither the APC nor the PDP is propelled by ideology. Do you hear of people leaving APGA?

Except that Okorocha left…?

No, Okorocha was not really a member of APGA. His membership was a pure accident. If he had been an APGA person, there was no way he could have left. There is no way APGA would have allowed Okorocha to do what he is doing. APGA has a soul. I was one of those who promoted the PDP because of the late Dr. Alex Ekwueme. I campaigned vigorously for him, I believed in him. But the PDP which began as a national movement was hijacked by the generals. Consequently, it lost its soul.

With what is going on right now, I’m sorry, we don’t know what the APC or PDP stands for. I don’t think anybody can say the same thing about APGA. APGA is a developmental party; it is development oriented. As you have political parties in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, these South East Asian nations we call the Asian Tigers, where leaders are obsessed with development, not with politicking, not with primordial issues like religion and ethnicity.

What matters is, what can we do to radically improve the living standards of our people so that we can achieve the status of the first world within a generation? That to me is the ultimate question. How you worship God or how you dress is immaterial.

Are you offering the APGA alternative to Nigerians?

It’s the only way to go. The only country in Africa that has, somehow embraced the APGA ideology called Developmental State Ideology or Developmentalism for short, is Ethiopia. No wonder Ethiopia has become the fastest growing economy in Africa. It borrowed a leave from the South East Asian nations. You don’t see Obiano, for instance, talking always about politics, about parties… all you hear him talk about is development. He doesn’t want these distractions. Any governor that follows the Obiano pattern is bound to be hugely successful.

Who could have believed that nine months ago, Anambra, as fractious as it had been, that one person will win an election in every local government area and by a landslide. And the election was so free and fair that for the first time, candidates of the major parties congratulated the winner in writing. For the first time, candidates of the major parties did not go to the election petition tribunal. Not just that, when the governor was being inaugurated, the VIP stand was dominated by members of the so called opposition, from the PDP, from the APC.

You saw people like Ken Nnamani who called the governor The Star of the East. You saw Ben Obi, the immediate past National Secretary of the PDP. He was there flesh and blood. You saw Andy Uba and Uche Ekwunife, senators of the APC. You saw Chris Ngige. You saw even candidates like my own in-law, Godwin Ezemo of the PPA.

For APGA to be able to transport these ideas you espouse to the national level, it has to take power at the centre. The last time the party had a presidential candidate was in 2003. Is the party considering a presidential candidate in 2019?

I’m not the spokesman of the party, but I’m a member. What I do know is that APGA is yet to take a decision. When they do, the whole world will know. It will not be hidden. As I have said, we are not obsessed with politicking in the Nigerian way, we are obsessed with development. We want to create jobs for our people. Anambra, by the way, is the only state employing today in the whole federation.

In the next few weeks, we are employing one thousand teachers; five hundred primary school teachers, five hundred secondary school teachers. We are still employing the handicapped. A visually challenged person is a permanent secretary. We run an inclusive government. A non Igbo is a commissioner here. We are moving in a totally different direction.

 

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