Wichtech Group CEO and one of the leading aspirants for the 2021 Anambra State governorship election, Dr. Chidozie Nwankwo has argued that given his antecedents, he is the most qualified person to lead the state.
Nwankwo, who is a member of the country’s ruling party, the All Progressive Congress (APC), spoke in this interview with OBINNA EZUGWU.
You said somewhere that despite what you have achieved in the private sector, you don’t consider yourself to have arrived. But obviously you have achieved a lot as an entrepreneur. Now you want to abandon that for a moment and join partisan politics. Given the nature of Nigeria’s politics, are you not making a mistake?
Well, I’m going to resign my position as the CEO of Wichtech, I have other directors. The board is going to appoint a new Managing Director who will still carry on with the efforts of the company. The truth is that no-one owns a company alone. Ours is a family business, I have other directors, so the business is continuing because Wichtech is employing over 4,000 people across Nigeria, with over 200 offices. One person’s absence will never stop the business.
What is the key issue for you? Why do you want to govern Anambra State?
Well, if you look at Anambra as a state, in terms of enterprise, we are endowed. Anambra has produced captains of industries all over the nation and even beyond. If you look at where we were after the war and where we are today, you will know that the Igbo race has made tremendous progress. And Anambra led the effort in the Igbo commerce. If you ask anybody in Enugu State or Imo State, he will tell you that Anambra started the business. So, no doubt, God has endowed us with so much wisdom and innovative spirit; that ability to turn things around is on us.
The unfortunate thing, however, is that in Anambra State – despite all these endowments – we have never had our best in positions of government. It is therefore, time for us to go for our best eleven to move the state from where we are to where we ought to be. That is why someone like me is offering to serve. I believe I have all it takes. In business, in every field we have ever engaged, we have excelled. From the time we were trading glasses, to when we got into shipping, and now that we are into building materials, we have always been the biggest names in each of the fields.
So, there is no way an entity like Anambra State will have people like us and remain the way it is. I mean, look at our environment. I’m convinced that when I take the mantle of leadership in Anambra, Anambrarians would be very proud of their state because we are going to turn the state into the industrial hub of Africa. Mark my words, I’m not saying it for saying sake, I’m saying exactly what I am going to do. Anambra State under our watch will be transformed, and the people will be happy for it. Ideally, people who have proven record of growing businesses, developing human and material resources should be given the opportunity to lead.
You made the point that Anambra has produced a lot of great industrialists. That is also going to play out in the election because there are also a number of other achievers in the race; there are the likes of Charles Soludo, Godwin Maduka, Val Ozigbo and so on. What then gives you the confidence that among all these people, you are the most qualified person?
Well, the thing I have not seen in any of the people that are coming out is this: I have not seen any of them who started a business with N10,000 and is able to employ 4,000 people today in Nigeria. So, yes some of them must have had their own attainment, but an average Igbo person believes in practical entrepreneurship, not theory. It is about what can be proven without reasonable doubt; that one can manage resources; that one can actually set out from a humble beginning and be able to build a company.
If you don’t have discipline and foresight, you can’t set up such an entity with just N10,000 capital. It depends on the way you view it, I know that all these people you mentioned are great men in their own fields, but what we need are people that have proven records. Some of them who are in public offices are in a system that others created. They are only there to manage it. But in my own situation, I created everything that I managed, and that is what singles me out from the crowd.
You are in the APC, which is an opposition party in Anambra State. It’s a state that has had APGA leadership since 2006. It’s always difficult to defeat an incumbent government and incumbent party. Don’t you think being in APC puts you at a disadvantage?
Today, if you check the polls in Anambra, I’m leading by over 80 percent. What people are looking for are results. In Onitsha Main Market, in Nnewi, these are areas that I own businesses, I have their support. And the fact is that the business community, which is the constituency I’m coming from, controls over 70 percent of the Anambra electorate. It is clear that they have seen someone they can trust; someone they know his record. They know my antecedents in terms of what I believe in. What we need is a candidate that people can repose their confidence in. It is about track record, that’s what people are going to vote for; it’s not about which party you are or how eloquently you can speak. You have to show what you have managed before you can talk of managing a state like Anambra.
We have made that mistake of party sentiment in the past and I don’t think we are going to make it again. We cannot also choose people to lead us because they are eloquent and can win debates. You shouldn’t think that you are qualified to lead just because you can win debates, or because you have been in an organized system where instructions are given to you on what you should do. It is when you have used your own initiative to create something; you have to show what you have been able to do by your own initiative, that’s what is going to tell us what you can do.
As an executive governor of Anambra State, you are supposed to move the state to a whole new level. You are going to basically create and run an economy, and that’s what I’m going to do. I am going to create an economy that will sustain Anambra without the federal government, that’s my vision. I have done that as a private sector person without a rich father. I have been able to prove that with N10,000 you can establish factories all over Nigeria, employing 4,000 people with over 200 offices. It is an endowment I have that has been proven, it is not theory.
There is this question about APGA. It’s a party that a lot of Igbo people are emotionally attached to. Anambra is the only party it has now, and there this argument that if it loses Anambra…?
Wait! Let me tell you something about what you are trying to say. One tree can never make a forest. Anambra, for instance, has eleven oil blocs with gas reserves. Yet, today, we are not able to put the state on list of oil producing states. When we belong to the centre, it is then that Anambra will be able to sort out this issue and even our erosion problems. We are going to generate funds from the right corners in order to improve the state. There is no one tree that can make a forest. We have to be part of the centre. The Igbo presidency has actually been approved by the North and the West, but if you are not at the centre, you cannot produce a president.
So, we should wise up. They have sold a lot of lies to us and we have ignorantly believed them. It is what has brought us to the ditch we see ourselves today. We need to wise up.
You make the point that Anambra stands to benefit from being governed by the party at the centre. But beyond that, if you look at states that are controlled by the party at the centre, can you say they are getting any special benefits?
If you say that you cannot see any special benefits, then you are not observant. Being in good relationship with the president when you are a visitor is not the same as being part of the party in power. What I’m trying to say is that for us to be where we are supposed to be, one is that we should have a good leader; a leader who has what it takes to lead Anambra to prosperity. Then, we also need the right party that will give us the right access to power and resources. Yes, belonging to the right party is important, but having the right leader who has the prudence required to manage the resources is also important.
Are you then suggesting that the current administration in the state hasn’t done well!?
I wouldn’t say that, but the election will tell whether they have done well or not. If you go to Anambra, there are complaints everywhere. I’m not going to lay emphasis on that, but the electorate will decide by their votes whether they are satisfied with the administration or not. I believe we need a better government, and I’m sure it’s going to happen.
There is this factor of zoning in the state politics, which naturally now cedes the governorship to Anambra South Senatorial District. There are arguments that in the interest of equity and fairness, the South should be allowed to produce next governor. You think this is a valid argument?
Yes, all our traditional rulers; all our elder statesmen have come together with the current government to say that look, power should go to the South. If you look at it, it’s become imperative that power shifts to the South because the Central Senatorial District has been in power for so long; the North is just finishing its tenure. It has to go to the South because the district has actually not produced governor in recent times, so we need to have that equity. That will also ensure that our agitation at the federal level for rotational presidency should be listened to.
If the Igbo are saying that look, we should go back to the recommendations of the national conference, but we are not able to show that equity in our own states, believe me, we won’t have the justification to ask for it at the national level. So, what we are trying to do is the right thing. Everyone should have a sense of belonging.
You are also from the Southern Zone?
Yes, I’m from the South.
But there are also those who have said that what matters is a competent person?
Yes, the South has over two thousand eligible candidates. It doesn’t mean that we can’t get one qualified and competent person from there. Whoever says that is being unrealistic.
I would like to get your thoughts on the growing agitations in the Southeast. What would you attribute it to? Failure of leadership, If so, will you do better?
People are agitating because the government in Anambra State has not been able to create industries that can employ the teeming youths. The thousands of young people coming out from universities every year are not able to find jobs. Our system is not actually what it should be. So, people are agitating because they are asking for better life, they are asking for jobs. We have to ensure that as people are coming out from school, they are empowered. As a business owner, I’m going to approach governance differently.
Believe me; we are going to set up industrial parks all over Anambra. We are going to bring in the biggest industrial managers in the world. I am assuring you that in the first four years of our administration, we will be bringing over 500 companies from Europe and Asia. When that is done, we would have reduced unemployment drastically.
We are also going to develop infrastructure, provide power source for our industries and provide conducive environment that would encourage our people to come home and invest, as well as attract foreign investment. This is what I have been doing in the private sector; I own one of the biggest industrial parks in Ogun State today. A lot of foreign companies are there working. There is a gas turbine there, supplying power to companies that are manufacturing there. It’s the same thing that I would replicate in Anambra. By God’s grace, you will see a total change in governance in the state. The truth is that you can only give what you have.
You are going to need funds to do these things you have outlined. This is a time when most states are struggling because of low price of crude oil which has affected revenue. How are you going to source the funds?
What you need to have is a vision. The vision will bring the money. I started my business with N10,000. But I had a vision and as time went on, the vision brought the money. So, you don’t have to bother about the funds. The vision we have will give us the funds to do what we are going to do.
You spoke about providing power. Providing power in Anambra is going to demand more than gas turbines. It would still come down to the issue of power generation, and as you know, power is under the purview of the central government. Doesn’t it come down to this agitation for restructuring? Where do you stand on that?
Well, I think what we are basically talking about is how Anambra can be a better state. How we can reposition Anambra to be that state of our dreams. That, I think should be our focus. My vision is to create a new Anambra where our youths will be employed, our infrastructure will be built. We are going to set an example for other states to follow, that’s my vision.
You are in the APC, which doesn’t appear to be popular in Anambra and the East generally…?
It seems like you are not well informed about the situation on ground. If you look at the APC in Anambra today, since I joined the party, thousands of people are joining on daily basis. APC is becoming popular now because people have seen that credible people are joining the party. You will see that in the next election, we are going to take over the state by God’s grace.
I read somewhere that you argued that President Muhammadu Buhari has also done a lot for the State and Southeast. Not many people would agree with you?
It’s very clear. The PDP, for 16 years, promised us Second Niger Bridge, but they never did it. But under Buhari, the bridge is nearing completion. If you go through Oba, you see a lot of flyovers coming up, the roads are being connected. If you go to Umunya today, you will see the quality of road being constructed. Uga-Nnewi road that has been bad for 20 years, APC government has fixed it. So, the APC has done much for the East, even a blind man can see that. I think, APC, if we want to be very honest to ourselves, has done better than any government since the return of democracy in 1999.
Will you also say that the APC has given the East a sense of belonging in terms of appointments?
Yes, if you look at it, we have ministers from Anambra State. We have 36 states in the federation and if Anambra can produce at least two ministers, we have our fair share. Apart from that, there are also other appointments. I don’t think we are being sidelined.
About 2023, you mentioned that the North and the West have agreed to cede power to the East. How did you arrive at that conclusion?
Yes, 70 percent of all APC members are very happy to rotate power to the East. And that’s why we must vote for APC in Anambra, so that we can have that chance to produce the next president of Nigeria.
But other regions are not going to say, No, let’s not contest. You already have people…?
OK, let me say this: the issue of Southeast presidency is not part of my project. My project is about Anambra State governorship race, and I think it is better we secure that first. I hope that God helps us to secure the presidency, but let’s leave the topic for another day.
What is your message for the Anambra electorate going into the election?
I want them to be wiser. Let us be wiser and shun party sentiment. It is what has given us people who are not supposed to lead us; people who have led us to the ditch we find ourselves today. So, the issue of party sentiment should be thrown out in the coming election. We should look at the quality of individuals; what are their antecedents? What are their profiles? What have they been able to achieve for themselves?
A number of them who say they want to govern, go to their villages, even their communities cannot entrust them with their own funds; even their own siblings cannot trust them, yet they are offering themselves to lead Anambra State. The Anambra electorate should be vigilant this time. Look for that man that has proven to understand what it means to manage resources, not just a man who can speak eloquently, or a man who belongs to a certain political party.