Policy Briefs

News  Track: Anambra Retrogressing Despite Obiano’s Claims – Obaze

Hon. Oseloka Henry Obaze, former Secretary to Anambra State government is a governorship aspirant in the November 18, 2017 Anambra State Governorship Election on the platform of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). In this interview with CHUKWUJEKWU ILOZUE, he spoke on why he wants to replace Governor Willie Obiano, among other issues. Excerpt:
Anambra South Senatorial zone is laying as much claim as Anambra North to the governorship seat on the basis that the zone did only one tenure with Dr. Chinwoke Mbadinuju. What is your opinion on this?

The argument is understandable, but self-serving. They should have fought to complete Dr. Mbadinuju’s tenure then as we from the North are fighting to complete Obiano’s tenure. Whereas there is no statute of limitation for a governor to complete his second term, bringing it up now, is aimed at negating the zoning understanding now in place.

Would you agree to the emergence of a consensus candidate in the PDP to avoid political rancour that is usually associated with full blown party primaries?

The party is a master of its own rules. If the way to pick a candidate that will not be acrimonious is by rallying to a consensus, then so be it. It is essential, however, that finding a mutually acceptable solution does not trigger a crisis.

You have been on your toes with regards to actualising your dream of becoming the next governor of Anambra State. So far, how would you rate your acceptance by the electorate?

The expressed personal and institutional support has been most encouraging. It would be most gratifying if such support reflects broad awareness and acceptance of my candidacy and issues-based platform. But, I am aware of the reality, which is expressed daily in my conversation with the people. One must first procure a party ticket before getting meaningful support from any quarters. That disposition can be frustrating, but it is the reality. I nonetheless remain optimistic.

Since you have not been in the PDP as long as some other governorship aspirants, are you optimistic that you will secure the party’s nomination?

We are in the game of competing ideas and vision, even as we share the same passion for good governance. All of us need a credible platform to consummate our respective candidacies, but personality, exposure and ideas are also critical factors. Despite their being in PDP for a long time, that is not the only critical variable required to win an election. The party will decide who has the comparative edge to deliver victory in the end. That is what matters most.

What would be your reaction if you fail to emerge as PDP flag bearer after the primaries? Woulr you defect to another party?

Jumping ship seems to be the norm in our politics. It connotes lack of discipline and undermines party cohesion and purpose. It is not my style and not my intention to go party hopping or forum shopping.

What is your relationship with the newly formed APDA? Grapevine says that it is the platform on which you will contest the election under the sponsorship of former Governor Peter Obi?

I know some of those behind the formation of APDA. But, I am neither a member nor an officer of the party as we speak. I am a registered card-carrying member of PDP. As you know, I had been approached by two other parties to be their flag bearer. The parties had also offered to support me even if I was not their flag bearer. Likewise, should the circumstance arise, where I can garner the support of the APDA, even if I am not their flag bearer, I will not reject or disavow such a support. But, we are not there yet.

How are you mobilising the elites from your zone who appear rooted in support of incumbency? Any doubts on free polls come November?

I continue to engage the Anambra North elite and also the grassroots. The perceived support for the incumbent is contrived and indeed a fluke. The word and thinking on the streets and market places are quite different and distinctively unflattering. Anambra is retrogressing despite claims to the contrary. Yet, we pray and remain hopeful for peaceful, transparent and sufficiently free and credible election in November. My understanding is that the newly appointed INEC REC for Anambra State, Dr. Nkwachukwu, is a no-nonsense, highly moral and credible person. We hope he will acquit his office and person creditably.

Your promise of serving a single four-year tenure is certainly strange here. Why do you insist on four years only? Do you think it is enough time for you to do a satisfactory job?

We are dealing with the political realities on the ground. To ask for a full tenure of eight years will be to deviate from the prevailing understanding. Doing so will certainly cause some misunderstanding. We do not need that. Much can be accomplished in four years by a leadership that is not distracted by the burden of seeking a second term. Since governance is a continuum, you do what you can in four years and allow the successor administration to continue where you left off.

Anambra government is said to have attracted about $7.2 billion worth of investment. Would you say it had resulted to increased job opportunities and revenue to the state through corporate income and other taxes?

The claims by the Anambra State government are not independently verifiable. The value of investment on the ground does not support such claims. Moreover, the FDI data available nationally would indicate that over 85% of the FDI that entered into Nigeria was received by Anambra State, which is highly improbable. The incumbent government has to offer a transparent breakdown of such investments and the actual value for the claim to stick. Before I left government an investor arrived, brandishing papers of purported bank-guaranteed investment funds $1billion destined for Anambra. On rigorous interrogation, we discovered the same funds were being used to secure contracts in other states. The investor was playing a ‘shell game’. So, if the touted investments are hyped, the accruing jobs, dividends and income taxes would be equally suspect.

Rail and water transport are major channels of economic and commercial exchange. How would you react to the moribund nature of Onitsha Inland Port and nonexistent rail line through or across the South East?

Reactivation and operationalisation of the Onitsha Inland Port is possible. But, it will require collaboration with contiguous states and the Federal Government. Same is true with linking Anambra to the national railways grid across the southeast. To make the Onitsha port operational, it has to be designated as an inland port of shipment. Goods destined to the Onitsha port can then be transshipped FOB-Onitsha via Port Harcourt. It is doable, but you need the political will and vision.

What are your programmes for women and youth empowerment, and how will you monitor the implementation of such programmes, if voted in as the governor?

Simply, I will guarantee gender mainstreaming in my public policies with a 60:40 gender ratio for political appointments. Youths will be represented well and youth empowerment programmes articulated and driven by the youths. There are niche sectors, where women have comparative advantage and high productivity. We will expand such sectors and make them sustainable to outlive my administration. From experience, women empowerment pet projects driven by the spouses of governors have limited viability; they die off once the proponents leave office. We shall avoid such costly mistakes.

Restructuring and secession are renting the air because of injustice perceived and imagined on some parts of Nigeria. How would you advise the Federal Government to handle the issue, especially given the quit notice served on Igbo people by Arewa Youth Association?

The call for restructuring is not by implication a call to dismember Nigeria. There are political anomalies that do not speak to equity in our federalism. Some are structural, some are resource-related and the rest are about political, cultural and religious mindsets. We operate a six-regional geopolitical system in principle, but not formally. If we were to formalise the process, we would have started restructuring.

On the question of balance, the Southeast region is still being shortchanged in terms of equity in the component units. Symbolic adjustments can be used to address symptomatic and systemic challenges. It’s all psychological. To do nothing or reject the restructuring call outright is defeatist. Those who peddle hate speeches or use fighting words must be brought to book. Such calls are beyond free speech. The government must be consistent.

What is your advice to Igbos resident in the Northern region in view of the threat issued to them by the Arewa youths ordering them to leave the area before October 1 this year?

Circumspection. No one should evict any Nigerian from any part of the country. But, the quit order having been made public, means that some political undercurrent is afoot. Those who issued the quit order may not execute it. But, spoilers and extremists might. It only takes a shot across the bow to start a major crisis or war. Circumspection is the key word – on the part of the people and the governments. The matter is as delicate as it is dangerous. Nigeria needs to tread carefully.


Oseloka Obaze, MD & CEO

Oseloka Obaze, MD & CEO

Mr. Obaze is the former Secretary to the State Government of Anambra State, Nigeria from 2012 to 2015 - MD & CEO, Oseloka H. Obaze. Mr. Obaze also served as a former United Nations official, from 1991-2012, and as a former member of the Nigerian Diplomatic Service, from 1982-1991.

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