Today, I stand before you once again as I did four years ago, to declare my intention to contest for the governorship of our state. In 2015, it was not an easy decision, given the position I occupied as the Managing Director of one of the largest banks in Nigeria, earning very decent living. But the call to service; to liberate our people from the shackles of poor governance and the need to give our people a worthy sense of belonging made me decide to quit my job, to join the turbulence of politics in order to lead my people out of the land of captivity.
Today, I’m here again to remind the Pharaohs of Abia that the time has come for them to let our people go. To our people, the time for liberation has come.
The All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA, is the party that was led by the great son of Igbo land; a son of Nigeria, a hero of Africa, a citizen of the world, the Ikemba Nnewi, Ezeigbo Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu. The unforgettable hero of his people.
Today, we remember him. We salute the man who stood up to give us a sense of pride. It is my privilege to aspire to serve you on the platform of that political party.
Since 1999, one political party; one political dynasty has held Abia State in bondage. This party has cast a spell on Abia State. In 2015, we served them yellow card, as we approach 2019, we are serving them red card. Their time is up! They must pack and go.
Edmund Burke once said that the only condition for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. Let it never be said that when evil was reigning in Abia State, the children and grandchildren of the Great Jaja Wachuku, the children and grandchildren of the Great Aguiyi Ironsi, the children and grandchildren of the Great Michael Okpara, did nothing. Today, we have chosen to do something. We have chosen to stand up and fight. We have chosen to say, enough is enough!
Abia is ostensibly the number one state in Nigeria, in alphabetical order, that is. And it is the only state that is found in the Bible, that’s why it is called “God’s Own State”. But is Abia really the number one state in Nigeria today, even in the South East of Nigeria? How has Abia faired under the leadership of PDP for 19 years? Can Abia compare to Enugu State? Can Abia compare to Anambra State? Have you seen the road network in Anambra. Are teachers being owed in Anambra? Are civil servants being owed in Enugu State? How does Owerri compare with Umuahia? Has anybody here been to Abakaliki in recent times? Have you seen what the governor has turned Ebonyi into? Please, follow me to Abia State and let’s look at the records of the PDP governments.
Abia does not have a government house. The government occupies a makeshift rented property owned by the late Emeka Omerua. What does it take to build a befitting structure for the leadership of the state?
Abia today, has the worst road network in Nigeria. Look at the pride of the Igbo man, the pride of every Abia indigene, Aba, the Enyimba city. The commercial capital of Abia State is decrepit. It needs total transformation and not the emergency half-hearted interventions by the present government. As the rain comes, residents of Aba have their hearts in their mouths. Many places are now impassable.
Like we have always maintained, you can’t give what you don’t have. The PDP leadership of Abia State is a total and complete failure. It can never succeed because it does not have vision. Quality leadership and heart of service are palpably lacking. What it has is greed and primitive accumulation of wealth. The people are left as hewers of wood and drawers of water. That is why they do not pay salaries as at when due. That is why they owe workers and pensioners. That is why I wrote an open letter to them, recently. And I make a solemn promise to you today that under our stewardship, no worker or pensioner would be left unpaid at the end of every month.
Our healthcare delivery system is in shambles. Our public hospitals are in terrible state of disrepair while the practitioners are owed several months of salary areas.
Beyond the fact that I contested election in 2015, a few people still have limited knowledge of me. Some propagandists have described me as some super rich elite who came from nowhere to take away their birth right without any relationship with the ordinary people on the street. Nothing can be further from the truth. I am just like many of you. I was not born with a silver spoon in my mouth. Indeed, I had a very humble beginning. Our family home in Nvosi, in Isialangwa South Local Government was like many other homes. My father was a teacher, and later a Clergyman. My mother was a home maker who supported my father by frying ‘Akara’ and selling with ‘Akamu.’ My brother and I used to wake up very early in the morning to help our mother fry ‘Akara.’ And we would hawk the Akara and Akamu round the villages before going to school every morning. Believe me, I have been there. I had seen poverty, but in the midst of that, my head was never bowed, my spirit was never broken and I remained strong. I remained strong because I had parents who thought me the values of industry, hard work, honesty and enterprise.
I subsequently gained admission into this school; this ground where I stand today, Ngwa High School, Aba. As I look back, I remember the young, smallish boy that was admitted into form one here, decades ago. It is by the grace of God that I’m standing here today, offering myself for service again for the governorship of this state. May all glory be unto the living God. It is God that takes nothing and turns it into something.
This ground brings back fun memories. Ngwa High School was a very great institution. It is this school that has contributed in making me what I am today. It was after here that I went to the University of Port Harcourt where I studied Economics and began my journey in the financial industry.
Because education gave me the opportunity to attain this height, I want to assure you that every child living in Abia State will get the same opportunity that I had, and it is on that premise that we are going to inaugurate a comprehensive scholarship programme for every outstanding Abia resident. Education can never fail you. We shall also ensure that our educational system is modernised, in terms of infrastructure, curricular and manpower. We will not only invest heavily in education, but will encourage the private sector to do likewise.
Politicians tell lies to deceive the electorate. They will offer chicken change to buy your votes and buy your conscience. Politicians preach enmity and hatred using the things that bind us together as a people, against us. So, they tell you, you are not from here; you are not from there, so you cannot belong. Even the faith we all profess; the faith and belief in one God, is not spared. So they say because you don’t belong to one denomination or the other, you don’t qualify. Meanwhile, they are united in sharing our money.
My father was born bred and buried in Ngwa land. He told me that his grandfather migrated from Arochukwu, also in Abia State. And so, I proudly trace my lineage from Ngwa land all the way to Arochukwu. And as some scholars are presently finding out, many of us here, the great Igbo nation, take our bearings from far away Israel. That is why many people see us as the Jews of Africa.
We must overcome the artificial divisions created by corrupt politicians who lack vision; who don’t love their people, who loot; whose only mission is to promote disunity. They hide their incompetence under the cloak of ethnicity, religion and nepotism. Today, I stand here to proclaim that Abia is one. Under our watch, there will be no discrimination, no nepotism, and no favouritism. The indigene/non indigene divide will cease to exist. I have always challenged the irredentists to show me one city that was developed by indigenes. We will treat every Abia resident fairly, justly and equally. We will give everyone their due, and we will not make it a government of a few people, nor a government of a cabal, nor an occultist government, but a government of the people of Abia State. We will open our doors to every Abia resident and those in the diaspora. We will abolish discrimination and open the doors of equal opportunities to everyone because that is the only route to the future.
I have a special message for the youth who have suffered grievously as many have no dignified means of livelihood. Thousands of them have been employed into roles they call special assistants or senior special assistants to no one in particular without any specific assignment in government. It is a ruse to hide government’s inability to create jobs. It is also aimed at using them for the 2019 election after which they will be yanked off the payroll.
I want to challenge this government to tell us how many jobs it has created since 2015. How many industries has it attracted to Abia State? They have been junketing all over the world; to Turkey, to China, to Jupiter, to Mars “looking” for investments. How much investment have they attracted? How many companies have opened business in Abia State since 2015? How many Abia indigenes are working in non government establishments? Even if they permanently relocate abroad in search of investors, nothing will happen until the enabling environment is created. We have no roads, there is insecurity, we lack infrastructure. The state has become one large refuse dump. Abia State today has become a laggard. Many people rank Abia today as the worst performing state in the South East, nay Nigeria. Meanwhile, statistics show that our state has received close to N2 trillion in the last 19 years. I am yet to see where most of that money went to.
I know people are still angry about how our mandate was stolen in 2015. While we regret what happened, it is important to understand that it wasn’t that we didn’t protect our votes. We were coasting home to victory when the leadership of PDP criminally invaded the State Collation Centre and forced the returning officer to admit fake results under threat. Our option was to unleash Abia people on them but we considered that it may lead to bloodshed on a massive scale and decided to approach the court instead. You will recall that on December 31, 2015, the Court of Appeal pronounced us winners of that election in a landmark judgement. Two months later, the Supreme Court reversed the judgement. Against all odds, we diligently prosecuted that matter to its logical conclusion. What has changed, some people may ask? At least we are witnesses to the last two elections of Anambra and Ekiti which show that the era of rigging is over. I must also add that we have learned some lessons from the last experience. One major lesson is that the protection of votes is in the hands of the voters. We should not outsource that to candidates alone.
A time comes in the life of a people when they must stand up and say, enough is enough! Today, I stand here on behalf of the suffering people of Abia and say, enough is enough! We have allowed this for too long. The time has come when the children of Abia State, the owners of the state should say, enough is enough! Enough of the lies, enough of the propaganda, enough of the social media achievements, enough of the government by bill boards, enough of the deceit of paid adverts on national television that have no bearing to the reality on ground, enough of the divisions, enough of the looting!!! It is now time for action; it is time for all of us to join hands and save Abia State. History will not forgive us, our children will not forgive us, the gods of our land will not forgive us; if we allow this opportunity to pass us again.
Yes, they will make you offers. Collect their N5000, it is our money. When they bring rice, collect it, it’s our money. None of them is a rice farmer. Collect their wrapper, it’s our money. None of them is a merchant. Whatever they give you is not a privilege, it is a right; it is your own, collect it, but when you go into the polling booth, vote your conscience. Vote for your future. Let us defeat them, let us create a new day for Abia, let’s recreate Aba. Let’s make Abia the model state it was meant to be. I challenge the women and youth to rise up and shine, take your destiny in your own hands so that when you match out as proud Abians and sing that song: “Nzogbu Nzogbu, Enyimba, Enyi”
You will mean it and it will reflect our proud heritage.