Prince Eze Madumere is the deputy governor of Imo State. Before becoming deputy to Governor Rochas Okorocha, Madumere was chief of staff to the governor. In this interview with journalists, he highlights the efforts of the Imo State government to ensure security of life and property. Anayo Okolie was there. Excerpts:

Do you think your government is achieving the Rescue Mission agenda under which you campaigned and was voted into office?
If you do a proper assessment of the Owelle Rochas Okorocha-led Rescue Mission government in the last dispensation, you would give him credit for his focus, visionary leadership and passion to develop Imo. We started the idea of 70 per cent capital projects and 30 per cent recurrent. For the first time since our new democratic administration, Imo State had some relief in road construction, road rehabilitation and infrastructural development. Our local governments received appreciable facelift, as average of 18-kilometre road was constructed in each of the 27 local governments of Imo State.

We should not lose the sight of the fact that we cannot discuss growth and development without making the environment conducive for businesses to thrive; for investors to appreciate the environment before investing. So, what you see is the vision and passion of a great leader in action. We are not just talking about by-passes but we are constructing the first ever flyovers in Imo State. I must bring to your knowledge the vigour with which the governor has attacked ecological problems in Imo State, which I believe would have hampered movement and economic activities in many areas.

Many see you and your principal, Governor Rochas Okorocha, as rallying point for progressive politics in the South-east. Would you say you are living up to this billing?
Leadership is all about mobilising people to greatness. It does not exist in a vacuum. The first thing to ask is if my leader and governor has given the right leadership through his performance as the governor of Imo State and his role in ensuring that Ndi Igbo are given their rightful place in the scheme of things. Of course, you know it is only in Imo State that you have free education from primary to tertiary level.

Imo State is among the states that have been able to pay salaries, despite the economic downturn. Since the inception of this administration, Rescue Mission Government has in no little measure ensured that there is security of life and property and we have never stopped at that but we have always created conducive atmosphere for our people to appreciate their home coming. Imo State is the freest state in the federation, where its citizenry are free to tell their government how they feel without fear of molestation or intimidation. That symbol of freedom, which is the soul of democratic rule, is symbolised by the construction of freedom Square, where you can go and pour your mind on how you feel about the government and you will be given publicity, even on state-owned radio, free of charge and we hear you. We give attention to constructive criticisms, especially when there is effort to make input towards solving an issue.

Having said that, Governor Rochas Okorocha, people may have forgotten, has always played a major role to ensure that there is peaceful coexistence between the Igbo and their brothers in the North and in the South-west. This is not unconnected with his many interventions at various critical moments. Governor Okorocha’s role in Nigeria Peace Forum shows he is not just an Igbo leader but a patriotic Nigerian leader who has never pretended about his wish for a more cohered and unified Nigeria and, possibly, a nation where tribal, ethnic and religious sentiments will be diminished.

Owelle has given the right leadership and it was his vision that opened the window of opportunity for Ndi Igbo in the present progressive federal government led by President Muhammadu Buhari. Of course, he was never given a chance when he campaigned vigorously for the emergence of the present federal government. He was hounded to a point, but he daringly maintained his stand. That is what it takes to be a visionary leader. Today, Ndi Igbo are part of the government and our president is doing well to ensure that every zone gets their fair share of dividends of democracy.

Recently, your own people of Mbieri honoured you at an event at the Teslim Balogun Stadium, in Lagos State. Knowing the popular saying that a prophet is without honour in his own kindred and among his own people, were you surprised by that recognition?
That was a great honour done to me by my people. I must commend them for appreciating their own. When I was the chief of staff, my people also hosted me to a lavished grand reception. Truly, my people are great and they appreciate the effort of the government since the inception of the Rescue Mission government. My people are just being appreciative because we have never had it this good in terms of having an Mbieri man being a chief of staff, and as if that was not enough, my leader, Owelle Anayo Rochas Okorocha, in his magnanimity found me worthy to be his deputy and to also run with him during the last general elections that ushered in this dispensation.

It is also important to note that there are some of my brothers who are also committed to another political family and they are bound to raise their heads as an opposing force. This is democracy and it is, indeed, a reality in the polity. I appreciate them since they have in a way encouraged me to be always up and doing. The greatest honour they can do to me is their total support to Governor Okorocha who made it possible for Mbaitoli to be where they are today.

Frankly speaking, this is the largest single local government area in Nigeria with the highest registered voters, which has not reflected in their voting pattern. My people have more number of individual achievers and I believe bringing them together to pursue a developmental course will yield so much result. I am happy that they are beginning to appreciate that we are under achievers considering both human and material resources at our disposal.

The state government’s involvement in the idea of Christmas villages and lights has attracted so much criticism. Do you see these projects as economically viable?
You definitely will not expect everyone to clap for you even if you spill your blood for them. Such people will still say you have done nothing. Since the inception of this administration, Rescue Mission Government has in no little measure ensured that there is security of life and property and we have never stopped at that, but we have always created conducive atmosphere for our people to appreciate their home coming. None of those rumour mongers will tell you that our carnival has got national and international notice.

They will not tell you that our Capital City is one of the most alluring in the country with a piece of artwork you could hardly find anywhere around with fountains. They will not tell you that Imolites make over N1 million. Photography alone constitutes about 30 per cent of the earnings. Our Freedom Square is a beauty to behold as parents, young people and children find it so receptive that they would not let go. Without sounding immodest, Freedom Square hosts over 1, 000 people within the period under review. You can understand that beyond creating a place for family picnics and visits, the effort also created avenue to make our people generate incomes.

Owerri was the last administrative headquarters of the defunct Biafra. Is the city also witnessing pro-Biafra demonstration? Besides, the pro-Biafran agitators refer to the Imo State government officials as “sabo”, that is saboteurs, while the Imo establishment lampoons the protesters as working against the cause of Igbo presidency. In actual fact, who is sabotaging who?
Like I said in my last interview with my friends in the media, I made it plain that it is the inalienable right of every citizen to protest and request of the establishment whatever that is due them.

Agitation is a means to an end, but the issue is what is being agitated for. If you discuss the welfare of Ndi Igbo, just like other zones have agitated, it is okay. But once it is something out of reach it would definitely hit the rock. We are against anything that will break the country. Agitation for Biafra was basically born as a result of marginalisation and other issues that bordered on the insecurity of the life and property of the Igbo.

Again, what our leader of blessed memory, Ikemba Odumegwu-Ojukwu, yearned for was never outright breakaway of Ndi Igbo, but a Nigeria where equity, justice and fairness would reign. He sought for extreme federal system of Government, if you like, confederation, which agitation has refused to go away. The total secession was an option to still preserve the dignity of Ndi Igbo, which I would consider devils alternative following the incongruous and irretrievably severed relationship among the leaders of the regions in the polity then. So, our leader, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, understanding the intricacies of what is at stake, called for caution.

He did not only stop at that, he initiated a move with his colleague governors of the South-east to quell such agitation. It is unfortunate that we lost some of our children, but it is better for Nigeria to remain an indivisible entity and we shall be better for it. All I will advise is for us all to join hands and say no to ethnicity, religious bigotry and fundamentalism, by then we would have achieved 80 per cent nationhood.

With the bad state of the national economy, what can states do on their own to stay afloat?
We appreciate the sad situation in our economy. This is rather a result of complacency on the part of the preceding governments. It is a sad tale of failing to plan and relying wholly on monoculture economy. I am happy that President Buhari came at a time he came to instil discipline and to squeeze out stolen monies. I also believe that diversification of the economy is the key to saving us from this embarrassing quagmire.

Imo State as it were is just a part of the whole and whatever happens to the whole will definitely affect its part. And the way our federal system of government is structured, you cannot say you are in charge of your state economy. We still believe that this will be addressed in the nearest future. We are looking inward and our slogan has been “job, job, job; industry, industry, industry; employment, employment, employment.” We are not saying we shall be building gigantic industries but those cottage industries that are agro-based.

It will be small and medium scale enterprise driven and above all, agriculture and agribusiness. What we fail to understand is that we must as a people work out plans to feed ourselves, take care of the domestic needs and then move ahead with production of surplus for exports. This is exactly what we need to do.

Importing things like tooth pick, salt, tomatoes, pencils, plastic product and some others are quite disheartening. By the time we agree to get these things produced within, we would have salvaged the situation while expecting much more from those in science and technology to lead out in finding solutions to our dire need of machinery and researching out techniques to utilise our raw materials. Imo is ready to contribute her quota to realising the Nigeria of our collective dream.

Are you planning to do more in the area of school sports after the tournament you recently sponsored?
I thank God for what we were able to achieve between 2014 and 2015 in sports. I have always had passion in youth development, capacity building and, above all, having a healthy productive population. There are many dimensions to analysing the importance and benefits of engaging in sports. One, sports brings about discipline because there are rules in any sporting event one must abide by if you want to do well.

Engaging in sports makes for a healthy body and a sound mind. It takes the youth off crime because it is said that an idle mind is the devil’s workshop. Again, there is career and fulfilment in sports. It is in sports that you find young people become very famous at a very young age and earn so high, which changes their social status in the society. It is also a way of creating positive habits in the youth and to make them become conscious of the need to exercise even in old age for healthy living.

We were to host the first female football competition but we had to shelve that for issues of strategic importance. God willing, we shall make our youth in sports smile this year in our own little way. I love sports and I have sponsored football competitions and this has spanned over two decades. That is to show you how much I value sporting events. Last year, with my partners, we got into athletics, which was appreciated by our children and sports lovers. It was full of revelations, with sports enthusiasts applauding that little effort. We shall definitely do much more to encourage the young ones.

What major projects is the Imo State government planning to embark upon this year?
Governor Rochas Okorocha-led Rescue Mission administration has remained consistent since the last dispensation in its policy thrust, especially in the area of education, rural development, security of life and property, road and infrastructural development. Most importantly, we have been able to bring freedom back to the people of Imo State. I will take it this way, the first charge of any government is security of life and property. Another charge is interest aggregation and harmonisation, and the last charge is creating conducive environment and provision of visible and invisible incentives.

For this dispensation that is barely seven months, our focus is, like I said earlier, on building a productive base for Imo State, which we already have built the needed structure to see this come to fruition through our Community Government Council. The plank of this dispensation’s policy revolves around industrialisation, for which small, medium scale and agribusiness will take the front seat. Education is also a priority area.

His Excellency, in his belief that equipping the children and putting everyone, irrespective of the background, on equal footing, thereby giving every child equal opportunity to be what he wants to be, has continued with free and qualitative education for every child in Imo State from primary to tertiary level.