The governorship aspirant under the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Anambra State, Engr. Barth Nwibe in this interview with journalists in Lagos, speaks on his ambition. Peace Obi was at the parley
With a successful career in Engineering as well as business mogul, why do you want to go into politics?
I am aspiring to be the governor of Anambra State under APC. I believe that professionals like me should get involved in politics so that we can start the process of rebuilding our nation. Because I believe we are in crisis. We have a lot of things that are holding our nation down. We have ethnicity and tribal sentiments which do not allow us think the way we should think some of the time.
We have religion, which is holding us down in terms of our belief system. These days some people even believe in miracles, the kind that do not seem to believe that we can achieve things only through hard work. These are tendencies and belief systems that are holding us down. And the people in politics today exploit such things to their own advantage. Where I come from – South-east, we have a big failure in leadership which today has translated to youth restiveness. People are believing today that everybody is against them… So, these are challenges of leadership which we presently have in Igboland. And I believe that such needs to be addressed because if Igboland is unstable, Nigeria is unstable. And if Nigeria is unstable, none of us can attain his/her manifest destiny.
I believe that our generation as Nigerians must work to change Nigeria, and to get it to work because it is not working. It is not working because we are kind of docile. We believe that only the very wealthy could lead us, that money controls everything, not even ideas. I believe these are things that are wrong with our nation. I do not believe that some of us who have ideas and who have background should sit back and allow the present crop of people who are leading us to continue because we have not gotten anywhere.
I believe that our country is blessed and richly endowed. All of us need to do everything we need to do to get involved in politics. I am not running on the basis that I have money to surpass everybody running for this election. But I believe I have better ideas. I believe my background has prepared me for leadership. I realise that you don’t to have billions of Naira to live a useful life. I think that makes me a bit different from some of the people who are running with me today.
I have quietly touched lives in my own little, quietly without making much noise about it. I have followed leaders. I have remained steadfast in APC and ACN where I started my political life. I believe that people like us should be encouraged to continue. I believe that those who believe in PDP philosophy should continue with PDP philosophy so that Nigerians will have a choice.
I don’t think it is wise today to be in PDP and tomorrow you jump into APC for the sole purpose of contesting election. These are some of the challenges I think Nigerians have today. That is, trying to get the right kind of people to assume leadership position so that we can get politics and governance of our country right. Because if you don’t get it right we can never really do anything right.
We don’t need the 180 million Nigerians to sit together and change Nigeria. I think we need few committed Nigerians to change this country. Like I said before, the country is richly endowed in terms human capacity, in terms of resources. The only thing lacking is that we have not been courageous enough to take our country back and enthrone the right kind of leadership that will galvanise this nation. That is why I am offering myself to start in Anambra State. Get it right and if other states see that Anambra is working, maybe we replicate what we have in Anambra State everywhere and get it right for our country. The challenge is high. We stop some characters from polluting the environment. This country is in crisis because of the actions of some of these people. So, we can’t afford to sit back and allow them to continue.
I’m not a green horn in politics. I was originally in ACN. In 2011 for the House of Representative election for Aguata Federal Constituency under ACN and I have remained with the party till date. My background is oil and gas. I graduated in 1985 from the University of Nigeria Nsukka; I read Civil Engineering. Thereafter, I did my youth service in Rivers State after which I got into oil and gas business. I worked for several service companies. I worked for Halliburton, Baker Hughes Inteq, Schlumberger Drilling and Measurement and I did five years consultancy work for Shell.
In December 2005, I quit Shell and started my own business – Segofs Energy Services Limited. We are into directional drilling and measurements and oil field consultancy work and by the grace of God, we are doing well. At a point, we had over 200 people in our employment but today we are about 165. I also have investment in real estate, hospitality business and I run some other civil engineering and allied engineering companies. So that is me in terms of background.
In the course of my life, I have tried to touch the society where I come from. I founded Ugo Igboukwu Foundation about 12 years ago and we do award scholarship to brilliant students from primary, secondary and tertiary institution. I am also a patron of the Catholic Laity Council of Awka Diocese. I am a Catholic by faith. I am married with five kids. I am a member of Nigerian Society of Engineers, I have my COREN certificate. I am a member of Society of Petroleum Engineers International (SPE).
What are the specific challenges confronting Anambra State now that you hope to find solutions to if elected governor?
The first thing I would want to do for my state is to change the mind set of my people. The young men in Anambra State today do not have a role model to look up to. Today, people believe in miracles. We need to get back to get our youths realise that hard work pays and preparation helps you to do your work better at least to success.
So, we need somebody to change the mindset of our people to make them to go back to school and to realise that education is the path to success. The other problem confronting Anambra State is lack of employment opportunities for the youths. And it is because we don’t have industries in Anambra State. We don’t have industries, we don’t have power and it is affecting the youths of Anambra State. So, my first project in Anambra State will be to really make Anambra State an oil and gas state because on paper, we are.
On paper Anambra is an oil and gas state. I am sure you might have heard about Orient Petroleum which is owned majorly by citizens of Anambra State. It is a Plc. Orient Petroleum is developing the oil and gas resources in Anambra Basin. They have drilled some wells which by the grace of God, my company participated in drilling. I know they have challenges financially and boardroom. And I think the government of Anambra State needs to step in to help them get to a second level. If they get to that second level, we are going to actualise that refinery. With the refinery and the associated gas that comes out of it, we will have petrochemical companies; we will have gas companies that will power Anambra State. Once we have power, industries will spring up in Anambra State. The state has a lot of businessmen with capital but they have not been investing at home because of the issue of power. So, once we guarantee power for the industrial takeoff of Anambra, so much will happen in Anambra.
Anambra State is blessed with professionals in different fields. There is a miracle going on in little community in Anambra State today, where a US-based surgeon is building a city in his community, investing heavily in medical and other things. This is a surgeon building a world class hospital in his own community, building such much things, all the support facilities he needs to run it. And I have travelled around the world. Last December, I was in a small party in Houston hosted by a Nigerian family and in a room like this, we were about 40 people and four of the women there were Nigerian medical doctors. And when I interacted with them, I discovered that all of them want to come home. They live in U.S., but their spirit is here. But today, when we are sick here, we go to India, we go to South Africa or we go to Europe or America, depending on your pocket.
And sometimes when you get there, you meet Nigerians to look after you both in America and in Europe. The best eye doctor in UK today is a Nigerian. So, if the Arabs can build the Dubia Heir City, can we not do it? And in Enugu there, we have a Neuro Surgeon, Professor Umegbulam. He does brain surgery in Enugu there. People come from all over Africa to him. Why should we have these talents and no government in Nigeria has thought it wise to create an enabling environment for medical practice to thrive. I think we can do it in Anambra State. It does not take too much to be done. These are some of the things I think we can do differently. We do these things because of the training I have had, because of my background.
You see, we stay in Nigeria and talk about crude oil. If the white man was not here, that crude oil we would not have brought it out because this crude oil, sometimes you get them at 10 thousand feet below the ground level. And before you bring this thing out, you will meet so many challenges. It is not something you start and you meet a challenge and you will go back. When we start a well, we finish it. It doesn’t matter the budget, the thing is that when you start it, you are going to finish it. So, I have a background that if something is a task, it must be completed. It is not something you will go and cut corners. You don’t cut corners in all those things. I believe until we have this kind of mentality; until we have somebody like this prepared to govern a state, that is the only time we can get it right.
Fortunately for us, the money is no longer coming as it used. So, anybody who is going to run state now, must have the ability to think outside the box. This recession is a blessing to Nigeria because if this oil boom had continued maybe we would never have had people who will think. People have always sit back in the state and every month they send their commissioners to Abuja where they divide money. I wish that thing will dry up completely, so that everybody will go back and find how to exploit the natural resources that abound in every state to develop the state. These are things I think I can help to do in Anambra and I believe we will get it right.
What are the things you will be telling Ndi Anambra that Governor Willie Obiano is not doing well, that if given the opportunity, you will do better?
I think Obiano is doing well in the area of security, before he came there was high rate of kidnapping but I think he has done well. But then, Obiano has failed in internalising that security. He has disrupted what is called ‘town unions’ in Anambra State. Every community in Anambra State has a town union and it is the town union that built almost every community in Anambra State. He has dabbled into the politics of town union and in extension, traditional rulers. Those are areas where he has destroyed the intrinsic democracy in Igboman which is a great disservice to our people.
It is an issue that needs to be addressed and that is the only the way we can internalise the so-called security we have in place today. Obiano campaigned on the basis of 3C – continue, complete and commission. He campaigned that he was going to do what Peter Obi was doing. Today, you know his relationship with his predecessor. He did not continue, he has not completed and he has not commissioned. Everything you see on the pages of newspaper is neither here nor there. I will invite you to Anambra State to come and see the bridge Obiano built. If you google that kind of bridge that was the kind that was built 40 years ago. It is an eyesore, he defaced the capital city. You need to come and look at it, but that is what he calls his signature project.
So, I don’t know any other area Obiano had impacted. He has not really created employment for the youths. Since he took over, no government hospital has been accredited again. The schools that were handed over back to the mission, he is not funding them well. The local government administration is not really working. As at today, I don’t think we have local government chairmen. What has he really done? In fact that bridge, Dr. Chris Ngige was so annoyed that he said that the bridge needs to be demolished. I am sure you must have read about it. I don’t really know what you can say that this is the signature project Obiano has done. I don’t think that he has done so much that he should be allowed to continue.
Peter Obi campaigned that power needed to be shifted to Anambra North, it was on that basis that Obiano came in. He is going to complete his four years. I am from Anambra South, when this politics started, Chinwoke Mbadinuju was the first governor under this dispensation. He did four years and our people felt that he didn’t do well. That was why they replaced PDP then with Chris Ngige from Anambra Central and eventually, it was Peter Obi from Anambra central that won the election.
So, Anambra South did four years and our people felt like, no, no, you are not good enough to rule Anambra State. Now Peter Obi did two tenures and now power has gone to Anambra North. This is four years of Obiano, it is left for Anambra people to assess him and see whether he has done all that is expected of him. He campaigned on 3C and I don’t think he has delivered on those of 3C. And he has been very parochial and sectional in his appointments. We don’t need that kind of thing in a state like Anambra State, we should run it on the basis of merit. We should enthrone meritocracy.
Do you realise that you will be contesting with some perennial actors in Anambra politics, how do hope to beat them in this game?
I am happy that many of them today are coming into APC. But I do expect that they realise that APC is a different kind of environment. That is a party that is different from where they are coming from. I will expect that when they come in, they should undergo some apprenticeship to realise that this is an environment with a different way of thinking. Because these are guys who don’t believe in democracy who believe in the powers of Nicodemos movement. In other words, they never believed in anything straight. The kind of politics they were doing in Anambra State was a situation where during the primary election, there will be primaries in different four or five places and after that everybody will write his list and rush back to Abuja to spend money for it to be accepted. So, this is bad politics that brought Igboland to the present past.
I have said it before that the challenge in Igboland is lack of leadership. So, we certainly don’t want these kind of people to still come and pollute the environment. They are not coming on the basis that they have superior ideas or that they are trained or that they are properly educated and prepared for the challenges of leadership today. They don’t have it. The only thing they can lay claim to is that they have money. I am sure that if Ibrahim Magu (EFCC Chairman) invites many of them today, some of them will shit in their pants because the so-called money they are brandishing about, we don’t know how they got it.
So, we are not running on the basis of money. We are going to run our campaign base on ideas, based on what we can do for Anambra State. You need to take these people to task. For me, I am going to give you a copy of my CV. Right from the time I entered primary school in 1975, every year will be accounted for till date so that you will know who I am. I do hope that all these guys who are presenting themselves for leadership will account for all the years. If someone says he is a doctor, he should tell you the school where he schooled, where he earned his doctorate and the date. It is only in Nigeria that somebody will be doing politics for eight years and after eight years he tells you he is a medical doctor. It is left for you guys to profile everybody.
Leadership, governance and politics are so important that whoever offers himself for that position must be scrutinized because today you must have the fundamentals to do research on your own. If you don’t have it, you cannot provide leadership. So, such people should not be allowed to pollute the political environment. It is only when you people promote them to what they are not. They are wealthy people, but in the time past, we have had role models. We had Nnamdi Azikiwe, he wasn’t the richest Igboman then, Ikemba’s father was richer than him but Zik was the leader, M.O. Okpara. We had people like Chinua Achebe, he was a role model. It wasn’t because he was a very wealthy man. Even Ikemba Ojukwu himself, he abandoned his father’s wealth to provide leadership to the people. He did that, it wasn’t money. But today in Igboland, we have characters who come up with all kinds things. The only reason they have is that they have money in their pockets. They don’t have education. They refused to go to school when others were going to school.
You can’t say this is what they have done. This is how they acquired the so-called money. They don’t have what you can say that gave them the money they are bandying about.
So, I am sure that our people do not want such characters because they know they have anything to offer. They have done that thing in PDP for all these years and they have run Igboland aground. I am not so sure that you are happy with the quality of representation we have at the National Assembly. Have you people like Chuba Okadigbo there or K.O. Mbadiwe there? When they come out, they mesmerise you with their intellect and knowledge. Have you seen any Igboman in the mold of Femi that will stand up and move a motion, talk for two hours and make a point. What you see today, is that you see them struggling to read. They cannot even read what they write for them. Gentlemen, that is not Igboland. My people are very intelligent, my people perform so well in all spheres of knowledge. How can we leave leadership to these charlatans?
What if APGA now continue to invoke the spirit of Ikemba?
Well, we are wiser today. APGA was a fraud. Now APGA was supposed to be an independent party but it was never really independent. What they were doing was to enter into an alliance with PDP. They don’t present a presidential candidate. They allow PDP to take the presidency and take the National Assembly and then make a deal for them to be allowed to work in the states. That is what they have been doing. In fact, the soul of APGA is gone. Peter Obi signified APGA. He made APGA to stand.
You know at a stage, it used to be Ikemba’s picture on the APGA dress, after sometime, it was changed to that of Peter Obi. And when Obiano was contesting election it was Peter, Victor and Obiano. After sometimes, again, they removed Peter’s picture and it became only Obiano. Election is approaching again, they are bringing Ikemba’s picture back. Look, our people are intelligent. Even the religious people that have been backing them up, we have realised that look, we are all from Anambra State. We are going this time around to rend our ideas to the people. And whoever has the superior idea will be supported. Even Ikemba’s wife, she is not happy with the so-called APGA. If you are talking of APGA, Chike
Obidigbo was in APGA, today he is in APC. Oseloka Obaze was in APGA but today, he has left APGA.
Peter Obi who is APGA himself, he is no more in APGA. So, who is in APGA today? Even Ikemba as a true Igboman, after the civil war when he came back, he didn’t join NPP then that could be described as an ethnic party, he joined NPN. And he said, look the Igboman must have a handshake across the Niger or across the Benue. That was what Ikemba stood for. It was because of the abracadabra in PDP that made him to support APGA, but his vision was distorted. If Ikemba is alive today, I am not sure he would have continued with the goings on in APGA. So, I think APGA is a dream that has died. As far as I am concerned, the race is between whoever that emerges as APC candidate and Obiano because he has the incumbency, he has the state but the spirit of APGA is gone.
What was the last political office you held?
I have never held any political office. I contested election in 2011 to run for Aguata Federal Constituency. That has been my only incursion in politics after I was rigged out, I went back to my business but continued supporting my political party. And today, I am presenting myself as somebody who will come and move Anambra State forward. I am not a career politician.
Given your first experience and considering the calibre of people you will be contesting with, do you think your dream is realisable?
Yes! When I contested election, I know how the election went. On the field I won but they sat together somewhere and wrote the result and announced. I don’t think they have that luxury again. Things have changed in our nation. We have a president that believes in due process today. I don’t think that INEC, DSS and police will be available to them again to stay in one house and announce result and enforce it.
I know that most of these people are not even electable. I know that they can only get it if they able to fix things here and there. And I know today, they cannot do that. So, they are going to come out as ordinary people today to contest election. And I know they can’t do much. The only thing they have today is the money which they looted from the PDP government at the centre which they have in their pockets. That is the only thing they are thinking they are going to use to buy our votes in Anambra State. I am going to challenge them on the basis of ideas.
They are going to come and tell us how they are going to transform Anambra State; how they are going to create power to power the industries in Anambra State. How they are going to create employment for the youths. What are they going to do differently for our people in education, in tourism and all the other facets of life for the common man of Anambra State.
Do you have any relationship with the political structures in Anambra State and what define your relationship with the political godfathers in the state?
Let me start with my relationship with Dr. Chris Ngige is our leader. He was our leader in ACN and he is our leader in APC. So, I am one of those persons who are loyal party members. So, he is our leader. If you are saying that on the basis that he is the party leader that he is the godfather, yes, he is. I don’t know of any other godfather. In APC we don’t talk on the basis of godfather. Godfather is a PDP acronym. We don’t have godfathers in APC. If you are talking of godfather, may be in Anambra State I could be regarded as a godfather in APC because I supported many of the candidates when they were running for election. That I think settles the issue of godfather.
But I have been meeting everybody who is somebody in Anambra State, I am trying to sell my idea to them. We need to get together and rescue our state because we need to build Anambra State. Anambra State is so important that if we get it right in Anambra State, we will get Igboland right. And if things work in Igboland, that means Nigeria will get more stable. And if we get Anambra State right, that means the so-called Igbo presidency when it comes to Igboland will be a reality. So, it is important that we get it right in Anambra State.