A former House of Representatives member, Hon. Charles Chinwendu Odedo, recently declared his intention to contest the forthcoming Anambra State governorship election. He spoke to Anayo Okolie about his plans. Excerpts:
Recently, you indicated interest to contest the forthcoming Anambra governorship election, what is the motivation?
I come with a lot of goodwill having been elected twice to the House of Representatives and performed exceptionally well. In the years that I served as a member of House of Representatives, I introduced 15 Bills and 10 motions including the very popular motion on the passing of Prof. Chinua Achebe in March, 2013. Bills on telecoms Equity HB.680 and prohibition of repugnant widow practices HB. 734 among many other bills.
Down in the constituency, I developed the concept of Town-to-Town Representation, focusing on human capital development and empowerment. I awarded scholarship to over 1,000 students (both University and secondary) from every community in my Constituency. My constituency projects were spread evenly throughout all the 17 communities that make-up Idemili North and South Federal Constituency.
My people were empowered with 50 vehicles including Toyota Camry, Sienna and Mitsubishi buses. In addition to about 40 full time employments, constituents were empowered with cash to start or expand existing businesses. My decision to contest the governorship is therefore, borne out of my desire to continue the excellent service to my people. My track record of performance, my education and experience will be a great asset to this endeavour.
What is your agenda for the state if elected governor?
My Agenda for Anambra State will have as its foundation the potential, comparative advantages and capabilities of the state, both human and material resources in order to create wealth, create jobs, reduce poverty, empower our people, create the enabling environment and actively promote the private sector as the engine of growth.
I envision a befitting Capital for Anambra State and a major focus on six urban areas including Awka, Onitsha, Nnewi in the first phase and Abagana, Otuocha and Ewulobia in the next phase. Those are my 10 point priority Agenda for Anambra State. I am running to provide excellent service to our people. I have been educated in University of Nigeria and Portland University, USA. Elected twice to the House of Representative, performed exceptionally well.
The South-east people feel marginalisation in the APC-led federal government. Donâ€™t you think it would affect your dream of becoming the governor of the state?
I belief that the cries should be looked into and amends begging immediately to follow. Every part of this country should benefit from the federal government. I offer myself as part of the solution to the problems of our people. I will speak up and most important, I will negotiate to attract development to our people.
There have been a lot of defections from PDP to APC by prominent Igbo leaders and I sincerely think that this defection is good for APC. It will be critical to the party winning the forthcoming governorship election. If you look at the 2013 result of the governorship election in Anambra State, out of the four (4) leading parties in that election, three have virtually merged with the APC. If the APC aspirants are managed carefully, this could be a landslide victory for the party.
What are your chances of winning the APC primary election ahead of other aspirants?
I come with a lot of goodwill, having performed exceptionally well as a two-term member of the House of Representatives. I am a foundation member of APC having been elected to the House of Representatives under the ACN platform in 2011, when most people did not give us a chance. I have sponsored ACN/APC financially in at least five major elections, which the party won all in my constituency. For three years, I sponsored the ACN/APC party structure fully and financially in my constituency and also in part to the APC state party structure. APC members know me and my track record and I believe that they will vote for me.
There is this rumour that Dr. Chris Ngige will soon join the governorship race. Does he pose any threat to you?
Well, I think our leader Dr. Chris Ngige, is one of the very few Nigerians that have been blessed politically. He has been a governor, a senator and now a serving minister of labour. Less than 50 Nigerians fall into this category that people call GSM, meaning Governor-Senator and Minister.
Most of these GSMs are men now aspiring to be presidents and vice presidents. Ngige, belonging to this group should rather concentrate on moving higher. However, if he chooses to contest this Anambra 2017 governorship election, he risks failing in the election. He will rather be coming out late. Mind you, some aspirants have been working hard for over a year. That ambition may fail.
With about 14 aspirants on the platform of APC, how do you think the party can manage the various tendencies?
One thing you must know, our party APC is well organised and have already set up a committee to manage the situation. The South-east committee on Anambra 2017 election is made up of eminent personalities, led by the former Governor of Anambra State, His Excellency Dr. Jim Nwobodo, one of the pioneer GSMs in Nigeria.
Other members include Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu as Vice Chairman, Senator Azu Agboti, the Secretary and Senator Ifeanyi Ararume, Senator Nkechi Nworgu, Chief Gbazueagu Nweke Gbazueagu and Chief Cosmos Maduba as members of the committee.
Things are looking good because so far, the committee has performed creditably well, screening all the aspirants, keeping issues in proper perspective, guarantying a free and fair contest and most importantly, bringing in the spirit of brotherhood into the contest. APC may end up in a landslide victory in the forthcoming governorship election on 18 November 2017.
Some APC leaders are advocating a consensus arrangement, do you buy into it?
APC in Anambra State is very lucky to have a group of highly qualified and experienced aspirants from Senator Andy Ubah to Hon. Tony Nwoye, Dr. Obinna Uzoh, Engr. Barth Nwibe, Chief Ralph Okeke, my humble self and many others. I believe that whatever formula that the party adopts, if it is fair, will be acceptable to me and I believe will also be acceptable to other aspirants as well. As I said earlier, the integrity of the South-east committee is not in question and their activities so far are encouraging. If they decide on a consensus, I can assure them of my full support.
How do you assess the state government of APGA in Anambra State after a little over 3 years in office?
Thank you very much for this question. My honest assessment, using my 10-point criteria on a scale of 1-10 is as follows â€“ security: 7/10, agriculture: 6/10, road infrastructure: 6/10, health: 4/10, education: 4/10, urban development: 4/10, power: 2/10, youth development: 2/10, erosion control: 2/10 and oil and gas: 1/10.
How do you assess the APC-led federal government after 2 years in office?
I will also like to use the scale of 1-10 in my assessment of key areas.
Fight against Boko Haram: 8/10, fight against corruption: 8/10, integrity and discipline leadership: 8/10, youth and social welfare: 5/10, development of South-east: 3/10 and power: 2/10.
As a successful businessman, why did you pick interest in politics?
I have always had interest in politics even at a very young age. I wanted to participate in the student politics during my time at University of Nigeria, Enugu campus. My Head of Department at that time, Prof. J.A. Umeh banned Estate Management students from participating in student politics. So, I became a perpetual campaign manager for other aspiring students. I think I learned the art of winning from that valuable position. I was in charge of developing strategies that can help other students to win their election. I became pretty good at it.
When I proceeded to the USA for a post baccalaureate programme at Portland State University, I immediately contested election and became the President of African Student Association. That was my very first active participation in elective position. The highlight of my tenure was the invitation to the Nigeria Ambassador to the UN at the time, Ambassador Ibrahim Gambari, who came and spoke to us on the impending US war with Iraq. It was a very popular topic on campus, because of the many protests that students had held against that war. I was delighted.