Ifeanyichukwu Okonkwo, the gubernatorial aspirant of Action Democratic Party (ADP) tells Kasie Abone that he was in the race to change the leadership narrative in Anambra State
What is your motivation to want to be next governor of Anambra State?
I have been seeking consistently an opportunity to serve as a governor in Anambra is predicated on two issues; one is that I understand the mythology of the Igbo man and I have a dream and passion to organise the kind of leadership by example that would build new Igbo land. That is my primary interest. More particularly, for my political parish from Anambra State we have the shortcoming of not understanding what the power equation is in Nigeria; more so, that politics is a group activity. It is an individual business. Because one biggest problem of people from my political parish is that we have done very well as individuals but we have not been able to get it right with collective issue which is politics.
We have not been able to articulate what are the issues that challenge us and using political platform to resolve those issues. And one of the most critical things is that we must understand that you must have to make a demand on the system. One of the greatest gifts we have is those things we have packaged in our constitution which nobody can tamper with which are our natural human rights. And it is only when you have a strong government, a strong leadership that can protect those inalienable rights that is one of the greatest challenges we have. The people from my political parish, which are the Igbos, have been complaining about intimidation, marginalisation and the violation of their rights. But they have not been able to articulate these issues to be able to engage the federal government. So we have been playing politics as an individual game rather than a group game. That is what I can bring into politics being somebody who understands the political religion in the country.
What other gaps did you observe that you will fill if elected?
The most important thing is that we are confronted by a system that is not working; and we are not helping each other by organising ourselves to dismantle those obstacles. The first obstacle is that the political elites have been able to disenfranchise and eliminate the best minds in our community for organising for power rather those elites who should be the engine room of philosophy of government and will superintend the distribution of the goods that will enhance life decided to take the shorter end of the sticks by being agents of those mediocre political fathers. That is the greatest shortcoming we have. If we are able to build self-esteem, the intellectual class, that there must be a meeting point between the intellectual class, the youths, we can fashion a dream of reintroducing growth in our economy. That is why there is so much decadence and loss of family value in Anambra state. It is the greatest challenge; the challenge of leadership.
Why should the electorates trust you?
The greatest challenge in politics is how to cultivate trust because trust is the treasury of a political institution but the mythology of evaluating individual is records. I have a track record that is sellable; I have a track record that can put me above any other candidate. I always tell people that in my Igbo parish, you go to a native doctor so that he can attend to your problems, and first thing you ask yourself is, is there any sign board introducing the native doctor? You must have come there by reference.
Either you came by reference or you look at the antecedents of the native doctor then know his history and submit yourself to his treatment. I have a record of political exposure of over 32 years that I have been an activist and I have been presenting myself to lead which no other individual of my generation can surpass that record. It is a selling point. Also I come from a constituency that have never voted during elections; and that is the intellectual class. And that is the first problem I would want to resolve to make them get interested who becomes the next governor of Anambra State.
What is your take on zoning?
My people have a saying that when you want to deny somebody a certain portion of meat you must introduce something to make him not to be interested in the first place. So it is either you introduce a new value system that women don’t eat it or that it is not for children. Who introduced zoning, you may ask? They are those political elements, with all due respect, who have been in the lime light and have not built any new leader. Those who in the last seventeen years have not been able to build a party secretariat.
These are those who believe that the parlance of Igbo man for excellence, and we are looking for the best man who would lead our people at the crucial moment in our history; that they are looking for a weakling who will make returns to them. But I symapthise with them. But the choice is left for the Anambra people if they believe that the best way to devour animal that may consume all of us in future will be reserved for mediocres. I say no more because I have never seen any reasonable law they are using to eliminate excellence an enthrone mediocrity. What I want to say is that those people want zoning in Anambra State have been the people who denied the Anambra child a dream. They have not built any new leader. So, I don’t believe in them. The political party that gave me the platform doesn’t recognise those.
Your party is new and people tend to vote for political parties rather than individuals. How do you intend to overcome that challenge?
My party is new but I am older than any other political element in Anambra State. That is one advantage. Anambra does not vote for party, they vote out of sentiments. People cajole them. The particular party that has been in power for twelve years in Anambra State has no working secretariat; they have not been able to conduct a free and fair local government election. They have not thrown up any leader. They have run the budget of Anambra State from 2007 till today and it is all zero budgeting. They have become richer. They own the only source of income in Anambra State. They own the shopping malls. They are the people who determine what you get. They have not been able to add value to Anambra State.
Money plays a huge role in politics. Are you a moneybag or do you have a godfather?
I don’t believe in godfatherism; I believe in a marketplace of ideas. Anambra State is not a backward state. One of the greatest challenges we have today is that every home in Anambra State is now challenged either by human rights issue, by corruption issue, by environmental issue and devastation in the erosion of family values. Anambra has the opportunity to set our agenda for development.
The issue of money politics and godfather is now old-fashioned. You want to build a road, you don’t have engineers that would use modern tools to design and supervise the road. And then you award the project to a contractor. You have lost value because you have not been able to create the type of capacity that would help you to manage those assets.
What machinery do you have in place to win the election?
My greatest weapon for going into this election is knowledge and my ability to reach out and put things on the table. The other thing I am going to use is the instrumentality of the law which everybody knows that I am the prefect of the class. I don’t know any other thing. Everybody in Anambra State knows that I am intellectually sagacious. So, I don’t know any other weapon. I have presented myself as the man in this election. I have the credentials, I have the pedigree. I have the knowledge and I am not corrupt. I know all the candidates; I know their worth. They know that if I become the governor they would regurgitate all the security votes they have collected. I am the one they have to fear.
Igboland as a whole has been under siege, does this situation worry you?
Yes, Igbo land is under siege because we don’t have leadership. We have lost the type of leadership that would engage Nigeria.We have been intimidated because we have left the system for mediocres. They have no record of having stood for anything. Of course, that is what I am going to brandish, that I have been a fighter; that I have stood on the side of the people and fought for them. I have never been in government, I have never been compromised. I have never stolen anybody’s money.
What in your own view is the future of the Igbo?
Our people have lost the self-esteem to raise their heads and challenge those who have kept them down. I need to rebuild that psychological disposition of new leaders. We have been concentrating on individual prosperity and lost the group war.
If you win the election, how would you want the people of Anambra to assess you in the first four years?
The first assessment you look at is the human development index. Who and who are in my government? What capital infrastructure that would give us a competing edge have I been able to put on the ground? It is going to be those indices that are going to determine the future of our people. The institution of education; the institution that is going to give us a face to be able to tell the story of Anambra; our opportunity to dominate our environment; our resolve to engage those policies that have made it impossible for us to compete; our opportunity to move into the system and create a space that in the new world order we can compete.
What message do you have for the electorates in Anambra State?
The message I have for them is that the elites have been our problem because they have decided to be aloof in what the issues would be in an election. It is because of their aloofness that money politics have crippled in. it is because they have not taken stand on issues that is why mediocres are all over the place. I am challenging them to go back to their communities to see the decay; that the youths have been so much disorganized that they have lost focus. We are nowhere in modern technology. We are nowhere in education. We don’t even understand how to take care of our community in terms of healthcare, manpower development. Eighty percent of our people have decided that the best place to stay is outside Igbo land and I am against it. We must reengineer the philosophy of development in Nigeria.
You talked about the elites, are you not one of them?
I am but I have refused to be sucked into their tranquillising lifestyle. I have continued to burn the midnight oil to put a plan that would mobilise the good men and women of Anambra State so that we can begin to push in one direction.