Segun James engages Iboro Otu, an entrepreneur with interest in media, agriculture and construction, who claims to have what it takes to govern Akwa Ibom State.
What motivates you to contest for the office of governor of Akwa Ibom State?
Over the years, I have witnessed the continuous yearnings of the Akwa Ibom people for a government that is effective, inclusive, equitable, transparent, accountable, futuristic and respects the rule of law. Past governments have always under delivered because they lacked these qualities. The people of this great state deserve the best and that is what I am offering them.
I am pleased to tell you that I have been working tirelessly with a great and dedicated team with whom I have diligently formulated strategies, policies and plans that will lead Akwa Ibom to a glorious destination.
We will operate a policy where decisions are made transparently in the best public interest, where the right people are provided with the right tools and motivation for the right jobs; where services are provided without favour, where our children’s futures are guaranteed, where our lives are protected, and where responsibility and professionalism are our watch word.
What difference do you think you can make to the development of Akwa Ibom state?
The world is moving into a new era dependent on technology; from solar energy dependence, digital agronomy to the Internet. We must be part of it. Solutions for food, shelter, security and socio-economic transportation are issues many developed countries are tackling comprehensively. These are solutions we can build upon and dominate in our state. The world is in huge demand for skilled and knowledgeable workforce, so it makes sense that we invest in our key priority areas of education, health, ICT and agriculture.
The rewards are evident, considering the abundance of investment capital worldwide. I am willing to lead the great people of Akwa Ibom state to make this our reality. Given the abundance of talents that in this state, my ultimate goal is to make Akwa Ibom the ICT hub of the nation; a state where everything will be technology driven. It is with this urgency that I therefore seek the people’s mandate so that we can effectively implement strategies to guide and strengthen our people economically and socially.
What will be your priority as governor?
We will be prioritising and will invest massively in health care services. Nigerians spend more than 500 billion Naira yearly on medical tourism, meanwhile spread across Akwa Ibom state are numerous abandoned housing projects we can convert into healthcare facilities and research centres across all local government areas. We can begin to lead the world in medical and healthcare services. We will dedicate 15 per cent of capital expenditure in our budget allocation to healthcare services that will reap rewards in just two years.
Education will get another 15 per cent of our capital expenditure in our budget allocation. Education is the cheapest route to a secure and prosperous future. If anyone is in doubt, a look at how far ignorance has brought us as a people through the last decade is prove.
Agriculture is a priority sector. Our focus is to create employment through agriculture by servicing the global market with goods and commodities, generating billions in the process and rejigging the state’s economy. Mechanised farming and agro-based processing will leverage on ICT to serve both local and national markets.
The fourth priority area is ICT. We will invest heavily on ICT so that everything in the state from education to health and agriculture will be driven by technology.
This does not mean security, transportation, housing, sports, culture and tourism, and all the other ministries and parastatals are unimportant. We will invest marginally in those too. What we will do is prop up the whole system by investing massively in the four key areas mentioned in order to crystallise activities that will underpin the future we all want to see.
Through our four priority areas of ICT, agriculture, health and education, we will achieve our mandate to bring unparalleled economic development and prosperity to our state. That is our dream. That is the way forward.
What is your impression about governance in the state?
A vicious cycle seems to have befallen us since the dawn of democracy in1999. It seems we gather in ethnic groups, zone-pick our leaders, fight to the death – destroying everything in our path until we get our way- then we start again. This unending vicious cycle has not taken us anywhere. It must stop now.
There is a way we can have a responsible, lasting, efficient and inclusive government that addresses the need of the Akwa Ibom people. There is a way we can provide adequate employment for our youths and individuals of working age. There is a way we can crystallise a vibrant state economy through a combination of incentives and commerce-friendly policies. There is a way we can provide adequate health infrastructure for ourselves and our children unborn. We have developed that way. That is what will make the difference. That is what I offer. That is what the people need.
What promises and pledges do you now make to the people?
It is with humility before God that I offer my service to the Akwa Ibom people and I pledge to run an effective, transparent and visionary government that is inclusive, community based and underpinned by the desires of the Akwa Ibom people. I also promise to strengthen the socio-economic base of our state by prioritising commerce, cooperatives and development through citizen friendly policies, laws and investments.
I also pledge to revitalise the God-given entrepreneurial and industrial zeal in every Akwa Ibom citizen, providing the necessary tools, skills and orientation necessary to prepare our people as the workforce of the future for our state, country and continent.
What about youth development?
The youths are very important. I have great faith in our youth. I have over the years studied with great enthusiasm the ability of our youth to develop and run series of projects across the length and breadth of our dear state. This belief in our youth led to my founding ALERT Nigeria (Ambassadors for Leadership and Entrepreneurial Responsibility), a youth-oriented development platform spread across the 31 local government areas of Akwa Ibom state. Indeed, the results we have recorded are milestones.
Right now, in a remote village tucked somewhere in every LGA in the state is a young man or woman with the ardent belief in self, working smart and efficiently towards a better life and effectively contributing their quota to the development of our communities and society.
Our policy on education, health, ICT and agriculture is primarily targeted at the youths. We intend to invest in the lives and future of the people by launching and implementing our Ibom Future Plan, a holistic, inclusive and comprehensive community led approach to leadership, entrepreneurship and community development, preparing the youths for the challenges and engagement of the 21st century. If we can do this as private citizen, we intend to do more when elected as governor of Akwa Ibom state.
On the challenges ahead, what do you have to say?
I am aware of the challenges ahead; yet, I believe in the resolve of the great people of Akwa Ibom to seek for a better future for themselves and their children. They deserve the best and that is what I am offering, the best; and knowing that together we will mobilise every resource to meet and counter every challenge and difficulty on our path to development and prosperity. We can do it; we will do it.
On the way forward
The way forward begins with us seeing beyond the horizon of ethnic divide in mutual respect and brotherliness. I often thought to myself, what if Akwa Ibom sons and daughters were given N100 million each, what would they achieve? What if our team of advisers were made commissioners? What if our resource persons were investors –local and international? Whenever I imagine the scale of possibilities, I see a way. The way doesn’t have to be big, complex and burdensome; it has to be simple and direct.
I have put together a comprehensive masterpiece that will get us to the place of our dream. Agriculture is a priority sector. Our focus is to create employment for our young men and women; we need to understand that we all have to work together to make our future great. It goes beyond meaningless personal wealth, great speeches, and empty promises. It calls for humanity, self-searching and forgiveness.