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Nwafor: New Electoral Act Will Enhance Positive Political Change in Nigeria

Nwafor: New Electoral Act Will Enhance Positive Political Change in Nigeria

The Young Progressives Party (YPP) candidate in the 2023 governorship election in Abia State, Sir Enyinnaya Nwafor, a renowned entrepreneur at a recent session with journalists explained his development agenda for the state and the capacity of the 2022 Electoral Act to engender positive changes nationwide, among others. Gboyega Akinsanmi brings excerpts:

As a private sector actor, you have done well in your business. What is your political experience that qualifies you to want to contest the governorship election in Abia State?

I come from a politically conscious family. My father, Dr. Chima Nwafor, was the first Deputy Governor of Abia State. He served under Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu. I see myself as someone with enough political background. What we are experiencing in Abia State today is not just about having a political background. It is mainly about having political will – I mean the passion, the spirit, the exposure and the competence – to drive development in Abia State. As someone that provides jobs for over 1,500 persons in the state, I have been able to make very difficult and hard decisions. I do not have political experience per se. But there is no place where we do not play politics. Even in our homes, we play politics. Now, what we really need in my state is having a governor with a clearer sense of direction and investment to drive much-needed development. It is having the passion to drive development rather than having a political background. I am not the one that will do it alone. We are a team of concerned people determined to develop the potential of Abia State. Some of us have superb political exposure. I will bring in my corporate exposure. We will work together as a team and towards the development of our state.

Political structure – both personal and party – is very important. Now, you are contesting on the platform of the Young Progressives Party (YPP). How will you be able to wrestle with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that has been ruling Abia since 1999?

I agree that PDP has ruled the state for many years. I do not like talking about what has happened. I am aspiring to serve as the governor of Abia State. Now, the youth are at the forefront of what is going on in our state. They really want a change. Our party, YPP, is largely a platform for the youth. They know my concern for the people of the state. They know my exposure, experience and passion to meet their needs and aspirations. They know what I stand for. They know that if they give me the opportunity, to the glory of God, I will drive development in the state and realise the Abia of their dream. It does not really matter whether I am contesting on the platform of the YPP or any other party. The waves are strong. The demand for a change is high. For now, that is the spirit of the Abia people.

The people of Abia State are conversant with the reign of PDP in Abia State for 23 years. In a way, they are politically acculturated. With this entrenched political culture, do you think people are ready for the change you intend to bring to the state?

If you ask any person in Abia, they will tell you what is happening there today. When they sleep, they sleep for a change. When they eat, they yearn for a change. When they dream, they dream for a change. The people of our state do not just want a change, but a positive change that drives development with a young man that is competent, energetic and exposed at the helm of affairs. And that person is me.

What really inspired their quest for a change? Is it because they are tired of the PDP?

Like I said, Abia is a state blessed with several mineral resources. The people want a change that will drive development. They want a change that will bring about restoration of the dignity of our people. They want a change that will make the youths add values and be resourceful. They want a change that will attract investors to the state; create wealth among the youth and position the state for sustainable development. This is at the cornerstone of our development agenda.

To put it in direct language, does the quest for a change suggest that the previous governments have failed?

Honestly, the previous governments have done their best. But their best might not be good enough for the youth of 21st century in Abia State. This better explains the quest for people-driven change that we are currently witnessing in all local government areas in Abia today.

There are some issues in Abia State. We have the Abia Charter of Equity. What part of Abia are you from? Do you think the zoning arrangement will favour your governorship aspiration?

That is true. We have the Abia Charter of Equity. If you ask the Abia people what they need now, they will tell you they need a man that will drive high-level development in the state and be able to give them the Abia of their dream. The people of Abia no longer care about where who governs comes from. To me, as a person, I am the governorship candidate of the YPP with all humility. I am not talking for other people. But for us, we are after competence, exposure and commitment to the development of our people and state at large.

What are your plans for Aba, the most industrial city of Abia State? How do you intend to turn the city around?

It is known fact that Aba is the commercial hub of the state. There is a lot about Aba. Let me share this idea with you. In 2016, we did a housing survey in Aba and its environment. We documented over 560,000 houses. With such a level of development in Aba, we can enhance our internally generated revenue (IGR). As a result, we can generate enough revenue to make Aba what we can call the Japan of Africa today. With such resources, we can construct good roads; implement sound waste disposal programmes; enhance public security; pursue aggressive youth development in that locality and execute skill acquisition programmes for the youth to enable them add value. We have a lot of people-driven programmes we have outlined for implementation in Aba City if eventually elected. The programmes include massive road infrastructure, good waste disposal programmes, enabling public safety and security and promoting export programmes. In Aba, there is a place called Bakassi Market where they make shoes, belts, bags and do other leather works. The quality of what they produce there can meet the standard anywhere in the world. These people are not lazy. They work very hard. They need a government that will assist them. Whatever they produce in Aba can be exported out of the country. For instance, Vietnam alone has an export value of over $20 billion through the leather business. The distance from Vietnam to the United States is over 17,300 miles. Onne is the closest port to Aba. What can we do to drive development in Aba? We will not say the road between Aba and Port Harcourt is a federal or state road. We will do everything we can do to fix the road. If we encourage people in Aba, it will generate revenue for Abia. Most times, I try not to talk about Aba alone because I am aspiring to govern Abia State. But when you talk about Abia State, you talk about Aba in terms of commerce and trade. You can imagine what the people in Bakassi Market can do. If we begin to export their products, it will yield revenues for the state. With a distance of 8,584 miles, exporting from Vietnam to the United States takes 72 days. That of Onne takes 28 days with a distance of about 6,718 miles. No business will waste time going to Vietnam again. If these people are encouraged, if we give them government support and if we can implement export processing programmes to enable them have confidence in what they are producing, to some extent, the issues around commerce will be resolved in Aba.

You have excellent ideas. Although they say looks can be deceptive, you look too gentle for the tough business of politics. Are you ready for the tough battle ahead?

Let me tell you something. Governance is not about fighting. We are not going to war. For me, it is all about mental capacity to lead the people in the right direction. It is about what you have achieved over time. I have done so well in my private business to the glory of God. I will definitely do better if the people of Abia entrust me to lead them for four years. Governance is about getting the right people to drive our development agenda. It is about implementing people-oriented policies. It is about being focussed on the pursuit of people’s aspirations and needs. It is about knowing what the people want. It is about having the political will to do what the people want. It is not all about a strong face, squeezing your face or frowning your face for you to be able to do the right thing. Like I always tell my people, I believe in programmes of work. I believe in setting my goals – short-term, mid-term and long term goals.

Of course, Abia is a part of the South-east. What will be your approach to the geo-political zone if elected?

Collaboration! Cooperation!! Synergy!!! We must work together as a people. For me, political affiliation should be a barrier to the pursuit of South-east development agenda. Abia is a part of the South-east. I am also from the South-east. I believe all the governors must have a clear sense of direction. And that sense of direction must revolve around regional development and  investment  that will be in the interest of all the states in the South-east. That can be achieved through commerce, industrialisation and trade. I told my team of consultants when we were trying to construct some roads. In Abia State, those roads are divided into 352-kilometre roads across the state. We call them economically viable roads, 352-kilometre roads. These are the roads that link Abia with other South-east states. If elected, we will concentrate on these roads that connect us with other states in the geo-political zone. When these roads are reconstructed, economic activities – commerce, trade and industrialisation – will boom exponentially. We cannot drive these projects without robust synergy with Anambra, Eboyin, Enugu and Imo States. There must be synergy with these states. What I mean by synergy is robust collaboration to the interest of the people of the South-east.

If elected the Governor of Abia State, what will be your priority in the first 100 days in office?

Honestly, I do not believe in 100 days. Let me tell you the reason for my belief. Most governors celebrate the first 100 days because they are in a hurry to please the people. I have my programmes – short-term, mid-term and long-term. I am not the governor to please any person. I am the governor to serve my people and bring about people-driven development in my state. At the end of the day, I will prefer to be asked: what do you think you should have done for your people in your handover note? In your handover, therefore, I will like to be seen as a governor that ushers in a new Abia, to the glory, for all the people of the state. I want to be seen as a governor whose ideas birth an industrialised Abia where investors must have come with massive investments. I want to be seen as a governor who has created wealth for the people of the state. I want my people to see me as a governor who passionately drives people-oriented development.

As we approach the election year, what will be your advice to the people of Abia State?

As we all know, 2023 is a year of critical decisions. As a people curiously yearning for a positive change, we must sacrifice for the kind of change we are all demanding. Every person of Abia origin must play a role in realising our quest for a positive change. For the kind of change we need, there is a lot to do. We must not sit at home. We cannot keep quiet and dream about change. As a matter of fact, we must all get involved. We thank God for the new electoral reform. Under the Electoral Act, 2022, there is a high level of confidence in the electoral process. With this reform, people must rise up and take our state back. We must elect a leader that will restore the dignity of man in Abia State to the glory of God.

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