By Ismail Omipidan
Akolisa Ufodike, is a governorship aspirant on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP). He speaks on his aspiration and other issues of interest.
A lot of Nigerians were surprised when you came out for Anambra governorship race. When did you start thinking about the aspiration?
It’s been a long while coming. I have a heavy heart for the political situation in Nigeria and I have always known that at some point, I was going to come back as a political candidate and contribute my part. The opportunity came up right now in 2017 with Anambra State being in disarray under the current government and I decided to take the plunge.
Why governorship and not any other elective position?
That’s an excellent question, I have actually had lots of senior members of the party suggest that perhaps, I should contemplate senate or run for House of Representatives. But here is my position on that. First of all, my accolades to the legislature for passing the not too young to run bill, I will be 44 on this October, I look lots younger than I am really but that is beside the point. In Canada, there is Prime Minister who is two years older than me and in France, they have got a president who is younger than I am but in Nigeria, people think that a 44 year old is a youth and too young to govern. Just by way of background, I spent my last 20 years in an industry in Canada; my last role was as a Chief Financial Officer and Chief Economic Officer for the largest rural internet provider. That’s a company that got revenue the size of a small state in Nigeria. I was able to lead that organisation through several ranks of financing and through growth. And I could do that competently irrespective of my age because of my experiences, professional experiences and my work ethics. And so, ultimately, that is my perspective, that in Nigeria, we don’t need to create a hierarchy driven by age or other norms that are predefined by third parties if I may say that loosely, but should be driven by competence and work ethics. Ultimately, I think there is probably a lot of very qualified Nigerians who live in Lagos, Awka and Abuja that are younger than me, and perhaps even more qualified to govern. I will wrap up by referring to General Yakubu Gowon who governed this country at the age of 29. He wasn’t too young to govern then, so a 29 year old is not too young to govern now.
You were disqualified on the grounds that you have dual citizenship, but later cleared. How do you address that?
The verdict shows that the revived PDP is willing to show that it has learnt from mistakes of the past and internal democracy is alive and well. I intend to be the last candidate in any party who is disqualified for the reason of dual nationality and will carry the message broadly across party lines that national born Nigerian citizens can run for any office. This will help check people exploiting the provisions of 182 by reading it without consideration to 28
Looking at the way Governor Obiano has run the state in the last four years, what are the things that you think you can improve on?
The more obvious one, I may start with, is security. There are several things but when it comes to security, the state has been doing it in a nonchalant way. For commerce to thrive, for people to feel safe when going out, they need securing in their daily existence and daily dealings. Obviously, part of security involves an apparatus that is owned by the federal government but it requires collaborations with the state. We cannot source all our failures in the federal government and do away with the fact that the governor remains the Chief security officer of the state and that it is one of his obligations, to make sure that the state is safe and secure. I come from a military background, I understand what it takes and what it requires to ensure that there is required level for collaboration between all levels of security apparatus in the state and federal level. And frankly, I understand why daily briefings should start with the security briefings. I obviously don’t have the inner knowledge of the workings of the current state house but I can assure you that the information that we get is that a lot of the incidents relating to the security that have happened in the state recently, could have been avoided if necessary steps were taken. I think that if we are talking collaborations between all levels of the security apparatus that we have at our disposal and the state played its part as a coordinator of that information, I think I would have done a much better job to make sure that the state is more secured because nothing else if there is no security, forget about commerce and everything else that you are trying to implement.
What is your take on the agitations by IPOB for a state of Biafra?
People are disillusioned in the South-East and the IPOB agitation is not without reason. But we need to be consultative in our approach with dissent so that we take the merits of that dissent to foist collaboration as we cannot assess the agitation in a binary way i.e it’s right or wrong but more like a gradient or spectrum where there is some right and how can we come to terms on those elements that are indeed credible as that will allow us calm nerves and bring and keep dissenters at the table. IPOB as it is, is a critical issue that an incoming governor will have to deal with as soon as he steps into office.