The Peoples Democratic Party governorship candidate in Ebonyi State in the 2023 general elections, Dr Ifeanyi Odii, speaks with EDWARD NNACHI on the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu’s ordeals, the Igbo presidency, Ebubeagu security outfit among other salient issues
Nnamdi Kanu has accused South-East Governors and leaders of paying lip service over his release from Department of State Service custody, even after the Court of Appeal had given such an order. What’s your take on this, sir?
I believe that due process should always be followed under a democratic dispensation.
The authorities are not expected to interfere with the orders of courts of competent jurisdiction on any matter whatsoever.
There have been calls for a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction, and the former governor of Anambra State, Dr. Peter Obi, is in the race. Would you support him in 2023? If not, why?
I don’t think this is a fair question. I am a member of the PDP and the party’s governorship candidate in my state. Do you expect me to leave my own party’s presidential candidate to support another candidate just on the basis of ethnic affiliation? No, please don’t let us degenerate to that level.
Many Ebonyians have reportedly died as a result of inter-communal clashes in the state, and this has assumed a disturbing dimension. How does this make you feel? Suggest measures aimed at tackling this, sir.
The communal crises in Ebonyi State reflect governance failure in the state. I will do things differently. I will embark on economic policies of wealth creation and youth empowerment.
There will be jobs for the teeming youth. We shall end the strategy of “divide and rule” in the state, and the local government system will be restored to operate efficiently to take care of the rural communities. When the citizens are happy, communal disturbances will cease.
If you look at statistics from the National Bureau of Statistics, you find that Ebonyi State is on an upward trajectory in education, health, etc. If you are elected, what would you do differently to address this?
Well, just this afternoon I have been reviewing my manifesto, which I will make public very soon. This is because one of the things I have done over the years is identifying the immediate needs of the people of Ebonyi State. According to the same NBS, Ebonyi is currently the third poorest state in the country and ranks 34th out of 36 states in terms of ease of doing business.
With these, you can tell whether the people are impoverished or not. For me, a lot of things have gone wrong in the state. And this is why, for someone like me, I have done a lot of research even before I nursed the ambition of contesting to become the state governor. Soon I will make my manifesto public, and when that is done, the Ebonyi people will know that I have the antidote to tackling their problems.
My manifesto is narrowed down to a four-point agenda. And in that manifesto, you’ll find that I mentioned education and healthcare and talked about wealth creation and security. These are the four immediate things we should be thinking of. On wealth creation, you have what I called new infrastructure—this has to do with the needs of the people. We also talked about investment portfolios that will be attracted to Ebonyi State.
Ebonyi State still remains the poorest state in the South-East, and when you have the poorest in your midst, don’t expect to have a society that will be free from social vices. There must be criminality, because the first enemy of mankind is hunger. It’s only hunger that brings your self-esteem to zero, no matter the level of education you have acquired. Only God can save a man who is hungry from thinking otherwise.
Until recently, you may have been convinced that your key challenger is the All Progressives Congress, and maybe the All Progressives Grand Alliance. Now that the wave of the Labour Party is growing because of Dr. Peter Obi, don’t you think this will automatically hinder your chances of winning in 2023?
I don’t think there’s anything that will mitigate my chances of winning. I don’t have any fears. I’ve always known what I was bringing to the people of Ebonyi State. Another thing is that I’m running for governor today, and people know about it.
Let’s approach it this way: What have you done for your people? Again, what would you do when you got into office as governor? If I should answer that question, I would ask myself, “Odii, what have you been doing for the people before now?” In the last 18 years, I have built schools for our people. In the last 18 years, I have built about 130 houses for our people. I have built nice churches, and I have over 1000 people under my scholarship. I have implemented healthcare and other empowerment schemes for our people. These are the things I think people should be looking at. I think I should be able to do more when I am even in government. This is my selling point.
Therefore, I’m not scared of what people are coming to say about other political parties. I’m very focused and confident about myself and my party, the PDP.
There have been reports of Ebebeagu operatives attacking, harassing, and victimising opposition politicians in the state. Don’t you think no opposition gubernatorial candidate would be allowed to cruise to victory, even if Ebonyians gave him the mandate, come 2023?
We will soon get over this issue of insecurity and victimisation for our members and the government in power, which is trying to use coercion to create fear in the polity.
Power belongs to the people; power does not belong to the ruling party. The good news is that today’s Ebonyi people have grown so wise that nobody can push them around anymore.
Ebonyi people know who they want as their leader. They have an idea of the kind of government they want and the kind of governor who will help ensure that such a government is achievable and sustained in the state come 2023. You can do anything or use coercive tendencies or what have you, but the truth is that Ebonyi people are not scared anymore and they are equal to the task.
There is the issue of the executive order in the state. Many people or politicians in the state are said to be unwilling to campaign because of the order, which states that a N5m refundable fee must be paid before campaigning. What’s your take on that?
Executive orders, in our opinion, should be reviewed by a sitting governor’s legal team before being issued to the public.
However, in the prelude to the 2023 election, the 2022 Electoral Act supersedes every order (as far as electoral matters are concerned).
Independent National Electoral Commission has made its guidelines public, and that electoral umpire allows us to use public facilities for campaigns. When someone says you cannot use markets, schools, and parks, the person is indirectly saying there shouldn’t be campaigns or rallies and thereby trying to circumvent the Electoral Act. And what I know is that anything you are doing that’s not in line with the law can’t stand the light of day. People will definitely go to court, and I’m sure a lot of people have already approached the court for redress. I am sure very soon we will get over it.
You are seeking to succeed Governor Umahi, who has obviously built roads and other sundry infrastructure. Why do you think Ebonyi people should leave him and his APC to support you?
For me, I’m not saying Ebonyi people should abandon anyone. It’s about the people, the manifesto, and what you have done. You earlier asked me a question concerning the records from the NBS, and I answered.
Now, today, you are a citizen of a state that’s regarded as the poorest in the country. What that means is that even if you build all the roads and flyovers but have not built the people (human beings), you have not done much.
For me, I will focus on human capital development. Like I said earlier, I will go into new infrastructure, the type that will revolve around the immediate needs of the people. I’m not saying I won’t build roads, but then I will first consider the impact those roads have on the people. Check it out today. How many of our farmlands have good roads leading to them? There aren’t any.
My government will prioritise the immediate needs of the Ebonyi people, and then I will allow them to grow with them. If you don’t do that, it will be a misplaced priority, which is where Ebonyi State is currently. I will focus on ensuring that our children go to school; I will ensure that Ebonyi State becomes a business haven for investors; and I will ensure that I industrialise the state. Today, how many industries do we have in Ebonyi State?
What’s the level of commercial activity in the state? Talking about building airports, which I know is another misplaced priority, how many Ebonyi people travel by air to warrant building an airport now – just a very few. I know of a state that finished building an airport, but no flight has landed on that airport because there are no passengers. Why waste these resources that could have been judiciously channelled into other sectors that would have been more beneficial to the masses?
Thanks for reading…
CREDIT: PUNCH NEWSPAPERS