‘Nigeria needs to show good leadership at all times’
* Anambra Politicians Are Jittery Over My Next Move
* I’ll Join APC On One Condition
Leader of Young Progressives Party (YPP) and Senator representing Anambra South Senatorial District, Senator Ifeanyi Ubah, in this interview with LEO SOBECHI, tells the story of his journey in politics, football and talent development, stressing that the Corona Virus pandemic affected plans to establish a Chinese Consulate in the Southeast. He also spoke on how politicians are ganging up preparatory to 2021 Anambra State governorship election.
How true are the claims that you are at war with some highly placed politicians in your state?
I do not have any problem, I do not think I have issues with anyone; they are the ones after me. In 2015, I worked for PDP (Peoples Democratic Party); I rose to the rank of Deputy Director, Contact and Mobilisation of the Presidential Campaign. In 2017, when I wanted to have a shot at the governorship election, there was a bit of manipulation, which I believe made things difficult for me. That same year, 2017, I was lured into APGA (All Progressives Grand Alliance) with firm promises that I would be given a ticket to vie for the Anambra South Senatorial seat.
But two days to the primary election, I was totally disqualified from vying for the Senate position in APGA. So, I went in to create my own platform, YPP to prove my point and the fact of the love people have for me. Through the mercy of God, the people voted for me and I became the Senator of Anambra South Senatorial District. I believe in destiny and what God has in store for me.
So, in all that transpired, I do not see why anybody should accuse me of fighting those powerful politicians. My offence is that I insist on serving the people to reciprocate the love they have for me, and for God’s faithfulness in my life. At times when you try to push the limits, the limits push you in turn. It is a normal thing for me; I have seen that each time people push me, God always works out His way and plans for my life. I contested the election, won clearly, and went through the hurdles of election petition, including the tribunal and superior courts for eight months.
After the Court of Appeal declared me winner, unknown to me, someone else just came in through another means, a side door, and started pushing the propaganda of academic qualification. I am unmindful of the propaganda, because it is all politics and when you do not fight back, people will assume a lot of things. They managed their propaganda, but I remained calm and focused on articulating and executing my legislative agenda. Their vile propaganda met with my strong response. So, I am not at war with anybody. I am focused on my legislative agenda.
Do you think the perceived bi-partisan collaboration in the gang-up against your election was perhaps because of your gubernatorial ambition?
Well, such might have come into play; I am taking everybody to be one. I do not know those involved in the bi-partisan conspiracy, but I know that so many people are jittery and afraid of what my next move. One is that they know I have a party that will probably give me a ticket and majority of those aspiring to be governor today are not sure of having the ticket. So, for me, I am not in the same wagon with them or the same structure with them. Some of them are looking for primaries. If I am contesting, I am going to contest straight away on my party; it is a party that is known to the people.
Has anybody come up to ask you to allow him contest the 2021 governorship on YPP platform?
I will be glad to receive the offer; I will tell the person to come on board. On my part, everyday and every week, you see people coming, endorsing you and telling you this and that. But, I am facing my legislative duties for now. As I said, when we get to the bridge, we will cross it.
Will you consider joining APC as some politicians have started doing and what should youths, your fan base in sports and politics, expect from you?
Taking the first part of your question, I will say it depends on the offer. If the APC Federal Government awards contracts for the construction of all roads in Anambra State and provide incentives for traders and industrialists in my area, I will take them serious.
So, for the youths, what I want them to expect from me is that I will continue to have my listening ears towards the masses and developing the youths. I strongly believe that we must make it and help develop our generation. I have given so much in terms of resources to get where I am, because I know that politics will help me to reshape our generational course. I am very hopeful that before the end of next year, we must have championed a course of this generational conquest and then see how we can help to advance the course of our state.
Have your legislative duties distracted you from football?
I am still struggling, my club is struggling, but God has blessed us. We are the only privately owned club that has sustained a 5-year season in Nigeria Premier League. I have not seen a private club that has sustained more than two seasons, but this is our 5th or 6th season and outside us, there is only one religious club, which is MFM (Mountain of Fire and Miracles Ministries). We are only two privately owned clubs in the national league. We are full privately owned and they are religiously owned.
I believe we are matching the government’s own club, even though it has a lot of intrigues, you cannot be fighting with government owned establishment especially in the field of play, and they have more funds than us. God has been able to sustain us.
Do you manage the stadium in collaboration with the State Government?
There is nothing coming from the State Government, but I believe that it is going to be well one day. We have done a bit and thank God our stadium is fully CAF certified. We are looking forward to upgrading areas that we need to upgrade and start attracting international matches next year.
There were complaints that it was because you did not involve the state government that you could not consider Awka, the State Capital for the stadium?
No, Nnewi is okay. I do not think we have such facility in Awka, so Nnewi was where we had such facility and sited the stadium there. It is okay for me, we are not complaining; there are lots of other things involved, not just the stadium. We have hotel that has gone close to 60 per cent, a 5-star hotel. We have a movie theatre, shopping mall, which will give commercial value eventually when the stadium kicks off.
What concerns did the FIFA President, Gianni Infantino, raise when he visited Nigeria?
I was part of those that brought him and he has always been coming. The most important thing is that he is a man that loves African football and he has been very supportive of the one-family-one-footballer-initiative. He is also bringing suggestions on how we can drive African football; instead of two years’ gap of Nations Cup, let it be four years. Also, I am a member of CAF; we are working hard to see that we continue to fight towards developing football in Africa.
How far have the youth development benefitted from the football talent hunt and do you plan to establish a football academy
If you go to Anambra State and so many states in Nigeria, we have people and youths that are getting into football and they are doing very well. It is about talent hunt, individual development and thank God, it is going well. We have an Academy, but it is not yet fully functional; it is embedded in our stadium project.
Talking about bringing Chinese Consulate to the East, how far did it go?
There are other people involved; we were supposed to go to China and something came up. I did not know who kicked against it, but we were working hand in hand with the government of China. The Consulate will come by God’s grace, let the world overcome the issue of COVID-19 first, we have some crucial decisions to take in line with that. I will like to reserve my comments for now, we are in good terms, working hand in hand and I believe that they will definitely find their feet in Anambra State one of these days.
Apart from the disease challenge, are political distractions also affecting the plans to have a Consulate?
Well, it is not. Remember that months ago, the Anambra State government opened up a division of the Court of Appeal, same thing if they want to promote China Consulate in Anambra State. Nobody knows tomorrow, but if God will help us actualise our vision for Anambra State, there is no stopping us from having the Chinese Consulate in Anambra State.
I do not know exactly what our Ministry of Health is doing, but there are certain things that tend to make me kind of jittery, because of our level of preparedness for containing such outbreaks as COVID-19.
How did the Senate handle the issue of evacuating Nigerians from China following the COVID-19 would that affect plans to revive Nigeria-China Chamber of Commerce?
I think Nigeria needs to always show that it can be compassionate towards our citizens at all times, it is al about good leadership. At the outbreak, random calls were coming from China, because there was difficulty moving around, even getting food to eat then was a problem. Those caught up in China were therefore calling for help.
There is a chamber here in Abuja, I do not know about Lagos, but what I know they have in Lagos is Nigeria/Chinese Friendship Association, I am part of the leadership and it is working.