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Greg Ibe: I’ll give equal treatment to all geographical divides in Abia State

By Guardian Nigeria
07 December 2022   |   4:40 am
I aspired to be the governor of Abia State in 2014 and the governor then asked me to hold on for the sake of the Abia zoning formula, which favoured the Ngwa community.

Gregory Ikechukwu Ibe

Professor Gregory Ikechukwu Ibe is the founder and chancellor of Gregory University in Uturu, Okigwe, and the APGA governorship candidate for Abia State. In this interview with newsmen he states why he wants to be governor and what he intends to achieve while in office. The Guardian was there.

You left PDP to pick the ticket of APGA for the 2023 governorship. Why?
I aspired to be the governor of Abia State in 2014 and the governor then asked me to hold on for the sake of the Abia zoning formula, which favoured the Ngwa community. I had earlier written to the governor as well as the party. It was documented that by 2023, I would be out again as the adopted candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) based on what was agreed. I came out and unfortunately the people in power decided to make a change on the Abia Charter of Equity, a charter written and signed by our forefathers, elders, and stakeholders. It became a one-man affair.

I decided to return to the All Progressives Grand alliance (APGA), a party of principle. I decided to come to APGA to make sure that our people speak with one voice. I am happy that I came in to provide all my ability, all that I have been by way of experience and service to the people; I want to make sure that Abia and Ndi Igbo become properly integrated into the Nigerian experiment. That is a lot of challenge ahead for me.

What other reasons led to your choice of APGA as a platform for your governorship contest?
APGA’s original concept was that Ndi Igbo should all come together, under one umbrella, just as the Yorubas had at various times come together to form a party that united them in their quest to rule the country. Our embrace for nationalism did not allow us to do this, especially in the Third and Fourth Republics. However, the politics of Nigeria has taught us that those that come together as brothers have a better negotiating power than those with nationalistic tendencies. It is not that we are not or should not be nationalistic but that your negotiating power and influence should begin from the home base. Charity, it is said, begins at home.

You will play the game of nationalism better if your negotiating power is assured. When this alignment is achieved, people will know that associating with us will bring the best returns to both sides, with appreciative dividends that make everybody happy and equal before God. That is what APGA represents, and I feel at home standing in for APGA today. God showed His light to me by making sure that I won the primary when it mattered most. God proved that He has made it that I should go and work for my people. I have no doubt in me that with APGA, Ndi Igbo must come together.

Among the other key participants, Uche Ikonne, Alex Otti, and Ikechi Emenike, what are your advantages and weak points over them?
With all due respect, there is a saying that: si ce n’est pas du panadol ce n’est pas du Panadol, which is to say: if it is not Panadol, it is not Panadol.

All these people that you have mentioned are of course stakeholders in the Abia project but there is none among them that has added value to Abia the way I have done, not to the infrastructure, or to anything, I know of; they only come to struggle to be in the forefront of leading Abia, to reap where they have sown so little, preparing to reap from the state like others have done. Some people come to take away from the lean resources of the state but not me.

I am the only one with a proven record of having invested in the state, of having employed people in the state and keeps employing people and adding value to the state. Where were they when all this was happening? What did they do with their money? Now, they all want to come now and seek governance.

For me it is the end of discussion as far as being the Governor of Abia State is concerned. I wish them well, but they know too well themselves that there is no comparison between them and I.

Once my name is mentioned from the area of competence, on investment in the state, on having the perquisite knowledge or ideas on development, I remain their non-pareil. I respect their diverse kinds of training, upbringing, and experience but they should know that in comparison, I am quite up there.

What are the contending issues that must be addressed when you become governor?
Abia has a unique positioning surrounded by seven states at the heart of the Southeast and South-South, surrounded by a sea in need of dredging; it has what it takes to attract investors of diverse types, yet we have not been able to take advantage of that considering our enormous resources. We were at a point called the Japan of Africa, but we keep going down in performance ranking by the day. The challenges are enormous in terms of reversing this trend on a growth level that will connect with who we are known to be. We did not come here by chance or fluke and if we are not to be downgraded, we must brace up for the challenges of the future.

The infrastructure decadence in Aba exemplifies the issues in the ongoing narrative. Every Abian, every citizen of the Southeast, all Nigerians and foreigners who were privileged to dwell or work in Aba, must be concerned that Aba is now a shadow of its glorious past.
Aba has gone into a state of decomposition. If you look at Aba, you will see that it has gone tremendously down, and a lot of people have moved out of the commercial city. There was a time the city had a security challenge, such that many people ran away; now the situation is worse; there are diverse challenges bordering on poor infrastructure; people are leaving in their droves including corporate organisations. The annual ravaging flood has hardly spared the city.

The state government was supposed to collaborate with the World Bank in helping Aba have a good drainage system. With less than seven months to go, the Ikpeazu Administration has nothing to offer Aba people in that direction. The project has been dead on arrival.

The healthcare institutions are as good as dead; the government is owing workers huge amounts of their salaries, and each month adds to the previous month; it is also not paying pensioners. The Bible says a worker deserves his wage. The opposite is the case in Abia State. Somebody somewhere should be held accountable.

The Gregory Ibe Administration must be one of equal treatment to all the geographical divides of the state, not a partial, unequal approach where a governor from Abia North distributes the infrastructure and political offices to the advantage of his own people at the expense of others. This is fully addressed in my manifesto. Those people who narrow down their development to their community are parochial leaders and have nothing to offer Abia State.

I have been involved in all kinds of infrastructure development in Imo and Abia states, including the construction of the Imo Airport during and after the tenure of the then military administrator Anthony Ogugua. The asphalted tarmac and runway remain the evidence of a professionally executed job despite the facts that funds were lean and not forthcoming. Since we completed the construction work on that airport, the runway remains one of the best in the country.

Poor maintenance culture is a big problem in Abia State. Abandoned structures are noticeable everywhere because of a poor maintenance culture. Elevated health centres known as General Hospitals, are littered all over the state with poor facilities, drugs, and medical personnel. Abia State has a definite problem; you cannot compare it with any state in the country that is moving ahead. It remains the least developed state of the Southeast and possibly the whole country.

I want to come in and cleanse the Augean stable; I will hit the ground running with what is available, with whatever anybody has done before, taking it as a base and then make Abia to resemble what it ought to be in terms of being the number one state it was meant to be.

For those who did not understand much of what you did under President Obasanjo can you just give us a brief rehash?
President Obasanjo is a detribalised leader; through a telephone call, I was invited to present a paper on public service reform. I flew in from the US. After listening to me, he directed the then Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Chief Ufot Ekaete to work with me. I was working from the Office of the Head of Government with all the ministries and parastatals on how to reform the public service. I am happy I did it. I did a lot of jobs in the UNDP on human capital development; we did so much on healthcare and agriculture, I worked on export of produce. I was everywhere working, and Mr. President had a listening ear because he knew that being involved in the UN meant that all the best practices would be implemented in all the ministries. We as a people have what it takes to create MDAs that meet global standards as prescribed by the UN through its agencies and as other nations of the world are doing, using prescribed best practices.

How do you intend to use your UN experience to add value to the education sector in Abia State?
Abia and Anambra states remain the leaders in public examination performances whether in the case of the West African Examination Council (WAEC) or the Joint Admissions Matriculation Board (JAMB) exams. Majorly Abia State has taken the position of being number one in WAEC or whatever exams. The private institutions are the propelling force behind this accomplishment. In my capacity as a university administrator and founder, I have churned graduates from Abia State in different disciplines, medicine, engineering at all. Sadly, there is neither acknowledgment nor encouragement.

For me the private sector in Abia is the largest employer of labour after government, I am doing my best to develop a teaching hospital of 1000 beds. It will also be a tertiary health institution that will support all other health institutions already in existence in the state. I am training doctors today; I am happy the way I am preparing people. Let me give you another example; the state university will soon be 40 years old; it was only two years ago I made frantic efforts to help it open a Department of Engineering, otherwise the authorities were content running such courses as Regional Planning, Optometry, Social and Management courses, Humanities and then the state is totally lacking in its assistance of the institution.

Someday, we will need engineers to help develop the state and they will not be there. We used to have the health technology school in Aba but today the universities have taken over most of those allied health institutions covering such branches as physiotherapy and radiology; these are critical courses. They are not offered in Abia State University, but my university offers those two courses including medical laboratory science; we also offer Nursing. We offer all those critical courses so that at the end of the day, if we are talking about catchment areas, Abia State should pride itself as one, but is that enough? No, because we lack the requisite personnel to take charge of our medical, technological and science departments. We need graduates who would become manufacturers and inventors, skilled and brilliant personnel taking charge of all the departments of human endeavour. Until we can groom and position the drivers of our next flight to the global village of ideas, we have not delivered. There is work to do.

Let us take pride in the realisation that we have produced technologically trained personnel, developed to deliver on the healthcare of our people when the need arises. The need is just right here and now. In the whole of Abia State there is no MRI, there is no Card Scan. The former government made all this possible but today, all this is gone under the nose of the Ikpeazu administration. Abia State with five million people, has no MRI; for God’s sake this should never be discussed. There are a lot of people in Abia State that need dialysis; I wonder where they go for it.

Is the Ngwa population a force to contend with in this election?
Like I always say every Abian wearing the shoe knows where it pains. We have gone down this lane 24 years and have seen democracy in action; we have seen how much Abia is developed in terms of infrastructure; it is believed Abia is the least developed state in the Southeast and possibly in the country. We see workers and pensioners die from sickness, hunger, and starvation. Abia is an oil producing state whose officially declared IGR is nothing to celebrate. Everybody in Abia is wearing shoes of pain and deprivation. Our government is as good as dead.

At this stage everybody agrees that competence must be the new normal. Abians want somebody they can hold accountable, someone who is ready to make a covenant with them with regard to deliverables, a leader with innovative ideas in the art of governance, not one who plays to the gallery of ethnic jingoism, of ethnic politics.

I connect with Abians everywhere whether by way of assistance or employment. The connection is enormous. I have friends in Abia North; it is my community, the same way I have in the whole of Obingwa and Ngwa in Aba. I have a relationship that cuts across the state with the children and parents of Abia State. Many of them connect with Gregory University and Skill G, and all my corporate outfits home and abroad. They have at various times enjoyed and currently enjoy 20 percent of my scholarship programme.

What is your take on a Nigerian President of Southeast extraction?
I am a member of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), and we held a presidential convention where Professor Peter Umeadi emerged as the APGA Presidential candidate. Obi who once was in APGA, was not part of this Presidential configuration. While he was with the PDP nobody knew that he would change party. Our party has our Presidential candidate and until otherwise proven, he remains our presidential candidate.

I have in the past seven years if not more, championed the cause of a Nigerian President of Southeast extraction. I have held seminars, and town hall meetings preaching and enlightening relevant stakeholders including leaders of ethnic nationalities on why Nigeria’s next President must come from the Southeast.

The last seminar was held at Sheraton Hotel Abuja on March 5th, 2020. The question resonated on why an Igbo should not be Nigeria’s next President. I have served the Ohanaeze at strategic levels and I have preached the Nigerian President as an Igbo. Actualising it is something that must be done very fast. I still believe so much that as Igbo people, our God given mandate is to deliver Nigeria from the shackles of evil hanging on her neck.

APGA’s Professor Umeadi and the Labour Party’s Peter Obi among other Igbo Presidential candidates are serious contenders; they are making the Southeast proud in their quest for a Southeast President.