Chima Uzoma Onyekwere is an IT person, having pioneered internet since 1995 in Nigeria for which the Federal Government gave him a national award in 2007 for pioneering works. He founded a company called Linkserve and is currently the President General of the entire Amachara community in Umuopara of Umuahia South LGA. Onyekwere has since indicated his interest in politics. In this interview with PRINCE OKAM in Umuahia, the IT guru unveils his agenda on education, health, among others
YOU ARE INTO POLITICS AND NOW ASPIRING TO BE A SENATOR ON THE PLATFORM OF APGA. WHAT PROMPTED YOUR DECISION TO JOIN POLITICS?
The decay in the society, particularly my state, Abia, is more than enough to prompt anyone into politics. I have retired to live a life of community service and you can never be given a community service in an Island if your environment is not working. The quality of leaders we have today are not leaders politically that have come to serve, but people that have come to look for job and what to do and politics is not just like any other job. But politics is different as an observer. I have realized that people that are doing politics in the state are just doing a job and therefore their commitment to serve is questionable and they have not done well. Rather than the state developing like other states, we are growing from the back and the country as well has not done well even though we are practicing democracy. This is sad. Those of us that go into politics are to help using our skills as entrepreneurs to help salvage the situation. That is why we came into politics. My skill and background is over 34 years in Information technology and entrepreneurship is more than sufficient to help form better policies and laws that can bring better development to my district which is Abia Central. What is happening at the National Assembly is a healthy development. There is no Senate or House of Assembly in the country that belongs to any of the states that would have been able to do what they are doing at the National Assembly today, as most governors control the state assemblies as an appendage to their governance. There is no independence and that is not healthy for democracy. We see these things and are complaining and asking, where is Nigeria going or heading to? Are we gearing for progress or caring to enrich a few people and destroy the nation? I love my country and love to be counted as one of those to be counted for the development and growth of Nigeria. I am tired of hearing people talk about M. I. Okpara, Sam Mbakwe, and others’ legacies. Why can’t we talk about current politicians and their legacies? What have they done? Why haven’t they done much? Why can’t we hold them accountable to do much more? We have made a very decent career in Nigeria and we have done well in entrepreneurship development and innovation with an Olympic mindset, not limiting ourselves here. We love our state and country and should not therefore wait until things become terrible before we are engaged in developing her.
SENATOR THEODORE ORJI IS LOVED BY THE PEOPLE OF ABIA CENTRAL SENATORIAL DISTRICT AND LOOKING AT HIS ANTECEDENT OVER MASSIVE DEVELOPMENT, WHAT HAVE YOU DONE FOR THE PEOPLE OF THE ZONE TO ELECT YOU AND LEAVE HIM IN THE COLD?
The massive love to Sen. T. A. Orji is because he is a human being who has been a civil servant in the system. He has been chief of staff to the governor and has been governor for eight years and is just going to complete his four years as a senator. What they have for T. A. Orji is name recognition, not love. Again, for a man who has served in these four categories, what has he got to show for it? He is my senior brother and my prayer for him is that he should enjoy old age in good health and retire peacefully. Whatever he has done, he has done enough, but you cannot beat your chest and say, Abia has good roads. The only roads we have in Abia that is properly tarred but are very bad are the federal roads; Umuahia-Aba, Isi-Court –Aba, Umuahia –Bende, Umuahia-Uzuakoli-Ohafia and Umuahia-Okigwe. So which road has the state government built and is connecting towns? Not asphalting roads in Aba with poor quality work that the first rain that came has made Aba a flooding zone. Not awarding contracts and not reigning in billboards and adverts of your successes. If so then, let your success be felt by the people. So, some of these people have name recognition and not loved by the people. They have not demonstrated leadership and a commitment to serve. So my prayer is that they understand these themselves and the people will vote massively for a desired change. They desire that change and is their right to decide who will govern them. So, when you have a poor leadership and you are a governor, they would encourage you and respect you for that position and that does not mean you did a good job when you were a governor or a member of the House of Assembly.
SO, WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO DIFFERENTLY, ASSUMING YOU BECOME A SENATOR?
I have developed a website where I articulated what I will do. One of the things I articulated to do in Abia Central is road network in two major areas in the zone that produce food; Ikwuano, Isiala Ngwa North and South, as well as Osisioma where I will build interconnecting roads even connecting other areas like Aba to deliver food for processing and export. Food prices in Aba and Umuahia and other cosmopolitan areas will reduce, while people would be empowered and the good road network will assist farmers. I will do this through a network of parliamentarians across the country who are my classmates and who trust me, having also been in Lagos for more than 30 years. On health, the functional hospitals in Abia State are mere health clinics. Doctors are leaving these hospitals for their private clinics and migrating outside the states. Pharmacists and health workers generally are not well paid and even when they are paid, they are not paid on time. How do we address that? Soon, there are international agencies that have cheap drugs that donate voluntarily, we have to apply and you have to show how the drugs were used over a time period for them to supply you with their drugs. They have doctors without borders that can come and work. All you have to do is to provide them accommodation and good environment. So, you can change the environment without having to spend so much money. World Health Organization has enough medication to go round. All the state needs to do is to pay its counterpart funding itself or by another agency. In the ‘50s and ‘60s when there was little money coming in from oil, Nigeria had good hospitals, good doctors and foreign doctors coming to work in the country, while young Nigerians trained abroad return home to come and take up jobs in the country. What changed that is leadership. A failure in leadership is a failure in the system, in the people and in development and we had consistent bad leadership. In the area of education and training, this goes into the federal and states in my own perspective. The Igbo are people that like going to school. They love education and the priority of every man or woman is to see that his children are educated, but the education system in the country is a failure. Not that the students do not pay school fees, but the teachers are not being paid and don’t have enough money to pay for their children’s school fees. The children will then opt for private schools, while still their parents are not paid and they cannot also pay for the school fees of their children. It is unfortunate and we can change that. There must be a deal that will allocate 20% of the statutory budget allocation to education and re-training by law. Ghana allocates far much more than Nigeria allocates to education. That is wrong. Education to me is a two part; in-service training for development and policy changes. The school curriculum today is more than 30 years old and yet we are in technology world. In education, we are going to use ICT as a toll to learn. Enterprise development is also in my project area. Empowering people with vehicles is not bad, but an average cost of t5these vehicles is about N1 million. Not all beneficiaries want to be a taxi driver and he can do one or two things; sell the vehicle, repaint and use it as a private vehicle, use it as a cab or give it to someone else to run for him. But none of these has met the expectation of the person that arranged the empowerment programme. With the same N1 million, you can empower a plumber or vulcanizer to open an shop and sell his work tools and would also hire people and begin to train others. That is my nature of empowerment. It will be the same for carpenters, electricians, ICT software programmer and so on and empower them in the industry that they are already in. The empowerments will be free, but beneficiaries will be baying back through interest-free system. The fund can be expanded into revolving loan with minimal interest.
WHY DO YOU THINK APGA IS THE BEST PLATFORM FOR YOU TO ACTUALIZE YOUR POLITICAL DREAM?
We tried PDP, being a party that was old enough which means, it would have been an institution by now, but we found out that PDP is being run by a cartel in the country and in the state. The governors control the party in their states as they appoint the chairman of the party in their states who are not elected and the President at the centre appoints the national chairman of the party. That is not politics and it is sad. APGA is the only party that has a reflection of what a party should look like and that is why we came to APGA. The party does extremely well as a political party and giving back to the party true dividends of democracy and is a model party with room for improvement. In Abia state, the party is very strong and people from the South-east have identified themselves with the party as a leading and formidable party in Abia.
WHAT IS YOUR ADVICE TO APGA FAITHFUL IN THE STATE?
Make sure your PVC is intact. Everybody’s vote will count and that is why people are buying up PVCs now. If your votes will not count, people will not be investing money to buy the PVCs. Your PVC will help you enthrone a proper government that can help you earn in four years more than the amount they spent to buy your PVC.