“We will ensure that we make Ebonyi State a place where people will come and succeed not where they come and lose money.”
Aloysius Attah, Onitsha
Bernard Odoh is an APC governorship aspirant in Ebonyi. A Professor of geophysics, Odoh was the immediate past Secretary to the State Government under Umahi until he resigned his appointment five months ago.
What do you think Ebonyi people stand to gain by joining APC, considering the fact that PDP is very popular in the state?
First of all, it is necessary that Ebonyi plays from the centre. The present government in the centre is APC, led by President Muhammadu Buhari and you will agree with me that with the caliber of people running for the presidency in the PDP, it will be difficult for them to beat Buhari in the next election. His strong support base has not weakened in the last four years and his core bases are still strong as it were so anybody who is realistic to himself will agree with me that Buhari has more than 60 percent chance of returning as President and therefore there is no basis for us to be in the opposition party.
We should be able to play in the mainstream and get whatever value we can derive from the centre back to Ebonyi State. Secondly, in Ebonyi State, our people are interested in their problems being solved rather than party and this is why APC is very competitive in Ebonyi as I’m speaking to you now. People are rushing to contest in APC in Ebonyi because they know that the system here requires immediate attention and they also believe that with the direct primary initiative being championed by the National Chairman of the party, Adams Oshiomhole, ordinary people who have something to offer will have opportunity of finding themselves in leadership positions. In Ebonyi today, the core individuals, the key persons and the average person in the system are interested in who will best solve our problems, who has the capacity, competence and who has the right character to drive the system and take us to where we are going. These are the key issues that will determine who becomes the next governor.
Are you able to solve the issues?
Because I was in government for three years, I understand the issues, I have the right exposure, education and the right character to address these issues and turn things around for our people. Most of my fellow contenders to the race will start learning from day one because they have not been part of the system and the situation we find ourselves now in Ebonyi doesn’t require gambling of any sort, you must come in and face business from day one.
But the impression we get about Ebonyi is that all is well under the incumbent administration. Do you feel there are broken areas that require mending?
Ebonyi is presently broken and requires serious attention to remedy the situation. Before the creation of the state and even now, Ebonyi used to rank as one of the educationally less advantaged states in the federation. But when Dr. Sam Egwu became governor, he invested in education and this provided the needed opportunity for the first set of Ebonyi people to go overseas to study in various fields of human endeavour. There was also large investment in our primary and secondary schools. In fact, Ebonyi State University College of Medicine at some point was ranked second in the country after the University of Ibadan. Best brains in medicine were employed by our state University and our College of Medicine produced graduates that are Consultants in USA today.
But what is the situation today?
In the last couple of years there has been such an unacceptable decline in the attention we are paying to our education here. Let me give you a practical example, if you Google the top 50 secondary schools in Nigeria today, you can’t find one secondary school in Ebonyi that is in that list. That is unacceptable and since the inception of this current administration in Ebonyi, several departments have lost accreditation which means they can’t admit new students and can no longer award degrees in those areas. Our University is ranked between 43rd to 44th positions in the country. Investments in our primary and secondary schools including attention to teachers have all continued to decline. All that are being dished out to the public under this administration are different from the reality.
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What is very sad is that the current governor is more interested in flashy things so that the people will hail him that he is working. Development must be sustainable and you must put things in place that gives the individual opportunity to expand their living. As we speak today, if you go to World Bank Ranking, Ebonyi is ranked 33 on the per capita GDP scale. The average Ebonyi person lives on less than 200 dollar per capita GDP and with this; we are one of the worst in the world. That is World Bank statistics not mine.
What will you do differently if you become governor?
The first thing to do is to have an effective legal framework that protects our businesses. All obnoxious taxes going on at the moment will be abolished. We are going to have a one stop shop business incubation centre to enhance our ease of doing business in the state. If you want to set up a factory, it won’t take more than 48 hours for us to process all the required documents to start up your business. We should be friendly to those who want to come in here not unfriendly and aggressive. We will ensure that we make Ebonyi State a place where people will come and succeed not where they come and lose money.
We shall remove all bottlenecks to business growth and open up the system so that people can come in and do their businesses. We must be friendly to investors. I give you example, go to Enugu and there are so many estates emerging but here not a single one emerged in the last four years. It simply means there is no growth here because if somebody got no money in his pocket, he can’t pay for an estate. When we open up here for business, we expand the capacity to accommodate new people who are coming in. Enugu is already filled up likewise Anambra and Abia, the only place that has the capacity now for real growth is Ebonyi State but it requires a visionary and selfless leader. That is why it is very important that we make use of this facility and asset that God has really given us. I was in government for three years and I had different opinion and dispositions on these matters and when I realized that nothing was going to happen to address them if I remain there, I had to leave.