From Obinna Odogwu, Awka
Governorship aspirant on the platform of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) for the November 6 election in Anambra State, Hon. Nonso Smart Okafor, has said that his quest to govern the state was borne out of his desire to offer impactful leadership.
Okafor, a member of the state House of Assembly, representing Nnewi North Constituency, said that he has designed strategic economic plans, which when implemented, would help the state to rise economically and socially. Excerpts:
Why do you want to be governor of Anambra State?
My being here to present myself for service to our dear state is not about me or some personal ambition; instead, it is a journey whose intent and purpose is to do more for our people and for them to have more stakes in their government. For all of us, this matters because, for the first time, we shall be making a collective bold statement that our solutions are within. As a House of Assembly member in Anambra State with membership of nine sensitive committees, I have gone round the 21 local government areas of our state and to so many communities during oversight functions, and I see the faces of people who need better life, poor kids who need quality and affordable education, youths who need meaningful jobs, parents who need living wage to pay bills, locals and farmers who need good roads and modern input to thrive, neighbourhoods that need to be lifted out of poverty, ravaged people who need modern health facilities for their wellbeing and many more. Throughout my membership of the House of Assembly so far, I have given my best and also enjoys an excellent relationship with Anambra’s first family and our party’s leadership. Our governor, Chief Willie Obiano and his wife, Mrs. Ebelechukwu Obiano, are people that are passionate about the progress and development of our state. This is hardly disputable. The governor and members of the state cabinet have made certain tough decisions for the sole benefit of Ndi-Anambra. With support from my colleagues at the House of Assembly, we have made governance in our state less combative, less confrontational and thereby have attained an appreciable level of stability which is a recipe for progressive governance. The Speaker, Rt. Hon. Uche Okafor and all members of the 7th Assembly have been exceptionally supportive in ensuring that Anambra comes first in our dealings. At the party level, our National Chairman, Ozonkpu Dr. Victor Oye and his National Working Committee have demonstrated leadership in the manner they organize and manage the affairs of the party. At the state level, Sir Norbert Obi and other party leaders have been nothing short of their best in moving the party forward. I am moved to vie for this exalted position, not for popularity or political mercantilism but to play a never-seen-before role in advancing Anambra into a state we all shall be very proud of. Many argue that I am too young to do this. However, the truth is that I am not. In fact, this is the best time to take up leadership when energy and vision are hugely on my side. It is worthy to note that our nationalists and former leaders rose up to leadership in their 20s and 30s. In fact, most successful politicians we hear of today in Nigeria made most of their marks at a young age. Most importantly the huge work that needs to be done in our dear state cannot wait for my old age to be done. It is an unwavering faith for me; a task that must be done. My motivation is that in the face of impossible odds, it is only those who love their land rise up to challenges. I have organised the works I want to do in Anambra State sector by sector in my manifesto tagged VISA Economy, an acronym which stands for Viable, Independent, Secured and Advanced Economy. It is extensively researched innovative solutions anchored on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It is a deliberate policy that will build a virile and independent economy where opportunities are abundant and life is worth living; a transformative and creative governance that can reshape our economy to compete in a digital age.
Are you not afraid of Soludo and people in his rank in this contest? Again, how would you react to the street comments that you were hired by certain persons especially Nnewi billionaires to spoil Soludo’s chances?
I am not afraid of Soludo. I am only afraid of God because power belongs to Him and He gives it to whoever He wants to give it to at a point in time. It is God that maketh kings. What I have for Soludo and every other aspirant in this race is respect; absolute respect. I respect them for what they have achieved in life; in their own calling. Of course, Soludo is a professor and I respect him for that academic achievement. I also respect other colleagues of mine in the race. There are federal lawmakers in the governorship race. These aspirants are accomplished men and women and I respect them. So, I am not afraid of them. I only respect them. On the issue of being hired by Nnewi billionaires to spoil Soludo’s chances; it sounds a little funny to me. This is because, one, me and Soludo are not both from Nnewi and we are not from the same local government area. Are Nnewi billionaires and Soludo quarrelling? Soludo is from Aguata LGA and I am from Nnewi in Nnewi North. So, if I am sure that there are people from Aguata that are supporting Soludo, it shouldn’t be a surprise if there are people from Nnewi that are also supporting me. It is given. That is part of politics. If Smart is there to spoil Soludo’s chances, is that a way of saying that Smart has the capacity to spoil his chances? Because I don’t think that is possible. If he is running, he is speaking to the delegates and I am speaking to the delegates also. At the end of the day, whoever the people and God say is going to be the governor, will be the governor. So, nobody is spoiling anybody’s chances. If not I will now rise and say that Soludo, coming to run again, after having run before, at this age and time which the young people are saying that we need to have a young people’s renaissance, then I will also say that he came to spoil my chances.
Are you prepared to face the primary election? I ask because there is a body language and also insinuations that suggest that the governor has endorsed Prof. Soludo?
I am not challenging Soludo. I am running for the governorship of Anambra State. I am not in the race to challenge Soludo. Somehow, Soludo is also running for the same position I am running. If Soludo is challenging me, then, I am challenging him. But I think he is running and I am running. So, we are not up against each other. If you read my declaration speech, I said: ‘We are not up against anybody’ and I called on my supporters and said: ‘Attack nobody’ because I don’t believe in the contest of backbiting and attack.’ If you watch very closely, you will notice that Smart’s campaign has been very much issue based. We have maintained a serene atmosphere in cyberspace. I have always gone the extra mile to check the posts of my supporters. If I see any write up by any of my supporters that sounds like an attack, if it is a person I know, I call you immediately and ask you to take it down if possible. I don’t believe in politics of attack because I am not challenging anybody. I believe that God who gives power, if He so wills, will give it to us. So, I am not here to challenge Soludo or any other aspirant. I am here to run the race and incidentally, they are running the same race. You mentioned the issue of body language of the governor. I have heard that language so much; ‘body language of the governor’. I wonder why we lay so much emphasis on the body language of someone that can speak. The governor can speak and he has a way of addressing people and expressing his interests and opinions. So, if the governor has interest, he has a way of communicating it. So, let’s not be bulldozed by ‘governor’s body language’. We all know the governor; we all have access to him. I have had handshakes with him. I cracked a joke with him yesterday when we went to the airport. Nobody owns the governor. The governor belongs to all of us. And I am not a visitor in Anambra. And we are not going to run away for anybody. We all belong to this state and the governor belongs to all of us. So, there is nothing like the body language of the governor. If the governor has something in his mind, he has a way of communicating it. Chief Willie Obiano I know is a very bold man. If he wants something, he says it. What I know is that the governor is committed to a free and fair primary election. What I know is that God crowns kings. The governor you’re talking about is a product of God’s grace. A month or two before the election that brought him to power, nobody knew Chief Willie Obiano. If you were here before that election, you would have known that Chief Obiano was not in the picture about a month or two before the primary election. We were hearing the name of Idigo; that the governor had endorsed Idigo. They said that the body language of the governor said that it was Idigo. In fact, somebody told me that the governor specifically went and brought Oseloka Obaze from the United Nations and made him SSG to position him to become governor. Didn’t you hear it? Where are all those body languages today? So, let’s focus on where we are going. As far as I am concerned, such body language doesn’t exist. It is better for every aspirant to market their ideas to Ndi-Anambra.