From Paul Osuyi, Asaba
A political scientist and aspirant for the 2023 governorship election in Delta State, Onyemaechi Francis Nnana has said the search for Governor Ifeanyi Okowa›s successor should not be based on zoning. The 33-year old activist insisted that zoning has not helped to produce the best hands for the top job in the past. He said Delta was in need of a resourceful individual with excellent ideas to get the state out of the present situation. In this interview, Onyema unveiled his plans for the state if elected.
What are your antecedents, and how well do you understand the political dynamics of Delta State?
Well, one thing a few people would say is not in my favour in the race to become the governor of Delta State in 2023 is experience. I have never held any political office or worked under any public organization in the past. While it is true that experience counts to a great deal in addressing certain critical issues, we must interrogate those in power and with mouthwatering CVs how much impact they have made so far with the trust of the people to serve. The incumbent governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, as we know, has perhaps the most colourful CV as relates to politics and governance. He is a one-time local government chairman, one-time Commissioner of Health, one time SSG and one time senator. Today, he›s the governor. Yet, Deltans are at the crossroads of unemployment and poverty. Does Okowa›s many years in governance really count in favour of Deltans? That is a poser I am convinced, Deltans will address at the polls in 2023. We must not be sold the cock and bull philosophy that one must have been in the corridors of power to make an impact on the people as governor. This is the same philosophy sold by one of PDP›s leading aspirants that Deltans should never try ‹inexperienced hands› to lead the state in 2023. It is the same cacophony of entitlements that certain persons are only good enough to govern the state. What you now refer to as the dynamics of Delta State politics, including the ill-fated zoning formula, reflects this sickening ideology. It is a ploy for power to keep revolving around a certain cabal. It is indeed a ploy masterminded by certain individuals to determine ‹who gets what, when and how› but firmly in the interest of the cabal. The dynamics of Delta State politics, I would describe, best reflects a gang up against the people; where certain individuals, at the comfort of their homes, impose leaders on Deltans in calculated strategies to perpetuate themselves and cronies in power. This is what we must change in 2023; 2023 offers hope. I am sure Deltans will ask the right questions. I›m sure Deltans will interrogate the status quo. I am very much convinced that, this time, Deltans will ask those with mouthwatering CVs, just like Dr. Okowa, to shelve these CVs and logically demonstrate how their ideas will practically transform the lives of our people. There›s no iota of doubt in my mind that Deltans will be rooting for a governor who has methodologically demonstrated his ideas to address the needs of our people as practicable. That is what should count going into the 2023 elections.
Why do you want to be the governor of Delta State in 2023? And under what platform are you aspiring?
Well, I never envisaged I would run for the office of the governor of Delta State in my lifetime, how much more to do so at age 33. I›ve always wanted to live a quiet life as an entrepreneur despite having an academic background in politics. But I realised that businesses don›t work without the right policies in place. Unfortunately, there›s absolutely no hope of things turning around for good if this cycle of leadership continues in the state beyond 2023. The truth is if given another 100 years, these politicians would seldom create viable opportunities for Deltans to achieve their dreams. They will obviously fail again and again. I have interacted with a few of them, especially those at the lawmaking capacity, and I understand that they›re never willing to take wise counsels on board in order to better the lives of the people. So, I was motivated to take on this race given the failures of the past. I understand there›s a laxity in approach to improve the lives and fortunes of Deltans. The state is starved of viable ideas to create opportunities for Deltans. Unfortunately, unemployment and poverty are staring us in the face despite the state being blessed with vast human and natural resources. An average Deltan cannot even afford a decent home. If one cannot have a decent home, how does he or she galvanize his or her daily life to be productive and possibly contribute to the growth of the state? It is common knowledge that a young man or woman that is unproductive is a nuisance to the state. Productivity begins with having a decent and affordable home. A graduate who made good grades in school would be less productive if troubled with the challenge of where to rest his or her head. Yet, most of these politicians own choice properties around the globe without thinking of the common man out there. Worst is that they are not creating opportunities for entrepreneurs whose creative ingenuity could translate to globally competitive goods and services. Youth empowerment schemes constitute a mirage of job creation. The government of the day is simply not working for the people but for the cabals. These, amongst other things, inspired me to join this race. And given my background as a Political Scientist, I understand essentially the challenge of economic development in Delta State. I understand quite clearly the socioeconomic challenges staring us in the face. The fact that my campaign theme is ‹Greater Delta! Shelter, Hope and Development› is never a coincidence. It is an affirmation to bring hope and development to our people. How we will achieve that, we have carefully documented in the ‹Greater Delta› blueprint. In no time, the document would become a public one and accessible by every Deltan. Talking about a platform to achieve my aspiration, I am still consulting and weighing my options. But for a fact, I admire the vision of Prof. Kingsley Moghalu of the African Democratic Congress. His ideas of value added growth tallies with mine. In any case, I am not ruling out the APC, PDP or YPP or any other political party as a potential platform. The problem of party politics in Nigeria is never the political parties. It is the people who shape the ideologies of these parties. Most of our political parties, if not all, have excellent manifestos.
What does your (Greater Delta) blueprint entail?
Let me state clearly without exaggerating the fact that the (Greater Delta) blueprint is a document of hope. It is a document carefully crafted to lay a foundation of sustainable economic growth in Delta State.
This document is even more unique given the fiscal direction it births; the priority it gives to public spendings that addresses the most pressing needs of Deltans. The greatest misfortune we suffer as a people is that priorities are misplaced by those we entrust with the management of our scarce resources. This explains why President Buhari is focused on building the Kano-Niger Republic rail line despite the North-East wearing a look of a war-torn region rather than improving security surveillance and intelligence gathering in the nation at large. The same reason Governor Ifeanyi Okowa opted to spend N17 billion on building a State Secretariat despite Deltans battling the scourge of exorbitant rents; the real sector crying for turnaround investments. So, the ‹Greater Delta› initiative gives birth to a public expenditure strategy that focuses on addressing the most pressing needs of Deltans. My administration will prioritize public spendings to address the housing needs of Deltans as well as invest in the real sector of our economy through a fiscal policy framework codenamed the Delta State Strategic Financing and Economic Growth Plan (DSSFEG-Plan) as provided for in the Blueprint. This plan is driven by a philosophy of ‹public spending to create jobs and boost Internally Generated Revenue› wherein we have earmarked building at least 10,000 blocks of modern and affordable housing schemes in Asaba, Warri, Ughelli and Agbor annually. The idea is to address the need for decent and affordable housing in these cities as well as create opportunities for SMEs to thrive. The blueprint further encapsulates strategies to improve land preparation for large scale farming; improve the exploration of natural resources and generally advance the productive forces of Delta State. The key hallmark of the Greater Delta initiative is the economic sustainability it births. Our priorities would be to address the needs of Deltans, create opportunities for economic growth and boost revenue generation through thoughtful public spendings. I will never be a governor that provides streetlights whereas Deltans are homeless or without electricity in your homes. Neither will I be a governor that beautify the streets with flowers whereas Deltans are craving for greener pastures. I will not be a governor that spends N17 billion on building a State Secretariat whereas the same amount would be enough to revolutionize the real sector of our economy and create viable economic opportunities for Deltans. I will only be a governor driven with thoughtfulness and compassion to address the immediate needs of Deltans. This is absolutely what the ‹Greater Delta› blueprint entails.
What is your selling point, is it just the blueprint or something else?
The ‹Greater Delta› blueprint is a totality of my ideas and vision to meet the needs of Deltans as far as governance is concerned. It was designed to set the path to sustainable growth of our economy. In the past, we have seen aspirants vie for political offices without a proposed policy statement that is detailed and logical. This is one culture our people haven›t taken seriously. That should not be the case this time around. The people must ask questions; interrogate every claim or idea to transform the state so as to make informed decisions at the polls. This is what elections should be. I hold firmly that elections should be about competing ideas, not moneybags. There›s no better way to demonstrate how to address the myriad of problems confronting our people than having a blueprint that is logical and viable. In that case, should you say the ‹Greater Delta› blueprint is my major selling point, I won›t disagree. But for a few friends and associates who know me quite well, they can vouch that I am very honest in my dealings. I am one youth who, despite societal pressure in all ramifications, had to shun illegitimate means of earning a living. Some of the residents in Asaba would attest to the fact that I had to take to Keke to hustle until I was able to establish Off the Street Music, an establishment focused on offering artist management and digital marketing services to musical artistes. Despite Off the Street Music operating virtually at the moment, we have earned the trust of over 500 artists through online workshops and masterclasses on how to improve their crafts. Deltans can count on my honest drive to bring development to the state.
Do you have the financial war chest to contest and possibly win the gubernatorial election in Delta State?
No. I may not have the financial war chest to conquer an election of this magnitude. But I know with adequate support, I could win the elections in 2023. The people are craving for new ideas to get our state out of the woods. That is what I have got. By the way, no individual is capable of running for gubernatorial election without the financial input of support groups and friends. I will definitely see to that. My team and I will rally round for all the support.
What is your opinion on the raging debate of zoning of the governorship among the three senatorial districts?
So far, I would say that we have concluded the first lap of zoning in Delta State. Starting from Delta Central, we have seen power go to South in 2007 and to North in 2015 with Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa currently enjoying the shift of the Delta North District. Despite the exchange of power baton amonthese districts, the socioeconomic challenges confronting Deltans remain the same. The Okpe people are still crying for job opportunities and infrastructural uplift. The Ijaws, the Urhobos too. A good number of Ika people, despite enjoying one form of empowerment or the other under the current dispensation, are still without jobs. It goes to show that the principle of zoning hasn›t addressed the needs of Deltans. This is absolutely the right time to assess the situation and decide if zoning is really worth the salt of a truly competitive electoral process. In my candid opinion, zoning is an oligarchical formation. It doesn›t benefit the common man but oils the wheel of the oligarchs to perpetuate power to themselves. Deltans deserve much more. Much more than just restricting the search for a resourceful individual to get the state out of the woods to a particular district. Deltans need a detribalized leader who›s a philosopher-king with the interest of the state at heart. That is what I represent. I can only ask Deltans to shun zoning and give me all the needed support to lay a foundation of economic development in the state. 2023 is an opportunity to quash any zoning arrangement that has largely benefited the ruling class, not the common man.