From Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja
A governorship aspirant in the November election in Anambra State, Revd Goddy Okonkwo, in this interview, dismissed any chance of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) having the upper hand in the forthcoming election.
How will your experience in NNPC, particularly as Managing Director, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Capital assist you in the governance of Anambra State?
NNPC, as you know, is a small Nigeria so to say. When I tell people I am not a politician, they will say ah, if you are not a politician, you would not have got to the level you reached in NNPC. And sometimes, you tend to agree with them. But I tell them that I am more of a diplomat in handling issues than to say I am a politician in the Nigerian usage of the word. So, my experience in NNPC will help me a lot because of the places I handled while I was in NNPC. And talking about this, somebody will tell me, how can you; just a mere civil servant? I will say no because the budget I handled in NNPC was bigger than the budget of any state. At a time in NNPC, when I was the General Manager, Finance, in National Petroleum Investment Management Services (NAPIMS); NAPIMS is just an arm of the NNPC that deals with Shell and the rest of them; I was the head of finance and its budget was much bigger than the budget of any state when you are talking about $14 billion.
So, where you are coming from is more tedious?
It is more complex. And you deal with the IOCs and within the NNPC, you deal with the multicultural issues in the NNPC. So, that prepares you more for any state in terms of human traits and in terms of economy and finance. It is much bigger latitude than that of any state. And in the NNPC, because I was in charge of the federation account, I was dealing with the Governors’ Forum, I was in NNPC and in the Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC), liaising with the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC). We were meeting with all the commissioners of finance in all the states once in every month. While I was in NNPC, I was also a key person in that committee. So, I interacted with them. Of course, I know the issues in the states in terms of revenue allocation to the extent that even when I retired, the Revenue Mobilization came to hire me. They met me in Dubai. I said no, I cannot be seen to be working and sitting against the NNPC, at least, until five years after my retirement. If I wasn’t relevant to the system, they would not be chasing me to hire me.
What are you bringing to bear in the leadership of Anambra State?
When we assume the leadership of this state by God’s grace and your support, we will not only bring godly integrity in managing the vast human and material resources of the state; we will focus particularly on the provision of critical infrastructure and establish specialised clusters of sustainable youth empowerment schemes, establish IT Centers of excellence in designated areas of the three senatorial zones and importantly also, we will interface with the financial market to help our small and medium enterprises to access cheap venture capital to grow their businesses, as is the case in many Asian tigers.
At what point did it occur to you that you can govern Anambra State?
Let me say that was in December last year. I was at the VIP lounge of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, going home. I met some people discussing, some of them were contractors of NNPC. They were discussing about Anambra. So, I just came in, I saw them and I just waved. They said ah, come Okonkwo, you are the kind of people we are looking for. Can’t you see Anambra, look at the way things are in the state and people like you are just… I just looked at them and smiled and went to sit down somewhere else.
I came home that December. One day, they said somebody was looking for me. I asked the man, how did you find my house? He said he got a friend and asked him. He started telling me the same story. And while we were arguing about that, there was one man waiting for me. I didn’t know he is a politician. He jumped into his Okada and went out and came back and later, he called somebody and gave me the phone. I didn’t know it was the acting PDP state chairman. He was so glad he had me talking about politics and said they were looking for people of good character.
And in February, there is this monk I have never met, though he says things about me through one girl, a Catholic, who goes to pray in his mountain. He was asking me, Oga, how am I preparing for my thing. I said, I a politician? No, no, I never had that in mind. What I had in mind was that when I finished, I would go into consulting or go and join my family. So, putting those two together, I started talking to people and I saw that it is something that can be done if you have sponsor. And looking at the people that were coming out, I didn’t see any of them better than me because there is something that I feel I have that they do not have. I have the discipline if you go back to my NNPC days.
What is the point of departure between you and the current governor, Willy Obiano?
There are these things I hear and I witnessed. When I become the governor, it is I they voted into power and not myself and my wife. I will be responsible for my actions and inactions.
Somebody who now owes people! When Peter Obi came in, you award contracts when you can pay for them. But these days when people can just award contracts without being sure of how to pay for them; you are creating holes for others to feel. That is not good governance. And governance that is divisive. Go to the state; the state is divided into two.
On which platform do you hope to realise your ambition?
If you ask me, I didn’t want to go outside the three major parties because the average Anambra man does not believe that the small party can win. But I am convinced if the votes will count. Any party can win.
APGA, due to its relationship with Dim Chukwuemeka Ojukwu, is always seen as the traditional party in the state. How do you hope to overcome this?
The current governor has not done very well to keep that. People look beyond that now and look for what somebody can do. From what they have seen from him, Ojukwu is not the man sitting down in the Government House. It is Obiano. So, people are more enlightened than that now.
So, you are saying in the forthcoming election, Anambra people are ready to break away from primordial sentiments?
Of course. It may not be happening 100 percent, but for sure, you will see a significant change.