Paul Orajiaka is a governorship aspirant in Anambra State. The Harvard scholar spoke on his aspiration and why youths should be given the opportunity to take over the state in 2021.
You were one of those who rallied support for Anambra State indigenes in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. What inspired such humanitarian efforts?
The essence of humanitarian relief is to save lives, alleviate suffering, and maintain human dignity, and this to me is very paramount that as humans, we should be at that forefront of championing causes to positively impact human lives. The Coronavirus is a novel disease overwhelming nations all over the world and so it is no longer a fight for the government alone, but also for individuals too. The disease has moved from a health crisis to an economic crisis, destroying livelihoods just akin to its virulent nature and for me, this negative impact of the pandemic on my people, was truly disturbing and hence, the need to move swiftly to rally not just support, but also educate my people on preventive measures and guidelines to be observed as stipulated by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).
There were lots of doubts and speculation on the genuineness of COVID-19 from the general public; such erroneous thoughts needed to be nipped in the bud before it spreads and cause further havoc to my people. I knew I had to be swift in my response at that early stage with urgency to intensify the campaign against the spread of the virus, educate my people more on it, share hand sanitizers, face masks, other equipment necessary to combat the virus, and as well distribute palliatives respectively.
What informed your decision to join politics?
The moment I was old enough to realise how we as a people are blessed with a myriad of natural resources and diversity, yet paradoxically afflicted with some of the worst cases of underdevelopment, infrastructural dearth, neglect and decadence, progressive disarmament of institutions, pandemics and frightful high mortality rates to mention a few, it built the strong desire in me to be counted as an agent of change.
Politics and quest for the good of the public became a long-term desire. I needed to start with a business background, create jobs and opportunities within my capacity, understand the Nigerian business terrain, and now that I have accomplished all that, I wish to contribute to the good of this great Nation through my political aspirations.
I see firsthand the economic situation honest politicians and public officials face to maintain their integrity and I strongly feel it’s worth a concerted effort. Aside this long held dream for politics, my everyday interaction and doing business right at the heart of Idumota, Lagos, affords me first hand knowledge of the challenges ordinary Nigerians face to make a living, and yet have collectively been able to take charge of managing their dysfunctional environment.
What would you say are the real needs of Anambra indigenes and how do you intend to tackle those needs?
The needs of my people cut across security, education, infrastructure and healthcare. Security in Nigeria and especially in Anambra is an ongoing issue far from resolution. Gov. Willie Obiano launched Operation Kpochapu II in the state in the last quarter of 2019 and gave further directives to banks and filling stations to install CCTV cameras where they operate throughout the state as they could be potential targets for security breaches. While all these are commendable, there are still a lot of holes left to be filled in the state with regards to security. States and cities across Africa are beginning to embrace smart city initiatives where they deploy technology (ICT) to tackle security challenges. Rwanda’s security model has clearly shown the effective role technology plays in formulating a framework to adequately protect lives, property, and a safer clime for business.
In the area of health, Anambra has about 396 hospitals, 178 missionary hospitals and private hospitals, far more than the last two combined. With these numbers, it’s important to properly equip the government owned hospitals with all necessary facilities for adequate healthcare provision and equally provide the needed government support in terms of providing an enabling environment for missionary and private hospitals to assist in healthcare provision for the people of Anambra State.
In education, it is very important that we lower the number of out-of-school children in the state having recorded a high-ranking second place in the 2018 WAEC exams against other states in Nigeria. Also, according to the Federal Ministry of Education’s statistics, in the 2015-2016 calendar years, the total number of public primary schools in Anambra was 1045, while the number of male pupils was 348,071, while females were 365,051, bringing the total to 713,122. In the same calendar year, the number of out-of-school children between the ages 6-11 years in the state was 49,319. For a state with such high pass rates, the numbers need to drop lower, and our goal is to make Anambra attain the highest number of enrollment for kids in school.
Tackling these issues first requires listening, following some of the best practices obtainable in tackling such issues, and above all, staying truthful and accountable to the people throughout the execution or implementation of such processes.
What is your position on the clamour for a particular zone in Anambra to be allowed to produce the next governor of the state?
People have the right to clamour to be given equal opportunity in government. I believe that every zone in Anambra deserves equal opportunity in the leadership of the state. It brings about a sense of unity and inclusiveness. Be that as it may, we must not sacrifice competence on the altar of zoning. We need zoning but more importantly, we need a young, visionary and capable individual to bring about the transformation badly needed in the state.
What are your plans to encourage business owners and attract investors to Anambra if you are successful with your ambition to govern the state?
Anambra people are truly entrepreneurial and very business inclined. In fact, our industrial town of Nnewi is said to have more billionaires than anywhere else in the country, all of which are business people dominating various industries in the country. Entrepreneurship has been known to be the bedrock of most developing economies, yet the socio-political environment is suggested to be so powerful that it could create or destroy entrepreneurship. Hence, developing strong, vibrant and viable environment which attracts investors is necessary, in order to solve the numerous socio-economic problems facing Anambra, a state in a country with an estimated population of about 190 million people out of who about 70 per cent are classified as poor based on the international poverty threshold of less than 1.25 dollars per day.