By Fred Itua, Abuja
Senator Stella Oduah is a former Minister of Aviation. Currently, he represents Anambra North in the 8th Senate and heads the committee on Cooperation and Integration. She was also a governorship aspirant in the just concluded Anambra State poll. She ran on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), but withdrew few days to the primaries.
In this interview with Sunday Sun, the lawmaker explained why Igbo must bring their investments to the South East. She spoke on other key issues.
You have been championing the campaign on the concept of “Aku Lue Uno” (The wealth should get to the home). What is this new campaign about? What does it hope to achieve?
Aku lue uno is a concept that encourages indigenes to think of their homes in their investments. It works in tandem with what World Bank is preaching, “shared prosperity” because the wealth of a man in now being measured by the level of poverty within their environment. It is not just the right thing to do, it is economically viable to invest in our homes, particularly for those from the South East and Anambra in particular.
We have the enabling community, we have the population and current government initiatives have provided enabling environment. So what we need is to plough back our investment and our commercial ability. What we have outside the South East zone should be replicated in the zone. We need to start domesticating our investments so we can help our people. We would help in improving the poverty level, we will help in creating jobs, we would help in growing our domestic economy. Most importantly our people will feel that accomplishment we have. In doing so, we would be doing what is termed shared prosperity, in doing so we are doing what is termed “Aku Lue Uno.”
Statistically, one out of every four industries belongs to an individual from Anambra and one out of every importer or exporter is from Anambra. We also know that one out of every five successful business man or woman is from Anambra. Can you imagine the magnitude of that investment if we can just channel just 10 per cent of that home? We would create massive employment, we would create massive mentorship for the young ones and we would have a society that will be the envy of all.
So my advocacy is to encourage all Anambarians, all South Easterners to think backwards (home) on their investments. I am not saying uproot your industries. I am saying start divesting and think homewards so that our people can feel your impact and so that our people can grow. It is only by doing that that you can in all conscience say that you are a wealthy man because it is only by doing that that you can say yes I am an igbo man and I have made it. In my book, you have not made it if you have not invested what you have invested outside in your community.
There must be a semblance of that in your state. We must help the state to grow, we must help our people to grow, we must share our prosperity, we must be involved in Aku Lue Uno concept. It is not only when people die that they remember that they have homes. It is not only when you build big mansions in your village that your people will know that you are a wealthy person, but when you help in growing the wealth within your locality, within your community, within your state. Then if you say you are wealthy, even your community will applaud you that you are indeed wealthy.
Let us collectively and individually ensure that we bring our wealth back home. If you are a professional, make out time to share that talent, share that skill. That is prosperity. Any wealth that does not reach home is a lost wealth as far as I am concerned and it is a useless one. (Any “aku” that does not “lue uno” is a lost aku)
The average business man or woman only thinks about making profit. They are not in the business to be charitable. What should motivate them to come to the East to invest and what is the guarantee that it would be a profitable move?
The states are putting enabling environments for their people to come and invest. There are tax incentives that are in place. Most importantly, there is security. We have better security in Anambra than you have in Lagos. In Anambra, you do not have violence like you have in Lagos.
We have lacuna on infrastructure- rail, airports and so on, but then the state is in joint venture to build the cargo airport. Above all, we have one in Enugu. Enugu has an international market so you can export. The Federal Government needs to put inland container terminal in Onitsha so that importers can from Onitsha get their goods without having to go to Lagos or Port Harcourt.
When that happens, we will have access to international markets. You would be amazed at the number of vehicles that go to other African markets from Onitsha.
We are currently re-exporting in an informal market. That should be formalised. Alaba and other markets in Lagos are our people’s market. We should have a huge portion of that domesticated in Onitsha. That is where it should rightly be and rightly belongs.
There is also the problem of Pull Him Down Syndrome. It is the fear of many South Easterners that people are envious of their success and may want to stop them at all cost. Could that be the reason many prefer to invest outside their homes to avoid such envy?
There is no society in Africa where you do not have that pull him down sysndrome. It is just a question of poverty. Wherever you have poverty, wherever you have disparity of wealth, there will be envy, there will be jealousy. It is human nature. Therefore, to eliminate that, we must create something that will meaningfully and gainfully employ people and engage them.
When people are engaged, they are less “devilish” than when they are idle. If they are idle, and then they see you in this wealth and they can barely feed, it only takes an animal not to react and ask why you, why not him.
So, it is not peculiar to the Igbos. It is just human nature and again like i said, we can stop it. We can eliminate it by creating economic activities that will engage people particularly the young ones.
So are you saying that if the South Easterners bring back their wealth like you have advised, there may be no need for government to intervene?
I think the government should meet us half way. Government ought to provide a lot of the infrastructure that are lacking in the South East: the roads, rails and very importantly an inland container port in the region. South East is a commercial region. What we do best is trading, what we do best is industrialisation and so that that is innate in us. For us to be able to enhance it and export it, we must have global access and global market. We already have an international airport and that is one, the second one will be to have a cargo airport and that is why the inland cargo terminal is important. Unless we have that, it means that for every cargo, every transaction, import or export will have to be through Port Harcourt or through Lagos.
It means that accident rate that has been accelerated all these years because of bad roads will continue to be on the increase because for a trader to have his goods either imported or exported you have to go to Lagos or to Port Harcourt. So the road accident is something that the trader has to go through. For me as a South Easterner, I think it is the right thing and government must do it, not just one but a minimum of three container ports.