Mr. Nick Oparandudu, a chartered accountant and banker, is a chieftain of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) in Imo State. He was for many years a top executive with Diamond Bank and was also Deputy Managing Director of the defunct Assurance Bank Plc. At various times between 2011 and 2014, he served in Imo State as Chief Economic Adviser to the Governor, Commissioner for Planning and Economic Development, Commissioner for Works and Transport and Commissioner for Internal Resources (IGR) and Pension Matters.
Oparandudu, who seeks to contest next year’s governorship election on the platform of APGA spoke to journalists on his developmental plans for Imo State.
Your campaign has the message: ‘Imo Cry No more’ and ‘Imo will Rise Again.’ Why is Imo down and crying?
In the past seven years or so, we have been bedevilled by what I will call bad governance. The people are so despondent. Civil servants are not being paid, and pensioners are crying. Practically every pensioner in Imo State has one or two dud cheques in his hands, issued by government. Practically all the roads are bad. I believe that given the mood of despondency across the state, there’s yet an urgent need for a reawakening of the Imo spirit, to let people know that it’s not over, that indeed it could be better and things would definitely get better.
What are you going to do differently if elected governor of Imo State?
Aside from jobs generated by the government, there are two ways to create jobs in significant numbers – through agriculture and through massive industrialisation. And we intend to pursue these two concurrently in Imo State. I said it when I declared in Imo that any aspirant who lacks the capacity to create a minimum of 200,000 jobs in three years has no business aspiring.
In the agricultural sector, we have identified ten primary agro-commodity lines. My target is that we are going to create a minimum of 20, 000 jobs in each of these agro-commodities. And it is possible. I heard somebody saying that they have over 80,000 rice farms in Kebbi State. But they have less than 2000 to 3000 several years ago. The government policy has encouraged a lot of people to go into farming. And why is it so in that place? Because they brought in companies and they are there in Kebbi processing rice. And they have now partnered with government to have agro-allied schemes focused on those farmers, providing them very good seedlings or improved varieties of seedlings. The problem with creating jobs through agriculture starts when a farmer finishes coming up with his produce and nobody takes it off him. But we are going to do it with the private sector. Imo State government would have some investments in key industries, but as a minority stakeholder. It may be 15 or 20 per cent equity in those key industries.
I believe the West hasn’t been fair to us. What they do is to give us handouts. They haven’t really helped us to create jobs within Africa. I would rather you give us money, facilities and financial support to develop the extractive industries so that we can process those things here. You take cocoa to Switzerland, you create jobs for those people who are producing chocolate. Meanwhile, you are taking raw cocoa from Ondo, from Akure, to the West. Why can’t you support the local industries to process these items or commodities here? In the area of industrialization, part of my plan is to create three industrial parks in Imo State. One in Orlu, one in Owerri and one in Okigwe. The one in Owerri will be located towards Ngor-Opkalar where we have a whole lot of land. We are going to build a brand new industrial city there capable of accommodating nothing less than 500 firms. We are going to build a similar facility in Orlu focused on the oil belt of the state, Ohaji-Egbema, Ugwuta. That will be capable of hosting between 2500 factories at that particular industrial city. And we are also going to do something of that nature in Okigwe. And you know Okigwe has one of the best deposits of clay that you can find anywhere in Nigeria and in commercial quantity. The plan of action I have for Imo State is what I call the Imo tri-city industrial programme.
On security, we have a plan where we are going to practically wire the entire state. And the technology is not expensive. We already have identified where from a particular mast you can see with clarity what somebody is doing three kilometres away. And by the time we mount 1000 masts or even 500 masts across the state, we would have covered the entire Imo. And we are going to do it under the PPP arrangement with the telecom companies as masts providers. And we’re going to do it such that the masts will be paid for by the revenues coming from other sources. So these things are doable. We are going address the security challenge. If you look at my blueprint, we are going to have Imo state security trust fund. The security trust fund will be modeled after what Lagos has done.
What are your plans for the health sector?
The things that determine the quality of medi-care are essentially three factors – the people, the diagnostics backbone and the physical infrastructure. I have a novel plan that would use volunteer services to support Imo healthcare delivery. We are going to repackage the medical mission programme so that it becomes a proper volunteer service to help with the medical team. And I have even discussed with doctors in the United States of America to come here. We are going to have a minimum of 100 medical personnel coming into Imo state every month. From gynaecologists, to surgeons, to radiographers , nurses, pharmacists coming into Imo state on a monthly basis to support the local healthcare delivery system. And by the time we do this, within two years, Imo state will become the destination for quality medicare.
When we were in government, I was one of the people that opposed the 27 medical hospital projects. My own idea is, let’s pump these resources into the already existing hospitals we have.
So for me, the focus initially will be the existing general hospitals.
Any plans for tourism?
Absolutely. If you look at my blueprint, the objective is to turn Imo State into the entertainment capital of Nigeria. If you go to Owerri, it has the highest numbers of hotels after Abuja and Lagos. As I speak today, we have at least 50 hotels of various sizes under construction in the state. It is my plan that we focus on business tourism as well as family tourism. We need a world class convention centre in Owerri that can seat 3000, maybe 5000 people. Luckily there are already high profile hotels in Owerri. And what we need to do today is to engage them at the highest levels. We will set up a world class zoo in Imo State. It will cost a lot of money, but it is something you can do with the private sector. You provide the incentives. There are a lot of companies in South Africa, Kenya, Namibia doing wildlife management. They set up zoos or biological gardens and run them. We can encourage these companies to come to Imo State. We will also empower the Imo State Tourism Corporation.