By Christine Onwuachumba
A former governorship aspirant in Imo State, Stephen Ibe Nwoga, has raised the alarm that with the army of youths roaming the streets of major cities in Nigeria without jobs, Nigeria may well be sitting on a keg of gunpowder, which could explode at any time.
In this interview, he spoke on various issues including his resolve to occupy the Imo Government House in 2023 on the platform of the All Progressives Grand Alliance(APGA).
You have been making efforts to get elected into the Government House in Owerri. What informs such moves and how do you intend to achieve that?
It is my burning desire to try and serve my people meritoriously. That is what has been my motivation. I come from a family of public servants. My grandfather was a public servant; he served as minister in the First Republic and he delivered a lot of benefits through his service. My parents are professors and they delivered a lot of services in the areas they had responsibilities in the university. I am a legal practitioner and I believe that I can deliver a lot of services to my people if I am given the opportunity too. That was what motivated me to contest for the governorship position in Imo State.
You are still one of the few individuals who refuse to leave APGA for other parties. What is unique about the party?
APGA is a party built for the good of the people. It is a grassroots party. We are the only party that really has a deep manifesto, and we seek to deliver on that manifesto. Why am I still a member of APGA? I am still there because I believe in the philosophy of the party. I am not one that is shaken by the wind of the time. I believe that once I am committed to a project, I should stand by it, and do everything humanly possible to achieve it. I believe that APGA has the best manifesto and the best aspiration for the good of the people more than any other political party. That is why I am still a member and will continue to serve the party in any capacity that I am given an opportunity to serve.
Governance in Imo State in the past decade has been turbulent. How do you think the state’s politics can be redeemed and made to deliver dividends of democracy to the masses?
I believe that we need to reset our mind because those leaders still come out from our midst. But, we are not choosing the best leadership material from the best in Imo, and when you don’t choose your best, those you chose will not deliver the best. We have had a very challenging 21 years in Imo. I believe that our people need to rise to the occasion, and not be discouraged by the time they had chosen wrongly. We should have a mindset that leadership is of paramount importance; it goes beyond the stomach infrastructure you receive during elections. Who your leaders are, determines how well you do as a people. For me, Imo is the best state in the whole of Africa. We are well situated. We are blessed with important resources. We have the most important resources in the world – the human resources. We have some of the most intelligent people in the world, but how are we harnessing the resources available to us? We are not harnessing them efficiently. We need to reset the minds of the people because they are so discouraged that they feel stomach infrastructure is more important than tomorrow. We need a radical mindset of the type of leadership at every level in Imo, starting from the ward, local government to the constituency, state and federal levels. It is so important to have a radical mindset because the situation is dire.
The plight of Nigerian youths has been on the front burner in the past few months. What is your advice to youths in this struggling time?
I agree that they should take charge of the matter and be involved. Even if you protest, be in charge of the protest so it would not be hijacked. Now, go beyond protesting, and be involved in the political process. Be involved in setting the mindset of the people in the environment who do not believe that anything good can come out of politics or governance. They need to be the one sensitising the people that something good can come out of governance. If they are actively involved, then it is their future they are fighting for. But, it has to be done in a peaceful way because in most places where revolution comes about in a violent way, those societies are generally destroyed. I advise everybody that feels the system is not delivering to be involved; let them join a political party. Build a political party, start a political movement, mobilise people, begin to change booth by booth, ward by ward, local government by local government. Install those that will deliver the needed services to you. But, generally, as youths, we must learn to create values.
The Nigerian economy is in dire straits. What is your honest opinion about the state of the economy? How do we revamp it and stop it from degenerating further?
First of all, we are not in a good place right now. Many people are losing jobs. It appears to the majority of the populace that the government is not implementing the right policies. The economy is not in the best of places, but I believe that when the Dangote Refinery comes on stream, it will reduce a lot of pressure on the Naira because one of the causes of our unproductive refineries is that we import all of our refined petroleum products, putting so much pressure on our foreign reserves. We need to copy South Africa. When there were sanctions against them, they looked inward to try and produce almost everything for themselves. We have the population to industrialise. We need to create the opportunities that allow industrialisation. As a matter of fact, no country develops without energy. Open up the space the same way the GSM space was opened up for people to invest in energy solutions. If the country produces energy and we have 24-hour energy, it will increase the productivity of the economy by as much as 1000 percent. So, as a matter of urgency, let the investment be in the energy sector. If we are paying the right price for the energy we consume, society would become much more productive. It will become less expensive to produce in Nigerian and it will help us. We have the population to industrialise. We have the ability to get the know-how to industrialise. We have millions of undergraduates that are waiting for opportunities for training to aid our industrialisation process. The government can’t invest in all. Create policies that allow it. Create an enabling environment, especially from energy to industrialisation. In my final analysis, we should be able, as a country, to produce what we consume. To continue to import is not good for our economy.