By Peter Anosike
Following the quit notice given to the Igbo living in the northern part of the country by a coalition of northern youths organisations, an Abia politician, Dr. Emeka Udowu, has appealed to the governor of Abia State, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu to encourage Abians in the Diaspora to come home to invest.
Udowu, who is the founder of Dr. Emeka Udowu Foundation, said he had given scholarship to over 200 students in Isukwuato Local Government Area, as well as assisting schools in the Abia North Senatorial zone with educational materials to promote qualitative education in the state.
The Isukwuato-born PDP chieftain and chairman of Abia Mandate also urged the governor to reward party loyalists that worked for the success of his election and also stood by him during his travails in court to avoid defection to other political parties out of disappointment and frustration.
He also spoke on other issues.
How do you see the quit notice given to the Igbo in the North by a coalition of northern youth organization?
The so-called quit notice is an empty threat. But if you have been following developments in Igbo circles, you would realise that even before now, a lot of Igbo organisations have been urging the Igbo in Diaspora to think home. The theme of Igbo day celebrations for many years now has been “Ojemba chetakwa ulo,” (traveler, remember home). So, it is not as if the northern youths are thinking for us. We have been creating that consciousness for many years now. So, what the northern youths said was not exactly different from what we have been singing into the ears of the Igbo in the Diaspora. The only difference is the context and spirit with which they said it. When we tell our people to remember home we are not saying it because we want to divide the country. Other countries and regions of the world are putting their country first. So, we feel that our own charity should begin from home rather than away. There is nothing wrong if Igbo should be having the headquarters of their businesses in Igbo land and branches in the other parts of the country. But now, the situation is that they have both headquarters and branches in the other parts of the country and nothing in Igbo land. They build mansions and castles in the other parts of the country only to build boys quarters in Igbo land and we don’t think that is right.
How do you think this consciousness can be realised?
I want to appeal to the governor of my dear state Abia, Okezie Ikpeazu to begin to encourage Abians to come home and invest. We have a lot of Abia industrialists, educationalists and what have you in the other parts of the country. They should be encouraged to, if not bring their whole businesses back home, to at least, have branches in the state. But the reality is that before these people would agree to come home, there must be conducive environment for them to establish their industries or factories. I am happy that right now, there is peace and security in the state, which is very important to every investor. He should think of other incentives that would entice them like free land, tax holidays, among others.
As a member of contact and mobilisation of Abia State PDP, how do you see the recent visit of Governor Ikpeazu to Isukwuato and Umunneochi?
The visit is a welcome development. It is timely and well appreciated going by the large turnout of people. You know that an indigene of Isikwuato took the governor on a grilling court battle that caused a lot of tension in the state. So, I see the visit as giving an olive branch to the people of Isikwuato and to assure them that he has no hard feelings. That is one of the beauties of democracy. It is government of the people, by the people and for the people. So, the interest of the people and the state must always come first. The governor should try to be organising quarterly town hall meetings in all the local government areas so that he would be having first hand interaction with the masses. He should also try to put in his cabinet professionals and technocrats that would help him to take the state to the next level. Quite a lot are being expected from him that he also needs to establish a department within the ministry that would be working with all Abians in the Diaspora, especially business owners and professionals for a synergy on the ways to develop the state.
How do you see the governor’s performance so far?
It would be hypocritical to score the governor 100 per cent. We all know that the court process was a big distraction to him. It was a huge setback. For the past two years, he had been in court and there is no way that would not have a negative impact on his administration. But now that the process is over, we expect him to hit the ground running. The people of Abia State has been denied dividends of democracy because of the marathon court cases that they cannot wait to see developments.
However, the governor is doing well in Aba, which is the commercial hub of the state and fixing Aba is half way fixing Abia State because the revenue that would accrue from there would be used to develop the other parts of the state. But in another breadth, I want the governor to also extend his development strides to the other parts of the state. I also want to use this medium to urge the governor to reward those who worked tirelessly for his election in 2015. Some of us used our resources to work for him. Some of us give scholarship in his name. But today, we have been made laughing stock by those who warned us when we were doing that. Another thing is that I want the governor to try to carry the members of the party in the state along. This is the only way to stop defection to other parties. This loyal party men and women did not only work tirelessly for his election, they also stood by him when others were jumping ship thinking that he would lose to Uche Ogah in the court.
Why did your group endorse the governor for second term?
I want to say that Abia Mandate is one of the biggest political organisations in the whole of Abia State with over 10,000 registered members. We don’t hire crowd. We have structures in all the nooks and crannies of Abia North Senatorial zone. In the last general election, we saw the vision and dynamism of Okezie Ikpeazu and decided to pitch our tent with him, in spite of the fact that we have a son of the soil in the governorship race. We worked tirelessly for his success and immediately after, those who wanted to reap where they did not sow came up with court cases and for almost two years it raged.
However, one thing was very clear. Throughout those trying years, he did not lose focus on the mandate he had with the people. He was doing what he was elected to do and we are happy that he is delivering the dividends of democracy to the good people of Abia State. So, these are some of the reasons we endorsed him for another term of office because in spite of all the odds heaped against him, he is delivering.
What is your advice to him now that the court cases are over?
He should get into the business of governance rather than partisan politics. The issue of unemployment must be curtailed to avoid youth restiveness. Agencies for wealth creation and employment should be created. Skill acquisition centres should be built in all the local government areas and SME loans as low as N50,000 should be made available to people with business ideas.