By Vincent Kalu
The President, Association of Anambra State Development Union (AASDU), Lagos, Chief Amechi Ebeledike has said that the Association is bringing to Lagos all the candidates for the November 6 Anambra State governorship election to interact with them.
According to him, Lagos is the melting point of most influential Anambra people; the people that determine the direction to go and that of the grassroots are residing in Lagos, and so ASSDU wants to know the pedigree, knowledge, track record, trust, capacity and the courage of all the candidates.
The Association of Anambra State Development Union (AASDU) is organizing Nzuko Umunna, what is it all about?
It is all about the interest of Anambra State and her people. Most importantly, it is about the November 6 governorship election in the state. We want to use it as a platform to bring all the candidates together in Lagos to rub minds, exchange ideas and find out from them their plans, programmes for the state, and then articulate our views and encourage our members to actively participate in the election. We have to know much about them beyond what we are reading in the media. The people who are going to be there are the key stakeholders in the Anambra project in Lagos from all the 177 towns, which make up the association.
Is Nzuko Umunna only for this election?
It is something that we plan to be doing quarterly. It just happened that this is election season and we consider it paramount to take advantage of the election to have it now. It is meant to always discuss with our people, especially government functionaries. Anyone who becomes the governor of Anambra State automatically is our grand patron. We need to be working closely with the government and those in power to know what they are doing, their programmes and plans so that we will be able to key in and assist where necessary from our own end. This particular time of election, we cannot just fold our hands, so on October 9 here in Lagos, we evaluate the candidates and at the end of the day, go for the best.
This is coming at the peak of electioneering campaigns in Anambra; do you think the candidates can leave the arena to come to Lagos to listen to you people?
They have to; some of them have already indicated interest to be here because they know that Lagos is the place to be and none of them can afford to miss this golden opportunity. The people that determine the direction to go and that of the grassroots are residing in Lagos. Most of the candidates have their roots in this state and they made their being in Lagos and so can never ignore this gathering. The way we Anambraians move, it is a matter of hours you are shuttling between Lagos and Anambra. We do breakfast in Anambra and lunch in Lagos and dinner in Anambra. Yes, it is a very busy period for them, it will be a big regret for any of them who fails to turn up; any of them who fails to create time to be here has lost a great mileage in this election. Hopefully, all of them will come.
How can it enhance a candidate’s electoral victory?
ASSDU Lagos is the umbrella of all the town unions. The main advantage is that we are interested in our incoming grand patron. We must choose the best of the best. It cannot be business as usual. No governor has emerged in our state without partnering with ASSDU Lagos, and they know that. So we want to walk the talk. We have shortlisted and invited all the prominent Anambra people in Lagos. It is not an all comers’ affairs. We have asked the leadership of each of the 177 town unions to send their first eleven.
We may not come out to make a proclamation that this is our preferred candidate; we give all the candidates level playing ground. So that platform will give them the opportunity to market themselves, talk about their manifestoes, and then we would be able to know their pedigrees, their level of knowledge, their capacity and competence. It will be very clear to everybody. It is not a question of I, the president to say this is the person AASDU or I have endorsed. At the end of the day, it becomes obvious who the best candidate is. What I know is that all the candidates are very good, but we are looking for the best of the best and we are going to determine that on that day. It is going to have effect on the grassroots in Anambra State.
There should not be any godfatherism influences, and we must ensure that anybody who has links to that should not be encouraged. Lagos, apart from being the centre of excellence, is the melting point and base of most influential Anambraians and hardly can any candidate make it through without partnering with AASDU.
Given the security situation in the South East, are you not concerned over the outcome of this election?
We are concerned and that is one of the reasons we are doing what we are doing right now. The security situation is not a very palatable one. It is part of the things we want to articulate, to ensure that the election is held under a very conducive environment. We are appealing to anyone, or group who wants to cause mayhem or to disrupt the election to rethink and desist from such evil plan, as it will not be in the interest of Anambra people and the Igbo in general if the election is disrupted. What will anybody gain by disrupting the election; it is just like firing yourself bullets on the legs thinking that you are injuring other people. The security situation is getting better, I just came back from home and I had interactions with some people and they assured that the security situation would get better. Whoever that is trying to create anarchy in the South East, especially, Anambra has to be called to order and people have started doing that through our structured organisations, the town unions and other socio-cultural associations.
What advice are you offering to the candidates and their supporters?
Most importantly, the campaigns must be orderly, decent and issue based. All you need to do is to tell us what you are capable of doing and what you are going to do differently from what other governors have been doing. It is important that whatever you say at the Nzuko Umunna, we are going to take note. Whoever that wins, after swearing in, we are going to be ticking the boxes of what he has done against the time frame he told us. Part of the questions we are going to ask them is what they are going to do the first three months, the first six months, in nine months time and one year, two years, three years, etc. We are going to follow up and call the governor to question.
When you were sworn in as AASDU president, you mentioned that you were going to pursue think home philosophy of Anambra people, what are programmes that you have in this direction?
We have many programmes, but one of such is industrial village we are going to create very soon after the election. We are going to partner with the government in power to get it done. Anambraians in particular just like most Igbo people live outside Igbo land. Anambra has a landmass of 4,844 square meters and high population density with more than 5 million residents and greater numbers in the diaspora. The best they are doing now is to ensure that they have a family home in the state, and another home where they are living in Lagos, UK, America, Abuja, etc. Our plan now is just to go beyond owning a family house. Of course, they are beginning to build cottage industries. The biggest rice farm in Nigeria today is located in Anambra State, owned by an indigene. In the same vein, we are encouraging them to do other things. Most importantly, beyond agriculture and cottage industries, we must begin to talk about human capital development because that is actually what will determine the next level we are going in line with the current new world order. Again, one thing we have to realise is that we are not going to expect politicians to begin to tell us that they are constructing this and that road. Road construction and maintenance should be given and be taken for granted and should not be considered as favour to any community. We ought to have gone past this issue of road construction. By now, we should be talking about human capital development in line with the expectation of the new world order. We shall expect development of the necessary critical infrastructure to tackle this migration out of Igbo land in general and of course, Anambra State in particular. Education and security of lives and properties are very key considerations. We must also ensure that the incoming government does not make these legacy projects like the cargo airport, international conference centre, international stadium look like wasted efforts, rather they must translate them into world class finished products designed to make the state a tourist destination, and real business hub. These are the things that would enhance the real mass movement to Anambra. If the airport comes on stream, it is going to help a whole lot for movement back to Igbo land, and when it is made an international airport, you know what that means. Think home is very important, and we must ensure that people are trained to understand how to operate from Igbo land. These days, there are lots of things you can do from home through internet, and that is what we are going to encourage. We must make our place of origin very relevant in the scheme of things, we don’t have to go home for funeral only; we want to go and celebrate ourselves, celebrate our state, celebrate our people.