August 6, 2017

The challenges of producing goods for export are overwhelming — Ezeemo

Godwin Ezeemo

…Speaks on his ambition to lead Anambra

While many political parties are yet to organise their primaries to elect their flag bearers in the forthcoming Anambra State governorship election, the candidate of the Peoples Progressive Alliance (PPA) for the poll has emerged. Industrialist cum philanthropist, Godwin Chukwunaenye Ezeemo, will fly the flag of the PPA in the November 18 election. In this interview after his emergence to vie in the election, Ezeemo speaks on his chances in the poll. He also shares his perspectives on the Nigerian economy by virtue of his being a key player in the industrial sector.

Godwin Ezeemo

Analysts say Nigeria should diversify the economy from oil. As a player in the export sector, how can this be achieved?

Diversification is important to moving the nation’s economy forward with premium placed on agriculture which is the highest employer of labour all over the world. For instance, the repositioning of cocoa, cashew, coal, cotton, rubber, timber, palm oil, among others, for export can put more cash in the treasury of government through increased foreign exchange and money in the pockets of farmers in such a way that it would alleviate poverty and remove youth restiveness arising from idleness.

How strong is the 2017 budget to take Nigeria out of economic recession?

The Federal Government has a budget of N7.44 trillion which is good enough. But for it to take us out of recession, there must be careful distribution of money to the crucial sectors of the economy or internal generation of wealth ideas initiated through diversification to non-oil sectors. Speedy implementation of the budget is another key thing. We may have a fantastic budget, but if government does not handle the implementation very well, we will be back to square one

What are the prospects and challenges of the export business?

The prospects of the export business in Nigeria for now are very high. With the relatively high exchange rate, manufacturers who are serious about exporting their products have to look for the market that brings the best opportunities. Many who are in it already are counting their gains. Also, the inflow of foreign exchange into the country would bring a reduction in the prices of locally manufactured goods and services which will ultimately reduce poverty and increase the standard of living.

However, the challenges of producing goods for export are overwhelming. If government can aggressively tackle the issues of power, basic infrastructure and create an environment that is business friendly, the sky will be our limit. Meanwhile, with the launch of Acting President Yemi Osinbajo’s ‘Ease of Doing Business’ programme, we hope that things will get better if properly implemented.

The Ease of Doing Business scheme, how adequate is it to resolve the challenges hindering the export business?

What are the basic functions of government? Is it not to do for the people what they cannot do for themselves? So, if government is sincere on its promise to provide democracy dividends, it should be able to create conducive atmosphere for its citizens to ensure that the businesses thrive. Secondly, government should be able to fortify trade agreements with other countries, especially our neighbouring countries who are largely the buyers of our products.

In monetary terms, how much can Nigeria make from non – oil export in the next one or two years if the sector is given proper attention?

Nigeria can earn more than $100bn annually from non-oil export. What we need is an export revolution to be able to achieve that. If Nigeria broadens its export potentials, a positive chain of reaction will turn the key sectors of the economy around. Remember that, after independence, the major infrastructures in Nigeria were funded with proceeds from the non-oil sector. The four major universities in Nigeria were built with the money realized from agricultural produce export.

Therefore, if our policy makers will look inwards and encourage agriculture and solid minerals which are abundant across the federation, our foreign exchange reserves will shoot beyond what we currently earn from crude oil. The major economies of the world are not dependent on oil for their development, so our own cannot be an exception. Our founding fathers depended less on oil before independence, it is not too late for us to revert to non-oil export.

You have just been elected by your party, PPA, to lead them in the Anambra election. Why the choice of PPA to run the race given that the party may not stand a chance in the election compared to the three parties – APGA, PDP and APC?

That claim is laughable. What do you think makes a party big? Is it the do-or-die that characterises the bid for the parties’ tickets to contest elections or the lack of manifestos that is inherent in the so-called big parties? Well, PPA is on ground and it is the only stable political party in the country where internal democracy is practiced to the letter.

I appeal to the conscience of the electorate to pick the next governor of Anambra based on the candidates’ pedigrees before joining the governorship race and not the political platforms.  Political parties have done more harm than good to our polity.

Let us mend the broken walls by choosing our political leaders based on their past contributions to the development of our different states and country. If the electorate truly are political active, they should go for the candidate who has touched their lives positively and has felt their pains and soothed their wounds. Politics is not a game of sentiment; rather it should be applied cautiously for the sake of accountability and posterity.

What makes you think you are the best person to be governor of Anambra?

I was born into the humble family of Nze Umeaku Godwin Ezeemo of Umuchu in Aguata Local Government Area. I lost my father at a very tender age before enrolling in primary school. My mother was left on her own to raise seven children after the death of her husband.  That situation prepared me for an elaborate life of hard work, determination and care for others. As a child, life, for me, was just about struggles because of my father’s early death.

I had to start early in life to struggle to survive because my mother was not considered well to do by any standard but I have high respect for her resilience and motherly care to see us through in our trying period in life. Because of this challenge, everything that came my way was by dint of hard work and the benevolence of God.

My upbringing was tough. Being the last child, I followed my mother around to help out with the much I could do. I come from a Christian home where I was taught how to be diligent and it has been a trait I carried into adulthood. Today, I am reaping the benefit of trusting in God and handing over everything about me to God. He has blessed my businesses beyond expectation. I have business relationships in almost all the continents of the world.

I am a philanthropist, a hope giver, and peace maker who touch every man that crosses my path with milk of human kindness irrespective of social status. With all these qualities, I should be bold to say that governing Anambra is like taking care of the responsibilities I am used to. A man that has made it from the scratch knows the needs of the grassroots. Anambra people already have confidence in me, no doubt, and I will not disappoint them, looking at the framework of service drawn in my ‘SHAPE’ agenda to serve my people.

Do you see your empowerment and philanthropic activities as your stronghold for grassroots’ support in this election?

Definitely, if the people’s political culture is mature, it should be total yes, but the major problem is the politics of stomach infrastructure. The electorate are yet to see things beyond kickbacks while politicians refuse to play the game of sanity but engage in politics of inducement. Nevertheless, I would say that my philanthropic activities in the state speak volumes. I have demonstrated my sincere love to the Ndi Anambra to a large extent through my patriotic contributions towards the development of the state in areas like the promotion of Igbo values and culture through the support i give to ‘Otu Subakwa Igbo’, an Igbo language forum, since year 2000 and a 5-day workshop on the re-discovery of lost Igbo values.

In supporting security in the state, I have partnered the state police command, for traders’ comfort.  I have also partnered traders of Tools and Allied Market Onitsha. I have sponsored some politicians at the governorship level, senatorial and House of Representatives candidates as well as Local Government Chairmen and Councillors. People in their subconscious mind need a visible change that will impact their lives and not a change of baton from frying pan to fire.

People oftentimes come into office without a blueprint. How prepared are you for the governorship race?

I have developed a strong blue print called the ‘SHAPE’ agenda, an acronym for Security, Health, Agriculture, Power, Education, Empowerment and Environment. This is a framework under which my government, if elected into power, will function. With the prevailing security situation in the country today, my government will build on the security infrastructure to achieve safer environment for our people. The security infrastructure to be deployed will be built on the tripod of community policing, adequate equipment for the police and vigilantes as well as prompt response to distress calls. Traditional rulers will be the chief security officers of their communities.

But more important is my belief that if the youths are engaged meaningfully in economically productive activities, their appetite for crime will be greatly reduced. “In Anambra, healthcare delivery will be paramount. This will be achieved by equipping the existing tertiary, secondary and primary health care centers with state of the art equipment and well trained personnel.

Anambra will enjoy a first class health care to stem the tide of expensive medical vacation abroad. Pregnant women and children will have access to free and wholesome primary health care.“With my experience as a farmer, we will build Anambra into a food sufficient state and make it a one stop shop for raw and processed food and agro products in Nigeria and beyond.

My government will build an agricultural research center and provide farmers with improved seedlings for planting. Agriculture extension officers will be trained, equipped and deployed to the rural areas. Access to micro credit for agro ventures with low interest rates will be among the primary responsibilities of our government in ensuring growth and opportunities in the agro sector.