•Says Abia people yearn for positive change we can bring

By Clifford Ndujihe & Kenneth Agbonkhese

Sir Enyinanya Nwafor is a father, engineer, entrepreneur, investor, humanist and now a politician. Nwafor is from Mbutu Umuojima Ogbu in Osisioma Local Government Area of Abia State. His late father, Dr. Chima Nwafor, was deputy governor of Abia State (1992 and 2003), and his mother, Dame Gladys Nne Nwafor, was a top public servant.

The CEO of Tunnel End Investment Limited, and philanthropist whose actions are guided by integrity, native intelligence and humility, is the governorship candidate of the Young Progressives Party, YPP. In this interview, he spoke on what is wrong with Abia State, his visions and plans for the state.

On his political experience and structure to displace PDP in Abia

I come from a very politically-conscious family. My late father, Dr. Chima Nwafor, was a deputy governor to Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu. So I see myself as someone with a political background. And what we are experiencing in Abia State today is not about having a political background, it is all about the political will, the exposure, the passion, the experience and the competence, to be able to drive the movement in your state.

As someone with a workforce of no fewer than 1,500 persons directly and indirectly employed, I have been able to face very difficult and hard decisions. I don’t think it is about having the political experience per se. So, what we really need in the state is having investment sense, having investment exposure, having the passion to drive development and other things will come. I am not going to do it alone. I will have a team, some of them with super political exposure. I will bring in my corporate exposure and then we will work together as a team for the development of the state.

When you talk about PDP serving the state for so many years being a problem; I don’t have the attitude of talking about what has happened. I am aspiring to serve as the governor of Abia State. Now, the youths are at the forefront of whatever is going on in the state. They really want a change, and my party is a platform for the youths: Young Progressive Party. They know my exposure and experience, they know my competence and what I stand for, they know that once given the opportunity to the glory of God, I will drive development and I will realise the Abia of their dreams. So it doesn’t really matter – PDP or any other party – the wave is strong, the demand for a change is high and that is the spirit of the new Abia.

PDP has been the leading party from the outset. Do you think people are ready to embrace change that you are trying to bring?

Ask any Abian today: when they sleep, they sleep for change, when they eat, they yearn for change. When they dream, they dream for change. Not just change, but positive change that will drive development with a young man that is exposed and competent to be at the helm of affairs and that person is me.

Abia State is blessed with mineral resources. The people want a change that will guide development. They want a change that will bring about industrialisation; they want a change that will have something for the youths that will be resourceful to add value. They want a change where investors will come and be able to bring about positive change, development, create wealth, get people to learn skills and add their own quota to the development of Abia.

Abia has a population of five million resourceful people. Rich in natural and mineral resources and is a commercial state. As an investor and employer of labour, I want to use my corporate exposure to develop Abia.

Ukwa East and Ukwa West have a special kind of sand that can be used in the making of glasses. Going down to Ehia in Umuahia South, we have deposit of Kaolin, used in the making of ceramics, chalk and toothpaste. Moving to Isiukwuato, we have cashew. Recently, Julius Berger is trying to set up a cashew processing plant for them to generate revenue and get foreign exchange. These are the things we have in Abia, God’s own state.

Moving down to Umunnochi, a local government that is strategically located – bounded by Anambra, Ebonyi, Imo and Enugu states, what it tells you is the economic viability of such area, more so with its deposit of limestone.

Allocation coming from Abuja every month is old fashion. We are thinking out of the box to generate revenue, bring in investors and develop our state. This is what we will do when we are elected in 2023.

Are you saying that the previous administrations failed?

They have done their best. What matters is that their best might not be good enough for what the 21st century Abia youths need.

We have the Abia Charter of Equity. Do you think the zoning arrangement in there state favours your aspiration?

Ask any Abian what they need and they will say someone who will come and drive high level development and the one that will give them the Abia of their dreams. They don’t really care where the person is from. To me as a person, I am the governorship candidate of YPP. We don’t have any zoning arrangement. I am not talking for other parties. If they do, that is theirs. For us, we are after competence, exposure, development and industrialisation.

What are your plans for Aba the industrial city of Abia?

It is known that Aba is the commercial hub of the state; there is a lot to be got from Aba. In 2016, we did a housing survey for Aba and its environs. We were able to get 5,006 houses. With such level of development in Aba alone, if we are able to enhance our IGR, we can have enough revenue, we can make Aba the Japan of Africa.

There are certain things that make for growth and development: good roads, good waste disposal programme and good security. And the youths within that locality are being trained for a skill so that they can add their own value and become resourceful.

There is a lot we are going to do in Aba, massive road infrastructure programme, good disposal unit, good security, and we will do what we call export promotion council or board. In Ariaria International Market, there is a place called Bakassi where they do shoe, bags, belts, leather ones. I can tell you that the quality of what they do there will amaze you. These people are not lazy, they are very serious and hardworking. They need government to assist them.

For example, Vietnam has export value of over 20 billion dollars through leather business. And the distance from Vietnam to USA, their biggest market, is over 17,300 nautical miles. From Onne, the closest port to Aba is 6,300 nautical miles. What do we do to be able to drive development in Aba? The road linking Aba and Port Harcourt; we are not going to say it is a Federal Government road. We will do all things possible to fix that road.

What those people need from government is to begin to export their products. It will bring revenue to the state and country at large. Imagine exporting from Vietnam to America that takes 72 days, while that of Onne takes 28 days. No business person will want to take time to get his goods. So, if these people are encouraged, if we give them government support to a very great extent, commerce will be boosted in Aba.

I am from Osisioma Local Government and my people in Osisioma are not really the main trade guys in the Ariaria market. We have people from Anambra, Imo, Abiriba, and Ohafia, etc. Based on the data I have in terms of investment in that market; they are higher than my people. So it cannot be because I am from Osisioma, and I am governor, I want somebody from my place to be the chairman of the market. That can never happen. No way will a brother with an investment of N200,000 be chairman because he knows me, over a man that has an investment of over N5 billion. His ideas will be limited to his level of investment.

But that man that has N5 billion worth of goods in Ariaria; if there is a fire incident in the market, he will be so worried no matter where he is. He will do everything possible to get things right.

They say looks can be deceitful. People say you look too gentle to be a politician. Are you ready for the tough battle ahead?

Governance is not about fighting. There is not going to be war. It is all about mental capacity and what you have achieved over time.

If I have done so well to the glory of God in my business, governance is about getting the right people having the right policies and being focused. It is about having the political will. I don’t believe in bogus blueprints, I believe in setting my goals, short term and long term plans. Once you can approach it that way, it does not really matter.

In any case, to be in the construction industry, dealing with both skill and unskilled labourers, dealing with touts is not a tea party. To have seen it all, and still aspire to be the governor of the state, against a long-serving party called PDP, you must know that I am tough. Few months ago, nobody gave us any chance at all. YPP is the fastest growing political party in the state. We are fighting with the government, most government officials are resigning to come and join the YPP, to join the new Abia. They trust me, they know that whatever I say, I do.

We are not going to run the government based on sentiments. We have a civil service where people are being patronised based on their closeness to the government. It will be on merit. That is the only way we can achieve a robust and dedicated civil service.

What is your advice to Abians as you go into the elections?

My advice to Abians is that we must sacrifice. Everybody must play a part for the kind of change they are demanding. You cannot sit in your home and want a change. You must get involved. We thank God for the new electoral reform.

There is a level of confidence in the electoral processes so people should take advantage of that, get involved and elect a leader that will be able to restore the dignity of power to the glory of God in God’s own state, Abia.

What will be your plans for the South-East if you become governor because Abia cannot be an island?

Synergy and collaboration. We must work together. For me, party affiliation must not be a barrier. The governors of South-East must have a sense of direction and that sense of direction is regional investments and development that must be for the interest of all the states. That can be achieved through industrialisation, commerce and trade.

We were trying to do some roads. In Abia we divided the roads into 352 kilometres across the state and called them economically viable roads.

We concentrated on those roads linking Abia to other south-eastern states. When they shake, economic activities, trade commerce will go. You can’t achieve this without synergy with states like Imo, Anambra, Enugu and Ebonyi. The synergy must be genuine and geared towards the interest of the people of the South-East.

What should Abians expect from your government after 100 days in office, if elected?

I don’t believe in 100 days. Let me tell you why. 100 days is because you are in a hurry to please people. I have my programmes. Short term and long term. I am there to serve my people, bring about development and, at the end of the day, I prefer to be asked what I would have in my handover notes after four years

In my handover note, I will be seen as a man who has been able to usher in a new Abia to the glory of God and the people. The Abia of their dreams, an industrialised Abia where investors must have come with massive investments; I have created wealth, I have been able to drive development, I have been able to place Abia as one of the leading economies of this country.

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