By Nnamdi Ojiego
Senator Ifeanyi Uba represents Anambra South Senatorial District in the Senate. He is also the Convener of Anambra Progressives and Development Union, APDU, a group of like-minded individuals with the sole objective of developing the state. In this interview, he speaks on APDU’s economic roadmap, his impacts in the Senate, and his bid to become the next governor of Anambra.
You are the convener of Anambra Progressives and Development Union, APDU…
We started as Anambra Progressives Against Covid-19. It is an assemblage of patriotic like minds who are driven and spurred by ideals aimed at moving Anambra State forward.
This platform was initially created for sharing ideas, voluntary donations of cash, kits, medical equipment, beds and the construction of three medical centres in Nnewi, Awka and Nsugbe, which cut across the three senatorial districts in the state in our bid to tackle the greatest enemy of mankind, coronavirus.
The primary aim was to help the state government tackle and find a lasting solution to the pandemic. We noticed that government was trying to use the National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, orientation camp as isolation centers, which we thought wasn’t a good idea.
We decided to build isolation centres which would later be transformed into hospitals.
What informed siting of the hospitals in each of the three senatorial districts of the state?
It was a collective idea of the members. When we finished building the one at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University Teaching Hospital, NAUTH, Nnewi, we took another position to build one in Awka, at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, UNIZIK, which is Anambra Central.
We started the one of Anambra North at Nsugbe, after getting the governor’s consent. However, along the line, there was disagreement, or maybe, the governor didn’t want us to continue with the project, even though we have invested quite over N10 million naira in the project.
In our determination to provide the facility for the people, we moved the hospital project to a religious facility in Onitsha. Our major concern is for our people in every part of the state to be able to access the facilities.
How did this vision metamorphose into building Anambra Industrial City?
Our plan is, after health delivery, to create a strong economy. Strong economy means bringing our investments home. Anambra State economy is built on commerce, entrepreneurial ability and innovation.
Therefore, opportunities to leverage the commercial and enterprising capacity of our people to become the industrial capital of West Africa are increasingly available.
The APDU plan is, therefore, to reposition our dear state for greater heights as the Light of the Nation, with a strategic framework to realise a shared vision of economic prosperity.
Strong labour force
The first thing we did in that regard, was to raise over N480 million, which we are investing 100 percent into humanitarian causes like the building of hospitals. We looked at job creation and employment for our teeming youths.
Because of this, we decided to develop what we called an industrial city, which is going to comprise 500 industries and 500 hostels. The industries we are building will create 25,000 employments, that is, 500 industries by a minimum of 50 employees each, will attract 25,000 jobs, and these jobs are for the people of Anambra state.
What we are trying to do is to ensure that every factory we are building, we will first and foremost, build a hostel for people that would be working in the factories so that they can follow the rules and regulations of the organisation in terms of behavioural attitude. We have to do this because we need behaviourial reorientation to redirect our youths.
We are also building a bonded inland terminal which will give good incentives to our members who are mainly business people. That is why we decided to go into industrial development and inland container terminal.
About 90 percent of us are businessmen. If we don’t have where we can discharge our containers or a platform we can call our own, we will continue to suffer at the hands of officials and agents, who charge us demurrages even when the ships are yet to berth. We want to change that culture by bringing our containers home.
In this inland port development, there are provisions for international trade fairs, culture, tourism, and conference centre. This will spur the development of the local government economy, boost business consultations through partnerships with international and development institutions.
It is very important to inform our people that we are partnering with Bank of Industry, BoI, African Export-Import Bank, Afreximbank, and African Development Bank, AfDB, in all these projects that we are embarking upon.
To show how serious we are, the foundations for the Anambra industrial city in Amichi, Nnewi South and the bonded terminal at Lilu in Ihiala Local Government areas respectively, have been laid, and work has commenced in those locations. It took us a lot of discussions to arrive at these locations.
We put many factors into consideration such as friendly environment, friendly landlords, as well as proximity. We have also got a guaranty for 18 hours of electricity per day for the two locations.
After ensuring a strong economy, we will now move into agricultural revolution. We will approach traditional rulers to give us land for farming. Our target is that every member of APDU will have land to cultivate. Each member will need about five hectares of land for agricultural purposes and as a means of employing people.
Our agricultural plans include revitalisation and a strong commitment to the development of local ranching autonomy of Efi Igbo. We want to make farming lucrative in Igbo land and make it a major source of employment for the people.
Our aim is to have a food reserve bank for Ndigbo so that we won’t have to suffer if farmers decide to go on strike in the north. If we don’t have food security, those who we rely on for basic food items will continue to hold us to ransom.
We learned that members of APDU are embarking on a trip to Rwanda. What was it for?
All things being equal, that trip is scheduled to take place in March. The simple reason is that Rwanda went through civil war/genocide just like us.
However, it took them only two decades to come out of it. And today, Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, is the cleanest city in Africa. We want to emulate Rwanda.
There are insinuations that APDU is a political group to actualise your governorship ambitions?
That is not true. This association is totally apolitical. This great association of over 380 members is made up of men of great vision, spread all over the world, who are eager to make Anambra State great again.
On this platform, we have members from different political parties including those aspiring to become governor of Anambra State. I personally brought in people like Chidi Nwankwo, George Moghalu, Tony Nwoye, and Val Ozigbo among others.
They are all our members and some of them are aspiring for the governorship position through their various political parties.
You have been in the Senate for about a year and a half. Can you say you have given your people quality representation?
I am doing pretty well both in my legislative functions and in providing dividends of democracy to my people through constituency projects.
As a lawmaker, I have sponsored a lot of bills. Actually, the only bill President Buhari has signed into law in the 9th Senate was my bill. That Offshore Bill was signed by Mr. President in the United Kingdom, because of its importance to the Nigerian economy.
That law now saves Nigeria over N500 billion every year. It is a very big applause to me. It was because of this particular bill that made President of the Senate nicknamed me Prince of the Senate. I was able to think about what Nigeria has been losing every year for the past 19 years. N500 billion is not a small amount of money and it increases yearly.
Again, the Senate Order Paper has ranked me the best senator among 46 new members for the second time in a row. According to the Order Paper, I raised the most bills among the new members.
In terms of constituency projects, you can see what I’m doing in Nnewi even with my own resources. If you go to Uga, I have completed the primary health centre there. I am also building another health centre at Ekwulobia. I have also built many schools and provided solar street lights in different communities across the state.
There were reports that your state governor, Willie Obiano stopped you from carrying out road repairs. What were his reasons?
I don’t know his reasons, but I guess it was political. He is trying to stop me when I have the legislative mandate to construct roads in Anambra State.
I am the first indigene of Anambra South Senatorial District and I don’t think I should be stopped from doing anything good for the people. Irrespective of that, we have continued and to the glory of God, the road projects are going on very well.
The governorship election will hold in the state this year. Are you contesting?
I am definitely contesting. And I’m sure of my party, YPP, giving me the ticket to contest on its platform in this year’s election.
Do you think you have the support of the masses to become the next governor?
As far as the Anambra governorship election is concerned, I think I have an edge over other aspirants. You know, having contested in 2013, I now know and understand Anambra State very well.
Today, I have affiliation with all the structures in the state, including the youths, women groups, the professionals and so many other things that give value to electoral victory. I don’t think I will have any contender or any challenger.