Sir Donatus Nwankpa is the chairman of the Abia State All Progressives Congress (APC). In this interview with Correspondent, Sunny Nwankwo, Nwankpa speaks on the 30th anniversary of the creation of the state and the progress made so far.
What is your take as Abia State marks 30 years of its creation?
We are still far from the journey. The biggest challenge that we have in Abia is that the past and present leaders have not been able to define a road map for the development of the state. As we speak, nobody can authoritatively point to what Abia developmental blueprint is like. A lot of things are done haphazardly. The state has made some progress, but this is not where Abia is supposed to be; we are not yet there because there is no defined agenda or direction or blueprint for development. There is a need for Abians to come together under an economic and social development summit to have a target or economic blueprint. Abia hasn’t shown any target.
The governor said during his anniversary broadcast that the state has surpassed the expectations of its founding fathers. Do you agree?
This is an insult on our founding fathers. Our founding fathers, like Dr. M.I. Okpara, Senator Dr. Jaja Nwachukwu, George Nwigwe, the late Eze Enweremadu, and the late Eze A.S. Nwagbara helped to lay the foundation of Nigeria’s national development. What we have today was not their vision for Abians. Their vision is for Abia to become a pacesetter in the country. Their vision is for Abia to become a state that flows with milk and honey. Their vision was not infrastructural decadence and a directionless system. It is a mockery of the sensibility, intellectual and vision of people like the late Alvan Ikoku and among others. Whatever has been achieved in Abia is strictly on individual enterprise. Instead of our technological advancement going higher, it is deteriorating. Abia in many areas is stagnant. If you don’t know where you are going, how will you know where you are? If you don’t know where you are going, how will you know how far you have gone in your journey?
The governor listed education, agriculture, and infrastructure as some of the areas he has been able to record tremendous progress. Do you agree with him?
Maybe the governor has a lot of these ideas that are stillborn. That is to say that they either suffered miscarriage or abortion. A lot of things need to be done in all the sectors of the state. Many (public) schools that had name and influence are sorry sights today. What is the state of Government College Umuahia? What is the state of Ngwa High School, National High School, Methodist College, Sacred Heart College, Eziama High School and others? Abia has no paradigm of assessment because we have not been able to draw a roadmap to set a target about where we want to be. If you look at the agricultural revolution of the late Dr. M.I. Okpara in the ’60s that made the Eastern Region the fastest growing economy, not just in Nigeria, but in the whole of sub-Saharan Africa, such that countries like Malaysia came to the Eastern Region to learn agricultural revolution, you will agree with me that it is a misnomer for someone to say that they have surpassed the agricultural revolution of Okpara.
My advice is that all hands must be on deck. We must be able to separate governance and politicking. Immediately a government is elected and sworn-in, the focus should be on governance. The focus should be on how to leverage the administration to better the lots of the people, by attracting investment to the state. There should also be collaboration and cooperation, regardless of political affiliation, the moment one is elected to represent the people in different capacities at the state and federal levels. We should not be seen as people who play politics with everything. History will not forgive us if we continue to politicize everything in the state.
What will the APC do differently, if given the opportunity to govern the state?
The political platform is not the issue. What is important is the vision of the political actors. America has done well so far because the Democrats and the Republicans have always played their roles well each time they are called upon to serve the people. So, regardless of the political party that one is coming from, the most important thing is what the person has to offer? Where does the person place the state? Have they been able to think and plan ahead for the coming generation? What do they want history to remember them for? Would you be remembered as a charismatic, transformative, bureaucratic or administrative leader? A leader must make a mark. If a state has a roadmap, every person must align with it.
What does Abia need to do to be at par with its contemporaries?
The government must create employment, by resuscitating our ailing industries. The government must encourage the growth of individual enterprises. The state’s infrastructure should be improved. The state should be opened up for investors and when we do that, we are directly and indirectly creating jobs for the teeming unemployed persons. It means that we are creating wealth and development. We should look at areas of our economic strength. We must aspire to be the best in something; we must have an area of comparative advantage. We have so many youths with great potentials. The only thing is to look for ways to harness their individual skills, by providing the necessary conducive environment for their businesses to thrive. The rural areas need to be opened up. What is the distance between Ohafia and Umuahia? What is the distance between Uzuakoli and Umuahia? People go to work from Gwagwalada to Abuja. In the past, people travelled from Aba to Umuahia. We should de-emphasize miscellaneous expenses and incidentals and put more on infrastructural development that will translate to wealth creation and bring about development, employment and empowerment.
What is your assessment of the security situation in Abia?
Abia has not fared badly in terms of security and we know that to a large extent, God has been with us. He has been protecting us and because we rededicated this state to Him and because we have also played our politics as brothers; that is why people have not hidden under any political acrimony to perpetuate brutality, banditry and rascality. The area that we are talking about improvement is community policing and that is why I am one of those in this country calling for the legalization of firearms. Nigeria should legalize arms. People should have the right to defend themselves, considering that the state of insecurity in the country has left a lot of arms in the hands of the wrong persons. So, there is a need for self-preservation and self-protection. That is the greatest principle of life.