Lady Chidi Onyemelukwe is the daughter of former Vice President of Nigeria, Dr Alex Ekwueme. She is a Peoples Democratic Party aspirant for the governorship seat of Anambra State. She spoke with David-Chyddy Eleke on her aspiration and how her father influenced decision to run for governorship
Why are you in the governorship contest?
My manifesto says it all. Our dear state needs restoration in all facets because over the past eight years people have experienced leadership, trust, fiscal, economic and infrastructure deficits. My priorities are to restore trust and confidence, in both leadership and government; to get our state infrastructure working again; to sustain and protect existing public infrastructure and public properties; to complete viable abandoned projects and place Anambra State on the path to greatness, God being our helper.
It is easy to see that things are not working optimally. The situation could get a lot worse if we fold our hands. I am moved by a strong desire to serve selflessly. To sustain legacy and to get the job done right with the fear of God, that’s the reason I’m running.
What is your motivation in the race?
Leadership is about service. I am privileged to have been well travelled. I have been to places where things work and are taken for granted. Even here in Nigeria, in the so-called good old days, potable water was available in most urban areas, the roads were few but well maintained, public properties were well maintained by the Public Works Department (PWD). If we improve the quality of life, give our people hope and better life, that ought to be sufficient motivation. As the saying goes, to whom much is given, much is expected. I want to give back. I want a state that our children are proud to call home. As a child growing up, holidays in the village were always the highlight of my year. These days, the young ones are mostly looking for a way out. A lot has gone wrong. We need to get back on the right track.
Could you tell us in practical terms what you think government is not doing right at the moment, and what will you do differently?
Our approach of doing things differently will be dual-tracked: create opportunities and an enabling environment to make governance seamless and reform and strengthen our public institutions. So we will bring experience to the table, follow due process, and accountability anchored on the fear of God. Our governance mantra, ethics and values will be premised on accountability and transparency. We shall offer opportunities for our people to get affordable healthcare, good education, gainful employment and dividends of democracy. We will engage in gender mainstreaming at all levels, bureaucratic and political. Elective and appointive positions will be based on a 60:40 ratio.
If given the opportunity, my team and I, shall reform and strengthen our governance institutions to serve the public interest and the common cause, guarantee investors’ interest and confidence, restore capital inflow and sustainable development. Our budgetary process shall be transparent and results-based. Our policies will be people-driven. Anambra State will be fiscally secure and solvent under my watch.
My plan for Anambra is simply, to take her from good to great. In the pecking order of states and in all facets – good governance, solvency, economic, political, educations, industry and commerce, housing, welfare, revenue generation, power sufficiency, and infrastructure – I want to see Anambra ranked in the Too Five in Nigeria, and consistently so. That is my plan.
Weighing yourself against other billionaire aspirants in the race with you, how would you rate your chances, and do you sincerely think PDP can win back Anambra State
Money is as good as what it can buy for you. It could also be detrimental, if not well deployed. Campaign financing laws took care of that. No candidate can justifiably exceed the N200 million spelt out by the Electoral Act for vying for governorship. Doing so is sufficient grounds for disqualification. So, wealth is just one attribute of the race. Someone mentioned to me that Anambra has the highest concentration of millionaires and billionaires. So it’s only natural that some of them aspire to govern the state. What is key, is what added value each aspirant brings to the table.
With all modesty, if political and social pedigree were the only factors for winning this election, I believe I’m in good stead to be the next Governor of our dear state. Of those you refer to as tested, none became Governor, and just a few have been on the ticket of major parties either as candidate or deputy, so we are all essentially at the same level. What matters most, is what Anambra needs at this juncture to leapfrog from stagnation to eminence and prosperity. I’m offering myself and my services to make that dream a reality.
As for PDP winning, I can say PDP is in the race to win. I am in the race to win. Many believe that the ruling parties, both at the central and state levels have not acquitted themselves creditably and therefore traditional and primordial sentiments alone, cannot return or put them in power in Anambra State. It’s time for a reality check. The outcome of the November 6 election, barring anything untoward, will be in the hands of the Anambra electorate, and of course, in the hands of God.
What do you think the state lacks that you will provide?
Like Nigeria, Anambra State is blessed with human and material resources. Really, we lack nothing in that sense. What we need is focused, transformative, adaptive and purposeful leadership that will deploy its energy and the state’s finances and resources in promoting the common cause, welfare and giving our people a better life. Of course, in doing so, one would strive to provide facilities that would address the unmet needs, in housing, healthcare, education, food sufficiency potable water, power, employment and infrastructure.
What is your rating of the serving governor and those before him?
By the mercies of the Almighty, in 2017, I ran on a joint ticket as deputy to Oseloka H. Obaze. Today, I am running for the top job so my ratings stand a great risk of being viewed as biased. Such assessments are the prerogatives of the Anambra people. I will suggest that you direct your question to the everyday citizen of Anambra State. They are in a better position to provide an unbiased answer to those questions. But so you don’t think I’m doing the dodge, I’ll tell you this. As a citizen I have one vote. And I know that in 2017, I did not vote for the incumbent.
Do you fear that a political godfather like former Governor, Peter Obi may influence the choice of governorship candidate for PDP?
PDP is the longest and presently the only active party amongst those founded at the cusp of the return to democracy in 1999. We have institutional capacity, institutional memory, and sagacious stakeholders and leaders. These leaders, like Peter Obi, are highly respected and wield sufficient influence to advise the party on how to do things right in the interest of the party, and to ensure equity, credibility and transparency. Insofar as their individual and collective influence are germane and in tandem with the aspirations of the party, their respective roles remains critical. That is the much I can say about that.
Some people have this perception that Anambra is not ripe for a female governor. Does that bother you?
Such perception could be misinterpreted as being sexist; but I won’t go that route, since I know there is a cultural angle to it. Anambra needs a female Governor because we need to do things differently. Moreover, today in Nigeria we have had a female Chief Justice, a female Admiral, A female Army General, female senators – indeed Anambra has two presently- and female captains of industry. We have also had a female deputy Governor and Governor in Anambra State. So, where is this ‘not being ripe’ coming from? I think we should leave the perception and deal with the realities. My confidence comes from God and from my God given abilities.
Do not underrate the powers and abilities of a woman because in deed, there are a lot that a woman can achieve that the men folk are not even thinking of, or do not even consider as serious. Our platform has offered the solution to addressing the scourge of out-of-school children, of which there are over 13 million in Nigeria. Our approach will be simple but efficient and practical: we intend to invest aggressively in primary, secondary, vocational and tertiary education. We will also make Primary and Secondary education mandatory and free up to Junior Secondary level in order to lower out-of-school and dropout rates. We will devote U.N. prescribed budgetary allocation of 26% to education. Those are little details that a woman pays attention to.
In what ways would you say your late father influenced you?
I learnt practical leadership from my late father. We were living in the state house when he was Vice President, and I know first hand what my father did during his days as Vice President of Nigeria. I am somewhat like my father, and I was very close to him, to the extent my mother used to call me her co-wife. I learnt a lot from my father, and that is the angle I’m coming from in fixing Anambra State. My late father was a selfless man, a man who had honour and integrity and worked to leave a legacy for humanity. I learnt a lot from him too. If you are asking if his name opens doors for me, I will simply say I do not think so. Maybe or maybe not.