Mr Chinedu Onu is one of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship aspirants in Enugu State. He had served as Commissioner under the Chimaroke Nnamani administration and under Governor Sullivan Chime?s regime he served as Special Adviser on Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and Special Adviser on Urban Renewal at different times. He is currently the Trustee representing the South East geopolitical zone in the Board of Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund). In this interview with ADVOCATE NIGERIA, Onu unveiled his agenda for Enugu State and asked the people of state to give him the chance to use his wealth of experience in public service to transform the state.
What inspired you to run for the office of the governor of Enugu state?
I have a burning desire to serve my people; to get things right. I have a burning desire to make Enugu a more functional State than it is now. As you already know, Enugu up until now has remained a civil service state. It is our intention to work with positively minded people in Enugu, to put Enugu in a global market. I intend to see to the increase in investment in agriculture and industry, use these as tools for job and wealth creation. In the old good days of Premier M. I. Okpara, our economy was built by agriculture but since the petro dollar and naira came, government abandoned agriculture. An easiest way to create employments, to create jobs and to create wealth is agriculture and that is why we will want our people to go back to agriculture in a fully mechanized way. I want to bring back all the ailing industries established by M.I. Okpara administration and create the environment to have more established. Today our Hotel Presidential is not working; the sunrise floor mill is not working; our cashew industry is also not working. What we have in Oghe today is not optimal, the piggery farm in Okpuje is not working, the Adda rice company in Adani is not working. We must revitalize and re-engineer Nigergas, Niger Steel, the Aluminum factory at Ohebe Dim and Ikenga Hotels in Nsukka. The Enugu Cement Factory has been on the drawing board for several years. My administration shall get it right by ensuring that these things materialize.
I want us to be in a position to have a robust agro business in Enugu state; where we will have postharvest facilities that can preserve our agricultural produce; where we also have facilities for juice extraction in places like Amoli.
We want to make education more functional. There is a disconnect between what is in our curriculum as at today and what employers of labour need. Many of our schools lack functional laboratories. Example, growing up we had introductory technology laboratories and other science laboratories. Those things are no longer there.
In the health sector, my administration will establish specialist hospitals in each of the senatorial zones in Enugu state and run functional drug revolving loan geared towards halting the capital flight expended for medical trips overseas. We shall bring greater innovation and flexibility in running our primary healthcare services and ensure that at all times, quality drugs are well accessed in all health centres and dispensary units in all our hospitals.
Our housing programme will key into mortgage financing to ensure sustainability of Civil and Public housing schemes. Along the newly constructed Ugwuogo/Opi Nsukka access road, we shall build over five thousand housing scheme and also position the state to receive our businessmen in Onitsha by building housing schemes in Ugwuoba and Oji River councils.
If elected governor, I am going to promote industrial clusters. Take a look at what is happening in coal camp today. The industry today is not optimally harnessed. There are certain basic machineries and equipment that could be made available for the artisans. We need to be able to put that in place. Government is not just there to pay salary to our people even though it is very important but we need to also teach our people how to create wealth. We should not be waiting for the handout called federal allocation. These are things we want to use agriculture and industry to achieve. For instance, the present administration, conservatively speaking, may have bought between 3,000 and 4,000 vehicles since inception. That number is enough for us to attract an assembly plant here in Enugu, supported and facilitated by government but driven by the private sector. It will have a multiplier effect to our people and will generate revenue and businesses. So we must get it right in industrializing Enugu.
It is a known fact that power and electricity drive the economy. It is to the benefit of the state that we are endowed with coal and we intend to tap into this to boost the economy of the state. In South Africa today, coal is still contributing to her national grid. The coal deposit in Ezimo, Ngwo and others shall be utilized to establish coal fired thermal stations
We have to extend what this administration has done in the area of security. There is need to create Enugu State Police compensation and welfare scheme, whereby if any Police officer dies in active service, the family of the will receive compensation from the state government. This will inject greater sense of responsibility and patriotism in them and boost their morale towards effectively combating crimes in the state. The security agencies will be fully equipped with cutting edge security technologies for effective crime control. Of course, CCTV cameras shall be installed and maintained in major city points and towns for crime detection and prosecution of criminals. There are still some challenges in the fringes of the city like Trans Ekulu and Emene. It has to be a State-wide campaign. There is need for Government to deal with fleeing bandits from Anambra State, arising from what the Governor of Anambra state is doing. It should be a State-wide thing. We need to strengthen our commodity marketing board and have it buy up whatever comes from our farmers, sell at subsidized rate to the people and export out of Enugu. It will get to a point where in every state of the federation, you will see marketing outlets owned by Enugu state government for our products. For instance Nsukka yellow pepper, our cashew nuts, our palm oil, palm kernel products and our rice. And of course it is our intention that what we are going to do in the field of fish farming will be that West African sub-region will have our fish sold to them. If you check Federal Government statistics you will find out the amount of money expended in importing fish into the country. Everything we need for that business to thrive in Enugu, we have it. The only thing lacking now is the political will. That we are going to provide. Fundamentally, 90% of agricultural products that come into southern Nigeria, enter through Enugu, that is in Obollo Afor. Some pass through 9th mile and Four-Corner junction along Enugu-Portharcourt express way. We are going to have bonded warehouses in those entry and exit locations I have already mentioned. We are also going to have agro processing facilities. We need to benefit from the fact that we are the entry points to southern Nigeria. These goods that move to Onitsha, and to other places, we need to find a way of allowing them to come here and even make them. It is not acceptable to me till date that 9th mile remains the way it is. 9th mile is supposed to be an economic hub in south eastern Nigeria by the strategic nature God has given to the place. We are going to seek to complete a process the Government had started in the past to have an export processing zone in 9th mile. This is what we are going to work on round the clock. And as a people, we need to put facilities on ground to reap from the fact that now we have an international airport in Enugu. If given the mandate, of course certainly, it is my candid view that the youths of Enugu need a lot more support from the Government to realize their talents and potentials. Talents hunt in different areas -in music, football and other sports, arts, writing, and so on. We are going to do that. Our target now should be to catch them young. Wewould rather want our youths to use their hands; for God has promised us that he will bless the works of our hands. So we expect Enugu youths to deploy their hands to worthy ventures in the expectation of God?s blessings.
We are going to play big in tourism. By nature, Enugu City has blossomed into a top notch tourist destination, especially for conferences. The abandoned International Conference center is in urgent demand now going by what is happening in some parts of the country now that people are not comfortable to hold conferences there. We will be in a position to have such facility here in Enugu so that any conference that is not holding in Abuja, will hold here. The increasing high cost of education in Enugu is disturbing. It is something we also need to address. In some states we have discriminatory school fees being paid. That is indigene fees, and non-indigene fees. That we will not accommodate here. Enugu is the home for all Igbo people. I am looking forward to a day that members that will constitute the cabinet will have people drawn from Abia, Anambra, Imo and Ebonyi states. That is the type of cabinet that I would want to run. This is because; Enugu remains the eastern Nigerian regional headquarters. And government needs to take bold steps for every person in Igboland to appreciate that Enugu is a home for him or her.
These are part of the things I intend to achieve in Enugu as a governor. The present governor has tried to do a lot in terms of road rehabilitation and reconstructions. They are getting it right in that aspect, but the administration is not getting it right with moribund Hotel Presidential built some years before some of them were born. They are not getting it right too with youths in Enugu state massively unemployed and neglected. We must get it right by reaffirming that it is the duty of the government to create jobs for our people.
Look at what is happening in our educational sector. We have not got it right in this most crucial sector. I believe that the only visible thing is that they gave vehicles to principals. The money used in buying vehicles for them can equip all the science laboratories of all secondary schools in Enugu state. The cost of buying one of those vans as at the time they did it was approximately five million naira. For any secondary school you spend up to 5million Naira for their laboratory, you know what that means. As a Governor in Enugu, I will revive and resuscitate Enugu State scholarship scheme. Just recently we came back from a trip from Malaysia and UK where we went to supervise our scholars that are on scholarship of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund and it is clear to me that as a people in the South East, Enugu specifically, we are not preparing our young ones for the challenges ahead. You see a lot of scholars from Kano, from Rivers and other states. These are the ones that our people will compete with in the future in our federal civil service and the academia. My covenant with my people in Enugu state in education sector will require an establishment of a state wide internet access for our people and a robust education programme for our civil service towards human capital optimization and increased service delivery. Overall, we shall establish and maintain Enugu State Education Support Initiative, which shall bankroll the provision of computers and tablets to Enugu state students from Junior Secondary to motivate interest in computer, ICT literacy and facilitate knowledge driven economy in Enugu state. I have the courage to accelerate development in Enugu state. Our state must move. We shall establish a dual carriage road through the independence layout Phase11, to Akpugo in Nkanu West to reduce cost of land and building in Enugu state.
You were once part of this current administration at some point. If you had all these ideas, why did you not collaborate with the Governor to translate them into policy actions for the development of the State? Or did you out of selfishness hoard such knowledge in order to make the government under-perform?
I was Governor Chime?s Special Adviser on Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for sometime and Special Adviser on Urban Renewal. I believe I made my mark while I was part of the administration. For instance, I articulated the state?s submissions to MDG office for conditional grants. That was the only assignment I did before I left that administration. The massive Urban Renewal Projects that you are seeing now is part of what I did which I started in the previous administration when I was Commissioner for Environment.
of the state?
I will continue to say that I am a young man that is deeply immersed in God?s favour. I may be of rare breed, having worked at the executive arm of all the tiers of government, from Local Government level to State and finally now at the Federal level. I started my journey in the service of the people when I was appointed a supervisory councilor for Agriculture in Udenu Local Government Area. Today in Udenu, we have a variety of maize which I introduced, because we had to go then to Strategic Grains Reserve in Ogoja to get improved maize grains for our people. Shortly after that I began to run for the Chairmanship of my Local Government, and ended up being the Transition Committee Chairman of Udunedem Development Center. From there, I became a Commissioner in Enugu State and held several important portfolios -Youths and Sports Development followed by the Public Utilities and finally, the Commissioner for Environment. I brought several reforms to bear in each of those Ministries. For instance, what is today referred as National Urban Water Sector Reform Project in Enugu State sponsored by the World Bank was actually signed during that administration. The administration fully paid for all the counterpart fund for that project. But it is regrettable that those responsible did not implement the project well, or I stand to be informed about what had happened. No additional cup of water has been generated from that huge project. Enugu is still groaning under lack of potable water.
In the Ministry of Environment, we saw to the making of new environmental law in Enugu. I supervised the process that gave rise tothat. We established the present day Enugu State Waste Management Agency (ESWAMA). In the past it used to be Enugu State Environmental Protection Agency (ENSPA). We created ESWAMA as it is today. We established the mobile environmental courts. We re-established the monthly sanitation exercise. In doing all those, we worked in partnership with both local and international development partners, especially the Department for International Development (DFID) of United Kingdom. We were able to mainstream environmental sustainability as a tool for poverty reduction into the entire programme of the State then. I am currently a trustee representing the South East geopolitical zone in the Board of Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund). In the course of my present national assignment, I discovered that our people in tertiary institutions in South East do not access funds due to them as and when due. But I have through recourse to all the guidelines for accessing TETfund by tertiary institutions, got them to respond properly. I have also attracted a couple of projects to our tertiary institutions in the South East to wit. I attracted a fund of 400 million Naira for University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN); 100 million Naira project for Enugu State University of Science and Technology (ESUT); 100 million Naira project for Federal College of Education Eha-Amufu; 100 million Naira for Ebonyi College of Education, Ikwo; N300M project for Federal Polytechnic Oko, N300M to Imo State Polytechnic, N300M to Nnamdi Azkiwe University, Awka. And as it is now, they are all fully awake to their responsibility in accessing these funds, because it is not acceptable to me that tertiary institutions in South East do not utilize the funds allocated to them. We have also succeeded in raising the consciousness of our scholars in these tertiary institutions towards accessing the funds set aside for research; national research fund and institutional research fund which they get from the tertiary institutions where they work. Before I went to the TETFund Board, there is 1 Billion Naira Boy Child Education Programme for South East lying there. At the moment, we are almost at the point of utilizing the Fund. What we intend to do is fully equipment two Technical Colleges in each of the State in South East. So it is targeted at school drop outs and those who are creative. The overall aim is to boast the economy through vocational education in the South East. The essence will be to ensure that emphasis is on 80% practical and 20% theory. All these are done to see if our own economy can take off towards a destined prosperity and abundance across the whole tiers of our economy namely, agriculture, manufacture/industry and services. As you can see from my narrative, I have garnered sufficient leadership experience from all the tiers of government, and as a lawyer and practicing Christian, I feel that I have the required credentials to lead Enugu State as the Governor.
Having benefitted largely from the Government, how have you been able to impact on the society, institutions and individuals?
Of course I have a personal and highly organized and endowed Foundation through which I aid individuals and groups in need. Ingrace Foundation through its women empowerment network, Women Economic Empowerment Project (WEEP-NOT) has put over 300 women especially active poor widows to different businesses. There is periodic disbursement of non-refundable revolving loan to women groups from various parishes and denominations in Enugu State which they use to start up small scale businesses. The Foundation has assisted over 80 graduates in various tertiary institutions through its Scholarship Scheme, and more of that is on course for over 100 undergraduates still in schools. We are providing mobility for the clergy for evangelization. We are also assisting the handicapped to add value to their living. These are part of the things we are doing in Ingrace Foundation.
We just learnt that Enugu State PDP endorsed a consensus candidate for the 2015 Enugu Guber, and you also want to actualize your ambition on the same PDP platform?
I am a good party man. My party the PDP is the party I intend to run on its platform. PDP has given us guidelines for our primaries, and I am keeping faith with 29th November 2014; the date for the primaries. In the final analysis, as in the scriptures, it is no he that willeth, nor he that runneth, but to him whom the Lord showeth mercy because power belongs to God.
Source: The Advocate