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As Imo governor, tourism’ll be my priority —Onyearugbulem, FJP candidate

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Freedom and Justice

Mr Anthony Onyearugbulem, the son of the late Navy Captain Anthony Onyearugbulem, a former military administrator of Ondo and Edo states, is the governorship candidate of the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) in the March 2 governorship election in Imo State. In this interview with Group Politics Editor, TAIWO ADISA, he declares his preparation for the election.


You are the governorship candidate of Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) in Imo State. Why did you seek to plunge into the murky waters of politics and how do you intend to do battle with the giants of Imo politics?

I think that is one of the ironies we see of life. Nothing ever seems to be straightforward. It will be very ironical for someone of my kind to be in politics, being a gentleman but that is how we see it. The reality is that the people of my state have been bamboozled, astonished and bastardized by ineptitude, poverty and suffering and this is something that has been a burden for me. This is something that has kept me awake at night. I can’t stand it anymore and I am convinced that the opportunity to change the current situation in my state must come and would come by leading my people and beyond that, serving my people. I really do not share the view of the murkiness of the waters of politics. I think that some things are much more figurative than literal. We need people with clean hands, if anything, to mop up that murky water. That is why we are here.

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So, how do you intend to tackle the challenge?

I intend to tackle it by playing politics according to the rules. There are standard and set rules for politicking and campaigning, for talking to your people, for meeting your people, for enlightening your people, conscientising  your people and that is what we are going to do, playing the game according to the rules and reap the rewards.


The incumbent governor of the state, Rochas Okorocha, who has won elections in the state against the odds on two occasions, don’t you see him as established enough to be difficult to defeat?

Luckily for me, I’m not running against the current governor of Imo State. So, he will not even serve as a problem.

He wants to put in his in-law as a candidate that he will relate with. That is his main agenda and that is why it looks as if anybody who is in the race is contesting against him.

Then we will be contesting against his in-law, not him.


What will now be the agenda of your party and what would you do differently in terms of the development agenda of the party for the state?

What we will do differently is honesty. We do not want to come in deceiving our people. We do not want to come in with white elephant projects. We do not want to come in telling them what they want and not what they need. We are coming in an eagle eye’s view. We want to tackle every problem concertedly. Beyond that is honesty. We want to tell them the truth and accept them in that light as well.


You think the past governors in the state have not been truthful enough or following the aspiration of the people the way they should?

That would be for them to answer and that would also be for the people to say. The reality on ground is that the people do not feel that they have been served. People have not enjoyed the dividends of democracy in any way, shape or form and, if they have, in very little measure. So, they have not done well and that is why we are here.


So, what would be the pressing issue to move the state forward, if you become the governor?

For me, I want to be the law and order candidate and beyond that, the law and order governor. I believe personally that, without that sense of law, without that sense of organization and of order, there can be no prosperity. So, we want to organise things in the state. We want to see that people obey rules, people obey laws and there is orderliness. That will attract investors. That will attract visitors. That is what I want to face.


The state is one of those grappling with payment of salaries. The debate is ongoing on the N30,000-minimum wage, even as many states in the country are highly indebted and have low IGR. How do you intend to lift the IGR status of Imo State?

We want to focus on tourism. We have what it takes in our state to bring people in. For example, we have the Oguta Lakes located in the south of the state. We want to be able to build tourism-related paraphernalia that would bring people into the state.  We want to also urbanise the suburban areas, make them urban centres and bring development to the area. In addition to that, we also want create industrial cities that would create more jobs in return and give us the opportunity to produce and market. These are just a few things we have in mind to generate revenue.

Beyond that, we are going to tax. We want to follow taxation with commitment; we want to do it intelligently and conscientiously. We want to collect tax when due and get our people to know that it is to their own advantage when they pay tax. I think taxation is paramount in the management of the state. We have oil in my state, but we can’t do anything much with it because that is the Federal Government’s prerogative.


If you hammer on tax, that would be touching on the nerves of the people because it is a sore area for the citizens. How did hope to tackle this?

It actually depends on how you do it. It should be progressive in the sense that everybody should be able to give according to what they get. You don’t expect a man who is earning the minimum wage to be paying the same with a man who is earning One Million Naira every month. That is what I am saying that we are going to make sure that it is progressive.


To a lot of people out there, you lack the political experience. Would that be correct?

It depends on what indeed is political experience. If political experience is the ability to tweak numbers here and there, stash money here and there, drive big cars and have properties everywhere in the world, that might be political experience and in that regard, I am not politically experienced. But when you talk about leadership, when you talk about managing human beings, when you talk about negotiations, interaction, communication, I think I am amply endowed. So, in that regard, I am very politically experienced. It is not just when you hold political office anyway that you can be said to be politically experienced. If you have been politically active from your childhood, it might seem inconsequential if you have been class captain, room captain. Leadership is something that stemmed from childhood.


You get to see people talking about the zonal arrangement. Where does that leave you?

I am from the Owerri Zone, the zone that has been robbed and robbed of leadership. So, I can’t complain. I am from Owerri Zone and it so happens that the lot is tilting towards our side and I think it is fair; ethically and morally, it is fair for us to produce a governor. It may not be so legally as anybody can govern Imo State. But if the Owerri Zone has a governorship material, why not? I think the other zones would work with us to say we have somebody who is going to serve the purpose and the prosperity for every zone and serve with equity, why not? If I become governor, I will be governor for every zone and not for Owerri Zone alone. So, I feel I should be favoured in that regard.


Looking at the political system in the state, how much contact have you made with the elders and how much influence do you have among them to get you the grassroots popularity?

This is something we have been following for over a year now and we have been able to forge relationships across traditional lines and even political lines. They know us quite well and what we stand for and we are hopeful that when the time comes to be counted, they would actually say what they have experienced with us and they would stand with us. It is for our people at the end of the day and they must be instrumental to this honest and true wind of change that is coming to our people. So, we have forged a very good relationship and understanding with them.


 As they say, politics is a game of money. Are you sharing money?

Where is the money and from where? We are all subjects of the nation; nothing is really working in the country we are in and poverty is relative and common here. It doesn’t have to take a rich man to govern. I feel it has to take a wise man to do so. So, we would share wisdom with them as opposed to money. The vision is tourism; the vision is security; the vision is rural development. The vision is law and order.


Do you think that you have been earning any kind of advantage by virtue of the fact that you are the son of a former military top brass?

My father actually wanted to run; in the 2003 elections, he was in the race for this position that I am going for now. I cannot remove that. My father was a man of discipline; he was a man of purpose and he was a gracious man. So, that legacy he left also speaks for me and it speaks immensely. So, I am grateful for that.


It is nice to hear you talk greatly about your father, but a lot of people see him as controversial in the polity, particularly in the build up to the democracy that we have now. Do you have that feeling about him?

I think controversy is part of life. We are all controversial, depending on what time of the day you meet us. We met him at his controversial time. But the fact that he himself wanted to also enjoy the opportunities of democracy by running to become a civilian governor showed his own belief in the system.

The post As Imo governor, tourism’ll be my priority —Onyearugbulem, FJP candidate appeared first on Tribune Online.

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