In this interview a governorship aspirant under the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Cross River State Chapter, John Upan Odey, who is a financial expert, said it has become necessary for leadership shift in governance of the State, and promised to place the state as one of the leading enterprising states through realistic and prudent management of resources for the benefit of all.
Q: Something must have inspired and motivated you to run for office of governor, why are you joining the race?
A: Politics for me, in business and in my career, I was a banker for 16 plus years and banking for was a profession but politics for me is a career, it will seem like the only reason I was born was to fulfill a purpose in politics and I will give you the reasons for that.
From the time I was born until when I became conscious of events around me about the time that the military had take over power and I grew up in that system seeing it through, coming out from the election of June 12 and that was my first inspiration into politics. I was inspired by the race of MKO Abiola campaigning vigorously across the country and that inspired me and gave me the attraction to retail politics. So the best place you can find me is talking to our people, it is the best thing I love to do politically.
Coming down to the 2019 elections at the governorship level, I started off my politics campaigning to go to the National Assembly in 2011; I was the candidate of Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), the present Governor of Cross River
State was the candidate of the PDP to the senate in the same election and from that time till now I have not put myself forward to contest elections.
As this season was approaching a lot of friends called me and thought that I should put myself forward and in 2015 the same happened but I had a sad event of the loss of my wife, my friends also came to me in 2015 and asked me to seek the APC nomination after we have informed the founding father of the APC, asked me to join the race to contest for governorship including the leaders of APC in our zone. I was interested then but because of my personal loss I couldn’t get involved in the elections of 2015.
So as 2019 circle was coming around a lot of friends gathered again and they started encouraging me and I looked at it and said well, if other people believe that I can do this, it surely means that with all of us together, together we will and I said to myself together we will do it, by myself alone I might just be one person alone you may be limited, by my resources and ability but with all these people who think that I have something to offer, I can actually come and help carry the touch and shine the light to 2019.
Cross Rivers state is a state that is in the middle of a lot of issues; the PDP has been in government in that state since 1999 and this election is the very first election where we will likely end the PDP rule in Cross River State. So I come into the race not as somebody from northern or southern or central Cross River, I come into the race not as somebody who is here for APC or PDP, I come into the race as somebody who is the from the root of Cross River, who comes from the future of our society, community and for our children and for our children’s children, I come so that we can get things right.
So the people of Cross River must start thinking that we need a different kind of leader if we want a difference in our lives, so this is what has inspired me.
So I think that for us in Cross River State, for us in Nigeria we need to look at beginning to changing our mindset, we need to look at changing how we look at politics, participation has to increase and encourage more professionals, more people who have come from the private sides. I come into the race with passion; I come into the race from the heart to serve.
Q: What do you mean by leader shift?
A: Leader shift is an idea about the way we have been running our society, the way we lead our people, the way we encourage people into leadership or the way we incubate leadership trait amongst our young people, we need to change it entirely because it is been wrong all along, we have gotten it wrong, it is a paradigm shift from the way we have been doing things.
Most people agree that Nigeria should have gotten it right because we have the resources, we have got the people but we have always gotten it wrong when it comes to leadership; so the idea is that leader shift is a new way of doing things.
So leader shift is a total mind set change and when we talk about leader shift it is not about the old or about the young, it is not about where you come from whether you are from the north, central or south of Cross River State.
But in the modern times that no longer hold water because right now we have young educated people scattered all over the state, all over the country and there are no jobs available to them; so we keep doing things the same way we have been doing them.
So leader shift is the idea that even though we have power, power is not the end in itself, we want to get power because we want to use it to serve the people, and leader shift is about service.
I am happy that young people in our country are beginning to realise that it is much more than that it is about their own future. Across the world who can change this country and that is what has made us to come up with the concept of leader shift.
It is not about APC or PDP, leader shift is a complete different way of playing politics. One of the reasons we have problems in our political space and in our country is because the country cannot rise above its politics. So we want to make sure that we begin to get the people who can actually drive politics in a different direction.
So for all of us we need to key into a leader shift, a mindset change, all of us, every Nigerian are situational leaders, I do not believe that there is a big man leader who sits there and everybody goes to him to solve a problems.
Q: Can you give us your blueprint because the public needs to know what this person has to offer.
A: I believe that the human development index must go up; so in the private sector we work with numbers, so we need to first of all create a data collection system. As governor I would know the number of inpatients that go into our hospitals on a daily basis.
As governor I would know how many children I have in school on a particular day, I need to know the level of truancy, I need to know the level of almost everything that is there, to change the system you must monitor the system and you must set target.
So even without talking about spending a naira, the first thing we need to do is to improve our data collection, schools should now that a governor can walk in, the hospitals should know that the governor might show up, the revenue collection should know that the governor can come and ask how are we doing it now and how we can improve it, so first we will improve the system by being there. So the reason I am starting with the ones that are easier and that will require me personally go there to do the job hands-on is where I will start from before I will go to the ones that you think where are we going to get the money because what we have in Nigeria now is high language, people coming and speak about what they will do, white elephant projects, that is the problem we face in Cross River State right now.
Secondly, is that we are now going to look at how we can improve capacity and what has happened in our state is that we have not been able to improve capacity because we did not improve capacity there are no jobs, because we did not improve capacity enterprise is shrinking, because we did not improve capacity agriculture is not going where it should go.
Cross River State is a state that is blessed with three major things; we are blessed with fertile land, we are blessed with beautiful environment that is where people see us as a place to go to, hospitable environment and hospitable people and that is why in Cross River State we talk a lot about tourism.
People say Cross River State is civil service state but truly it isn’t; if Cross River State is a civil service state then the majority of our people would be civil servants. Yes civil service provides the disposable income in the pocket of a lot of people but you will find out that there is any economic much bigger than that in the villages and in the communities.
So we need to build capacity and how do we build capacity, we need to open certain sectors immediately and number one for me is agriculture. The biggest challenge in agriculture in this country is the fact that we are not able to develop the commercial agriculture system that works well, the headache for most government is that how do you build a model that is sustainable, do you make it private sector driven, do you make it public sector driven, do you make it public private partnership, that is the biggest challenge, to find the models that works.
We need to make sure that we get people who are interested in commercial agriculture, we need to incentivize commercial agriculture to make them come to us and how do we incentivize it, we need to put in sweeteners.
We are going to build a mechanism that will be easy for the government to horn with land clearing because land clearing is one of the most expensive ventures for people who want to go into commercial agriculture. We have the topography that we can actually do our land clearing and make it cheaper to encourage people to come, now with commercial agriculture will now a bigger system.
You can come and say I am building a garment factory, to build a house standing doesn’t mean you have belt an industry, an industry is more dynamic, there are so many things that come to play, the market is the number one thing; if you want your state to be market driven, where is that market, where is the end to end of this investment, how is money going out and how is it coming in; so we need to build more sustainable models of building capacity. So a sustainable model of building capacity is to incentivize, people who are involved in commercial agriculture attract them and even give them more incentives, you can give tax holidays and things like that.
I also believe that Cross River State is a state where we can also encourage large scale dairy products. We can create credit guarantee schemes instead of delving and putting our hands into things that we do not know. We need to make Cross River State the number one commercial agriculture in this country producing foods that are required locally and to the international markets and we can do that by creating a whole value chain, we need to help to build the whole value chain.
Food production and food processing is very key but you cannot put processing before production. Production has to start in with the expectation of what you are getting then the investment will continue also on the processing side so it is an end-to-end thing.
Tourism is another area that Cross River State has a comparative advantage. We need to develop these resources. We have one of the best shoreline not only in Nigeria but in West Africa; it is one of the best that is perfect one for tourism, we need to go back and do that aggressively.
I have said that as Governor of Cross River State that I am going to give a guarantee 2years into my administration, we are going to operate a zero pot holes and asphalted roads.
On enterprise, I am one person who believes that we can help our enterprise by opening the doors of opportunity for enterprise and the driving factor in enterprises is competition, we wanted people to produce goods and services that they can exchange for value at a competitive cost. I am told that Cross River State has one of the highest percentages of young bloggers, and web developers who develop themselves without anybody giving them support.
So we Need to create a fund Cross River State that gives credit guarantee to such local businesses and we need to identify them and bring them out and we need to support our local entrepreneurs. So that was why when I was speaking Calabar last week promised that immediately I get into office I will set up a 1 billion naira credit guarantee system for local businesses and with that we believe you can get people who can employ between three to 10 cross riverians and we can replicate that in 500 different places and with that creating over ten thousand jobs.
So instead of me giving the support to the political entrepreneurs, political entrepreneurs right now we have over 5000 appointees of the governor of Cross River State.
Education how many students to a classroom, how many schools have roofs that are not leaking, how many schools are in the states that they should be. Do they have play areas for our children, what are the investments we are doing in the area of sports, what is our plan for healthcare, how many hospitals are well equipped, how many doctors are there to our people, can we improve the number of the doctors, what is a number of nurses that we have available treating people? The health centres that we have available in our local communities, what is the model, how many people are there looking after people. Vaccination and immunization how are we doing? Yes we have done well with polio but there are still many other things that we need to look at, nutrition, no matter how you treat somebody, if they don’t feed well they will not be healthy. So how do we make sure that our people feed well?
So you can find out that almost everything we need to do they are all tied in together.
We are talking about empowering the youth of our local government to be able to handle road fixes, the same works department will be able to do land clearing for commercial agriculture, the same works department will be able to open new roads even in the rural areas. So everything in my own vision for Cross River State is all tied together. It is a holistic approach to improving the lives of our people.
Q: How do you intend to wrangle yourself out of the party primaries considering the number of party contestants that you have, and four of you who have declared and there are still many orders.
A: The truth of the matter is that the 2019 elections is just not about being involved in the election, 2019 is a movement, I am not running the elections, it is a group. Cross River State leader shift is a group and it is not a group that you must register your name, it is a mindset, everybody who wants to see things done differently, it doesn’t matter which party you belong, it doesn’t matter which part of the state you come from, it doesn’t matter whether you are a man or woman, it is doesn’t matter whether you are old or young; if you want to see Cross River State change, it is a movement, so I am the face of a movement and if you are the face of a movement, can you be defeated?
I want everybody who wants to be governor let them come out, we will discuss the ideas, we will talk about what we want to do for our people and I believe that we can all go into the 2019 elections talking about money. I said it is not just about the big names, we are talking about the future of young people, the future of our children and the future of our society, so there is too much at stake in this election.
Yes we know that our politics is peculiar but I believe that by the authenticity of what we are offering in this race we will be able to win the APC nomination because to defeat the PDP and to defeat the status quo in Cross River State, we need to come up with an idea that is different from what we have stood for. I want solid ideas that you came with into administration that helped to shape society.
I am in politics because I want to write my name in gold. When something is the truth no matter how long you subsume it, one day it will come out to the open glare.