Because our generation needs a voice

Uchechukwu Ogah: My candidacy is beyond zoning

Perhaps 2015 is the best year yet for the people of Abia state to elect a sure-fire governorship candidate into the Government House. Even the Peoples Democratic Party will not want to miss the opportunity in putting its best foot forward –by choosing a candidate that is not just remarkable but exemplary. Uchechukwu Ogah, the President of Masters Energy Limited, brims with confidence and resilience as he intends to take a shot at Abia State Government House. His dreams and strategies as a would-be Governor are unassailable. His pedigree commands respect; he is a chartered accountant with more than 16 years’ banking experience. A graduate of Banking and Finance, he holds an MBA and belongs to several professional bodies. Ogah, one of PDP’s governorship aspirants in Abia, has also attended many Senior Management Development programmes, locally and internationally. In this interview, he speaks with Akinwale Akintunde on how he will use his wealth of experience and the secret of his success at Masters Energy Limited to deliver dividends of democracy to the people of Abia if elected as the next governor of the state

10481932_648614578556287_4337192342445163394_nThere is this belief that Abia state has never had a good leader. Do you agree with this?
I do not completely share that belief. When you say good leader, everybody has his own measure of capacity and so you can’t say that Abia has never had good leadership since inception because in one way or the other those who have governed it had contributed their own quota one way or the other based on their capacity. I have this firm belief that there’s always a leader at each point in time for a divine purpose.

That assertion has to do with development; many believe the state is backward in terms of development. Is this what motivated you to join the race?
You’ve said it. Some are born administrators, some are born teachers or one vocation or the other. That is why I believe that this time around, Abia needs a technocrat and a visionary leader, a man who has the capacity to be able to generate all the deliverables in the state. I’ve told people in Abia State that if I’m sworn in within one year and there is no significant progress, I will resign and come back to my numerous businesses. For instance, you should understand that Aba is not only the biggest and the most effective commercial city for eastern region; it was for the entire nation. That was the reason why every other leader has always referred to Aba as the Japan of Africa. And if you look at Aba, the successes achieved by Governor Mbakwe came from Aba because he was able to develop Aba and the people were therefore able to pay increased revenue to the old Imo’s treasury.

What’s the catch about Aba?
What people have not understood is that you need to develop that commercial city, once you do this then the internally generated revenue of the state would shore up and then you keep having revenues to develop the entire state. I’ve told people in Abia that within seven days I’m sworn in as a governor, I will bring in the best construction firm into Aba even though there is no money we would get money to make sure that they start work immediately. In fact, by the time you see our manifesto, there is one complex network of road and overhead infrastructure we want to put in Aba which is called spaghetti, which can turn the entire Aba city into a world-class city because if you develop it, you can have large percentage of Abia people going back home once again.

People will come from the North, South and the West because it’s a city that made most successful people in Nigeria especially most Igbo millionaires. If you see most successful businessmen and women in Kaduna, Lagos, Abuja today they were all by-products of Aba. There’s a lot we can do for ourselves and I offer to lead this time-changing team. And note, Aba does not need any man from the South of Abia to develop it, it only needs a man who has passion, who has vision, who is committed, who is a businessman, who knows what it means to turn one naira to one billion naira; which some of us have done. And like I tell people, my coming into politics is beyond zoning, it’s beyond controversy; there’s a reason why God is bringing me out at a time like this for the people of Abia state to rejoice.

You just mentioned the critical aspect, which is zoning. I don’t know which side of Abia you come from and I want to know whether you key into the zoning arrangement that is on ground now?
For me, in the history of Abia there has never been zoning. Every zone or clan has always contested in every election. And by divine intervention God has always made the leaders to come out from various clans. I never knew of Abia Charter of Equity until late, I think three months into my aspiration and for me I’m not even looking at that. By that Charter of Equity, if it is justly employed I am better placed but that is not of too much interest to me. My business and my concern is that we need in Abia today a man who can turn it around beyond the imagination of the people, a man that can take the dividends of democracy to the grassroots, a man who can develop Abia beyond a particular zone, a man who can do what you call even distribution of dividends of democracy among all the stakeholders in Abia. I want to be governor of Abia so that our people will feel the true dividends of democracy being evenly distributed. What I mean is that if you do two kilometres of road in the south, you do same in the central and in the north and make the people to experience just and equitable governance. I’ve told my people that this is the first time we would have a true governor who is an Abia governor for the entire Abia people home and abroad.

What qualifies you to be the governor of Abia State or what makes you think that you will be a better replacement for the current governor?
I have over 6,000 people under my employment. It’s all about managing people and resources effectively. I’ve run my enterprise successfully from zero position to a balance sheet of several billions. For me, it is about when God calls a man He also empowers him. There’s not much difference between public governance and private business undertaking; they are almost the same as it is all about managing people and resources. Those who left private enterprises like Governor Obi of Anambra, Chime of Enugu and Akpabio of Akwa Ibom have justified this assertion. In Abia today, we need a technocrat who can exhibit uncanny business sense and will take Abia as a business entity and be able to bring out the best out of it, building on what the current governor is doing. Everybody knows that the challenges of doing private business in Nigeria today are enormous but by and large we are successful. And mark this, in my entire career I’ve never been a failure. As long as it is God that is leading me, there’s a pact with Him and I see success ahead. Life itself is full of challenges; a man can decide to take his bath and in the process slumps in the bathroom and die. Yes, there are challenges both in private and public business but the ability to navigate through them is what makes the difference. I therefore offer to make that difference as I have what it takes.

On which party’s platform do you intend to contest?
I’ve always been in PDP; I’m a party person. I believe in the party’s ideology but I’m not a desperate politician.

Why did you think the PDP is the best platform to pursue your governorship ambition?
This is because I’ve always been a member of PDP. One thing you need to understand is that there are two sets of people in the party; we have politicians who are partisan politicians and we have politicians who are committed to the party but they are at the background. It is just like what you have in partnership, a dormant partner but he has his contributions to the partnership. From inception of PDP I’ve been a member.

What are your cardinal programmes for Abia?
While we were praying, the Lord told me that the theme for my manifesto shall be called ‘Abia Rejoice’ and based on that we would be able to drive the basic change that will cut across all strata of life that will make the people to rejoice. Every programme mapped out is to make the people rejoice. My manifesto which we shall soon unfold when the time is legally right encompasses all aspects of governance that are people directed and when implemented will turn Abia into one of the most organised and economically viable states in Nigeria. Alphabetically, Abia is the first state in Nigeria and the only ‘God’s own state’. So it shall be in every material particularly in my time.

How close are you to your people?
Extremely close. As at today I’ve doled out scholarships to not less than a thousand deserving students of the state and beyond. I’ve built hospitals; I’ve given electricity to many communities; I’ve given water and, very soon I’m going to commission a 600-capacity auditorium that costs several millions of naira which I built for Abia State University, not only to the people of Abia but to Nigerians in general. I’m one man that likes to touch the lives of people all over, not limiting myself to my community. And I always believe that in every day of my life I should touch a life and make somebody happy or happier than before meeting me. It’s unfortunate that this interview is taking place here in Lagos; I would have shown you some of these things in my hometown. If you are in my hometown I would have shown you the real picture of the past and the present of my community.

Currently, we are building a multi-billion naira project in my village and you know what it means, leaving Lagos, Ogun, Port Harcourt where I have 42 hectares of land and going to my village not considering the cost implication to put up a high vision industrial city together; where we call Masters Energy Industrial City. We have three of them: Masters Energy Industrial City, Masters Energy Agricultural City and Masters Energy City in Port Harcourt.

When you were setting up all these businesses and philanthropic activities, did you have politics at the back of your mind?
Not at all; I’m one person who doesn’t even like my left hand to know what my right hand is doing. I’m a very shy person when it comes to letting people know what the Lord uses me to do. I’m somebody who likes carrying out his developmental projects for the people in a secret way; I don’t like getting myself exposed for people to know what I’m doing.

With politics considered as a dirty game, are you not afraid of soiling the credibility you have built as a businessman?
Politics is not dirty; it depends on how people play politics over here, and i believe that there’s nothing like soiling my integrity because I’ve said it that my pact is with God and if I cannot disappoint the Almighty God, I cannot disappoint man. The issue of integrity is that people should know who you are and what you stand for at all times and you must try to protect it at all times, and that is all. There are people that have ruled this country and they still have their integrity intact.

Business and politics are different because in politics you have followership and democracy is government of the people. What is your followership strength because it’s a matter of numbers?
When you talk about followership, it’s just barely a year that I indicated interest but if you go to Abia today and talk about Uche Ogah or Masters Energy you see that nobody has the number of followership that I have. What is happening in Abia state right now is like what I could call a movement; people are saying it everywhere that we have seen the man that we are looking for, that can deliver the dividends of democracy to the people. Of course you are right that sometimes people talk about interest; but our interest now is the interest of the people which is how do we turn our state around so that the people can benefit. There should be creation of opportunities to generate jobs all over the state. We would revive all the ailing industries and create infrastructure so that our people can come back and invest in Abia. When I take over Abia, there will be no state like it in the entire eastern region because we know what to do –we have the magic wand.

Still on zoning, Governor Theodore Orji is saying he will give the leadership of the state to Abia South. How does this play out with your ambition since you are also a member of the PDP and you are contesting on that platform?
Well, as far as I’m concerned the PDP national leadership has affirmed that there’s nothing like zoning and that a level playing field shall be provided all over the states for contestants. Both the President and the national chairman of the party have said there is no zoning from local councillor to the presidency. The present governor has the capacity –he has a right –but God has the upper hand above everybody and after God, the people. The will of the people is stronger than the army of any nation because once the people say this is what they want, there’s nothing anybody can do about it. For me, equity belongs to God not man. You remember that Senator Abaribe contested against Orji Uzor Kalu and they almost destroyed Abia because of politics. I believe you don’t even need to be in government before you can touch the lives of people. As a small man in the bank I built an ICT centre for the primary school in my village, as an assistant manager, I built quarters for teachers with my personal money. Do I need to be a governor to do all these things? Answer is no. I have electrified most of our communities, yet people in government who are being given several allocations cannot even touch the lives of the people. People are not getting the dividends of democracy from them. Let Abians go and verify what each person has done in private and public sectors of our lives. That is when you’ll know who can deliver when given the opportunity.

Are you saying you are the most qualified to be the next governor of Abia state?
Everybody is qualified but as far as I’m concerned, I see myself as the best candidate that can give what the masses want. Because as a graduate you are qualified, even you are qualified as a secondary school graduate. But when you talk about performance, I’m the man that can turn around the industries in Abia, creating jobs in million folds. From day one when we get into office we are going to create a data bank for employment indices in Abia and as people are employed just like what President Obama does, we will be dishing out statistics of number of Abians that are employed in the system both by the government and the private sector. I want you to understand me, it is not the responsibility of government to employ all the citizens but to create enabling environment for investors to come into the state and get people back to work. What we need in Abia is to turn Abia into investors’ haven.

Who are your backers?
In my life I’ve never entered anything with any human backer. My backer has always been God. When I was in the bank, they said I cannot perform because my father is not a general in the Army but at the end of the day I became one of the best award-winning staff before I left. When I came into oil and gas they said there were cabals in that sector and that I would not succeed; but I did. I don’t need anybody actually as a god father; I only need God the Father. However, God can use human beings with beautiful spirit to enable one achieve his aims and objectives in life. Sometime ago somebody saw Masters Energy in the list of crude oil lifting companies and he called me to say ‘Uche is your father a general in the Nigerian Army?’ And I laughed and answered him that ‘My father is the owner of all the generals in the world’. For me, it’s your good standing with God that matters always. I’m a young man that believes that there’s nothing that is not possible in life. We have a foundation in the state called ‘Abia Needs to Run’ and for Abia to run it needs a technocrat.

Who are your mentors in politics?
One of them is President Goodluck Jonathan –because I can see the hands of God in his life. He’s always looking up to God for everything he wants and he has succeeded in them. He doesn’t take or do things in a do-or-die fashion. And there other people in those days while I was growing up that I admired a lot: people like Mbakwe, our dear governor then –a great man, he had passion for old Imo state. Another great man was Sir Michael Okpara, the former governor of Old Eastern region. The likes of Zik, Awolowo, Tafawa Balewa and Ikemba of Nnewi are worthy mentors. Michael Okpara was a man that was able to develop the entire old eastern region that became the best and the fastest growing economy in the whole world at his time.

What is your assessment of the incumbent governor?
For me, he is a foundation. It is like when you want to build a house in swampy area like Maroko, you need serious sand filling. A lot of people may not see your efforts while sand filling it but you must have done a lot of work during that foundation. I give it to him he has done some works for the people. He has done and is still doing his best for our people. We must support him to complete his term and hands over to a successor successfully.

Politicians now believe that it is the candidate rather than the party that wins elections. What is your take on this?
That’s where I stand. It is the candidate because candidate is the people in democracy which is government of the people for the people by the people. And that is why the party should be able to choose the right and credible candidate. If you choose a wrong candidate the people will revolt and vote for another party with the right candidate. There’s what we call protest votes. And that’s why everything should be done based on level playing ground, based on openness so that the right candidates can emerge in our state. That is key.

What’s your message to Abians?
My message to them is that their time to rejoice has come because there’s a visitation from our God and our time has come in Abia State to rejoice.

What is your greatest fear as a person?
My greatest fear as a person in life has always been fear of failure; I don’t believe in failure. I’ve never failed before and by His grace I will not fail this time around. I believe that with God all things are possible. He alone will strengthen me and with the people’s support and positive action we will enthrone a people-friendly government and Abians will continually rejoice. It is a pact and it is a promise.

Source: Thisday

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