 Igbos1
After two terms in the Senate, Chris Anyanwu
has thrown her hat into the ring for the
governorship bout in Imo State. According to
her, it is time for Imo to get the leadership it
deserves, stressing: “We have made serial errors
in the choice of leadership in Imo State and that
has greatly affected the pace of development.”
In this interview with Senator Anyanwu who
represents Owerri senatorial zone, she speaks
on her mission and vision for the state among
other issues.
You have declared your intention to run for
the office of governor in 2015. Why do you
want to rule Imo State?
I would like to turn around the state. We’ve
made serial errors in our choices of leadership
in Imo State and that has greatly affected the
pace of our development; that has also shaped
the attitude of the people. It has also shaped
our reputation; we don’t have a very good
reputation right now. A state that has some of
the best educated people, some of the most
qualified and most capable, yet each time we
don’t seem to come up or reflect that in our
choices. You know, among the states of the
federation we are among the top producers of
university graduates in the country. In terms of
graduate unemployment, I think that we are
top. That means that we produce a huge
number of university graduates but without the
expected absorbance in the system in terms of
job. If you go to the Diaspora, you will see very
outstanding sons and daughters of Imo doing
so well out there. There is no reason in the
world that we should not be an example for
others to copy in the polity in terms of quality of
leadership, quality of representation and pace
of development etc.
I know we don’t have all the money in the
world. We are not like Akwa Ibom, Rivers and
Delta states that have a lot of money but there
are states in the federation that don’t get a lot
of money, they get among the least in terms of
their share of revenue allocation and yet you
can see spectacular things happening there.
I think we need to draw a line and stop all these
errors, the quality, the sort of people that we
are throwing up because it is affecting us in
immeasurable ways. We need to draw a line
now and move forward and begin to produce
leaders that are more reflective of the best of
Imo State. I mean, compassionate leaders that
will spend the state’s money with compassion
and not pour our money into useless projects.
We need leaders that don’t come to deceive the
people and mind-bend them with propaganda
and do things that are just to impress, ‘shine
shine’ things that don’t last. Because of the level
of our revenue, which is not the highest, we
need to spend our money wisely; we build to
endure; we invest in projects that touch at the
core of Imo people’s problems and concerns.
We need to build things than can help to reduce
the level of unemployment, things that will
shape the future and direct it positively. Those
are the kinds of things we are talking about.
Unemployment is the number one problem in
the state, especially graduate unemployment.
And if you are running a state without dealing,
in any visible and enduring way with that
problem, you have not started. I do have a very
clear vision of what needs to be done, but then I
do not approach it with the attitude that I have
all the answers. No, I don’t have all the answers,
but I’m willing to engage with the best minds
that Imo has produced, to see the way forward,
to plan out this place for the next 20, 30, 50
years, to have a mainframe plan of
development in which anybody that comes in
can then queue up, adjust a little bit and move
There is no plan here. Everything is so
whimsical. You wake up in the morning and you
want to build a 21-storey building and you pour
all the revenue that the state has in it and at the
end of the day, you ask the question, to what
effect? What is this for? How does that help us
solve our problems? You constructed 27
hospitals, one in each local government and
each of the local governments already has a
general hospital. And you go half way without
finishing them. Would it not have been wiser to
modernise the general hospitals that are
existing, furnish them and equip them up to the
best practices rather constructing brand new
hospitals and stopping half way after pouring
money into the ditch? We need to have a plan
that will affect the people in the future, that will
guide us, in terms of what we spend and what
we try to build here and will also have the
appropriate linkages with the core needs of the
Some people are saying that there is a
charter of equity in Imo in terms of zoning,
while some have a contrary opinion. What is
your take on this?
All I know is that Imo has always had a tradition
of peaceful devolution of power. Power goes
from one part of the state to the other
peacefully; no context. I don’t even understand
why there should be a context at this time. What
happened the last time was an aberration and it
was brought upon us by maybe the conduct of
the people that were at leadership at that time.
If things had gone right or if things had been
done right, the man that was there should have
continued and finished his second term. But
somehow, there must have been things that he
did that completely turned off the people and
without even saying it, they decided this guy has
to go. So, there was an aberration. Rochas is, in
fact, an accident of history. It was unplanned. At
that time, anybody else could have taken the
job because of that general decision that this
guy would not return. What happened was an
aberration and I think it is best for the state to
get back on track with its tradition of peaceful
devolution of power. The people from my zone
deliberately pulled out of the last election; they
could have gone in and if they had gone in,
maybe they might have gotten it. But the people
from my zone are very peaceful, very
understanding and they like equity a lot. So,
even when they could have grabbed power,
they always restrained themselves from that
because they know it is better they take it when
it is their turn than jumping ahead and cause
disequilibrium in the system. So, the equity
thing makes sense.
Every state has its own way of doing things and
if you cause things to go out of track, in the
future it might cause a problem. But I think it is
a recipe or tradition that has ensured, over
history, peaceful co-existence. I think it will be a
mistake for people to now cause disequilibrium
in it and start jumping in and out when it is not
their turn. We should abide by that tradition; it
has served us very well and I think we need
peaceful co-existence for us to have progress.
Considering the caliber of aspirants on the
turf ‘We have challenges, we need more staff,
and we need more equipment to do the job
effectively. We need fund, we appreciate the
fact that government is trying within the limited
fund they have, but I am of the opinion that
security should be given more priority.’ , what
are your chances of picking the PDP ticket
and winning the election proper?
What is the caliber we talking about? A lot of it is
hot air, noise. It is not about noise making, it is
about what you’ve given back to humanity, what
impact you’ve had on human beings around
you. You could spend your life making money
for yourself and you have all the money in the
world but how has that touched lives, what
impact have you made, what positive reputation
have you built? So, I don’t always get flustered
by all the noise and hot air. I do have a very
good, very strong chance but it is the Imo
people that will decide. I have the confidence
that Imo people will do the right thing. Of
course, there has been mistakes made in the
past, but as I go round, I see that building-up of
the will to break away from the past mistakes.
Some people are talking about your gender
as a woman …
Gender is the weapon of weak candidates.
You’ve been with us for two days, how much of
that gender thing did you hear? Was there
anywhere we went that the traditional rulers,
leaders or even the ordinary people said go to
hell because you are a woman? As I go round, I
see that the real people don’t care about
gender. And I think, truthfully speaking and to
be fair to our people, gender has been
minimised in the whole thing. You only hear it
as whispers coming from aspirants who think
that they are being outdone. The people who
are fanning the embers of sexism are weak
people. I’ve been here for two terms and people
have tested a female public servant and they
have observed me the way I have conducted
myself, the type of things that I have done, the
compassion I have shown in working for people,
the total commitment because I don’t do any
other job other than this. In fact, it is so difficult
for me to find the energy to start dealing with
my own personal issues. I am fully consumed by
the job of a senator, working for the people.
And people are no fools; they have seen the
So, when you tell them about gender, it is not
your gender that you use to do the job; it is your
head, your heart, everything God has given you
to work for the people. Saying she is a woman is
nonsense. The only thing they will say is, who is
going to break the kola? They think that when
they ask that question the whole world will be
up in arms against any female. But there is a
solution. I was the commissioner for culture in
this state for two years; I know and understand
the culture of my people. Even, being a woman,
I was born and bred here, so I know what
tradition means to my people. I have told them
I would never be found violating our tradition. I
know what to do and what not to do. When it
comes to kola, you let the men do it; you don’t
go and try to do something that is completely
aberrant or insulting to your people. I will never
be part of that.
I will make sure that the culture is properly
observed and if anything add more creativity to
it. Culture is not even static; it should be
evolving. And if you have a culture that you
cannot get other people to admire and adore,
then you are not doing the right thing. We have
to add more creativity to it, which I intend to
inject in all that I do.
People who talk like that are being very myopic
and I don’t think anybody is listening to them.
They just want to use that as a recipe to have an
exclusive preserve that they can continue to
suck out the blood of this state and take our
money elsewhere to invest, thereby creating
jobs in those countries while this place is dying
slowly because of the haemorrhaging of our
resources and that haemorrhaging has got to
stop. I insist that we will use Imo money to build
Imo for Imo people. Some of the opportunities
in Imo State right now are not given to Imo
people. People who come from outside find it
easier to get contracts, to get things done and to
get land than Imo people. I’m not saying that
everything should be exclusive to us or that we
should be hostile to outsiders, but there has to
be opportunities for the natives. They have to
be able to survive here. If there are things they
have the capacity to do, you have to let them do
it because that’s how you have the good life cir­
culate. If they make some money, they
patronise local businesses and the trickle effects
help society move forward. But when everything
is captured and taken outside, there will be no
progress. There may be a few flip-flap,
superficial and ‘shine shine’ things done, but
they are not deep, they are not enduring and
they are not impactful, they are not impacting
on the lives of people.
Politicians are known to make promises,
which they don’t keep. Why should Imo
people trust you?
I don’t promise what I can’t fulfill. I think Imo
people have seen me here with them for seven
years. I live here and work in Abuja. I’ve been
here with them during their burials, wedding
ceremonies and child dedications. There is
nothing else they can find about me. There are
no pretensions in anything I do. By nature I
don’t pretend; what I cannot do. I’ll tell you I
cannot do it. At the worst, I’ll keep quiet, I pull
away. I do not promise what I don’t fulfill. That’s
why they call me promise keeper. The people
that gave me that name are young kids because
of their experience or encounter with me. When
I promise I keep my promise. I don’t promise
too much; I promise what I can deliver. And my
promise to Imo people is that I will do
everything humanly possible to help bring
about transformation. Not just in physical
transformation but also in the way we do things.
We have to reorder this place, make it more
orderly, more secured and more attractive such
that outsiders would want to come here and
invest. We will do everything that needs to be
done to get this place ready for outside
investors and most especially to attract our sons
and daughters in the Diaspora to bring their
friends to come and invest. This place needs
some real push and I know that our people all
over the world are willing and so emotionally
hooked to this place. They are willing to help
push this place forward. But the place has to be
right; it has to be secure. People don’t want to
come and hear stories about kidnapping;
people don’t want to come to a place where
there is disorder. They want things that are
better organised, orderly and better attitude.
The attitude of our people has to change for the
There is a lot that needs to be done, but what I
can promise is that I will not carry away their
resources. I will not insult them. Their money
will be here working for them. And I’m going to
have an inclusive kind of governance. People
are going to participate in it. You know, there
are responsibilities for the leaders, but the
people also have their own responsibility. I
don’t think they have been able to really pull the
people in and give them a sense of ownership
of the agenda of transformation or develop­
ment. When you get the people to feel a sense
of ownership of what is being done, you see
great things happen and that’s what we have to
try and do.
How do you assess the administration of
President Goodluck Jonathan, considering
the issue of insecurity in the country?
I think that the president has been outstanding.
No head of state that I know in this country and
in the region has been assailed with the kind of
relentless terrorism of the level we have never
known in this region and continent before and
still stands. The problems that he has faced are
enough to pull a man down or pull a
government down. And I think that that was the
whole calculation, the intent of all that they
have directed at this government. The intent is
to pull it down, to make it cave in, but still it
stands and that is admirable. But I say to
Nigerians and whoever is doing this: No nation
can survive on unending fair of trouble. There
comes a time that you have to give up this
terrorism and distraction for the sake of our
children, for the sake of this nation. There is no
greater nation for the black race than Nigeria.
This is all we have; this is one place where the
black man or woman is king and queen. You can
get to be anything if you really work hard and
dream to be in this country and you won’t have
to be pulled into prison under some spurious
assumptions and reasons as done to black
people elsewhere.
So, we have to really fight hard to save this
country. It is not about President Jonathan
alone. He is only a human being who is trying to
do his best to serve Nigeria. We have a
responsibility to put hands on deck and help
push this place forward and help make it stand
firm and stand tall. And I think that given the
problems he has had, he has done so well.
Apart from the distractions, some of the things
that he has been doing are revolutionary. I think
without the distractions, we could have gone
very far. But you see a situation where
resources that should go into transformation
and development are now going into security.
It’s very disheartening. All told, he has done very
well. Who knows, if we didn’t have this we would
have had a historic presidency.
The post I want to turn Imo around –Sen Chris
Anyanwu appeared first on The Sun News.


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