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IF WE REVIVE ABIA'S LOST OPPORTUNITIES, DEVELOPMENT WILL FLOW

By NBF News

When he indicated interest in the number political position of Abia State, not many thought Prince Paul Ikonne was up to any serious business. But when he emerged the ACN candidate, opinions started changing.

Yet, he never stopped at just picking the ticket, but has stretched it to a furios campaign in the state and in the media to sensitize the people on why they shoud vote him as the next governor of the State.

Today, the two-time commissioner in the state, seems to gather momentum in his race with every passing day. That much is what he accepted in a chat he had with journalists recently.

Now you want the people of Abia to vote you as governor, what do you have to offer them?

What I am telling Abians is that there will be a new city called Aba; we will decongest Aba. We have to open up new roads and restore the glory of this land. Made in Aba goods used to be the glory of the Igbo man anywhere in the world. The people will hear of made-in-Aba again in a glorious way.

The way we will do that is to empower the artisans, give them security and create an enabling environment. If you go into Ariaria International Market, it's in shamble; it's a death trap. We will restructure the market to depict the true state of an international market. We will empower the shoemakers and give them free adult education inside the market so that as they make their shoes, they can also attend lectures even if it is just for rwo hours everyday and it will help them to grow.

If you go to the teaching hospital here in Aba, doctors have been owed salary for six months and have been on strike. The health sector here is dead. We will give women here free antenatal treatment and we are going to build additional maternity homes in each local government and then do free medical care for children from zero to five years.

We will open that city called Ohafia. It has another potential that the previous government did not discover. We have to encourage them so that the cement industry that the Chinese people are planning for will come on board. This will open more roads and build housing estates that will make people when they buy the house, they will know that it's affordable houses and they will be able to live there and do their businesses. We have to re-invent the opportunities we had in the past but lost them to poor leadership. With such revival, the impetus for growth and change will work out itself. You don't push development, you set on the roll and it makes it easy to progress and lets achievement in.

We must have to revive the Golden Guinea. I know the problems of Golden Guinea; they have been doing politics with it. Enyimba Hotel is dead, Aba Glass Industry is there and you know that we have one of the best glass industries. Almost all the industry in Nigeria produce their bottles from Aba in those days but today, they are nowhere. We have to revive the glass industry and by so doing, we, they are doing bunkering there, allowing illegal business to operate there. We will upgrade it to a seaport standard, turn that place into a city because the next thing that will come up is hotels. By the time, you have these things in place; security will come because people will no longer be idle because they will have something to do.

Abia Broadcasting Corporation (BCA) is not working because the workers are owed salaries. We will allow investors to co-own it with modern equipment so that they will generate their fund to pay salary and government will see it as a revenue base not as a tool of propaganda or conduit for wasting public resources. The Abia Line is one of our major sources of revenue, we have to revive it and bring in new fleet of buses, as it will give us employment. This is the first thing we are going to do, give people jobs. I have been there as general manager and I know that parastatal is another moneymaking machine, it will be one of our revenue bases.

Our education sector is completely at zero level. In Abia, an oil producing state, pupils are still being taught under the trees. Most of the things you see in the universal basic education project; the state government did none of them. It's like Lagos State, anybody that is going to take over from Fashola must be ready to work because he must do more than Fashola or else Lagosians will throw him out.

What is your impression about your chances after you recent rally in Umuahia?

From the reaction of the Umuahia people, I am more encouraged now than before. Their reaction reminds me of one of the sayings of Dr. Michael Okpara, that says, 'First fool no be fool, second fool Na him be proper foolish' and Abians would not like to be second fool. Having seen what the present government has done, you will know who is second foolish. So we will not want to be seen as foolish people.

Umuahia people have shown the same zeal, the same enthusiasm for change like the people in Aba and Ohafia and if elected as governor, I will change the face of Umuahia, remove the government house from where it is to its permanent site. We are going to relocate Umuahia Main Market that the present government promise from the beginning of its tenure and till today nothing has been done.

We will open up roads. What you see in Umuahia are the roads done by Okpara and Mbakwe. Golden Guinea Brewery seeks for attention; the company should be the pride of the Southeast in terms of brewery. Today, 33 brand is now leading and I know the more people in Umuahia see these things, the more they remember the sayings of Dr. Okpara.

You know that the Modern Ceramics is one of the legacies the Okpara administration brought and taken care of by Dr. Mbakwe's administration. Fortunately, civilian administration from 1999 till now has done noting new; rather we lost the one we had. My promise to Abians is that life will come back to Abia, the lost glory of the state will be restored and Abia will compete with other states in Nigeria.

At what point did you make up your mind to join this race?

It was in 2008 when I was commissioner for works and transport; I discovered that why the present government is not making any headway is because of a result of greed. Inflating contracts and not paying contractors and I became so uncomfortable because I know that Abia has enough to sustain the state. Just pay the workers salary and build the roads, our people are not asking for too much. What the people of Abia are asking for is to just open up roads for them, provide security, these are not too much. They are not asking you to build bridges or fly overs, no. So in 2008, I saw that this leadership has changed and will not have any time to retrace their steps because they have lost their bearing. I started preparing in my heart, believing God that I will need an answer from God before I enter into the race. So by 2009, it became clear to me and I didn't hesitate and I joined the race.

What is your major motivation?
When I see leaders who are supposed to do the right thing for others to follow not doing it. As commissioner for land and survey and urban planning, a lot of instructions were giving to me and I carried them out. For example, the production of Abia master plan, till today, the state doesn't have a master plan. We had a company that quoted far, far cheaper-four hundred million Naira to do Aba and Umuahia and then do Ohafia free of charge, but the governor still went ahead, instructing us to give the contract to another company, a company that quoted six hundred and sixty million or there about for only Umuahia. Why?

Not even that the company is competent enough, but we opposed it because I know that as the commissioner for lands, survey and urban planning, you need my signature for that agreement to be binding. So I refused to sign and the only thing he could have done is to remove me, which he did. He removed me as commissioner for land, survey and urban development to become commissioner for works because truth glitters.

Even when the wicked man on earth knows that you are saying the truth. They won't have you around him. When I was commissioner for works and transport, the money meant for road construction, was taking and put in private purse. The thing was boiling in my heart, if I am the governor, these things will not be done. If contracts is quoted or if a contractor quotes for a project and the government or somebody adds twenty naira on top of it and when you pay the contractor, you ask him to return fifty or sixty naira before he goes into the job, you have empowered the contractor not to do anything.

When the contractor gets there, he will just do well knowing fully well that you will not have the moral justification to ask him why he has not completed the project. That is why you have a lot of abandoned projects in Abia state today, because the government compromised and my heart bleeds. The money that would be used to build one road will be allocated for ten roads and that particular road will not be completed and you come to tell people that you don't have money. How will you have money, when you have packed the whole money and put in your purse? And the poor civil servants know that you are packing this money because they process the papers.

What were the challenges you faced when you served as commissioner in the Lands and Works ministries?

Some of the challenges were that if you go to the governor to approve projects for us to be included in the budget and finally you get a road in a budget and then when the governor wants to award the contract, he will just look for one road whether it is in the budget or not and use it as political settlement. There are things that you don't use as political settlement. You don't give one quack person a road to construct because he is somebody related to your mother or your father or that during you campaign, he donated one bus to you and now you compensate him with road construction.

It's a serious business that you should look for a reputable company that has a name and that would want to protect its name. Those advices were not taken and it was one of the biggest challenges I had. That is why you don't see Julius Berger here, that's why you don't see Arab Contractors, and you don't see CCECC here. You don't see any good company in Abia working. Why because, they turned road construction into political settlement. It was a big challenge and the issue of awarding the contract and paying the contractor and also collecting money from the contractor and making the commissioner redundant because the contractor will tell the commissioner, my friend go and sit down.

There are five guber candidates from Ngwa as you, so how does that affect your chances, especially when you in a party that is not tto prominent in your state?

Let us generally look at all the candidates in Abia-old Aba zone and Bende. In old Aba zone, we are three and people will want to choose. Now, who are these three people? I am coming from ACN; somebody is coming from PPA, and another APGA. The next question is: Does APGA exists in Abia? What is the existence of PPA in Abia like? What are the feelings of people in Abia about PPA? So in terms of that I am not bothered or perturbed because I know that Abians know the truth. What is the history of ACN, what is their track record of people in ACN? What is my own track record as a person? So I am not   bothered because I know Abians will decide on their own.

The issue of sharing our vote and all that, which is why we will always have a deputy coming from somewhere. Yes I agree that I am from Aba and people are saying that if you take an Aba man to the rebuild the city, it's a big advantage. My deputy is coming from Ohafia, another area that has huge voting block in the state and he is a respected person, somebody that has worked in the office of the deputy prime minister in Britain. He is a sound person. He is not a politician, somebody that can attract sound investors, somebody that is also respected in Ohafia. Our own political coalition is that we will have our votes from here and our people will vote and Ohafia people too. What you saw today in Umuahia, you will know that Umuahia people are free. Nobody will claim monopoly of the votes. Don't forget that in Old Bende, we have three people who are also from there contesting but who are these three people? So Abians will look at the person this time around and make their choice.

And you still insist your chances are bright?
My chances are hundred over hundred percent, depending on God's grace. Why I said this, is that every king that ever ruled Israel didn't emerge as a result of contest, but they came as king as a result of anointing. That is what makes a difference in everything that you do. I am anointed and I have that anointing of God and that anointing will take me through and increase my chances of winning.

It seems you have a very strong following in the Christian fold with your endorsement by the Catholic Church?

As an ex seminarian in the Catholic Church, I am a product of Catholic Church. My foundation was laid in Catholic Church and I was ordained a pastor in Winners Chapel and I pastored churches in Lagos and also in Abia state. So the church sees me as their product, as somebody who has the principles of God and the Christian population in Abia State is 99.9 per cent. The Christians in Abia state are more in number than any other religion and they have decided that there is need for change. I am anointed to take the mantle and that anointing will take us to where we are going. I am depending solely on the strength of the church because the church can make the difference. The church can decide for the state considering the strength in the state.

Do you know many Abians believe you are part of the old order of Abia that didn't function much, and won't that affect you?

When those kinds of accusation come, I reply and tell them to go back to the areas I served and see my impact. Those were political appointments but I didn't allow it to look as if I can't do anything. My landmarks are there. For example, if you go to ministry of works, I did the road projects that were done. I pressurised the governor and contractors even when they were not paid. The road contractors couldn't trust the government. As commissioner for lands and survey, I brought a lot of ideas.

I brought the yellow bus and taxi scheme, empowered the less privilege even though the government didn't fund it because as I left the project died and some of the buses are parked in the bank because they are not paid for. When I was in the ministry of lands and survey, I came up with the idea of producing a master plan for lands. I came up with this C of O… you know in this part of the world Abia, people sell land more than four, five times. You are familiar with that and whereby landlords are not sure so I came up with this title deed of C of O that says if this is your property, it's still your property and cannot be changed except you sell it yourself.

By introducing a C of O and a survey plan to be at the back of it so you cannot have a C of O with a survey plan. So, making it difficult for people to sell someone's property with power of attorney. Before, you can just register your power of attorney without a survey plan and then the next thing you want to go with it to the bank to obtain money. But I came up with this so you cannot register your power of attorney without a survey plan inside so that by the time that is registered and the system is automated that land cannot be re-registered again by any other person that even if you eventually sell it at the end of the day, it is computerised, the names on that system cannot be changed.

If anybody goes on a search at that land, you will have an alert on your phone informing you that a search have been conducted on this land, do you authorise it? If you authorise it, you will say yes, if you do not, you will ask them to block it. Those things are what I put in place but when I left the ministry of lands, they died because they cannot carry it; it's not their vision. In Abia line, I inherited seventy something million naira and inherited only five functional buses and salary backlog, but within five months I was in office, I paid them without borrowing any funds or assistance from the governor. I built 14 rooms office block for workers, increased their salary, built canteens for them, gave them staff bus and most importantly introduced tithing because its something that people don't know that it works.

If you don't tithe, it's very clear in the book of Malachi, and when you don't tithe, it's equally clear in the book of Malachi. There was no accident during my tenure in office. So you can know see that I was like one candle in a dark building that the only way you can use the candle to see is when you move it around. And when it was difficult for me to do some certain things, and I said I cannot do them because I cannot compromise my faith. That was when I told the governor that I have had enough and its time for me to go.

So, my answer is I was part of the government but I was not part of them because without being part of the government, I wouldn't have made this impact, I wouldn't have had this knowledge. One would have seen me as great. You cannot say I am inexperienced. I think that I am the best candidate to be the governor because I know where this government failed. I know where the previous government failed so I stand a better chance providing dividends of democracy to the people.

There are some states where PDP imposed some governorship candidates on a state and backed them up to win. Is it possible for it to happen here?

Whether they carry him along or not, President Goodluck Jonathan needs the vote of Abia to become president and he would not vote for anybody. So he needs Abia more than Abia needs him at this stage now. So carrying a liability will also be endangering his chances in Abia state because by now the president would have gotten security report that the present PDP government in Abia is not a sellable material and any attempt to impose him on Abians would also affect his own chances of winning election in Abia. So that is why I am not afraid of him. I am not bothered because Abians would decide who will be their governor and not the president

You not afraid of the PDP rigging machine so to speak?

Abians would resist any form of rigging. What happened in Egypt will happen in Abia if anybody tries to rig in Abia. Egyptians came out to the streets, they were saying no that they don't want their president not to talk of a governor who is lower than them and a place like Abia who have suffered much and wouldn't want to continue in suffering will be more than what you saw in Egypt.