Mayor Lucky Igbokwe is an entertainment entrepreneur and governorship aspirant on the platform of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party in Abia State. He spoke to Charles Ajunwa and Emmanuel Ugwu-Nwogo on his plans for God’s Own State
You are among those gunning for the governorship seat in Abia State. What motivated you to join the 2023 race?
It was out of my desire to change the narrative, human capital development, to improve the welfare of our people, and build infrastructure. It has been in my heart since I was a child and I’ve been building my life towards that.It’s my desire, it’s my interest since my childhood.
Specifically, what are the things you want to do in order to change the narrative?
I want to work on infrastructure. I want to work on agriculture to create jobs. And I want to generate revenue for the state which would be used for infrastructural development and human capital development.
Have you contested for Abia governorship before?
No. This is my first time.
Given the kind of politics played in Abia, have you consulted enough before coming up with the decision to join the gubernatorial race?
When something is borne out of desire you can make a decision and damn the consequences, especially when you are working to help the people. My desire is to move our people out of their present situation. If David had waited and thought about Goliath’s height and his might he would not have even made an attempt to challenge him. If you don’t make an attempt how would you know when the change comes. So, I don’t care how the system is. But all I know is that, as the Bible says, change is constant and there must be a change and the change is now.
Since you’re not home-based, do you actually understand the problems of Abia people?
Not being home based is from you and it’s not from the people, not from me. Even if I’m in America my presence is felt here through my foundation. I do a lot through my foundation – the Don Lulu Foundation. We are focused on empowering people, human capital development. Last December, I had 650 people that I trained in agriculture and now we’re working on farm estates using my counterpart funding. It would empower people to cater for themselves. It would reduce insecurity and reduce poverty. So, I have always lived in Abia; everybody can attest to that. I only go outside to see my family, to cater for my businesses. I spend more time in Abia than in America, except during the pandemic when there was a lockdown. Even during the pandemic I was sending succour to the people through my Foundation. I sent 900 bags of rice, beans and money to families while I was stuck in America. So, I’m on ground, nobody can say I’m not on ground. I’m very much on ground.
The issue of which zone should produce the next Abia governor has taken the centre stage. Do you subscribe to zoning or rotational arrangement?
I will say no. The governor and the state party chairman have zoned the governorship ticket of our party, PDP, to two senatorial zones, Abia North and Abia Central. This zoning arrangement has not happened before. But I believe that it was God that made them choose Abia Central in the arrangement. So, I don’t have much work to do in convincing people since my zone is included. But if you talk about zoning, it has not made any positive changes in our state. What Abia needs now is a lover, somebody who is energetic, who is going to change the narrative. Though the zoning favours me, I try not to touch on that area, telling you that zoning has not helped us in Abia. I think it’s an organised caucus to impose people on us.
Why did you choose the PDP platform to actualise your ambition?
So far, since I became partisan I have only joined one political party, which is PDP. I’ve spent part of my life in PDP. I’ve given part of my best to the Peoples Democratic Party in our ward and the state. So, I have done so much for PDP to just wake up one day and join the race.
There are indications that the state governor has already anointed the person he wants to succeed him. Is this healthy for democracy?
Not at all.
But are you aware of this development?
Yes, I’m aware. You know, man can always do what he feels he can do but God will perfect His plans for Abia State. This time, God will intervene. In fact, God has already intervened and that is why we say that Abia is lucky. God has provided Mayor Lucky Igbokwe to bring Abia to the next level, to provide food on the table of Abia people, to provide security for Abians, to create jobs for Abians, to enhance infrastructure, to develop our schools and equip it, to give free education. Abia is lucky to have me. So, having an anointed one will not deter me or make me stay back. No. This is a vision signed by God with a mission to accomplish a lot of things in Abia State.
Do you have a godfather propelling you?
The era of the godfather is gone. There is nothing like godfather. The only Godfather I have is God Almighty.
Apart from your Foundation, do you have a political structure with which to carry out your campaigns?
Yes, I do have a political structure. What is a political structure? Politics begins at home. When you have a Foundation that has touched lives in the 17 local governments when going there you pick coordinators. I have coordinators and those coordinators are politically inclined. So, they are already reaching out for me even before I picked interest to run for the office of governor. They are all working. Some joined me, other people came from outside to join because they know that I have good intentions, genuine intentions for my people. So, all hands are on deck.
You were supposed to hold your declaration for the governorship on Friday, May 6 but the feelers we’re getting is that some people are afraid of your ambition and didn’t want the event to hold. What’s your take on this?
Well, it’s the same thing I’ve heard but I don’t know how true it is. You know, it’s not easy for one to put such an event together; just the logistics alone costs a lot. So, we have noticed that the governor waited till late in the night to declare a public holiday and without knowing if people in some families have food, some had fixed appointments that could get them money that would bring food in their houses. Everything should be properly arranged; that’s part of good governance. But, maybe he has his reasons to declare the public holidays just for people to get their permanent voters card. Well, we’ve gotten another date. We’ve moved it to the12th. Whatever it is, what would be would be. That’s God’s rule.
As an Abian, do you think your state has fared well since the present democratic dispensation?
You are in Abia and you can put your eyes to the ground. You can check if there’s anything new since Abia State was created aside from the things Ochendo did like the Secretariat, International Conference Centre, among other projects. Governor Ikpeazu has said that he has been busy constructing our roads. But I believe that African politics and Nigerian politics should go beyond road, road, road. How long are we going to keep dwelling and running in a circle? That we are building roads, that’s one thing the governor should in one instance just phase out and concentrate on human capital development, build industries in order to create jobs for the people. It would reduce crime for sure because poverty is one of the fundamental things that lead to crime because an idle mind is the devil’s workshop. So, I don’t believe in discussing roads because building roads is fundamental, something I have to do. I have to build roads for investors to come in, I have to build five star hotels, which are already in their prototypes, one in Aba, one in Umuahia so that investors can confidently come and bring money into the state. A lot of people don’t know what to do with the Seal. If I’m given the Seal of Abia I will attract a lot of development to the state. I need the Seal, I will maximise the Seal.
Yesterday, somebody sent me a message that her daughter had a running stomach. By the time they ran to the FMC (Federal Medical Centre) the child had given up. So, I will put primary healthcare centres in all corners so that it will not become too difficult for the people to access. Any case would now be taken to the specialist hospitals that I will build, one in Aba, one in Bende, and one in Umuahia. The three specialist hospitals would also attract people from other states, who will patronise the hospitals and bring money for our own dear state. So, I don’t believe roads are part of achievements. No. We have to build more roads and create new cities. That’s part of the plans I have for infrastructural development which helps with human capital development because it is people that are going to work and build those things.
In some of your plans you talked about reenacting the industrial revolution of late Dr. Michael Okpara in the defunct Eastern region. How do you intend to do that?
Dr. Michael Okpara had a template and I will work with that template. Like I’ve told you, generating funds is number one and investing the funds is number two. When I generate funds I will put it under this template. In fact, I feel like I’m Michael Okpara. If you go to Isi Okata, I’m building his statue now. Those are the things I would commission if I win my primaries to kick off my campaign to show people that Michael Okpara still lives on.
In contemporary Nigeria parlance it is said that the government has no business in doing business. How do you relate this to your plans to build industries that would not survive due to mismanagement?
If the government is not in business, how will it generate funds to do its projects? That means we’ll sit and wait for the FAAC (Federal Account Allocation Committee). Remember I said that I will not have anything to do with FAAC. I’m going to increase our Internally Generated Revenue. That aside, if the Federal Republic is not doing business by selling crude how would they generate funds to distribute to the states. That means we’re going to destroy a lot of businesses with double taxation in order to generate funds to do repairs on existing roads without even building new ones. Every government needs a businessman. Government should be the number one business institution generating funds, not to be taxing, taxing and taxing even the Keke operators. If you go to Keke drivers they complain. Sometimes I would just hop into Keke to move around and know what they need, what they lack. Most times they complain about multiple taxation – a graduate operating keke and you don’t want him to have savings. I’m going to be a business governor. I speak very positively, that’s why I said all I need is the Seal not the FAAC.
What’s your plan for Abia workers in view of the nagging issues of nonpayment of salaries, gratuities and pensions?
There is already a template for their salary payment. Mine is to constantly provide money for their salary payment. There will be funds. In fact, I will increase their salaries. If you pay somebody N30,000 and sometimes cut their salaries and a bag of rice is above their salaries you still want them to be diligent in their offices. It’s not possible. There must be corruption because they have to survive. Those who do not have where to work or to access finance they would go into crime. Those in the offices are already on the corrupt lane. So, I will sustain salary payment by generating funds as a business governor.
Recently you were quoted as saying that confidence in you is a confidence in hope, the future, success, restoration and freedom from fear. Could you explain this assertion?
Freedom from fear, freedom from poverty means a lot of things – from being caged to tell the truth, from speaking out when things are going wrong, breaking out from the old circle, introducing new things without fear. If I don’t break out from the circle of fear would I ever think of running for the governorship. It’s freedom from a lot of things, enhancing the business environment, ending multiple taxation, putting food on the table, money in the pocket. Then I intend to drive our state through tourism. I come from the entertainment sector and there’s something people don’t understand. They look at entertainment people as unserious people. But the entertainment industry has done more than governance in Nigeria.
Sometimes, they tell me you are an entertainer, do you think governance is about entertainment. What is governance – transforming people. Do you know what it takes a man to pick somebody who has no hope, revive the person and make the person a superstar and the person starts generating funds, building industries. An artiste is an industry because he has drivers, DJ, sound producer, sound engineer, videography, graphic designer – the greatest industry. They are all there and technologically driven. You cannot tell me otherwise. So far, we are more successful than the government of Nigeria. Quote me! Why won’t I enhance, transform the cities? I wouldn’t be able to build tourism when my cities are in the dark.