The ticket for the Owerri zone senatorial candidacy for the 2023 elections has been zeroed to two major aspirants based on their rich profile, particularly the promise to provide employment to youths and reduce insecurity, writes Amby Uneze.
As the primaries of the two major political parties, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) draw closer; their aspirants are also being screened by delegates to reduce their number based on their ability to provide the much needed effective representation by leveraging their antecedents to provide employment to the teeming youths, thereby reducing insecurity.
Having taken a critical look at the credential and past records of aspirants joggling for space to represent the zone in the senate in the 2023 election, more people are looking in the direction of Chief Jerry Chukwueke of the APC and Mr. Basil Maduka of the PDP. These two gentlemen can be trustee to use their contacts and connection in the service of the people.
For Chukwueke, who is a household name in Imo State based on his track record on mobilization and creation of employment for the people, he is good to go. According to him, “Since 1995 Germaine group, a logistic company of which I am the Chairman, has been hiring thousands of Nigerians, many of them from Imo State and Owerri zone. I am also the founding director of Foods Concepts, owners of Chicken Republic. There are four Chicken Republics now in Owerri, two more are coming before the end of this year. Very soon we are setting up the out-growers scheme to empower small and medium size poultry farmers and provide them with feeds and materials and their chicken on maturity we would buy back to feed the Chicken Republic. So I have been creating jobs for our people since 1995.
“Now, I am a member of Ohanaeze Ndigbo worldwide and a committee member of its Youths and Igbo empowerment chaired by Dr. Chris Ngige with Osita Chidoka and Kenneth Okonkwo, lawyer and actor and two others as members. I am the chairman of youths and women empowerment of the Imo State Economic Initiatives (ISEI). We have been engaging previous governments on how to develop and industrialize Imo State. As we speak 50 young men and women who reside in and around the Owerri area are on a pilot programme on job placement and internship.
“The senatorial platform which I am offering myself is to attract opportunities for Imo people to create a vibrant senatorial district office with an ICT centre to train our young people in the use and compliance of computer levels, particularly Microsoft certification to the global workforce. We are looking at using that platform to attract certifications for three more Nursing schools in the Owerri zone to produce more nurses for Europe. We are talking about a health clinic that would have a mobile clinic that would move around the local governments. If you come to the senatorial district office, you can have basic health guidance, an information desk that would help the people of Owerri zone and Imo people. It would expose and create opportunities of what the federal government has for the people; such as the CBN loan, agriculture, and intervention fund, small and medium size businesses. Our people have missed those grants because they didn’t know about them and how to go about them,” he said.
Taking his consultations across the zone under the auspices of “Okwu Owerri,” Chukwueke maintains that the office of a senator requires that sort of maturity and one who has the global network like himself to drive them. “For empowerment, I have been doing empowerment since 2006, from school fees to building roads to churches, hospital bills, name them. Among the aspirants in the APC, the only person PDP is afraid of is me. I am a grassroots mobilizer; go and check what we have done everywhere as a grassroots’ man. The zone needs someone who can run the argument, the debate, the intellectual prowess, the communication skills, the sales and marketing skills, the mobilization skills. That’s how you bring people to your side. It is the power of conviction that is what is needed to be in the senate.
“Funny enough, having perused my main opponent’s profile which he has just released as a public document, he is completely silent on his educational background. He is also silent on his relationship with former governor Rochas Okorocha, as a former Chairman of Imo State University Governing Council and in that period Imo State University virtually lost all of its accreditation. For one to be appointed a chairman of a governing council of a tertiary institution there are minimum qualifications, instead he referenced an award given to him as pro-chancellor of Imo State University. The reason for avoiding the mention and period of being a chairman/pro-chancellor of the institution is because under his watch, Imo State University lost virtually all its accreditations. As a director of Waltersmith Petroleum Refinery in Obigwe, Ohaji/Egbema, he should have included it in his profile, an appointment he got under Okorocha,” he stated.
Chukwueke concluded by laying the qualities of an effective senator such as having political experience, political contact, and experience in election management, as well as being at par with other contenders and having relationship with the religious bodies and media in the state.
Mr. Basil Maduka is a robust and soft spoken technocrat who is leveraging his 32 years experience working with multinationals. The PDP has placed it’s hope to grab Owerri Senatorial Seat on him. He has stirred the consciousness of Igbos with a fundamental question; looking at the Nigerian segment today; the North has taken a home in FCT as its capital and their second home is Kaduna, the West has Lagos as their own, then where can the Igbos in the South-east say exactly is our home? Assuming there is a disaster and everyone should go to his home, where do we, as Igbos say, is our home? Originally, we were thinking it is Owerri which is a central place, now out of ignorance; Imo State which is supposed to house the entire Igboland is virtually embedded in insecurity.
“We have leaders who are former this and former that, have they bothered to call the youths together to talk to them about this issue of sit-at-home on Mondays and other days? Do we really know the economic implication of it? Our economic base is dwindling. We are being impoverished on a daily basis. If you want to punish people, make sure you impoverish them. Today, indirectly the South-east and Imo State, particularly Owerri has become the hub of high rate of employment and hardship in the country.
“I promise that within my first one year as a senator, I will make sure I stop insecurity and at the same time make the people align in the development of their state. You need to re-gig their mindsets, letting them know that their problem is not external but within. From study, I realize that many investors are running away from the state. There was a time when land property in Owerri was costly because most of our neighbors preferred to build their houses, etc in Owerri because of proximity but today they are scared because of insecurity, IPOB, sit-at-home. All these are as a result of ignorance. Within my first one year I will bring them together, highlighting the economic implications of the harm we are doing to ourselves,” he maintained.
Maduka who wants to utilize his long term association with multinational companies to attract investors said “I will attract some foreign investors using my position as a senator because having an international background as one of their own, foreign partners would listen to me. Today our youths do not want to work hard, everybody wants easy money. It is rare to get somebody who wants to build character, confidence, and name to make it in life. We need to bring our youths back and also bring back our economic base. From experience and intense study if you take off from here on a good note, with time you will recoup your investment. I have the capacity to bring the people together, change their mindsets and attract investments and employment. That is what will keep our youths busy,” he stressed.
According to him, the era of staying 10 years in the National Assembly is not a CV to change things. Yes, at the National Assembly, you are going to make laws that is the primary assignments but there are some fundamental things; these are changing the mindset of the people to make them feel that they are part of the government. To make them believe that they have a problem and they are the ones that will also solve the problem, you see them doing the right thing.
“I have spent about 32 years in the service sector, from one multinational to the other; banking, estate and then I established a company called Virgin Group which has become a household name across the globe. You know what it takes to build a private sector that could guarantee banks give people overdraft. It is as a result of integrity and maintaining a good balance sheet over the years. Within the period, staff salaries were paid within the 26th and 30th of each month. If you check my background, no one would say Basil Maduka was once a ‘Yahooman’ or involved in any of the shortcuts to make money. So we need to do it better so that I can continue to be a role model to the youths.
“I started from Mandilas Group to banking and there to an oil servicing firm where I was a director, to National Oil (now Conoil). It was from there I became a Special Adviser and then I established the Virgin Group. Since then, we have been consistent. That Company today has offices in Victoria Island, Lagos, Port Harcourt, Dubai and Houston, United States. So far we have about 72 staff with other supporting staff making it over 100. We now compete with other multinationals.
“My selling point is that I have more economic experience than my opponents in the party. Now we have a more pressing issue at home that seems to be beyond law making, and that is insecurity. What else can we do to have a direct and positive impact on the people? What can we attract beyond law making? What else can you attract to help the people that are beyond legislative handouts? What can you add to make your people have more confidence and hope that would make them feel that they are part of Nigeria?
Dispelling side talks that he is a newcomer to PDP, he said “I have been in PDP since 2007 and I have contributed a lot in the development of the party. I don’t believe in jumping from one party to the other. One needs to be consistent and believe in one ideology. If there is anything wrong we will be there and correct it rather than jumping from one party to another. Those of my opponents have jumped from one party to the other which does not show consistency.”
On his opinion about Mbaise where he comes from, he says, “Mbaise is not a local government or one consistency. Mbaise is just like Igbos, you cannot generalize a people as Mbaise. In Mbaise, there are two federal constituencies, three local government areas. In democracy, things are shared according to constituencies, local governments and wards. Mbaise is not a community or a political party. So anybody using Mbaise to undermine the people that person is just trying to cheapen the people of Mbaise. In Nigeria today, what is important is your personality, who are you that people should vote for and your perception about the people and development. In Mbaise, any person can come out to vie for anything because it is the persons’ Constitutional right.”
His advice to the delegates as they go to the primaries, “it is high time they use their delegate membership to change the narrative. It is their choice that determines their future. If you make any wrong choice you pay dearly for it. I think by the grace of God I have something to offer based on the economic situation and the circumstance. They need to change the narrative.”