Frank Nneji is the founder and CEO of ABC transport. He recently joined the race to take over from the outgoing Imo governor, Rochas Okorocha. He speaks about the high cost of governance in Nigeria.
How did the journey start?
The journey had begun long time ago with the acceptance of the humble call by my people in Imo State to serve them. It continued recently when I picked the governorship nomination form of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) at the Abuja headquarters of the party. That, perhaps, signalled my formal entrance into the race. I believe my desire to become Imo governor is assured on the platform of APGA. And collectively, with the massive support I have received from my people, we would succeed in 2019 and Imo State will begin to witness unprecedented socioeconomic and political transformation.
What are your areas of focus?
I have said it repeatedly at different fora that my focus would be majorly on the economy of the state which, for so many years, was denied adequate attention by successive administrations. There is massive unemployment in Imo State, and that was the effect of bad economic management policies of past administrations. Local and international indications have given credence to the fact that Imo is one state in Nigeria with high literacy level. But unfortunately, thousands of its youths graduate from school every year with no hope of securing employment or other encouragement to develop their entrepreneurial skills. We have beautiful locations that could make Imo State an industrial hub in Nigeria. But past administrations failed to take advantage of that. However, my government will begin the correction process from May 2019.
With many big aspirants jostling for APGA ticket, do you have a chance?
It is absolutely impossible! I can never be intimidated by whoever is in the race. I told you earlier that Imo people are solidly behind me. The community leaders and other stakeholders have queued behind me. Thousands of my supporters left Imo State to Abuja, to celebrate with me when I picked Nomination and Expression of interest forms at the APGA secretariat in Abuja. It was a confirmation and indication that I am not alone in the race. I had assured them that their trust and confidence in me would not be taken for granted.
You talked about making leadership less expensive. How do you intend to do that?
It is very much possible and I already have the template to achieve that. It might interest you to know that there are so many unnecessary wastes in government today and that had significantly consumed the limited resources of the government. It is absolutely unnecessary and waste of resources for public servant to have large number of SUVs in his or her convoy when his people are hungry. That’s aside other frivolities that contribute nothing to the government, neither does it add value to the lives of the people. In summary, it is time to cut down the waste in governance and focus more on what the people need.
Will you remain in APGA; support its candidate, if you fail to win the ticket?
First, I am optimistic that I will emerge the candidate of the party and also win the election convincingly. I have been in APGA and had worked for success of the party over the years but this is my first time of contesting elective position on the platform of the party and I am sure of victory at the polls.
You described yourself as a prudent man. Are you comfortable with the high cost of Nomination forms being sold by political parties?
It is purely a party affair. It is the exclusive right of the political parties to decide the cost of their party nomination forms and even who they sell the forms to. I am sure they must have consulted widely before they arrived at the nomination cost. As party loyalists and aspirants, our duty is to buy the forms and submit them within the stipulated period, and then we seek the support of the electorate to queue behind us and our vision during the poll.
What is the strength of your presence at the grassroots?
First of all I don’t live in Abuja. I live in Imo State. And incidentally I am the only candidate that has lived in the state consistently for 35 years. I have created thousands of jobs in the state more than any other private business. So I have the grassroots with me, and I have made significant contributions to the economy of the state.
What changes do you intend to introduce in the governance, economic, and social life of Imo State?
I am a tested and trusted leader and the entire state could attest to that. Things I will do or things the government is not doing right are numerous and I am sure you have been reading the newspapers and following up on developments in the state. I have taken my time to study the governance system in the state. Not only that, I have taken my time to dig deep into the factors that have been responsible for under development and increased poverty in the state. That made me to develop a comprehensive manifesto that would address the already identified challenges alongside details of how to transform the state.
Are you worried that President Buhari has refused to attend to the amended Electoral Bill?
I am obviously not. He was quoted to have returned the bill for amendment of some sections. That does not mean he had out rightly rejected the entire document. It will be unfair to him for Nigerians to accuse him of rejecting the amended Electoral Bill when he has not done so. He only requested for correction in some sections. I believe he will assent to it as soon as the grey areas are corrected by the National Assembly.
How true or otherwise is it that your party endorsed President Buhari for re-election?
I am not aware of that. Besides, APGA cannot endorse him for re-election when the party is selling presidential Nomination and Expression of interest forms to interested presidential aspirants. I believe there is a mixed up somewhere.
How united is APGA in Imo State ahead of 2019?
APGA is strongly united in Imo State. The party, apparently, is obviously ready to take over the reign of power in the state. It has repositioned itself and strengthened its structures at the grassroots level to initiate policies and programmes that would herald tremendous socioeconomic transformation. I am sure you have not heard of any division or rancour in the party and I am optimistic that there would be none as it prepares for the elections.