Nze Akachukwu Nwankpo, an easy-going son of Okija in Ihiala Local Government Area of Anambra State, is one of the frontline contenders aiming to grab the ticket of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) to contest the Anambra State governorship election come November 6, 2021. The one-time Special Adviser to Ex-President Goodluck Jonathan said that if elected, his priority would be to harvest the enormous talents in the state through Anambra families to ensure people are meaningfully engaged. He also said that under his watch, criminality will not be tolerated. In his words, “No matter who are, if you commit crime, I will chase you and won’t stop until I shoot you down; no mercy.” Excerpts:
Power is not new to you as you have hobnobbed with the biggest authority in the country as a one-time time Special Adviser to the President. What prompted your decision to contest the governorship position of Anambra State?
Well, fundamentally, Anambra is a very gifted state, academically, culturally, spiritually, business and sports wise. It is an unbelievable harvest of talents that we have here, but, I found out that while our people are excited about this pool of talents they have, their approach to governance have not captured the very essence of what can explode these talents. We have missed out on the connection between public service and the family, “ezi na uno” that’s what it implies in Igbo language and it is basically the foundation. “Nwa afo”, this word in Igbo land has a link to the womb, to the family, but here, we run governance like a third party event, hence governance is far away, it is different and it’s just out there. We need to break that wall between our people and governance, once we do that, accountability will increase, as well as performance, participation, trust and confidence. My attraction is not to do anything that is above the size, the gift or the boldness of Anambra State because the state is very versatile. It is simply, to connect them to the fundamental and once the state is connected to the fundamental and it goes into governance with family attitude, then this whole game will change. So, my attraction for governance is to bring that dimension thst would bring it home to the people.
Why is APGA your choice of political platform to fly your kite?
Because APGA is home. It’s from the same principle I just reeled out. APGA is like a family meeting, by extension in Igbo language, meeting Umunna. There is hierarchy, respect, orderliness, fundamental respect for what is common to all. Like the party’s slogan says, “Nkaa bu nke anyi”: “This, is our own.” There is brotherhood. If you look at APGA, the concept of dominance is not there. It is like an open space where brothers and sisters converse, there is a fundamental element of trust in that, so, I feel that APGA presents a good ground for that which is home to be built. Secondly, in Nigeria today, the fundamental basis for the foundation of the country is being challenged, different parts of Nigeria setting up their own securities and you find out that APGA offers harmonious setting without necessarily confronting the Federation in a way that is anti to constitution. APGA constitution recognises the right of all ethnic nationalities to exist in their uniqueness within the federation of Nigeria. So, what you require is someone who understands this uniqueness and is able to sit within the APGA framework and negotiate with the federation of Nigeria. For me, its the right party at the right time.
With the way things have gone hay wire in Nigeria, what do you consider the way forward?
Every part of Nigeria at this point needs a leader that is corruptionless. Someone who is not driven by personal ambition, possession, but understands the needs of his People to survive and has the boldness of spirit, the mental abundance to be able to sit with other parts of Nigeria and say, look, we are part of this federation, we have right to exist here, we have our own sensitivities which must be contained in the constitution, and must be respected by conduct. We need a champion and APGA provides us with such platform to find a champion.
In one of the banners I saw around, you referred to yourself as the light bearer, that once you enter, light illuminates everywhere. Are you suggesting the state has been in darkness all along?
No! No, it simply infers that though light exists, there is someone who brings it where it is needed. Light aids you to see, that’s the kind of light I want to bring to the state. There is a kind of light I will bring to you and it blinds you. So, it takes light beyond that blinding ray that affects your retina to bring clarity. In other words, you are able to identify the needs of the people. The statement is a title that embodies my philosophy of life, that in life, everyone aids. Our duty in life is to assist bring the best of us to bring the best of others. In other words, it means the facilitator. The essence of public space is to help everybody grow. So, if you are in government, you are not an overlord, you are a helper. A facilitator has certain competences, he facilitates skill based activities, so when you talk of a facilitator, there’s some professionalism in It, it means the person understands how to pit the best beside the worst, the strong beside the weak, in such a way that they interplay and look beautiful. That’s the idea, it’s a title given to me by a lot of parts of Igbo land, Nimo, Enugwu-Ukwu, Agukwu Nri, Anambra North, among others.
You are one of the front line contenders for the Ticket of APGA to contest the governorship election come November 6, 2021 and ultimately take the baton from the incumbent Governor, Chief Willie Obiano. What makes you think you stand out enough above other contenders and pretenders to win the ticker?
Like you know, APGA is the ruling party. It is the party to beat in Anambra State governorship election. Yes, there are other people that have expressed interest to take the ticket of APGA, but, the good thing is that both the governor and the party at this point recognises that the more talents you have on the table, the easier it becomes for the governor, His Excellency, Chief Willie Obiano, to pick a successor. There are a couple of people in the race, Prof Charles Soludo, Umuoji, Ewepuodike, Melie, and others. Each has come with a unique gift that God gave to them. For me, what I think stands me out is, I recognise that first, it is the governor who has to find a successor, I also recognise that everyone will come with a unique strategy to market himself. It’s like when you see those colourful female birds, the male birds will come with their different styles, some controversial, some to win. Like issue of consensus, it’s equally a strategy, so I recognise the fact that everyone will come with different strategy, as well as intellectual play, so, I don’t generate any negative heat around it. I do also recognise that the issue of power ultimately belongs to God. No matter what game anybody plays, God will be the ultimate decision maker. I have that clarity and I also have the humility that this thing cannot be given to me because I am Akachukwu Nwankpo but because I have what it takes to be a leader. I have been here and there, at the top notch, and I believe I know the intricacies of leadership and how to successfully steer the ship. I’ve put time into it and I have spent nearly three years in the village, bringing myself down so I can understand what the people really need, so I can cut that size at the top. I can boldly stand and say, guys, I know what people need here and how to ultimately solve it. I have developed the accurate instinct to connect with it; that’s why I said, God is not going to wish Anambra State some terrible things. I have made myself worthy for his blessings. However, I will put in effort, wait for God’s decision and go along with it.
What happens in a situation where you are approached to step down for someone else?
For me, I’m not above the party, I’m willing to embed myself in the party. So, I came with a mental disposition and clarity that anything can happen at any time. The party is superior to whatever ambition I pursue, but then, over and above that conciliatory and more friendly approach, there is a clarity of vision that I bring to the table.
Not long ago, aspirants under the umbrella of APGA in unison kicked against the idea of picking a consensus candidate without following the process of a primary. This outcry came as a result of the rumour that Prof Charles Soludo has been handpicked by the Governor as his successor. Where you among the voices in the wilderness?
Yes, I was at the occasion and I did say that primary election is not a choice but part of the law, process or constitution. It’s actually what would legitimize the entire process. I don’t know how consensus can be done and how it would be declared, but it would be good for Soludo if he eventually emerges the flag bearer and for the party at large. It’s important the process is done in a legitimate way because, if done otherwise, problems can arise. The legal system can upturn it you wouldn’t want to win election and the law will come and take it away from you and give it to another party. It is important that the letters of the law, the constitution are followed. Besides, consensus is boring. This is an election year and you can see the PDP guys with their drum beat, rolling around dancing, singing and then APGA would be looking like a bereaved enclave, no, consensus is boring. No matter the amount of party you call for a consensus, it is boring, let the people have some fun. We waited for four years to have this, let the party bring out the drums, go for meetings, sing songs, “Nwannem metu aka n’obi ka ibata APGA”. That’s the beauty of politics. It’s like preparing for a major league and you don’t go for a friendly match. For me, I don’t agree with it, it’s one lazy way of doing it.
Do you think the governor’s body language portend that he has settled for Soludo?
You know, this governor is a good man with a good heart. He likes to make people happy. He’s a man that understands that there’s a way life should be lived. He roars for you and comes around with a dance. He is the chairman, BOT of the party. I don’t share the view that the governor would rather than concentrating on finishing the airport project would be thinking of how to shortchange APGA and manipulate the process, that’s totally below him. APGA is a party with structure, constitution, the governor wants it to grow, so I’m not worried about that. It’s a mere rumour.
As an aspirant, what is your template for the governance of Anambra?
It’s very straight forward and I’ve put it out there. I said Anambra families first. That is because when you build a family and it’s functioning well, the society will function well. I come with a very simple principle, transform the individual, you will have a transformed family, when you transform the family, you transform the neighbourhood and when the neighborhood is transformed, the city is transformed. Now, there are two things we want to do with the transformed Anambra family. First, the family must be a productive unit that will be adding value not just to the family but to the society. When you nurture people to have such mindset, it then means that, you are either a producer or that you render service. Life is a game of production, value addition, not a beggar kind of mentality, rather you render service and get paid in return. The second one is, a partner in peace and security. You don’t let anybody in your family come out wielding gun or causing violence and disorder. To this end, if you find out your child is misbehaving, the best intelligence that should come out would be from you as a parent. Yes, there could be few disjointed families here and there but the larger society has a huge role to play. There’s a conduct you expect from families, for example, as children, you have to respect your elders both at home and in the public.
Your package revolves around family. Can you in a nutshell give an insight to what values you intend to govern the state with if elected?
It’s simple, two values. The Igbo values and the Christian values. The basic thing is to position the family in a way that it will comfortably partner with government.
Crime seems to have taken over the state with cult killings almost on daily basis. How do you intend to handle overdrive of crime?
I have zero tolerance for crime and I will not have it from anyone, no matter who. That’s why I said family partnership is important in governance. When you partner with the family, they will trust you enough to tell you the truth. They will be the one handing over any of their child that is involved in criminality. If you commit crime, you won’t be able to run. I will personally hunt you and blaster you, there will be no mercy, so the best bet will be to either turn a new leaf as a criminal or run away from the state. You don’t fight war sitting, you have to be up standing with all your arsenals. I will treat every criminal same way, armed criminal, drop your weapon or you will be visited with force. I don’t care who you are, you either drop the weapon or I come after you with fatal force. There’s no room to dialogue or discuss with criminals. I will also create neighborhood watch. Carry gun with me as a governor, you will run and get tired because I will chase you until you are caught. Central to security is criminality, the armed criminal, the unarmed criminal and the corrupt guys.
Power they say corrupts. Coming around you, you appear an easy going man without the gloves of status and class. If elected, will you remain like this, will the poor, the low class be able to come around you easily?
Of course, why not? I have seen power and I’ve seen how referral it is, especially while serving the presidency as an aide to the President, winning and dinning with very influential people in the world, flying private jets with airspace completely cleared because the president is flying, protocols suspended, roads cleared for you to pass with the president. I worked at the local government level, worked with Okwadike (Ex-Governor Chukwuemeka Ezeife). When it comes to power and its trappings, I have seen it all. With all the experience I garnered, I’ve come to the realisation that everything in life is vanity. You may be up there today and tomorrow, you are down with that person you call a common man. Like former President Jonathan would say then, “The Presidential authority is so huge that only a few will not be lost in it”. Yes, guaranteed, there are things you can’t control as a governor because you have security attached to you to guard you and it is their job to protect you. You can’t control that one because they are doing their job and if anything happens to you, they would be held responsible, but that won’t stop me from reaching out in a way that will not be abused. I will move among the people of Anambra State to harvest their love. This includes the people but excludes the assailants. I don’t see how I can deny myself access to the people, it turns you to a pretender.
With how things are playing out in the country currently, do you think President Muhammadu Buhari is in charge?
No President is in charge. Every President works with different kinds of people. Though he gathers them by himself, those people around him determine how he plays. But, the bulk lies on his table. In the case of Buhari, he is the type that trusts people around him so much and unfortunately, the people are not sensitive enough to understand the situation, that there is problem. I think it is the system, we need to get to that institution level, build the institution and leave the personality issue. Transitory human beings pass and institutions play the game.
How do you relax?
I love to read, lounge, sit with my wife, the first woman I said, I love you to and drink white wine. When you are lounging, the creative energy comes to play. I also love to take a walk and enjoy nature’s fresh air.
What’s your genre of music?
I love to play Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Obiligbo and some of Flavour’s music are good too.