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You cannot have sustainable growth, development without security —Mbah, Enugu-gov elect

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Oil and gas magnate, Dr Peter Mbah is leaving the boardroom for party politics, having been elected on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as governor of Enugu State. In this interview, he sheds light on his experience, roadmap for of his incoming administration and overall goal. KUNLE ODEREMI brings the excerpts of the interview:

 

How were you able to earn the mandate of the people considering the competitive nature of the election in Enugu State?

We did something that was unique. In the past, it wasn’t always done the way the campaign was done; essentially, governorship candidates go to the various local governments for campaign rallies. Well, we took a different view to get granular. We wanted to reach out to the grassroots and beyond that, we also wanted to understand their pain points, as well as document the various potential in each local government because as you already know from our manifesto, we are trying to unlock our rural economy. We are trying to make sure that we have an integrated rural development. So, it was an opportunity for us to identify the potential of the various local governments, particularly development centres. We also took a bold view of what Enugu State can achieve in the next four to eight years under our watch. Obviously, that resonated with the people. Of course, we have some doubters, naysayers and critics. If you look at the growth pattern, in the last 24 years that growth has largely been incremental. But here, we are saying that we’re going to grow the economy from the $4.4 billion level to $30 billion within the next eight years. We also said that we are going to achieve a zero percent rate in our poverty headcount index. You’re saying that by 2031, there will be zero poverty in Enugu, that is, nobody will be below the poverty line. We were also unique in our strategic objectives of explaining to them how we intend to do that. And that was where we started talking about disrupting the current revenue model, which obviously is focusing on the receipt of revenue from Abuja.

 

How do you intend to finance these and what should Enugu people expect in your first 100 or 200 days in office?

Usually, your first 100 days is a period that is referred to as your honeymoon when you’re coming in with lots of expectations and you have the opportunity to make an impression because you’re riding on a high level of goodwill. We have made some specific promises to the people of Enugu with timelines. Some of the campaign promises we have also reduced to actionable timelines. For example, we told the Enugu people that in 180 days, we would ensure that water flows into homes. We also talked about battling security, addressing the challenges of waste and all that. We believe that also intervening in things like gratuities and pensions are things that we must do if we have to lift people out of abject poverty. We know what the outstanding debt is, arrange finance to clear that over a period of time, and then have a model that allows for the pay-as-you-go contributory pension scheme, introduce that and go forward. Meanwhile, the basket of legacy debts we have, we will clear. Again, what we will bring to the table is our financial background. So, our plan is to unlock our rural economy and create special economic zones in various local governments. In each senatorial zone, we’ll have about 100,000 hectares, create access routes and feeder routes to the farmlands, attract commercial farmers and begin to unlock the revenue potential we have.

We intend to be very transparent, very accountable. Look at our governance principle; we’re going to codify and publish the Citizens Charter, which speaks to our public financial management system, and our fiscal discipline. So, the people will know what accrues to the state as revenue from the different sources. They will know what the funds are deployed for and they will also know the impact on the people of Enugu State. The people must trust you. Then those living outside, when you talk about our Diaspora brothers, you also need to be trusted as the government.

 

Considering that the State Assembly would be dominated by the Labour Party (LP), how do you intend to get the buy-in of the political class? How would you tackle the challenge of insecurity in the state?

Security is critical to the whole thing we’ve talked about in terms of economic growth, lifting people out of poverty, and making Enugu State the most attractive for business. If you don’t have security, there can be none of that. You cannot have sustainable growth or sustainable development without security. At the same time, you cannot have peace and security without sustainable growth. So, they are mutually reinforcing. You have to tackle the two at the same time, which is why we talk about kinetic and non-kinetic approaches to tackling insecurity. Now, the non-kinetic approach will be dealing with unemployment and poverty and at the same time, strengthening our policing and security architecture. We are going to deploy technology to be able to identify and track those criminals, hoodlums wherever they are. We are going to have a line of sight of the entire state. It is not something we can go to bed knowing that the problem exists. We will address insecurity frontally.

 

Some critics have raised issues bordering on the mandatory one-year National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) scheme, especially your NYSC certificate. What is the true position on the raging controversy?

By way of background, you know that NYSC is not an event that you walk into and at the end of that event you’re issued a certificate. It is a process; a programme that lasts for 12 months from when you are issued your call-up letter to the point where you complete your service. It is either you have done it or you didn’t do it. Of course, if you have done it, there are people you must have done it together with. There are people who must exist somewhere. You could have pictures here and there even if you were not so careful to put those things together. Somebody somewhere can come out to say I know this guy, we did our primary assignments together or we were in the same group. The truth is that I did my full service, and I was honourably discharged. I was issued a certificate from NYSC. I couldn’t have served or gone through the entire process of service then at the end of the day; I walked to Oluwole to say “Go and print me an NYSC certificate and put my name on”. That will be ridiculous, it would be absurd. I did not forge my NYSC certificate. The NYSC certificate is printed serially. Just the same way you have money in a serial number. So the only way this can be forged is if this serial number exists with someone else’s name or if this serial number does not exist at all. But I can tell you, there is only one 808297 issued to one Peter Ndubuisi Mba by NYSC. These things are not documents that you can forge. They can run forensics on them. They are produced by mints. So, they have their water codes.

 

But your opponents are running advertisements insinuating you did not do the NYSC as required by law?

It is a pattern; they go to these institutions to corrupt any corrupt officer there. These are people who believe ultimately that they can get the mandate of the people through the court. You talk to them; they are in a hurry to cite a reference where it has happened before. But, one thing that you cannot submerge for so long is the truth. Over time, it is going to be clear to everybody what it really is.

 

Why are you leaving the comfort of the boardroom to get enmeshed in the murky water of politics as seen with this NYSC saga?

Frankly, when you sit back in the comfort of this place, you are leading a market space, and you are criticising the government and saying how our country can get better. You begin to then ask yourself: what is even your own purpose of existence? Is it just about yourself or the number of people you put smiles on their faces? Then, it strikes you that this is beyond you. We are bringing in transcendental values. It is about others; it is about how you are able to put smiles on their faces, and if making a sacrifice as the one that I have made will help us enable that, why not? At the end of the day, I am not going to be remembered by the size of wealth that I have created, it will be about the impact, the number of people that were touched by the decisions I made.

 

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