Senator Ifeanyi Godwin Araraume was the governorship candidate for the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) during the 2011 governorship election in Imo State. On Sunday, October 28, the Catholic community in Owerri Ecclesiastical Province initiated him into the order of the knighthood of St. John’s International. Some newsmen cornered him to comment on his investiture and to assess the state of Imo State with special focus on the free eduction policy of the Okorocha administration. Damian Duruiheoma was there.
What does your investiture into the Knighthood of St. John’s International portend?
My investiture into the knighthood of St. John’s International is more service to God and humanity. I have always worked for the service of God and humanity but this one will bring me very much closer to God than I have been. To the humanity, be it the indigent people, scholarship to the poor youths, employment to people if I’m in the position to assists, assisting those whose businesses have gone down, being the comforter of the afflicted by giving them love.
God’s been very kind to me. Not every person will go through what I went through and still stands the way I am. So, I give thanks to God and ensure whatever I can do to assist God’s work. I do it to thank Him.
Why did it take you so long a time to be admitted into this order?
It’s a matter of decision and time. Sometimes, some people get married at age of 25 years, others at the age of 30, while some people, it takes them more than 40 years to get married. It doesn’t matter how long it takes you, what is important is that you’ve made up your mind to do that and how well and how good you are in that thing that you’ve made up your mind to do. That is what is important.
I’ve always been involved in the service of humanity. Those of you who know me very well know that I don’t make noise about what I do to help people. I’ve been a benefactor to a lot of people. In the area of education, in Imo State University, I have more than 40 people that I’m training. Plenty others have graduated as medical doctors, engineers, lawyers. Some of them are bank managers and different professionals and they are here now. I’ve had situations where I hired people as security guards and sent them to secondary schools and university and they are today graduates. They came under my employment as security guards and I discovered in them some talents as young people and train them. Mine is totally different from what other people do because I don’t talk too much and I don’t blow my trumpet. So, it didn’t take me too long because I’ve always been deeply involved in God’s service. Just that I want to commit more time to it.
When you said nobody gives what he does not have, what do you mean by that?
Love is one of the commandments of God. He said love your neighbour the way you love yourself. This means, you must have to love yourself before you extend the love to another person. If you don’t have feeling, you can’t feel for another person’s plight.
Love of self means you must live neat, eat clean. Some people you think are big, go to where they live, very dirty. If you’re in this, how do you think you’ll appreciate what is good in other people. So you cannot give what you don’t have. If you are somebody who is not thorough, somebody who is not given to details, if you’re somebody who lacks some procedure, there is no way you could be procedural no matter the position you find yourself.
Your friend (Senator Sylvanus) said some Imo people are yet to realize your quality and one day God will make them realize it by making you the governor of the state. Does that mean you want to present yourself for 2015 Imo governorship?
I’m happy you said “your friend said”, you did not say “you said”. So if it is my friend who said, it is not me. I didn’t say any such thing. For the fact that you’re a good writer, doesn’t mean that when somebody says your quality is that of a bigger national newspaper, you have the intention to be in that paper. So your friend has just said so, but is for you to make the decision.
Your assessment of Governor Okorocha’s free education policy, etc
Let me tell you something. I’m worried because it does appear to me that majority of the people are ignorant of what national policies on education are. There is free education from primary to junior secondary. Free, from the federal government. It is free in all states of the federation, Imo inclusive. From primary one to six, it is free. From junior secondary school (JSS 1-3) it’s free. It’s federal government’s policy. So, no governor can claim to give free education at that levels. When you talk of senior secondary, it’s a different story and you talk of university, it’s a different story.
You see, there is no free university education in Imo State, and I’ll tell you. When Achike Udenwa was the governor of Imo State, government gave subvention to the state university to the tune of N160million. When Ohakim became the governor, I think the subvention was over two hundred million naira (N200m). Now, you have a government in Imo State that says it is giving free education. Is it free education for Imo citizens wherever they are? Is it free education for Imo citizens in institutions in the state? There must be clear distinction about the free education. If it is free education for Imo citizens, it means that wherever you find Imo citizens in tertiary institutions, they will enjoy free education. But if it free education for those of them who are in institutions in Imo State, you must have that clear distinction.
What has happened now is this, the government says it has stopped giving subvention to Imo State University. There is also a cap as to the number of Imo State indigenes that will be admitted into the university. If you say Imo State indigenes that will be taken is 30 percent. When you give N100,000 each to the 30 percent students and that sums up to say N40million. You give them the money and ask them to go and pay their school fees when it is free education. Meanwhile, you have more than 80 percent who are not admitted.
Assuming the previous government was giving N200million as subvention to the university, and you now give money to the 30 percent admitted which will amount to about N50million, the government is now having N150million, then the university has suffered. Very soon what you’ll get in Imo is that Imo indigenes will be claiming to have originated from Abia, Ebonyi, Rivers, Anambra, etc so that they can pay to go to school. If you go to IMSU, you’ll find what I’m telling you about. You have your friends in the University, find out from them. I have about 40 students I’m paying their school fees there, so I know what I’m saying.
I came from Ideato today for instance in Osina. The road from Isiekenesi to that Osina was cut into two. If you go to Urualla in Ideaoto North LGA where we had our investiture, that Bonus Pastor Seminary, if nothing is done about that road, in less than five years, that seminary will become history. If you look at the buildings from different sides of the road, the only thing separating them from the gully is three meters. Some people can’t even enter their homes again. I saw that and I felt so bad.
On the new general hospitals being built by the state government, there is one general hospital in Okigwe, why build another one there? There is one general hospital in Isiala Mbano, Ihitte-Uboma and many council areas in this state. Why build another hospital there when you cannot upgrade the facilities in the existing hospital? The existing hospitals don’t have disposables. Our problem is upgrading the facilities. We don’t have medical doctors, no nurses, no facilities. We lost one of our young people the other day. He hads accident along Anara Road. He was taken to Mbano Joint Hospital and no electricity, no doctors and the boy bled to death and you are building new general hospitals. These are the things people should ask questions on.
What about hotels? One of the things government has done, if you look at the old Soviet Union and what happens in Russia now. During the time of Boris Yasin, there was monetization. They sold all government industries to individuals. That is why Moscow has highest concentration of Billionaires in the world today. Nigeria is selling off all their industries, privatizing everything.
You said you’re building hotels. How does government build hotels when government is selling off their investments?
You sold Concorde Hotel we have here, and you are now building another hotel. I should tell you, this doesn’t work anywhere in the world. Concorde should be given to people who can manage it. Now you’ve given it to people, why are you building another one. It doesn’t make sense. Give infrastructure to people. People need roads. These are the things you journalists should highlight on. By your writing, you can change the direction of any government. Government has no business other than to affect the lives of the people.
Look at Obama, he said he is expert in auto industry, he has just grown the American GPD by two percent. What he did was to give money a bail out those in the auto industry to pay back in the future. Obama cannot tell you he will build car factories. But what he will do is to bail those in industries out. This was what the Central Bank did with some banks. You bail them out and give them time to grow. Not that you’ll establish new banks. It’ll not work.
Your view about Igbo presidency in 2015
We’re in democracy not in a restrictive governance. When it is the time, any person who feels that he can be the president can go for it. Nobody gives anybody the chance to do so. If you think you have capacity as a Northerner, you go for it and as an Easterner, if you think you have the capacity you express it. If the president desires to come back, he will tell Nigerians so and in coming back, he’ll tell you he’s been there for four years and list what he has done. If I have done this in the last four years, I’ll do this in the next four years.
The president has the right to say I want to come back again. The Igbo man has the right to contest also. The Yoruba man and the Hausa man can also say so.