Hon.Tony Nwulu is a leading governorship aspirant in Imo State on the platform of the United Progressive Party, UPP. He is also a member of the House of Representatives representing Oshodi/Isolo Federal Constituency. In this interview with innonews.com.ng, he spoke extensively on how he would change the battered and dwindling state of the Imo economy and other burning issues affecting the State.
Imo State has been plagued by bad governance in the last seven years that has led to collapse of the economy. This has inflicted pain and misery on the people. How do you intend to change this sad trend?
This is a sad development and I wonder why attention has not been given to it by some of my co aspirants on how our people will be liberated from economic strangulation we have witnessed in the last seven years.So much emphasis has been placed on politicking without anyone coming up on how to salvage our people from the economic ruins in our State. The truth is Imo State is in economic limbo and I think what brought us to this sorry pass is inconsistencies in policies of government. The first step we can liberate our State is to create jobs and employment opportunities for thousands of our youths. The deteriorating status of our youths stems from government’s neglect and misplacement of priorities.
As a youth myself, I underwent the pains of growing up and I knew what I went through to withstand the harsh conditions of life and so I know what it means when a youth is jobless. In my several speeches since I joined the Imo governorship race, I had said the youths will constitute 80% of my cabinet. That is my bond with Imo youths and I will stick to it. That does not mean our elders will be kept aside. My government will tap from their fountain of wisdom to move our State forward. My priority will be to encourage youth involvement in governance which the Not Too Young To Run Act I initiated on the floor of the House of Representatives is all about. For initiating that singular act, I remain the ladder for the younger generation to take up leadership positions in Imo State. Youth development will be of serious concern to me. My administration will establish a World class entrepreneurial training Institute across the 27 Local Governments in the State to effectively equip our youth and curb unemployment.
Also, I m in the governorship race to help salvage our State from ruins by creating channels and avenues for our people to be self sufficient. We are plagued by a system where wealth is only enjoyed by a few in our State. No State develops at this pace and this has to change . I intend to establish a transparent, accountable, responsive, committed government. I will roll out policies that would build a sustainable State where human capital development will be promoted. I will improve access to investment opportunities.
Changing the sorry state of our people is of utmost concern to me. And I will begin by creating an Employment Trust Fund that would provide N1 billion naira to be accessed annually for entrepreneurial ventures across the three senatorial zones.This would re- stimulate the redundant Imo economy and encourage private business ventures.
A Board of eminent businessmen and entrepreneurs and investors will be constituted. There are eminent Imo sons and daughters who have excelled in various sectors of the global economy who are yearning to come home and help build up our local economy.
There is no night economy in Imo State and I wonder how we can catch up with the rest of the globe if we fail to introduce a night economy which is prevalent in other parts of the world. If you observe correctly, you will observe that developed countries are running night economies. We need a 24 hour economy in our State. We can do it. It is unfortunate that it is only Night clubs that function at night in Owerri. In other parts of the World, it is not so. Businesses function effectively at night as well. All we need do is to improve on security and encourage Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMES) to grow and function. This would lead to growth in the economy; rapidly increase our IGR because my Government will ensure taxes are paid and this will boost the IGR of the State.
All these are in line with the economic template of my administration that will be anchored on triggering processes that would deliver double digit growth in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Imo State and transform the State into a middle income economy by the year 2023. This can be done and I have already worked out the modalities for it. We will approach the Imo State House of Assembly to seek for the establishment of Zonal Development Commissions in each of the three zones in the State. This would enable the zones to identify their needs and develop at their pace. I have prepared the operational guidelines for its take off. Each of the Development Commissions will have research centres and a high performing work force that will ensure quality service delivery.
The Absence of a Private Sector Driven Economy has been identified as one of the Chief factors why Imo State has not grown beyond its present poor economic state. How do you intend to woo the private sector?
I agree with you totally that the private sector has been absent in the Imo economy. For the economy to be revamped, we must have active private sector involvement. My administration will go into partnership with investors both local and foreign that will compel them to bring their businesses to Imo State. We really need the private sector in the State. And it is very unfortunate that past administrations did little or nothing in this regard. An active private sector will enable us reduce so much pressure on the Government. What we have in Imo State for a long time is a public service driven economy that has failed to stimulate the required economic growth and development.
My administration will create a level playing ground for the private sector to thrive and endure. This is why I was taken aback when huge economic hubs such as the Eke Ukwu Owerri market was completely razed to rubble without any other alternative. That market I was told made a daily turnover of more than 100 million daily. How do you stimulate the local economy in the State to grow when such big businesses hubs are destroyed? It is only a Government that fails to think that will insist on demolishing a business hub as a big market like Eke Ukwu. My Government will transform and remodel the major markets in Imo State into business hubs for it to become a destination first choice in trade and commerce. We will modernize the markets and make them look attractive. Abandoned industries will be revived, we will build new ones as well.
How Do You Intend to Revamp Other Sectors of the Imo Economy such Education Sector?
It was former South Africa President, Late Nelson Mandela who said education is the most powerful weapon you can use to challenge the world. Yes I agree with the Free Education mantra but it must be qualitative. Imo State has dropped from its Olympian heights in education. If our children cannot have quality education, then I wonder why the noise about free education in Imo State. I m shocked when I see some graduates from our State who cannot perform when the chips are down. This is a sad commentary about us when you remember the high literacy level in the State.
“In my several speeches since I joined the Imo governorship race, I had said the youths will constitute 80% of my cabinet. That is my bond with Imo youths and I will stick to it. That does not mean our elders will be kept aside. My government will tap from their fountain of wisdom to move our State forward. My priority will be to encourage youth involvement in governance which the Not Too Young To Run Act I initiated on the floor of the House of Representatives is all about”.
When I traveled to Brussels, Belgium on the invitation of the European Union, EU, my discussions with some of the MPs centred on economic empowerment for our Youths through education. And some European Countries have indicated willingness to partner with us not only on education but in other sectors of the economy when I become Governor of Imo State.
Aside that, my Government will introduce what we call “Entrepreneurship Education”. This is aimed at developing in our children those skills, competencies which will equip them to be innovative, creative and successfully stand and manage their business and even employ others. We must develop a mechanism where graduates will not be relying on Government to give them jobs after their education. We must make them self reliant and create the right platform for them to achieve this purpose. We must begin from the foundation to get back our educational system to function effectively.
Schools will be handed back to the missionaries. We will maintain free education at the primary and junior secondary levels but emphasis will be placed on providing functional and qualitative education that will provide opportunities for our children and make them competitive in the globe.
How do you intend to achieve all these with a reported staggering debt profile incurred by the State by the present government?
It is so unfortunate we have been plunged into such debt. We have outlined mechanism to tackle such debt as reported. Imo State has no business to be heavily indebted. There are so many sources we can generate funds to sustain us. The Agriculture sector has been under utilized. That sector alone if properly utilized can give us double of our monthly allocation. The UPP led government will embark on massive investments in agriculture- the type not seen before- with a view to providing food security, tackling mass employment and reducing poverty and attaining increased productivity in our State. We have outlined a 13 point Agenda that will revive the Agriculture sector in the State.
We have a similar programme in the health sector. We will introduce ICT and E governance. Pensioners and workers will have no cause to complain over non payment of salaries because we will run an economy that will be so buoyant to pay their salaries and entitlements as at when due. We will focus on infrastructure development which is central to our economic growth.
What my team have done is to come up with sectoral analysis of the Imo economy with practical solutions which took cognizance of our peculiar problems with the intention of placing Imo State back on track.
Lets move over to politics, Why Did You Leave The PDP for UPP?
The UPP hold out greater promise for our people. The symbol of the party which is the tiger symbolize strength and power. We have come to take back our State.And only the strong together with the resolve of Imo people can achieve this. The UPP has been energized and fully prepared to take over power in Imo State in 2019. We are committed to enthroning genuine leadership, accountability, responsiveness and transparency in government.
“We will focus on infrastructure development which is central to our economic growth.
What my team have done is to come up with sectoral analysis of the Imo economy with practical solutions which took cognizance of our peculiar problems with the intention of placing Imo State back on track.”