ADDRESS BY DR. OBIORA OKONKWO, GOVERNORSHIP CANDIDATE OF THE ZENITH LABOUR PARTY (ZLP) AT A CEREMONY UNVEILING HIM AND DAME JESSIE BALONWU, HIS RUNNING MATE, TO PARTY LEADERS, MEMBERS AND MEDIA IN ABUJA ON SEPTEMBER 1, 2021
Ladies and Gentlemen!
Today marks the beginning of a historic journey which we had committed into the hands of the Almighty God for direction, guidance, wisdom and strength. It is journey maka ilu olu oma for the good of the generality of Anambra people. It is a journey not for power and its allure, but for the revival of a state that ought to be the leading light of the south-east region, and indeed, Nigeria. It is a journey to bring back a state that had been misgoverned and rapaciously raped by those whom we had trusted with our commonwealth. It is a journey towards returning power to the people and make them the centre of government policy and programmes.
I will not want to bore you with issues that led us to the Zenith Labour Party (ZLP), because we are very strong believers in the divine will. I therefore believe that it is the will of God that we work with ZLP to actualise a vision that is aimed at transforming Anambra state and make sense out of governance. I believe that God has graciously led us, me and Dame Jessie Balonwu, to ZLP so that his name would be glorified. Therefore, we are not into this for ourselves. We are into this for the edification of the name of the Almighty God and the benefit of the people of Anambra state and all who prefer to live and do business in our dear state.
We entered this race, irrespective of the pains and the stress because we are deeply angry at the state of affairs in Anambra state. And we had wondered who would fix the rot if we, as comfortable Anambra people, sit back in the comfort of our homes and wealth provide and watch as persons who lack the competence to administer even social media groups, mismanage our commonwealth and continually expect applause from us. We had told ourselves that if we shy away and refuse to get in to correct the impressions being created, we may end up bequeathing to our children a state they will be ashamed to identity with.
It is for this reason that we come into the race with a 10-Point Agenda anchored on rapid rural development; economic growth with jobs; revitalization of education and human capital development; youth manpower development and employment; planned urbanization, urban renewal and ecological management; peace and security; improved access to basic (preventive and curative) health services; diaspora engagement; rebuilding our ethical infrastructure and social services to dutifully cater for senior citizen, the infirm and most vulnerable of our people.
To make things happen, we had promised, and we are committed to our promises, that every project, program and activity of our administration must pass the following tests: Poverty ceradication and wealth creation, creation of employment (provision of dignified and meaningful life), reduction of in-equality (i.e. enthronement of social justice and the creation of a society in which everyone has a stake, now and its future), capacity building –building the critical; skills of the future, rebuild our ethical infrastructure –value re-orientation and finally, must have value for money –cost effectiveness, efficiency, equity and integrity. We are deeply committed to the above programmes and ideas. Like I always said, we will not promise what we may not be able to deliver.
Ladies and gentlemen, in my recent letter to Ndi Anambra, I reiterated the commitment of my administration to conduct local government elections within the first 12 months. It may interest you to note that the last time Anambra people elected their leaders at the local government level was on January 11, 2014. Ever then, Anambra people have yearned to elect their local government leader and bring governance to the grassroots for rapid development of the state. The APGA leadership has criminally denied the people this right which is constitutionally guaranteed at Section 7(1) of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic.
Our rural communities have become even more impoverished because of the refusal of successive administrations in the state to return power to the people through the conduct of local government elections. As a result, our people have been denied the right to participate in their own governance. Basic development projects and programs which elected local government authorities should bring to their people have failed to materialize because of the decision of the APGA government in the state to undermine local councils by refusing to release to them their statutory allocations. At the base of political governance, independent local councils are foundational to grassroots development in Nigeria and it is in recognition of this that we pledge to conduct free and fair local government elections in Anambra state within our first 12 months in office as governor and deputy governor. This is a most solemn commitment from us never to deny the people their right to elect their leaders at the local government level.
We are as worried as every other Anambrarian that our dear state has not actually progressed in terms of infrastructural and human capacity development despite being governed by democratically elected individuals since 1999. We are certainly as concerned that our dear Anambra state has been left behind on key development indices despite the huge sums of money that flow into the state from the federation account along with internally generated revenue by way of the various taxes and rates that our hard-working people pay. We are aware that the peole are equally worried that our employment indices are looking downwards as evidenced by the high percentage of our youths roaming the streets for jobs that do not exist, but certainly can be created if we have a government that can foster the right synergy with the private sector to boost employment.
Much has been made of the ongoing construction of an airport at Umuleri. While the current APGA government deserves commendation for initiating the project, anyone with a rudimentary understanding of the aviation industry knows it takes much more than constructing the longest runway in the world to get an airport operational. It means we still have a very long way to go before the aviation authorities can authorize the use of the airport for flight operations. I have recently become involved in the aviation sector through my founding of United Nigeria Airlines and as such, I know what next needs to be done to actually deliver a functional airport for Anambra, along with the immense value chain it can create for our people.
Education and youth empowerment shall be two of our core priorities. With respect to education, we commit to embrace both formal and informal education, make our schools the models for other states to follow, enhance enrolment especially for vulnerable children and champion vocational education where young people can acquire technical and vocational skills to earn quality living. Further, we have developed a blueprint that will empower Anambra youths through an apprenticeship scheme that guarantees them start-up funds. This is one area that we are deeply passionate about because of its potential to turn many of our youths into entrepreneurs and employers of labour within the shortest possible time.
Ladies and Gentlemen, we are deeply committed to the cause of changing the current development trajectory of our state. However, we cannot do it without the peole. First, we need Anambra people to propel us to Agu Awka and afterwards to hold us accountable every step of the way. Democracy thrives on an alert and active citizenry. Unfortunately, in Anambra as in the rest of Nigeria, our people have become so dehumanized by politicians that they now ask very little of their leaders. So much that today, paying salaries which our parents’ generation took for granted is now celebrated as achievement.
Let us reiterate that we are not in this race for ourselves but to help chart a new course for our dear state and its people. Ours is a call to service and we solemnly pledge to run a listening government that consults and puts the people first all the time. Zenith Labour Party (ZLP) is the platform. Though it may look small, we believe however that it is the character and integrity of the persons involved that the Anambra electorate are now more interested in and not the size of the party as we know that even the other parties are enmeshed in self-inflicted crisis arising from injustice against the people. Family is our symbol and it conveys a deeper message. Obiora Okonkwo and Jessie Balonwu shall be your servants. The future beckons!
Sept. 1, 2021