Dr Orji Uzo Kalu is an interviewer’s delight any time, any day. A newspaper publisher, businessman and politician who ran Abia State as governor for eight years, he has also run for president and, lately, for Senate. In this no-holds-barred interview, he discusses a lot of issues: how to tackle the recession, Igbo politics, Biafra agitation, his mother, his problem with former President Olusegun Obasanjo, his betrayal by his successor T. A. Orji, leadership recruitment, structuring the country- just name it! It’s a read you cannot afford to miss.
You wrote an open letter to the president in which you recommended that the country should borrow from the International Monetary Fund (IMF); why?
I wrote that letter to the president, not because I don’t have access, but it’s so that the president will not forget where I stand. We were supposed to have taken that loan 30 years ago. Going to the IMF does not mean that we must borrow. They are going to give us a framework to come out of our problem.
IMF has grown from $5 billion to a one trillion dollar organization. People there get their promotion from what they have been able to do. IMF has helped to straighten out China, South Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. Perhaps because they (government) are afraid of transparency.
But IMF framework is basically anti-social spending; and the experience of Mexico and South Korea with IMF in the late 1990s was disastrous. Why should a country in recession with weak infrastructural base go to IMF?
No, no, no. It’s not disastrous to go there…
It was in the instances we have mentioned, especially in Asia.
No. South Korea gained out of it. Because a country in recession needs long time financing. We don’t need to do Eurobond; we don’t need to do ADB. Why should we borrow at high interest rate when there is cheap money in IMF? This is purely economics. Eurobond comes at 5 per cent, ADB at 5-6 per cent; this is the point.
ADB is 2-4 %
Whatever it is, IMF is giving us at zero percent.
And the conditionalities, especially the anti-social spending component?
This is why I say it must be a win-win situation. IMF encourages building or new infrastructure. If you are investing thoroughly in education, in healthcare, in building more infrastructure, they are not against it. So it’s a win-win situation.
But IMF loans favour countries with the capacity to export, which we don’t have.
We can develop it. This is what we are saying. We can develop it immediately. We have everything in this country to be exported. This country can be one of the largest exporters in five years, if we are ready to do the right thing.
What do you think is stopping us from doing the right thing?
Tribe, religion, trust among tribes. Our diversity has not helped us to be what we are supposed to be. Our diversity is supposed to be a blessing to us rather than a setback. The demography is very good. But people see everything from the lens of their tribe: you see an Igbo man, you see a Yoruba man, you see a Hausa man, an Efik man, an Urhobo man and so on.
In that same letter you wrote Buhari, you said that the president’s current approach to containing uncertainty in the land and alleviating poverty is “leaving people in the dark and leaving their bank accounts in red”. What do you mean?
Well, it is very simple. People are not making money. In a recession, government needs to put stimulus on the table, and I am not sure Buhari’s government is thinking about stimulus. You have to stimulate the economy, because if there is no stimulation of the economy, the economy will die.
But N2.419 trillion has been injected into the economy, the finance minister said recently.
Well there should be a special package to stimulate the economy. Think of what happened in the US with General Motors. When Obama came in, the economy was in recession. Obama raised an economic team. It’s not just releasing money for ongoing projects, no. If you are owing contractors N1.3 trillion and you release money to pay some of them, that’s not what I’m talking about. In any case, some of them will just take the money and go away.
When the president was going all over the world and talking about corruption, I was skeptical about it. You cannot go and call 180 million Nigerians thieves and you expect investment to come in.
How do you know that it was what he said that is driving away investment?
I am telling you, investors moved their money away because nobody is safe. Who is going to be jailed next? I supported president travelling around, moving around to look for investment, but also if I were in the president’s position, I would say I know two percent of politicians who took all these monies and I will recover them. That’s better language.
And the stimulus?
The stimulus is important. What the economy requires now is a stimulus - massive infusion of money into the economy, the way Obama did with General Motors and Wall Street. The president also needs to propose laws, like emergency powers, to get things done quickly.
Emergency powers? Why should the president be given emergency powers?
No, I’m talking about emergency economic powers, not security powers.
If you were in President Buhari’s shoes, what three things (you have mentioned stimulus) would you do to get the country out of recession in the shortest time possible?
The stimulus comes with a lot of things down the line. Our second largest economy, apart from oil, is the informal sector - the artisans the bricklayers, the people on the street, etc. So, what to do is to stimulate that sector so that you can build the sector. We can build that sector from 18 per cent we are now, to 30 per cent, to 40- something per cent, so that oil will only be 40 per cent. So we can go back to agriculture. What we are doing in the ministry might not work, I am being honest with you. If we continue to invest in the Ministry of Agriculture, it would not work.
Because it is not going to work. I believe in small government, large enterprise. They say they are giving (money to) 2,000 or 5,000 people, how will that work? How will they manage it? Instead, call Orji Uzor Kalu and say, ‘how much land do you have (I have 13,000 hectares)?’ Give me N25 billion at interest rate of 1.5 per cent, I will repay back the money and I will employ from day one 25,000 persons, each earning at least N18,000. Then I will create an export market; I will create a good environment;I will create money to fetch foreign exchange to cushion whatever you are doing here. You can do this with two persons per geopolitical zone and see the impact that it would have.
But Erisco tomato paste factory is in trouble. He’s threatening to fire 1,500 workers because of foreign exchange problems. Isn’t this the sort of problem you will also have with private individuals?
But this is why I’m telling you that government needs to make things happen. Erisco cannot borrow money at 22 per cent interest rate, buy foreign exchange at over 450/$ and still remain in business. It won’t work.
In an interview with the Vanguard in September 2009, you said your party at the time, the PPA, would surprise Nigerians in 2011. In retrospect, it looks like an unpleasant surprise because the party is extinct. What was your role?
Depending on what you think. You know Nigerian politics; the politicians are still the holders and the beholders. The politicians - people vying for election and those voting - have not imbibed the spirit of politics. All they’re interested in is sharing money. As long as the spirit of sharing money continues, the country will be the worse for it.
But looking back, this was not the kind of surprise you had in mind when you were talking about it, when you said the country should look forward to a pleasant surprise from the PPA in 2011?
Well, I cannot remember what that pleasant surprise was, but there is still room for other political parties to spring pleasant surprises in the future.
Not the PPA?
Including the PPA, why not? It is a registered political party. It can rise again very well. Yes.
How would that work?
Nigerian people will make it; I am not Nigeria people.
Back then, too, one of the things you said was that former Governor Theodore Orji, who was your chief of staff, would be the last man to ditch the PPA for the PDP. Did his move surprise you?
Well, it’s surprising to see how people can betray a cause. And this is what I have seen - that Nigerian politicians have no discipline. It is a surprise, but also not a surprise, because anything can happen in Nigeria.
But Orji said you were squarely responsible for the breakdown in your relationship. Is that right?
He cannot blame me. Let him tell Nigerians what I have done. I’ve said things openly; let him be bold to come openly and say what I have done against him. He is a very big liar and the Nigerian people and our state people are finding out that he is a very big liar.
When did you discover that? He was your chief of staff for eight years; how did you miss the lying trait?
To be honest with you, a lot of people told me, including my mother. She never wanted him to become governor of Abia State. A lot of people told me but I felt it was just street gossip. When people from his village told me about him, that he has a history of betrayal; that it’s a family trait going back to the colonial era, I refused to listen. Two governors destroyed the PPA (Orji and Ikedi Ohakim) and I am surprised that Igbos are beating about the bush. It was greed. They wanted to go back to the mainstream – PDP - to be relevant. They thought that the vehicle that brought them was not a strong vehicle, and everybody had to blame me. So I don’t understand, because I have not done anything unethical that would make them leave.
And former Governor Ikedi Ohakim, people close to him said you placed too much demand on him for money and that was a major reason why he left the PPA?
It is not true. Ikedi Ohakim has never given me one naira. I made him governor and I have never asked him for money. He comes to this office. If he were here now he would tell you. He could not have said that I ever asked him for money, and anybody who says he said that must have misquoted him. As a governor, I never touched money throughout when I was a governor. Everybody who knows the system knows that the chief of staff was in charge of anything money.
What is the root of your problem with Mao Ohuabunwa?
I will not discuss it; the case is in court.
There appears to be this problem between godfathers and their godsons, Abuja politicians and those in the states; will this problem ever go away?
I am not an Abuja politician and I can’t talk about what I am not.
But you are Orji’s godfather
I am not a godfather. I was a transiting governor and somebody else needed to sit down and do the work, and we selected our chief of staff of eight years. I don’t think we made a mistake. You know the calibre of staff I worked with? I worked with people with very strong character as my commissioners. I worked with the best.
Do you think that with the extinction of the PPA, you lost a major opportunity to be the Tinubu of the South East?
Let me tell you, there were more problems between Tinubu and Fashola, but it is the discipline of the society of Yorubas. Igbos have no discipline in terms of politics: they are very good traders; they are good in anything they do, but they don’t understand politics. Fashola spoke to me many times and I confronted Tinubu many times. In fact, this one Orji is saying, Fashola complained to T.A. Orji and T.A. Orji responded to him and said he had not seen me since I left as governor. And this man came back to tell lies. Fashola is alive, you can ask him. There were more problems between Fashola and Tinubu than (between) T.A. Orji and me. If Fashola were an Igbo man, he would have left Tinubu and joined another party. But Yorubas have political discipline. That is the difference between them and Igbos. I have no problem with anybody. I was on my own one day when the late Yar’Adua told me that Ikedi wants to come to PDP and asked me what I thought. I said I didn’t think anything, it’s his choice. I said, ‘Sir, why does he want to do this? You already have our party’s nominee for the one ministerial slot, which you asked me to submit. Why does Ohakim want to defect without even telling me or discussing the matter with me?’ So I want politicians to be steadfast; not to be telling lies. I was surprised when he (Orji) joined APGA. We had set up a committee with the late Chukwumerije, Ekwunife, Larry Essien and T.A. Orji on how PPA and APGA will become one party. I had discussed with the late Ikemba that the party should be All Peoples Grand Alliance, with a logo of a hand carrying the fowl. This is what happened. They now went behind and negotiated me out and joined APGA. That was what happened. We set up a committee to go and negotiate on our behalf. They went to the meeting once or twice, without reporting back to me and/or the late Ikemba. I was in the U.S., and the next thing I heard was that they had joined APGA. What happened to me in the last few years, if I did not a strong heart, it would have landed me in a hospital.
It’s unlikely that Buhari’s government would have come to power without Bola Tinubu. Do you think the government has been fair him?
I am not going to answer that question. Tinubu has not complained to me and Buhari has not complained to me either.
But you have read it in the news
I can’t believe in the newspapers
But you are a publisher
Yes, and so what! (Laughs)
You have twice contested and failed to become a senator. Do you think you’re jinxed on this?
Let us wait for the decision of the Court of Appeal. After the judgement, I can grant you an interview on this - because you know I did not lose the election. You cannot come and say election is inconclusive, then come later to call result. From 6am, we were winning them, then you said the election was inconclusive. By 2pm we heard on Radio Abia that the election had been concluded. First of all, the electoral law forbids that. I am not a lawyer, neither am I going to sit anywhere to judge it, but since this matter is in the court of law, I will wait for the outcome, then we can then talk about it.
Recently, the DG of Voice of Nigeria (VON), Mr. Osita Okechukwu, said protesters should forget Biafra, that it is dead. Do you agree?
I cannot say. The people who are asking for Biafra have the right to ask for Biafra, but I believe in the largeness of the country. I believe that Nigeria should exist. I believe all Igbos should be in Nigeria. But we must be in Nigeria with security; we must be in Nigeria with fair play; we must be in Nigeria that would give us true federalism; we must be in Nigeria that would give us justice; we must be in Nigeria that treats everybody equally; we must be in Nigeria that does not recognize Christian or Muslim, Buddhist. This is the kind of Nigeria I would like to see. Biafra is a metaphor. It would be a recurring decimal to the end of my life and to other generations to come. Attacking them (protesters) is a wrong strategy because they are without arms. You can only attack people that have arms. The law is very clear: they have the right to protest; they have the right to say they are looking for the State of Biafra as long as they don’t molest any Nigerian. As long as they don’t cause any damage to any public property, they have the right to say they want Biafra. It is allowed everywhere in the world. But for me, Orji Kalu, I want a united and stronger Nigeria.
Do you think that the South East got a fairer deal under former President Jonathan? Former Vice President Ekwueme said it didn’t.
I cannot also say that, because I remember one time I was talking to President Buhari about our roads. I jokingly said, ‘Sir, if you want to contest in 2019, I would like to see you build Enugu-Onitsha, Enugu-PortHacourt, Arondizogu-Okigwe, Umuahia-Cross River roads.’ I was just joking with him. He said, ‘Look, you had people in government that could have done it (the roads) – the SGF, the minister of the economy, the deputy Senate president, the deputy Speaker - why didn’t they do it?’ He said he would try to put them in the budget. That was a big eye opener for me. I have never gone to Mr. President to ask for anything personal from him. I’ve always gone to discuss the collective problem of the Nigerian people. Like when they were talking about Nnamdi Kanu, I know all the discussions I had with the president.
Do you think Kanu’s prolonged detention is justified?
I cannot say anything about that. You know the case is in a court of law. I cannot condemn Kanu or agree with him. The matter is before the court.
But Kanu thinks the Igbo political elite have betrayed him and that is why he is suffering today.
Kanu cannot say that. This thing is not what you get on the road. If a young man comes and sees what elders have seen and thinks the elders are keeping quiet, he should ask the elders what is happening.
He feels betrayed…
No, no. He cannot say that.
But you are part of the Igbo elite that he is looking up to; that has betrayed him.
He is like my younger brother. I made Kanu’s father the traditional ruler of their place. I’m very close to the family. I am very close to the father. I’m very close to the mother. So when somebody will sit down and wouldn’t ask elders what is at the community square, whatever the elders have seen, you will see too. I am very sure, we would negotiate his release; I am very sure of that. President Buhari is not as hard as he looks; he is a very soft man. You know, leadership is a burden; people can be inside the room, people take decision for them and they don’t know. I believe there must be extra things, from what I hear from the security agencies, that Kanu did, and that is why they are holding him. They got him on video, how he was counting how he would kill people and the number of people he would kill, etcetera. I don’t know whether it’s true or false I have been able to ask and this is the recurring decimal. The security kept telling me that he plotted to kill people, including me, including many other Igbo men, including President Buhari, including any other person you can think about. I don’t know whether it’s true or false, but I still feel he holds a British passport. He could be released to the British ambassador and (they can) let him go to Britain.
From what happened to the PPA and what Buhari told you, it seems Igbo leaders are responsible for their own problems.
Presidents have told me that when Igbo leaders come to visit them, most of them ask for things for themselves and their families. Most of our former leaders are alive; you can ask them whether I have ever asked for anything other than what would be for the collective good. Of course, there are Igbo leaders with conscience, but we know ourselves.
Recently, former Anambra State governor, Peter Obi, described the shocking waste in governance and shared how he managed to save $174million for the state. Would you describe him as an exception among Igbo leaders?
I was more prudent than any other governor and the SSS (State Security Service) has a report on my performance. If President Obasanjo could describe me as an action governor, I want people to look back. Forget that we opposed third term. My official car was the Coaster bus from the day one I assumed office. Journalists, politicians, Gowon, Shagari, Obasanjo, everyone rode in it. After Obi said what he said, haven’t you noticed that people from Anambra have attacked him? I was the first governor to publish the state’s audited finance in the PUNCH, a national newspaper. Nobody talks about that. I want reputable audit firms like PwC, KPMG, Delloite and others to audit the federal government and all the states from 1960, and then we would know who the thieves are.
President Buhari’s wife, Aisha, is complaining, loudly, that most of the people who now surround her husband are strangers. Do you think it’s a fair point?
Well, I am not going to comment on that. I am close to the family and I will not like to be biased.
You were a governor for eight years; do you think it is proper for the wife of an elected official to publicly come out and throw her husband under the bus?
Well, I cannot answer that question until I speak to her and speak to the husband.
You reportedly played a major role to reconcile former military President Ibrahim Babangida and President Muhammadu Buhari, but it seems that the wounds still run deep. Tell us what is between both men?
When you interviewed them, did they tell you the role I played?
Yes Babaginda told us.
Well, I have been very close to both men. At a time, I was feeling very uncomfortable. Each time I was in Kaduna to see Buhari, IBB’s people would complain, and each time I went to Minna to see IBB, Buhari’s people would complain. But the two men did not complain. I felt very irritated and I went to Buhari and begged him to meet IBB. He said they were not quarrelling. I said but I want us to meet. He asked where, and I said in my house in Igbere. He agreed. I met IBB and also told him and he had no objection. They came and it was a fantastic reunion.
Were they aware that they were coming to meet each other at you place?
I never lied to any one of them. Those are my two bosses; I can never lie to anyone of them. Both of them knew they were coming to meet each other. There was no hidden agenda.
Tell us about that night in Igbere. What was it that the two of them needed to say to each other?
No, no. There is nothing. I arranged and left both of them to talk for a couple of hours. They spoke with each other, came out laughing and we took a photograph. Both of them ate. For me, how I treat them, I treat them nicely because they are like my big brothers.
Well, you still have work to do. From Buhari’s response in our interview, it seems he’s not fully recovered from the shock of what happened.
Well, that is life. I have still not recovered from what T.A. Orji did to me, too (laughs). If you go to IBB, he might have his own side of the story. If you go to Buhari, he might have his own side of the story. So you don’t blame both of them. It’s life. I will try one more time to invite both of them for another reunion when Buhari completes his tenure.
Babaginda also said he would support an Igbo president in 2019.
Well, I don’t know how that is going to be. I would like to see that happen, if Buhari will not seek a second term.
Would you be that candidate?
I don’t know. But I am very competent to be the president of Nigeria.
Do you think it’s time for an Igbo president?
Like yesterday. It is supposed to have been more than that. I am very competent to pilot the affairs of the country. I am more competent that those who have done it since 1960.
Are you working to take the advantage of that blank cheque Babangida offered to support an Igbo president?
Yes, why not. I can take the blank cheque. Why not? If Buhari also says that he would support an Igbo president in 2019, it would be very good, because he is family to me like IBB. I will follow Buhari until he says, ‘no I don’t want to contest’.
President Buhari has said he will not read the National Conference report, let alone implement its recommendations; do you think Nigeria will survive without restructuring?
Let me be honest with you, I said it on AIT few days back. I said there is need to look into our 36 states, to come back to eight or ten regions instead of 36 states, because the present structure is not viable. So I will encourage President Buhari, even if he doesn’t want to see the see the report of the conference, to set up a committee to review it, because without restructuring, the country cannot go far. It is not what you think. Because we have passed those periods when you can come to Abuja and share money and everybody goes back.
Your critics say you may have governed Abia but your mother ruled the state. Do you agree?
I have just given you one example now. These are what never-do-wells are saying. If my mother governed Abia, T.A. Orji couldn’t have been governor. My mother opposed Orji. My mother never wanted T.A. Orji to be governor. Ask my commissioners; my mother was hand-in-hand with Obasanjo. Two of them never wanted Orji as governor. At a time, Obasanjo even asked me to present my younger brother; I refused. These people are alive. So, my mother never slept in Government House. Ask the journalists; you know what the answer is. We have a house in Maitama where my mother lived for many years. My mother has a house in Aba. She has a house in our own village, Igbere. She had no reason to sleep in Government House for one day. T.A. Orji used to come and beg me that I should accept - even if it is “one small councillor” - for my mother, as concession to her. So when they tell me that my mother did this, did that…. I love my mother and if anybody who does not like his mother, he is a fool. I love my mother because I sucked her breast. Anybody who fails to love his mother is a fool. I love my mother but if there is a conflict between the state and my family, the state will take precedence.
You started your first business with $35, which your mother gave you. What major lessons have you learned along the way?
The major lesson I have learnt is that, if I am dealing with you, my words should be my bond. If I say this is a white paper, you should be able to find out anywhere that it is a white paper. That is the only lesson and the only true lesson for growth. This is why there is no leader I cannot look in the face and talk. I had never done government contract in my life. I have been a trader. I have never taken government’s waiver in my whole life.
You were suspended in school (the university) for participating in a protest. Do you have any regrets?
No. The man who suspended me is like my father. He is my friend; he brought me up - Professor Jubril Aminu. I wasn’t expelled; I was suspended in my fourth year. I had just three weeks to graduate from the university. I left at my will. The only exam I didn’t take was PLS 148 (Political Science 148). I paid solidarity with my guys.
You seem to blame former President Olusegun Obasanjo for most of your woes, especially the SLOK Group, but he often answered that you were a mostly unethical businessman. What is your response?
How? Is he – Obasanjo - a businessman himself? Has he ever done any business to know what is ethical or unethical? You said that SLOK Airline in Enugu, one plane committed offence and you banned all the planes. When Chidiebere vehicle is travelling from Kaduna to Lagos and has an accident or commits a traffic offence, are you going to ban all the other hundreds of trailers owned by Chidiebere? Is that justice? What makes me not to be an ethical businessman? I have never taken a contract from him; I am not a contractor.
What was it Obasanjo had against you?
It was third term. I was the one who told President Nelson Mandela. I was the one who told President Bush (Jnr). And those people came after him. Those people told him that I was the one who told them.
Why didn’t your mother come in on the issue since she had a good relationship with Obasanjo?
She tried but as they say, water don pass garri.(Laughs).
You have been in a long-drawn case with the EFCC over your management of state funds. Do you think there’s anything that the country can do to make leadership more accountable?
Well, leaders can be more accountable if they want. Let me finish the EFCC case before I can talk on this. But my conscience tells me that I am not a thief. My brain, heart, my hand, everything tells me I am not a thief. My case and some other cases look more political. So we will know who is right or wrong.
Do you think that people have put style over substance in the recent operation against judges by the DSS?
I’m not going to comment on that issue because I have many cases in the court; I don’t want to prejudice any issue. On this one, I will plead the Fifth Amendment.
Which of your businesses do you consider the jewel in your treasure box and why?
Every business is as important as the other. All of them are important to me.
Why do you change the managing directors (MDs) of your newspaper, SUN, every four years?
No, no, no. There is no one term of four years. They are there as long as they can perform. It was the daily editors the policy affected. It was the decision of the board and, sometimes, I don’t sit on the board. Every day younger people are coming out of universities, coming in with good ideas and more energy. It is always good that any editor who has done well in three years you can give him another three years.
But your MDs (in SUN) have a fixed tenure.
No. MDs don’t have a fixed tenure. MDs can only go when they are 60.
You are particularly fond of your mother. Were you indulged? What was it like growing up?
How? My mother beat the hell out of us; that is the truth. This is why when people come to our house, they will see how clean our house is; they will see our forthrightness. That was part of the discipline my mother gave to us. We cleaned our beds. We made our beds. We polished our shoes. So, these are things she taught us. We dared not do anything wrong in the eyes of my mother. She would bring the cane and discipline us. Now, I have never flogged any of my children but I was caned and I can show you the scars. My mother had three girls and three boys, but the three girls died and the boys survived. We accepted it as the will of God.
What keeps you awake at night?
Nothing, maybe discussing with friends. Sleeping with my wife keeps me awake at night.
What would you say was your most prized legacy in eight years of being the governor of Abia State?
Service to the people. The people of Abia miss me now. Whenever I go home, they say this is the man who used to pay leave allowance, not only salaries; he sent us for training. I did a poverty alleviation (programme), which worked. I got many people to learn how to make soap. I enrolled people for WAEC. I encouraged people to work, to learn. For traders who did not have the time to go school in the day, we organized a work-to-learn scheme for them. They went for classes in the evening between 5pm and 730 pm. When they finished, we enrolled them for WAEC. Mind you, when I was governor, there was free education in Abia. When I say free education, I mean genuine education through which Abia State government, from 1999 to 2007, paid the WAEC fees for all Abians who sat for WAEC. That’s what we used our money to do. And this is why our state will continue to top the WAEC performance table for the next 10 years. I laid the foundation. Ask anybody in Abia State University, I expanded the university. I gave N150 million every month to the university. It was almost free education. I was paying N93,000 while parents were paying N7,000 for all students, whether they were from Sokoto or anywhere. I was the one who brought the Emir of Lapai to come and become the vice chancellor of the university. Let me tell you, when you look at our (football) team, Enyimba, you will see the right frame of my mind; you will see Omokaro; you will see Muhammed, Okeke, Okafor, Etim and so on. That was my frame of mind. And this is the frame of the mind of any good leader.
What is the future you see for today’s youths?
It’s just for us to make this future for them, because the youth are not so strong. The youth are not youth any longer. When I was a student union leader, we didn’t take money from anybody. You can’t give us N2,000, we wouldn’t take money from you. At my age, 56, I do not see people changing to what they are supposed to be. It’s a terrible thing. We are not giving the youth the direction they are supposed to take. We need reorientation for the youth by our communities because now people have no values.
But the youth also feel betrayed by the older generation.
Hmm! They cannot feel betrayed because it is what the youth got themselves into that they are reaping. I pity the youth. You see, when they are doing empowerment, they give them motorcycles; when we were doing empowerment, we paid WAEC fees for poor youths because we know once they have the school leaving certificate, it is a meal ticket to move to the next level. This was what we did. We also built skill acquisition centres in Abia so that people could acquire skills. All the skill acquisition centres are now gone. There is nothing like that again. If we are looking for welders in ships, in our shipyards, we get them from as far as the Philippines. Can you imagine that this is happening in Nigeria?
Do you agree that our process of leadership recruitment is bad?
The way people are recruited as leaders is a major problem in the society. Most of our leaders are not prepared to be leaders. They had not even made decisions before. Leadership entails a lot.
But after eight years in office, you had a chaotic handover to your chief of staff. Do you think you failed in that regard?
I didn’t fail. I did all I was supposed to do to support him to be the governor, but he failed, because he should have done better than me. And this is why I ran way. Since I left, I have never gone to Government House. T.A. spends most of our money on propaganda, instead of using it for the people.
Who are your role models?
John F. Kennedy, Zik, Awolowo, Sardauna. These people were committed to their regions, committed to their people. Nelson Mandela was also my role model. I also respect Obasanjo. He is a strong leader. He has his own mind. The only problem I have with him is that he is unforgiving. It’s the truth I am telling you. He is fair-minded but very, very petty.
Your daughter is getting married very soon. What is your greatest wish for her?
To have a blessed family. She is marrying her classmate in the university, a young man from Esan (Edo State). We wish her and her husband well.
Are you on semi-retirement from politics?
I can’t retire from politics. I am neither a member of the APC nor a member of the PDP. I spend my time advising government and advising those who need my advice. And I will come back again very strong. Watch out; I am coming back very strong.