From Magnus Eze, Enugu

 Obi Nwankwo is the immediate past Commissioner for Environment in Anambra State, and candidate of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) for Awka North and South Federal Constituency in the February 25 elections.

He speaks on why he is seeking the seat and his chances, declaring that the exercise is critical to the future of Nigeria.

What’s the driving force of your House of Representatives’ aspiration?

 My life has always been that of selfless service to my people and others that I come in contact with. That is my motivation. I was among the few public servants honoured with a state government award for meritorious services to the state and Ndi Anambra during the state awards organised in the twilight of the Willie Obiano administration in Anambra State.

 I served as a commissioner in three different ministries for eight years under Governor Obiano. I started as Commissioner for Science and Technology, was later transferred to the Ministry of Public Utilities where I championed the state-wide ‘Light Up Anambra’ community streetlights Project, plus other initiatives. I was later moved to the Ministry of Environment where I championed the ‘Dobe AnambraỌcha’ environmental campaign plus other initiatives. 

I am bringing all these experiences to bear as I seek to represent the good people of Awka North and South. Ndi Awka North and South Federal Constituency have not been fairly represented in the past. Ours is an agrarian and entrepreneurial constituency. The full potentials of the area and its people have not been well harnessed. I believe that with my experience as a successful businessman, and 3-term commissioner in Anambra State under Governor Willie Obiano, I will make the difference. It’s not about just going to the Green Chamber to warm the chair; I will leverage on my contacts to attract infrastructural development to my people. I have very strong networks across Nigeria. Such bridge-building skills are highly essential for a federal lawmaker in Nigeria. I will sponsor bills that will positively affect not only the lives of my constituents, but those of Nigerians.

Are you not bothered about the threats of PDP and Labour Party especially as they both have formidable presidential candidates whose election holds same day?

 It’s an interesting election year. All the parties have been out campaigning. I am happy with the solidarity and support shown to me and my campaign team. Anambra has traditionally been an APGA state, it gives us a lot of confidence but we are not taking anything, party or person for granted. This is why everyday we are out there in Awka North and South communities talking to our mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and young persons, and bringing our ‘Divine Mandate 2023’ messages to them. We are hopeful of election victory because our people are connecting to our messages of hope, shared prosperity, infrastructural development, youth empowerment, care for our senior citizens, support for entrepreneurs etc.

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 Part of what we are also doing is to sensitise and enlighten our voters on our party symbol, the cock. We want to ensure that we do not have lost votes as a result of confusion with the symbols. This is important because candidates’ names do not appear on the ballot papers.

Many see the reforms introduced by the 2022 Electoral Act as the greatest achievement of the Buhari Government. What’s your opinion and don’t you think that INEC could be compromised?

 We trust that INEC being the electoral umpire will do the needful. I listened to INEC Chairman’s speech at Chatham House, London, and I am encouraged by his submissions. Despite some of the challenges that INEC faces, I believe that they will do a good job. They have to and must. The 2023 election is a watershed election. Nigerians are hopeful of a better future through the election of a different set of leaders. INEC knows this and so cannot afford to let Nigerians down. This is why I am joining the call on the federal government to ensure that INEC gets all the resources they require to conduct free, fair and credible elections.

I am also calling on all the candidates across the parties to play fair. Elections are not a ‘do or die’ affair. As responsible leaders, we should be able to impress it upon our followers and supporters the need to shun violence of any form during the electoral process. We should let people’s votes count.

What would be your checklist or shopping list to the Federal Government on behalf of people of the South East? 

We have lost so much time in terms of development, so, a lot of work needs to be done. Charity, they say begins at home. My people of Awka North and South Federal Constituency require good rural roads to enable them transport their agricultural products to the markets. Our youths require jobs, so, I will be pushing for more employment and economic opportunities for them in federal agencies and parastatals. I will also explore opportunities for interest-free or reduced interest loans, grants and aids from Federal and state government owned financial institutions, and foreign donor agencies, that will benefit our entrepreneurs and enable them to scale up their businesses. Likewise, our farmers and young persons. If elected, I will be looking forward to collaborating with my colleagues from the South East, and other regions to ensure that we successfully push a South East regional development agenda that will include construction of a rail corridor for inter-state movement of goods and services. We have to also think of how to harness our water channels, work with relevant agencies to ensure easy clearing of goods at the ports for our people who are predominantly businessmen and women. Insecurity has become a major challenge in the South East, so, we need to collaborate with our colleagues and do what needs to be done to make the region peaceful once again. If we achieve that, the economy of the South East region will bounce back.

What will you do differently if you emerge a House of Representatives member? 

My record of public service and community support are there and speak for themselves. It is late in the day now for me to change. My late father taught me that good name is better than silver and gold. I have always lived by this. I live with the virtues of honesty, equity, fairness and respect. I am a family man with children, practicing Christian and Catholic, so, I dare not let my God, family and faith down. If Ndi Awka North and South Federal Constituency vote for me as I am hopeful that they would, I will offer selfless service, and will be easily accessible. I believe that one has to be always among his people to understand their needs. This has been one of the problems in the past. Our people don’t even know who their Reps are. I am offering myself to serve my people of Awka North and South Federal Constituency. I have the experience, the national reach, the energy and all it requires to make a difference.