I have been following political developments in Nigeria for decades and I can tell that the latest trend of money politics has made it impossible to elect credible candidates. The 2015 and 2019 general elections are a testament to this ugly development that has produced bad governance and poor leadership.
The Joseph de Maistre’s proposition that the people get the type of leaders they deserve in a democracy, might still be valid in Nigeria of today. In this age of instant gratification, short attention span and working memory, politicians no longer find it profitable to invest their time and funds in public engagement, which has been an age-long tradition in Nigerian politics. Rather, they keep their funds till election day and spend it on vote buying – a phenomenon that is almost consuming us as a nation.
Valentine Chineto Ozigbo (VCO), the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) frontrunner in the 2021 Anambra state governorship election, appears to be challenging the status quo with his uncommon approach to politics. The 50yr-old immediate past President and CEO of Transcorp Plc has widely been described as the knight in the shinning armor for Anambrarians. Ozigbo’s intimidating academic and professional profile is available in the public domain and his stellar performances in the many leadership positions he had served, is unrivalled.
One striking quality of this gentleman is his ability to relate adequately with heavy hitters and the lowly in the society, particularly in his home state of Anambra.
In the last one week, I have been on the ground in Anambra state where he dedicated his time and resources to engaging his political family, the PDP, through a series of town hall meetings with women, youths and executive members of the 326 wards and 21 Local Government Areas of the state. Entering into the venue of the meeting will remind you of a man with a knack for excellence, the organization was perfect, tens of young and well-cultured volunteers, wearing the VCO branded T-shirts were on ground to attend to the various needs of the participants, who remained orderly all through the events.
The way he mingled with the participants will show you how truly a man of the masses he is. The sessions were inspiring and electrifying, as he was able to convey his message of progressive politics and project Ka Anambra Chawapu (A brighter and better Anambra) succinctly. Just like he did in his previous public engagements, he was able to expound his development agenda in details, with the aid of digital storytelling. According to him, “the Chawapu project is designed to touch the future by building social and economic systems that last”
Having identified the development gaps in the state, the Chawapu project is anchored on a four-legged strategic approach of providing the enabling and secured environment for businesses to thrive, investor promotion and partnership, social protection and development agenda and of course, internal revenue generation and employment. Participants at these events could connect with Ozigbo from my personal interactions with them and what I picked up sitting in the audience. “He is one of us!“ a few participants chorused where I was sitting.
Former Chairman of PDP in Anambra state, Ejike ogunebego, said “I have known Val for a long time now and I have watched him all this while, his yes is yes, his no is no”. Sincerity of purpose is one major quality that is lacking among Nigerian politicians. From my findings, almost everyone who has come in contact with Ozigbo testifies to his uprightness and faithfulness. No wonder he served in those leadership positions without blemish. I must confess, my first encounter with him appeared like I had known him for ages.
The award-winning CEO also runs the Valentine Chineto Ozigbo (VCO) Foundation, which has positively touched the lives of thousands of people in Anambra state, and has a special place for women and youths. At the sessions with the women, he said he is prioritizing the welfare of Anambra women. “Ndi Anambra women are one of the most undaunted, hardworking, determined, purposeful and dedicated group of people in Nigeria. They deserve a government that recognizes their worth and takes concrete steps to protect and empower them”. He said.
Nkiruka Ogaga, who was a participant at the town hall meeting said, “He (Ozigbo) knows how to relate with us women, he understands our challenges and he has always been there as a son and we are like his mothers. We want him to get there so he can do more”
Although, the primary election is the first hurdle to cross but “winability” at the polls is an important factor to consider. There is no denying the fact that he is the most qualified aspirant to fly the flag of PDP in the forthcoming Anambra state governorship election. I had to move round the city of Awka to feel the pulse of the people about the present present state government. Some of the documented comments are not what should go into this piece uncensored.
“Finally, we have someone who is ready to open up Anambra to the world and restore our lost glory” Augusta Okeke from Onitsha South LGA told me as I randomly sampled her opinion on what she thinks Ozigbo is bringing to the table. Like many other young people, she is in and out of the state for business and not interested in partisan politics but said she must come home to vote on November 6. “You will agree with me that restructuring or not, Anambra has no business relying on the crumbs from Abuja” she said calmly.
No doubt, Ozigbo has the capacity to grow the local economy and put Anambra on the list of best performing economies in the world but one thing I find intriguing while he was speaking is his resolve to “boost the ability of government to spend on things that matter to our citizens”.
If he becomes governor, Anambra might be looking like a country on its own and compete with the G7. According to him, “We will implement a cluster driven strategy aimed at maximizing productivity of existing and expanded clusters of innovation across the state.” Onitsha and Idemili is identified as a trade, commerce and diversified services cluster while Nnewi cluster is for automotive parts manufacturing, old Aguata zone cluster is dedicated to technology, ICT and digital economy. Also, he mapped Omambala and Ogbaru cluster for large-scale agriculture and agricultural processing while Awka zone is for civil and public service hospitality. What more does one need from a visionary leader?
It appears major players in the state politics, including some aspirants consider Ozigbo as a unifier and peacemaker with a bundle of demonstrable skills and experience up his sleeves to transform Anambra and make it work for all.
It will not come as a surprise, if Valentine Ozigbo clinches the PDP governorship ticket on June 26 when the primary election will be held. Evidently, he is setting the pace in development for Anambra state and writing a new narrative for the national politics.
John Paul Akinduro is a Communications Specialist and presently Special Assistant to Former Governor Olusegun Mimiko on Media