OPINION: Tinubu should release Nnamdi Kanu unconditionally –Okafor, Reps member

From Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja

Once upon a time, the All Progressives Grand ( APGA) was the darling party of Ndigbo, especially in Anambra State, where it has held sway since 2010….CONTINUE READING

However, the fortunes of the party have  been on a  free fall recently. In the 2023 general election, the party lost its dominance in Anambra State. Nevertheless, a member of the House of Representatives, Aguata Federal Constituency, of Anambra State, Dominic Okafor, says the future of APGA is still very bright.

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Okafor in this interview said despite the outcome of the 2023 polls, APGA is waxing strong. The lawmaker also spoke on the security challenges in the South East and the japa syndrome amongst other issues.

What should your constituents and the the entire country expect from you in the course of your four years tenure in the National Assembly?

I want to give Nigerians starting from Aguata Federal Constituency a voice. Since we were inaugurated in June, I have proposed a motion. I have supported motions. I have co-sponsored motions on ecological problems of our people. One of the major problems we have in Aguata Federal Constituency is that of erosion menace. Environmental issues. Ecological issues.

In Aguata Federal Constituency, we have 14 towns. These are the people I represent. These are the people with  whose mandate I am here today, as a member of the 10th National Assembly.

I want to add my voice. I want to ensure that there is equity. I want to ensure that there are dividends of democracy. Prior to coming here, I did a needs assessment. I got consultants to visit all the 14 communities we have in Aguata Federal Constituency to find out the issues they have- ranging from ecological problems, decay of infrastructure, youth restiveness and the rest of it. All these were documented. It is not all about trying to attract projects to people. But attracting projects that are impactful. That the people will appreciate.

You can’t go to a place where people don’t need water and say you want to drill boreholes for them. You may give them water but they may not really appreciate it. Perhaps, maybe they don’t have any cottage hospital in that town. The better thing for you to do is to see how you can attract a hospital. Or if there is one there that is not functional, attract funds so that they can renovate it and make it more functional.

So during this needs assessment, people were very happy to tell the consultants their expectations from my representation. And I tell you honestly, by the time we resume from our recess, we are going to be putting together our budget and many of the budgets are going to be tailored towards achieving those goals.

Apart from that, one of the things I intend to do, which I have already started; I have started collating CVs. By next year, I intend to organize a job fair. Job fair is a situation where you bring applicants and employers of labour to meet. A lot of people who don’t have the opportunity of reading newspapers, some of them, maybe they don’t have internet access to know all those job portals, where they can see job opportunities.

I believe strongly that when I bring stakeholders in our federal constituency, who are employers of labour in various parts of Nigeria- Lagos, Abuja, Aba and all of that, and also bring our youth, our applicants, young graduates, unemployed or people who are under-employed, I believe that such conversation, such engagement, such meeting will help to reduce the unemployment that we have. And it will also help to reduce youth restiveness.

APGA, which before now was regarded as the party of the Ndigbo, especially in Anambra State seems to be losing ground, judging by the results of the last general election. What does the future hold for APGA?

Recently, we had congresses, where we had  new leadership. In fact, the current national chairman of APGA is very young and a dynamic politician. And the leader of our party too, Professor Chukwuma Soludo, he is also bringing a lot of innovation into the party, so that people don’t see the party as a party of only a particular part of the country.

Forget about the wind that blew last election. The party is still very strong. The party is also doing a lot to penetrate all nooks and crannies. You know that we have a senator in Abia State, in the person of Senator Abaribe. We have about five of us, in the House of Representatives. One from  Ebonyi and four from Anambra. And we also have members of House of Assembly that won under APGA.

So, I don’t believe that the party is going down. Watch out and see what is going to happen. With the new national leadership and a lot of good work that the government of Anambra state is doing, I tell you honestly, that APGA is the battle to beat going forward.

The fortune of the South East have been on the decline recently, because of insecurity. How do you think the zone can get out of this challenge?

There have been series of engagements. Not too long, all the members of the national Assembly met with Ohanaeze Ndigbo and a lot of stakeholders in Imo House in Abuja here. And there were a lot of suggestions on what we have to do.

Recently, there was a motion in the House, before we went on break, where an Ad-hoc committee was set to also look at the issue of insecurity in the South East, to restore peace, every body is talking about the release of Nnamdi Kanu, unconditionally.

I tell you honestly, that as long as he is still in captivity, it might be difficult to have a meaningful dialogue with those people that believe that they are fighting for him. I think that the way forward is for the government to release Nnamdi Kanu unconditionally.

Unfortunately, a lot of hoodlums are taking the opportunity ( insecurity) to extort money from people. A lot of criminals. And it is having a lot of impact on our economy. Of course you know that people in the South East are predominately business men and women. A situation whereby an Aba trader, Onitsha trader, Nnewi trader, Umuahia trader, Ebonyi, Enugu is now doing business four days in a week, talking about four working days in a week, when ordinarily business there should start on a Monday, and on Monday, you are asked to sit at home. It has ripple effects.

Anybody that loves Nigeria;  I would  say it is also affecting indirectly  the fortunes of Nigeria because a lot of companies which operate businesses in this region( South East), some of them are closing shops. Some of them are relocating to Ghana.

The South East and Nigeria, in general, is losing a lot to insecurity and the starting point is granting Nnamdi Kanu unconditional release. And I believe that if that is done, it will go a long way in restoring peace in the South East.

What is your take on the migration of many young persons to other countries, popularly called the japa syndrome?

The japa syndrome is very unfortunate. A lot of Nigerians are leaving. I am an alumnus of Lagos Business School.  Recently, in our platform, I saw what one professor sent. The statistics of Nigerians leaving for Canada.

According to that statistics, it said in the first half of 2023, more than 10,000 Nigerians left for Canada. And these are skilled labourers. Surprisingly, a lot of Chinese and Lebanese are coming to  Nigeria.

While Nigerians are complaining about the economy, people from all  other nationalities like Chinese and Lebanon are having a field day.  I don’t have anything against them. Many of them have been my business partners for long.

But I think  that the local content policy that we have in the oil and gas sector, which have seen to a lot of Nigeria oil and gas companies becoming global players, should be replicated in other sectors of the economy. Believe it or not, if you are a foreigner and you make money in this country, perhaps, you may invest only 10, 20 percent in Nigeria and there is a capital flight. The other one, you send it to your country.

But any local Nigeria company as you grow here, you will grow along with a lot of Nigerians in terms of skills, technology transfer, you invest in Nigeria. And this will directly affect a lot of sectors of the economy.

One of the things I want to pursue in this 10th assembly is to see if we can replicate that same local content policy in other sectors of the Nigerian economy, for instance, in construction. If you replicate local content policy in the building industry, construction industry, you will find that Nigerian companies will be able to build capacity.

Even some of these people coming, you make it in such a way that they must partner with a Nigerian company, so that there will be technology transfer and Nigerian companies can also grow from there.

Most of these people who are leaving the country in droves, it is very unfortunate that you finish from school here, you are skilled and all that and you can’t get a good  job. Unfortunately, when most of these companies come, even to the extent of having machine operators, they are foreigners.

The Nigerian government must consciously extend this local content policy to other sectors of our economy. And it is not just having it, but ensuring that it is implemented….CONTINUE READING

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