Hon. Dr. Tony Nwoye
Who is Hon. Dr. Tony Nwoye? Tony Nwoye is a member representing Anambra East and West Federal Constituency, House of Representatives, Abuja. He was once a National President for the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS). Born a Catholic and hails from Nsugbe, Tony Nwoye succinctly reveals some of his plans for Anambra State in a press interview at Onitsha . Our reporter Uche Enem was there.
You are coming out for the 2017 gubernatorial election, what new things will you bring to the Government House if elected?
They are many and there are many things that are still yet to be done. I don't want to criticize the former and incumbent governor. The governor is my brother and I don't want to criticize him whether constructive or destructive. Governing is not easy and there are areas which he did well especially in the area of security.
In the area of security: If I am the governor, I will improve on the feat he has recorded. You cannot talk about security if you cannot tackle unemployment. Unemployment leads to social vices and 95 percent of the youths are unemployed. Employment should be tackled first before security. We must engage youths gainfully. It is not just about theory, it all about being practical. I was once a president of Nigerian Students and I have related with them thereby, I feel their pores too. It is not all about making and appropriating millions and billions from state fund to manage security. It's not all about talking about agriculture; it is about how many employments these have translated to with facts and figures. For example, I was brought up in Onitsha North and many of my activities I did as a youth started here before going to the University.
Local government allocation comes from the Federal Government, it didn't start from the present governor, it started from the former governors and this money is deducted with impunity. All the 774 local government in the federation have their own allocation. These money are being deducted by the State government and still they don't channel this money towards the growth and creation of employment. This money comes every month whether there is a recession or not. The state government allocation is different from the local government allocation.
We go to church to deceive the citizens. If they are really going to church, they should come and tell us where those local government allocations are. This money should be used to engage our youths. If adequate money is given to the youths without siphoning, then the money should be enough to start up a business for them. After all when I finished secondary school, in Metropolitan secondary school Onitsha, while waiting for my Jamb, I started poultry business with less than 2000 naira and later my birds grew and expanded. I used the money I made as a Polling Clerk during the 1993 election of Abiola and Tofa. It was the money they paid as a polling clerk I used to buy the birds and then it expanded to 400 before I entered the University.
Let the money meant for the elderly people and the local people be used for them and not siphoning it. These people are hungry and poor and when you call for an election, you see them everywhere telling you their stories and even asking you for money to help them. I will not encourage youths to be used as thugs in election. I have been a student activist and I won't encourage it at all.
Most times, if you go to the village for any event or burial function, you will see these youths scattered everywhere looking for money. Poverty index in Anambra state is almost the highest in the south east. Anambrarians are very hardworking people and do not depend on the government. My father is 82 years old and he wakes up every morning and still works. He doesn't bother what happens in the government but he is still industrious. This is a typical Igbo man spirit. Every Anambrarian is very industrious. All they need is too be engaged meaningfully with a starting capital.
The first thing I will do is to tackle Poverty. The poverty level is high in Anambra state and the state APGA government has been deducting more than 85 percent and siphoning local government funds. I am challenging the APGA Government to publish how much every local government has received from Abuja. All these money our state both present and former leaders have taken, they must account for it. They are not going scot free because this money belongs to the poor people. I am more of an activist than a politician. It is a rescue mission- that Anambra must be rescued and free from poverty.
Let's talk about Agriculture: Agriculture is always mentioned in Anambra state but has the food price in Anambra gone down at all? They lie to us that they are exporting vegetable Ügu” for 5 million dollars, exporting rice and other things. If there is really a boom in agriculture in Anambra state, it will affect the food price. The yam and rice in Anambra state have not come down at all. I support and advocate for mechanized agriculture where famers will be given grants and soft loans without interest. Our problem is that our leaders politicize everything. You don't play politics with people you are leading and serving because God has entrusted them to your care.
Let's talk about Education: Some parents can't afford to pay school fees for their wards. I spent my Easter in the village and many parents came to me crying that they can't afford to pay school fees. The last time I attended a programme of the Catholic Youths Organization of Awka diocese, many youths came to me and pleaded that they can't pay school fees.
Astronomically, Anambra State University pays the highest in the whole South East. I am saying that if I become governor, I will make education for primary and secondary free and compulsory. This idea of people dropping out from primary school to say they want to learn trade will be stopped. It is my humble opinion that Anambra state students will be given bursary no matter how small it is. Some people will be given loans and when they start working they will pay
back because government is not Father Christmas. I must reduce school fees for those in tertiary institutions. The school must be able to introduce discipline and morality in the institution. I was once a President of NANS and I know what I did to reduce school fees. So if I am a governor, I will do more.
Let's talk about the Health Sector: We need a good primary health sector and primary health care. Free and compulsory antenatal and postnatal services. Every pregnant woman must go to hospital before birth and after birth in a state owned hospital. I am sponsoring a bill in the National assembly that the federal government must provide a free medical aid for pregnant women before and after birth. We have a state- owned teaching hospital in Anambra state. What I am saying is that these hospitals should be equipped properly. In the whole of Anambra North Senatorial District, it is only Onitsha general hospital that is functional. Umueri General Hospital was built by Peter obi but it is not functional. The state government would have kept about 200 million to make that hospital functional. For example, a pregnant woman in labour may not survive birth before she reaches Onitsha general hospital. Why can't the government invest the money they siphoned from the local government to build a better hospital for the governed? And they want to build airport with the Chinese government. Airport and hospital, which one needs more attention? Medical attention should be given to these people who need medical attention.
I am from Nsugbe and the governor is from Aguleri. In Umueri, they are saying they want to build airport. Who needs the airport? For instance, we have an international airport In Kano but the Governor of Jigawa state, Lamido in 2012/ 2014 went and used billions of naira to build airport and even inflated the price and EFCC is trying him now for that and he still went ahead to get money from behind for contractors. The federal government then said that since it is an international airport, they were going to refund him. Jonathan went ahead and refunded him with hope that he will win Jigawa state in the election but they eventually lost to APC. The airport now is not too active and for the plane to fly out, the sate government has to pay for 95 passengers. Kano is just one hour away from the airport. In the East, we have Asaba airport here and we also have Enugu airport. Where is Anambra government going to get the money they will use to build an airport?
He collected loan when he inherited 75 billon without any arrears in salary or debts both local and international level. I am not Peter Obi's fan, but he was more prudent with money. Within 3 years, he has borrowed billions of naira on the name that he wants to build local government projects. He borrowed 14 billion naira and out of 14 billion naira he borrowed, he gave 20 million naira each to the 177 communities in Anambra state which when added gives you about 4 billion naira. What did he use the other 10 billion naira to do? There must be financial discipline and prudence. For example, it means that the total money Onitsha North as a community has received since 2013 is just about 1 billion naira. I am saying that the money meant for the grass roots should be channelled to them and be accounted for. Even if I don't win the election, that money that is with my brother must be counted for. This is not sentiment at all.
Let's talk about industrialization and commerce: Our people are known for trade, commerce and industry. Traders should be given grants. We have micro and macro traders. Why won't the government give them a loan without interest and give them specific time to pay back so that the money could be redirected to others.
As we celebrate the Divine Mercy Sunday and the Youth day, what's your advice to the youths?
They must be hardworking and prayerful. They must be disciplined and focused. Many of them are lousy and lack focus. They should not lose hope. I understand that there is no employment and no food but I am telling them that they should not lose hope because hope is coming to them soon. I believe the youths will still make it. The youths must remain focused. If you have a dream, pursue your dream.
You have a very articulate manifesto, In Nigeria politics, we know it is quite difficult to unseat a sitting governor, so, what is your strength, your confidence to have an edge over the sitting governor?
I am aspiring to lead my people, to bring them out of deception and to bring them out of penury. We are lagging behind. Our collective money and mandate is been siphoned and it is not good. I believe so much in God and that God gives power to whom he wants to give power.
I won House of Rep in 2011 but some forces did not allow me to enter. I won and I labored and even won to court with certificate of return but they didn't allow me to enter. I was a State Chairman of PDP at a young age of about 32 years old. When I labored to win governorship for primary, they stopped me but didn't realize that I was a young man when I was the state chairman of PDD. The former president worked for APGA to please Peter Obi ad kept me in court and didn't allow me to campaign. That one came and passed. They forgot that Ojukwu was 34 when he was Head of state of Biafra. Gowon, Obansanjo were all young when they started to lead. Jim as governor of Old Anambra was less than 35 years when he was the governor. In 2015, against all odds, I ran for House of Rep again and against all odds, I won and this time, they nearly killed me in the process of trying to rescue one man. They didn't know I was inside the tinted vehicle at INEC office, Otuocha. Till now I still go to London for my left eye because of the attack.
These are people who go to church and deceive themselves but they can't deceive God. I was the winner but they refused to declare me winner. Through the prayers and vision of my wife, she advised me to go to court so I went to court again and that was when I was declared winner. It was on Dec 17th that I was sworn in. Believe in God so much and If God says my brother will win no problem and if he says he won't win, no amount of thing they will do will work. It's no news anymore to hear that a sitting governor or sitting president lose in an election. It is not news any more. So it depends on what God says through the peoples' vote.
You were once a Chairman of PDP and now APC, How do you intend to bring your followers down to APC?
PDD is a party that I won House of Reps after I was state chairman. The only thing I earned as the state chairman was two months' salary of 100, 000 naira. It is the same party that I won for the position of House of Reps and it was given to somebody in 2011 who didn't even contest at all. I went to court and I won and still they refused to swear me in. Even in 2013, after we signed undertaken and after that I contested and I won 24th of August, 2013 for the primaries and they kept me from campaigning and gave reasons that I didn't pay my tax and that I am still young but then I was just 38 years old. All these things were conspired by Jonathan just to please Peter Obi. They gave us 180 million for campaign and election. They brought the money a night before the election so that I won't make use of it. It was just one of my friends (name withheld) who liked me and sponsored 99 percent of the election. A party normally gives money to a candidate in election. 6 months later after Anambra election, they gave Ekiti aspirant, Fayose not less than 5 billion naira for his campaign. Ekiti state is not up to 60 percent of Anambra registered voters.
In 2015, they said that no candidate will run in the election, so I went and challenged them. So, the day of election, they withdrew my security and policemen so that it will create room for them to attack me and they nearly killed me. This same people still went ahead to sue me in court so that I will declare my seat vacant even when I have not left. I now it is not easy joining a new party but it is for the better. It will save me the stress of jumping from one court to the other.
In the last gubernatorial election, there was a controversy whether you graduated from Enugu state University or Ebonyi state university. Do you have any comment on this?
I went to read medicine at the University of Nigeria, Enugu campus. In fact I was even Speaker of the Student Union Government, UNN. I transferred my studentship to Ebonyi state university because one lecturer was victimizing me. In school I was into student politics and an activist and I fought the lecturer because he suspended so many students from writing exams because they didn't meet up with the attendance. I carried all these on my head and I was writing the same exams too so the man did so much to frustrate me. I applied to the man and he insisted that I didn't pass his course. I applied for a review and when it came out; it showed that I passed the exam. The man (name with held) was still not willing to release me because he was angry that I organized a protest for the students he suspended. I had no option and I transferred to Ebonyi State University. This was the same period I was made State Chairman of PDP. I thank God that now I am a graduate of Medicine in Ebonyi State University with certificate that I have finished my Medical School. I am Medical doctor with license.
A lot of youths have been clamoring for you. What's your success story?
They are my people and I relate with them and 95 percent of them have not disappointed me. If I have one naira I share it with them. Some of them need to marry and also get a job. My success as the Party Chairman was also part of their efforts and contributions. APGA People have also alleged that I killed an Igwe. When we start the election, I will address the matter very well. The Igwe was killed even when I wasn't in politics. They just wanted a re-election so they said all sort of things against me. They used a face book account to attack me and to spoil my image. If they say that I killed the Igwe, they should come out boldly and address the press so that security men could arrest me and use them as a witness. It was through my NANS president power that I was able to eradicate cultism in University of Nigeria. Agbugu Vincent is still alive (Chief Security officer of University of Nigeria) from Nsukka. We have Ejekam from Anambra is still alive and he is also a Chief Security Officer of University of Nigeria (UNN), we have Prof. L C Umeh from Nnobi is the Dean of Students Affairs of UNN, Prof Dave Onyejekwe is also the Dean of Students Affairs, Prof Okafor was a Professor in Finance from Ekwulobia who was in charge of the University of Nigeria, the Provost of the UNN College of Medicine then who is now the Vice Chancellor of the University of Nigeria wrote a letter then to the then Vice Chancellor of UNN asking why the school was victimizing me from graduating from a course I passed just because he has been fighting for student course.
The then Governor of Benue State gave me a brand new car, Honda bullet in 2004 for coming to organize a rally on eradicating cultism when Benue state was known for cultism. The then Vice Chancellor of UNN who just died, Prof Ginigeme Francis Mbanefo gave me an award in 2004 for bringing peace, harmony and reducing cultism to the lowest . It is on record, in my secondary school, I made seven distinctions in one sitting including chemistry, biology and physics. After all the delay in UNN, I still bent down to go to College of Medicine to be with people who I was far older than because I wanted the best for myself.
The government is talking about exporting food stuffs, what's your take on that?
I consider it as fraud. The state government led by APGA is defrauding the people the is leading and they is telling lies. Instead of them making use of the youths, and bringing tractors and giving them grants , they are busy deceiving us because election and campaign are coming up. We will bring the facts including the money they have spent on agriculture, street lights and security. The government is just deceiving you people. They said they have done oil rig. An oil rig they have refused to contribute one naira so that they will be producing crude oil. I am a member of the committee and I know everything about the oil in Anambra state. I personally went to the Minister for Petroleum and I still wonder why Anambra state is not classified as an oil producing state. I personally sponsored the bill which has gone through first and second reading but the bill has not been passed finally now because our state hasn't produced enough oil for them to be classified as state producing oil. When I made enquiry that was when I noticed that the state has not spent any kobo in Orient. So it may be difficult for that Orient to work successfully unless there is a change in government.
Take a look at the three bridges in Awka, the contract was over inflated when we have roads in Onitsha like Egerton, Francis road that are not good. If money can be sent to the local level, then those roads could be better. The local government is supposed to do the road but because the funds are with the state government.
Some Anambrarians are interested in your denomination, are you a Catholic?
Last year, APGA people criticized me that I wasn't a Catholic that I was Anglican. I was born in Waterside hospital here, baptized and received my communion in St. John the Baptist, Nsugbe and I did my confirmation at Christ the King Parish, Onitsha because I attended Metropolitan school. I worship at Pro Cathedral, Abuja and if I am in Anambra, I worship at St. Thomas Aquinas, Awka or at Nsugbe here and I also worship anywhere I am called upon. Most at times, I worship at Basilica, Onitsha in the evening. I have been a catholic all my life.
But I want you to note that I don't segregate despite being catholic and I believe very well in self righteousness. I relate well with all people of goodwill irrespective of denomination. The Catholic upbringing I had helped to train my conscience and I am very proud of that any day. Let them not be using religion and denomination to confuse people.
There is an assertion that the ongoing Onitsha Enugu road is part of your effort. Do you have any comment about it?
Yes. I disturbed the Minister for works, Fashola on that. In the 2016 budget, the Enugu road construction was to stop at Amansea border but I met Fashola and disturbed him on this,. I am a committee member on works and I even dragged other committee members to come to Anambra so that it can trigger them to include Onitsha to Amansea in their budget. The Minister and the Permanent Secretary now assured me that they were going to put six billion in 2017 budget which will be passed soon. We are going to have two contractors. One of the contractors will start from Amansea to Umunya and the other contractor will start from Umunya to Onitsha. The road has been abandoned by years and I made sure they used RCC and not CCC Construction Company. Also, I have also succeeded for them to include 1 billion for the construction of the road from Otuocha/ Anam to Kogi state so that people who are going to Abuja won't bother to follow Enugu road. The road has been abandoned for years and with the help of the Minister, Chairman of the works committee and the Chief of Staff to the president did a lot to assist me on this. By the special grace of God, we hope things will move fine
There is also an assertion that you influenced the dredging of the Omambala river…
Yes I did. Apart from this, they will also dredge and enter Anam side too and towns nearby, we are coming in May 2017 alongside with the Minister for Transport and the Nigeria Port Authority and Inland waters for them to start dredging.
On so many erosion sites in Anambra...
Well, there is one I pushed for at Ukpo for about 1.2 billion. It has reached the final stage for the president to approve the bill. We have some in Aguleri, Umudenze, Nsugbe, Umuleri and Ezeama and Eke Igbaram which I also influenced,. It is not under budget. It is under ecological funds.
Finally, do you have plans for Trains in Anambra state?
Train transportation is Ok but we need a lot of plans. If you get the loan and you don't plan very well, It may crash because train transportation is a very big project. The easiest way to do rail transportation in Anambra is through the Federal Government. It won't be wise to use state government fund for this type of huge project unless it is under federal government project