Hon Chudi Offodile, UPP guber aspirant: he says he will implement a Biafran Ideology if elected.
Today, I bring to you, a man I will describe as a Biafran Warrior and a realist who has proven his mettle in no small measure as far as the Biafran dream, aspiration and ideology are concerned. A simple, unassuming son of Anambra State, he has served this state as an honourable member of the House of Representatives and as well, remains a very brilliant legal luminary. He has decided to step up his game and go for the governorship position, a cap which, he says, will give him a perfect fit. Join us as he bares his mind in this interview with the Fides crew of editor-in-chief, Jude Atupulazi and assistant editor, Uche Amunike.
Sir, for the intent of this interview, kindly introduce yourself. Tell us, who is Chudi Offodile?
Chudi Offodile is an indigene of Awka in Awka South Local Government Area and trained as a lawyer. I was elected into the House of Representatives in 1999 and re-elected in 2003. I have a Law Firm and I'm also a business man and lately, a politician.
After some years of staying in the limbo, so to say, you have suddenly appeared on the horizon to aspire for the governorship seat of Anambra State. Where have you been all this while and what pushed you into coming out to run for the highest position in the state?
Well, after my stint in politics, I decided to take some time off and do other things as they say and of course, I took some time to write a book on the politics of Biafra and the future of Nigeria. I was actually working on my second book but I decided that the issues I dealt with in the book needed to be given some kind of push within the political turf and then, I decided to get involved and then run for governor, and this time, on the platform of the United Progressive Party. The UPP.
What do you think is missing or the state is lacking that you are going to provide, because a lot of people usually come out at this time to make one promise or the other. Is there anything remarkably difference that you have to offer?
They are two things, really. I think the Igbo nation has not really been represented well in Nigeria. And then, of course, everybody, including myself, and even the political elite, could all just be guilty of not doing enough to push the Igbo interest, the Igbo agenda. However, what I really would focus on, if I get elected is what I call an application of the Biafran ideology in governance, which basically means that we will introduce a different approach to governance. You know, what we have is the Nigerian System of Centralism where power is aggregated at the centre. What I offer, really, under this new Biafran Ideology we talk about, is a decentralized form of government. So, how is it different from what we have? I'll simply refer you to the fact that we've never really had a democratic local government system in the state. And then, everybody who has been governor here tries to construct new roads, do all kinds of things and they've really tried, including the incumbent. But we need to have power effectively decentralised. That's what we seek to do at the centre. Getting the Federal Government to cede more powers to the states. That is, devolution of power. Now, you cannot make the case at the Federal level, while at the state level, all the power is concentrated in the office of the governor. So he decides what goes to which area. So, what you will see is some form of development. You know, it's not deep enough. So, I have a system that would be different because I intend to create 326 new development centres, development councils. That is to say that every single ward in Anambra will become an administrative unit in order to achieve full development at the base and of course, achieve the most important thing, which is participatory democracy. These things were made clear and contained in the Ahiara Declaration during the Biafran conflict of 1967 to 1970.
Talking about the Biafran Ideology, how far do you agree with Nnamdi Kanu?
Nnamdi Kanu believes in a separate state. I believe in the Biafran identity and the application of the Biafran Ideology in governance. So, I agree with him generally on the plight of the Igbo people in Nigeria, the need for us to be more assertive and make our case clearly, but then, the major feature of the Biafran Ideology is freedom. Some people will want to have a Biafran State carved out from Nigeria. Some want semi-autonomous zones or regions in Nigeria. So these are different forms of restructuring. For me, I believe that wherever we find ourselves, we should apply the Biafran Ideology. That is the basic thing which principally means an antithesis, the opposite of the Nigerian system; the Nigerian suffocating centralism which has made development and growth impossible, or at least, extremely slow. So if we apply the alternative which is the Biafran Ideology, we will move faster and we will have much more sustainable development.
Now you are in a party, UPP, to which the Biafran idea holds a special allure and we have APGA that says it is an Igbo party. It means we have two parties now. APGA - Igbo, UPP - Biafra. Are they not the same thing to you?
They are not the same. First of all, I think the idea of Igbo party, I mean what people call the Igbo party, APGA, hasn't succeeded. One, APGA has not moved beyond Anambra, so you cannot even call it an Igbo party. You can probably call it an Anambra party if you like; that is the best it can be described. In terms of championing the needs of the Igbo people in Nigeria, I don't think anybody will give APGA a pass mark. Even APGA members won't, because if they had done what they are supposed to do, I do not think that IPOB and other groups would have become the ones really fighting for the Igbo people, staging mass protests and even getting killed in the process. So, I think it is a failure of the party that ought to represent the Igbo interest that really created what you see. The more the Igbo people lose relevance in Nigeria, the more the clamour for separatism here. So, I really think that if we should really think hard on this, you will see that there is a vacuum and it is that vacuum that UPP seeks to fill.
How do you intend to handle unemployment which is a major problem in this state?
Well, that is one of the major things that we intend to tackle by applying the same ideology I told you about. Now, why do we want to create 326 development centres? One, people have rebuilt homes all over the state. If you go to every village in Anambra State, most people have homes, apparently to avoid the kind of situation we had in 1966 when people had to run back and had nowhere to stay. So, most people have created residential homes in their villages, all across the states. And then, of course, if you look closely, you will see also that churches have also taken firm roots in all the nooks and crannies of the state. What we don't have, really, is the business infrastructure around the states. So, when you create 326 development centres, what you are supposed to do is to help the government introduce business infrastructure across the 326 wards in the state. That will stimulate employment and then, provide the business infrastructure that is needed to actually generate, not just employment, but a sustainable economic growth. The way we intend to do it is to have in every of those 326 centres, each one to develop a neighbourhood centre that would have shops and business offices with health centres. That kind of arrangement will ensure that more people are employed and the communities are healthier and of course, the security is enhanced. So, that's the whole idea.
How would you assess the security situation in the state?
I don't want to be political, but you know what happened in Ozubulu. The truth of the matter is that Anambra is relatively safe. There's no doubt about that, but we could do much better and then of course, the cost of achieving that relative security, some people would claim, is humongous, if not outrageous. A few days ago, I read in the Punch Newspapers that Lagos State spent N15bn on security in 2016 and the budget of Lagos State is almost N500m. Then, in Anambra, the security expenditure of the governor is almost N14bn per annum with a projection of about a hundred and something million, and if you take the percentage of the security spending, vis-a-vis the overall expenditure of the state, you will see that it is a ridiculous situation. So, when you place that cost of providing the so-called security with the overall budget of the state, then, it doesn't make sense at all.
You have a formidable opponent, so to say, in the person of Mr Chidoka, as your opponent in your party's primary election. How confident are you in scaling that hurdle?
I think that the delegates on the 19th of August will choose the candidate that they believe would best represent the aspirations of the people and I think that Osita Chidoka is a good candidate, but I think that I'll do a better job of mobilizing our people and galvanizing the opinion in the direction that the party wants which is the Biafran Idea. So, I really think that that would be left to the party delegates to decide and I am quite confident that I will prevail.
Thank you very much for your time and good luck to you.
Thank you, too.