Chief Godwin Ezeemo: 'the days of party sentiments are gone’
Business man, publisher, farmer and politician, Chief Godwin Ezeemo, recently hosted the Fides editorial team of Jude Atupulazi (editor-in-chief) and Uche Amunike (asst editor) in Umuchu. He talked about his governorship ambition, business and way forward for Anambra.
We know that you're coming out to vie for the gubernatorial seat in the next election. We also know that this is not the first time you're coming out for this position. So, what has changed? You didn't win the last time. What do you think went wrong then and why do you think you'll win this time?
Thank you very much. Last time, what was wrong was that I just arrived and I sort of marched on very soft soil. On sandy soil. It wasn't a solid ground. People were not consulted duly. The right people, Anambrarians, didn't know who I was. But today, I have been able to show myself to Anambrarians. I have been able to prove to them that I have the capacity to steer the ship of leadership in Anambra State if given the opportunity. This has spread like wildfire. People know my antecedents, my history, what I do all over Anambra State and particularly in my hometown and the capital territory, Awka. Then, the behaviour has also changed too by the people. In those days, it was the party that was a big determinant of who goes, but the party issue as at now has sort of gone down because all the political parties you see, none of them is strong anymore.
People are looking for a credible candidate based on their history and what they have been able to do. Political parties are just platforms. They are just like vehicles. It could be a Toyota. It could be a Volkswagen that can take you on a trip. What is important is that when you get to your destination, you do what you're supposed to do and everything will work. So, the political parties here that dominated the scene are all shredded into pieces due to impunity and the way they do it. They have all gone down and new ones are springing up. What the people are commenting, what they are saying, from information that I gather all the time, is that the character of the candidate is what will determine who will go. They've told me that they'll prefer not putting all their eggs in one basket like what has been happening, for example, in our state, where one party, APGA, is governor; APGA is House of Assembly; and so on. Where is the democracy? People don't know what they are doing anymore, because there are no checks and balances. People who designed this system of government have reasons for doing that. They've gone through different forms of government before and said this should be the best, where individuals from different political parties will win seats here and there. It's not going to be one. Then, they will be able to sit down. By the time they agree on one thing, you'll see that the whole state, the whole citizenry, will benefit from whatever will come out of that meeting or that particular regime. But if it were to be just one single party, you see there is a problem. So, these are the things that are counting for me right now.
Then, another thing is the fact that I am here today, a private businessman. What I have put on ground in Anambra State, no other candidate since the inception of this state has achieved that. No governor that has ruled Anambra State had in place any form of investment I have within Anambra State. Those days, also, I came back from London, as I told you, and they thought I just came to pick up the leadership and run away. Today, however, they've found out that I've been living with them since 2013. I've not gone out of Anambra State. I live within Anambra State. So Anambra State now knows that Godwin is living here. I'm going through the same trouble they're going through. I'm having the same problem they are facing. Therefore, while I'm facing this same problem that they're facing, I'm trying to design a way by which some of these problems will be surmounted for the benefit of all. So, these are the things that will count for me.
Then, if you look at the other side of it again, which is the area of living for the people. A sort of charity. You see that there is no leadership that we've ever had in Anambra State or among the people vying for this position that has done anything tangible. They all started their charity work because they are about to run for the position of governor of Anambra State, with all their foundation and whatever they call them. But I, in the early 90s, started my charity, Ezeemo Trust for the Less Privileged. By now, we have trained over one hundred graduates across the state. Nobody has ever done this, not because I wanted to be governor that I started it.
I built the NUJ Secretariat behind the Central Bank. A two-storey edifice. Not because I came for governorship. I built it before even that 2013. I did it purely to assist the Nigeria Union of Journalists in their bid to have a place of abode which the government could not provide. Other affluent or wealthy individuals could not provide, but I came all the way from London and did it for free. I have shown love for the people of Anambra State. We speak one language which is the Igbo Language. I saw that the language was dwindling, sort of going down. Everybody is speaking English. Everything is now ''Englishinized'' and I said, in my own vision, that if we lose this language, we will cease to exist as a people. Since 2012, I have been sponsoring Otu Suwakwa Igbo to make sure that this language doesn't die.
As an entrepreneur, we'll like you to be specific on the kind of blueprint you want to adopt that will change the face of the state; that will be different from what we've had before and stand you out as an entirely different person.
Thank you very much. It's a whole lot of things to be done. You know, there must be synergy among all the things that we want to do for ourselves. When you're living your life, you must eat, you must exercise, you must be doing a couple of things to ensure that as the day goes, everything is balanced. You must have to balance everything. Given the opportunity, I have a very strong interest in investing in power generation. It is too important to me because in my examination of what goes around here, I've observed that power, if rightly provided, here will solve 50% of our problems here. It will encourage industrialization. It will encourage entrepreneurship. It will encourage people employing themselves in whatever area they want. They won't be faced with this problem of 'where is the power to do this or that'. If there is power, somebody will come here and build industry. When an industry is built, it would be operated by human beings and they will be taken from society, reducing unemployment immediately. That's one of the things that power will do here.
Investors are like vultures. They look out for conditions. They look out for environment; whether they have proper business climate and if the environment is favourable for their businesses, then they can fly in from all over the world and come and invest here. If, for example, they have power, there is cheap labour already, if we have power here, it will make it cheaper. This is exactly what happened in China. China has very steady source of power. America stopped their industries, local, all investments go back to China where they have very cheap labour. They produce and ship back to America. English people, Germans and Europeans, the same thing. Labour was so cheap and power infrastructure was very sound. So, you find out that when these things are there, an entrepreneur looks at them and says, 'this is what I'm gonna gain here. I'm making it here, shipping it back there, then, it's easy for them to come'.
But, if we can organize it here, we have cheap labour down here and we have all materials down here, but all we need now is to have this power that will support all these efforts. Then, with that, we can virtually take over 60% of our children and youths out of the streets. They will be employed in their work places, earning money. Then, they won't have any room to be conscripted or deceived to join fraudulent groups or whatever. So, that's one of the things power will do. The power also, will influence our agriculture. There'll be no actual proper mechanization of agriculture without the right power supply being in place here. If for example, we make tomatoes…Let me give an example of just very perishable goods. You can't just cultivate them and get them and ship them out that way. There's no other way you can store it. So, via power, you can get the industry and once you have a large farm for it and the products are out of the farm, what do you do next with them? You will store or you will process. What will help you to process? Power. This is because the equipment that you will use are power intensive equipment and not just what you can do with ordinary solar stuff.
These are heavy duty machines. Power will help in that. So will it apply in virtually every other product in agriculture. In my farming, we got to a certain point and got stuck because of power. We bred about 5,000 broilers. We tabled it to see how we could use that to bring out the cost of living. That's the one we used in our first trial. As soon as we were through with it after seven weeks, they were ready. We cleaned them up and put them in the cold room and powered the cold room with generators. Before we knew it, we had not sold up to 1,000 pieces and the rest of the other 4,000 had all gone bad. We stopped that project and said 'no, it won't work'. Because we were powering the cold room with generator, we did that during the day. At night, we put it off in the factory here. So, before we knew it, we had lost virtually 4,000 plus. So, we said we couldn't go ahead. What we do now is we put maybe 1,500, like I told you, the broilers…only 1000 that will not take us so much.
Assuming there is power and we can leave the cold room to be on 24hr power supply, we can leave it there. Gradually, we package them and sell them and we would have continued that process. But we couldn't, because of power. Now, you can see how important it is in virtually everything we do. In our domestic homes, power is too important because it would make life economical for even Mama Ngozi or Papa Ngozi who stays somewhere. As soon as you make your soup, you keep them. For good one or two weeks, you won't make another one. You see that you have economized how many times you cooked soups. But today, you'll do one and next day, you start another one. Where is this money coming from? You see, this one is purely domestic.
Again, power affects even our security. If we solve power problems, our security will be enhanced. We don't need police or army to be on the road. All we need is to mount cameras which will be so cheap to man our roads. Get young men to be manning the screens here and there for those cameras and see if there is problem on this road. Somebody is monitoring them and if he says, 'there's a problem and this is the area,' somebody will run for help. That's the way it's done. But you can't do much even with the solar energy. It is power supply that can do that. You'll see that with power, even our security will be enhanced. So, you can monitor what is going on in the whole of Anambra State with very little cost. Very small cost. And we are sure of what we're doing. Then, it will help the security people themselves to support their communication equipment. They have their masts here and there, but most of the time, there's no power to put it on. Maybe, if they are using solar at the moment, at times the solar is down, but if there is constant supply of power, it will be there. It will be on all the time. Just make a call and their colleague in Nnewi will know that somebody is calling. They need to wait for somebody. Their colleague somewhere in Ekwulobia will know that something is wrong when somebody at Umuchu calls. They will block the road. You can't go anywhere. It is still power doing this. You've seen that I've mentioned, at least, three good areas which are, industrialization, creation of jobs, our agriculture, our security; then, our health. In the health sector, we need power. Strong power supply that will take good medical equipment work. They are so fragile. So complex that they don't need power off/power down fluctuations. They want it firm, then it will last, otherwise if you don't have good power and install certain equipment, within a small time, they will break down and you know we don't maintain here. Our maintenance culture is very poor. So with that point, you can't even operate a good hospital. You can't and that's why we are having problem here. So, power will help virtually in all the areas we need to operate to have a good society. We need power. That is why I feel that it is too important we start investing. I would have to invest on it. You might ask me, power has got a long gestation period. I mean, it's not a project that will just come and start immediately within 2 years and within 3 years, it will be working. It might take up to 4 years or more.
You might ask me, how will I do that? How would I ensure that somebody will still continue the same project? Yes, that is where we would need continuity in whatever we do. If I am doing four years and somebody is coming to do another four years, that person coming to do another 4 years will be among us who know what to do. Make sure that people working with will groom the person. Make sure that the person says, 'look, I have keyed into this project, this vision. Whenever I stop, somebody will take off from there'. All we know is that within a certain number of years, the power will come up and somebody will finish it. But if we don't start, we can't finish. It has to start somewhere. In the past, some administrations had been bringing transformers. The transformers were not the problem. What is the problem is to generate that power.
Another question you might ask me here is that power generation and power is in the exclusive list of …Yes, but it's not fully in the exclusive list. We'll do a little lobby. If you can provide this power here, in this state, Anambrarians will really show you that they have something to offer to this nation. We'll do a lot of lobbying to ensure that the Federal Government, maybe, liberalizes or adopts a system where somebody, or a state, or a corporation, generates power. The person doesn't need to put it in the national grid. You generate the power, use as much as you want to use first, then put it in the national grid. It will bring about great competition among states. If for example it is working in Anambra State, Imo State will like to borrow a leaf. Abia State will like to borrow a leaf. If this people are doing this, why can't we do it? And by the time all the states adopt it, you know what happens? I mean, the nation will start growing faster and better and everybody will be happier and once it is available, it will cover a lot of social ills. You come into your house and put on your switch, power is on. Nobody is struggling for generator. You see that everybody is happy. It's not only when you see light in your house that everybody will say, what's wrong with this man? You are the person that have problems, not them, because among the entire populace or the entire community, maybe, your house is the only house where they have generator at night. It doesn't look good for us. If it is everywhere, it will come down and stop a lot of social ills here. So, power sincerely affects virtually everything we do. In our education, it is there. There are computers in our schools. The generators cannot do it. Computers need power again to do it.