I’m Going To Senate To Help Re-Write Nigeria’s Story -Onyeizu

Filed in Politics by on June 10, 2018

Chinedu Onyeizu is a senatorial aspirant in Abia State on the platform of All Progressives Congress (APC). In this interview with Associate Editor, Sam Egburonu, the 38 year-old petroleum engineer, who graduated from Federal University of Technology (FUTO) Owerri, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), USA, and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, explains how his passion to find solution to Nigeria’s problems led him to take leave from his plum seat at Chevron to conduct advanced research in his bid to re-write the story of Nigeria. He also spoke on the chances of APC in Abia State. Excerpts

AS a petroleum engineer, gainfully employed in Chevron, what are you doing in politics and why did you pick APC?

My educational pursuit after my first degree has always been focused primarily on how to contribute to making Nigeria a better place because I realised the need for skills acquisition and exposure in order to move us from where we are now as a country to where we should be. After my programme at MIT, I started a policy research firm called AFRIPERA. It is focused on collaboration with governments at state, national and regional levels to discuss issues and come up with innovative solutions on how best to solve the challenging problems that we have in Africa and particularly in Nigeria. I am here because I want to represent the new generation of Nigerian youths that are still struggling to come out of their shells to lead Nigeria. I am interested in re-writing Nigerian story for the good of all. Obviously, I recognise that the task ahead will be quite daunting and that is why I am using this opportunity to appeal to you, members of the fourth estate of the realm, to support this worthwhile course by sending out the message that I am giving you today by ensuring that young Nigerians would be sensitised for the course of nation building.

After consulting my creator, family and friends on my desire to go to the senate, the next thing I did was to look at the manifestoes of different registered political parties in order to find out which of them has programmes that tally with my expectations. Amongst all, the All Progressive Congress (APC) manifesto caught my fancy because it’s loaded with issues that touch on the lot of the ordinary people. If Nigerians would look deeply into the manifesto of APC, they will find out that the party designed its policies for the good of the greatest majority of Nigerians.

But Abia has been a PDP state for a long time now. Why do you think your party, APC, will win either the senatorial or governorship election in the state?

As you rightly observed, APC may not have been the dominant party in Abia State. But that impression has been consigned to the dustbin of history. The correct position of things now is that our party is going to sweep the three senatorial seats in 2019 and crown it all with taking over the Government House in Umuahia. If you have been following developments in the party, you will notice that a good number of political heavy weights have since joined APC and almost on a daily basis, there are invasion of new members who defected from other parties. Also, I think we should not bother so much about how long a party has ruled or dominated the political space of a state. It is more important to focus on individuals who are aspiring for positions. Like I said earlier, APC has a well-articulated manifesto that has the potential to transform the socio-political and economic landscape of this country.

Are you aware that Abia South Senatorial Zone has experienced political heavyweights who are still in the other parties and the senatorial seat you are interested in is currently occupied by Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, an experienced politician who was once a Deputy Governor in Abia? As a new-comer in Abia politics and a young man, how do you intend to win this battle?

I believe that I have what it takes to win the 2019 senatorial elections in Abia South Senatorial zone. I am better positioned to emerge victorious in that election because I have fresh ideas and unique perspectives on how to improve the living standard of our people for good. I also have innovative ideas to achieve sustainable development not just in my senatorial zone and Abia state but for the whole country. Let me inform you that I have the requisite track record of achievement and exposure to link up with world leaders and global decision makers. I am passionate about seeing the youth in my zone and Abia as a whole inspired. I am familiar with issues that bother them and the demographics are to my advantage. More than 60 percent of voters are youths and I am going to leverage on that strength to defeat the so-called experienced politicians.

So you think that the issue of the youth versus the old brigade will play a major role in the coming elections in Abia?

Yes, it will play a role. Let me tell you, ever since I decided to join partisan politics, I have been spending a lot of time with the youths and I will continue to mobilise them.

Your interest and work in petroleum refining is well known. Now that you want to represent Abia South Senatorial Zone in the Red Chamber, what policy or law do you think should be made so that oil producing communities would benefit more?

I have already planned to focus on policies that will strengthen the oil and gas institutions when I get into the Senate. If they are strengthened, we’re going to make recommendations that will help resolve the plight of oil producing communities. If you look at the other parts of the world where oil and other minerals are extracted, the communities are developed partly by the companies that operate in those communities. If you look at Cote D’Ivoire and Botswana in particular, you have an effective partnership between the indigenous communities and the companies that extract oil from these communities. For instance, it is sad to learn that residents of Ukwa East and Ukwa West, where most of oil in Abia State is deposited, lack access to affordable and reliable electricity. One of the policies that I will like to espouse is that the oil companies operating in these communities should come up with a road map that will guarantee 24 hours constant electricity instead of flaring the associated gas that they produce. They need to work out a realisable roadmap that will help bring about electricity for these communities.

Do you think this kind of agreement has not existed before?

I believe that efforts have been made in this direction before, but one thing is the approach that stakeholders adopted. There are effective models which I hope to advocate for when I get to the senate that will make sure that penalty associated with flaring gas within those communities will mandate the companies operating there to ensure that their roadmaps are implemented..

Is Modular Refinery model the solution to PMS importation and regular fuel scarcity?

I will use an experience I have to answer that question. If you recall, there was a fuel related crisis that occurred in 2012 under former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration. In fact, government was almost shutdown because of fuel scarcity across the country then. Airplanes couldn’t fly and cars couldn’t run because of scarcity of fuel. So, as a concerned Nigerian, I said to myself, I could actually research to find out a solution. So, I took a year’s leave from my work and went to MIT to seek solution to the problem as a research work. One of my findings was that Modular Refinery could be an option but I realised that it could only offer a temporary solution to the fuel scarcity problem we are having in Nigeria. And the good thing about my research is that I was able to find a permanent solution to the issue of fuel scarcity in the country. I documented a recommendation and handed it over to the present government for implementation. Modular Refinery is not economical for investors in the long term. It is for short term measures. Then going forward, the permanent solution that I proposed in my work is that we need refineries like the one Alhaji Dangote is building. They should be built at the terminals of oil producing companies. For example, there should be a mega refinery at Eket where Mobil gathers all the crude they produce in Nigeria. There should be refineries at Focados, where Shell gathers all the crude oil it produces. With close proximity to the source, you are able to have access to the feed stock, which is oil. And these companies have experience in refining crude oil in other parts of the world. It is shameful that we have over 38 billion cubic metres of crude in our reserve. We produce two million barrels of this crude oil every day, even on a Sunday and ship them to either Europe or Asia where it gets refined and fuel is returned back for us to consume. We pay subsidy. We pay 10 dollars for a metric ton of this product. That’s the height of the corruption we have in Nigeria.

According to some people, the development of Aba will, to a large extent, determine the health of the state’s economy. Currently, Aba is regarded as a sore sight. If you get elected as a senator representing Abia South, what do you intend to do for the area if you are elected?

There are enormous opportunities in Aba that are not yet tapped. I was born and raised in Aba.

I know the waste bin can be transformed to wealth by people that generate the waste. If you bring in private investors that can convert that waste into wealth and pay the individuals that generate the waste, you would have solved the problem of waste in Aba. The other point is the entrepreneurial spirit of Aba man. What will help us harness that opportunity is setting up industrial parks or industrial clusters. Building a gigantic industrial park that will cover over 9000 hectares of land, as is being currently contemplated by the incumbent administration, is a good idea, but it may take some years before such a project will be commissioned.

My approach to solving entrepreneurial capacity in Aba is to set up small scale industrial clusters where equipment will be installed in order to commercialise the products of an Ariaria shoe maker or other subsectors.

How united and powerful is APC in Abia State to withstand the challenge of the rulling party in the state?

APC stands a great chance of taking power in Abia State. The party is more united now than ever before. Yes, you don’t rule out disagreements in a party but what matters is that after the disagreements, the feuding parties reconcile. I think APC in Abia State is one big family poised to win elective positions in the state in 2019.

Some people have expressed concern that the big political leaders that recently joined APC in Abia may have created some problems in the party.

I don’t think so. It is more correct to say that the new comers into the APC fold have strengthened the party to emerge victorious in all elective positions in the state during the forthcoming elections. I said earlier that we have recorded influx of new members who defected from other parties. This has been the case almost on a daily basis. That is not a sign that problems exist in the party.

Your opponents said APC is not popular in Igbo land. Don’t you see this as a challenge?

What I tell people is that we should focus more on the individuals running on the APC platform. Parties are vehicles and decisions are taken by individuals that contest on the party platform. I think that is the way it should be. Also, a lot of Igbo leaders have joined APC. We have leaders like Jim Nwobodo, Orji Uzor Kalu, Ken Nnamani, Uche Ogar and other notable people. So, I don’t think it is still correct to say that Ndigbo are against APC.

Above all, I am bringing a different approach to politics in Nigeria. I think our country will be better for it if we look beyond regional politics and focus more on our country as it were; Nigeria first.

The current image of the National Assembly and that of the lawmakers is not very motivating. As a fresh entrant into politics, why did you choose to begin with the Senate? Don’t you think it may be difficult to work with the old and retired former governors, ministers and political godfathers hiding and resting at the Red Chamber?

I will be a thorn in the flesh of elected senators that refuse to do the right thing for the common man. I am going there to serve and demonstrate that you don’t have to be a retired general in the army to aspire to any elective position in the country. You don’t have to be former governor, minister or an occupant of a high and influential position in the country to be effective. Going to the senate for me is to see how laws that would impact positively on the life of the common man would be enacted.

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