Ejiogu: A Visionary Technocrat Ready To Revolutionise Imo

Ejiogu: A Visionary Technocrat Ready To Revolutionise Imo
Tony Ejiogu

● An Exclusive Interview

In a political climate that often feels saturated with rehearsed platitudes and transient promises, a singular voice has emerged, brimming with genuine hope and transformational vision. That voice belongs to Sir Tony Ejiogu, a gubernatorial aspirant representing the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) in Imo State. Africa Digital News, New York, is honoured to present an exclusive interview with this groundbreaking candidate, whose entry onto the political stage isn’t just another headline—it’s a seismic shift in the narrative of Imo State’s future.

Tony Ejiogu isn’t your typical politician; he’s a technocrat with an undeniable track record of sterling leadership. In a realm where charisma often trumps capability, Ejiogu represents a new wave of governance—one driven by data, fortified by methodical planning, and committed to sustainable progress. As the candidate with the highest approval rating on social media, according to a recent survey conducted by our very own Africa Digital News, New York, Ejiogu isn’t just making noise; he’s making history.

What sets him apart is not just his commendable appeal, but the substance that underlies it: a strategic blueprint for the all-round advancement of Imo State. This isn’t a campaign built on rhetoric or reactionary politics; it’s a master plan, underpinned by a sophisticated understanding of the state’s unique opportunities and challenges. Tony Ejiogu’s vision is nothing short of revolutionary, encompassing key sectors ranging from agriculture to education, and from digital infrastructure to social reform.

But what truly renders Ejiogu’s approach extraordinary is his resonance with a segment of the population that holds the key to Imo State’s future—the youth. This demographic, often dismissed as passive or unengaged, finds in Tony Ejiogu a leader who not only speaks their language but also understands their aspirations and challenges.

In the forthcoming interview, we’ll dive deep into the intricacies of Tony Ejiogu’s ambitious yet pragmatic blueprint for Imo State. We’ll explore how this visionary leader plans to transcend the limitations of traditional governance and pioneer a new era of transformative change. Prepare for a captivating dialogue that will not just enlighten but inspire, as we introduce you to a man who could very well be the harbinger of the renaissance that Imo State has been waiting for.

Stay with us as we unravel the ethos and aspirations of Tony Ejiogu in this exclusive conversation—a dialogue that promises to be as transformative as the man himself.

Approval Ratings: According to a recent survey by Africa Digital News, New York, you have the highest approval rating on social media among the gubernatorial candidates. How do you plan to translate this online popularity into effective governance?

Thank you for bringing up that recent survey by Africa Digital News, New York. It’s incredibly gratifying to know that our message is resonating with people, especially in the digital sphere. However, I’m fully aware that online popularity needs to be converted into substantive governance to truly make a lasting impact.

Firstly, it’s important to note that the digital realm is increasingly integrated with our everyday lives. As of December 2022, Nigeria had approximately 154.8 million internet users. Even more impressively, the International Telecommunication Union projects this number will soar to 225 million by 2025. This isn’t just a testament to technological progress; it’s a call to action for governance to be as interconnected as our citizenry. One of my priority initiatives is to establish a robust e-governance system to make governmental processes more streamlined, efficient, and transparent. Whether it’s tax payments or permit applications, we aim to digitise these services for easier access.

Secondly, the power of social media and digital engagement lies not just in likes and shares, but in the wealth of data it provides. We intend to leverage this data for actionable insights into the needs of our population. For instance, the recent Labour Force Survey highlighted a staggering 56.6% youth unemployment rate in Imo State. These unemployed youth are often active online, providing us an immediate and efficient channel to engage with them, understand their skills and aspirations, and consequently, tailor employment programs that are genuinely beneficial.

Thirdly, we plan to maintain this online engagement as a constant two-way dialogue, far beyond the electoral cycle. By doing so, we create a responsive governance model where policies are not just dictated from the top down but are shaped by ongoing, real-time feedback from our citizens.

Lastly, recognising the upcoming boom in internet usage, my administration is committed to ensuring that this digital revolution leaves no one behind. We have plans for significant investment in digital literacy programs and infrastructure development to bridge the urban-rural digital divide in Imo State.

In summary, while high approval ratings on social media are encouraging, they are merely the tip of the iceberg. The real work lies in leveraging this digital platform for effective governance that brings tangible improvements to the lives of the people in Imo State. And that’s exactly what we intend to do. Thank you.

Data-Driven Policies: You’ve cited specific data from the Labour Force Survey about youth unemployment rates in Imo State. What are the concrete steps you plan to take to address this issue?

The troubling data from the Labour Force Survey, indicating a youth unemployment rate of 56.6% in Imo State, isn’t just a statistic; it’s a call to action. When over half of the young population is without work, it doesn’t just impact the economy; it influences societal cohesion, mental health, and the overall quality of life. So, let’s talk about concrete steps to tackle this crisis.

Firstly, we plan to launch a comprehensive Youth Empowerment and Skill Development Program aimed at providing relevant vocational training for 50,000 young people within the first year. We have allocated an initial budget of N3 billion for this program, and we are in discussions with technical institutions and private sector partners to ensure we offer courses that are directly aligned with market needs.

Secondly, we intend to invest in Technology and Innovation Hubs across the state, beginning with a flagship center in Owerri. With a committed funding of N2 billion, these hubs will act as incubators for start-ups and provide free training in digital skills. We anticipate that these hubs can generate at least 10,000 jobs within the first two years, given the rapid digitisation of our economy.

Thirdly, agriculture remains a significant yet untapped potential in Imo State. Our plan is to introduce modern farming techniques and initiate agritech programs that can create a further 20,000 jobs in the agricultural sector over the next three years. To this end, we have secured a public-private partnership commitment worth N5 billion.

Moreover, we are focusing on Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) as significant job creators by establishing a state-level SME fund with a seed capital of N4 billion. Our goal is to facilitate low-interest loans and provide business support services to at least 5,000 SMEs within the first 18 months.

Additionally, we are partnering with the private sector to institute apprenticeship programs that will place at least 10,000 young individuals in companies across various industries. We’re dedicating N1 billion to facilitate this, covering apprenticeship stipends and other administrative costs.

Read Also: Why Ejiogu Is Imo’s Ideal Choice – Owerri Zone Chieftain

In terms of measuring the success of these initiatives, we’ll use Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) such as the number of program graduates, job placement rates, and participant feedback. Regular audits will ensure that we are getting the desired return on our investment, and the data will be made publicly available for accountability.

These aren’t just plans on paper; they are a roadmap to sustainable development and employment. The high youth unemployment rate in Imo State is a ticking time bomb, and our administration is committed to defusing it through meticulous planning, substantial investment, and a laser focus on execution.

Educational Reforms: Your vision for the education sector involves innovative pedagogical methods and resources. Can you provide examples of these methods, and how you plan to implement them?

The decline in educational performance, as evidenced by a mere 45% pass rate in the national examination, is a clear indication that our current pedagogical methods require significant reform. Education is the bedrock of any society’s development, and we cannot afford to leave it unattended. Here’s a breakdown of what we plan to introduce and how we intend to do so.

Firstly, we will integrate technology in classrooms to enhance learning experiences. This includes digital whiteboards, educational tablets with curriculum-aligned content, and other tech resources. We’ve allocated an initial budget of N1.5 billion for the digitisation of 200 pilot schools. Based on the outcomes, this initiative will be scaled across the state.

Secondly, we aim to introduce active learning methods like problem-based learning, project-based learning, and experiential learning, which have been shown to improve comprehension and retention. Teachers will undergo rigorous training in these methods, backed by a budget of N500 million.

Thirdly, our strategy includes setting up ‘Model Schools’ in each district with state-of-the-art facilities, specialised teachers, and an enhanced curriculum, including subjects like robotics, coding, and entrepreneurship. We are dedicating N2 billion for the development of these Model Schools.

Another area we are looking into is Early Childhood Education. Studies have shown that the foundation years are crucial for cognitive and emotional development. Therefore, we plan to standardise and upgrade all early childhood centres in the state, with an initial investment of N700 million.

Additionally, given the rural-urban divide, we intend to provide mobile learning labs that can reach remote areas, ensuring that children in those regions aren’t left behind. We’ve earmarked N300 million for this project, which will also include teacher training modules for rural educators.

To ensure the successful implementation of these programs, we will introduce rigorous performance metrics for schools and teachers alike. We will establish a State Education Monitoring Team that will regularly evaluate the progress made by schools in meeting these standards.

We’re not just focused on academic skills but also life skills, leadership, and civic education. The purpose is to create well-rounded individuals who can think critically, solve problems, and contribute positively to society.

All these plans are tied to specific budgets, timelines, and KPIs. We understand that transformative education is not just about lofty ideas but about practical, measurable actions. Our children are our future, and investing in their education is the surest way to guarantee a prosperous future for Imo State.

Agricultural Sector: You mentioned in your manifesto the potential for a 15% increase in GDP through agricultural reforms. What kinds of modern farming techniques do you intend to introduce, and how will you foster agricultural entrepreneurship?

Certainly, agriculture has been described as the backbone of economies around the world, and for Imo State, it’s no different. However, the term ‘backbone’ is yet to resonate at its full potential when we talk about our agricultural sector. Our lands are fertile, our climate conducive, but we need to modernise and optimise for the full dividends of agriculture to be felt across the state.

Firstly, our plan includes the integration of cutting-edge farming techniques such as precision farming, hydroponics, and aquaponics. The era of guessing in farming is over. With precision farming, we can utilise GPS technology for optimal crop yield and soil conservation. Hydroponics and aquaponics, on the other hand, offer soil-less farming techniques that are more resource-efficient. We’re not just adopting these methods; we are heavily investing in them and ensuring our farmers are educated and trained to transition smoothly.

Secondly, to foster agricultural entrepreneurship, we’re laying the groundwork for extensive training programs and will provide low-interest loans and grants. Entrepreneurship in agriculture won’t just be an idea; it will be a lucrative and prestigious career path, accessible to anyone willing to learn. Our government will heavily invest in these programs, fostering an ecosystem that supports entrepreneurial initiatives.

Thirdly, addressing supply chain issues is crucial for the profitability and sustainability of farming in Imo State. We plan on investing substantially in logistics and state-of-the-art storage facilities to reduce post-harvest losses, which remain a critical issue for our farmers.

We are also launching an innovative ‘Agripreneur’ program specifically designed to attract the youth. This program aligns perfectly with our efforts to tackle the alarming 56.6% youth unemployment rate in our state. By offering specialised training in both modern farming techniques and the business skills needed to succeed, we aim to make agriculture a fulfilling and profitable career choice for young people.

Read Also: Tony Ejiogu: The Political Messiah Imo State Urgently Needs

Additionally, we’re in talks to secure partnerships with both foreign and local investors for the establishment of processing plants. This value addition will not only increase Imo State’s GDP but also create a ripple effect of employment and economic opportunities across the board.

Last but not least, the role of data cannot be overstated. We will establish an Agricultural Data Monitoring Unit to collaborate with the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics. This unit will inform us of our decisions, ensuring they are backed by credible, up-to-date information.

In essence, our plan is not merely a set of isolated initiatives but a comprehensive strategy to revolutionise agriculture in Imo State. We’re not just cultivating crops; we’re cultivating a future replete with economic possibilities and sustainable progress.

Digital Governance: Given the disparity in internet connectivity between urban and rural areas in Imo State, what are your plans to bridge the digital divide?

You’re absolutely right; the digital divide is not just a technological issue but a socio-economic challenge that can have far-reaching implications. The disparity in internet connectivity between our urban and rural communities affects everything from education and healthcare to commerce and governance. In an age where the International Telecommunication Union projects that Nigeria will have 225 million internet users by 2025, it’s imperative that Imo State is not left behind.

Firstly, it’s about infrastructure. We’re making significant investments in expanding broadband connectivity to rural areas. Public-private partnerships will play a significant role in this, as we look to collaborate with telecom companies and international organisations to expedite the roll-out of high-speed internet.

Secondly, digital literacy is crucial. There’s no point in having high-speed internet if people don’t know how to use it effectively. Our administration plans on initiating community tech hubs, especially in rural areas. These will serve as centers for digital education, offering courses on basic computer skills, internet safety, and even coding for young people interested in technology. We are aligning these educational modules with the national curriculum to ensure our youth are well-equipped for the digital age.

Thirdly, governance itself has to go digital. This is a two-pronged approach. On the one hand, we will modernise internal governmental processes through the adoption of smart technologies, making governance more efficient and cost-effective. On the other hand, we plan to introduce e-services for the public, including online tax payments, license renewals, and even healthcare appointments, to make life easier for our citizens. This will also serve to familiarise the populace with digital interfaces, thus indirectly contributing to digital literacy.

Finally, to encourage local entrepreneurship in the digital sphere, we’ll be providing seed funding and mentorship programs specifically aimed at tech start-ups. With our state’s youthful population, it’s crucial that we harness this potential for innovation and economic growth.

By tackling the issue from these various angles, we aim to bridge the digital divide comprehensively. It’s not just about installing fiber-optic cables; it’s about equipping our people with the tools they need to participate in, and benefit from, the digital economy. It’s about ensuring that whether you’re in Owerri or a small village in the Oru East, you have the same access to the opportunities that the digital world provides.

Security Concerns: While you have laid out visions for sectors like education and agriculture, security remains a significant concern for Imo State. What are your plans for reforming the state’s security infrastructure?

Considering the deeply concerning data recently unveiled by the International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law, the conversation surrounding security in Imo State needs to be recalibrated urgently. We’re not just looking at numbers; these are lives—1,000 lives lost, 1,400 homes incinerated, not to mention the chilling escalation seen just within 24 days where 100 unarmed civilians met an unjustifiable end. Additionally, the society’s data suggests that at least 200 citizens faced arbitrary detention, often with the harrowing likelihood of torture or worse. Communities from Izombe to Orsu have turned into battlegrounds, plagued by forced disappearances and extrajudicial killings. This is not merely a failure of governance; this is a collapse of the social contract that binds a government to its people. We’re talking about the very core of what makes a society functional, just, and humane.

First, let’s acknowledge that security isn’t something abstract; it is deeply rooted in the community. To repair the ruptured social fabric, our first point of action is to institute Community Policing Councils. These councils, which will be reflective of each community’s demographics and needs, will liaise directly with the central security apparatus. We’re empowering local leaders, youth, and law enforcement officials to identify, assess, and address their unique challenges. This is not just community engagement; it’s community-led problem-solving.

Second, we’re not just talking about ‘better policing’; we’re talking about a seismic shift in how our law enforcement is trained and operates. Investment in this area will be substantial—cutting-edge equipment, conflict resolution training, and accountability measures like body cameras are just the starting points. The goal is to make policing more humane, effective, and accountable, mitigating the chances of tragedies like the ones we’ve been seeing.

Third, we aim to create a security architecture augmented by technology. This means advanced surveillance systems and data analytics that can predict crime patterns. The age we live in demands that we adapt and evolve, utilising the tools that can extend our reach and enhance our effectiveness

Fourth, this is not a challenge that Imo State will face in isolation. We will forge multi-layered partnerships across the federal government, civil society organisations, and international bodies. When we pool expertise, resources, and will, we multiply our ability to create meaningful change.

Lastly, we cannot ignore the socio-economic factors that contribute to the insecurity. We’ll be launching targeted initiatives to address the root causes, such as unemployment and lack of education, providing our youth with alternatives to a life of crime.

To say the stakes are high would be an understatement. But it is precisely in these crucibles of crisis that new paths emerge, paths leading towards a more secure, more prosperous Imo State. My administration is committed to walking down this path, guided by data, community input, and an unwavering focus on the value of every individual life.

Corruption and Transparency: What specific strategies do you have to tackle the deep-rooted issues of corruption in governance, particularly in Imo State?

The staggering 240-billion-naira debt accumulated under the Uzodinma administration, as reported by the Debt Management Office, serves as a grim reminder that governance in Imo State is not just inefficient but catastrophically wasteful. When you juxtapose this astronomical debt with the resources available—over 600 billion naira procured from FAAC disbursements, 13% oil derivation funds, and Local Government allotments—the question that begs to be answered is: Where has all the money gone? Such fiscal irresponsibility has rendered Imo the most indebted state in South-East Nigeria and raises the spectre of corruption, mismanagement, and a profound breach of public trust.

The first line of action in combating corruption in my administration will be fiscal transparency and accountability. We intend to establish an unimpeachable Transparency and Accountability Portal. This digital infrastructure will be a public ledger that catalogs, in real-time, every financial action undertaken by the government, from procurements to expenditures and contracts. No longer will financial undertakings be shrouded in mystery; instead, they will be visible for every citizen, watchdog, and journalist to see and scrutinise.

Next, we will zero in on legislative fortifications against corruption. It’s evident that existing laws have proven inadequate, given the massive financial discrepancies we’re witnessing. My administration will draft and advocate for stringent anti-corruption laws, designed to be so airtight that even the most cunning acts of financial malfeasance will find no loopholes to exploit.

Furthermore, we will revitalise and empower anti-corruption agencies, ensuring their full autonomy and equipping them with the resources and technology required for complex financial investigations. Agencies will have unfettered authority to audit government departments, initiate investigations, and enact prosecutions.

On the side of public participation, we’ll introduce community advocacy programs. These programs will aim to inform citizens about their rights, the pernicious impact of corruption on social and infrastructural development, and how to report corrupt practices safely.

Technology will be a linchpin in our anti-corruption strategy. Automation and blockchain technology will be employed in financial operations to ensure traceability, thereby reducing human interface and the possibility of corrupt dealings. By automating services such as land allocations, procurement processes, and public service delivery, we can substantially minimise the corruption risks often associated with human discretion.

Lastly, considering that corrupt practices often seep into the system during the recruitment process, we will establish a meritocratic system that is based on competency rather than connections. By doing so, we cultivate an internal culture that values integrity over nepotism or bribery.

The numbers don’t lie. The debt situation in Imo State is a national emergency that requires immediate, transformative action. My administration will not only pivot away from the disastrous fiscal legacy of the past but also lay the foundation for a future where transparency, accountability, and fiscal responsibility are not just catchphrases but a lived reality. The fight against corruption is a war that must be waged on multiple fronts, and I am committed to leading that charge.

To be continued…

Africa Digital News, New York