—An Exclusive Interview II
In a political landscape often mired in the muck of empty rhetoric and short-lived promises, it is rare to encounter a figure of true substance. Yet, such a figure has emerged in Imo State, galvanizing the public discourse with a refreshing blend of technical acumen and visionary foresight. We are talking about Sir Tony Ejiogu, the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) gubernatorial candidate, whose entrance into the political fray isn’t merely a footnote, but rather a defining chapter in the unfolding story of Imo State’s destiny.
Following the viral success of our first exclusive interview with Ejiogu—a man who has already begun to redefine what leadership can look like in Nigeria—Africa Digital News, New York, is thrilled to bring you the second installment and conclusion of this transformative dialogue.
Tony Ejiogu is not just another politician tossing hats into a crowded ring. He is a distinguished technocrat who has transformed sectors through innovation and data-driven strategies. He is an agenda-setter whose blueprint for Imo State is so meticulously crafted that it serves as both a promise and a forecast—a narrative of where Imo State could be under his governance.
As Imo’s youth demographic increasingly yearn for change that transcends the limitations of traditional politics, Ejiogu emerges as a beacon. His policies speak to their aspirations, his strategies resonate with their intellect, and his vision uplifts their collective ambition.
In this much-anticipated second part of our exclusive interview, we will delve into the specific pillars that ground Tony Ejiogu’s revolutionary platform. Expect to discover the details that elevate his campaign from mere aspiration to a concrete plan for systemic overhaul. From revitalising agriculture with modern techniques to revolutionising education through digital technology, Ejiogu is not merely sketching a dream; he is outlining a future.
So, sit back and prepare for another round of enlightening conversation that promises to go beyond the surface, as we continue to dissect the comprehensive roadmap laid out by this trailblazing candidate. Tony Ejiogu is more than a gubernatorial aspirant; he is a living blueprint for the future that Imo State deserves.
Join us for an engaging and transformative journey that could very well be the prelude to Imo State’s next chapter of extraordinary progress.
Youth Engagement: With over 60% of Nigeria’s population under 25, how do you plan to engage the youth in your governance model?
Nigeria stands on the precipice of either a demographic dividend or a demographic disaster, driven largely by its burgeoning youth population. Over 60% of Nigerians are under the age of 25, a statistic that carries both tremendous potential and significant challenges. As such, any governance model that doesn’t prioritise youth engagement is not just shortsighted but fundamentally flawed. Here’s how we plan to fully integrate the youth into our governance model:
Firstly, let’s talk about representation. We will establish a Youth Advisory Council, composed of young leaders from various sectors such as education, tech, agriculture, and the arts. This council will serve as a direct channel to the Governor’s office, providing advice, insights, and feedback on policy issues that affect the youth. In essence, young people will have a seat at the table where decisions about their future are being made.
Secondly, we will implement vocational and skills development programs tailored to the 21st-century economy. Considering the technological wave sweeping across the globe, we will focus on sectors like digital marketing, coding, renewable energy, and advanced manufacturing. By partnering with industry experts, we aim to prepare our young people for the jobs of tomorrow, thereby reducing youth unemployment, which currently hovers at worrying levels.
Thirdly, we will engage youth in governance through digital democracy. In an era where almost everything is digitised, political engagement should be no different. Using apps and online platforms, young people will be able to contribute their opinions on policy matters, participate in virtual town halls, and even vote on specific community projects. This will make governance more interactive, transparent, and youth-centric.
Fourth, entrepreneurship will be at the core of our youth engagement strategy. We intend to establish state-funded incubators and accelerators that would provide young entrepreneurs with the mentorship, funding, and resources they need to turn their ideas into sustainable businesses. This is critical in a state where small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) can be the engine of economic growth and job creation.
Furthermore, we recognise the importance of mental health, especially among the youth. Our administration will roll out mental health programs and awareness campaigns in schools and universities, focusing on breaking the stigma and providing young people with the psychological support they need to navigate the complexities of today’s world.
Lastly, sports and culture will not be ignored. We will heavily invest in community sports programs and cultural festivals that not only provide a platform for young talent but also serve as avenues for socialisation, community building, and the development of a strong sense of identity and pride.
Engaging the youth is not just a bullet point in a manifesto; it’s a critical strategy for societal transformation. Our young people are not just the leaders of tomorrow; they are vital contributors to our today. They bring innovation, energy, and a unique worldview that can make Imo State not just a better place to live, but a model for what a progressive, inclusive, and dynamic society can look like.
Social Reforms: Could you elaborate more on what you mean by ‘social reform’ in your campaign, and how you aim to implement it in Imo State?
The term ‘social reform’ may seem amorphous, but for our campaign, it’s laser-focused on leveling the playing field for all citizens, especially those marginalised or disadvantaged by systemic inequities. Social reform, in our context, encompasses an array of initiatives aimed at improving the quality of life for every resident of Imo State, irrespective of their social standing, ethnicity, or gender. Here’s how we aim to implement it:
Firstly, on healthcare: We intend to revolutionise primary healthcare by fortifying local clinics with state-of-the-art medical equipment and well-trained personnel. Too often, healthcare is concentrated in urban centres, leaving rural areas underserved. Our plan involves not just investing in medical facilities but also launching mobile clinics that can reach remote communities.
Secondly, gender equality is a cornerstone of our social reform agenda. We aim to enact and enforce legislation that addresses gender-based violence, discrimination, and unequal access to opportunities. This will be complemented by public awareness campaigns that challenge and change societal norms and biases. Moreover, we plan to significantly increase the representation of women in decision-making roles within the government and private sector.
Thirdly, we’re looking at economic empowerment as a form of social reform. This involves the creation of opportunities for low-income families to climb the economic ladder. Through microloans, financial literacy programs, and small-business support, we aim to break the cycle of poverty that afflicts many in our state.
Next, housing is an essential aspect of human dignity, and we intend to tackle the housing deficit through public-private partnerships to develop affordable housing schemes. We also aim to implement reforms that make land acquisition more transparent and less cumbersome, thereby reducing the chances of land disputes which are a source of strife in many communities.
Fifth, the justice system requires reform to become more accessible and equitable. This involves not only judicial reforms but also law enforcement practices. We will institute community policing, sensitivity training, and establish special courts to expedite cases of corruption, gender-based violence, and land disputes.
Last but not least, social inclusion is a major pillar. Imo State is home to people from diverse backgrounds, and our policies will reflect this diversity. We aim to include not just gender and ethnic representation but also give a voice to people with disabilities, the elderly, and the entirety of the masses. Our government will be one for all, and our social reform agenda aims to make that pledge a reality.
Social reform is not a box to be ticked off but a continuous, evolving process that adapts to the needs and aspirations of the people. It requires the collective effort of the government, civil society, and the citizenry. Our commitment is to lead that charge and ensure that Imo State becomes synonymous with social progress, justice, and inclusivity.
Infrastructure Development: What is your strategic plan for the development of power and social infrastructure in the state?
When it comes to infrastructure development, the stakes are incredibly high. It’s not just about brick and mortar; it’s about laying the essential foundation upon which all other sectors of society can flourish. My strategic vision for power and social infrastructure in Imo State is anchored in a data-driven approach, embedded with sustainability and inclusivity.
Let’s begin with power. According to the World Bank, only 55% of Nigerians have access to electricity, a situation even more dire in rural communities. My administration targets a 30% increase in power output in the first four years, seeking to expand electrification to at least 85% of Imo State’s communities. How? We intend to invest heavily in grid modernisation and extensions, while also allocating funds for alternative energy projects. By 2027, our aim is to generate at least 500 MW of renewable energy, which could potentially serve around 250,000 households based on average consumption rates.
Turning to social infrastructure, the numbers underscore the urgency. For instance, according to UNICEF, only 26.5% of the population in Nigeria use improved drinking water sources and sanitation facilities. Our strategic plan includes a 4-year project to ensure that 95% of Imo State’s population has access to clean drinking water and improved sanitation.
When we discuss education, the data from the Nigerian Education Indicators report shows that only 63% of eligible children are enrolled in primary schools in rural areas. Our commitment is to elevate this figure to over 90% across Imo State by building 50 new state-of-the-art schools, and renovating 150 existing ones, all within my first term.
Healthcare is equally urgent. As of now, according to WHO statistics, there are only 0.4 physicians per 1,000 people in Nigeria. My administration aims to double this number in Imo State by 2027 through training programs, upgrading existing healthcare facilities, and building three new general hospitals in underserved areas.
On the transportation front, we have a concrete plan to modernise our public transport system by introducing 100 new buses that run on cleaner fuels within the first year, expanding to 300 by the end of my term. Additionally, we’ll be laying 200 km of new roads and rehabilitating another 300 km of existing roads, especially in rural areas that have been neglected for years.
I must stress that transparency is non-negotiable. Each project will be subject to meticulous financial scrutiny, and we will leverage digital platforms to provide the public with real-time updates on our progress, budgets, and timelines.
In essence, this isn’t just about constructing buildings or laying roads. It’s about weaving a resilient, sustainable fabric that empowers every citizen of Imo State, backed by solid facts and measurable goals. We’re not just building for today; we’re building for a future where everyone has an opportunity to succeed.
Sustainability: You’ve mentioned your campaign focuses on sustainable, impactful governance. How do you plan to make your reforms sustainable in the long term?
In our vision for Imo State, sustainability isn’t an afterthought—it’s the foundation upon which we build each policy and initiative. Understanding that true governance doesn’t just serve the immediate present but sets a legacy for future generations, we’ve integrated key strategies into our policy framework.
First and foremost, we’ll shift from policies tied to individuals to those embedded within robust institutions, frameworks, and legislation. This approach ensures the longevity of impactful reforms. Hand in hand with institutionalisation is the necessity of localised ownership and community engagement. Instead of imposing a top-down framework, we aim to co-create policies with the communities, thus ensuring that the policies are not just effective but are embraced and upheld by the people themselves.
As we introduce new technologies and methods, be it in agriculture or public services, capacity building stands as a pillar. Providing continuous training and skill development will empower our communities to adapt to changes and sustain new initiatives effectively. Coupled with this is an unrelenting commitment to data-driven governance. Continual assessments, audits, and reviews of policies will be the norm, enabling us to adapt and refine our strategies according to real-world impacts.
Financial stability forms the bedrock of our sustainability plans. Given that Imo State currently holds the unenviable position of being the most indebted state in South-East Nigeria, prudent financial management becomes imperative. This involves diversifying revenue streams, reducing wastage, and smartly leveraging Public-Private Partnerships for major infrastructural projects. In line with this, we’re also deeply committed to environmental sustainability, incorporating green strategies into all aspects of governance, from renewable energy to urban planning.
At the core of this all-encompassing approach to sustainability is the commitment to transparency and accountability. We’ll implement open governance platforms that not only allow us to monitor performance indicators but also let the citizens hold us accountable. This establishes a self-correcting mechanism, keeping us aligned with our long-term goals. To bolster this, we’ll be entering into strategic partnerships with international agencies, NGOs, and civil society to tap into collective expertise, thereby ensuring that our governance model remains dynamic and adaptable.
So, when we talk about sustainability, we’re talking about a comprehensive, interwoven fabric of strategies designed to create a resilient and progressive Imo State—a legacy that future generations can inherit with pride.
That brings us to the end of this transformative and enlightening conversation. Sir Tony Ejiogu, it has been an absolute privilege to have you share your vision and insights with us, not once but twice. On behalf of Africa Digital News, New York, and our engaged and hopeful readership, thank you for your time and your commitment to Imo State. Before we part ways, is there anything else you’d like to say?
I must say, the pleasure has been entirely mine. Thank you for providing a platform where substantive issues that affect the lives of the people of Imo State can be discussed openly and honestly. This isn’t just an interview; it’s a dialogue with the future of our state. I want to thank everyone who has followed this two-part series and encourage you all to remain engaged, ask questions, and most importantly, dare to dream of a better Imo State. I am convinced more than ever that together; we can write a new chapter in the annals of our beloved state. Thank you for joining me on this journey, and I look forward to our collective advancement.