Why I want to be Imo governor in 2015 – Kpaduwa
Julius Kpaduwa, a medical doctor, who has lived in the United States for over four decades, was shot in 2002 when he first signified interest to run for the Imo State gubernatorial race. In this interview with BADEJO ADEMUYIWA & OWEDE AGBAJILEKE, a former president, Association of Nigerian Physicians in Americas, speaks on his passion to govern the state in 2015 under the platform of PDP. Excerpts:
What is your view of the current political process?
That is a very good question and the way to answer that is that there is a desire within the population for something better for Nigeria. And the resources, both human and other resources that can move us forward are there, but it looks like in certain segments there is lack of adequate leadership. So, the potential is there but it will depend on the right kind of leadership coming into play before we can begin to make serious moves.
What are those segments lacking in leadership?
Let me take the governorship positions in many states. You find out that some states have made more progress than the others and if you begin to examine the difference in leadership between those states that have made some progress and those that are still lagging; you can identify the difference in leadership. Those things that have been made by professionals who do not have politics as their business, either they are coming from the commercial sector or from professionals like lawyers, doctors who have gone through some discipline of ethics, have done better than the others. I’ll give you an example: our state, Imo State, has been lagging in comparison to other states. And if you look at the crop of leadership that we’ve had, most of them cannot be described as professionals who have been through some discipline of ethics in their particular professions which also crosses the bounds to life in general. I don’t want to go national for obvious reasons. Let me stay on the state level for now.
Specifically, in what area is the current leadership in Imo State lacking?
In fact, in all areas. In infrastructure, there are no adequate roads in comparison to some of the other states. There is no water. Obviously, electricity is a national problem. So, in major infrastructure, the state is lacking. If you come to our state, you will begin to wonder whether we have received any Federal Allocation for so many years. In the area of education, Imo State main business is education. If you look at the numbers that passed out from WAEC, the numbers that go to the universities and how well they do in JAMB and other exams, Imo State had ranked very high. But recently, the performance is coming down. The quality of education which is lacking in Imo State today is responsible for Imo students scoring very low in all these national exams. In the area of health care there is non-existent health care system in the state. There is no access to health care even though you have buildings designated as hospitals. The people are so poor that they cannot afford to get the admission card which is only about N50 or so, let alone paying for consultation and buying the medications that they have been prescribed. I know this because I’m a physician. I’ve been doing a lot of charitable works in the state for the last 14 years with my wife who is also a physician. And I was also the Chairman of the Board of the only teaching hospital that we have for three years. I made certain suggestions that probably would have augured well for the state but they were turned down. In fact, that is the main reason why I’m in the race for governorship. Since the buck stops at the governor’s table, if somebody like me occupies that table we can begin to put into effect some of the very good suggestions that are being brought by some individuals.
So, to answer your question, in Imo State we are lacking in all sectors: in health care, infrastructure, education. And there hasn’t been any boost of activities in the state for a long time. There are no industries, even just encouraging cottage industries that will be based on the cash crops that are available locally; creating entrepreneurship and avenues for employment. Other than during the time of Sam Mbakwe as Governor and party Achike (Udenwa) there hasn’t been anything in that area because they are aware of the 180 percent youth unemployment. The only answer they have for that is giving them uniform and putting them in some kind of paramilitary jobs and paying them miserable amount and these guys are just parading and controlling traffic. And these are all graduates who have nothing to do. So, that area is really lacking and we have somebody who has some creative mind, international contact who can easily go out there and bring in investments, it will go a long way to solve the problem of the state.
But feelers from the state are that the current leadership is performing well and the people are in support, as shown on national television. How would you react to this?
There is a whole lot of publicity and deception of the public. If you go to Imo State, the kinds of projects the present governor has embarked on are cosmetic projects: building roundabouts, community centres. He hasn’t done anything about roads. In fact, even in the capital city, Owerri, the roads are so bad. I don’t even know whether he has completed two to three kilometers of roads during his present term. And that is why he has been tagged as ‘the-more-you-look, the-less-you-see governor’. It’s all deceit. We see these things on television too. For example, there is one particular road in our place, just at a strategic position in one of the very important markets in our place. If you see the deception that is taking place, they put it into those TV adverts that you were referring to; the Amaraku Road with flowers on its side and all of that. You need to go there and see the real thing. It’s all lies and photo tricks. And you begin to wonder, is he talking about a state which we are in?
Look at what he has done in education, deceptive. He’s saying that he’s giving free education to all. First of all, in the primary and secondary school levels that is the responsibility of the Federal Government and the Federal Government offers free education. In the university level, he comes up with gimmicks which are affecting the number of Imo State indigenes that gain entrance into the universities that we have in the state because he has reduced the number of Imo State indigenes in the so-called free education to about 30 percent of the population. And opened up the rest of 70 percent to anybody from anywhere, the most important thing for him is money. Many of our citizens cannot compete financially and so, most of the admission quota are given to people from other states thereby reducing quality education that the people of Imo have been used to. And even then, with the so-called free education to the 30 per cent, these kids have to pay some form of money to buy the form. By the time you add everything and subtract everything the government is giving them, it amounts to nothing. It’s gimmick and it’s unfortunate that nobody had been able to counter all his media publicity with the true facts but in due time, I’m sure that will be done.
There have been excuses that the long years of military rule is responsible for the decadence in Imo State in particular and Nigeria at large. Do you agree with this?
Yes, the era of military government in Nigeria is probably one of the most tragic things that have happened to this country. It brought in a different set of values. It brought in a crop of individuals who have taken over the system and much less endowed with creative ideas and empowered them with a lot of money; hence they continued to perpetuate themselves. You are no longer regarded as anything again simply because of education unlike in the past. Then, Nigerians revered education. But you can have all the degrees in the world, somebody who has the least amount of education but has been able to get a lot of contracts, the Nigerian society respects those people more than people who can contribute towards the development of our society. That is the legacy of the military government. And it’s going to take a while for us to begin to shed that. It will happen but will only happen if learned people have the courage to come into the political process. Not every learned person has that courage because they will tell you it’s dangerous, expensive. It’s not an easy road. But my hope is that people of that calibre will eventually come into the political system and begin to provide the adequate type of leadership that the country needs.
Having given a critique of the current situation in the state, what will you bring to the table?
That’s a very good question and I will list them, not necessarily in order of priority. I will bring in professionalism with a discipline of ethics over my career in the United States which spanned over 40 years. I will bring in sincerity and at the top of the agenda the priority becomes the common good of the people, not individual pockets. I will bring in international contacts that I have developed over the years of living in the United States as a medical practitioner. These are individuals who, just on the basis of my own credibility, I can tell them to cover over even if it is the smallest amount of industry that we can attract, let us start from there and they will come. We are lucky that we live in a country that virtually harbours every ethnic group in the world, just like the United States. There is no ethnic group in the world today that is not in the United States of America. The good thing about it is that these ethnic groups have the ‘American dream’ like we call it. They have been very successful and have started penetrating their original home land and playing very active roles because there is a whole lot that they can offer. We can bring in the Chinese, the Koreans, the Europeans whom we have developed relationship with. But they are just waiting for that credible individual.
In the area of health care, the Association of Nigerian Physicians in the Americas where I was a former President, there are over 10,000 Nigerians practising medicine in America. In fact, many of them actually did their medical education here (in Nigeria), went to the United States for specialist training and decided to stay. Can you see the amount of brain drain that has occurred even in the health sector alone? We need to bring all these people back to contribute their own quota. There is a whole lot of good things in the country but bringing them from everywhere, add it to what we have here, bring the sincerity of purpose, the place will take off.
You have taken a shot at this position before you were harassed and went back. How prepared are you this time?
Well, I’m happy that you know a little bit of my political history. In 2002, I came here for this purpose and some people decided to shoot me. They almost killed me. And I had to be flown back to the United States where for two years I underwent four major surgical operations. And I was bedridden for two years. I couldn’t practise medicine, I was just at home and my wife took care of me. I came unprepared at that time. This time, I’m much well prepared. If they want to play fire, we will play fire with fire. If they want to play the gentleman’s way, we will play it with them. Don’t let my looks deceive you because these people don’t have two heads. If they want to play dirty tricks, we will reciprocate their dirty tricks with even much more elaborate dirty tricks. But all geared towards the best interest of the people. So, I’m prepared.
The bane of Nigerian politics is godfatherism Do you have a godfather?
I’ve been asked this question before and this is my answer: the people of Imo State who are genuinely seeking for better governance are my godfathers. I don’t have any powerful human being out there with a whole lot of money behind my project. Sometimes, that could also be a bad omen because such godfathers will begin to put road blocks into some of the creative ideas that you have. But I have the Imo people as my godparents.
In what ways have you positively touched the lives of people of the state before now?
Remember I mentioned that for the last 14 years we have been doing medical missions in Imo State in all the three senatorial zones. And obviously, I was chairman of the Board of the Imo State University Teaching Hospital which I played a prominent role. In fact, that’s really what led me in the first place to seek the governorship when I saw how poverty has affected the medical care of the people. There is no part of Imo State that you go to and mention my name and they won’t tell you that ‘the medical team he brought saved my life’. So, in the area of medicine which is my field, we have touched a lot of lives.
What do you think can be done to dissuade influential Nigerians from seeking medical care abroad?
In 2008, under my leadership as President of the Association of Nigerian Physicians in the Americas, the very first Nigerian medical convention that we’ve ever had was done here in Abuja. And the purpose of that was for us to begin to create relationship with the Ministry of Health and other para-medical agencies in the country so that we can begin to contribute our own quota in terms of development of medical care in Nigeria. And that has paid off. We were able to seek funding from the United States of America, United States Agency for International Development (USAID). We were able to review the medical curriculum of all the medical schools in Nigeria which had not been done since medical schools started. We have completed that last year. Even though there had been some roadblocks to implement them because some people said they were not carried along. But eventually it will be implemented.
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