Why I want to be next governor of Anambra --Ozigbo

Ozigbo

Mr. Valentine Chineto Ozigbo is a consummate business leader and business entrepreneur with over 25 years of experience in corporate transformation, power, hospitality, energy and banking, both commercial, retail, investment and international banking. And the name, no doubt, rings a bell to most players and even none players in these sectors.

A multiple award winning CEO, Ozigbo is the immediate past President and Group CEO of Transnational Corporation of Nigeria Plc (Transcorp), one of Africa’s largest conglomerates.

He was elevated to the role of President and CEO of Transcorp Plc after holding the position of Managing Director/CEO of Transcorp Hotels Plc for Seven years, during which he led a $100 million project that saw Transcorp Hilton Abuja undergo a globally celebrated transformation and upgrade. 

Transnational Corporation of Nigeria Plc, as it were, is parent company to Transcorp Power, one of the largest power generation companies in Nigeria with 972MW installed capacity; Transcorp Hotels, the owners of Transcorp Hilton Abuja (the leading business hotel in Africa) and Transcorp Hotels Calabar; as well as Transcorp OPL281, an oil and gas company. 

An award winning graduate with impressive track record for academic excellence, Ozigbo in 2003, was awarded the prestigious Chevening Scholarship by the British Foreign & Commonwealth Office to study for a Masters of Science in Finance at the Lancaster University, UK, where he graduated with a Distinction. 

And so, at its 2019 graduation ceremony, Lancaster University recognized him as a Distinguished Alumni. He also holds an MBA in Banking & Finance and a B.Sc. in Accounting, both from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, where he was the best graduating student in his faculty, among other awards and honours.

He won several internationally coveted awards in the hospitality industry, including the Seven Stars Luxury Hospitality CEO of the Year 2016, which he received in Spain. In October 2019, the respected business leader was also voted Seven Stars Hospitality Personality of the Year in Athens, Greece.

Interestingly, Ozigbo stepped down from this prestigious office as President and CEO of Transcorp Plc in March 2020 to pursue an interest in politics. He nurses the ambition of becoming the governor of Anambra State by March 2022 under the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), although he still retains a seat on the Board of Transcorp Plc, the Board of Transcorp Hotels Plc, and on the Board of Transcorp Power Limited. He currently chairs the Finance and General Purpose Committee of Transcorp Power Limited.

So why is he delving into the highly murky waters of Anambra politics? Here is what he had to say to a group of media executives recently, of which Newsmart virtually attended: 

On wrongs in Anambra he wishes to correct as well as thoughts on southeast politicians

One of the biggest failures we've had is a lack of cohesion as a people. I started by saying earlier that Anambra is endowed with a lot. And in the world of today, knowledge is the most important. Knowledge is power. But when you don’t come together, you miss loads of opportunities. 

And I'm emphasizing this because I want to see myself as that unifier that would eventually get everybody on board. You know, I've also seen a lot of people, who have governed Anambra talk about… you know in Anambra, you have a lot of billionaires, why are you not investing at home? And I say we haven't made Anambra such a friendly state to invest in. 

I don't believe in coercing people to invest at home. I believe in making it sexy for people to invest at home. Making sure that businesses at home are succeeding, we'd become the envy of others. So, part of the missed opportunities also links to your second question, which is this lack of cohesion across the South East area. 

Unfortunately, for you to have leadership at its best, you need an abundance of emotional intelligence and that's what we've been lacking very strongly. And I say this because we can't speak with one voice because we don't even have the simple humility to converge and discuss. 

And it doesn't have to be so because we come from different party lines - APGA vs PDP vs APC. And then you have leaders who don't show the right priority. They have no idea that through collaboration we can achieve more. If for instance, Anambra could focus on collaboration with Delta along the second Niger Bridge, or with Imo state on the development of new ports or with Enugu at fixing the road, which would link the markets to other locations, we can do a lot more. 

And there's no reason why we can't even have joint development agencies that all of this can come together. My point is, to do that, you look at the personalities involved. How emotionally intelligent are they? How do they manage sensitivities? Do they even value people and respect people? Or are they people who are driven by ego and the power that is in their hands? 
I leave you to answer that question. But the point here is, we've missed opportunities because of the leaders we've had. 

But it has not always been like this, which is why I am so sure of what is possible with Anambra and South East. In the days of Honourable Nnamdi Azikwe and Micheal Okpara, Sout-East was the envy of the world. We were studied in Havard as the fastest-growing region in the world. We were an example of the world. So it's possible. 

And this is in the olden days when there's no technology. How much more now that we can make Anambra, for instance, the technology hub of Africa? Nothing is stopping us from achieving that. 

What does it take? Technology is such a leveler. I can't tell you we would build an aeroplane. We can't afford it. But the technology requires only a little level of infrastructural development and then what you need to do on the training in the school system gearing the young guys to imbibe the programming language and discuss artificial intelligence at the early stage and allow the Anambra mind to be unleashed and we can change the paradigm.

There is a lot wrong, but the summary of all is leadership and lack of cohesion. And this is one thing that I know God has blessed me with - my ability to manage sensitive things. Remember, even just running Transcorp as the corporation with the largest shareholder base in Nigeria with 300,000 people, and interfacing with the government. It's a PPP project. 

Transcorp Hilton was owned initially 51% by Transcorp and 49% by the federal government. I represented the two bodies, so even the whole idea of managing those sensitivities will demonstrate to you that I know what I'm talking about. 

So, I think that South-East can be a lot better when we have true leaders, who would bring everybody on board and craft a common vision and pursue this seamlessly and execute fiercely and we can get to where we are headed. 

Somehow, this COVID-19, even though nobody would have wished that, I think it's a bigger pointer to the fact that we need to refocus on key priorities as a people. 

And my idea is to set a new standard of governance with Anambra state so that not just the South-East, any part of Nigeria, you'd need to come and look at our template if you want to seek elective office in any other state.

On zoning formula in the state and APGA posing serious threat to PDP

Ozigbo
Zoning is an interesting subject. But the way I always like to approach this question is to put a preface there. And that preface is: I am in this race to win. I'm in this race not to experiment; I'm not in this race because of zoning. So with or without zoning, I believe that I have what it takes to lead and to win. 

So because once you start to talk about zoning, some mindsets begin to change as though this is why you're running, so I need to put this in context. Now, zoning or no zoning, you could argue on both sides. We have seen examples of where zoning has done wonders from across the world, and it is what is practiced by global institutions and I'd like to give examples like the World Bank and IMF. 

The idea is always not to overlook competency even in the practice of zoning. When you want to talk about zoning in Nigeria, you talk about the six geopolitical zones. And who started it? An Anambra man, Alex Ekwueme! He's one of those, if not the key architect of that formula. 

We use zoning to achieve equity and balance. And I think it's a good thing, personally. I think the issue of Zoning in Anambra has gone beyond me, you, and anybody who may feel otherwise. And the reason I say this is, yes, Peter Obi started the zoning formula and for good reasons. 

He figured out that the Anambra Central had been there for 11 years, so he saw need to say to Anambra South, “Please, we'd rather move to the North so we can give them a chance to govern Anambra state.” And this is how Obiano emerged. 

And I remember in 2017 when the next election was coming close, this issue became topical. You would see all manner of opinion molders coming out to speak. It never stopped other people from other zones from contesting. So the issue is do you want to disenfranchise others? 

But the point here is that they are just coming out for other reasons, not to win the election. Because of the momentum that zoning goes with, it is almost impossible for anybody to counter it. Because people argued, when Obiano was contesting, Ezeimo ran. That's okay, but where did Ezeimo get to? Did he even win his ward? 

The point here is people can run, people are allowed to run. No constitution or law forbids anybody to run. But when the people say...and who are these people that say, and pay attention? Everybody that matters. 

From The Elders Forum, they are saying zoning. Association of Town Unions is saying zoning. The Igwe Council says zoning. The Ohaneze Ndigbo says zoning. The professionals and trade unions are saying zoning. Who is remaining in Anambra state? It's only those who are running for their personal reasons and those whom they fund that come out. 

Do a little survey, go to main markets, don't talk to politicians, just ask a simple question: Which zone should the next Anambra state governor come from? You'd get 80% if not 90% saying the same thing. 

So, my simple message is: I think the Anambra people know for sure where the next governor would come from and I thank God that it happens to work in my favour. And I think it's a good thing because it's going to help to reduce spending in politics. 

High spending leads to the corruption that follows, and going into bed with fellows that you wouldn't ordinarily be talking to. So, what I'm saying here is it's a good thing. But what I want to advocate always is don't choose zoning over competency, match the two. And don't choose competency and ignore zoning because you're going to be wasting your time. When you bring the two, you have the best of two worlds. 

And that's what my governorship candidacy represents. Competency wise, I feel God didn’t create me short and zoning wise, I'm also favoured because I come from the Anambra South.

And the second question, which is about my chances, I think that this is an election for PDP to win. It's not for APGA. APGA has done enough damage to themselves in Anambra today. The perception in Anambra is so strong that APGA isn't coming back for this election, especially if PDP does the right thing. 

And this is what I want PDP to do. PDP needs to unify and I think that not being active in the past in politics is also a good thing for me because people can easily come around me. Unlike when you have been so categorized or so camped. 

What I'm seeking to do is become the consensus candidate for the key leaders in PDP, and more importantly, an acceptable and overwhelmingly popular candidate for the grassroots. Once I can achieve these two, PDP and myself will be celebrating come March 17, 2022. 

On polarizing figures in the state like Chris Uba and over-dependence on central purse for survival by states 

In Anambra, we have several key leaders that have been there as far as Anambra PDP is concerned. But there's been a lot of change and changes and I’ll mention two. One is Anambra PDP has become a lot more democratic than ever before. And you may not find one individual that can make you a governor. And that's the beauty of democracy. 

It's not where you have one godfather. It's where you have several key players, if not the masses deciding who governs the state. And for the primary, you need key stakeholders because usually, a delegate election is an election by a few. But for the main election, you need the entire masses to galvanize around you. 

And how I have seen things progress is one of the key reasons I am in the race because if it were to be in those days where just one man can decide what happens and I also have to look at if I share the philosophy of that person, I am almost certain that I would have been busy doing what I've been doing by now. 

So what I have seen is where for instance, you go to Anambra North, I can tell you those who are key stakeholders in the party that you must sit down with, share your dreams and your objective, and hopefully get them to buy into those. If not, you're not winning in Anambra North. And I can mention their names. Go to Anambra Central, come to Anambra South. 

So what I think for me is I owe respect to the leadership, including Chris Uba, including people like Linus Ukachukwu, including people like His Excellency Peter Obi. I owe them the deepest level of respect because of what they have done over the years but I'm thankful that you now have to get everybody on board hopefully. 

And so my strategy is to win their hearts. And I consulted with every single one of them, including Chris Uba you mentioned. And what excited me was him saying to me, no conditions attached, in fact, I made sure I went to their houses with nothing. Not even a bottle of drink. 

And I heard him say for instance if he's asked to choose from all the people who have indicated an interest in running for governor in the next election, that he would say somebody like me because he has never had any issues with me... and because we come from the same local government. As a matter of fact, my mother is from Uga. So he used to attend those events that I have mentioned earlier that I organise. He's never missed any of them. So, I know all of these leaders. And they know me.

What I'm saying here is that I'm riding on my overwhelming acceptability by these key leaders and I'm willing to show them the respect that they deserve, but I think politics has gone beyond them centrally deciding alone. We need to have a collegial decision. And I think today, it's not in doubt that Peter Obi is a clear leader of PDP in Anambra state. 

And that leadership that he brings, I am very comfortable. The reason I say this is because not just by being a former governor, I think that being the vice-presidential candidate sets him apart as the number one leader, of course, with the rest of the other people that we have to manage together. So the emphasis is on my being a consensus candidate of all of them. But that does not mean, if in the end, we succeed with the majority, we'll go with the majority. 

On the issue about the states, you've answered in the affirmative, correctly, by saying ‘overdependence’. And that goes back to the issue about the need for restructuring in Nigeria. We, honestly, have to begin to think of the individual components of the Nigerian state as having the opportunity to make themselves viable, independent to some extent where we can allow for a competition that would drive progress. 

Unfortunately, we are running Nigeria in a handout manner that inhibits creativity and ingenuity. We've seen that we need to do a lot more, especially if we compare with what we used to do in the past before the advent of crude oil. 

And I think what this COVID-19 of a thing has done is to send the right shock to the right quarters. But I don't think that we have learnt the lessons because what we see are people taking reactionary measures and not looking at the strategic and fundamental factors. 

Asking questions like, ‘How do we change the structure of Nigeria for better competitiveness?’ So, for me, I would do two things. One, lend my voice and push whatever I have into ensuring that we change the structure of Nigeria, for good - a change that will allow the states to become a lot more viable from a policy perspective and a constitutional perspective. 

But beyond that, even if we have a worst-case scenario, where that doesn't happen: How do we make Anambra, in this case, be more competitive for business such that we can begin to attract a lot more investment, especially among our people, and beyond our people because if you want to, you can make that change happen. 

And I hear people always talk about foreign direct investment and I usually laugh because in my world, and I've seen it, the local investors must be comfortable first before the foreign ones would come. 

It's the local investors that would attract the foreign ones. So, when I made that point earlier, I want to make it sexy. I'm choosing my words carefully. I want people to feel that envy that, oh, it's only in Anambra that you can succeed because we can make it happen.

And it goes beyond creating an enabling environment that people talk about. When you recognise the power of the private sector, when you know the role of government, how many jobs can the government create? What is it really that the government can do? It is the private sector, which I represent, that holds the key. And creating the right balance is what I'm here to do. 

On his programme for women, if ambition comes to reality 
 Usually, when I respond to the issue of women, the men get jealous because I come from that background that recognises and values the power of women. Not just for what they do in politics and what they do elsewhere. One example is my head of media here, Aziza, she's a woman. 

And if you go back to where I'm coming from, I handed over the presidency of Transcorp to a woman. The CEO of the hotel business is a woman. The director of operations for the hotel business is a woman. 

And the COO of Transcorp Power is a woman. And so, it tells you I'm not one of those you need to preach to about the power of women. If we must get things right, we will go by competency and we'd be agnostic in a lot of cases about the gender, and where we see the need to go through affirmative action to bring women on board, we would do so. 

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