Prince Eze Madumere is a former Chief of Staff to Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State. A native of Achi in Ezi-Mbieri autonomous community of Mbaitoli Local Government of Imo State. He had his primary and secondary education in Owerri, Imo State and Lagos State respectively before travelling to the United States where he studied Business Administration from San – Jacinto College, University of Houston Texas.
Madumere worked as Area and Channel Development Manager of KFC and PepsiCo Inc. for thirteen years respectively during which he also made acquaintance with Okorocha deploying and devoting his time and other resources to the political career of the Imo Governor. So active was Madumere in the 2011 gubernatorial election in the state that he was considered a threat by then incumbent governor, Chief Ikedi Ohakim who connived with the Federal establishment to have him thrown in jail on phantom trumped up charges. But his perseverance and penitent spirit paid off when Rochas defeated Ohakim and Madumere was appointed Chief of Staff.
Following disagreements with Okorocha and alleged corrupt practices, his Deputy, Agbasso was impeached by the State House Assembly. And against all predictions, Madumere was picked as a worthy successor. It was no doubt a reward for blind loyalty. Having won the governorship ticket of the All Progressives Congress, APC for a second term, Rochas chose the Mbieri Prince as his running mate and together they were sworn in on May 29, 2015. In this exclusive interview with VINCENT ANOLU in Owerri, Madumere, also a Fellow of Nigeria Institute of Management as well as Fellow of Strategic Management Institute of Nigeria bares his mind on contemporary happenings in the polity, especially Imo State as well as the core values that has sustained him in public office. Excerpts:
YOUR Excellency, for some time now, Imo has been in the news over protests due to non-payment of salaries and pensions, what is happening?
Thank you, I must say that truly, there was an issue that bordered on non-payment of salaries and pensions. The truth is that the trend is not peculiar to Imo State alone. It is a national issue and it is being tackled. However, salaries have been cleared and payment of pensions has also begun.
Like I was saying earlier, there is a general economic down turn in our country. We are all aware of the crash of crude oil prices at the international market leading to financial squeeze since the benchmark, which was used for budgeting has been negatively affected. It is no news that sometime last year our crude sold at as much as $110 per barrel. Nigeria generated enough revenue to take care of its immediate needs.
However, Mr. President must be commended for the bailout fund, which is a palliative measure, which many States of the Federation are banking on to handle her immediate needs especially payment of salaries and pensions. It is on this note that I will say that the matter was blown out of proportion by detractors. As at October all salary arrears were cleared except few areas under review.
What is the way forward?
We have learnt our lessons in a hard way. Our problem stems from the fact that we over rely on crude oil. Monoculture remains our greatest problem in this country. Agriculture used to be the mainstay of Nigeria’s economy. Since the discovery of the “black gold”, we seem to have forgotten our history with cocoa, palm, groundnut and other cash crops, which Nigeria is endowed with. I am of the view that we should go back to agriculture. It is also important that agribusiness is given its place, our preserving technology. This means that turning our produce into finished goods will do us a lot of good. Beyond this, our technologist and scientists should be given a chance to prove themselves and drive development in this area.
For us in Imo, we are doing out bit. It will be recalled that on assumption of office, among the things Rescue Mission government led Owelle Rochas Okorocha did was to look into the sources of income beyond oil. That was the first time Imo Palm Plantation was made to useful. We also launched plant a palm project where people are encouraged to plant palm. In this political dispensation, we are focusing on small and medium scale enterprises. Following our resolve that making Imo a more productive State is the nucleus of our policy, efforts are being made in this direction. We have encapsulated these in goal of industrialization in our slogan of “industry, industry, industry, employment, employment, employment…”
We here about the effort of oil exploration agencies in the Niger Delta, would your State not begin to rely on some this effort to diversify the economy of your State as well?
Like it was observed during the 2015 Niger Delta Development Forum, which held in Asaba, people spoke in affirmative that nothing much has been contributed to the growth of the region by the oil exploration companies. However, I will limit myself to Imo experience alone. We hear about those efforts in the area of aquaculture and other training of entrepreneurs for hosts States. It is unfortunate that we only hear about them but the impact has been very minimal in Imo State. I also hear about collaborative effort, this has mostly ended at the talk shops but in realities, we could hardly see such synergies. I have never heard of such synergies because the truth is that if there were occasions of coming together to pool ideas together with a view to having regional development framework, making each member State hold sway in its areas of comparative advantage, we are not in the know.
Are you saying that NDDC has not made any impact in Imo?
There is a difference between doing a project that has no bearing to the needs and development blueprint carefully design for a people. NDDC used to be a place of settlement for cronies and political loyalists. Governors of the members States of the Niger Delta region are statutorily heads NDDC in their various States. However, throughout last dispensation, Imo State Governor or even the government was never consulted for any project. At no time did I hear that my Governor was invited for a meeting NDDC States’ Governors. It was a preposterous sitting of road and other projects at no-economically viable locations. In some cases, you see them in one village that lacks any social and economic activities. . I have heard that there will be a meeting of NDDC Governors towards the ending of November. That is the way to go. The new leadership of All Progressives Congress will do the right thing. For us in Imo, it has been a story of regrets. We believe that it will be different ball game this time around owing to the change of leadership.
How would you appraise the first term of Rescue Mission Government led by Governor Okorocha and yourself?
Brain is membrane that forgets. This is the reason those who invented writing and that is the reason we jot down ideas and our activities. When we came into office in 2011, Imo State was one hell of a rotten State. The recent propaganda against Governor Okorocha is meant to malign him without bringing to the fore his feat in the last four and half years. Imo was embroiled in the crises of kidnapping, armed robbery and impunity from some quarters. Imo people were emasculated as they lost their freedom. They could not raise a voice even in the face of impunity and inhuman treated as they were cowed with state instrument of power. So, when His Excellency, Owelle Rochas Okorocha came on board, the first thing he did was to restore confidence and allow Imo people have their freedom back. This is to the extent that every dick and harry suddenly become reckless. They say all sorts of things to the Governor in a bid to drive home their request or in criticism of some of the steps of the government. I will say that Imo State is the home of freedom and democratic culture because everyone can now talk without fear of intimidation.
In the area of policies, Rescue Mission churned out people oriented policies. We came up free and qualitative education from primary, secondary schools up to the tertiary level. We have 27 general hospitals that are 80% completed having each in every local government. Construction of three inland roads with bridges, linking old Owerri town to New Owerri. Sam Mbakwe bypass, Akachi bypass, opening up network of roads in the new Owerri making it one of the fastest cities in Nigeria, Construction of Imo International Convention Centre, Total overhaul of Imo Concorde Hotel; dualization of Orlu Express Road that ended at Akaokwa, a boundary between Imo and Anambra States with a stretch-length of 55 kilometers; Turning around old Okigwe town with dualized Road, street lights and on-going Princess Hotel. At the rural areas, Rescue Mission has constructed an average of 20 kilometers of road in every local government. Owelle Rochas Okorocha has changed the looks of Owerri as the capital city. We have Imo College of Nursing, Imo College of advanced Professional studies just to mention but a few. We have done quite a bit in the agricultural sector with our plant a palm programme and other incentives that go with it.
We learnt that you have known your boss, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, the Governor of Imo State over twenty years now, how would you describe him?
Owelle Rochas Anayo Okorocha is a man of vision. He is a man whose brain works faster than clock. He is naturally endowed. He is a passionate leader who feels that every citizen’s full potentials must be developed so as to empower him to contribute his quota in the society. This is the highest level of enthroning a peaceful and progressive society. It was in a bid to quench this taste that led to the establishment of Rochas Foundation Colleges and today, he has contributed even as a private person to the work force of the nation. Coming into governance, he brought lots of innovation in governance. Today, Imo is far better than we met it. Governor Okorocha believes in the future and that is the reason education comes first. His free and qualitative education policy takes a lot of sacrifices. He is of the view that the only way to create equal opportunity for the citizenry by giving everyone qualitative education puts everyone on equal footing.
In the area unity of the country, he has played major reconciling leaders and making them to work together for the general interest of Nigeria. Most people may have forgotten about the National Peace Forum where great Nigerians were brought to the round table to reconcile themselves and chart a course for the nation without any rancour.
What does Future hold for All Progressives Congress (APC) in the South East?
All Progressives Congress has come to stay. It is a matter of time when its acceptance will speak. It is the fastest growing party in the South East. We thank God for Owelle Rochas Okorocha’s vision who saw the future and decided to take the bull by the horn. He created a special door for Ndi Igbo in All Progressives Congress. Governor Okorocha as a leader has shown exemplary leadership. Any objective mind would praise Owelle Rochas Anayo Okorocha for his feats and pride of place in the national development. At the national level, were it not for the discipline of the present government and huge effort at fighting corruption, one wonders what would have become of the country at this point in time. I have no doubt that APC and with the leadership of Owelle Rochas Okorocha, good governance and dividend of democracy, APC is the party for the South East.