A social reforms advocate, philanthropist and former speaker of the Imo State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Ike Ibe has contested for the governorship of Imo State a record three times. He tells Abah Adah in this interview, why advocacy is key to reforms and also why the people of Imo State are today feeling betrayed by the leadership in the state
You have measured a lot of strength in recent time when it comes to advocacy, would you be contesting for the Imo governorship again Sir?
I have always been an advocate for good governance and a better society. An advocate for the lowest and abandoned brethren in the society, the struggling widow, the unemployed youths, the sick and hungry etc. This advocacy stems from my philosophy that life is uncomplicated when you live it for humanity. I have been on the forefront of speaking for the people and asking critical questions about leaders use or misuse of our commonwealth at all levels. It has never been about political interest. It’s who I am. I’m one who does not sit idly and watch people suffer in the midst of plenty. About being interested in Imo state governorship in 2019, I have been trying since 2007 for a record 3 times now. I can’t say I’m tired because the flesh may be weak but the spirit is still strong. Every situation and period has different dynamics and considerations. I’m seeking the face of God and listening to our people many of who are talking to me about this and urging me to run again. We will do the will of God as He directs. Sometimes you may think God comes late, but for me He is always on time. There is so much to do in Imo state. So much to achieve and redirect. So much waste within so much hardship.
From your comments, it does appear that Owelle’s administration has not appealed to you,?
A lot of things have been said and written about that administration. Every leader does what he or she thinks is their best. But the ultimate judges are the citizens. When the current government in Imo and the federal came on board there were so much expectations and joy. But the case is now so different that the people have a feeling of betrayal of trust and breach of promises. The people are literarily throwing stones at the leaders. In Imo there is massive disconnect from the people and massive discontent for the leaders. People are hungry and angry. To Okorocha himself he must have done his best. But to the people his best is probably not good enough. Every governor will have critics and supporters. But you cannot give what you don’t have.
Your critics say you haven’t found the right ideology to suit you and hence the party changes you have done in the past is this d case,?
Personally I have had the right ideology all my life. My ideology is to improve the people’s lives. What I have not seen is practical ideology in most of the parties. When you enter a bus to go to lagos and it breaks down at umunede, you don’t forget yourself there. You look for another vehicle that will take you to lagos. Political parties are vehicles that carry candidates. Candidates are not the vehicles.
Given the crisis in Imo PdP today would it be out if tune to say this is playing 2019 into the hands of APC?
The crisis in Imo PDP is following the crisis at the national level. The party has become factionalized nationally and it reflects on the different state chapters not just in Imo. The reason for the crisis is that pdp could not handle the fact that they lost power after about 16 years. Every leader was blaming each other and this has degenerated into factions and classes. Interestingly APC is in the same situation. While there is no ‘official’ national factions in APC, there are factional ‘lineups’. But certainly in Imo state APC has degenerated into different 2019 elections cults with each group scheming to outmaneuver the other for 2019 primaries control. So nothing will play into APC hands. APC is further disadvantaged because the people are not satisfied with the way they are faring under their governments since 2015. If APGA can get it’s act together (and that’s a big if) it could make a serious push for 2019. But I have the feeling that outside these three, another less known party could field an acceptable popular candidate and ride on the general anger of the populace into government house.
You are not of the opinion that Imo State has been better off. Where is the problem of Imo situated?
There is a total misplacing of priorities by policy makers. There has been a number of projects started by the state government with so much vigor but all abandoned to the chagrin of the people. The understanding is that most of these projects ‘cost’ the tax payers billions of naira that are wasted. Example is general hospitals started in every local government and all practically abandoned. So many new public buildings many of which are not put into use but abandoned and unproductive. Several demolitions in the guise of urban renewal but livelihoods of people destroyed forever. You see miles of road half-hazardly done over and over again and creating more traffic problems instead of solutions. These have drained billions of naira also making it impossible for workers wages to be paid across board. On one hand you don’t have Economic projects and on the other hand human capacity is diminishing. It’s a loose loose situation.
Imo is an APC state, yet it is no where in terms of appointments. Are we ripped off?
During the 2015 elections Governor Okorocha made so much effort to tell Imo people that the only way they can get national attention and benefits is by following him to support APC. The same man has openly confessed that APC has failed the people. In his own words when Acting President Osinbajo visited Imo, the governor said that Buhari is marginalizing Igbo people of which Imo is part of. To this extent one can safely say that Okorocha is confessing to the people that they are not getting anything from government. It is a self indictment of where he has taken the people to. It’s an admission that the federal government gave Imo people a raw end of the stick. It speaks volumes.
Let us into your philanthropy programme…
Philanthropy runs deep in my family. For about 15 years or thereabouts I’ve been running the Ike C. Ibe Foundation and we have done a lot of good across the length and breadth of Imo and beyond. We have positively impacted the lives of thousands of benefits in all aspects of life and have lifted thousands of families out of poverty. We have given out millions of naira in business assistance to struggling young men and women, widows, etc. We have built and furnished homes for indigent women etc.
But for the records, I was instrumental to equipping Imo University teaching hospital and the earlier 13 general hospitals and several health centers in Imo. I sent a total of about 60 containers of medical equipment to Imo. Over one million syringes, over one thousand beds and mattresses, over twenty five dialysis machines including the water plant and installation. Two CT Scan machines. Three dental suites. Over twenty operating tables. Dozens of surgical equipment. Dozens of X-ray equipment. A complete pediatric unit including incubators etc. About ten ultrasound equipment etc. The bottom line is that I brought 99 % of all the initial equipment used to equip the teaching hospital when it was established and got biomedical engineers and technicians who installed these things. I saved over 12 billion naira for our people because I got all these free from donor agencies headed by my friends. When then President Obasanjo came to commission that teaching hospital he was amazed and he asked then Gov Udenwa how much he borrowed to equip the hospital. Udenwa told him in front of the entire nation that all the equipment were brought by Ike C. Ibe free from America. In the course of my free medical missions we started with 5 doctors and grew to 52 medical personnel. Between 2001 to 2007 we visited all the Imo local Govts a minimum of three times each and treated over 1 million people. Gave over 250,000 prescription glasses, we did over 10,000 surgical procedures. We dispensed over 200 million naira worth of drugs etc. I brought 9 ambulances and two fire fighting trucks. Yes I brought over 350,000 books to our schools including IMSU, Umuagwo polytechnic etc. I brought equipment at the 11th hour that helped IMSU school of medicine to be accredited though I don’t know the situation there now. I remember the VC then who is the current Minister for state Education writing me a letter and saying I saved the university. I brought over 5000 school and library desks and chairs for Imo schools and libraries. I helped to get a grant from US govt that was used to build online centers at Alvan and Nekede poly. I helped to bring resources from US govt for a proposed Imo-Abia regional waste management program. I initiated business linkage programs and missions that led to partnerships between Imo business people and American business people and institutions etc. I helped to establish sister city relationship between some Imo and American cities. Over the years, I have run free grants programs for struggling widows and youths throughout the state giving out millions of naira assistance. I have helped hundreds get decent education in different parts of the state and mentored several youths around the state. We have paid hospital bills of several hospital detained people in different parts of the state. We have sponsored orphans and widows to stand on their feet again without screaming in the media. These are some of the things my foundation has been doing for Imo people. When some people ask me what I have done for Imo people I laugh. I make bold to say that no Imo citizen living or dead has brought the magnitude of resources I have brought to Imo state over the years. The beauty of this is that these have all been charity work mostly done by Ike C. Ibe foundation which I set up over 15 years ago. I do not make noise about these and many people have in the past tried to take undue credit for these efforts. The heart to work is there. The vision to lead is present. The capacity to deliver sincerely and honestly is not in doubt. I started my foundation many years and doing sincere charity work way before any Dick and Tom now interested in politics sets up one fictitious foundation or the other for political reasons. Charity work is not meant to be deceptive and not for political gains. Many politicians use fake philanthropy to win the hearts of unsuspecting voters and climb into office but later turn their backs on their promises.
Ahead 2019, what should be the focal points of Nigerians now?
Nigerians were told all kinds of things during the 2015 elections and they heard many unimaginable promises. It didn’t take time for their hopes to be dashed. Nigerians should not take politicians on face value or take their sweet tongues for granted. Every promise should be scrutinized and backgrounds of candidates properly investigated. Voters must not allow their strengths and powers to be taken for granted. The real bosses are the electorates not the politicians. 2015 was an eye opener. 2019 should be a lesson.