Prof Gregory Ikechukwu Ibe, is acknowledged as legendary Nigerian Business Executive, entrepreneur par excellence, the moving spirit of educational transformation in Nigeria, a philanthropist and humanitarian.
He is a Frontline contender for Abia governorship seat.
In this interview, Prof Ibe spoke about his plans to transform Abia, the controversial Abia Charter of Equity, the ranging security issue, amongst others.
Why do you want to be the governor of Abia State?
To become the governor is my civic right that at any time as a son of Abia State, I can aspire to be the governor.
There are things that would spur me to seek for that position. First I sought for it in 2014, because I had all it takes to make changes and of the desired governance that people want. so I tried my best and they said I should hold on till 2023.
2023 is fast approaching, I come again for it and what i started hearing was another thing. The action the governor took wasn’t favourable to us, so we moved to APGA. All I want is good governance for my people. Things are eluding us by the day. Any child left behind now, you cannot recoup the time lost because everyday somebody is climbing to the next level. So Abia State has lost track, Abia State has lost all what it takes but I believe that my emergence by God’s grace will put things right. That’s why I want to come into governance.
Your vision for Abia?
I am from Abia. I am the highest individual investor. When I mean highest investor, a university that has consumed so much money above N50billion is no mean feat. Is there any other project in the state that has such wealth or investment. So all I am trying to do is to make sure I replicate the thing I see all over the world and make sure Abia State is number one. We must restore our glory especially as Gods own State.
The people will not laugh at us any longer. We belong to the league of equals or even more.
Is APGA as a good platform to achieve this dream?
Yes APGA is the party Igbo people have been trying to nurture but now that we are all gathered, not just me but great Igbo sons and daughters…Abaribe has come in and different House of Reps and Senate members, have all gathered to be part of this great party. Different intellectuals have gathered to showcase what the Igbos have. It is a good platform because we believe it belongs to the Igbos.
How do you intend defeat the capable contenders from other parties intending to be governors too?
Contenders? There are different cars and manufacturers all over the world, some produce Volkswagen, Toyota, some BMW, some Mercedes, there is also Ford but there is a king of the road. There is always end of the discussion in what ever everybody does. In all these cars what is the major car sold in Nigeria. Is it not Toyota. Toyota has taken the first place but most cars are manufactured. For me the product I have and I represent is number one. I am not worried about all other people because I know that my product is key to the survival of Abia state. By the grace of God I know that people will believe me because I have an address.
How you describe yourself?
I am ‘Onye nkuzi na,’ (laughs). I am a teacher. I don’t see any difference between who I am now and who I used to be in 1972. There is no difference. I came from a very bad background- selling akara on the streets, polishing shoeshoes, selling bread and producing candle and Vaseline with my with my mother; also selling fish roll, selling ogheele and frying groundnut at Owerri High Court. So everything that is poverty or has done to every family, I experienced as I was growing up.
This is why I don’t discriminate against anybody, instead I encourage everyone at that my level to work hard because God said in the Bible that He will bless the work of your hands.
I preach to even the least person to know that I was once like him but got determined and believed in God and He made me what I am now. So that’s what I wish everybody and that’s how I came up.
Your turning point in life?
My turning point first is that you have to have Jesus and you have to be a hard worker without listening to anybody. You must not engage in any vices no matter the temptation. That’s why today you can call my name from here till end of the world, you will find that I have not been involved in any crime. It is not easy to grow up with the name and of God up till this age and you don’t any thing pinned on you.
What plans do you have for the youths?
‘I am youth na.’ In Gregory University, everybody there is a youth and I teach them. Once you are in year two, what I will teach you is what will lead to your attitudinal change. I want you to rediscover yourself, your life immediately. Because from peer group influences happening while you were in school, you will not understand what life is but after teaching you in the second year, the person changes. The person’s mind is focused so that he will know that the world of work is just few years ahead. Whatever you sow you are going to reap, so i intend to now teach them entrepreneurship, teach them different skills so that when they come out, they will not depend on new collar jobs, but be an entrepreneur. That is what I do That’s how I change them.
Every youth in Abia state university whom I taught when I was a lecturer in the school, everywhere you go they tell you all I do is to mentor them. Now that I am coming to be their governor, I am not going to mentor rather I am going to completely teach them how to fish. I want them to fish and be millionaires.
You left PDP. People earlier thought you were the anointed candidate
When the governor won his first term, we started to hear schemings. That he wants the government to still be retain in Ngwa. When they did their zoning, they said the proverbial child should be given to Abia North and Abia Central which defied the wisdom of Solomon.
Like you said, you thought I will be the annointed child from Abia North. But as a friend, I was abandoned. How will he shared the child? One child caught into two? It was wrong sharing which defied that Solomon wisdom in the Bible. I tried to inquire, I found out that he meant what he wanted to do, I decided to depart so that all the expenditures, all the 17 local government tours, all the meetings I had and money expended across the PDP visit to 17 local governments, I had to take a break. It took me a lot of thinking to cross over to the Igbo party. I am happy that now I am up and doing. All though they tried their best to frustrate it but nobody is above God.
And I am challenging them to say that whoever is looking for the head of Ibe will end up being in trouble. Whoever that is going against me will end up in trouble. If you want to do something funny look for somebody else, not where Ibe is because I am an annointed child of God. I will get to the point where I will deliver the dividend of democracy to Abians. I will do it because I am determined from my whole heart never to corrupt myself. I am going to do what is just, according to my convenant with God.
Abia Charter of Equity?
The Abia Charter of Equity is hundred percent unfortunate that each time you listen to the governor, he says he has read it and that he has asked questions. Nobody ever read Abia Charter of Equity without seeing Isuikwuato district. That if other zones have taken their turns, you must allow Isuikwuato district to produce governance for equity sake. They read it but choose to put a blind eye to it. They call us Old Bende, we are not Old Bende, we are Isuikwuato district. Our big brothers in the army, in the Federal Executive Council helped that state to be brought in and they made sure that Abia State university is pulled from Uturu to the state with a promise. And the funding of Abia State is majorly by people from Abia North and Isuikwuato district but they decided to offend us. God is not happy. Nature is not happy. Ezego Ezikpe preached that they should allow Isuikwuato district according to the charter of equity, they messed it up, using all manner of activities to make sure they deny us that, forgetting that none of them is God.
How have you affected lives?
I have affected lives, of course it is through God. I have 350 young boys from the 17 local governments who are on full scholarship in my university ranging from N9 million to N12 million that I am training free because they are Abians. My father used to say that you should not allow even your enemy not to go to school. So I never draw lines. The boys are in my school and I am happy they are enjoying the scholarship. I am well rested because my brothers and sisters are schooling. I will continue to make sure that the younger ones have education really. That’s what am doing to reach out to the lives of people in Abia State.
The contentious security issue in Abia. The incessant kidnap in your area?
Right now I am only praying to God that the governor should do something in my area except he is trying to use politics to keep my place under the ground and keep making case. He was in Isuochi. Whatever decision he took let him start it now. If he doesn’t do it now it means they are playing politics. The children in Abia State University are Abians, they are not Ibe. They should reinforce the security there and pay those people allowances so they continue to protect lives and property in Abia State because the people they are kidnapping are Abians and most are visitors to Abia. As soon as you make Abia ungovernable people will not come there. People will run away. The economy will keep on going down. I pray God that the governor will understand the reasons and pay money and put more checkpoints and recruit more people so they can go into the bushes and use the vigilante to protect our people. Its important. He is in government now so we give him all the accolades and let him take the right decision.
Your message to the electorates?
Voting for me is voting for service to humanity. It is bringing power back to the people. We shall decentralize government. I don’t want to talk more. What I want to do is contained in my manifesto and my blueprint. When I start campaigning they will see it. Everything is totally programed encompassing all sectors of the economy that will lift Abia, individuals and their families.