VON DG, Okechukwu: Ndigbo needs massive infrastructure more than juicy appointments

VON DG, Okechukwu: Ndigbo needs massive infrastructure more than juicy appointments

Mr Osita Okechukwu, the Director General of Voice of Nigeria, VON, is from Enugu State, South-East Nigeria. He is a foundation member of the All Progressives Congress, APC. Okechukwu is an ardent supporter of the immediate past President Muhammadu Buhari. In this interview with DAILY POST Editor, Emmanuel Uzodinma, he bares it all on the past administration and makes projections on the President Bola Ahmed Tinubu government. Excerpts!

As a member of the ruling All Progressives Congress and a Buharist, what would you say were the major achievements of the immediate past administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, particularly in areas of infrastructural development and security?

Without being immodest, as a Buharist, one wishes to start with what ex-President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, did from day one that most people have forgotten which made a tangible impact in our lives. One is that before he even presented his cabinet members to the Senate, he carefully perused through the federal and state files which led to his shock that some states were owing workers and pensioners humongous debts ranging from 3 – 27 months.

Federal files were also dotted with huge debts to workers and pensioners dating back to police officers who participated over 50 years ago in the Biafra-Nigeria civil war. He ended up expending about N3 trillion on these debts. Secondly, were implementation of Treasury Single Account (TSA) and sundry applications, which aided the anti-graft war. Foundations were also laid in the development of vast and dynamic Internet-of-Things.

Why was the defraying of workers’ salary and pensioners’ debt Buhari’s top priority?

Thank you very much my dear. One recalled that in one such meeting, I proposed to the meeting that if N1 trillion of that amount was used to construct federal roads at N50 million per kilometre, that we would have instantly about 5,000 kilometres completed. Buhari then paused and asked me why and I preferred the publicity advantage to workers and pensioners’ plight.

I argued that construction of roads will accord more publicity premium to the young regime than expending such huge funds on public servants who are not up to 15% of our population? He countered by narrating the negative consequences of non-payment of salaries on not only workers but the pensioners. That the negative multiplier effect goes down to the shopkeeper, barbers, pharmacist, et al in the neighbourhood of those workers. He posed the question, how can you talk of anti-corruption when you don’t pay pensioners? Buhari’s pension compliance records are outstanding. If you are in doubt, please cross-check with PTAD and Pencom.

Buhari’s administration also implemented various policies and reforms in the agricultural sector, such as the Anchor Borrowers’ Program and the Green Alternative initiative. Do you think these had impacts on food security and rural development in Nigeria?

I was going to add the standard Western Corridor Rail Line, 2nd Niger Bridge, Loco/Owete Bridge and over 8,000 federal roads as the visible milestones before his huge investment in agriculture.

On your question, the truism is that Buhari invested more than any other federal government post 1970 on agriculture. I dubbed it Buhari’s Agrarian Revolution, notwithstanding that insecurity blurred it. Insecurity was the issue which hampered farmers’ production. He failed to act with immediate effect when the Herders/Clash erupted, it was a grave unforced error.

The Buhari administration had a strong focus on diversifying the economy away from oil dependency. However, with the state of the economy as handed over to President Bola Tinubu, in your own thinking, did the former President achieve his desired plan for the economy? Many think the government failed in the area of economy.

Economic development is a process and a continuum like every government. There was bad weather, as some of us he appointed didn’t share his vision. Unfortunately, he never applies Key Performance Index (KPI) to evaluate us. Suffice it to end on the truism that there are big pluses and minuses of the Buhari’s administration.

However, on infrastructure and agriculture; I can bet that President Bola Tinubu or whichever regime that comes in the next 50 years is bound to follow his pattern, in the bid to diversify our economy, whether you call it Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP) or Back to Land, it will be akin to the advert – glucose or glucode.

On the Green Imperative Project (GIP), it is a very patriotic project meant to mechanise forever our agriculture. For it’s proven that every kilometre in our 923, 000 square kilometres’ landscape is arable to one crop or livestock. The Brazil-Nigeria government to government GIP was halted when Chief Audu Ogbe was unceremoniously yanked off as the minister of agriculture.

The two ministers who succeeded Ogbe killed the tempo. One hopes President Tinubu accelerates the project which is its final relay; luckily, the officer in charge is still on seat waiting anxiously.

The €995m GIP project provides a veritable solution to food sufficiency and food export. Imagine what will happen when multiple modern farm implements, including ranch machines are installed under public private partnership, with service centres in 774 local government areas and 6 Area Councils of FCT, dotted with Agro-Processing Plants.

This is one of the solid foundations Buhari had laid for harvesting to feed ourselves and generate funds to defray our huge debts. The Russian-Ukrainian war has left a huge wheat grain void in the international market, beckoning for countries like Nigeria to fill.

Looking at the poverty rate in the country, which is put at over 133 million, how would you rate the various social intervention programs – the N-Power scheme and the Conditional Cash Transfer initiative?

My rating of the Social Investment Programme is above average. For it’s just a palliative and short term measure. It’s not medicine to cure all illness, as in any multi-dimensional poverty scenario, the healing or mitigation process differs from one strand of poverty to the other. I know for instance that when we submitted names for N10,000 each, some of the beneficiaries any time I am back in the village will troop to thank, whilst those who didn’t get, still bear grudges up to date. They always ask, when are people coming again, especially on the school feeding program.

All one can propose is that agriculture provides a veritable way out, plus hooking youths up to the good digital fin-tech works National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) has embarked upon.

Insecurity worsened in the South-East under the Buhari era, with unknown gunmen taking over the streets, what should the Tinubu government do differently?

Insecurity in the Southeast and albeit generally in Nigeria is regrettable and very unfortunate. Like every coin there are two sides to the coin. As I hinted earlier, it was an unforced error that our leader didn’t pounce with immediate effect when the Herders/Farmers’ clashes erupted. Methinks that could have erased ethnocentrism out of the imbroglio.

On the other hand, one keeps on advising my people and every Nigerian to gradually weed ourselves of the ethnic toga all of us wear. We are all tribalists in one way or the other, which is unfortunate. This is why when Buhari offered Ndigbo the Olive branch in 2003 and 2007, they wittingly or unwittingly rebuffed him. This was when he nominated Rt. Hons. Chuba Okadigbo and Edwin Umezoke, respectively, as his vice presidential candidates. This is the laurel President Tinubu graciously inherited.

Is that why he marginalised Ndigbo in his appointments?

Methinks he didn’t marginalise Ndigbo in physical and social infrastructure. For me I would prefer if President Tinubu embarks on infrastructural development in the Southeast more than on the so-called juicy appointments. To me the 2nd Niger Bridge, rehabilitation of federal roads, universities, dams, internet broadband penetration, Standard Eastern Corridor Railways, et al are more important than juicy appointments.

We are entrepreneurs and hard working people being hindered by infrastructural development. I beg the food-is-ready politicians to pardon me. Most of them are today hovering at Abuja, lobbying President Tinubu and his kitchen cabinet, even those who blackmailed APC with a campaign of calumny.

One appeals to Ndigbo to learn from the Japanese and Germans who after World War II, despite the bombardment of Nagasaki, Hiroshima, Berlin, etc, rested the matter and moved on with the Americans.

What has been the experience as the Director General of Voice Nigeria?

To be sincere, Voice of Nigeria (VON) is a new school of Nigeria for me. New school in the sense that I met some brilliant and passionate Nigerians who are ready to give their best, but are handicapped by inadequate funding by the system.

This funding handicap is as a result of the dynamic nature of broadcasting, bombarded by technological changes in the ever changing broadcasting industry.

VON took off in 1960 as the external department of Nigeria Broadcasting Corporation with Professor Chinua Achebe, an international icon of blessed memory, who was the first Director.

VON commenced broadcasting in the Short-Wave (SW) Modem Frequencies, capable of long range, reaching any location globally. The Shortwave has its advantages of freedom of news crossing both friends and enemies borders and the disadvantage that many countries use little or no Shortwave again.

With the dynamics of the broadcasting industry enhanced by digital broadcasting, the relevance of ShortWave comes under stiff competition.

We are in an era where the future of shortwave is threatened by the rise of power line communication, internet of things – website, YouTube, WhatsApp, Facebook and sorts of Broadband over Power Lines (BPL), which uses data streams transmitted over unshielded power lines.

My greatest challenge is to successfully install and run effective Visual Radio, which offers our audience audio and visual and still maintains our Shortwave Digital Radio Mondiale (DRM).

Written by:

44 Posts

View All Posts
Follow Me :

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *