The youths of this country recently won the battle for the actualization of the reality that youths are the future of a nations who should be allowed to contribute their quota in the governance of a country with the recent signing into law of the “Not Too Young To Run” bill. Chukwumah Phillip Ugbomah, is one young, vibrant professional of the civil engineering field who has cut his teeth not only in politics but also in philanthropy. Now aspiring to represent Ndokwa East believes that the reawakening of the social consciousness of the youths to the dynamic challenges of the time is a step that will totally repudiate any attempt to fall for the manipulative devices of sit-tight leaders.
In this interview, he bares his mind on vote selling and its impact on the country’s democracy, the role of youths in politics, his assessment of the quality of representation Ndokwa East has enjoyed over the years, how best to tackle youth unemployment and unrest, partisan constituency empowerment and sundry issues.
The 2019 election is around the corner, people are gearing up for one position or the other and from what I have read in your profile, you are preparing too. So I want to find out what is your interest in politics given the intrigues and all that?
Yea, thank you very much. First and foremost, all humans are said to be politically inclined as it affects our day to day lives, even in our immediate families. But particularly for my interest to represent the people of Ndokwa East Constituency in Delta State; I see it as an opportunity for one to make a stake, having been conversant with the challenges and issues that befall us. Personally, I have walked through the 22 clans that make up Ndokwa East and I am abreast with the challenges and have come to terms that I have the credibility to immediately solve the major problems. I know that there is no day a human will be on this planet without challenges but as it concerns my people, we have needs, infrastructural needs more than every other community as it concerns local government in the country and being advantaged as a civil engineer, who has worked within the localities doing different projects, I have seen that what we need now is not just someone who will appropriate bills and make laws, but someone who will at least have direct contact with the people and 80 per cent connection with other communities and local governments. So that is why I see myself in the best position to aspire for such position.
From your profile, you are a philanthropist as well as a politician. We want to know, in what capacity do you think you would serve the people well? As a philanthropist or a politician?
Well, both of them go hand in hand, we have to understand that giving back to the society is not only human but it is a spiritual obligation to those of us that believe in Christ and His ethics on earth. I have always seen reasons why no one should be deprived of getting the first basic education. Secondly, people shouldn’t be hungry while the rich and those of us who are advantaged go about wasting resources. So giving back to the society is just one of the little things we do that could bring us closer to God. Also, as a leader or as someone brought into political premises to represent the people, you must see yourself first as a servant and secondly, someone people look up to. Hence, some group of persons would entrust their decisions, their plights through you to the executives or to the powers that be, therefore you must be someone that have two mindsets; first of giving back and second, of service. I would carry both of them along as major priorities.
What are your views on vote selling as a major factor in determining the outcome of elections especially in our clime? How would you surmount that?
First of all, I would say there is a paradigm shift in information. Our people are more aware that the times where some men would just sit back as political gods and leaders and appoint a political son that would be a tool for squandering our resources are over. Money has failed in politics, our people are now aware that what we need now is not just young persons or educated persons but individuals that have first distinguished themselves in their own area, in their own private businesses, in their own employment circle and what they have stood for; we have already started a movement that is sweeping over the polity as it concerns Ndokwa East where young professionals, like minds both the middle aged and the old who are already frustrated with the system can have hope again and I can assure you that with what we are doing and the results we’ve gotten as responses from our people, we must do this rightly this time and put the right pegs in the right holes. We must first of all, clinch the primaries because there is an SoS kind of need in our local government that we must as a people meet up with other local government areas when it comes to infrastructural demands and needs.
Are you saying that it is still possible to attain political positions without inducing the electorates, given the mindset of our people? How do you think you can actually enlighten our youths resist the temptation and to know that that it is not the way to go?
Well, first my candidacy is a very peculiar one, I am amongst the people. I am predominantly a village boy; I have lived with them, particularly not just Aboh but all over Ndokwa East either in schooling or in practice and before now, there has been a lot of ideas about various programmes like skill acquisitions, football competitions. We’ve done consultations and there is this uniform decision of let’s do things differently this time. Like we saw in the last election, people could take your money and still vote their conscience; the human conscience is the last thing that we go to sleep with. So we are not going to believe that we will keep doing the same old things and expect new results. Our team is working in tandem with other groups all over the local government areas to ensure that whoever is voted into office would stand the podium and defend his or her direction, to how the people would be led because, we are tired of political manifestos that are not individualistic but we are very sure that the old sequence would be changed.
Now talking about the youths, we know that the role youths play in politics is very important. Perhaps that explains the success they have so far achieved as exemplified by the signing into law of the ‘Not Too Young to Run’ bill. From your perspective, do you think that the youths of this country are prepared for leadership positions or would rather remain as willing tools for running shows for politicians?
Being a youth mobiliser and leader, having been a tool for political mobilisation, we are tired of the modus vivendi as it concerns our participation in politics. Particularly in my local government, I wouldn’t say that the youths have not been given opportunities to rule because we’ve had a reasonable number of persons in government, but the thing is that you must prepare yourself before leadership positions will be given to you and if one is not prepared and you just go with the banner of ‘Not Too Young to Rule,’ you will make a mess of yourself and the whole essence would have been defeated. There is a section of the youths, those who have prepared themselves from childhood and have championed a cause of the establishment for youths to be assume their pride of place in governance, I don’t think there will be any need for thuggery, we are all enlightened people, we are all growing families. This time, we are all adults, young people that have families, thuggery is not necessary, we don’t see ourselves going to carry ballot boxes, there are no ballot papers to steal, what we can carry now is our intellect, we go to battles with our intellects. Luckily for us, Ndokwa East is a constituency with about 85 per cent of educationally inclined people. The leaders are hungry, the youths are hungry, the people are hungry, the church is clamouring for a shift in the norms. So I know that we are ready to be in leadership positions, not to be used as violent tools or agents that would disrupt the entire process.
Now talking about representation, ideally, people get into positions to represent the people and not only to represent the people, but to represent constituencies, to make sure their constituencies are not left out in the scheme of things. We want to find out, how would you assess those who have represented the Ndokwa East Constituency in the House of Assembly and what difference you think you can make?
In my usual way of answering this question, if we go down in history, the trunk of former Abor Division where we had Louis Ijeoma, he was a House of Assembly member in Bendel State and he rose to the position of Speaker, he was explicit, eloquent, a man filled with vigour. He did so well and his efforts are the genesis of what the Ndokwa nation has enjoyed today. Coming down to 1999 when Dr. Olise Emegwu was elected, he contributed according to his capacity and the evidences can be seen as he was able to draw the attention of the executive to our locality and the number of credible bills sponsored that were passed in the House before our present Deputy Speaker, Osanebi; to me, he has done so well because what a man has, he gives. As a young incoming politician I believe the reason why there is supremacy in life and the reason why ideas are brought before the House is that the best ideas should be adopted. Indeed they have done well, but I think it is now time to build on the progresses recorded but we must as a matter of importance change the narratives. What we are going to do differently is that we will not impoverish our people just to give them bags of rice and out of 50, 000 community men and women, call out 10 persons and buy them old fairly used cars to cajole them that you have done so much. We are going to run a section where everyone ready to work amongst the Ndokwa East youths will be brought on board. We will use what they have; whether craftsmanship or intellects because, it’s not just to acquire a certificate; certificates don’t put food on your table but expertise does and that is what we call handiwork. I used to say that the certificate we acquire from the universities are just licenses for us to knock on doors but when the doors are opened, you must show the people why they should think of you as a qualified person. So we are going to encourage Ndokwa East youths that manna don’t fall again and there are no free meals in Freetown, you must labour. Though the previous ones have done their best but when our manifestos have been read over and over again and brought to the limelight, you will see the difference from the status quo.
To you, what is the ideal way to represent your people?
Yea, let me put it in just three contexts. One, the traditional way as a legislator, you appropriate bills, make laws to govern your people and bring credence to them. Secondly, you must have the ears of your people, you must be someone that is accessible, you must be a modern vessel to carry the burdens, complaints, agitations, accomplishments (because there are times that praises will be sent via you) to the House. Thirdly, as a professional, a civil engineer, a builder, a creator, what I do for a living is to transform dirty environments, inhabitable environments to environments where people can live. We are therefore going to recreate, orientate the mindsets of the people because when you educate a child, (a child in this context is the people), and you will have easy access to how governmental policies can be transmitted. I give kudos to programmes anchored by our SMART Governor as it has a lot to do with agriculture. 90 per cent of my people are farmers and our people need to know that these programmes are for our benefits. So we will run participatory governance by always going back for constituency briefings at least fortnightly because, it is not always the best that it is only when we want to go for election that we do meetings and call leaders. There are complains about the means of transporting food stuffs to the market. We are already making contacts for three major industries to start off at Aboh based on their needs for industrial development; we will harness the IPP gas turbine plant for constant electricity as it has been. Now, that can serve about 20 per cent of our employment needs for those of us that have gone to school and there are no jobs. We will constantly go to the state to ask for help and say this is what it will cost the state, if you can’t give us in one sequence you can break it down; take it in three phases and before you know it, all the problems will be solved because all the time we have done consultations, nobody has said we are hungry because we can’t farm, they tell me, in fact we are strong persons and we came from this meeting from our farms but the problem is after this labour, there is no road for us to convey our farm produce. Furthermore, we must convince our people that we must not remain domestic farmers only; we could mechanise our farming systems. We will keep crying to the governor upon his return for second tenure, (I believe he will return) that Ndokwa East Local Government Area needs improvements, especially good roads to facilitate transportation of farm produce. I will be a bridge whereby those that are disadvantaged will have what I had; we are not just in position to enrich ourselves or to execute constituency projects (those are normal traditions that come with the office and things expected of a leader to do); rather we want to create more avenues to reach out to the people.
Tell us how you want to solve the youth unemployment and unrest in Ndokwa East.
Basically what we find out within our circle is that the political elites, those in power subject our people to quota system. It may interest you to know also that there are a lot of oil multinationals within our land, like the few that just began oil well search and our people were not employed. We will work to get our youths employed in those multinational schemes because, we are advantaged to be an oil producing local government area and there are various multinationals that would take at least 50 per cent of our unemployed youths. The other way is, I believe in craftsmanship as an entrepreneur and employer of labour, whether you have a degree in Sociology, Law or whatever course, you must have a handiwork; that’s why we are creating programmes for skill acquisition already, even before being elected because the man that is best employed is the man that is working for himself not waiting for a payroll; when you are self employed, your ideas are not limited to a man’s focus or company policy. As our population increases, the need for the services of technical skills become paramount. Our young ladies must also not see themselves as tools for procreation and go into early marriage without any trade. Basically, we have plans to draft our people into groups and give out micro loans. I believe in doing things differently and that is why when I tell people that CPU Constructions Ltd is over eleven years old, they ask how old am I? Truth is I have never been employed rather I am an employer; that is because I have been able to eschew opportunities around me. It’s a popular saying that most Ndokwa East people are engineers because we thought that multinationals like AGIP and its like would employ us; but now, those openings are not there because external influences and some political leaders have sold up these chances to make immediate money to the detriment of our people, we must make a stake if we actually want to go in the new direction. The way forward is to train our people and those who come to exploit our land should give us fair opportunities in capacities that we can handle and we must also have expatriate involvements in order to know what we must do. If all these are put together, the unemployment rate would be reduced. Nevertheless, there are some who are too lazy to work and as the bible says, a man who cannot provide for his family is worst than an infidel. So if a man would not work, he must not eat.
How well do you think partisan constituency empowerment affect the people’s growth?
Partisan constituency empowerment like you said is on the high trend and it is disturbing, but after the election comes the time to lead but be you PDP, APC, DPP etc, the people are the constituents. As an Aboh man, we see ourselves as one. There is a monetary grant which the youths lay claim to from DESOPADEC that is in circulation among the clan presidents, they call it ‘Operation Feed your Neighbour’ stipends, I have always been of the opinion that this is just mockery, this is a means of impoverishing the people and giving them a certain sum of money just so that they can sing your praises. In our time, we wouldn’t have any Ndokwa East youth running behind us because we want to give them stipends; rather we will provide soft loans to stir him up to pursue his ambitions. As a people we would not accept baggage because when you bring your baggage and we don’t accept it, you take them back. As one of the people from the people within the people and for the people, I will be the right hurdle to reject, to rebuke that man or woman that will come to cajole us or put us into communal crises because of his personal gains. That is why the people need this young energetic engineer to fight when it’s necessary, go into intellectual contests when necessary, make laws when its necessary, cry when its needed for our collective challenges to be solved as a matter of urgency.