Sir Stanley Amuchie is one of the high-profile contenders in the October 2nd APGA governorship ticket in Imo State. He featured in Correspondents’ Chapel of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Imo State Council public accountability programme tagged Face2Face last weekend in Owerri where he amongst other things denied being sponsored by Governor Rochas Okorocha as his second option after endorsing his son in-law, Uche Nwosu as APC candidate ahead of 2019 governorship election in the state. Damian Duruiheiheoma, was there.
May we meet you and know what’s driving your ambition to become the next governor of Imo State?
My name is Sir Stanley Amuchie from Uvuru in Aboh Mbaise Local Government Area of Imo State. I’ve lived here all my life like every other person. I started my primary school in Imo State here in Uvuru Mbaise and also my secondary school. I left secondary school in 1987 and got admission to the University of Benin in 1989 to study Industrial Chemistry. I left UNIBEN between 1993 and 94, coming out with a first class in Industrial Chemistry. After that, I served as a youth corps member in Benue Cement Company in Gboko where I was in the Quality Control Department of the company up to 1995. After my service year, I got an invite by a company called Arthur Andersen (now KPMG Professional Services). Anderson was into accounting and consulting. So, I got a job there in September 1995. While there, my job schedule changed and I had to focus on accounting. I also had to enroll to write a qualifying exam as an accountant. I qualified as a chartered accountant in 2000. I got a job in Zenith Bank from that year and continued till sometime this year when I had to step aside to run for the governorship position of Imo State.
So, while in Zenith Bank, I entered as a senior banking officer and by God’s grace rose steadily to become the chief financial officer of the bank. I would say this without being immodest, I’ve been very much in most of the strategy because I was heading the financial control and strategic planning of the bank. I joined the bank when it was a limited liability company. I was part of those who took the bank to Nigeria Stock Exchange in 2004. I was also part of those who brought the idea and participated effectively in enlisting the bank in London Stock Exchange. I was also part of listing of the bank in The Ireland Stock Exchange. I was involved in the setting up of the bank outside Nigeria like we have in London, Ghana, The Gambia, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Beijing in China and also in Dubai. So, all these locations, we’ve been part of that and we’ve seen the bank grow from a bank that started with N20 million in 1990 to the level of over N5 trillion in total assets today. I’ve been particularly contributing to that and effectively working as a chief financial officer. That shows the level of knowledge and the level of training I’ve got over these years.
Aside all these, which I’ve done as a professional, I’ve also been involved in community service. I’m part of my community association (Uvuru Town Union) in Lagos. I’m also part of the state association in Lagos, The Imo State Development Union, Lagos where I’m unarguably one of the youngest trustees of the union. I’ve been the grand patron of the association for many years. So, I participate in those kinds of activities at home and in Lagos.
Aside that too, I have a foundation in the state called the Goodlight Foundation and with the foundation, we’ve been able to do a few things within the state, talking about hospital intervention where we pay hospital bills for the needy especially, retired people. We’ve also been able to pay hospital bills for those who have been in hospitals for months without being able to get themselves out of hospital.
In terms of security, we’ve been able to build one of the most modern police divisions in Mbaise which has been upgraded to an area command today. That police division was built with the state-of-the-art equipment, communication equipment, computers, vehicles and generating sets.
We’ve also built houses for widows in the state and the needy who were living in a very bad condition. We’ve also helped to secure jobs for our youths where we have the connections and ability to do that. As at today, we’ve able to secure over 300 jobs for Imo youths who are qualified. All these we’ve done on a personal level.
While I was doing all these, there was this urge that if I have a wider opportunity and larger platform, we can do more for our people and Imo people at large. Therefore, notwithstanding the seeming comfort of my job, I felt I needed to do more that I needed to take the risk and make the sacrifice which I considered not too big for Imo people at this time to be part of what’s happening in Imo and salvage this state from the kind of situation we found our state.
Our state has become a state that is being ridiculed all over Nigeria and anywhere you go today, when you talk about Imo State, the kind of information you get is not anything one can be proud of. We come from this state and grew up here. We know that this state is known for its educational prowess. This state was known to be clean, especially Owerri the state capital being the cleanest in Nigeria at some point. But that’s no longer what it is today. The infrastructural set up of this state is in very poor situation. And can we just sit down in our comfort jobs in Lagos and Abuja and watch things decay to this level? I think the best thing to do in a situation like this is to come out, fold our sleeves and become part of what is going on and that’s what I’ve done. I’ve done it because I’m committed and feel the urge to serve our people. Not just because one wants to be the governor of this state but because I believe we have something to add.
Now, let me also say this. At this time, our state is in a very bad financial situation. We’ve heard about the debts of the state and the state not being able to pay salaries. Also, while pensioners are being owed, we don’t have good roads here. Therefore, this is the time we require somebody, not just anybody, but somebody that has different skills on financial management. Financial management of resources will be very critical at this time. Most people will probably get an opportunity to govern this state but because of lack of knowledge and how to understand and manage the finances of the state, it will be a problem for that kind of person. But having been working for 23 years about financial management and strategic planning, we should be able to solve the puzzle that besiege Imo State, which is we should be able to restructure the financial status of the state, bring up some cash flow to be able to do some jobs because the debt in question, we will have to pay, but we will have to do some works, do roads and other infrastructure in the state. Therefore, those are the skills I believe I’ve gotten over the years by God’s grace which I hope to bring to bear in the governance of our state.
Aside that, I’m coming with the fear of God which I believe is very important today in our state. I’m someone that is very much involved in religious related activities and things of God and I believe as Christians, we need people who have the fear of God to take the position of authority and governance in our state and I present myself to serve. I’m not coming for personal gains. I know it’s a very tortuous process because most people have asked me why do you want to go into an uncharted path, a destination that is not known and my answer to that is that there is no risk that is too much to take for the survival of our state. For me, I’m ready and prepared to take any risk for the survival of our state. Therefore, if it’s God’s will that I’ll be able to get the ticket of my party, the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), I’ll talk to the people of Imo and tell them my story and what we intend to do for them. I believe this state will be better for it if the people who have the interest of the state at heart can ascend the position of leadership in government.
If we have the opportunity, our government will be anchored on three pillars– agriculture, industrialisation and healthcare. This will form the three pillars of the kind of government we want to run. These pillars will have enablers of things we believe that will help us achieve that. When we talk about agriculture, industrialisation and healthcare, the enablers will be things like security, education. You talk about industrialisation, we have to ensure that our educational sector is functional enough to give us the manpower we need in our industrialisation. We will revisit our educational system from the normal education to the technical education. If you notice today if you are building a house, things like plumbing and electrical works are major issues today. If you build a house, you will notice that most of the pipes will be licking all over the whole place. You’ll notice that we don’t have qualified people. In those days when we used to have technical education, people were trained on plumbing works. Those who are trained are making comfortable living. We can make that an area we can look at to boost our industries. We have to create enabling environment for industries to thrive. Government will not be in the business of setting up industries but we create enabling environment. Imo State has no industrial park and that’s something I think is long overdue for us as a state where people will make available good network of roads, infrastructure and all that so that people who have ideas can come to that place and set up industries. Security is very important too because when we put all that together, we will be able to offer Imo people quality service that will stand the test of time. I’m very open to new ideas. I’m coming with all sense of decency and if given the opportunity, Imo people will be better for it.
Your coming into politics, to many in the state, is late. Why did you leave it late before coming into politics?
That’s not correct. I’ve been in the vanguard of enthroning quality leadership in the state even while working in the bank. I’ve been very much involved to ensure that Imo gets the best out of leadership. That I’ve done over the years and coming into politics now is an idea I thought over the years. I started the process with being a member of a political party like APGA. I’ve also been involved in supporting APGA at different levels in the state, in my ward, my LGA, Aboh Mbaise, Owerri zone and other senatorial zones and at the state level. I’ve been involved in mobilising members for the party in great deal. You may not have been seeing me but I’m involved.
Judging from what you’ve done in the banking sector, how would you improve the revenue base of the state if eventually you emerge the next governor?
There are different levels of looking at the resources of the state. One of the major revenue bases of the state is the federal allocation. Everybody knows that’s one line that’s very salient. Today, oil price is reasonably stable. But it cannot continue like that for a very long time. Different parts of the world today that buy the oil from us are engaging in improvement in technology, while there are many countries like the United States selling oil to other nations too.
One area I see that Imo is lagging behind is the area of internally generated revenue. The average per capita IGR of other states in Nigeria is N3,000 but Imo is around N1000. I believe clearly that it’s not out of place that Imo is the worst amongst the states in south east. The issue is that I suspect that a lot of internally generated revenue go into private pockets, if not with what is available in the state, Imo is supposed to be topping the chart of states with high IGR. So, as an accountant and with the experience that I’ve had, the first thing I’ll do is to look at the channels that the IGR is going to. We’ll like to ensure the use of automated process.
The next level will be how do we create the enabling environment for businesses and companies to operate. We must make our environment very accommodating and conducive for industries to grow here. That is the best way to get the companies to fulfil their own obligation of paying taxes. That is what Lagos state is doing. If you recall, about 12 years ago, the federal government seized the allocation of Lagos State and the state continued to run optimally without federal allocation because all the people that live in Lagos, pay their personal income tax in Lagos. That is the kind of economy we want to recreate in Imo State.
There are rumours that you’re one of the major persons being sponsored by Governor Rochas Okorocha to succeed him. How true is this?
Well, I think it’s good that you raised this issue and I think this is a very good opportunity for me respond to it. Now, I’ll say it here before God and man, I’ve never had any contact with the governor or the government of Imo State under this administration. So, the issue that he’s the one sponsoring me in APGA is all politics. It’s propaganda and a smear campaign because when I came into this race most people got jittery about my personality and profile. They are afraid because my kind of person is what the people of Imo State need now to revive the state, hence their attempt to paint me black before Imo people by linking me to Governor Okorocha. I can assure you that if not because of my pictures that have been exposed on billboards and in the media, Governor Okorocha may not recognise me when he sees me because we haven’t met before. And whoever has seen me with him or heard me have meeting with him can come out with information about that. But those are all lies from some of the people in my party.
I’m in this race based on my own personal conviction. So, nobody brought me out. Moreover, the governor has made it clear who he wants. He’s told everyone who cares to listen that he wants his son-in-law notwithstanding stepping on anybody who has been his friend in the past. We all know he has people who have been with him for about 25 years who he ordinarily trusts to hand over power. How can he hand over to a person he doesn’t know? So, those are politics and I believe they come internally from the party and those who are desirous of smearing my image to get the APGA ticket. But one thing I’ll never do as a person is coming out to castigate any individual. What I will tell Imo people is what I’ll do for them. I’ll never disrespect any of the aspirants, nor will I come around lying about what they’ve done and what they’ve not done. Imo people should look out for people who are coming with a proposal or policy to address the various challenges facing our state and forget about who somebody is sponsoring or not. I emphasise that nobody is sponsoring me in this race.
With the number of governorship aspirants in APGA in Imo State and with several of them being political gladiators, how do you intend to overcome these people and pick the APGA ticket?
I’ll say I’m a very optimistic person and I’m filled with the spirit of optimism. I’ve done my ground work and also doing it. I’m pushing hard. With the work I’ve done and God being on our side, we’ll get the ticket of APGA and fly into government house after next year’s election. So, I’ll say my chances are very clear and high. I believe APGA in Imo State is very poised to choose the right candidate to fly the party’s flag and Imo people will accept that person in 2019 election. I know with experience the people of Imo State have today, they will not want to have the kind of people that put them in suffering for eight years. They will want to have a very clear departure from the past. That’s my happiness. We’re also reaching out to the delegates and all the structures of the party and I believe with what we’ve done, we have a very great chance of picking the ticket of the party.
In Imo State today, there is what is known as free education, if by God’s grace you emerge the governor of the state, would you continue the free education programme of this current administration?
What I really don’t understand is the type of free education we have in Imo State. When people say free education, it depends on how you look at it. Nothing is really free. When you talk of free education, what it really means is that government has a budget to handle education. But with what I’m seeing here, teachers and civil servants had to pay for the free education. In the real sense of it, you have to pay the teachers, provide the facilities to make the education very qualitative. So, for me, my own idea of free education is that you have to budget for it and ensure qualitative education by bringing quality teachers. I’ll not like this situation when you come to my village, you see pupils in a school without teachers to teach them.
So, for me, we must start from the primary education to improve the quality of teachers we have, the environment and the school curriculum up to secondary school. What is happening currently, I don’t think, in my own estimation, is the best for the state.
What’s your plan for healthcare delivery?
All of us are from Imo or we live in Imo. You know better than I do that there is no healthcare delivery system in Imo State. What I see are houses built in all the 27 local government areas of the state, overgrown by weeds.
I believe that we don’t have to have those kind of buildings before we have hospitals. What we need is quality places in our villages where people who have malaria can come and get quality treatment and all that. Buildings do not represent hospitals. Other parts of the world, it’s not every doctor that will go and build hospital. Some doctors need only offices to attend to people with minor ailments. If you have to do operation, you are referred to a hospital where you can have it done seamlessly. Those are the kinds of plans we have for healthcare.
“What I really don’t understand is the type of free education we have in Imo State. When people say free education, it depends on how you look at it. Nothing is really free. When you talk of free education, what it really means is that government has a budget to handle education”.