Dr Jelius Kpaduwa, is a governorship aspirant in Imo State under the People’s Democratic Party, PDP. In this exclusive interview with Kennedy Dimaku, he points out his plans to change the predicament of the indigent people of the state. The physician says his second journey is to take over the helm of affairs from the incumbent governor, Rochas Okorocha. Excerpt:
What really motivated you to avail yourself to contest for governorship of Imo State?
Quite frankly, I am running for the governorship of Imo State. As you are aware, I have done this in 2002 when I came for the same project. I was shot and I had to abandon the project because I was flown to United States of America for treatment. For two years I was incapacitated, but I am very well now. I am fully recovered.
In 2000, my wife and I started free medical mission in Imo State. That was what gave me the motivation to run for the governorship of Imo State because I found out that there is lack of medical care. Even where there are some medical facilities, people do not have the fund to access that meager medical attention that is within the state.
I felt that the problem of the state can be solved within the state level. That is a governor who has international connections, who has sincerity of purpose, who take as priority the common wellbeing of the people of Imo State to develop the state: bring in industries, create jobs, build and equip better medical facilities, and create avenue to access the medical facilities and create a different place for our people to live. That is what motivated me into the race.
Do you consider it appropriate to come out to run for governorship at this point in time considering that you have an incumbent governor who the people seem to have adjudged to be performing vis-a-vis the free education he is running in the state?
Incidentally, the incumbent does not come from my party, the Peoples Democracy Party, PDP. I am contesting under the platform of PDP. As far as we are concerned, we do not have a governor. And the present governor who is from All Progressive Congress, APC has really not performed. The area you made mentions, the free education is a sham… (Cuts in)
How do you mean?
The students are paying a significant portion of what he is telling the world that the state is paying for. They buy forms with some amount of money, and then he gives them a little bit of the money. So, it is not really free. And then, that gimmick has also reduced the number of Imo State citizens who can attend Imo State Schools, universities because what he has done is that, he has created the free education to thirty percent of Imo indigenes. The rest seventy percent is now open at a higher fee to everybody no matter where you come from. It does not matter whether you are from the state or out of the state. So he has reduced the number of Imo indigenes who are given the opportunity to study in our own institution. I think it is a tragedy.
Besides, the quality of education has fallen. Imo State used to score very high in external examinations, like the JAMB and all the rest, now we are ranking very low in those exams. That means the quality has been affected.
What Imo needs is high and quality education, and, at the least cost. That is what we have planned for the state when we get there.
Do you take cognizance of the fact that in the recent time, Nigerians tend to vote for the credibility and performance of an individual rather than the party? Do you have what it takes to defeat Rochas Okorocha as an incumbent governor?
When you look at my background and profile, a professional in medicine who has that ethics that will guide me; I should tell the people the truth. If you look at my international connections which he does not have. If the Imo people are given these two choices, they are very smart to know which one to choose.
It is one thing for somebody to have good credentials, another thing for the credentials and quality to be known to the people. How rooted are you at the grassroots?
Yes, I am. For the last fourteen years, my wife and I have been giving medical care to the three senatorial zones in the state. We have given out a lot of free medical services; we brought physicians from United States on a yearly basis for the past fourteen years. We were not doing it in the cities; we were doing it in the rural areas where the care is much needed. That has really given us the credibility. If you mention my name in Isiala Mbano for instance, they would tell you about me, they will tell you all the good work that I have been doing. It is also the same in all the three senatorial zones in Imo State.
Which aspects of your medication have touched peoples’ lives?
We touch the lives of the people in every aspect: eye surgery, gynecology, obstetrics, and general surgery, in all sphere of medicine. In our medical mission, we had a lot of operations, we brought the eye surgeons, and they took care of all kinds of eye medication. They did cataract surgery; there is nothing that we did not do. We did that in all over the state not just a particular zone.
As a medical expert, does it bother you that Nigeria loses huge sum of money to other countries in the name of medical tourism? People can today run to other countries for treatment of ordinary head ache?
O yes! Absolutely, and that is one of the things we want to correct. When we take over the governorship of Imo State, the state will become the medical capital of Nigeria. That tourism that people go to England, India, and other places to look for, they will be coming to Imo State for it, because we will make sure we have adequate facility that will deliver the same quality care that they would get anywhere else in the world. That will really be one of the hallmarks of achievements of our administration in the state.
How do you intend to achieve it in a country that is averse to indigenous goods and services?
What we will do is to bring the medical facilities to Imo State. We bring the physician from all over, and then we deliver quality care, in no time, people would know that if they are affected by any kind of ailment, that Imo State is where they need to go, instead of going to India. And that would boast the economy of the state. We are prepared to do that.
We had a meeting with the minister of finance who was trying to get to us to build hospitals. We have done the feasibility studies, we have done every, and have mapped out how exactly we are to go. What we do not have is the funding; bring in a governor with the capabilities of the office of the governor who will look for that funding and we will do it.
What will be the mode of the venture?
It will not be a government venture. It is going to be a privately operated venture with the highest standard of professionalism and ethics. Off course, we will make sure our indigenes through a foundation will be able to access the medical center. We will pay for them to go to the center whereas other people coming from other parts of Nigeria will pay for the services. And that will keep the hospital going.
Have you considered zoning and the impact it may have on your ambition?
If it comes to zoning, Okigwe zone has a clear case that zoning should be respected and Okigwe to complete its eight years. When it comes to a question of zoning, you cannot snatched a significance portion of Okigwe’s portion in the governorship of Imo State, and then mention zoning as one of the reasons while it should go to another section. If you are going to respect or enthrone zoning, then be equitable about it. If a particular zone has gone eight years, then every other zone, since is based on zoning, should go eight years. Okigwe has done four years, so, for another zone to come and claim that it is their turn, Okigwe has to complete another four years.
In Okigwe Zone, there are other political big weights who are also jostling for the same position, how do you intend to get their support?
That is really a job for Okigwe leaders of thought. If they can come together and have Okigwe speak with one voice and take their most credible candidate, and present same to the rest of Imo. If that does not happen, then we will all fight for it within the political arena. I know we have some political heavy weights but we also have a lot of packages and they do not have much to offer, so we present that fact to Imo people for them to make a decision on who they want.