Professor Gerald Ndubuisi Okeke press interview with Casmir Irekamba of HOTMEDIA in Abuja. During the interactive session, he bares his mind on his career, politics of imo state, youth & human capital development and sundry issues.
Question: Prof. Please could you tell us about yourself?
Answer: My name is Prof Okeke Gerald Ndubuisi, i am a Professor of Safety & Environment, I’m from Umulogho in Obowo LGA., the first child of Late Lazarus Okebalama & Ezinne Salome Okeke. My parents are both dead. I am married to Ambassador Dr Mrs Ngozi Gift Okeke and the marriage is blessed with four lovely and promising kids.
Question: Prof. what choice of career, you had as a growing child then?
Answer: I’m a trained Health, Safety & Environmental Specialist in the oil and gas industry, spanning over a period of 35 years. As a growing child, life was very tough, especially after the civil war. My father was busy fighting at Abagana sector while his children were dying daily sequel to malnutrition ( kwashiorkor).
I buried three of my siblings during the war. No bullet touched them, they died because of no food to eat. I was lucky to have survived the war. I used to watch my mother eat green leaves then, so, I had to join her to eat green leaves as a means of survival.
The civil war made me to understand the efficacy of green leaves.
I am feeling a bit cold as this interview is going on now. I am not going to say everything now, as I am planning a sequel to what transpired during the war period. The tittle is going to be – “The Nigerian Civil War: What I saw with a child’s eye”.
Watch out for this book. All the key actors and Generals have all given their own accounts of the civil war. But I am going to tell the world what I saw with a child’s eye. I am praying not to see such again in my lifetime. It was horrific and unpalatable.
Question: Prof. How did you find yourself in the oil and gas industry?
Answer: Going into the oil & gas industry was a blessing in disguise to me. The credit goes to my late uncle – Prince Mike Ogwudire , Late Chief C U Okeke and his Royal Highness- Eze Chris Adigo , who apparently gave me my first baptism of fire in safety at Shell Petroleum Development Company Ltd.
Eze Chris Adigo posted me to Forcados Terminal then as a Safety Officer . That was my first offshore experience. I am highly indebted to these honorable individuals mentioned above.
So far, i have attended close to 185 professional courses in the oil & gas industry, both at home and abroad.
Honestly speaking, I have made my marks on the sand of time for posterity to judge in the oil & gas industry.
I have held various positions up to the board of directors appointment by Miradolf oil & gas Refinery as Director of Services & HSE.
Question: Prof. how are you combining research as a professor and field work in the oil and gas industry?
Answer: My beloved Journalist, Casmir, i must confess that it has not been easy combining research works & oil field jobs. For me, i see it as a joyful trouble. I supervise students projects, and equally do my bit as an oil field worker.
At times, i murder my sleep so innocently, just to meet up with the pressures from the students and the oil field.
At times, i am inundated with calls from students and my Supervisors on the job at the same time. what gives me joy now is that i have taught a lot of students who are doing well in various oil & gas companies. Some of them are managers, Engineers, Safety & Environmental Specialists, etc.
Question: Prof, you recently declared to contest the november 2023 Imo governorship election, in what political party?
Answer: I never thought of delving into politics in my life, cause Nigerian politics is crocodile infested. I had to change my mind when the
Igbo Youth Assembly worldwide, relevant stakeholders and some reputable Imolites pulled me out to provide the right leadership and governance at this critical time, with firm belief in capacity, competence and character. My party is Labor Party.
I want to be Obidient and Yusuful to my state in particular and the country in general. The charisma exhibited by Peter Obi encouraged me to join politics. He is a man i respects so much.
Question: Prof. What informs your decision to join the governorship race in Imo State?
Answer: What informed my decision to join the race was the clarion call to me by Igbo Youth Assembly Worldwide and other relevant stakeholders and some good people of Imo State
Secondly, the maladministration in my dear state was another motivating factor. Since the death and exit of Dr Sam Onunaka Mbakwe, Imo state has been struggling administratively and politically. This is the time we need to have a paradgim shift. We need a breathe of fresh air, instead of recycling the old brand politicians.
Question: Prof. considering the power of incumbency, what gives you the courage that you will defeat the ruling government in the state, if you become the flag bearer of your party?
Answer: As i said earlier, the maladministration in Imo State as of today is nothing to right home about. Imo citizens and residents deserve the best. I have confidence that i will win the incumbent governor because I’m the choice of the youth and Imolites.
Imo State is in dire need of competent and responsible governance. Defeating an incumbent governor has happened before in Imo State, where Rochas Okorocha of APGA defeated, Ikedi Ohakim of PDP. I foresee such scenario repeating itself, where Labour Party Candidate will defeat the state ruling party, APC.
Question: Prof. There have been a clamour from owerri zone (Imo East Senatorial Zone to produce the next governor of the state, which zone are you from?
Answer: You are correct by saying that the clamour for Owerri zone to produce the next Governor of Imo state is at its crescendo. I am from Okigwe Senatorial Zone.
Okigwe too deserve to have a bite of the cherry. Ikedi Ohakim was just one term Governor from Okigwe zone, as such, Okigwe zone needs to complete their term.
Orlu zone has had the lion share of Douglas house, so it would be good to have Okigwe or Owerri zone for the sake of justice,equity and fairness. If you watch all the gubernatorial aspirants for the race are from Owerri zone, while I am the only one or two of us from Okigwe Senatorial Zone.
Question: Prof. What is your vision and ideal leadership for the state?
Answer: My vision and mission is to see the lost glory of Imo state restored with pride and dignity.
To take Imo to the next level, economically, politically and security wise is one of main reasons of throwing my hat into the ring.
I’m the ideal person to govern Imo state. I am not a political demagogue and does not intend to be one.
Look at my antecedents in the oil & gas industry and make a deduction by yourself. Someone with double Post graduate degrees, two Master’s degrees, two Doctorate degrees, and to cap it all, a Professor of Safety and Environment. Casmir, don’t you think that someone with these qualifications should be good enough to govern Imo State?
Question: Prof. If you emerged as the Governor of Imo State, how do you intend to tackle insecurity that has bedeviled the state?
Answer: My brother, if I emerge as the governor of Imo State, security challenges shall be tackled frontally and holistically, by applying both kinetic and non-kinetic approach.
What breeds insecurity is poverty, joblessness and hunger. When you create jobs and employment opportunities, insecurity shall vanish.
The army of unemployed graduates roaming in the streets shall be gainfully employed.
The youths are used for political instability and snatching of ballot boxes because they are idle and hungry. Like the saying goes, a hungry man is a workshop or a tool for the devil to use.
In summation, provide jobs, create the enabling Environment, insecurity shall vanish into the thin air.
Prof Gerald Ndubuisi Okeke And Wife, Dr Mrs Okeke.
Question: Prof. you Seems prepared for the tasks ahead, but what are your fears and challenges in the electoral process?
Answer: My electoral fears are that the umpires are not living up to expectations. INEC has created a lot of doubts in the minds of average Nigerians, especially, using the last presidential election of 25th February as a case study. The other fear i have are the political money bags.
They have the cash to buy their way through. The political elites have weaponized poverty to the extent that a hungry Nigerian would jump at ordinary 5k and mortgage the future of himself and his children and even generations unborn.
Question: Prof. as an academia, researcher and technocrat in oil and gas sector, what styles are you bringing into Imo politics?
Answer: As a technocrat in the oil & gas industry, and an academic egghead, i shall bring a different style to the administration of my dear state. It shall be hinged on key elements of transparency, accountability, probity and selflessness.
Government should not be ran like a personal fiefdom or personal property. You have to be accountable to the people that voted you into power.
I shall encourage and revive the spirit of having town hall meetings, where our people can vent out their challenges, frustrations, problems and other things. I shall run a government of open door policy.
I shall harvest and engage the best brains we have in Imo state to help in pushing the state forward.
I shall encourage agriculture and even create a Special fund to assist peasant farmers in Imo state. Small scale Enterprises ( SME) shall be encouraged and assisted with soft loans to run their enterprises .
I shall turn Imo into an Industrial hub. People shall come from all parts of the country and Africa to invest in Imo state.
The lost glory of Imo shall come back again. Imo shall rise again and all doxologies shall go to the Almighty GOD. Dee Sam Mbakwe ga eme ozo in Imo state, if I am given the opportunity.