One of Africa’s foremost internationally acclaimed governance and development experts, Barr. Tagbo Agbazue reiterates the importance of re-electing the incumbent Governor of Imo state, Distinguished Senator Hope Uzodinma, during the forthcoming gubernatorial polls of 11 November 2023.
According to Barr. Agbazue, Governor Hope Uzodinma is arguably one of the most notable Igbo leaders of South-East decent within the national ruling party, the APC. Also, Governor Hope Uzodinma has a great working relationship with the newly elected President of Nigeria, HE President Bola Tinubu, as well as members of the Federal Executive Council and the leadership of the various party structures of the APC. In the words of Barr. Agbazue: “The re-election of Governor Hope Uzodinma is of strategic importance to the continued socio-economic development of Imo State and indeed the cause of ndi Igbo.”
Barr. Agbazue maintains that: “at the moment, ndi Igbo have been marginalized at the national level due to the political situation wherein the political inclination of ndi Igbo have been fragmented as evidenced by having Governors from four different political parties governing the five states of the South-East, with only two out of the five states, including Imo State, being run by APC that is the ruling party”.
According to Barr. Agbazue: “We need to start strengthening the voice of ndi Igbo at a national level. This means that when we take stock of where we are at the moment, we ought to support and maintain our Igbo leaders that already have a strong voice within the ruling party. To do otherwise would amount to shooting ourselves in the foot. We really need to start consolidating our position as ndi Igbo at a national level, which presently needs a lot of improvement. Part of the improvement required in this regard involves identifying and supporting our Igbo leaders from the base of the pyramid upwards. This means that as ndi Igbo, we should support those leaders like the incumbent Governor of Imo State, Senator Hope Uzodinma, and work with them as a rallying point to engage with national development issues and structures.
Incidentally, the November 11 polls in Imo State is not the time to experiment with new entrants to the space, especially from political parties that do not currently have the necessary prowess at the national level. This is the time for ndi Igbo to build-on-build and to build on the established credentials of the incumbent Governor of Imo State, Senator Hope Uzodinma, particularly when he has performed well with several initiatives and infrastructure projects to improve the security situation and socio-economic development of the state with benefits for the polity in the state, including the business community, youth, women and children.”
Barr. Agbazue also advises that ndi Igbo should adapt a few strategies from the south-west states. “Since the return to democracy in Nigeria, the Yoruba nation has done a number of things with strategic intent and precision that are worthy of emulation. Firstly, they have carefully selected and supported their leaders at every dispensation. Whether it was HE President Obasanjo or HE Bola Ige or the incumbent President of Nigeria, HE Bola Tinubu, they always delimited their leadership and gave them all the support they required from the grassroots to the state-level to the very highest level. Secondly, clearly selecting their leaders and supporting them became a baseline for the Yoruba nation to come together and bargain with one voice at the national level. No wonder they are reaping the dividends today. The facts speak for themselves. From bagging the Vice Presidency and Speaker of the House of Representatives in the previous political dispensation, they now possess the ultimate office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in the current administration.”
Barr. Agbazue bemoans the steady decline of the political strength of ndi Igbo at a national level since the return to democracy in Nigeria: “Ndi Igbo are currently not in an ideal position at the national level with the present situation where we do not possess the Presidency, Vice Presidency, Senate Presidency or the Speaker of the House of Representatives. Indeed, the south-east geopolitical zone is gifted with the offices of the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives in the person of the distinguished Rt. Hon Benjamin Okezie Kalu as well as the incumbent Minister for Works, His Excellency Engr. Dave Umahi (former Governor of Ebonyi State), both of whom (with other ministers from south-east geopolitical zone), in recognition of having strong leadership from the South-East geopolitical zone are also rallying for support for the re-election of the incumbent Governor of Imo State, Senator Hope Uzodinma during the 11 November 2023 polls in Imo State”.
Barr. Agbazue highlights that: “a simple analysis of appointments to national executive offices of parastatals made in the present dispensation show that the Yoruba nation from the south-west geopolitical zone are quantitatively the overwhelming beneficiary, while qualitatively, they are predominantly in charge of most strategic national institutions. For example, the entire control of Nigeria’s economy has been ceded exclusively to south-west Yorubas e.g., The Minister of Finance, The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) etc. Further, the EFCC Chairman, Inspector-general of Police, Controller-Generals of Nigeria Customs and Immigration Services respectively, as well as the Chief of Army Staff are also all from the south-west geopolitical zone. Unfortunately, this approach of nepotic appointments, stemming from gray areas in the Nigerian Constitution, is becoming a convention in Nigeria, against the tenets of good governance. Let us not forget that during the last administration under President Buhari, the Hausa-Fulani had the privilege of dominating most of these appointments.”
Barr. Agbazue contends as follows: “On the 19 October 2023, the Nigerian Senate proceeded on a retreat in Akwa Ibom, in conjunction with the Minister of Finance, CBN Governor and key institutions like FIRS to deliberate on issues of revenue mobilization, fiscal policy, tax and monetary regimes. Can you imagine that out of about 10 speakers that spoke during the opening ceremony, not even one Igbo person handled the microphone at such a sensitive meeting about the country’s economy. Under President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration, I was appointed to reform the governance of the tax sector in Nigeria, which involved revising the governance of FIRS, The Joint Tax Board, as well as setting up the risk management framework for the Unique Tax Payers Identification Number (TIN) and setting up the operating systems for the Tax Appeal Tribunal etc. From my experience, our people from the south-east geopolitical zone, who are major merchants and business people running enterprises across Nigeria are key stakeholders in the Nigerian economy that deserve some recognition and representation in the opening ceremony of such a gathering. Incidentally, Senator Izunaso from Imo State spoke knowledgeably during one of the later sessions that somewhat provided some consolation.
So, what should ndi Igbo be doing in this present dispensation: Barr. Agbazue opines that: “ndi Igbo should be careful not to over romanticize our political aspirations around our governance. We need to carefully work with the cards that fate has given to us in every dispensation while we aspire for our uhuru, which is our ultimate political aim and ambition around having good governance with the tenets of responsibility, transparency, accountability and fairness to stakeholders. It is widely believed among ndi Igbo that the application of good governance principles will provide the enabling environment for the creativity, entrepreneurship and tenacity of ndi Igbo to be translated to exponential economic growth and prosperity. According to an Igbo adage, we engage with a hot plate of soup slowly from the sides, while we strategically navigate towards the center of the plate. Right now, ndi Igbo should be looking at collective action towards building tangible, practical and strategic political structures, processes and dynamics that will propel the Igbo nation to a glorious level in Nigeria, where a person of Igbo decent can be the best they can be in Nigeria rather than anywhere else in the world. We cannot achieve any of these without starting from clearly identifying and supporting our Igbo leaders who have clout at a national level, such as the incumbent Governor of Imo State, Senator Hope Uzodinma, who should be supported without reservation, from the grassroots to the State-level and upwards.”
Barr. Agbazue is internationally recognized as an expert resource person in the field of economic and corporate governance and several practice areas pertaining to the long-term economic growth, competitiveness and sustainability of Africa. These include: international trade; corporate citizenship; anti-money laundering; compliance; anti-corruption; illicit financial flows; and gender, business and human rights. Barr. Agbazue, whose work covers about 70 countries globally, has influenced the development of several ground breaking global, pan-African and national programs and initiatives that presently support the enabling governance and business climate in Africa. He is a Senior Expert Adviser to The African Union, several regional initiatives, inter-governmental organisations and development finance institutions, including The World Bank, International Finance Corporation (IFC), The African Development Bank and The African Import Export Bank (Afreximbank). He has advised several national governments (e.g., Cameroon, Lesotho, Nigeria, Mozambique, South Africa, Germany and The United Kingdom), as well as several major public and private sector corporations in Africa. Notably, he was appointed by the Nigerian Presidency to restructure the governance of the tax sector in Nigeria (2010 to 2015). The educational background of Barr. Agbazue, who was called to the Nigerian Bar in 1999, includes a Bachelors of Law (UNIZIK) and a Master’s degree in Politics (University of the Witswatersrand, South Africa). He is a Visiting Scholar at Harvard Law School in Cambridge, MA. USA. In 2004, he was recognized by the EU Presidency as the African Champion of Corporate Citizenship in Maastricht, The Nederland. In 2007, he was honored as a scholar of the International Corporate Governance Network (ICGN), while in 2008, Barr. Agbazue was named as a recipient of the inaugural “Millstein Rising Star of Corporate Governance Award” by Yale University.