Presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Tinubu, has promised the people of South East massive economic development and a forward looking government that would assuage the past difficulties people of the region had been enmeshed in.
He stated this in response to the demand by Ebonyi State governor, David Umahi, about what Tinubu had in stock for the South East which, according to the governor, had been neglected and abandoned since the end of the civil war.
Speaking yesterday at a town hall meeting with leaders of the private sector and trade associations in Owerri, the Imo State capital, the APC standard bearer said based on his experience and the lessons learnt, he understands the challenges traders, business owners and people of the South-East are going through.
Addressing the issues raised by the Ebonyi State governor and other development challenges of the old Eastern region, Tinubu recalled his experience as a son brought up by a mother who was a trader and market leader.
He said, “She gave me the grit and determination which has served me well in politics. More importantly, she taught me that patience, wisdom, tolerance and generosity are the hallmarks of a good leader, be they a market leader or a candidate aspiring to the highest office of the land.”
On his plans for the South East if he becomes Nigeria’s president from May 29, 2023, Tinubu said new industrial hubs would be created in Aba and Owerri, while already existing ones would be modernized.
He also promised to make access to credit facilities available to the traders across the region and the country in general.
He stated: “My government shall build an economy with a growing industrial base, more and better jobs for our youth and more high-quality home-grown goods to sell and merchandise.
“We shall establish industrial hubs throughout the nation and modernize existing ones. We will encourage and facilitate greater production in places like Owerri and Aba. At the same time, we shall broaden opportunities for you to engage in more international commerce by steering more activity towards ports outside of Lagos such as Onne.
“I envision the Owerri-Port Harcourt and Aba-Port Harcourt corridors becoming more active and lucrative trade and manufacturing corridors than they already are. My administration will establish policies that widen your horizons and expand your business reach both in terms of the goods you sell and your geographic reach to new markets.
“Working with the state governments, the CBN and banking industry, we shall embark on a two-pronged credit revolution. First, on the sale and supply side, we shall seek to drive down interest rates on business loans, especially for investment in manufacturing as well as small and medium sized enterprises.
“Second, we seek to make consumer loans more available. This will allow more people to afford and buy more high-quality goods from you. By empowering the consumer, we increase economic activity and prosperity for the overall economy as well as for your individual businesses.
“We will put in place policies that will boost trade and commerce. We will solve the forex crisis and ensure that traders like you have easy access to a unified forex market.
“We shall seek to revive struggling industries in this region and throughout the nation.
“Working with governor Uzodimma, we shall continue to push to return Avutu Poultry to its status as a world class poultry farm. This will increase food and nutrition while creating jobs and giving us a chance to open new markets. Ada Palm can, once again, become a fulcrum of job creation and foreign currency earnings.”
On infrastructure development, the APC presidential flagbearer said the Sam Mbakwe International Cargo Airport, Owerri, would become fully operational to help large-scale movement of goods across the region, while priority would also be placed on the completion of the Abakaliki-Benin section of the rail project, integrating the Southeast to the national rail system.
“Our national infrastructure plan shall pay great attention to roadways eaten by erosion and flooding. We shall give traders the sound roads they deserve in order to move goods for the benefit of the rest of the population.
“For those of you in the agricultural sector, commodity exchange boards and other measures will be established to better link local markets and farmers with the global economy while also assuring them minimum prices for their harvests.
“The idea is to boost farm incomes, thus giving farmers greater incentive to produce more. We can hold to little of these good economic things without adequate peace and security. Our response to terror, kidnapping and violent criminality includes increased manpower, better communications and mobility equipment and training,” Tinubu added.
The former Lagos State governor also didn’t fail to mention that he would work towards integrating all regions in the country to ensure Nigeria continues to remain in unity.
“For me, the unity of this nation is sacrosanct, it is non-negotiable. However, I realize that many people have genuine and painful grievances in need of fair and durable resolution.
“My government will be comprised of people from every section of the country and ready to discuss legitimate grievances with those in search of a peaceful resolution.
“Our nation is still in its infancy compared to other nations. I am proud of how far this nation has come. I also understand the great strides still to be made if we are to build for ourselves a nation of democratic good governance, development, justice, and unity,” he said.
The former Lagos governor further identified corruption in public office as a major cause of the country’s challenges and acknowledged how it has continued to derail service delivery in the country.
He also decried the rising poverty in the country on a day the National Bureau of Statistics, released a figure that showed poverty in the country has risen astronomically.
The NBS had in its latest data released yesterday stated that over 133 million Nigerians are poor.
His words: “There are so many ways to fight and stop corruption. Yes, corruption will stop when one does not need to look for four million at a time to buy a little car.
“When that car is assembled here and they hear finance, credit finance is associated with it, the credit financing will move the production, increase the production demand, the availability of credit will equally multiply the need for purchase.”
On his part, the host governor, Hope Uzodimma, said the town hall meeting was a deliberate strategy of the APC candidate to interface with the business leaders and trade associations in the Southeast so he can factor their positions and views in the business of government when elected.
APC national chairman, Abdullahi Adamu, said he was at the event to demonstrate that the party is with the Southeast people and will not forsake them if they vote to entrust the next 4 years in the hands of the party.