MR. FRANK NNEJI MR. FRANK NNEJI, OON speaks with FORUm NewPaPERS
MR. Frank Nneji is The Founder and C.E.O ABC Transport and RAPIDO Group of Companies, An Imo Gubernatorial Aspirant under All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA). Mr. Frank here exposes the loopholes of why many failed administrations in the state and goes on to state categorically how Imo State can recover its lost glory.
FORUM: Can we know you Sir?
MR. FRANK NNEJI: My name is Frank Nneji, there is an OON attached to my name. I am currently the manager of the ABC Transport which I founded 25 years ago. I also run some many other companies which have their headquarters in Owerri here with a view of creating more job opportunities to the young people in Imo State. I am a graduate of the University of Nigeria in 1982 and since then I have been into private enterprise with a further education in the Lagos business school and other international business schools.
FORUM: There is this trend of people looking for employment immediately after school, so what really motivated you to go into private enterprise and business?
MR. FRANK NNEJI:It was not really fashionable for people to go into private business then, the motivation was to create job opportunities. As a born entrepreneur, I have the zeal to create values and to provide jobs for young people and satisfy their needs. Entrepreneurs are always risk takers, they find areas where there are opportunities and get into them then better the societies and make money from there. So I am entrepreneur and my motivation is to create values and change lives.
FORUM: We noticed that you are one of the governorship aspirants so what are really the motivating factors behind this aspirations?
MR. FRANK NNEJI:My motivation comes from the fact that in the past 35 years, I have lived in Imo State and I have seen Imo State grow up and prosper. I have also seen Imo State come down, lying prostrate as it is now. Ordinarily, as a business man 3 years ago, I would never taught I will get into politics but when you look at the trend of things, it is not commendable for people to stay away and leave everything for the core politicians; that is those whose professions have nothing to do again if not politics; you will see that things will keep messing around. This time around I said yes, I am a business man and I have created jobs and knowing what I have known about Imo State and where the problems are in Imo State I said this is the time I will seek support of the Imo people. I have to come into the political circle and try to contribute politically.
FORUM: We know that politics is a call to serve the people; do you think that this conception has been presently maintained?
MR. FRANK NNEJI:Absolutely not in this part of the country, it has never been maintained presently. A good example, check the houses of many past and former leaders before and after they became that, almost all of them leveled their houses and build castles after. Many come to public offices to serve themselves while many appropriate the resources of the masses to themselves. Politics supposed to be a call for service but it has not been so in our society, which is unfortunate.
FORUM: How do you think, you can change the fortunes of Imo citizens if you are elected?
MR. FRANK NNEJI:Having been in Imo State and having created jobs for a private enterprise, I think I have to focus on the economy of the State. Imo State is 42 years old. For Imo State to excel, we need to rebuild the economic foundation of the state which was what Sam Mbakwe tried to do when he build 21 Industries. Sam Mbakwe wanted to build the economic foundation of the State and after Sam Mbakwe no other person has tried to build the economic foundation of the State. This is why many young people are out of jobs. Every other leader is looking for other things like decorating the roads and streets, riding convoys and doing all sorts of things without developing the economic foundation of the State. Where are the 21 Industries that Sam Mbakwe created? You cannot find it anywhere again. Where is the power plant at Amaraku? Where is the one at Izombe? Where is our Adapalm?
All those things that will trigger economic development in the State have all been jettisoned and this is why I am here. So I am coming from the private sector, I have created jobs; I know how to create job. I have lived here for 35years and I know where it pains. I know what Imo State needs; I know what the issues are. What you need to do is to create an Imo State where people can actualize their dreams; this is what we need to create and we have the natural resources to create this. We have also the human resources to create it. We have oil here, we have gas here, we have the central location which is something that can trigger off favorable sighting for industries and we have also the human resources because in Imo State we have highly educated and knowledgeable people. So we have all it takes, what we don’t have is the right leadership to manage this resources and this is what I am coming to bring and this is why I am presenting myself.
FORUM: But you have worked primarily in the economic sector what innovation can you bring into the political sector at least to make the state top the charts in economic development?
MR. FRANK NNEJI:I don’t think I have any change to bring into the political sector because I am not coming to play politics. I am coming to change the economic development of the state. For Imo State to flourish again, you have to work on the economic foundation of the state. This is what I have come to do. I have done a lot of work in the economy of the state and I have what I will call the tripod pillars of developments which are going to be based on agriculture, industry and tourism. These are the things I am going to work with. On agriculture we are going to develop our palm oil potentials, we can look at areas we have comparative advantage like cassava, fishery, piggery, poultry e.t.c. In light industries, we are going to revive our industrial clusters which have been here for many years, Onitsha road has more than 250 industrial plots and nobody has developed them because we are not encouraging investors to come here and develop. If we develop those things, nobody will look for job in Imo State. Mbakwe saw this and said this is where we need to develop, because we are right in the centre of the South-East and South-South Market so these are the things I am going to activate. We are going to take advantage of our central allocation, the hospitality tendency of our people and airports to develop tourism and make people to visit Imo State and spend money here. This is how tourism will benefit, Imo State. We are also going to look at how we are going to enable this so we can start looking for our security, our civil service, the ease of doing business, quality education etc which are enablers. But the economic developments are going to be focused on the tripods.
FORUM: One of the problems that our Youths face today is unemployment in what ways do you think that these problems can be eradicated in our time?
MR. FRANK NNEJI: The best way to eradicate this is to elect a purpose driven leader who is going to build the economic pillars; these economic pillars will create the jobs. I pray in 2019 Imo State is going to be opened for jobs and employments for young Imo lites. The problem is that nobody is addressing the economy. When some people come, they will say I am building this, I am building that. I am building general hospitals and 305 schools but none of them is functioning. Some say, I am building chapels in every local government, are these what we need to employ the youths? Nobody is focusing on the economy; I am going to focus on the economy.
FORUM: You know there are other governorship aspirants, what do you think you can do differently if you succeed?
MR. FRANK NNEJI: What I will do differently is to center on the focus. The main fact is that I have a better knowledge of Imo State. Of all the aspirants I am the only person that has lived here for all the 35 years, so I bring trust to bear. People know me very well and I have created jobs. Many of them have been saying what they will do but I am telling you what I have done and what I can do better. So what am going to do differently is that am going to run a very prudent government and we are not going to waste money. I said that people know me further as a prudent person. I am not ostentatious. I am not going to drive up to 30 or 40 expensive cars, am going to listen to people about their own feelings and am going to make sure that I resuscitate all the institutions that have gone down in Imo State.
FORUM: We know politicians of promising one thing and doing another when elected, how do you convince people that you are going to fulfill what you have promised?
MR. FRANK NNEJI: The way I can convince them is by what I have done, I have already employed about two thousand five hundred people (2500) and a thousand two hundred and more are Imo indigenes and many of them have been in employment with me for more than 20 years. So people know me. If I go to every local government I will tell you the number of their indigenes I have employed from that local government. This is the only way people can be convinced. I went to Ikeduru the other day and I told them I have employed up to 86 people from Ikeduru. I can give you their names and numbers and you call them and ask them about me, so you don’t need conviction. Ask those who work with me, am I owing salaries? Do I treat them fairly? I went to Owerri West for sensitization, more than 20 percent of the people that came were either my staff or old staff, it was amazing. Many of them stood up to give testimonies about their relationship with me. With this, I think they don’t need conviction and I tell people from Imo State that this is not time for experiment and you have to hook up with somebody you know and somebody who has done it. I believe my report card is by what I have done in the past. Many of the aspirants usually come down from Lagos or Abuja and when they don’t succeed they go back, even if they succeed they will not be as diligent as one who has lived with the people and feel their pains.
FORUM: How do you intend then to shore off the State revenue to complement the federal allocation?
MR. FRANK NNEJI: Talking about the state revenue, first of all we have to make tax collection, internally generated revenue more transparent. We are also going to attract donor agencies because donor agencies come to state government where there is transparency and accountability and I am known for transparency and accountability. People are going to bring money in the area of support, in the area of health for example if you look around many years ago, organizations like UNICEF and others were coming here to give us free boreholes. I don’t know when last UNICEF came to Imo State and almost all of them have gone away. But when a transparent person comes, somebody who can keep his words, there will be a change. When we talk of Anambra, we talk about Peter Obi. Many of the things Peter Obi did were from the donor agencies because they saw a transparent person and they came and supported. This is what is going to happen in Imo State. So this is one of the ways we are going to shore up revenues. By the time you have those additional revenues and you use them to work and the essence is to make sure the pensioners are paid on time; workers’ salaries are not cut. So there is going to be more transparency in internally generated revenue collection and then there are going to be other sources of funds which will come because the man who will be on the mantle of leadership from 2019 is known for transparency and accountability.
FORUM: Are you trying to say that you are not going to be politically biased when you occupy such office?
The issue is that it is difficult to remove the political bias but it shouldn’t be to the extent of being detrimental to the people you are ruling. We are human beings; some people may appear more favorably as they supposed to you or the other, I mean that is natural. For example in my company I am an equal opportunity employer. I can show you the list of my employers; I employ more people from Owerri North than from my Aboh Mbaise. It is based on competence. So there is nothing about been biased. We are going to have standards. We will also respect equity in terms of distribution of amenities and in terms of appointment there has to be equity but nobody is going to be discriminated against. I think there is more to the leader that affects the way a place is governed. I am experienced in human resource management, I am experienced in material management, and I have managed large organizations, I have been in bunch of large organizations.
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FORUM: Where do you think this present administration did not do well and where do you think efforts should be made to compliment the mistakes they made?
MR. FRANK NNEJI: Well I think that the area they have not done well, first of all is that they have not paid attention to the economy. For me, the number of people who are roaming the streets without any job is a symptom that something has gone wrong; they have not paid attention to the economy that is why. Secondly, they have not done well with the institutions like in the civil service, strengthening civil service and other institutions. These are the areas we are going to strengthen, making the civil service to function the way they are supposed to function. We are also going to work on the economy and job creation. They may have done well in free education but they have not done well in quality education. These are some of the areas they have not really done well. Governance has to be a selfless effort. You do that because you want to help the people and better the lots off the people.
FORUM: What advise will you give our youths most especially our graduates who are roaming the streets without any job?
MR. FRANK NNEJI: Honestly, there is nothing wrong with looking for a job because the jobs you are going to create, people are going to work on them. People who have the desire to create their own job and become entrepreneurs is a good initiative. They should pursue it. Those of them who also want to develop their careers or work in institutions should also pursue their careers. Even though I have done it, I am not those who will say everybody should go and set up your own job. If everybody should set up their own job, who will work for who? The most important thing is that whatever you want to do, make sure you are the best at it, do it well and acquire proper skills to equip you either working on your own, developing a passion for something or contributing to an organization that is already set up. The important thing is to have self actualization and make sure you get the right skills in whatever you want to do.
The most important thing is that in Imo State, we need to open up the economy to accommodate the young people and also create an enabling environment for those of them who want to be on their own. Let me give you one of example, I came to this city and I graduated at the age of 22, I finished my youth service at the age of 23 and I decided I was going to do business. The first business I did was schools supplies. My first job was in FUTO. It was a job of four thousand naira given to me by the professor of our school of engineering. The first job I did in life was as a private business person and I was dedicated to it and from there I started making writing boards for other schools and in ten years I have build this factory making writing boards and the rest of them. So what I am saying is that it is a matter of being diligent and being focused on what to do. Focus is the thing, skill development is another thing.
What I ask myself is that young people coming out now, will they have the same opportunity I have then because of the way the environment is? No and this is why I am in politics, to be able to recreate that environment so that younger people will have the same opportunity I had. Ease of doing business; is it easy to do business in Imo State? No! There is a lot of hostility in Imo State. Look at what happened in Douglas road the other day. They went on rampage closing all the shops, demolishing the markets, without providing an alternative. These things impede business development. People lose their capital, people lose their livelihood and for some people, that will be the end of their businesses. So you need a business friendly governor to come into office, someone who has had the experience as a youth, doing private business, who will know how to support the young people and make them access funding at a very attractive and beneficial rate.
FORUM: What advice can you give to some of our youths who spend their days doing nothing?
MR. FRANK NNEJI: I really sympathize with some of them because many of them are discouraged; the advice is to try and sharpen your skill in one area or the other. There is always something to do. Go and learn a skill, read books about how things are done, devote yourself to a particular career act, be an expert in something, no matter how small it is, knowing that at the end of the day what will make you excel is the skill that you have acquired and what you know. So no youth should be seen doing nothing or playing lotto. Sometimes work a volunteer. I have seen people who get into places and say I want to work as volunteers only if I can get transport money to be going home. When you are working as a volunteer you are gaining experience. Take any job no matter how low it is. Your first job is about what you learn not what you earn. It builds your experience.
FORUM: What advice can you give to people on starting a business without capital?
MR. FRANK NNEJI: Capital is not as important as the business idea you develop. If you develop a business idea, the capital will come. How did I finance my four thousand men P.O job? Because I had the idea and when I had the job in my hand, I now went out to look for someone who will help me finance the idea on a profit sharing basis. Assuming I was asking the man for money before going to look for the job, will the man talk to me? But I had a piece of paper and explained everything about the job to supply writing boards to FUTO. That time FUTO was a well known University. I said look at the four thousand naira, I need two thousand five to do this, can you bring it? The profit of one thousand five we will share it fifty fifty, the man agreed. You see how the idea came before the money, but some people say that if you want to do business, money first. Get an idea about how to do things; you can design a website, you learn it. You can even learn it online, you can then go to someone, and propose your job of designing website for him for fifty thousand naira, and you do that. The person gives a reference, you do another one and the rest of them you can expand it. I know young people who come out and say I know how to wash cloth and at the end of the day they are being paid. Before you know it, the person may end up trying to set up a dry cleaning shop. Think of an idea and develop it. Have pride in what you do. Even when we open up Imo State by next year for business, only those only those who are well equipped will get the jobs. We need to have that courage to develop ourselves because when the job market opens only those who are equipped will get that job.
FORUM: Thank you so much for this nice opportunity, I feel like asking more questions. What advice can you give to your audience that will read this interview?
MR. FRANK NNEJI: My advice is that every four years people from Imo State will have the opportunity to turn things around by the kind of leader they choose. There is another opportunity for us to turn things around by choosing proven leaders. To choose leaders who have references. Leaders who have done things before, leaders that we can trust more. So people that have lived with us, we know well. This is an advice; this is not the time to gamble again. People should jettison this idea of people giving you money to vote for them, People give you money to support them, but you don’t look at the man, and you look at the money. That money you will consume won’t even last for one month but you have made the mistake, you have sold your conscience.
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