BY AMBROSE EHIRIM, LOS ANGELES (BNW MAGAZINE)
On August 11, 2002, Dr. Julius Kpaduwa met face-to-face with BiafraNigeriaWorld and talked about his experience when he was shot during his guber-race campaign to unseat the corrupt regime of Achike Udenwa. He spoke extensively on his plans for medical care if elected governor of Imo State. He also talked about the role women would play in his administration. Dr Kpaduwa runs medical missions and other charity-based projects in Biafranigeria and the United States of America.
BiafraNigeriaWorld: Before we proceed, BiafraNigeriaWorld forumites would like to know who you are.
Dr. Kpaduwa: My name is Dr. Julius Kpaduwa from Ezike, Isiala-Mbano, in Okigwe, Imo state
BiafraNigeriaWorld: We know good leadership requires vision and a sense of mission. What is your vision for Imo State for which BiafraNigeriaWorld forumites should hold you accountable if you emerged victorious in the guber race?
Dr. Kpaduwa: The problems that confront Imo State are really not unique. It is the same problem that confronts almost every state in Nigeria, and it's one of economic development. The primary thing or my clear vision for the people of Imo State will be getting all the able-bodied men and women back to work, so that we can begin to have the quality of life that has so far eluded the people of Imo State.
BiafraNigeriaWorld: What is the status of the investigations into the attack you suffered last month, and what do you know about the attackers?
Dr. Kpaduwa: Based on the information that we have, six arrests were made and three were subsequently released.
BiafraNigeriaWorld: Was anything said to you during the attack that suggest who was behind it?
Dr. Kpaduwa: No.
BiafraNigeriaWorld: Do you know anything about the people that have been arrested for the attack? The name of Senator Ifeanyi Araraume has been mentioned, what is his connection?
Dr. Kpaduwa: I don't know anything about the attackers. Araraume is the senator who represents my ward, Okigwe Senatorial District. I have not been informed of any connection between Senator Araraume and the attackers. I have been told the investigation is still going on.
BiafraNigeriaWorld: Now that you have sustained injuries on your attempt to unseat the incumbent governor of Imo State, does your wife worry about your safety?
Dr. Kpaduwa: Of course they do. As a matter of fact, my wife does not want me to continue with the guber race. Since my ambition is to effect change in Imo State I must have to finish up what I started.
BiafraNigeriaWorld: What is the connection of Governor Achike Udenwa people with the attack? Have you talked to or met with Udenwa since you started your campaign?
Dr. Kpaduwa: I don't know of any connection with Udenwa people regarding the attack. All I can say is Udenwa never called me or wrote me after the attack. He knows I was attacked, and he knows how to contact me if he had wanted to.
BiafraNigeriaWorld: Tell us what happened during the attack?
Dr. Kpaduwa: On the day of the attack, I had earlier attended a political campaign rally in Eziama, Mbano. When we came back from that rally, my campaign team and entourage spent the night at my uncle's house who lives across the street from my mother's house. I went to bed with the hope that next day's agenda would be met. While asleep, I heard a loud noise which woke me up. I had the feelings it was either armed robbers or political hoodlums. They smashed the windows of my mother's house, forced the door open and held my mother at gunpoint asking for my whereabouts. They pointed their guns to my mother's throat. When they forced themselves in to where I was, they pointed their guns at me saying they will end my political ambition with a "death sentence." They asked me to bring out all the money that I have before they could carry out their "death sentence." I was beaten, brutalized to a point when I collapsed and fell on the ground, they thought I was not going to make it. If it was not for my cousin who alerted the villagers, I could have died when they shot me. I was bleeding and in pains until my campaign team drove me to Federal Medical Center in Owerri.
BiafraNigeriaWorld: You are registered with People's Democratic Party (PDP), right?
Dr. Kpaduwa: Right!
BiafraNigeriaWorld: Why PDP?
Dr. Kpaduwa: PDP is the ruling party in Nigeria. It is the party that I believe has the clout to really change the way things are being done in Nigeria. It is the most popular party, and my reason for joining the PDP is to get my voice in that formidable party, so chances for Imo State and the Igbo nation in general will be much better.
BiafraNigeriaWorld: Do you belong to any Igbo cultural organization here in the United States?
Dr. Kpaduwa: Yes, I do. I am a member of the World Igbo Congress. I attend their meetings. I also belong to our own cultural association in our town and I belong to the Imo Union.
BiafraNigeriaWorld: Do you hold any post in the organizations you mentioned?
Dr. Kpaduwa: I am one of the board of trustees of our town union.
BiafraNigeriaWorld: Do you have an office where you operate from, back home?
Dr. Kpaduwa: Yes I do.
BiafraNigeriaWorld: Was your office attacked by the hoodlums?
Dr. Kpaduwa: No.
BiafraNigeriaWorld: Have you had any kind of contact or communication with the head of state, Olusegun Obasanjo?
Dr. Kpaduwa: Yes, I spoke with him.
BiafraNigeriaWorld: Were you able to see him when you visited home?
Dr. Kpaduwa: No.
BiafraNigeriaWorld: On education, and since the public school system has failed, especially in Imo State with teachers' salaries withheld by Governor Udenwa's administration, would you back privatizing the schools and giving it back to the missionaries?
Dr. Kpaduwa: I am fully in support of privatizing the schools. On the teachers, we need to talk to them, we need to know what concerns them most and their concerns need to be addressed, because the school system would collapse if their needs are not met.
The government can get into running of schools, but I don't think the government should get into running so many schools. I remember in those days when we went to school, the schools were properly managed by both the state and federal government and they came out to be schools of excellence. I don't see why we can't go back to that. By and large, those schools that were formerly managed by the missionaries should go back to the missionaries
BiafraNigeriaWorld: Let's talk about healthcare. The healthcare system in Imo state today is in shambles. I remember the story of a dying patient who could not be treated because he had no deposit. That, for sure, will not happen in the United States. Here, in America, in a situation like this, all one need to do is dial 911 and the response would be available immediately. If elected, how would your administration address the issue, improving the healthcare system?
Dr. Kpaduwa: You have asked the most important question of the night, though I don't know how many more questions you have. I can tell you that for the past four years, my wife and I (my wife is also a physician), we have been organizing and going on medical missions,, a free medical care to all parts of Imo State. As a matter of fact, we just finished one last Friday and we had a whole lot of cases. I was not able to go, even though I arranged it, and my wife could not go even though she was suppose to be part of the medical team. You just have to talk to people from Mbano, and they will tell can tell you what they experienced in our medical missions last week. Not only in Mbano, there were accounts of people who came from Orlu, Owerri and Mbaise trooping to Mbano Joint Hospital for free medical treatments and needs.
In fact, it was as a result of inadequate medical care I experienced during or very first medical mission that drove me to what I am doing now, running for the governor of Imo State, because I found out I could do very little with a stethoscope. I found out that if there was sound, good public policy as far as healthcare is concerned, the people of Imo State would be better off. That's really what motivated me to seek the office of the governor.
I have a plan that is very well laid out in our Manifesto, so to speak. And that plan, basically will guarantee any division of government owned Imo State hospital, standard of community hospital in the United States, if you know what I mean. That means that the operating room has to be fully equipped and functional. There has to be a functioning emergency department. There has to be adequate amount of drugs. And you will ask me how are we going to finance this. We have been doing this without even being in office, completely free of charge. We happen to be in a country--the United States of America--and God bless America that philanthropy is one of the bedrock of society. There is no where I can go to the hospitals that I practice, and ask them for equipments which are still functional and very good, or do a drive around the United States, I will equip every single hospital, functioning without spending a penny. All I need is the transportation. I will train a personnel, an adequate personnel. We will fully compensate the physicians that work there.
The hospitals, nobody goes to them because there is little or no care. We practiced in those hospitals, they are only hospitals in name and it is a shame. If you do not provide the people with minimum wages, decent jobs that will not guarantee them some form of health insurance or any form of health coverage, I believe that the government has the sole responsibility to take care of its own citizens. I don't care where you get the fund from,you go out there and get it until such a time when you have brought out the economic level of the state to a point whereby people can begin to get health insurances from their various jobs.
Under our own government structure, no single individual will be turned away from government hospital and emergency cases because of the inability to pay. It can be done because we will be able to get resources from outside of the country. For complex cases, no individual, for any operation that is needed will be turned away because he or she did not have money. And that is what's going on now. If you don't have money even on emergency basis, in fact, when I was shot and they took me to Federal Medical Center in Owerri, they refused to let me down until I have a police report. This is a gun shot wound, I was bleeding; I was in pain; nobody took the time to access my condition, I could have died. They told us that I cannot come down. So, we went to the police station to get a police report. Under our administration, such a nonsense will not happen.
When we got the police report and went back to the hospital, they refused to attend to me until we are able to pay certain basic fees. I just was lucky my wife's friend who's a physician works at that hospital and she happened to be there when we walked in. She paid all the fees. It's not that I don't have the money, but we just didn't have it on us. You will need a card, you will need this, you will need that in order to be attended, or they won't attend to you. Under our administration, that comes to a full stop. I don't care whether it's a federal medical center or a state hospital.
So the Imo people are in for a treat, as far as healthcare is concerned. That's where they will have the immediate benefits of our administration, because this is not depending on anybody else effort. It is going to be solely our effort. I belong to the Association of Nigeria Physicians in America; they help me run the medical mission in Mbano. The Imo people really are out for a treat; they want decent healthcare and we are going to put a whole lot of money for it.
BiafraNigeriaWorld: In your own view, do you think World Igbo Congress and Ohaneze NdiIgbo should be representing the interest of the Igbos?
Dr. Kpaduwa: Those are Igbo organizations that are formed by Igbos, and from all accounts, Ohaneze NdiIgbo is very well respected in Igboland. So too is World Igbo Congress, that is WIC. I think they do have a right because of their compositions, not necessarily to talk on behalf of Igbos, but at least, to advocate.
BiafraNigeriaWorld: Ohaneze, for instance, what is it one would say they have accomplished since Obasanjo's administration?
Dr. Kpaduwa: I don't think if you talk to those individuals who run the organizations, they will agree with you. I am sure they will point out one or two things that they have done.
BiafraNigeriaWorld: Again, Ohaneze have done practically nothing to seek resolve in the mess going on now in Igbo States. We are in a state of total anarchy and Ohaneze is watching playing no leadership role. Why are they quiet?
Dr. Kpaduwa: This is where they really need to come out and play a key role, quite frankly. I think Ohaneze and WIC really have the responsibility of ensuring that the Igbo nation has adequate kind of leadership. They need to speak out when things are going wrong. They shouldn't be afraid. It's for the betterment of the Igbo nation, and it is worth fighting for. We cannot achieve this without the right kind of leadership. So they should be at the forefront of identifying the leadership that would move the Igbos forward. Now, if they have not been doing this, which is an area they need to concentrate upon on, because, the bottom-line is that if we don't have good leadership, I don't care how many WICs and how many Ohanezes, there will be no progress.
BiafraNigeriaWorld: There's this talk now about Igbo Charter in every Igbo-related fora or discussion groups. In fact, a group named PICAD has begun conferencing writing the said charter. The gist is that the Yoruba nation and other ethnic minorities have written their own charter and ready to go in the event a national conference emerges. What's your take on that?
Dr. Kpaduwa: Quite frankly, I really cannot comment on that particular issue because I would like to see what they have in the charter; whether it's something that respects the territorial integrity of our country, Nigeria, or if it's something that poses against the betterment of the Igbos, for me to really comment on it.
BiafraNigeriaWorld: Now there is talk again about the "Sovereign National Conference." Why a sovereign national conference when we have had series of conferences in the past which reminds me of the Aburi Accord, a more spectacular document?
Dr. Kpaduwa: If you look at the Nigerian polity from the first coup, you will find out that before the first coup we had a true federation, fewer states, and those states had autonomy in many respects, and there was a lot of developments within those particular states. There was competition among the states. The revenue sharing was very different from what it is today.
But right after the first coup in 1966, during Aguiyi-Ironsi's regime, he instituted a unitary system of government which was the worst thing for Nigeria polity. The counter coup in July and the army still clunged on the unitary system of government whereby the federal government dictates everything that happens in the nation, was not the best thing for Nigeria. Now we are back to supposedly the federal system of government, but there are still some unitary elements in terms of revenue allocation and some other things. How do you change those things? There was a constitution that was written, the 1999 constitution supervised by the military. I don't know whether a vast majority of Nigerians participated in it. You will find out that, there are many deficiencies within that constitutional framework.
Now, how do you address this? I think the Nigerian polity coming together and really be able to decide, is a step worthy. First of all, do we stay together or not? And I know the answer to that question is going to be yes. If we are going to stay together, under what system and under what formula do we stay together, something that is equitable to all. Not unless we address those issues, we will continue to have problems in Nigeria for a long time to come. So the issue of having that conference to give Nigerians the opportunity to decide what kind of constitution they want and what they think is the best association for them to move Nigeria, henceforth. If that is not done, we will continue to suffer in the Nigerian polity. I will definitely give my points toward such an enterprise, because I know it's only then I will begin to address some basic issues of revenue allocation and some other things. The federal government cannot develop Nigeria. Nigeria is too big for that. The federal government has to be local. If you hold the states by the throat whereby there is not enough revenue for them, then we will never have development. Every government that encourages development starting from the local government to the state government, which is autonomy, is the only way we can achieve development. If I become the governor of Imo State, I will definitely add my voice to effect the project.
BiafraNigeriaWorld: What role would women play in your administration?
Dr. Kpaduwa: There will be absolutely no difference between men and women. Women will play as much prominent role as the men. One of the things I learned living in America was that the society is very open to any capable individual, and women are no less capable than the men. In fact, they have a special contribution to make. We will encourage to make sure that the female gender is fully represented in our administration.
BiafraNigeriaWorld: Have you made up your mind, your choice for a running mate and have you considered choosing a woman?
Dr. Kpaduwa: That is an area I have not even given thought to, because, we are still grapping with the issues of being amicable. We have not have the luxury of considering who the the running mate may be. Now, would I consider having a woman as my running mate? Absolutely. But I want my running mate to be somebody who will be almost a mirror image of my aspirations. Let that person be a woman or man, so that if I am of the scene for any reason, the agenda, the very good agenda we are going to work out for Imo State will continue.
BiafraNigeriaWorld: How would you like to be remembered?
Dr. Kpaduwa: I would like to be remembered as somebody who cared very much for his own people, somebody who did everything he can, who strived to leave a legacy, somebody who did everything possible to make sure that most of the least common denominator in our society is as good as anywhere else in the world. So, quite frankly, my epitaph will read, "he tried to make a difference." That's how I want to be remembered.
BiafraNigeriaWorld: Dr. Kpaduwa, we, members of BiafraNigeriaWorld appreciate the time you took to speak with us. We wish you luck in your quest to unseat Udenwa, the incumbent governor of Imo State.
This interview was held in Dr. Julius Kpaduwa's The Country home in Diamond Bar, California, and published exclusively at Biafra-Nigeria-World Magazine on August 16, 2002.