By Akinola Junior Aladejowo
Hon. Kenneth Chibuogwu Gbandi is the African Democratic Congress ADC Delta North Senatorial Candidate. He is the longest-serving Chairman, Nigerian in Diaspora Europe. He is a selfless leader who, through his selfless service to humanity, had several awards to his credit.
In this exclusive interview he granted Ika Mirror, he talked about his family background, educational background, life experience, security, political ambition, and other contemporary societal issues.
May we please meet you, Sir?
I’m Hon. Kenneth Chibuogwu Gbandi, the African Democratic Congress Delta North Senatorial Candidate for the 2023 elections. I’m from Akwukwu-Igbo in Oshimili North Local Government Area of Delta State.
Before now, I have had the honor and privilege to represent the interests of six million Nigerians in Europe as the chairman of Nigeria in Diaspora Europe and also represented Africans in the Hamburg Senate Advisory Council in Germany. I have dedicated my 28 years of sojourns in Europe to serve my fellow Nigerians. I co-established the first Nigerian Football Organization in Germany (NCG FC), and it is the only African Football Club to play in the local German local league. I also run the biggest Black Media, Radio, TV, and Magazine in Central Europe.
Please tell us about your family background.
We are ten in my family. We have three ladies and seven boys. I’m the last child of my family. My father is Chief E.C. Gbandi, and Ezinne Victoria Gbandi. Because of extended family exposure, I deeply appreciate the traditional African extended family, where everyone looks after everyone.
Please tell us more about your educational background.
I graduated from the University of Calabar in 1992, where I read Geography and Regional Planning, and back in Germany, I focused on Peace and security. I’m an expert in peace and security. I was a fellow of GIGA, the German Institute for Global and Area Studies, which deals with Global research.
When did you join politics, and why?
_I have been in Germany for 28 years now. While in Germany, and as the leader of Nigeria’s Diaspora Organization in Europe, we felt that it is right for Nigeria to Integrate the diasporan into the policy-making process of their country. We believe that we should also have a say in the country’s political affairs, having to be a significant source of finance inflow to the country. So, we invited many political parties to try to see how they can synergize between diasporans and our home country, Nigeria. All the political parties turned down our invitation, but only African Democratic Congress saw the need to integrate the diasporans into the political process of Nigeria. They didn’t only do it and adjusted their constitution to include the diasporans as the 7th political region in Nigeria. This is the only political party to have done that in Nigeria. I was subsequently appointed the Deputy National Leader of the party for Diaspora Engagement. They were consultation when I was the leader of NIDO Europe before I finally handed over in 2020. This is when I actively joined ADC, and we have since then done a few reforms in the party.
Why did you choose to contest under African Democratic Party, ADC?
Well, ADC is not new. It has been in existence for the past seventeen years in different forms. It is a grassroots political party. It is a party that focuses on the voice of the grassroots and takes the opinion of the youths, women, men, and diasporans very seriously. People have been in two political parties for twenty-two years now and must ask themselves if they are comfortable with how things are going. No one can claim that things are going well or that youth employment, security, and cost of living are the best. If the answers to these things are negative, we must try something new. ADC is the answer and the best place to be. This is a political party with the majority of youth with the best brains. They say, “Youths are leaders of tomorrow” when will tomorrow come? Our tomorrow is now. This is why I have to put my cap in ADC.
With the caliber of people in PDP and APC, do you think you have a chance in the 2023 election?
The old age of Methuselah has nothing to do with the wisdom of Solomon, and the size of Goliath did not prevent David from taking his excellent chance. We all know how the story between Goliath and David ended. It is not the size that matters but the wisdom and God’s grace that we must consider. God’s and personal convictions play an essential role in our life. I may not be coming with money bags. Still, I went with the name of Jesus and robust policies that will rejuvenate our economic, social, security, and political life as a people. We have to do the right thing in 2023. We don’t need to vote for the big names who will not do any good for the people. It is time to do the right thing and vote for the right person. ADC is bringing fresh breaths into the political terrain of Nigeria come 2023.
If elected a federal lawmaker, what would you do differently from the past representatives in Delta North?
I’m pretty convinced I’m getting there, so I would like to say when I actualize this vision, we must do better. Federal lawmakers have two mandates, which are Federal and Constituency mandates. At the Federal mandate, many things need to be changed in the country. Until now, we lack robust representation, and that must change. I will give a vigorous oversight representation. We can’t have a country where some regions are marginalized politically. There will be a constitutional reform where all these issues will be addressed for equitable and good governance and where everybody will be happy. On a Constituency level, most people believe that a lawmaker has to make law and collect a monthly salary without doing anything in the Constituency. This is not true. We will create wealth for everyone. The life of everyone in the Delta North will matter, and I will attract national and Global attention and develop initiatives for wealth. By so doing, I’m going to bring my diasporan partners to set up Agricultural enclaves to be sited in the nine Local Government Areas of Delta North. This will create more jobs for our people. Each agricultural project will have 300 enclave farms spread across the nine local governments. You will be sure that we will have 4,000 jobs in the first year. We are not going to limit ourselves to agriculture. We will extend into youth capacity training development. We are not bringing old sawing machines or inferior tools and calling it empowerment. We are not going to leave them without empowering them mentally to become wealth creators. We will ensure they have the skills to manage whatever equipment they are given to kick-start their work. By the time we finish it, we will have more than 120,000 jobs for our people. Another thing I’m going to do differently is that we will be paying our skilled unemployed graduates in our database monthly stipends. We will deploy them into various skilled acquisition centers to put them on monthly stipends before they are fully deployed or employed. How do I raise funds for this? I will set aside funds from the jumbo senate salary until my inequality income bills that address the mumbo jumbo pay of the senators are passed. Until that bill is passed, chuck of my salary will be channeled into social welfare use, where we will care for the unemployed graduate youths and skilled graduates.
What is your plan in the area of sport?
As I mentioned earlier that I co-established the football Organization in Germany because I know the importance of sport and its role in developing society. Nigerians in Delta North are so talented in sports. We are already on a project where we brought Uefa approved coach who will be organizing the tournaments in the nine local governments. We are not doing this to exercise our bodies and soul but to help them pursue their talents at home and in Europe. It will be a win-win collaboration between European Scouts and us. European Scouts are interested in identifying and developing young African skills in football. We are already in talks with them to support sports partnerships in Nigeria, especially in Delta North. We are doing it already with two scouting tournaments in Ndokwa and Aniocha Nation and will continue and expand this as a constituency project as a Federal lawmaker. If elected, we will leverage this and get the best out of our people.
Why do you develop so much interest in Agriculture?
Three things are involved. Firstly, they say a hungry man is an angry man. When people have enough food to eat is more accessible for them to join hands with you for development. Secondly, we need food security to avoid food blackmail from some quarters. It is time to improve food production to prevent the threat of no food blockage. Thirdly, farmers in Germany are billionaires and part of the decision-making process of the country’s food policy. I think we have the most conducive climate conditions here in Delta North to help us with food self-sufficiency. It will be a shame that we have the right climate, the human resources, knowledge, and technology and yet not able to provide food and also create wealth for our people. Anioma nation was known for Agriculture. I can remember in those days, we used to see the heaps of garri, plantains, and bananas at Umunede and other places. Where are those things now? It is a pity we have leaders without the vision to bring them to bear. This is why we need to bring back the lost glory of Anioma. We need to empower our mothers, father, and people to be actively engaged in Agriculture. We need to give them high-yielding and pest-resistant crops which can produce four or more times a year. This will not only help them to provide food but also generate wealth. Agriculture is very fundamental to our livelihood. When addressed, poverty will be a thing of the past in our society.
With an agricultural revolution, are you saying you will restore the lost glory of the Anioma Kingdom?
This is what we are set to do. It is, yes. Practically, we have lost it. Anioma will be great again. Agriculture is everything for the Anioma nation.
Since the responsibility of a legislator is to make laws, why are you so interested in providing 120,000 jobs for your Anioma people?
It is wrong to say that the legislators mainly have to make laws. The legislators have two mandates, which are Constituency and National mandates. The national mandate is to make laws, screen and approve ministers, etc., and approve the yearly budget. The constituency mandate is to carry out projects to better the lots of their constituents. This will include attracting national attention to their constituency. Some lawmakers have been arrested due to embezzlement of their Constituency projects’ funding, so lawmaking is not the only job of legislators.
What is your assessment of people representing Delta North at the National Assembly?
Being in the fourth democratic realm, you are better placed to examine the issues of the security, cost of living, education, and economic life of our people at their best today and why. Then you can rate them. But if the answer is no, it means that their performances are far below expectations.
Being a security expert, how will you use your experience to help curb the insecurity situation in Delta North and Nigeria?
Well, the Governor is the Chief Security Officer of the State, and our president is the Chief Security Officer of the country. As lawmakers, we must work within the framework of the president and state Government as chief security officers. If the enabling law is not implemented, we are doing the same thing and expecting different results. How do I influence this as a senator? We are going to reform our security institutions, and we will start with the establishment of local state police. I’m a total fan of state police, and their time is overdue. The state and local police know the intricacies of their Community and security unconcerned space; they are in a better position to know their people are environment. We have bandits, kidnappers, and other criminals in the country because we have many ungoverned; I will join and put forward laws to reform our security institutions by making the indigene of the state as Chief Security Officer of the institution because they understand the people and their terrain.
What is your message to Nigerian youths?
People representing us can’t claim they are unaware of the youth’s problems. They have failed us because they refuse to carry out their functions. It is either they are the cause, or we are cursed. If the same youths want to keep the same people who have kept them out of school for eight months and impoverished them over the years. It means something is wrong somewhere. They should not allow the size of Goliath to scare David. They should keep influence and big names aside. They should not allow poverty as an excuse to keep mistreating us and repeating the same things. They should vote for people who feel their pains, play with them along the streets, are easily accessible, and are ready to work for them. It is time to allow fresh breath into our political system. Let us make this happen.
How will you use your diasporan political experience to influence the democratic system in Delta North positively?
A single tree can’t make a forest, and a journey of thousand of steps begins with a step. The first is to elect a credible person into government. We will see new faces and fresh blood in Government come 2023. We are going to have mainly people of great minds. Together, we will reform Nigeria. We will set fundamental rules that will set things right in the country. We will improve Nigeria, where people will win the elections on merit and not with money bags.
Some said you are new in Nigerian politics; how true is it?
It is not true. I’m not new. I was once an officer for Jonathan’s Campaign Organization representing the diaspora in 2015. I was working based on my conviction to join hands to fight corruption, working with ICPC. I have worked with leaders of the National Assembly, such as Hon. Rita Orji, late senator Rose Okoh, the leadership of both the Senate and House of Representatives on diasporan matters to midwife the passage of Nidcom Bill. So, I understand the intricacies and workings of legislation. From a biblical historical point, David was not in any political party or ruling class before he was called to lead his people. Also, Joseph was not among the top ten of his father’s children before he was called to feed Nations in Egypt. It is not how far but how well. I may not be a career politician, but I feel the pains of my people, and that is why I’m going there to lift the burden off their shoulders. This is my motivation to represent my people. It is time to try something new.
How well do you know your people, and how prepared are you to win the election in 2023?
In the last half year, we have visited the nine local governments, traditional rulers, political leaders, heads of organizations, social groups, community leaders, etc. It is a message of hope we preach to them. This is to bring in the best global approach to governance. I have been engaging our people one-on-one and answering questions from various media organizations on my plans for Delta North. I’m prepared to be their servant senator and not Lord over them. We are prepared and ready. Victory is ours in 2023.
What is your anticipation for the 2023 election?
No matter what the outcome is, Nigerians are wiser now. We will ensure that we give adequate representation. 2023 will be the beginning of new things in Nigeria. I’m optimistic that 2023 will be a win-win for us.
What is your message generally to your Anioma people?
It is time to restore the lost glory of the Anioma Nation. It is time to change the narrative. Our future is now. It is time to stop doing the same thing and expecting different results. It is time to stop believing in political structure and vote in a credible candidate that is accessible and people oriented. With this, the restoration of the Anioma Nation is possible.