“I come into this race not as one from the North, Central or South of Cross River but one from the GOOD Cross River . I come for us, our children and our children’s children. I come into this race as a progressive who is open to new things for growth. I come as one who is willing to sacrifice and stress soul now for the betterment of tomorrow. I come into this race not as the oldest or most experienced politician but I come into this race from the heart and my authenticity and vision complemented by your support will open a new door of prosperity for Cross River. I HAVE COME TO SERVE.”
One of the leading governorship aspirants from the All Progressive Congress end, Mr. John Upan Odey has, of late been on the lips of every concerned Cross Riverian, both politicians and non-politicians alike little wonder his “Leadershift” movement is spreading as fast as a virus does; thanks to his name which has now been firmly synonymized with the movement’s brand, “Leadershift”. But who exactly is John Upan Odey and what are his offers? These two august questions were enough to empower Cross River Daily to reachout to the Leadershift Boss for an exclusive grill and praises to him, he granted us audience and lo, the following chat paned out…
Hello Sir, may we meet you?
My name is John Upan odey Jr., an author, banker, micro-biologist, entrepreneur, philanthropist and politician. Born on 7th December, 1977 to pioneer scholar, administrator and parliamentarian Ukandi John Upan Odey and Christiana Unwaegbeb Odey as the fourth son and tenth child of a large family, I attended Regina Caeli Nursey School Obudu and later St Charles Primary School Obudu from 1983 to 1988 to complete my primary education. Two weeks after the sad event of the death of my father, I proceeded to Pope John Paul II Seminary Okpoma in January 1989 where I completed my Junior Secondary School Certificate examinations in 1991 as the best graduating student. At the seminary, I made history when being appointed deputy social prefect while only in JSS3 and was an active member of the debating society and school cultural troupe. I proceeded to Federal Government College Ikom where I went with much of the training obtained at the junior seminary and was an active member of the Catholic Students Association and serving as President of the association in 1991. I obtained my SSCE certificate amongst the pioneering graduating class of 1994 and gained admission to study Micro-Biology at the University of Uyo in 1994, from where I graduated in 2000. I also hold a masters in Business Administration from the University of Ilorin and a certificate in Infrastructure from the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government. After NYSC in Abuja with Afribank Nig Plc in 2002, I was retained and sent for training in Ibadan and Lagos and posted to Erin-Ile Branch of the bank in Kwara state from where I moved to Ecobank Nigeria Plc and finally to Standard chartered Bank in 2008 gaining experience in various aspects of banking including relationship management, wealth management, risk management amongst others. I held many positions in Standard Chartered Bank and rising to become a senior manager responsible for Employee banking in the North of Nigeria. In 2016, I joined the award winning transformation team at Union Bank as Group Head Retail Banking where I worked until 2017 before voluntarily resigning from the bank to pursue private enterprise and politics. I have won many awards and travelled extensively on trainings and workshops in the course of my career. I am an Associate of the Nigerian Institute of Management and a member of the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria. I took in holy matrimony, Clementiana Ononmen Usifoh on 4th December, 2010 and the marriage is blessed with three children; a girl Liora Upan-Odey and two boys, John Micheal Conrad and Jayden Upan-Odey. I am a community man and belongs to many cultural and social associations where I try to contribute to the development of society and on the 20th anniversary of my father’s death in 2008 I set up the J. U. Odey Foundation (www.juodeyfoundation.org) which is committed to learning and the building of memorial libraries and heritage centers with the first to be opened in Obudu in 2018. I entered into partisan politics in 2010 and contested the House of representative seat on the platform of the Action Congress of Nigeria in an unsuccessful race in 2011. In 2017 I founded the LeaderShift political movement and declared my ambition to run to become the Governor of Cross River State in 2019 under the platform of my party, the All Progressives Congress (APC). I remain committed to social change and as a writer who has made his political pitch with the launch of acclaimed book ‘Our Generation’s Path to Renaissance’ in 1996, I have an unwavering faith in the future of Nigerian society and continues to carry the torch for a better deal for all and my favourite quote sums up my personality: – ‘A RISING TIDE LIFTS ALL BOATS’.
Have you formally declared your interest?
I declared at my ward in December last year and in February this year, I declared in Obudu and submitted my letter of intent to my party, the All Progressives Congress.
What’s the motive(s) for this dream?
I belong to the most challenged generation in the history of Nigeria. This generation suffers the highest level of youth employment ever recorded in Nigeria and has not been provided for by its forebears. We need to build capacity and create a paradigm shift because we can not keep doing the same thing and expect a different result. I have worked in the private sector leading highly successful teams in practical and hands on roles and understand how to get things moving. The banking sector is very goal driven and numbers matter a lot. I know what we need to do to change the lives of our people and it is essential that we collect quality data, martial a plan to better the numbers in terms of the human development index and infrastructure. We need to build capacity and make government a real promoter of enterprise.
What problems have you identified in Cross River State?
Cross River as the rest of the nation returned to civilian democratic rule in 1999 and have had successive administrations anchored on the platform of the PDP and the state has made huge investments by borrowing in tourism, Tinapa and rural infrastructure but the investments have not paid off in a capacity enhancement sense and we have a growing stock of unemployed young men and women while graduating more and more of them each year in a clear case of putting the cart before the horse. We built Tinapa without creating the enablers like legislation to make the covering area duty free, the dredging of the Calabar channel or the expansion of the Calabar airport tarmac to take commercial cargo planes and the quantum of goods that was to create Africa’s Dubai never came.
We invested in the Calabar Carnival taking a Siamese copy from the Trinidad & Tobago carnival and created a world class street party and just when we were to make this lofty idea a self funded commercial entity, we dragged the state’s resources back to funding it year in year out as a political show rather than an international cultural event showcasing who we are as its theme. The carnival needs to entertain but more it needs to earn us money all year round. Under the PDP we lost our oil wells to Akwa Ibom State and ceded Bakassi to Cameroun and till this day it is heart breaking where our citizens from that LGA are and palliatives meant for them are perennially pillaged by people of power.
Cross River is blessed by lush vegetation and the future of our state lies in agriculture, commercial agriculture. We need to invest in commercial size farming , ranching, dairy products and fishing by creating the right environment for investors to come to us and not by traveling the world signing MOU’s when all investors want is a business friendly state. We need to rid ourselves of stifling regulation and multiple taxation to woo business to our state. The key measure is the ease of doing business and we need to make government fall in line with modern realities. We need to encourage enterprise and roll back on patronage. We need to reward hard work and ingenuity.
The way forward in government investments lies in something the PDP does not like – continuity. We need to make Tinapa work. We need to engage the business world and the government of Nigeria to provide this massive investment with the legs to run. We need to open the opportunities in tourism of the Obudu Ranch resort, Agbokim Waterfalls, Qua Falls and others. We can no longer afford to litter the state with white elephant projects to enable us pay attention to what matters most, the Human Development Index. We can not run a modern state without world class education. We are one of the states with good primary school enrolment of both boys and girls but we must now improve the conditions under which they learn. We need to build and support existing learning points including libraries and off curriculum skill acquisition for our young people and open to them opportunities being offered by the world for first class learning in Information Technology, business and research.
The world is stepping into its fourth industrial revolution which is to be driven by artificial intelligence and the Federal Allocation system is running towards its end, driven by the agitations for restructuring of the federation and burgeoning alternate energy sources, less and less money will be on the table for sharing. We need to pay more attention into Internally Generated Revenue. Outside agriculture and tourism we need to create manifest support for mineral mining, cottage industry and entertainment to drive up revenues in a sustainable fashion.
We cannot do the same thing over and again and expect a different result and we therefore need to change our posture on leadership. We need a LeaderShift, a new tribe of Cross Riverian’s who truly believe in working for the realization of the potential that lies within our state. People who will not lord over their country men but serve them; people who will not consider a leadership position as an end but the beginning of a new end; the prosperity of all. We need a leader who does not know it all but knows that by consulting all we can achieve all of what we desire.
I come into this race not as one from the North, Central or South of Cross River but one from the GOOD Cross River . I come for us, our children and our children’s children. I come into this race as a progressive who is open to new things for growth. I come as one who is willing to sacrifice and stress soul now for the betterment of tomorrow. I come into this race not as the oldest or most experienced politician but I come into this race from the heart and my authenticity and vision complemented by your support will open a new door of prosperity for Cross River. I HAVE COME TO SERVE.
As a member of APC, and with the current shaky-state of the party, do you have confidence standing upon it or do you plan on seeking a more formidable platform?
I am a progressive through and through and I believe that we will surmount the challenges we face in out party.
Two blocks exist in APC, Usani’s and Owan’s…where do you belong?
John Upan Odey’s block!
What do you consider as a challenge in this struggle?
The usual in a big political race but we are doing fine.
What’s your competitive edge?
I am authentic. A founding member of the APC with private sector professional experience and I understand what needs to be done. I am not the professional politician but a true progressive.
Your final word for Cross Riverians…
We have within us the ability through the means we possess and the people we are to build a Cross River State which is a model to Nigeria on its purpose and commitment to excellence, a state where we would be true to ourselves and build sustainably a developed and modern state. I have come to lead us to be the best we can be and bequeath to ourselves and the generations to come a prosperous and just society. Join me on Cross River LeaderShift!