By Oluchi Oseh
When Hon. Martin Ikechukwu Apugo, officially declared his interest to enter the race for the Ikwuano/Umuahia federal constituency seat, it was a fulfillment of the popular desire of the people.
The clamour for him to run on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) had been rising in intensity. It was not until August 17, 2018 that he finally yielded to the mounting pressure after wide consultations with stakeholders and interest groups in his constituency.
It was therefore no surprise that the epic event of his official declaration attracted a huge crowd of supporters and political bigwigs who came to bear witness as the man popularly called “the people’s leader” answered the popular call to step forward and proceed to the National Assembly.
Several groups had sent delegations to persuade him to consider the possibility of serving the people as a federal lawmaker. Their demands were not misplaced. So his declaration to seek for the ticket of APC to contest for the legislative position of Ikwuano/Umuahia federal constituency Apugo was another way of saying, “Here I am, my people, send me”. According to him, “there is no better time to answer the clarion call of our people than now”.
Apugo is not afraid to speak truth to the ruling class in Abia state. He believes that God’s own state is not getting what it deserves given the enormous human and material resources the state is endowed with. He is unhappy that workers in his state are owed several months of salaries while retirees are not paid their pensions and gratuities.
In fact, Hon. Apugo sees it as unacceptable a situation where workers are forced to stay hungry for several months and pensioners for over 12 months agony due to non-payment of their pension arrears. This debilitating situation has persisted even after President Muhammadu Buhari, has doled out three tranches of bailout funds to states.
The young politician readily points out the hypocrisy of those blaming the federal government for every imaginable problem in Abia when those elected to preside over the affairs of the state are not living up to their responsibilities.
“It worries me,” he said, “to see our elected officials blaming President Muhammadu Buhari -led federal government instead of holding themselves accountable for failing in their duties of providing dividends of democracy to our people”.
Apugo reckons that the Buhari administration has been the most benevolent federal government as far as Abia state is concerned.
This is because the state has been getting its fair share of federal allocations, including the 13 percent derivation as well as billions of naira meant for the funding of UBEC projects as well as several other federal interventions programmes.
And zeroing in on his constituency the House of Representatives aspirant regretted that the much expected democracy dividends have not been flowing into Ikwuano/Umuahia federal constituency because “we have been unlucky to have politicians that (appropriate to themselves) monies meant for constituency projects.”
To him, the underdevelopment in Ikwuano/Umuahia federal constituency amounts to an irony as the area is blessed with every resource needed to steer the people out of poverty.
It pains him that in spite of the good prospects of his constituency “year after year and tenure after tenure, our people are more impoverished than they have ever been.”
Nonetheless, all hope is not lost. Apugo strongly believes that the bad situation in his constituency in particular and Abia in general can be changed for the better if the persons are given the mandate to serve the people.
He has over the years proved himself to be a man of great capacity and competence to turn things around even in difficult situations.
Apugo’s appointment as special assistant to the governor on liaison office Lagos was a stepping stone in his journey to serve the people as a political office holder.
The then state governor, Chief Theodore Orji,(now a Senator representing Abia Central) was satisfied with the performance of the young man he had made an aide.
From then he gave Apugo higher responsibilities. He was appointed special adviser to the governor on transport and subsequently the General Manager/CEO Abia Line Network Transport Limited in 2011.
By then the state-owned transport company was already in a mess but as Apugo stepped in the company and its workers breathed fresh air.
In eight months the new MD cleared all the backlog of salary arrears and revived all the abandoned buses.
Not only that, he also bought 15 brand new Toyota Hummer buses thereby increasing the fleet of vehicles and fortified Abia Line Courier Services to become more effective and contribute to the revenue profile of the agency.
With the improved situation at Abia Line more job opportunities were created in the company and Apugo did not hesitate to give employment to many Abia youths.
He demonstrated that he is a good manager of human and material resources as he implemented the minimum wage policy for Abia Line staffs thereby encouraging them to enhance their productivity.
After pulling out the transport company out of the precipice and placing it on a strong footing, Hon. Apugo was sent on another rescue mission when he was appointed the General Manager/CEO of Abia State Environmental Protection Agency (ASEPA) on May 1, 2012. It was a very difficult task as the agency was reeling under the weight of poor funding by government, lack of vehicles and working tools as well as low morale of staffs. Apugo did not cower.
He saw the bad situation as a challenge which must be surmounted. And so despite the myriads of problems at ASEPA, compounded by lack of government will to support the agency,
Apugo battled to make the agency discharge its functions to Abia people. It was indeed a herculean task which lasted over five years spanning two administrations.
He has held public offices and discharged his duties creditably and as an entrepreneur his businesses remain the envy of competitors. His managerial experience straddles both the public and private sector of the economy.
Having witnessed the very many anomalies of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Hon. Apugo decided to join the ruling APC, a party he believes shares his vision to transform the lives of the masses. What PDP lost APC gained.
While in PDP the former Abia Line and ASEPA boss proved himself to be a great mobiliser of youths. He founded organisations that promoted civic engagements and social cohesion.
This included the Ochendo Prosperity Movement (OPM) and the PDP Ward to Ward Initiative both of which he had used as veritable platforms for mobilizing support for the ruling party.
Following his continued quest to promote good leadership at all levels of governance Apugo founded the Great Leadership Advocacy Organisation, a.k.a People’s Alliance Front (PAF),which has spread to all the 36 states and 774 local governments of the nation.
Though Hon. Apugo has his hands in several businesses including dredging, haulage, property development and agriculture, the one that has put him in national and international limelight is the Diamond Football Academy Limited.
With this outfit he has been involved in discovering football talents and nurturing them to become super stars. Some outstanding players in the Nigeria Under – 17 Team (Golden Eaglets) that won the 2015 FIFA World Cup in Chile were products of the Diamond Football Academy.
They include the team captain, Kelechi Nwakali, who emerged the Most Valuable Player (MVP) of the tournament and Samuel Chukwueze, who scored the fastest goal in the history of the Under 17 World Cup, and also won the Addidas bronze boot after finishing third in the highest goal scorer’s list.
Nwakali was later signed by Arsenal FC of England while Chukwueze was snatched by Villarreal FC of Spain. Aside from these two lads several other graduates of the Diamond Football Academy are presently playing professional football in teams across Europe.
Hon. Apugo is determined to continue expanding the frontiers of youth development. He is unrelenting in his efforts to enable young persons realise their football potentials hence he has acquired controlling stake in Clube Desportivo De Portosantense, Porto Santo Portugal, and is currently building a 3,000 capacity standard stadium in Lodu, Umuahia North Local Government Area.
His extensive links with reputable football administrators, managers, and scouts in several countries of Europe would ensure a steady harvest of budding talents in his football academy.
In the race for the Representative of Ikwuano/Umuahia federal constituency, Hon Apugo is not only well qualified but has the caring heart and intellectual capacity to represent his people creditably in the House of Representatives.
A graduate of the University of Calabar where he bagged a Bachelor of Science degree in 1995 and a Masters in Business Administration in 1998 from the Webster University London, United Kingdom, Apugo has continued to be a trailblazer and an accomplished entrepreneur.
He loves his people and promotes their welfare at all times. He is very passionate about the welfare of his people and has openly confessed that “issues concerning our people give me sleepless nights.”
The House of Representatives aspirant is a strong believer in the Buhari presidency, saying that Nigeria stands to gain more by renewing the mandate of Mr. President in 2019.
He has vowed to mobilize voters in Ikwuano/Umuahia federal constituency and Abia state in general to support the re-election of President Buhari.
Oseh, a public affairs analyst, contributed this piece from Umuahia.