A Harvard University, Boston-trained medical doctor and founder of Las Vegas Pain Institute Medical Centre, Dr. Godwin Maduka plans to run for the office of the Governor of Anambra State in the 2021 gubernatorial elections. In a comprehensive interview with the Arise News Television’s Christian Ogodo, he narrated the essentials of his manifesto for the good governance of Southeastern Nigeria’s flagship state and expressed the fact that he is ready to change the face of the state. Excerpts:
You are one diaspora Nigerian in politics interested in the forthcoming Anambra State 2021 gubernatorial race. The people of Anambra are searching for a new leadership in 2021. Tell us about your political ambition?
Well, I believe that there comes a time, when we ought to have a new direction, so I have been watching my state and I have seen the progress they have made and in some other, there is need for improvement. That is why I decided that I should try my best to get involved with the governance of Anambra State.
But you have not announced the political party on whose platform you want to contest the election, as 2021 is just a few months away. Besides, what are you bringing to the table?
I must say, at this point, I am running under the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. What I am bringing to the table is that for the 40 years I have been in the USA and out of these 40 years, 30 years I have been at home doing one thing or the other, trying to improve people’s lives and I believe that I have something to offer the state.
All the governors since Ngige, Peter Obi as well as Obiano, I have always been involved trying to do my best to help the government and so, I have watched them all these years. I realised that there is a lot I can add to what they have done and I have enumerated many areas that will need some improvement in education, transport, women, youth empowerment and IT.
Of course, as you know in medicine, which is my career, we have to improve in that area. I think medical tourism has to be reversed. Our people shouldn’t have to be going to India, America or UK to get health care that they need. That is one of the things that I needed to make sure is done in my state.
You don’t need to spend millions of naira and dollars taking that money overseas, when we can have it at home. As you know, I am also a pharmacist and being a pharmacist, I believe we can build factories that manufacture drugs so that people can stop importing fake drugs into the country.
I think we need to have mechanised agriculture. We also have to be able to help local farmers to be effective in order to improve their agricultural yields. I am sure that we can make a difference in Healthcare and Agriculture. I have done some work in the past in education, religious tolerance, roads and bridges as part of my philanthropic activities.
How close are you to the grassroots and how much assistance and philanthropy have you done for the people of Anambra State?
You may call it philanthropy but what we are doing is try to improve the quality of life of the people. A lot of facilities were not available, when we were growing up. In Anambra, for instance, I was born in 1959. The war broke around 1966 and lasted till 1970 and that led to our missing school for three to four years.
I didn’t start school until I was 10 to 11 years old and I was very lucky to have finished school and ended up in the US, where I read Chemistry, Pharmacy, and Medicine and started working thereafter. Now the only time I have been absent from Anambra state from Nigeria was first 11years that I was in the classroom. After that 11 or 12 years, I have been coming home every year, so, there is nothing about home that I don’t know.
I was involved with the construction of roads and doing other development-oriented things at home and dealing with villagers. So, in terms of being close to the grassroots, of course, I was one of them. I did the things that needed to be done at home to make sure that lives were better for the grassroots people of Anambra State, particularly in Orumba, where I come from.
Nigerians in Diaspora are ready for a change. They are coming home. They decided this is a movement. Our people at home are doing good too, and we need to have a collective effort. We from the Nigerians in diaspora and those at home should work together to be able to bring a change in Nigeria.
There shouldn’t be any division between the Nigerians in diaspora and Nigerians at home. The Diaspora Nigeria intends to come home, get involved in politics, get involved in development, get involved in infrastructure building and those are the things that are moving the movement.
You have chosen to call it a movement – a movement from the diaspora to come and contribute politically, socially, economically and technologically to the development of Anambra. Youth groups in Anambra State are saying the governorship must be zoned to the South senatorial district. Do you fall within that bracket or are you for meritocracy – that merit to take control instead of zoning?
You have asked a very good question. It has been observed for close to 20 years that the Central Senatorial District has ruled for 8 years; the North Senatorial District is just completing another 8 years. Now, it is time for the South but let me make it categorically clear we have to observe that zoning so that there will be peace at home.
You cannot explain to somebody that it is time for the South to produce the governor and all of a sudden it becomes politics. You can’t have peace in the state that way. Now after we finish with the South then we can abandon this zoning system.It should be abundantly clear that the next governor must come from the South or the people of the southern senatorial zone will feel cheated.
But I believe that even at that, we have been endowed with men and women that can actually win the governorship without being zoned from the south. We have a lot of heavyweights down there. I happen to come from the south as well. Even though I am not running based on senatorial zoning. I am running on the fact that there are lots of things that needed to be changed. We shouldn’t be lagging behind in development.
We shouldn’t stick with the same old story about politics. Our politics and understanding has to go beyond the borders of Nigeria. We need not to be looked down upon internationally. We should have a very developed country in the future and others trying to come home and do something because we love our country.
I love my state. I love my city. I love my race and I love my people in general. I am not coming to be a Messiah but I’m coming to continue what I have been doing for 30 years. I never meant to dabble into politics but I see some things that I think I can do to help us and add to the good work that past governors have done.
Now, I do not pull anybody down. You have to be on that seat before you can say that somebody did good or didn’t do good. I think Anambra State has been blessed with a lot of good governors and I really believe that when I come in there, the diaspora effect will be felt.
You have given a political overview of the state where you said after 2021, zoning should be eradicated or eliminated after the South senatorial district must have produced the next Governor. Now, let’s look at the bigger picture for the Igbo in the Southeastern region. The presidency, they are asking should be zoned to them, what are your thoughts about zoning the presidency to the Southeast in 2023?
Well, it is almost a replica of what is happening in Anambra State. I think in democracy in Nigeria, I hope in future we will get to the same level of the western world. The reason that they are clamouring for Igbo president is just for that equity and fairness. I think when one is under guard, I am looking forward to Nigeria that doesn’t have tribalism, because when you have lived in America all these years, you will realise that being black is being black.
Nobody is going ask you if you are from Hausa or from Igbo or from Yoruba. But at this point, when I think we reach that perfect union, then, you do not have to clamour for a president coming from one region of Nigeria or the other, because we all are Nigerians. I think we need to produce a well-articulated democracy yet.
Therefore, I believe that the next president should come from the Southeast mostly the Igbos. They need to produce a president, that president should be for everybody. That president should not discriminate. I am not saying any president is discriminating.
We have been lucky too with a lot of presidents but there are other people that use the presidency to their benefit and the president may not even know that he was being manipulated. But whether the President is from Igbo or from Hausa or from Yoruba, he should be president for all of us. Until the Southeast produces a President, the Igbo will continue to feel marginalised in the governance of Nigeria.
Nigerians living in the diaspora have that sense of marginalisation, particularly, if you listened to an elder statesman, Mamman Daura, who said the time has come for the best candidate to be chosen. Do you belong to that school of thought or you still insist that after the Southeast must have produced the next president, then, it can be thrown open to every Nigerian?
Well, this is what I believe personally. I think Southeast should produce a president and after which we educate Nigerians to love one another, coexist and no longer about South or North. We are all one. There shouldn’t be any zoning on anything. There shouldn’t be zoning in governorship.
There shouldn’t be zoning in the presidency. But right now, we have not grown to that point to understand what holds us together and that’s why the zoning has to happen now; why we are learning to emulate the people that gave us democracy.
Nepotism has to go in Nigeria. I don’t understand it. I love my race, I love other races, but what brings us together is that we are blacks; we all are Nigerians. I don’t care what part of Nigeria you are. I don’t feel that I should be seen as an Igbo man. I should be seen as a Nigerian. I believe that the zoning must be complete. We have to produce an Igbo president. Give them a chance then after that, we throw it open to everybody. That is my belief.
Just like what is happening in Anambra, the Southerners have not produced a governor until now. The next governor of Anambra comes from the south, for so many reasons. Number one, we have a lot of eligible people that can be governor. Secondly, it’s also zoned over there for peace and unity to reign. I’m calling on Nigerians to let people be a part of the union.
If we don’t produce an Igbo president from the Southeast, a lot of people are going to feel very marginalised. When the Igbo produce a President of Nigeria, he must be the president for everybody – a president for the North, the South, Middle belt and everywhere. Nigeria is a beautiful country. I lived here all my life. The only time I have been absent is for 12 years. I love coming home. I love going to Abuja. I love going to Kano. I love going to Lagos.
What is your opinion about Nigerians living in the diaspora, who want electoral reform in Nigeria that will enable them to vote and be voted for in Nigeria?
Well, most Nigerians know that we contribute to the welfare of the country. As you said, there are billions of dollars or Euros thrown into Nigeria from the Nigerians in diaspora. Now, we are involved in development, we are involved in religion, we are involved in every aspect of human endeavour at home, they should be allowed to vote and they are going to start voting.
They have to get voters registration card which is very simple, because they are part of the system. One thing I love about Nigerians in the diaspora is that we love our home; we love our families at home; we love our state; we love our country. Most Nigerians in diaspora do not get involved in all these nepotism or tribalism, because that will be a laughable joke.
If you have lived in US or UK or Canada or Europe, you don’t want to identify with one tribe or the other. I think that the only way Nigerians will move forward is to use this knowledge that we have, plus what we grew up with in Nigeria, merge them together so we can move the country further and become a nation.
How do you see the president’s three-point agenda set out for the diasporas to come and invest in Nigeria and involve in whatever they want to do as good ambassadors of this great country Nigeria?
I am very happy to hear his recent speech but again like I said, he has been doing this since his presidency. I think he is one of the presidents in Nigeria to reach out to the Nigeria in diaspora. I was in his presence. The minister of the diaspora will tell you that they know me well and one of the reasons I was also invited there was because of what I have done at home. I have told Nigerians in diaspora there is a need to go home and help develop the country in order to contribute their quota to change the country for the better.
Can you imagine that if all the Nigerian pharmacists, which I am a member in the United States come home together with me, we shall build one of the best factories and produce medications for Nigeria and African market. This is, because we have the technology, we have the knowledge. Therefore, President Buhari’s three-point is in order.
Covid-19 has raised several medical and health questions but I want to ask you, what is your position on the controversies surrounding the use and efficacy of hydroxychloroquine in the management of Covid-19?
You know, until the vaccine for this virus is obtained, any remedy that can help, we will use. I for one, I have not used hydroxychloroquine yet but people are beginning to show a lot of data which show that people are recovering. A Nigerian medical doctor living in Texas was able to show that out of the 300 people that were struck by the virus, she was able to give them hydroxychloroquine, arzithromacin and zinc. If there is any other regiment that could help in the recovery process the virus patients, let us know.
President Trump says he is using it and the President of Brazil says he too is using it. My take is: if you want, use it. I don’t see much problem from using it. But to shut it down without any other alternative, I don’t think it’s the answer. If you have the coronavirus infection that resulted in symptoms, why not try those too, because it won’t kill you. That is my take on that as a pharmacist and physician.
Before I ask you a question on the 17 storey Health Institution you are building at Umuchukwu, your home town in Anambra State, how engaged are you with your colleagues, Nigerian professionals in the US in helping to develop alternative medicine of Nigeria Herbal origin that is of scientifically proven quality? Is that the line of business that you are aggregating with your colleagues in the diaspora right now?
First of all, most people know that I am a son of a native doctor – a herbalist – and that’s how I got this idea of becoming a medical doctor. During the rainy season, people get sick. I follow my father into the bush, get the root, get the herbs, get the leaves, mix them together and cure people. We never had any doctors in that remote part of Nigeria. These people cure anything from sexually transmitted diseases to malaria to different ailments. This area of work is called pharmacognosy – the study of plants and roots for the purpose of medication. We did that in pharmacy school and that is the part I am still more interested on.
We still have some of the recipes at home. I really believe that Nigeria just as Cuba should develop some of these herbal drugs, whether it is found in the north, south or the west of the country. It is important to get all their remedies. We can always put it through the lab and check out the toxicity level and efficacy and start doing our own trials.
In building that 17 floors which in future I hope will be help the World Health Organization and other enterprises for the study of the tropical disease and tropical medicine for the purpose of treating different types of tropical diseases from typhoid, malaria and parasite infections.
We keep using the western medications, which might not work well with us back home. I think it’s about time that we did studies in terms of trials of medication using our people at home for whom the medication is being developed. As for Nigerians in diaspora, I am a member of ANPA, that is, Association of Nigerian Physicians in the Americas and some of them come home and do medical missions.
But I believe in time not too far, we will establish this international teaching method using that 17-storey building. It will house medical research; it will house the teaching of doctors, nurses, radiologists, the laboratory attendants etc. It will house international health organizations of Africa.
Prior to that, I have already built a hospital called TRINITAS. That is already taking care of the local people at home. This one is mostly for research and fellowship training as well as specialist matters. Whether it is in cancer and oncology. Whether it is in infertility, whether it is in HIV Aids, now Covid-19. So, upon completion of this 17-floors, that will be the hub of training our local people with different areas of medicine.
I believe some people will say this is going to check medical tourism abroad and much needed foreign exchange will be saved. How soon do you expect this to come into operation?
It should be ready in the next few months, as we are already working on that. We will soon finish the work down there and I am also working in collaboration with people from overseas and within Nigeria to help in finishing it up. Let me also use this opportunity to call on the federal government to come to our help, because we need support. By the time we finish this project, it will be the best in sub-Saharan Africa and we will set a standard.