In this interview, Chief Uche Nworah, shares his thoughts with The News Chronicle on his experiences as the MD/CEO of ABS, allegations that the ABS is a mere megaphone of the Anambra State Government, the lesbianism video scandal involving Chidinma Okeke, winner of the 2015 Miss Anambra Beauty Pageant which ABS organized and many more.
TNC: First, let me congratulate you on your re-appointment as the CEO and MD of Anambra Broadcasting Service. How would you evaluate your experiences so far? And what will you like to be remembered for when your tenure is up at the station?
Thank you very much. My re-appointment is actually not that recent. His Excellency graciously renewed it in 2018, shortly after his swearing in for a second term as Governor of Anambra State. It just happened that His Excellency, Chief Willie Obiano, Governor of Anambra State found it worthy to give me a commendation certificate at a meeting of the State EXCO on Monday, 20th of May 2019 for dedication and sterling performance as MD/CEO of ABS. On reading about this in the papers and online, many mistook that as renewal of my tenure.
It has been a richly rewarding experience I must say. Transiting from the private to public sector isn’t so easy. I am lucky that Governor Obiano is the kind of Boss that gives you assignments based on his overall vision for the state (His vision is to make Anambra the first Choice Investment Destination and a hub for industrialization and commercial activities. The Governor’s Mission is to make Anambra State a socially stable, business-friendly environment that would attract both indigenes and foreigners to seek wealth-creating opportunities).
The Governor also empowers and encourages his appointees and civil/public servants to exceed all expectations. He provides you with the tools and resources you require and follows up as well, guiding you every step of the way. When you are stepping out of line, he corrects you using his famous expression ‘You must keep your eyes on the ball’.
We don’t count our successes as servants of Ndi Anambra individually, no matter what role His Excellency has assigned to you, we have a collective goal mentality (Igwebuike) which is aligned to the overall vision set by the Governor. We are lucky to have been given the opportunity by him to serve from the onset of his administration. We are hopeful that by the time we exit with the Governor, we would all have contributed variously in making Anambra State better than we met it. Clearly you can never solve all the problems even if you have all the resources you require, more-so Governance is a continuum. For us at Anambra Broadcasting Service, we are striving towards making ABS a world class media brand, leveraging on technology to inform, educate and entertain our audience (Ndi Anambra and friends of Ndi Anambra). We want ABS to be the first media platform Ndi Anambra will come to to get information about goings on in the state, the development strides of the state government as well as other social, cultural, economic and political activities happening in Anambra.
TNC: You have had varied professional experiences – as a lecturer in the United Kingdom, working at a top level at a Bank in Nigeria and now for a state government in your home state of Anambra? In one of your photos on the Internet you have this big head gear with colourful bird feathers that suggested you have been inducted into a chieftaincy institution of some sorts. Can you tell us a little bit about it, and how you apparently navigate that line between modernity and tradition?
I thank God for all the opportunities one has had in one’s career. I have always believed in the saying that charity begins at home. Some say East, West, North and South, home is the best. Even while I was teaching in the United Kingdom as a Senior Lecturer in one of the universities, I was so very much involved in Anambra and Nigerian affairs. I never lost touch of home. When the opportunity came knocking to come back and work with one of the top 3 banks in Nigeria, first as Corporate Affairs Manager and later as Group Head of Human Capital Development, I jumped at it. It was from there that I was headhunted by one of the big telecommunication companies in Nigeria where I worked for 6 years as General Manager (Out-of-Home Media).
From there, His Excellency, following a nationwide competitive search and recruitment process offered me the opportunity to come home to Anambra to serve. We have rigorously pursued the Anambra project to the best of our ability and I believe that was what informed the decision of my people, Enugwu-Ukwu in Njikoka Local Government, the Igwe -In-Council/Cabinet and our traditional ruler, His Majesty, Igwe Sir Ralph Obumnaeme Ekpeh, Eze Enugwu-Ukwu na Igwe Umunri to induct me into the cabinet as a member and Chief. Perhaps you can regard this as one of the benefits of serving your people.
TNC: The ABS is often accused of being a megaphone of the government in power, with a preponderance of its programming and news centred around praising the State Governor. How would you respond to that?
I will leave you to judge such unfair comments yourself. They are totally untrue. Listen to our programmes on ABS 88.5FM and watch our programmes on ABS TV Channel 24. We have a broad range of programmes targeting different audience. It is difficult to sustain a radio and TV station by just singing the praises of government. Broadcasting has since moved on from that model. Our audience is growing by the day both terrestrially and online. If we are not doing some things right, we wouldn’t be commanding the huge audience and traffic we currently have. Without sounding immodest, I am not aware of any state owned media organisation in Nigeria that can compete with us content wise, and that is as active as ABS online. We currently have 215,000 active followers on our Facebook page, our posts reach over 40M monthly, average of 6M post reaches weekly. You can check our statistics out yourself on our page and various social media platforms. We live in the content, open-source, multi-media era so people will not come to you if you don’t have interesting and exciting programmes to offer them across all available media platforms.
We stream live via absradiotv.com and maintain an active YouTube and Instagram page where we update our programs regularly. This means that from anywhere you are in the world, you can listen to us or watch our content. We will be launching our internet TV shortly even as His Excellency is doing everything possible to get us on the DSTV platform. At the moment, we broadcast 18 hours daily but have a mandate from the Governor to start 24 hours Broadcasting. All these will happen shortly. We are also on local Startimes Channel 113 and Metrodigital Channel 29. We have the most digitally advanced broadcast equipment in Nigeria, many thanks to Governor Willie Obiano who has made all these possible. So please, let’s leave all the small talk about being a government megaphone.
TNC: Some people, notably veteran journalist Uche Ezechukwu, fingered you in the lesbianism video scandal involving Chidinma Okeke, winner of the 2015 Miss Anambra Beauty Pageant which ABS organised. We know you robustly denied any involvement. What really happened? Has the case been now amicably settled?
This sadly was an unfortunate incident for everybody but I believe it’s all in the past now. I really don’t like commenting on it anymore. However I still maintain what I had written at the time. Neither myself nor Anambra Broadcasting Service had anything to do with it. The matter was vigorously investigated by the police and DSS in Lagos and Anambra. We all read in the papers about some arrests that were made and about some people being prosecuted who were blackmailing the young lady. These are all in the public domain. You will have to contact the security agencies for their official reports on the matter.
TNC: In the 2019 Presidential elections, your boss, Governor Willie Obiano, was reportedly rooting for President Buhari, when the general sentiment of most people from the State appeared to be against his candidacy. Do you think, if the allegation was true, that it was smart politics on the part of the Governor?
I am really not competent to comment on this. It is only the Governor himself, His Press Secretary or The Governor’s Special Adviser on Political Matters that can speak on such matters. What I can say however is that Governor Obiano has always maintained a strategic relationship with government at the centre for the benefit of Anambra State and Ndi Anambra. He did this during President Goodluck Jonathan’s Government and continues to engage the government of President Buhari. Just last week, Governor Obiano visited the President at Aso Rock to congratulate him on his electoral victory. The Governor used the occasion to brief the President of the status of on-going Federal Government Projects in Anambra State such as the 2nd Niger Bridge, Enugu/Onitsha Expressway etc. The Governor also asked the President for more slots for Anambra indigenes in federal appointments. That’s smart politics, after all, President Buhari is the President of Nigeria not the President of only APC people.
TNC: How would you rate Obiano’s government – vis-a-vis those of his predecessors in the State?
We should not be in the business of comparison. However, it is important that we document for posterity sake the tremendous achievements that the Willie Obiano administration has in just 5 years recorded in all sectors. Ndi Anambra are very happy with the peace and security that this government has enabled, hence Anambra is now widely regarded as the safest state in Nigeria. We can see the massive ongoing and completed roads and bridge projects in the state. People continue to hail the 3 wonder flyovers at Awka (Kwata, Aroma and Amawbia flyover Bridges). The light-up Anambra Street Light Project is gradually moving Anambra State to a near 24-hour economy, Businesses stay open the longer. Civil servants in the state are paid their salaries promptly likewise pensioners. For us at ABS, we are particularly pleased that Governor Obiano cleared our 25-years accumulated pension and gratuity backlog totalling N300M. Previous administrations failed to do this. This government gave Ndi Anambra and the world Anambra rice which is a product of the current agricultural revolution in the state. The Education sector is also doing great, Anambra Students continue to do well and win accolades globally. The one-stop investment shop that the Governor set up, Anambra State Investment Promotion And Protection Agency (ANSIPPA) has greatly improved the ease of doing business in Anambra State. The agency has attracted investments worth billions of dollars into Anambra State. Another agency the governor set up, Anambra State Small Business Agency (ASBA) has attracted billions of Naira matched by state government funds which has been loaned out to SMEs thus powering the real economy. Go to Nkwelle Ezunaka and see what our people are doing in leather and footwear manufacturing powered by ASBA. They are already exporting and there are plans shortly to do the same for the textile sector.
Let posterity be the judge but as we say in Anambra, ‘Willie is working and the people are happy’.
TNC: Some ‘keyboard activists’ have been prodding you to throw your hat into the governorship ring when Obiano’s tenure is up in 2021. Is it something you are considering?
Hahahaha, I am not a politician. I belong to the other side which Nigerians call technocrats. I believe that my talent is in policy implementation, driving change and turning around failing organisations.