The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) panel screening aspirants who want to contest for the gubernatorial ticket in Enugu State this afternoon cleared former Power Minister Bart Nnaji.
The seven-member panel headed by Prof Yusuf Dankofa, from Kaduna State, merely asked Professor Nnaji to take a bow and “go in recognition of your immense contributions to national development over the years”.
Said Dankofa: “People like you are needed in the public to move this country forward”.
The other panel members, including James Ugwu, the panel’s secretary from Enugu State who is also the the PDP South East Zonal Secretary, noted in agreement, smiling.
Nnaji, who came with a large volume of documents in expectation of a tough interview, was himself surprised at the honour.
Signs that the panel has high regard for the former minister were noticed when he was invited to meet the panel before other aspirants who came for screening.
Though the screening panel did not list specific contributions to national growth which Nnaji made, the erstwhile Minister of Power under President Goodluck Jonathan for only one year starting in 2011, is widely praised for revolutionizing the performance of the troublesome power sector.
While serving as Special Adviser to President Jonathan on Power and Chairman of the Presidential Task Force from 2010 to 2011 during which he prepared the Nigeria Power Sector Reform agenda, Nigeria’s quantum of electricity was raised from less than 3000 megawatts by 1000 MW.
It was further increased to 5300MW during his period as the power minister, with almost all the power generated successfully wheeled on the transmission network which for decades has been notorious for old age and poor maintenance, resulting in constant system collapses.
“The achievement was unprecedented in Nigeria’s history”, observed Alex Animalu, Professor Emeritus of Physics at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, and winner of the Nigerian National Order of Merit (NNOM) award, the country’s highest honour for intellectual achievement who recalled that Nnaji had in 2002 scored a bull’s eye for building Nigeria’s first independent power plant in Abuja, a 22MW Emergency Plant commissioned by Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the then Vice President.
Based on a request from the then Nigerian Finance Minister, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala who is now the Director General of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the then World Bank President, Dr James Wolfohnson, Professor Nnaji commenced the 181MW Aba Integrated Power Project which will be commissioned later this year to supply constant, quality, safe and affordable electricity to nine out of the 17 local government areas in Abia State.
Nnaji told journalists at the PDP Enugu State headquarters after his speedy clearance that his priority, if elected the state governor, would be to create tremendous business and economic opportunities through industrialization.
“Serious investors will be attracted to participate in the power sector, for instance, utilizing, among other things, the immense natural gas in places like Ugwuoba in Oji River Local Government Area.
“Much of the agitation in the South East and other parts of the country is fuelled by the lack of employment and business opportunities.
“We must tackle the hydra-headed monster of a lack of opportunities for young people head -on, otherwise there will be a bleak future for all of us”.