MO Media had an exclusive interview with the SSG of Bayelsa State and PDP Governorship candidate, Mr. Kemela Okara. In this interview, he explained his vision and major plans for Bayelsa State if elected as governor.
Why do you want to be the Governor of Bayelsa State?
Having served twice as Commissioner for Trade, Industry and Investment, and until recently as Secretary to the State Government, I have an understanding of what we need to do to provide jobs and promote entrepreneurship. This is the next major frontier for Bayelsa State. Putting money in the hands of the ordinary hardworking Bayelsan.
Bayelsa state has been mostly referred to by others (other states) as a “civil service state”, how do you intend to change this narrative? What measures would you put in place to create employment opportunities for people living here, aside the civil service?
There are 4 keys areas I will focus on to create jobs and grow the private sector. Attracting industries that depend on gas and to a lesser extent oil. Agriculture (palm production, cassava and fishing) and the value chain derivable from them. Power generation and finally micro, small and medium scale businesses.
A lot of youths have great business ideas but lack adequate funding. How would you utilize your office to help these youths achieve their dreams?
As Commissioner for Trade, Industry and Investment I managed a N2b facility at 9% lending rate targeted at Micro, Small and Medium Scale Businesses (MSME) in Bayelsa State. This facility was facilitated and guaranteed by the State Government but managed by micro finance banks and was able to provide loans to over 3,000 businesses. We will continue doing this. In addition, we will provide enterprise training and business clinics to teach business skills on a regular basis.
Mosttimes opportunities like this are gotten only by the “priviledged few” or mismanaged, how would you ensure the man or woman who doesn’t have connection to any government official can easily access this?
We followed strict guidelines laid down by the Central Bank from whom we borrowed the funds. This required that the loans be disbursed through a micro Finance bank which set out the criteria for accessing the loans. I would ensure this process is repeated.
How would you improve security in the state? Also, how do you intend to curtail cultist/robbery activities in the state?
The immediate task especially in Yenagoa is to ensure street lighting at least on major roads, in addition to providing streetlights, is to increase resources such as patrol vans across the city. Most importantly jobs are the key to curtailing cultism and crime.
Adequate Power supply is a great asset in a state. It can have tremendous effect on businesses and homes. How would you improve on this?
Bayelsa State falls under the distribution province of Port Harcourt Distribution Company (PHDC). Our policy therefore will be to work closely with PHDC to improve power supply in Bayelsa State. For businesses we will set up an industrial park to which uninterrupted power supply will be made utilizing gas from Shell or Agip.
During the tenure of the first governor of Bayelsa State……there were lots of scholarship opportunities and bursaries. What are your plans for providing easy access and better education for bayelsans?
The current funding model is the student loan scheme which has been set up already. This is more sustainable in the long term. The scholarship scheme as good as it is has been difficult to sustain because State Government income can be unpredictable. The Restoration Government also provided scholarships but had to stop when the economy had a recession in 2016.
What are your infrastructural plans for the state? Aside improving on the recently constructed airport, what major infrastructure (s) would you develop if elected as governor?
Continuing with the plans to ensure we reach the atlantic on 3 fronts. Brass, Koluama and Agge. In addition I will focus on rural infrastructure: more roads linking rural communities especially to help farmers bring out their produce to markets and earn more for their farm produce.
What is your vision for Bayelsa State?
My vision is to make Bayelsa State a model of an African economic success. This is anchored on qualitatively improving the opportunities for all to have a fair chance to succeed in life.
Profile of Kemela Okara
Kemela OKara hails from Bomoundi in Bayelsa State. He attended the Township School, Port Harcourt Primary School and later Federal Government College, Enugu and Government Comprehensive Secondary School, Port Harcourt for his secondary school education.
Thereafter, he proceeded to the United Kingdom for his “A” Levels after spending a year as a prelim student at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He graduated with Honours in Law from the University of Middlesex, London and was called to the Bar of England and Wales at the Honourable Society of Gray’s Inn and later as a Solicitor and Advocate of the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
He has practiced law, for over 20 years, set up the first bank to bank to bank money transfer service in the United Kingdom and does a huge amount of voluntary work in the not for profit sector.
As Commissioner for Trade, Industry and Investment from 2014- 2016, Mr. Okara set out a clear vision to make Bayelsa State the model of an African economic success story.
In collaboration with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), a State Industrial policy was articulated early 2016 to leverage on Bayelsa State’s comparative advantage in Oil and Gas Industrial activity; Power generation, Agriculture and Light Manufacturing. Mr. Okara has also overseen the hosting of the State’s premier investment promotion platform, the Bayelsa State Investment and Economic Forum (BSIEF) in 2014 and 2015.
He has since set up the Kemela Okara Foundation with offices in Yenagoa to provide vocational and entrepreneurial training for young men and women in the Niger Delta region.
He is happily married to Chineze and they have 3 children.