NASS LEADERSHIP IS RECEPTIVE TO RENEWED HOPE – HON. ALEXANDER MASCOT IKWECHEGH … BUDGET COMMENDABLE, GOOD … WE WILL RE-IGNITE ABA APPREHENTICESHIP SYSTEM
Hon. Alexander Ifeanyi Mascot Ikwechegh is from Igbere, Bende Local Government Area, Abia State, Nigeria. He started his education at Constitution Crescent Primary School, Abia State, before moving to Hope Waddell Training Institution for his secondary education. He then went to University of CalAbar where he graduated with a degree in Business Management.
Ikwechegh started his career as a politician by contesting successfully for the Chairmanship of Aba North Local Government Area, Abia State, Nigeria. At age 28, he became the youngest politically elected Chairman of a Local Government in Nigeria. Ikwechegh started GrossField Group as a construction, real estate, oil and gas company. Later in his career, he started Alex Ikwechegh Foundation providing educational support and relief materials for the less privileged and victims of social, artificial and natural disasters in Nigeria.
Ikwechegh was born and raised in Igbere, Abia State, Nigeria. His father was Mascot Ukandu Ikwechegh, a businessman and philanthropist. His mother was Eunice Uzaru Ikwechegh. He is a Member of House of Representatives who just won at tribunal and later in the Court of Appeal three weeks ago. He has since swung into action as he comes across NASSNEWS during the 2024 budget defense.
NASSNEWS: Officially, for the readers and those that are just mentioning for the first time, can we meet you sir?
HON. ALEXANDER MASCOT: My name is Honourable Alexander Mascot Ekwechegh, I represent the boisterous, punctilious, fastidious and scrupulous people of Aba North/Aba South Federal Constituency in this propitious Assembly.
NASSNEWS: Can we say you were born with silver spoon, a politician or you actually grew up like the normal person on the street and became who you are today?
HON. ALEXANDER MASCOT: Well, my story is quite interesting. I would say that I was born with a silver spoon because my father was a very successful businessman before I was born in the late 70s. And eventually of course things kept on going as planned till my father passed away in 1992 of 2nd of January.
So when he died, my mom died three weeks after and whole story of me being a child that was born into a rich family became a thing of the past. Because then as very young people that we were as at then, we didn’t have access to the funds that my parents left behind. So things were handled the way they were handled by his brothers, my uncles.
So eventually I had to hit the streets. I sold chewing gum, I sold sweets, I sold banana, I sold mineral drinks, I sold Okrika (second hand clothing), you know what they call bend down select. I did all those things to survive. And one of the prayers that I prayed back then is that if God gives me the way with all to be able to do well, propound my vision and generate wealth, that I would never allow children to go through what I have been through. And it was a covenant that I had with God. And when I became 23 years old, I started making money. That was when I made my first $1,000,000 as a 23-year-old young man who was a government contractor back then.
So I started as a contractor. I did very well in business, started importing trucks, truck heads, truck parts from the United States, from Florida, United States into Nigeria. I started selling vehicles, bringing vehicles from the United States to Nigeria; selling, you know, just trying to find means of subsistence.
Eventually I decided to give it a shot into politics. Because of my conspicuous nature, people often would try to induce me to join politics. Well, not really to join politics and play a role in politics, but to come out and talk to people on their behalf for them to win. Politicians will reach out to me to come out and talk to the masses on their behalf. Because, you know, like I said, I was doing business, I was doing well. So I was just practically helping people, keeping to my own part of the bargain of the covenant that I had with God, that I will try my best to make sure that people are doing well, people are fed, people go to school. So I had like a foundation that will take care of the less privileged, cater for children without parents, you know, basically trying to quell, provide financial succor to those that were currently going through what I went through in those days. So, you know, the politicians will reach out to me and I would talk to people on their behalf, join them for their campaign and help them to win. And when I noticed that they were not doing what they were supposed to do for the people, I said, what? Why not come out and run myself? I came out, I ran. I became a Mayor, Local Government Chairman. That was from 2007 to 2010. Eventually, I wasn’t too comfortable with the way politics was being played as at then. And I didn’t feel that I had grown enough to stand on my 2 feet politically so I left the political scene, resigned from Politics to the private sector. I continued with my business, started a real estate company which has metathesized to a company that is worth a lot of money today. And we have built a bunch of homes in Abuja and Lagos, started my investment banking business, got my license with CBN
and started trading Forex.
Then, after End Sars of 2020, with the situation at the Lekki Toll Gate, I then did a video that eventually went viral where I appealed to young men and women to register with political parties and find ways and means to get into the system and fight from inside. Eventually I took a bit of that advice that I give to other people. I, of course, wanted to leave by example. So I joined the political party and I ran for the election vigorously. And today, I am a member of the House of Representatives.
NASSNEWS: Let us talk about the ABA of your dream.
HON. ALEXANDER MASCOT: My dream is the ABA that I grew up knowing, the Japan of Africa. The ABA where people would come from Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea and other neighboring country to buy ABA made products.
The ABA where their men who has never been to Lagos, has only been to Lagos to buy maybe goods or to receive his family coming from overseas, that Is travelling back into the country. The ABA man lives in a massive mansion that has his factory. Every small corner of our ABA is a small production center. That is the ABA I used to know. That is the ABA where I grew up.
But today ABA is now a place where you see young men and women smoking hemp, taking what we call Ngborogwu. It is like herbs; young men will wake up in the morning because there are minute opportunities or practically no opportunities, they just seat and drink Ngborogwu and smoke hemp.
The only industry that happens to be somewhat lucrative now in ABA is the industry of KeKe riding or Okada riding, job carrying and all that. When I say job carrying, I mean those labourers that pack goods from containers to their warehouses. And then you see a lot of young men and women that are already confused in life. They do not have means of subsistence. You see them sitting in corners, smoking, drinking from morning to night, that is not the ABA that we know.
ABA is known for its dexterity. ABA citizens are known to be dexterous. They are known to be industrious; they are known to be resilient; they are known to be productive. But today, ABA is totally a different ABA.
Someone like me, who is quite passionate about the welfare of my people, have resolved that we will not sit idly, live a life of affluence, ostentation, opulence and ignore the plights of my people, or not raise an eyebrow to the plight of the average ABA man, which is of course clamoring and beckoning for assistance from intellectually sound Nigerians and politicians that can come and provide or attract opportunities in its Infinity that will allow the average man to have access to raise money and take care of his family.
The ABA man is not lazy. The ABA man is hardworking. All the ABA man wants is for you to show him what to do. That is why when you see a container that drives into our ABA, maybe from Lagos or from Onitsha, Lagos ports or anywhere, you see a multitude of youths just begging that you should allow them to carry those goods from the container to the warehouse.
That is why I told you that those are the moving industries and it is very painful. Even as I am talking now, I am feeling emotional because this is not the ABA I used to know. We will build people who come in, people who buy, people who pay, and it will strengthen our currency.
So that is what we are trying to re-ignite in ABA.
NASSNEWS: How are you going to achieve the new ABA in the midst of 360 lawmakers.
HON. ALEXANDER MASCOT: It is very simple. I have been building partnerships with different stakeholders of this very National Assembly, both at the Senate and at this level that we are also operating on. I have reached out to the leadership of the National Assembly. I have reached out to the leadership of the Senate, making them understand the sensitivity of the situation in ABA; appealing to them to find Ways and Means to partner with me to see that projects are done that will help to alleviate the sufferings of the ABA people. I just left the Senate Presidents office. I went to plead with him. I said, Daddy you are the father of this very Assembly. I said, I am from your back, it is a neighboring Constituency to your Senatorial district and the Senate President confided in me that they are equally viable or economically relevant for the people of ABA, because that is where our brothers from far away Cameroon, that is the routes that they take to come into ABA to buy our goods.
So I am really pleased that the Senate President was magnanimous enough to open up to me as his son to tell me this is the position where we are when it comes to the ABA situation. So this is just an example of what we are doing, trying to build bridges across board. But of course, my own primary objective, our primary approach to exhaustively resolve the ABA conundrum is by setting up institutions that will reignite that dexterousness in the ABA character.
Do you understand where I am coming from? Let me put it in a way that a layman will understand. That is what we call the Igbo Apprenticeship System. The Igbo Apprenticeship System is a system that the Igbos adopted after the Civil War, which helped the Igbos to reorganize their economy within a decade and half after the Civil War in 1970. That Igbo Apprenticeship system is a system that allows you to be picked by an Oga, trained by a mentor, then after a few years you start yours. It is a system that works. Even we have a Business School that has adopted that system as an effective system. So basically what I am trying to do is to re-ignite that system. I have already made plans. I have already put in the budget, which Mr. Speaker has graciously approved for all our technical institutions to be resuscitated, reactivated, re-galvanize, so that our ABA people can go back in there and begin to learn how to make different things like they used to in the past.
Instead of just sitting around, let them go back and start to learn how to make paints, how to make Blocks, how to make chairs, how to make POP again. You can imagine that people when they are building, they will want to go and import people from Cameroon and people from Lome, Togo, Benin Republic to come and do our POP, tiling, screeding and all that stuff. So those are some of the things that when I see with the country that has a population of over 200 million people and these are resilient people. You can agree with me that Nigerians are very smart people, yet we go to Kotonou that has a very small population to bring them to do our work here.
ABA is a city that is known to produce; well known for production. And what we intend to do to put our people back to work is to re-ignite or preach a message that resonates within the ABA psychology where we would say opportunities have been made.
Now, you guys come and learn this trade, when you satisfy that trade, we will raise you some starter packs, you take that starter pack and start your own life. That is what we are going to be doing for the next four years. Of course, we are also going to be doing roads. We are going to be ensuring that there is light in the city, you know about the electricity project that is ongoing started by Prof. Barth Nnaji.
So with all these things that are already on ground, our idea and our vision will encapsulate all these things put together so that we can be able to provide an enabling environment where goods and services can move freely, where security is guaranteed, where investors are exposed to the products of ABA people or ABA merchants or ABA traders.
Where football through some of the friendship committees that I belong to will be reignited in ABA. You will agree with me that Enyimba Football Club, which is a football club that has won CAF Cup twice, is an ABA club, an ABA Football Club. So we are trying to bring in international players, Coaches into ABA to come and begin to source players as well. We are going to definitely make sure that production is encouraged in ABA.
We have a governor that also understands how things should be done. I am not from the party where the governor belongs. I am from APGA and the governor is a LABOUR man.
However, the governor seems to be doing very well. I think we share the same vision. The governor is already doing a lot when it comes to infrastructural development. My own duty is to also support him and complement what he has done So far, so good.
NASSNEWS: How are you going to score the budget? Does it take the plight of your people into consideration?
HON. ALEXANDER MASCOT: The Budget, termed renewed hope by our father, His Excellency Bola Ahmed Tinubu, is one that I believe should be commended. The Budget delves very deeply into ensuring that the problems in the education sector becomes a thing of the past.
The budget figure appropriated for education sector is quite impressive. It shows that the President understands that education and knowledge is power and that our children cannot be in their homes and not go to school, and we would expect a better Nigeria. Education is the bedrock of every society or any society. If your children or your citizens are not educated, that is a recipe for disaster. There is a large provision or massive provision for education, student loans, that is to say, young men that are already frustrated that do not have means to train themselves in school, now there is hope for them to go to school. For the first time in Nigeria, this provisions have been made.
Also in defense, there is a lot of money appropriated into defense to counter and combat insecurity in the country. We have also looked at insecurity in this country with a different lens. Most of us see, of course there are always bad people in society that would like to cause mayhem, but we also have looked at it in a manner that will not put us in a precarious situation where we will begin to combat young Nigerians that are just trying to survive. So we want the security apparatus of this country to begin to work hand in hand with other ministries so as to provide, make sure that education is fully guaranteed.
Power is really invested into, so that we can find a way to solve the electricity problem. Because if there is constant light in the country, you will see young men engaging in one thing or the other. If there is constant light in my street, you will see somebody open a Barbing Saloon, you will see another person open a saloon, a hair saloon for women. You see another person open a dry cleaning shop. You see another person open a pure water production place. You see another person open bottled water production place. You will see another person open a chin chin factory.
So by the time you set up, you see all these possible industries coming up. All these people that go around with malevolent, ominous and devilish plans to convince people to carry AK-47 and begin to cause mayhem will not have people to talk to because people will be busy working. So that is to say, if we are able to solve some surrounding problems, it may help us to reduce drastically the insecurity situation that currently confronts us. So, I think the budget is a good one.
The President also highlighted very immensely, even when he came to pass the budget, Let me tell you, I find soulness in Mr. President sometimes knowing that the President is a man that has seen money, made money, generated a world run businesses, If you are someone who understands how to create weealth, if you are someone who has that entrepreneurial mindset, it is easy for you to navigate this country because it is something that you are already used to. Your mental muscle has already absorbed a lot when it comes to creation of world. And that is why immediately the President came in and said subsidy must go. Because this is a recurrent expenditure that virulently affects the economy of this our country. And it is a never ending cycle, it is cyclical. So for the President to have been bold enough and audacious enough to have put a stop to that anomaly, this country would have never been able to find its feet. So I am quite optimistic about the budget.
NASSNEWS: Let us quickly talk about this student loan.
HON. ALEXANDER MASCOT: In countries like the United States, you have the Social Security, you have a bunch of different mechanisms that has been put in place to check the activities of every citizen. In Nigeria you don’t, so those procedural measures that people must take to become eligible for the student loan is something people just have to do. It is a start, of course, as the system is being tested, it will continue to be modified and fine-tuned. But as far as I am concerned, it is a step towards the right direction. It has never been done. I know how I survived. I told you that I sold sweet, chew gums, Okrika. I did all kinds of different things to go to school. Imagine if there was availability for student loan back then when I was going to school in the 90s, it would have been easy for me to access it. And you know, I wouldn’t have had to go through all that I went through, even though all that I went through eventually shaped me to become the man that I have become today. So, as far as I am concerned, the President is making life easier for Nigerians.
When the man came in things were really bad. When the former President came in, it was really bad. So things are just getting worse and worse in the whole globe. However, the President has come in, he is our President and he means well. And if you can tell from the policies that he is coming up with, you can also tell from even just by the way he conducts himself. So we are quite pleased and for the very long time even I don’t even know if we have ever had a President that is as successful as this President before becoming President. He is a man that just wants to make name for himself and you know, set a legacy and write his name in gold. He is not a man that is looking for money. Do you understand? So I am confident that we will come out on top at the end.
NASSNEWS: What have you been able to achieve with your Constituents so far?
HON. ALEXANDER MASCOT: I just came here barely two weeks ago through the courts. The person that was here before is a Labour Party candidate and his name is Emeka Sunday Namani, who was declared winner on the 27th of February of this year 2023 abruptly and we went to court and the lower court of course upturned the declaration and declared me winner.
He appealed and the appeal also affirmed the decision of the lower court. So I came here. I was sworn in on November 15th, two weeks and a few days here. However, we have already started work very vigorously. I have always been prepared before coming here, I had my intentions like I told you that I am building bridges. I am creating a strategic alliance between the Senate leadership and this humble office. We also have strong alliances with the leadership of these very Reps creating strong alliances, friendships that we have fostered overtime. We are hoping to leverage on those friendships to ensure that the people of ABA are well catered for. Of course the budget is on-going now I am appealing to everybody.
ABA is a city that we cannot afford to allow to decay. So we are pushing very vigorously to see the projects that will not exceed the first quarter is put in the budget so that our ABA can be as a cosmopolitan constituency that houses close to one million eligible voters, we can ensure that our ABA is well catered for. So we are already doing that in another, maybe immediately after the holidays we will come back and continue from where we have stopped.
NASSNEWS: Comparing you coming to the private from the private sector and you're here now, could you just. Quickly give a. Brief comparison of
both. I does. Sorry Sir, this what you met here in a few weeks now needs your expectation or you're
Well, to compare me today as a member of the National Assembly and the private sector, those are two different, I would say those are two different, two totally different kinds of lifestyle. As a member of the private sector, I move around when I like, I travel outside the country when I like. I make my money, I do whatever I want to do with it, and I make far more money as a member of the private sector. Coming here now I’ve handed over my business to someone who I don’t know if he has the capacity to run my business the way I could have run it. But it is call to service. That’s what we’re doing here. And I’m very pleased to be here. Something compelled and propelled me to come here. And it is to bring about that change and to also serve as an inspiration to young men and women
that believe that they need godfathers to get into politics. I don’t have any godfather. I don’t have anybody. As a matter of fact, I ran for the election, funded the election. I had governors that were fighting me to stop me from winning the election; serving governors. And we fought vigorously. And today I am sitting before you today as a member of the House of Reps. So it’s doable.
And coming here, I wouldn’t say that I am disappointed. I would actually say that I am impressed. We have a leadership that I would want to immensely commend. The Speaker of the House is a fine gentleman, an educated, erudite politician, a calm, quintessential figure with a very subtle personality, yet very engaging with very strong and robust achievements within this few months. As I have noticed when I came he received me very well. He is very receptive. He will listen and he will oblige you. The Majority Leader is a very fine man. The professor from Oyo State, Professor Julius, is a very fine man, very receptive, kind, fatherly and Big Brother. A relationship I have with him is one that is second to none. The Minority Leader is a fine young man too, you know, from River State, Chinda, very
nice guy and he has his listening ears. So I’m very pleased with the leadership of the House. The Whip, the Deputy whip. These are very good people and these are people that are also resolute to see that Nigerians are taken care of, and their problems are made to go away. The Chairman of Appropriation Right Honourable Gucci is another fine gentleman, young, bright, well exposed, well travelled, educated gentleman who believes in equity, who believes that things should be done equitably. Who believes that life is totally deeper than what you see today; who has, you know, emphatically and unequivocally made it very clear to all that cares to listen that we are interested in making sure that Mr. President realizes his eight-point agenda. And he is making very strong steps to see that revenue are generated domestically, to support the President to realize this, to implement this budget that we are currently trying to pass. So I’m quite impressed with the crop of leaders that we have here in this very Assembly and I’m optimistic that it is going to get better. And of course, I am definitely going to leave this place better than I met it with, the whole crop of people that think the way I do that are also here. So I am very optimistic, OK.
NASSNEWS: Kindly advice the youths and young people regardless of the tribe and constituency in Nigeria.
HON. ALEXANDER MASCOT: My counsel; advice to young men and women is that it is doable. They say anything you believe cause anything you conceive, believe it can be achieved and it is doable. All you need to do is make up your mind and say this is what I am going to do. If a young man who lost his parents at the age of 11 has struggled and eventually is now in the National Assembly without anybody helping him to get here.
He has fought battles and wars all his life and today he is here propounding his vision, trying to make legislation that would help to better the lives of those that are going through what he went through in the very not too distant past. That is to show you that anything is possible. So everybody should work hard, believe in yourself, always have something that you wake up and look forward to doing and do it diligently. They say he who does more than he is paid for always turns out to earn more than he is asked to do.