Says mega party, no threat
From Chidi Nnadi, Enugu
The Chief of Staff in Imo State Government House, Uche Nwosu, has said that the performance of the President Muhammadu Buhari and some of the governors of the APC will ensure that the party would continue ruling at the federal level beyond 2019. He also expressed happiness at the ongoing registration of members in the South-East, saying that it would boost the strength of the party.
The APC, has begun re-registration and revalidation of members in the South-East, which has seen some prominent Igbo politicians joining your party, what is this exercise all about and how do you see these Igbo prominent politicians coming into your fold?
Our President is a man of integrity and one who has done well on the issues of anti-corruption and promoting home-made goods, especially rice, which we now produce by ourselves. These things made our people who are politicians in the South-East who initially did not see all these in him, to embrace the party.
I am happy that the good things that the President and some APC governors are doing in their respective states have added, to convince our people such as Chief Ken Nnamani, Chief Jim Nwobodo and Dr Orji Uzor Kalu, and many others to join the APC; and what this has shown is that there is great future for the APC in the South-East.
We cannot afford to be out of the government at the centre; you should remember that the government at the centre is the pivot upon which the states revolve. So, my happiness today is that these prominent Igbo men and women are joining the APC. Also the exercise is to register our new members to show people the strength of APC in the country, like in Imo state, we are targeting to register over a million new members, and this will show that we have good strength in the South-East. Also we want to make sure that those who joined our party newly, like Ken Nnamani, Jim Nwobodo and Orji Uzor Kalu are fully registered; so it is a good thing in the right direction and at the right time.
Where would the one million you people are targeting to register in Imo come from?
There are people who have never been in any political party before; there are some young people who were 15 to 17 years in 2015 and by 2017 some of them might become 18, 19 or even 20 and they have not registered at all in any political party. Again, there are people who have just come into the party like Senator Ifeanyi Ararume, and many others. So, now that we are doing a new registration we are going to capture all these people.
Do you think that the membership drive will reduce the impact the proposed mega party will make, considering that the promoters are saying it will overwhelm the APC and dislodge it at the centre in 2019?
There is no political party in the country today, whether it is going to be formed newly or an old party that can match the APC. Some of these people who think they can come together to form a mega party should know that they’re no match to President Muhammadu Buhari. You remember vividly that when the issue of Boko Haram came up, every day people were dying and more than 12 local government areas were taken over by the insurgents. But today things have changed in the North-East, you can only notice today insignificant pockets of attacks. So, I don’t see the issue of the proposed mega party as a threat to APC; the APC is still the party to beat.
You said that your party has done well at the federal level and states controlled by it, but the government formed by your party at the centre has been unable to contain recession that has made most Nigerians to be hungry today, how do you look at that?
Recession will be over soon. Many countries like the US and Britain have gone through recession, and only brings out the toughness of a country. It brings out the good qualities of a people and makes the country to be truly independent because we cannot keep importing everything from toothpick, rice to even bottled water.” So, if the dollar is rising and our people are complaining then let’s stop buying those food items that are dependent on foreign exchange; let’s produce them locally. Who says we cannot produce enough rice to feed the nation? So, all these things we have comparative advantages in, we should intensify efforts in them and mass produce them for local consumption and export and money will start coming in.
It is we Nigerians that allowed ourselves to go hungry. For instance, I have a farm, so I’m not waiting to go to the market to buy my chicken or fish because I produce birds, eggs and fish. So, if every Nigerian should have a small farm with 100 birds each or 100 fish in their backyard, I can tell you that every two months, there will be lots of food stuff in the market. We should stop complaining and look inwards. We can help to change our economy. It is a good thing that the President told us that ‘look, we are in a recession and people should tighten up their belts for the hard time,’ which I know will not last long, it will soon be over and things will be normal again.
Recently, Hon Emeka Ihedioha said in an interview that the government of Rochas Okorocha in Imo State has failed, citing the inability of the governor to conduct local government election as an example. What is your reaction to that?
When you have been in an office for 12 years and you cannot show us one thing you have done as a Deputy Speaker of the House of Representative, you should begin to look for how to hide. I challenge him to point out at least five good projects he attracted to Imo state or South-East as a Deputy Speaker. He was a Deputy Speaker, that was the slot for the South-East, so I want him to point at the things in the region he attracted to it; it is not only coming out on the pages of the newspaper to keep talking, tell the people what you have done for them as their representative for 12 years. On the issue of local government election, there has not been an election because the PDP local government chairmen went to court and they are still in court, stopping us from conducting fresh election. But we are almost done with the court case and whenever the case is over, probably, Council election will hold.
Okorocha has performed well in the area of infrastructural development of the state. You don’t need a soothsayer to come and tell you that and Ihedioha knows that, because he passes through the second, third and fourth inland bridges. I see him drive through those places always. He is just seeking unnecessary attention, because when he feels the people have forgotten him and no longer pay attention to him, he does one thing to attract their attention, so there is no way we can come on the pages of newspapers to join issues with him. Okorocha is 100 percent bigger than Ihedioha politically and otherwise, even as an individual; there is no comparison between the two.
There is this other issue of pensioners always demonstrating in Imo, what is the cause?
As far as we are concerned, pensioners in Imo have been paid all their arrears. Let me tell you what we did; when we came in 2011, we paid 11 years pension arrears owed by the previous governments and from 2011 till date, the pension of Imo state keeps on rising geometrically. The pension was 600 and something million in 2011, but today, it is N1.3 billion. The issue is that when civil servants retire, some of them retire with all their entitlements. If you are a doctor, you retire with Contess and the rest, and we said no; when you retire, there is a percentage of basic salary, you are entitled to when you talk about pension.
So, you can’t retire and you calculate everything both your medical bills, and say you are taking a percentage as pension. So, this is actually what we did and we discovered that we are actually paying more than other states in pension.
If a pensioner in Abia state on grade level 10 receives pension of N30, 000, in Imo state, they will receive N40, 000. So, what we are doing is that we are pleading with them to understand that things are very hard now and there is no need to keep owing pensioners. So we said take certain percentage so that we can start on a clean slate and almost 99 percent of them agreed and signed off and took their pension arrears. So, go round Imo state today, you will find out that those of them who have not collected are those who have not signed, but some of them are doing so now. One thing to understand is that it is not as rosy as it was before; the country is going through recession, so I plead that the pensioners should exercise patience and accept the government’s offer. We know that they have laboured for the country, but they should understand that things are not as good as they were before when people were depending on the government for everything. today, you have to bring something for the development of the country and the state.
We have seen six years of Governor Okorocha’s rescue mission programme, what do we expect in the remaining two years of his administration?
Our expectation in the remaining two years is to complete all the projects we have embarked upon and also undertake another set of new projects before leaving office in 2019. We will also sustain the free education of the government.
Okorocha is serving out his last tenure as governor, what are his succession plans, ahead of 2019?
APC will still remain in charge in Imo beyond 2019 because the governor has done well in infrastructural development. He has opened up Owerri and today Owerri is the heartbeat of the South-East.
Last December, all the hotels in Owerri were fully booked, there was less traffic, and 99 percent of Imolites who came back for Christmas testified that the governor has done well; so we want somebody who has worked with the government, who will know that this is what the vision is all about and this is where we will continue from. I believe that Okorocha will be able to train somebody who will take over from him.
There is no comparison between PDP’s 16 years and APC’s seven or eight years, that we have under Okorocha. APC’s eight years has surpassed PDP’s 16 years.