From Okey Sampson, Umuahia
Prince Benedict Benjamin Apugo is a Board of Trustees, BoT, member of the All Progressives Congress, APC. He speaks on a wide range of issues, including the Igbo presidency, his case with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, and the chances of APC taking over Abia state in 2019.
Recently the Ibeku people held a lavished ceremony to receive her newly elected President General. As the Ochiagha/Oparaukwu Ibeku, what was the significance of that event?
It was wonderful, it was long I saw the caliber of personalities from Ibeku that graced the occasion; I mean quality human beings, most of whom had gone into hiding over the years. From what I discovered, most of them went into hiding because of T.A Orji and when you see them, you can’t believe that those grades of people could go into hiding. But they are all out now to thank God for their lives, that they out lived T.A Orji’s administration. Now they have gotten support everywhere, backing them to make Ibeku great again.
Is there a faction in the leadership of Ibeku because another man was claiming the other day to be the President General of Ibeku Egwuasa?
The one you are talking about is a (Personal assistant) PA to T.A Orji. The President General is Chief Princewill Ukaegbu who is recognized by the Ogurube Ibeku, the Ochiagha/Oparaukwu Ibeku and other true Ibeku sons. It was the Ogurube that poured the libation that day. As far as I’m concerned, Ibeku has done what they should do, to make their community peaceful and every Ibeku son and daughter accepted it. So, there is nothing like a faction.
Now that the appeal you filed against the EFCC has been decided in your favour, how do you feel?
Yes, I am very happy because the Court of Appeal, Owerri, agreed with the position of my counsels that I have no case to answer. You will recall that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) took me to court that I sold six plots of land belonging to the Nigerian Railway Corporation even though the said plots of land belonged to me. The Federal High Court presided over by Justice E.E Osiagor insisted that I must appear. They went as far as issuing a bench warrant against me without serving me any notice to appear in court. It was against this that my lawyers filed an appeal against the ruling of the lower court and the court of appeal quashed the EFCC’s charge against me, saying there was no reason for me to be taken to court in the first place, that the ruling of the lower court was the height of judicial rascality and I feel very happy about that ruling.
The irony of the whole thing was that the Nigerian Railway Corporation had written to me through one of my lawyers saying the said six plots of land for which the EFCC took me to court do not belong to them, that they don’t have any plot of land in Umunwaulari layout. The truth of the matter is that the case was politically motivated; it was T.A Orji that instigated the EFCC to institute the case against me, thinking by so doing, he would get at me because I have been the only person telling him to return the Abia money he looted while in office as governor of the state. T.A Orji knows that he is nothing as far as I’m concerned; he knows that as a non Ibeku son, he cannot do anything to me as a full blooded Ibeku son that was why he sneaked in forged documents against me to the EFCC.
In the real sense of it, it is T.A Orji that is supposed to be the guest of the EFCC. You know I’m a member of Save Abia Initiative, a group that has been working very hard to get him probed. And I don’t think it is only Abia that the EFCC won’t listen to. All the misdeeds of the former governor have been handed over to the anti-graft agency. Even though some of the documents were torn when they got to Enugu, the ones that were sent by Save Abia Initiative are intact and I can assure you that they are working on them. Definitely, T.A Orji will answer for his misdeeds, I am sure of that. I say this because Abia people are ready to occupy the EFCC office, in Abuja, if they fail to act.
It is true that T.A Orji has been boasting that he has closed his case with the EFCC, it is not this time that Buhari is the President of Nigeria. If it was during Jonathan’s time, yes he could close it, but it is not under today’s EFCC you will close matters. So, I don’t think anybody will close Abia matter because the facts are there. What are we talking about? Somebody who had no one room before he became a governor, in fact when he came back from Owerri, he was living in his in-law’s one room with his children at Ohokobe, now had to buy a street and built his house, he is the sole owner of Azikiwe Road, Umuahia. Let me tell you something, if EFCC fails to do something, Abians will drag them to court because you can’t show one single thing the former governor did with all the money that accrued to the state in his eight years as a governor.
Recently, former President Olusegun Obasanjo said that the Igbo could have a shot at the presidency in 2019; do you share the same view with him?
You see, the problem here is that, sometimes people think that they can fool the Igbo because they believe we don’t have a leader, which is why anyone that becomes a governor sees himself as a leader when in actual fact he does not have any support base even in his village. Why should former President Olusegun Obasanjo say so, is he an Igbo man or is it him that gives the presidency to any race? If it is Obasanjo that gives the presidency, why was he not able to succeed himself in his third term bid since he is ‘Mr. Give’? Obasanjo should not flatter or ridicule Ndigbo, when it is our turn, God will provide it. As far as the Igbo are concerned today, we should be talking about the north, it is their right and they have two terms. Once they are done with their term, it will be the turn of the Igbo and I know that the north will support us. Obasanjo is always that type of person, he does not like the Igbo, he hates us with passion and I hate him for that. He hates me also because he knows I’m a realist and that I don’t like the pranks he always plays. He is a play boy, otherwise why should he stay in his house and say Igbo presidency in 2019 was possible? He wants the Igbo to start locking horns with each other, when in actual fact he knows it is not our turn. Let me say it clear here, it is not the turn of the Igbo to produce the president in 2019.
Do you see the APC taking over in Abia, in 2019?
APC taking over Abia in 2019 is a reality. Do we need to put anything in place again? We don’t need any strategy again; the strategy that has put itself in place for us is the failure of the PDP here. For the mere fact that the PDP has failed, APC has taken over. It is the PDP that has given us the strategy and made things easy for us.
What’s your reaction to the APC stakeholders meeting in Owerri where Gov Rochas Okorocha made Senator Ken Nnamani leader of the party in the South East?
No, no, no, no. Well, Senator Ken Nnamani just came in newly into APC. I’m not going to say anything about anybody making any person the leader. I know I’m a member of the BoT of APC, I don’t know the position Nnamani holds within the party. Even if he is the Vice President of the country, he cannot answer the leader of the party in the South East because we do not have it in the constitution. So, nobody should call himself or herself what he or she is not, he is a member and that’s all. As a former President of the Senate, that respect is accorded to him and that should not extend to the leadership of the party. Every all of us, we are leaders in our various wards.
Are you impressed with the turnout at the APC re-registration exercise?
Yes, even though the number of registered members is not a true reflection of the massive support people have for APC in Abia state because, many people may not come out to register, but in their minds, within them, they are for APC. The turnout was very impressive and we are happy about that.
Some stakeholders of the APC in Abia are saying they won’t allow some people to join the party, would that be fair since the party has said its doors are open to all?
Well, you see it’s a party; you know what is called party. On a lighter mood, party is where people can gather, drink and play around, it’s the same spelling. Having said that, I know that someone like TA Orji is a liability which people like us will not like to carry in this state, no, we will not like to carry him in this state. I support totally the decision of the stakeholders because they know that if he comes into the party, APC will lose the next election in this state because even when he was governor and was contesting for the senate, he lost in his polling booth, he got three votes, the votes were that of himself, his wife and the son. I learnt that he tried to be smart by half by going to Abuja to seek admission into the party. But let me tell you something, with somebody like me here, nobody in that national secretariat will try to make his own area good and bring liability to Abia; the person cannot do it. It is not the national secretariat that registers members, if you want to be a member of APC, you have to come to your ward and his ward is in Umuahia. So, T.A Orji can never be a member of APC, not from this Umuahia ward 1 we belong to or from any other place for that matter.
Some PDP federal lawmakers from the state are claiming that they attracted the reconstruction of Umuahia/Bende/Ohafia and Umuahia/Ikot Ekpene highways. What’s your reaction to that?
I laugh when I hear such things. Who are the PDP federal lawmakers? Is it Chief Mao Ohuabunwa who was out of the senate when the contract for the reconstruction of that road was given out or Chief T.A Orji who could not perform as governor that will do that? How could they claim that when they are not in APC because that is an APC project? If T.A Orji is claiming he attracted the reconstruction of the road, who did he talk to, that made it possible? Did he talk to Buhari? I ask this question because the day some senators went to meet with Mr. President, he refused to shake the hands of TA because during the electioneering, as governor he never allowed Buhari to visit Abia state. So, the rehabilitation exercise on-going on those roads was a result of the contacts some of us made.