Obinna Odogwu, Abakaliki
The General Manager of Ebonyi State Printing Press, Abia Onyike, has expressed his willingness to represent Ebonyi South Senatorial District in the National Assembly if given the opportunity.
A former Commissioner for Information in the ex-Governor Sam Egwu’s administration and Special Adviser to former governor, Martin Elechi, on Media Relations, Onyike believes that he has garnered sufficient experience in public service to warrant his journey to the red chamber.
The former Deputy National President of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) also gave reasons he is eager to unseat the current senator among other issues.
Why do you want to go to the senate?
I want to go to the senate because I believe that I have acquired sufficient experience in public service which I want to push out for the good of the Nigerian society. I retired as a Director in the Ministry of Information having traversed three states of Imo, Abia, and Ebonyi. And as an activist who was very active in the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) and also in a pro-democracy movement, I believe I have what it takes to be there.
In the 1990s, I was in the civil liberties organization and in the Campaign for Democracy and also in the Democratic Alternative. There are many challenging issues about governance in Nigeria which some of us feel that we may have some contributions to make, to good governance in Nigeria.
And also being a journalist, I want to contribute to the debate on the state of Nigerian nation; the role of the media in creating a stable polity in Nigeria. Then, there are other developmental issues that affect my own constituency which is Ebonyi South Senatorial District, old Afikpo Division, where we have had key leaders like Dr. Akanu Ibiam, Chief Francis Oji, Chief Aja Nwachukwu and a host of others who have continued to contribute to national development. So, that area is one that has a lot to offer to Igbo land and the Nigerian society.
Someone is currently representing your senatorial zone in the senate. In your assessment, do you think he has not performed creditably?
Well, it is not just my opinion that will count otherwise it may be seen that I am being selfish. The entire electorate have lost confidence in him because of some certain abnormal mannerisms. He went to the senate and forgot virtually everybody. He was no longer talking to people. When you call him on phone he would refuse to pick, and even if he wants to pick, he would be so brief. His engagements were not sufficient to contain the problems of our people and to salvage us from underdevelopment. So, for the seven years he’s been there so far, there has been a huge gap that needed replacement that is why the leaders of the party felt that there should be a replacement and some of us were touched to come on board.
Some people believe that you want to cash in on the alleged political faceoff between him and Governor David Umahi?
There is no faceoff between him and the governor at the individual level. Like I said, if the governor is not happy with what he is doing, that is only one aspect of it. The main reason is that the entire electorate, huge section of the Ebonyi South electorate have lost touch with the man in question. The problem he has with the governor is not a personal one. It is general; everybody in that senatorial district: from the traditional rulers, to the technocrats, to the artisans, women, and everybody. It was just like somebody going in and locking the key behind virtually everybody.
Contrary to your opinion right now, information available to us indicates that he is enjoying the support of the greater population of his constituents. What makes you think that the people will dump him for you in 2019?
Well, whatever thing he did cannot compare to the expectations of the people. This is somebody that was given an unprecedented period of eight years to represent us at the senate. Moreover, what has he done in terms of promoting the identity of Ebonyi South Senatorial District? Nobody has ever heard of him. He doesn’t say anything regarding the plight of his people. So, if he has attracted one or two projects, normally, you would not expect that he would just go there and come back without any single thing being attracted. But we are saying that the quantum of problems, challenges, expectations have mounted and nobody is seen around to talk about them. So, the movement to stop and change him is monumental. It is beyond a personal wish.
Do you have the blessing of the state governor, being that both of you belong to the same constituency?
It will not be democratic for me to say so because the governor is the father of the state. He is also the leader of the party and this is a democratic political contest. It will be wrong for me to come and say that I have his blessing. That will be dissuading other people from showing interest. I want to say that he is not uncomfortable with my aspiration.
If you emerge the senator in 2019, what do you intend to do differently?
First and foremost, I will set up a platform to enable me interact with the electorate of the senatorial district and nobody who wants to see me will be stopped from seeing me because I am a natural mass leader and I was trained in a pro-democracy movement. So, I am not afraid of the crowd. I will make myself available to my people at all times.
Then, some of the developmental projects that require immediate attention, I will place priority on them. Example of such is the road linking Afikpo to the other part of Cross River and the new bridge being contemplated. I will like to work towards the reconstruction of abandoned federal roads in the senatorial district. These roads include: Nara-Isu-Onicha-Okposi federal road, the construction of a bridge across the Cross River through Ndibe Beach and the comple- tion of the Ohafia-Nguzu-Owutu-Oso Edda federal road. Those of us who will be at the National Assembly by the grace of God will have to partner with the governor to ensure that there will be greater federal government’s presence in Ebonyi State.