Senator Benjamin Uwajumogu represents Imo North in the Senate on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC). He was recently appointed Secretary of APC National Convention Committee.
He debunked insinuation that his new position will be an avenue to get back at Governor Rochas Okorocha whom he said openly declared political war against him. He asked Nigerians to disregard those he called vocal minority who are opposed to President Buhari’s second-term bid saying there is no alternative to Buhari in 2019.
Recently, you submitted a Bill for the establishment of Federal School of Nursing and Midwifery; can you give us further insight into the idea?
The Bill seeks to establish Federal School of Nursing and Midwifery at Isiala Mbano Local Government Area (LGA) of Imo State. The Bill has passed first reading at the plenary and if finally passed into law, the establishment of the school will attract federal presence in the area. It will become an educative base for training of nurses and midwives in the country.
Just recently, you were appointed member/Secretary of APC National Convention Committee; did it come to you as a surprise considering the fact that you are new in the senate?
Yes, I’m indeed surprised as you are and at the same time I’m happy and I’m grateful to President Muhammadu Buhari and the National Working Committee led by the National Chairman of our great party, Chief John Oyegun for finding me worthy for such an appointment.
With your new appointment, many are of the view that you are at a vintage position to confront Governor Rochas Okorocha who vowed that you will not return to the senate in 2019, what is your take?
Whichever way you put it or look at it, my loyalty to President Buhari is never in doubt. If they say that I’m President Buhari’s boy, they are not far from the truth. On whether my new position will afford me opportunity to confront my governor, Okorocha, I will say that will not be the case. You must realise that the position of secretary in the committee is not advisory but the engine room of the committee. It requires a lot of work and it cannot be delegated. So, there will be no time for confrontation as you are insinuating. A governor can delegate duties or can be represented but the secretary of the committee does not have that kind of option. Also, you know how important the congresses and convention is to the party and with a very little time, that may be the reason the position was not given to a governor.
Do you think Governor Okorocha will take it just like that knowing the strength of your position as secretary of the convention committee?
My position has nothing to do with the candidate Okorocha is supporting. The governor came out openly to declare political war against me and like I said earlier, the congresses and convention have nothing to do with who becomes the governor or who will get the party’s ticket. Since politics is local and I’m not from the same local government with Okorocha or with his Chief of Staff whom he has declared support for, the duty of the committee is to elect the executive that will run the party and I will ensure that in my duty, I will do justice to everybody. Mind you, I’m not the chairman of the committee but the secretary and my job will be mainly administrative. I will not be the one that will conduct congress in Imo State or any other state, my job is to direct the administration of the committee, take the records, and provide the information needed or whatever the chairman directs me to do. So, the fear that I may work against Governor Okorocha or anybody is completely unfounded.
In your previous interviews, you predicted that President will seek re-election and he just did that few weeks ago which has attracted negative reactions, are you not disturbed by that?
I’m not disturbed by negative reactions of few individuals who have no electoral value but are scared of President Buhari’s popularity. Why one of the former presidents is bent at stopping Buhari is not because Buhari has not done well within three years in office but because he doesn’t want Buhari to equal his political record of a two-term president. It is just ego that is driving certain people who are opposed to President Buhari’s re-election bid. However, for the President to have declared his intention to run in 2019, Nigerians will vote him and I assure you that my colleagues in the National Assembly and APC lawmakers in the states Assembly will back Buhari for second-term. Forget the negative comments by few of them, I tell you when the chips are down, we will know our tribes men.
Apart from being a member of your party, what are the other reasons you think will motivate Nigerians to re-elect APC?
President Muhammadu Buhari has done what any leader in his position will do by declaring his intention to re-contest. Even those who asked him not to run for second-term sought for third-term. One of them was a former military leader who attempted to transit from military to civilian President but failed. Those who are against President Buhari’ second-term bid have turned blind eyes to Buhari’s score card which is there for all to see.
Take a look at how Buhari has transformed the agricultural sector; aggressive infrastructure development is going on especially, in the South-east. The anti graft war is being fought and much has been achieved with the recent release of names of treasury looters. President Buhari needs to be commended for his capacity to confront corrupt people and he has so far recovered huge cash and assets from some former powerful public officers that could not be touched by past leaders.
Today, President Buhari has shown that he has the guts to bring anybody to book no matter how highly placed. Unfortunately, the vocal opposition especially, in the South-east are trying to paint Buhari as ‘Igbo hater’ and I say to them, if a man hates you and he is doing all the federal roads in the South-east geo political zone which was abandoned by those they claimed love Igbo, who then will they call a friend indeed?
The second bridge across the Niger is 44 percent ready and the rail line which we had been excluded from by the previous administration has now accommodated us because President Buhari ordered that South-East be linked by railway. Now, the zone will be linked to each other and other parts of the country, yet, you say Buhari hates Igbo. Tell me why won’t I support a man who is doing all these for Ndigbo?
In my constituency, contract for one of the erosion control projects in the country has been awarded and ongoing. We got approval for electricity supply in all the local government areas in Okigwe, also there are ongoing Federal Government funded roads projects in my constituency especially, Obollo in Isiala Mbano road leading to Agbaja/Orie Ikpa in Nzerem which we just inspected recently, and are nearing completion. There is another road from Umunumo leading to Afor Nzerem- Dioka Nzerem and to Ihitte Uboma.
So, there is no reason for me and Okigwe people not to support President Buhari for second-term. Like I said earlier, there is no alternative to Buhari in 2019.
Even with his dwindling popularity?
I don’t know what you mean by dwindling popularity of the President. What we have especially in the South-east is the vocal minority who say all kinds of negative things against Buhari. These set of people don’t even have the Permanent Voter’s Card (PVC) and because talk is cheap, they go on with destructive criticisms without proffering solution.
I have always say that because there is no more free money and with the introduction Single Treasury Account, most people who are spending revenue accruing from Ministries, Department and Agencies (MDAs) are not happy and they are doing everything possible to ensure that Buhari won’t come back. However, irrespective of mounting opposition, majority of Nigerians wants President to stay beyond 2019 in order to stabilise the economy. So, with the diversification policy of this administration, it is no longer business as usual that is the reason for opposition. I assure you that Buhari will win with huge popular votes in 2019 and it will put shame on the faces of those who claim that Mr. President is no longer popular in Nigeria.
Your colleagues opposed the president’s approval of $1billion for the purchase of arms; they claimed that it did not pass through the National Assembly, what is your take?
The National Assembly has not taken full decision on the matter as it is still being discussed. Within the last three years, this administration has been able to subdue the Boko Haram uprising and no doubt security has improved drastically unlike what it was when APC took over power. We have seen the effect of the fight against insurgency. Gone are days when some villages in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states were taken over by Boko Haram.
As I speak to you all those areas have been recovered and no more bombings of Abuja and major cities in the north by the sect. Three years ago, Nigerians were living under fear of attack by Boko Haram but today, the case is different as citizens can now sleep with their two eyes closed. The administration which this present government succeeded actually appropriated $2billion to fight insurgency and we know what happened to that money. It was shared on the table of leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and they shared it according to how they wanted to run the 2015 elections.
But it is a different thing today because you can see result in whatever investment that this administration has made in the fight against corruption. One thing people should take home is that under President Buhari administration once a project is awarded the money is properly appropriated and job well executed. Unlike in the past when monies meant for capital projects just disappeared without any trace.