George Onyejiuwa, Owerri
Udo Mbu Agoha, chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and National President of the South East Consultative Parliament was former executive Chairman of Owerri North Council. He was also commissioner for Agriculture, Environment, Petroleum and Natural Resource.
He speaks on the contest for National Assembly leadership, warning that if the APC does not concede the Senate President or Speaker to the South East, it would the end of the party in the zone.
Why do you think APC did not only fail to win the Imo governorship but could not even win a seat in the state Assembly?
Honestly, the reason the APC failed in the state even when it is the ruling party was because Governor Rochas Okorocha did not listen to the cries of the people any more. For instance, the governor in his first term had listened to the yearnings of the people but later in his second term did not want to listen to the people again, and good advice given to him were ignored. A lot of people who had earlier helped him ascend to power were treated with disdain. People who wanted the government to succeed couldn’t make input anymore and what they did is to let the governor operate as he wishes. In fact those who had remained in the government were mere sycophants, those who needed food to continue to exist; those who were praise singers. So, Imo people simply resolved that we must not allow this situation to continue, and again Governor Okorocha took the quietness of the people for granted. So, the governor thought that any person he anoints as his successor would win forgetting that Imo State is an Igbo society which is egalitarian in nature. The grievances of the people were just pilling up and the explosion was on the day of election and the people needed to prove to the governor that they were not happy over what he was doing in the state.
APC failed because the governor simply refused to listen to the cries of the people. Take for instance what happened at Ekeukwu Owerri where people had pleaded that he should leave the market for us but the governor closed his ears and eyes and said to hell with them and went ahead to demolish the ancestral market and on the election day the entire people of Owerri voted against the party. I would say in summary that APC fell in Imo State because of impunity of the governor, who took the masses for granted and felt that they couldn’t turn the tide against him. There was a slogan that people were saying on that day of election, which is ‘who say men no dey?’ ‘Men dey ‘, so you can imagine what the people were saying.
The other reason that contributed majorly to the failure of the party is the issue of zoning. The Owerri zone have been saying that the zone has been marginalised in the governance of the state, Okigwe zone has had at least eight years , the Orlu zone would be concluding 16 years at the end of Okorocha’s government on May 29, but Owerri zone has only governed the state for just 18 months . Owerri zone said that there should be equity but the governor said that zoning is dead in Imo forgetting that Owerri zone even though it has only nine Local Government Areas, has the largest population in the state. So, if you take them for granted they will prove that they are there. And they proved that during the election as PDP swept the entire zone and the APC did not even win one single polling unit let alone any ward in the entire zone which simply means that the people have had enough of Okorocha and his mistreatment of the people of the state.
Is this an eclipse because the party could only win two federal constituencies of Isu\Nwangele\Nkwerre\ Njaba and Okigwe South as the elections of both Imo West and Imo North are still in contention?
Our people say that when you see a lion coming that it should be chased and killed because if allowed when it finishes the goat of the man at the gate it will come in to look at the ones inside. So the impunity that was established by those in authority played a major role. Any candidate of the APC that won elections at this material time in the state must have either grossly rigged or the candidate is very popular with his people. The reason is that APC was like a leper during the last election in the state. Many of who were in APC could not come out to campaign. Like the sharp division between Sen. Hope Uzodinma group and Ndi Agburu group (Governor Rochas Okorocha), was carried to the day of election and most of the members either voted for APGA or the PDP, that was exactly was happened .Those who are supporting Governor Rochas Okorocha and his son in-law, Uche Nwosu, were fighting against those who are in support of Sen. Hope Uzodinma on that election day. So, it was the wrangling and the bitterness between the two contending forces of the Ndi Agburu and the coalition forces of Sen .Uzodinma that caused APC the election. So, a house divided against it is bound to fall.
In Ihitte Uboma, Obowo and Ehime Mbano federal constituency in Okigwe Zone, where Chike Okafor won, I think that he deserves it because he worked very hard and made himself popular during his first tenure in the House of Representatives. However, other candidates took it for granted that the APC is going to write the results for them. Who told you that the APC will write the result for you? The era where people write results are gone because these days the people votes and after voting they will follow you to the collation centres and anything otherwise, you will be inviting the wrath of the people. That is why we have been shouting that the party should zone one of the major principal offices of the National Assembly to the South East.
So, what principal position is your association canvassing for?
My group, the new South East consultative parliament is an organisation that has members across the five states of the South East. We played a major role in the election of President Buhari, we also played a major role in the South East because we felt that we should align with the Federal Government and if we are talking of the 2023 presidency coming from the zone, talking about being marginalised, talking about not getting the juicy ministerial positions, what have we done to be considered? So, we went about canvassing and asking people of the zone to support APC. We told the people that even if you are not going to vote totally for APC that we should at least give them some level of support so that when things are being shared they will consider those that gave them some support because it is not good to put all your eggs in one basket. So, we toured the entire South East canvassing for the APC and assisting those who were contesting on the platform of the APC, while some people were there pulling us down. We had a meeting with President Buhari and we made a request that the next president should come to the South East and he graciously told us that if you support me I will give you the chance to produce the next president of Nigeria. Today I think that because of what we did the APC got 25 percent in the South East during the presidential election. But this is the time to prove that he is a generous man, and this is the time to prove that at least he does not hate the Igbo.
If the President of the Senate that they are zoning does not favour the South East then we should be given the Deputy Senate President, Speaker of the House of Representatives. At least they cannot deny that APC did not make 25 percent in the South East during the presidential election.
What about the issue ranking which is part of the requisite qualification for any member to be considered as a presiding officer of the two chambers of the National Assembly?
We have a ranking member in the person Chike Okafor in the case of the speakership position; we also have a ranking member in person of Orji Uzor Kalu for the Senate President position because he was a former member of the House of Representatives. These two persons are eminently qualified to contest for these positions and if equity should come to play I think we deserve one or both.
Don’t you think that the 2023 presidential ticket of the party should be reserved for the South East as earlier promised by Buhari during his electioneering especially as the people ensured that President Buhari scored 25 percent in the zone unlike in 2015?
I think I agree with you, he could do that but remember that he is not the sole determinant of the ticket. Again, positions are not just given we have to fight for it with other zones. However, in the interim, we call on President Buhari to consider his friend, Orji Uzor Kalu, who has been very close to him for the position of the Senate President. Again, Chike Okafor who is a ranking member of the House of Representatives should be considered for the speakership because he has the capacity and experience.
But the party has already zoned the position to the North East and equally adopted Sen. Ahmed Lawan as its preferred choice?
Who zoned it? And if that is the case it can be re-zoned to the South East and since it was done without us I don’t think it is proper. I think if the party really wants the zone to support the APC, I think conceding the position to the South East is not too much. But if they think that they cannot re-zone it then Orji Kalu should be expressly considered for the Deputy Senate President. If the South East does not get any of the principal officers positions, then count APC as a dead party in the South East .We have strong leaders of the party in the zone like Orji Kalu and other prominent persons but it is not a guarantee that the APC is going to survive because those strong party chieftains will not have any campaign point to retain the people in APC in 2023.
So, something must come to us with which we can use to persuade the people not to desert the party that something good is coming. If we don’t get any principal officers position it would be difficult to convince the people on why they should remain in APC. And that would be disastrous for the party.