Chidi Nnadi, Enugu
All Progressives Congress (APC) chieftain in Imo State and Chief of Staff, Imo Government House, Uche Nwosu, has said President Muhammadu Buhari remains the best option for the country in 2019.
Nwosu, who stated this in an interview with a select group of journalists, said that the country needs President Buhari to continue in 2019 in order to consolidate on the gains made in his efforts to fix the damage done to the country in the 16 years of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) rule.
He also talked about the APC reconciliatory committee set up by Buhari and headed by Senator Bola Tinubu, his endorsement by Governor Rochas Okorocha to succeed him, agitations over cattle colony, herdsmen and Imo farmers relationship, among others.
You are one of those clamouring for President Muhammadu Buhari to run for a second term in 2019, but we have seen prominent Nigerians, including former President Ibrahim Babangida, advising him to quit now, do you still in the face of all these say the president should run again?
I think that most often most people tend to forget that one’s destiny is not in another’s hand. Your destiny depends on what God says you will be. President Muhammadu Buhari is qualified, very much ready and eager to continue to be the president of Nigeria in 2019. So, I don’t see the reason somebody will make a remark and it will be binding on the person the remark was made about; I don’t see any reason President Buhari should not contest election in 2019. As I had said in previous interviews, there is no president in the history of the Federal Republic of Nigeria that has fought corruption to bring back the image and integrity of the country. Most people might say that they are not seeing physically what the president is doing; these people should know that it took the PDP 15 years to destroy this nation and to repair it, only four years will not be enough for President Buhari to do so. The president has begun the process of putting things in order, but it will take him some time. It is like when you bring a bag of rice and pour a cup of sand into it; it will take you time to sieve the rice from the sand. So, for those of us who are ardent supporters of President Buhari, we don’t see any reason he should not contest the 2019 election. For me, I will support President Buhari and my governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha equally believes in him. President Buhari at this time in the country is the man we need to strengthen this platform so that the man that will be coming after him in 2023 as president will stand on this solid foundation and this country will continue to move forward. Buhari is eminently qualified to run again and his destiny is in the hand of God, not any man. He is still the best that the country and our great party, APC needs in 2019. The president should run again and we will support him.
But Nigerians are hungry and angry; do you think in the face of this economic downturn that Nigerians will still come out to support the president and your party, the APC like they did in 2015?
You see when someone makes a remark and you generalise it to mean the whole of Nigeria, I don’t think it’s right. When you say hunger, who brought us to this point? Who brought hunger to Nigeria, was it President Muhammadu Buhari? No, it was the PDP. I don’t know if you have forgotten that a single individual in this country was caught with billions of naira, dollar and pounds; was it President Buhari that took these monies outside the country, was it President Buhari that hid these monies inside his house, no; these are the people that destroyed this country before President Buhari came in. Today, many things are changing for the better. For instance, we were not producing rice before, but today, we are producing rice in so many states of the federation. The other time people were crying about recession, do we still have recession? No, recession is over. So, it will take some little time for President Buhari to stabilise this country. So, I have no fears that this country will be better again because it took 15 years for the party called PDP to destroy it, which Buhari is working tirelessly to fix back. So, I can bet you that President Buhari will again win convincingly in the 2019 presidential election. You can see this from some of the places he has visited recently in the North and the mammoth crowd that came out to receive him; so, Buhari is not somebody you can just make a remark in the newspaper or over the radio or the TV and think that is the way to go. No, Nigerian politics have changed, the people want somebody who will remember that they are there and not somebody who will just be busy on the radio and TV blowing only grammar. When you look at President Buhari, you will see that Buharism is running in him; so, it takes a man of integrity like the president for people to believe in him. He has high integrity because he is not corrupt, so let us wait till 2019, but I can tell you straight away that President Buhari is winning in a landslide in 2019, there is no doubt about that.
President Buhari recently appointed Asiwaju Bola Tinubu the chairman of the APC reconciliatory committee, many Nigerians believe this is a difficult task going by the volume of feuds in your party, do you think that Tinubu will deliver on this assignment?
I have no doubt that His Excellency; Senator Bola Tinubu will handle this assignment very well. You know he is one of the leaders of our party and he is widely respected in the country. He is a man that knows how to settle problems, especially when it comes to issues of political parties. I have no doubt in my mind that President Buhari made the right choice in choosing Asiwaju Tinubu for this very important assignment. He has the capacity to bring together again the different factions in the states like Kano, Rivers and among others. So I don’t have any problem in His Excellency, the former governor of Lagos State, Bola Tinubu handling the assignment. In fact, this is what our party needs at this point in time; it is what is needed in any political party, particularly when the political party is in power. It is normal for parties to have internal quarrels, but the good thing is to settle them and move ahead. Asiwaju will do the job very well and we believe that his team will at the end of the day bring back every member to one family, the APC.
Some people also believe that Tinubu will have a difficult task when he comes to Imo in trying to reconcile the Abuja politicians from the state who are not in good terms with those in the state who have the backing of Governor Okorocha, how do you see that claim?
I don’t think that we have any faction in Imo State. We have one political family and that is the APC, which Owelle Rochas Okorocha is the leader. So, if there is any other Abuja APC or whatever, I don’t know about that. Remember that you don’t win an election in Abuja, you win an election in the state. If you are an APC leader in Abuja, then you better vie for election there. There is no faction in APC in Imo State, we have one family. So, Imo State is not one of the states that Senator Bola Tinubu will come to because we don’t have any problem in the state.
But recently Governor Okorocha announced that he would support the Commissioner for Information, Prof Nnamdi Obiaraeri for the Okigwe Senatorial seat instead of Senator Benjamin Uwajumogu who is there and this is raising some dust now; is this not part of the feud Senator Tinubu will have to settle?
No, nobody has chased away Senator Uwajumogu from the party. He is the senator representing the Okigwe zone, but the governor has the right to say, this is who I want to support, but that does not mean that any other person from that zone will not choose who he or she will support too, it’s a democracy, everyone has the right to support a candidate of his choice like the governor did. Of course, if there are 600,000 persons in Okigwe zone and 400,000 said it is Ben Uwajumogu, the governor will not change it, and if they say it is this particular person, nobody will change it; so the governor has the right to say this is who I want to support like the other people would also do. But all of us in the APC, when we get to the party’s primary, whoever wins the primary will represent the party. The governor had just said this is my choice of the person I think can represent this senatorial zone very well, but there may be other people too who may think that Ben will represent them very well; so when they get to the field whoever wins will take the day, I don’t think this is a problem to discuss. You will discover that apart from the person the governor said that he will support, at the end of the day you may see up to 20 to 30 other persons running for that same position in the zone.
The Rescue Mission programme of the governor will be coming to an end by next year, do you think that the budget presented by Governor Okorocha for this year would effectively complete this programmes?
Very well, we believe that by May 2019 His Excellency will be handing over to the next governor completed projects which he started in 2011 to 2019. So we don’t have any doubt in our mind that His Excellency will not finish the projects he has started; he will be handing over clean completed projects to anybody that will come in as the next governor of Imo State.
As the governor’s tenure is gradually coming to an end, we have seen many groups coming out to endorse you as his successor, what is your next political destination in the state, is it the governorship?
Many people have asked me this question and I have seen a lot of endorsements coming from the APC; from the youths, from women, from different groups. I want to appreciate and thank each and every one of them for indicating their interests and urging me to come out to run for the 2019 governorship election in Imo State. I want to believe that this is coming from their hearts and because of the love they have for me; 2019 is fast approaching, but for now, we have a governor. By 2019, I will know where God will take me to, but for now, His Excellency Owelle Rochas Okorocha is still our governor and I have also told him that within a short period of time I will come out and make my intention known to everybody. But meanwhile, I have to give it to the youths of Imo State, left for them they would have opened my mouth and make the declaration on my behalf. But I want to assure them that will not disappoint or let them down. At the right time and very soon, I will make it known to everybody; it is not something to fear or worry about, where we are going to God has already destined it and I don’t think that any man can change it. What God has made nobody can unmake it, so 2019 will be 2019.
But if the APC gives you its ticket, many in Imo think this will run against the Imo Charter of Equity, particularly as the Orlu zone has held power already for 16 years through Achike Udenwa and Rochas Okorocha; do you think the Okigwe and Owerri zones will allow another eight years of the Orlu zone through your candidacy?
When you say zone, I wonder what zone you are talking about and when you say equity, I wonder also what you mean by equity. You know the greatest problem in this country is this issue of zoning. And when you talk about zoning, my own federal constituency, my own local government has never produced the governor of this state. Have we produced the governor of the state, has the governorship been zoned to my local government area, has it been zoned to my federal constituency, has it been zoned to the other federal constituencies like Ngor Okpalla, Okigwe, Ihitte Uboma and others? This is the question we should be asking ourselves. Then we ask, has zoning provided food on the table of the masses of this state? No! Has zoning brought development to any particular place, no. Look at Owelle Rochas Okorocha who did not come through zoning has done more work in Imo State, more than those who came through zoning. When you have a governor from one zone, there is this tendency that he will say “I am from Orlu zone, from Okigwe zone, let me develop my zone first.” When a governor is thinking of his zone before you know it his eight years will elapse and he will not do much. So, the issue of zone does not make for good leadership. It is like when you are fighting with your opponent in a ring, instead of looking for a way to throw him down on the floor, you are telling him, look at me I have muscles and the man will lift you up with your muscles and throw you on the floor to win the contest. I think if you feel that you are popular and that the people like you come out and contest. Nobody will look at you from where you are coming from; Imo people want only the person who will take on this path Governor Okorocha has created to lead them to the Promised Land; you can’t be talking of zoning when you don’t have anything to offer. I am not a believer of zoning.
Do you think that your party, APC, stands a chance of winning Imo again in 2019?
When you look at what His Excellency Owelle Rochas Okorocha has done since 2011 he came in as governor of the state, you don’t need to ask this question; even the blind can touch the state to know that Owelle Rochas Okorocha has done very well for his party to be returned at ease. The issue of winning an election is not what you write on billboards and papers, it is what you see on the ground and Owelle Rochas Okorocha has done excellently well that whoever that comes to challenge him in any governorship election in Imo will have a very serious battle. We have all it takes to win again in Imo State as a party. And it is going to be easier for us when compared to the 2011 and 2015 general elections because many in the state have now seen that this man has delivered on his promise; from his free education to rural roads and other infrastructural development. The Imo people have seen that Owelle Rochas Okorocha has delivered and what people want to see is that this man has performed and if this man has performed, it is believed that whatever that is coming from him will follow suit. So, we don’t have any fear for 2019, it is going to be a normal election and APC in Imo will win the elections with wide margin and in a landslide.
Last Monday, Governor Okorocha came out to say that he will endorse you if you come out, why are you still wasting time?
First of all, I want to appreciate His Excellency Owelle Rochas Okorocha who in his intelligence thought deeply of who will run and who will not run, that is his opinion. This is a man who has ran the state for seven years now, who has changed the landscape, changed the old mentality, changed the old Imo we used to see to a modern Imo. So, when he comes out to say this is the person that will go, I think I don’t have an objection to that; however, at the right time I will formally make it known to the people, but if he has given me his approval, who are mine not to take up the challenge? But at the right time, I will make my decision known to my people, but for now, it is between the governor and I.
There have been this controversy over giving cattle colony to herdsmen, many believe that Imo is one of the states in the country that have agreed to give land for cattle colony, how true is this?
No, it is not true. Remember that the government had earlier issued a press statement that it is not giving any cattle colony to any herdsman in Imo State and we believe that a colony can only be effective where the people have religious and cultural similarities like in the North; so states like Kano, Borno and others in the North can do that, but states in the South-East and the South-South, this can be very difficult because there are language and other barriers that can hinder it. So, the Imo State government has not given approval for cattle colony.
What is the relationship between Imo farmers and the herdsmen?
For now, we have not witnessed any serious problem between the farmers and the herdsmen in Imo State, but generally there have been issues of farmers making complaints about herdsmen going through their farms and thereby destroying their farm produce, which the state government had severally stepped in to resolve. The governor being who he is has done very well in handling this matter of our farmers and herdsmen that Imo has not encountered any problem like other states. That is why our prayer has been for the problems of herdsmen and farmers in the country should be resolved once and for all so that this will not cause a bigger problem in Nigeria. But I know that what Mr President is doing now like in sending the police and the military to handle the matter will go a long way in providing permanent solution on the issue.