Obinna Odogwu, Abakaliki
Many members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Ebonyi State appear believably still living in shock following the loss of their governorship candidate, Senator Sonni Ogbuoji, in the just concluded governorship and state House of Assembly elections in the state. The incumbent governor, Chief David Umahi, who was the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, defeated him with a total of 393,043 votes against his 81,703 votes. He, not only lost the election, but lost his own Local Government Area, Afikpo South. To them, the loss was least of their expectations. But Ogbuoji’s kinsman, Eni Uduma Chima, was not surprised. Chima, a lawyer, who is currently the Chairman of Afikpo South, said that he saw Ogbuoji’s downfall coming.
Before the governorship and state Assembly elections, many members of the APC by their comments, painted a picture of been home and dry, tell us what went wrong?
It is because something was fundamentally wrong. You know, when a leader embarks on a journey without a followership, he is just taking a stroll. He never consulted anybody before he took the decision to abandon PDP and continue his ambition in the APC. And this was the party that has given him the senate twice. It was seen more as a betrayal than the pursuit of ambition. Again, apart from not consulting critical political stakeholders from the area, this senator contesting on the platform of the APC had a mantra against the incumbent governor, that he is practicing familiocracy; a situation where choice positions in government and the party were given to the members of his family. Then, himself who was positing as the alternative just manifested even worse tendencies of familiocracy. Contesting for the governorship, he still placed the ticket of the House of Assembly in the same ward as himself; the same Ebunwana ward. He could not find even another family unconnected to him except his brother-in-law. The young man was married to his younger sister of the same womb – the same mother and father. It was seen as hypocrisy by the people. And to concentrate both the position of the governor and the House of Assembly in one ward in a clan of 72 villages wouldn’t naturally have augured well with the people to enable him gather the votes needed if he had done a little spread. So, he was perceived as being both hypocritical and selfish. That accounted for his abysmal performance. And the community he had issues with happens to be the largest community in the local government area; a community of three wards out of the 11 wards in the council that has 21,354 registered voters out of the 79,115 registered voters in the area. That means, his problem with a community that houses more than one quarter of the total voting strength contributed to his poor performance.
Looking at the action the people of Edda has taken against their own son; does it not amount to throwing out the child with the bathwater?
No! Edda, actually, has lost nothing. We have only displayed that we are not ungrateful people having been given the position of the senate again for the record third time. It will be a mark of ingratitude on our part as a people if we insist on using another party to contest the governorship. In any case it would not have worked out because only Edda cannot make somebody the governor of the entire state. In terms of voting strength we are only better than Ivo Local Government Area. We are about the least.
Before that election, we are aware that both of you don’t seem to have a smooth relationship. What actually is the problem?
There has not been anything personal. In the twilight of the last administration in 2015, I contested for the House of Representatives on the platform of the Labour Party (LP) while he contested on the platform of the PDP. So, ordinarily, not operating on the same platform we couldn’t have done better in relationship but prior to that time, we contributed to his emergence as the senator of Ebonyi South in 2011.
There is this apprehension that the governor may abandon his developmental projects having won his second tenure especially as it affects the road infrastructure. Do you share in this view?
I hold a different view because the governor, even during the campaign was making promises and not only making promises, he was going ahead to put them to practical manifestations. The Abaomege Flyover which has commenced as we speak now, was a promise made on the 27th of November last year when Prince Arthur Eze visited. So, for a governor, who was running a campaign to have found time to commence fresh projects of such gigantic nature shows that he is committed to work and most of the projects ongoing will be completed because it will be unwise not to complete them. As for the new ones, he has not made any major promise of projects apart from the completion of the roads and then, the airport which he said is his pet project. If you know him very well, he is not afraid of projects. He will make pronouncements and then, march his words with action. He is not afraid of projects no matter the cost implications and he has shown that he is a good manager of resources. And that prudence will make him do more projects with less amount of money. So, I don’t see him going back on any of his promises or abandoning any of his projects. Instead, I see him initiating more projects in this second tenure. And he still has his ambition. So, he has opportunity of showing example of what he can do if he is given greater political responsibility.
A good number of refugees are scattered all over Ekoli Edda community. What do you think the government should do to bring the crises ravaging the communities in the state, to an end?
There are so many other places where we are having boundary disputes. What I think is lacking is the will to take decisions and implement them. And that is the fault of the National Boundary Commission (NBC). It is their duty to do boundary tracing and demarcation wherever there is dispute involving communities in different states. That responsibility has been abdicated. They would hold meetings and resolutions are reached; very beautiful resolutions but the problem has always been on the implementation. So, I will expect the governor to through the office the Deputy Governor who is the chairman of the boundary committees of their respective states to compel the National Boundary Commission to do boundary tracing and demarcation in all these troubled spots. Until that is done, the crises would continue to manifest and we will continue to pay dearly in terms of human lives and destruction of properties.