Mark Uchendu, former Secretary to the State Government of Imo State and a frontrunner in the forthcoming Imo North Senatorial rerun has said the reason his people want him to succeed late Benjamin Uwajumogu who died last December is to continue where the late Senator stopped.
He gave further reasons his people preferred him to other contestants in this interview.
Are you confident with INEC’s decision to go ahead with the conduct of elections including Imo North rerun in spite of the danger posed by Covid-19?
With the safety guideline released recently by the National Centre for Disease Control after meeting with Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), contestants and other stakeholders on how elections can be conducted while observing safety measures, I have confidence in the commission’s ability to conduct free, fair and safe election in Okigwe and in other places and also ensure that safety guidelines are observed by the electorate and electoral officials. In the meeting between aspirants and the electoral empire on the adherence of safety measures during and casting of ballot, we all agreed to obey the guidelines and also help sensitize voters to abide by these rules while casting their votes. I’m sure the commission will live up to expectation not only in Imo North, but in other elections.
With the outcome of the last governorship election in Imo that saw the person that came fourth as the winner, do you have doubt over the selection process of the then candidate of your party?
What happened in the last governorship election that produced Sen. Hope Uzodinma as governor of Imo State is the will of the people and the same way members of my party in Okigwe zone will select the best person to be APC flag bearer in the forthcoming rerun and I’m sure that the party primary will be transparent.
As one of the top contenders in the race to succeed late Uwajumogu in the 9th Senate, are you in the race just to complete the late Senator’s term or what should your constituents expect from you?
I’m not in the race on compensatory ground, but to serve the good people of Okigwe zone. Yes, for the sake of justice and fairness, my people expect the ruling party to select someone from Ihitte Uboma to complete Uwajumogu’s term just as it was done in Osun in the case of Isiaka Adeleke who died while in the Senate and his junior brother, Ademola succeeded him. Another instance is that of Onuimo Local Government Area in Okigwe zone of this state when Maurice Ibekwe died while in the National Assembly and Mike Ohia who hails from the same LGA succeeded him in the House of Representatives. So, it is not new as there are a lot of similar instances when the party pacified people who lost their representatives while in active service. In case of appointees, there is another case worthy to be mentioned and that was in Kogi State when James Enojo Ocholi, the former Minister of State for Labour and Productivity also died in a car accident with his wife and son, and his kinsman replaced him. However, if these men died while representing their constituents in office and their kinsmen were drafted to complete their tenure, why is Uawajumogu’s case raising dust? Yes, I know that power is not given, but taken, hence we should bear in mind that Uwajumogu died few months after he was issued with the Certificate of Return. What my people are saying is that for the spirit of the Senator who joined hand with us and ensured APC gained ground in the South-East and Imo State to rest in peace, I should succeed him not only on compensatory ground, but on merit. They are appealing to APC to appease the people of Ihitte Uboma Local Government Area (LGA) by supporting me to complete Uwajumogu’s tenure. That is also what the founding members of APC in Okigwe zone are demanding from the National Working Committee. They want reward for those of us who made efforts and did everything under the sun to deepen the root of APC in the state and in the South-East. That is one of the ways the ruling party can make its members to remain loyal especially using a positive reward mechanism by setting a standard with Imo North rerun thereby making those persons who left the ruling party during 2019 general elections, but came back recently to APC scheming just to replace the late Senator know that the party’s ticket is not for sale. Therefore, I join my people to appeal to Adams Oshiomhole-led NWC to toe the part of equity and fairness and do unto Ihitte Uboma LGA as it was done to others as the gesture will go a long way to show that leaders of the ruling party have conscience.
Are you saying that should be the norm?
That is not what we are saying. We are not advocating for incompetent person to succeed dead public servants, rather, what we are saying is that in a peculiar situation such as the one we have at hand now, the deceased having won election and died after few months a qualified and tested hand from his constituency, LGA or tribe should be drafted to complete his or her tenure for the sake of equity and fairness.
Many see you as a top contender in the race, why are you sounding as if you want automatic ticket?
That is far from the truth. I’m only relaying the thought and opinion of my people who felt they should be treated like other people who lost their representatives while in active service. As for me, I have paid my dues in the ruling party as a founding member of APC and I have held several positions both elective and appointive. You are aware that I served as Council Chairman, former member of the state House of Assembly and Secretary to State Government. So, I have contested elections and have not lost any election. Therefore, I’m used to electoral contest and this won’t be different. How can I expect a progressive party like APC to give me automatic ticket when it is obvious that I’m the man to beat in the race? It will be undemocratic for one to be issued automatic ticket of a ruling political party when there are other aspirants. The democratic thing to do by any political party is to provide a level playing ground for the contestants to slug it out. As for me, I have already subjected myself to party primary and I’m very hopeful to clinch APC ticket. So, my people are not saying that I should be given automatic ticket to succeed Uwajumogu; instead, they have queued behind me as the flag bearer of the ruling party by the grace of God.