By Chidi Obineche
Prince Eze Madumere, Imo State deputy governor speaks on the challenges of his office, his relationship with the Governor, Rochas Okorocha, and other contemporary issues.
What are your special moments since you became the deputy governor of Imo State?
It has been a wonderful experience, a challenging one, and we have been able to weather the storms to the glory of God almighty. The office of the deputy governor constitutionally assists the governor in running the state. We are only playing a supporting role to the governor. In the case of Imo State, I do have a wonderful relationship with my leader and my boss, the governor. He has given me the enabling environment to operate and has allowed me to do so much more than my peers. We have been able to get to where we are today because of the harmonious relationship that exists between us. In Imo, the governor and the deputy governor operate like father and son. For me, it has been a wonderful learning experience that my leader and my boss has been able to carry us along. And these are my special moments.
Looking back now to how the harmonious relationship began, can you recall any special day?
I don’t want to mention a particular day or incident, but like I said, the job is enormous, very challenging. It deals on policies and issues of government. Because of the way we operate in Imo State; we are a task force state. For you to be able to see what you are seeing today, they were all generated, they were all produced by the force of reasoning and craftsmanship of the governor. For instance, you are in Owerri at the moment and I am sure you have seen the urban renewal projects. All the roads leading into Owerri are all being expanded to eight lanes. All the shanties, we are removing them. So, these challenging moments come up every day. There is no day or moment that is particularly a special or favourite one. All we do is work, work, and work. Here in Imo, there is nothing like vacation. His Excellency has never had the opportunity to go on vacation like other governors do. Neither have I done that too. Everywhere we go, it’s a work related thing that takes us there. So there is no special day. It is a very challenging experience and I am glad to be associated with it.
You came to power on the platform of APGA and now you are in APC. How do you rate APC?
You know our experiences are entirely different. I can’t give you nationwide rating, but in Imo State we have a different style. Coming from where we came from; you know in the first tenure we had a very strong incumbent in Ikeddy Ohakim of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP .My leader took a party that was nothing to beat PDP and the incumbent. If you talk of APGA, it is only strong in Anambra State, not in Imo. APGA did not even have a Councilor or any anyone holding a political office. So, to talk of APGA winning the governorship of Imo State then is like a fairy tale. So, we came and took over the government and made it a brand.
That notwithstanding, a couple of years later, we took the bull by the horn, moved into an unregistered party called All Progressives Congress, APC which eventually got registered. We ran on the platform and won again. That shows the strength of a leader. And nobody can ask you a question on why we won. It was based on our vision and acceptance by the good people of Imo State. Based on our projects and what we have achieved in the state. Come 2019, there is no other party or leadership that people will be looking up to than Rochas Okorocha.
The innovative 4th tier of government in Imo State came with a lot of hoopla. Now, several years after, how is it faring?
I am happy to announce to you that the community government which is called the CDC, Community Development Council in Imo State is doing tremendously well. What we have done is to bring government from the local government level down to the community. Today, we even have a State Development Council, SDC that is charged with the responsibility of ensuring that those communities get their own fair share of development. For example, the CDC is responsible for dispatching teachers’ salaries, is responsible for dispatching pensioners salaries, and producing the head count of the number of pupils and students we have in primary and secondary schools, and is also responsible in the maintenance of the rural roads in their localities
They are involved in everything that is from government. These are the people that will give us first hand information. For example, last Christmas, during the holidays, all the CDCs in the 647 communities were given a token and mandated that all the communities should be cleaned. All the youths and women participated and cleaned up everywhere. I think, this is one of the best innovations that the leadership of the Rescue Mission Government has ever introduced and I encourage other state governments to emulate it. Community government is good for our people. It has given more powers to the traditional institutions because they are also involved.
How do you look at the incumbency factor in Nigerian politics?
It has always been there. Again, look at the changing times. It is no longer the power of incumbency. It is now about showing us what you can do and what dividend of democracy you can provide for your people. It is no longer like before – give electricity and provide water. Now, technology and its systems have taken different dimensions that it is no longer government as usual So, under power of incumbency, you must show your people what you have been able to do for them and what you can do. In our own case, in 2011, there was a sitting government of the PDP. We braced up, had our three- point agenda providing for education, safer environment and life more abundant. People believed that, subscribed to it, voted for us overwhelmly and we took over the government. The syndrome of power of incumbency doesn’t work. Another case is at the national level. Today, we have the APC government of Muhammadu Buhari. But the PDP was in power for over 16 years. They were defeated, showing that the power of incumbency could not help them. It could not play its normal course, because in Nigeria then, there was a movement that Nigeria needed a change and that change took place.
How do you look at the political horizon in the state as we approach 2019?
Quite frankly, a lot is happening, but my concentration at the moment is where I am as the deputy governor. People are trying to heat up the system, but for us in government our priority is to concentrate on the projects that we have undertaken. 2019 is not in my diary at this moment.
Definitely there are a lot of anxieties on what the state will look like post- 2019. Are you optimistic that your party, the APC will not be holding the wrong end of the stick?
Again, you have chosen to ask the question of succession in another way. It is normal because our people are politically conscious. Everyone wants things to fall in place, and those things that must fall in place are normally dear to the people
Now let us looking at the zoning arrangement in the state. Is there still a structure in place, or is it gone with the wind?
The issue of zoning is always a recurring question. My answer has always been simple. I am on a joint ticket with my boss, Governor Rochas Okorocha. We owe Imo people the responsibility of providing them a long lasting dividend, basically. They voted massively for us and we must play our script to their admiration which is what we have always laid out. But you must understand that government is doing so much for the people here in Imo State. As you go around, you notice the fundamental changes that have occurred in the last six years. The urban renewal project, the rural roads projects, the mobilization on agriculture programme, dualization of roads projects.
Will these ongoing projects be concluded before 2019?
The projects I am mentioning to you, including the international airport will be completed before the end of our tenure in office. There is no project that will not be concluded before the end of this tenure, His Excellency has over and over again said that all his projects will be concluded. So anyone who is interested in running from any of the zones – Owerri, Orlu, Okigwe – is welcome. We can’t stop them. But for me, I have a mandate, and that is to see through the assignment here as deputy governor. To get into the 2019 discussion now when we have about two years remaining is not right.
You have come a long way with your boss, the governor. How is your relationship with him now?
Undoubtedly, the relationship between me and my boss, my leader, my father, political father is very strong. This is a relationship that has been built for more than two decades now. We are counting about 24 years. What we have is a father and son relationship in terms of governance and everything we do here. I don’t even consider myself as a deputy governor where my boss is. I see myself as his number one Personal Assistant, PA, which I am anyway. I also try to complement and make myself readily available at any second to move into any assignment that I am given.
How is the performance of the Buhari government so far?
You know we started very slowly. Transitionally, it is not always very easy. But very unfortunately, we went into a deep recession because of the downturn in the prices of oil and the blowing up of pipelines. The Federal Government under President Buhari was getting it right by having some kind of understanding with the militants. Even here in Imo State we were able to get all the militants to surrender all their arms. There is no militancy in Imo State. The state government has invested so much into that area and has continued to invest. The office of the first lady, the mother of this state, Her Excellency Ugo Nneoma Nkechi Rochas Okorocha is leading the empowerment group for the militants that surrendered their arms, and their rehabilitation. Right now, the state government has earmarked about N1billion to make sure that all the primary schools, secondary schools in Ohaji/ Egbema are rehabilitated to a good standard. We are doing very well here to contain militancy and curb vandalization of pipelines. Buhari’s government is now in full throttle. All the welfare programmes promised like school feeding, allowances for elders are all coming on board. These things are rated highly and I know it is only a matter of time before the perception of the government by some people will permanently change for good. The price of oil is also getting stronger to help our economy.