Olumba Onuora was a member of the Imo State House of Assembly. He represented Amaifeke Constituency. But he is now in the race for a seat in the House of Representatives on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for Orlu/ Oru East / Orsu constituency of Imo state. He speaks on his plans for the people, the zoning formula as well as the poor state of democracy in the states.
You were a member of the Imo state House of Assembly. What were the experiences and regrets you had that you believe can shape your political future?
I was in the House from 2007 to 2011 where I was the House Committee Chairman on Health and Imo State Oil Producing and Development Commission (ISOPDEC). At a time, I was suspended from the House for seven months without pay and such experiences have become learning blocks for me. Today, I am reinvigorated and ready to move on fully equipped. I intend to run for the House of Representatives and I will leverage on the rich experience I garnered to make a good and worthy representation for my people.
Looking back now, what would you consider as the highs and lows in your legislative experience?
During our time as lawmakers, we used to challenge the governor and I was one of the challengers -in-chief. I can beat my chest today to say that nobody, not even the governor could put me in his pocket. The House then was vibrant and largely pro- people. But now, maybe because of their dispositions, the governor tends to put the lawmakers in his pocket. The governor gets whatever he wants without any struggle. I intend to continue along the line by putting the people first in everything I do when I get there.
The Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu who doubles as the chairman of the joint National Assembly Committee on the review of the 1999 constitution once said that democracy at the state level is dead because the state legislatures that should act as a check on the executive arm of government are not doing so. Do you agree with him?
I totally agree with Ekweremadu. When I was in the House we witnessed it. When we saw the direction in which the House was going, acting out the script of the governor without questioning anything, about four or five of us resisted it. As time went on, it has degenerated so much that I can confidently tell you that as far as democracy is concerned, there are no legislatures in the states. They hardly sit. They only sit when the governor wants something private or when he wants to pass the budget. They are not responsible to the people that elected them.
What again do you think is responsible for this odious practice?
It is because of the autonomy. During our tenure, the National Assembly passed a bill that tried to grant autonomy to the state legislatures so that they can collect their money directly from the federation account, but some State Houses of Assembly opposed it. They voted to remain in the pocket of the governors. Is that not strange? Even a slave will grab his freedom any day it comes.
How popular is the PDP in your area and what leverage do you think the party can give you in your ambition?
PDP is still the party to beat. If we have a free and fair poll, I can tell you that APC does not stand any chance in Imo State. So many factors are responsible for this. The APC administration in the state has destroyed the values of the people and they are yearning for change because so many ugly things are happening. They have taken governance to the gutters. If the PDP can come together and settle their internal squabbles, I can bet you it will be an easy ride to power in the state. If there is a level playing ground for everybody, it is going to be a landslide victory for the PDP.
Where and how did PDP get it wrong because they are perpetually in crises especially in Imo state?
The love for ‘money democracy’ where the highest bidder gets the ticket remains the biggest killer of our democracy. If they get it right now, they should be able to bring out people who can win elections. They should not focus on those who have money or are popular. They should zero in on those who have influence and are highly electable; those without baggage. When party officials collect money and give the ticket to the wrong persons, when they get there, they will just stumble and tumble.
Do you think this nation needs to be restructured?
Even a new born baby knows that we need this restructuring. People have been talking about Nigeria being an abattoir and I totally agree with that. Look at the devastation and bloodletting that the Fulani herdsmen are unleashing on Nigerians. The president has refused to condemn them, has refused to call them to order, has refused to call them a terrorist organisation and they have been mindlessly killing people and up till this moment the president has turned a blind eye. It is very clear for everyone to see. There is marginalisation of the south east. So we need to come together and discuss the restructuring of this country and how we can live in peace with one another for a better Nigeria.
When I get to the House, restructuring would be part of my agenda and the other part of my plan is to restart the agitation for a sixth state in the South East. That is part of the restructuring we are talking about.
The PDP is currently divided with a new group emerging as the real face of the party. Is that not a stumbling block to the desire to take back power from the APC?
The man that is leading the group is from Imo State, we have checked the party’s register and his name is not even there. It is just the ruling party that brought them up in order to destabilize the party. They are using three or four people to speak grammar and address press conferences. It has no impact at all because they are not PDP members. If they were PDP members they would have been invited and maybe suspended. But as you can see, nobody is talking to them. The only thing we are begging the law enforcement agents to do is to bring down our flag there, because if anyone hoists APC flag, in one hour they will bring it down. The PDP hierarchy has written to the police to do the needful, but you know they will not do anything because they know APC is behind it.