Retired Deputy Inspector General of Police and a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief Azubuko Joel Udah, has called on the leadership of the party not to marginalise the South East region in the election of principal officers of the National Assembly. He noted that if equity is applied, former Abia State governor, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, should be in the leadership position of the 9th Senate.
APC won a senatorial seat, House of Representatives and House of Assembly seats, and delivered over 25 percent of the votes during the presidential poll to the president. What was the magic?
Firstly, the magic was that Abia people actually felt that it was unfortunate that they were not part of the government at the centre; they have no representatives in APC, a party that is controlling the federal government. Secondly, since you are not a member of the team at the centre, you cannot barge into its meetings to partake in what I may tag, as the spoils of war or sharing of dividends of democracy. You cannot go there and make a demand of what you didn’t contribute to get.
So, Abia State has no voice, and this time around, realising the danger of their first mistake, people that matter in the state started joining the party after the 2015 elections because of the need to bring about change in the state, and no more putting our eggs in one basket, which is PDP. The fact that APC made a very big impact by winning a senatorial seat, House of Representatives and House of Assembly seats, where there was none in 2015, points to fact that Abia State voters were looking for a credible alternative to the government we are have in the state, where civil servants hardly get their salaries as and when due, pensioners are neglected and they can’t receive their stipends, lack of infrastructure development and so many other things going wrong in the state; we needed to get somebody credible to be at the affairs of the state, but I don’t want to say much on this because the matter of governorship election is before the court.
Like I said earlier, after the 2015 general election where APC wasn’t in existence in the state, credible people in the state started joining- former Abia State governor, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, Dr Uche Ogar, Chief Mac Wabara, Stanley Ohajuruka, Friday Nwosu Nyerere, Chief Emeka Wogu, Senator Adighije, Senator Nkechi Nwogu, Onyejiocha, and so many others from all over the state; from Abia North, Abia Central and Abia South.
With these men and women of no mean repute, coupled with very good organisation and strong leadership, the party was able to achieve this feat in the state. In 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari didn’t score up to five percent, but this time around, we were able to deliver over 27 percent to him according to the result, but we gave him far more than that.
As for the governorship election, Abia people were determined to effect a change, but we knew how it went, what happened and who won the election; I can’t comment more because it is before the tribunal.The emergence of APC as a strong force in the state was demonstrated when it held a rally in Umuahia and a follow up in Aba, and people saw that the party was very much alive, and they began to believe the truth instead of the lies they were fed with before. The party will continue to make great impact until it uproots PDP from the state.
It is said that Buhari didn’t do done much for the South East in his first term because the zone didn’t vote for him, now that there is a remarkable improvement in the votes he garnered, what are your expectations from him?
No doubt, he did a lot for the zone and we are expecting that he will do more this time around because those of us from Abia, Imo and Ebonyi states took a lot of actions to tell Mr. President that he is wanted in the zone. People voted for him. I’m assuring you that there is no way the South East will be marginalised this time. There is difference between 2015 and now. In 2015, even though we had some people, we didn’t have people with strong voice that can reach out and demand what our people are supposed to get. People from the South East were on the sideline watching, as there was nobody to say, ‘what about us.’ But this time around, voices are rising in the zone asking for justice, equity and fair play for the South East to be given what is due to it, unlike before, where there was no voice to demand our right. The zone is expecting to get far more dividends of democracy than they got before from the party.
As a security expert, how can the insecurity across the country be better handled?
The Federal Government is trying its best to resolve the insecurity problems in the country. A new Inspector General of Police has just mounted the saddle in January and was preparing for the elections. After the elections, he is going round to mobilised the Police and other sister security agencies to tackle these problems. I know actions are being taken against the banditry and kidnappings in the North West. Few weeks ago, he launched “Operation Puff Adder”, which is making some impacts in addressing these problems. This government has tried its best in handling this insurgent group, Boko Haram. Guerrilla warfare is not an easy combat, but since this government came, it has dealt with the terrorist group, what we are having is sporadic kind of guerrilla warfare, they come and attack and run away; this will not last forever.
How do you want the composition of the National Assembly to look like?
I stand with my people from Abia, as well as the South East that the zone should not be isolated or excluded from the leadership of the National Assembly. The president is from North West, while his deputy is from South West. It behoves that the principal officers of the National Assembly should come from the remaining four geo political zones – South East, North Central, North East and South-South. The offices should be shared in such a way that each of the remaining four zones will get either the Senate president, the deputy; the speaker of House of Representatives or the deputy speaker. We are talking of equity, so this should reflect in our political life and in the sharing of political offices, which gives every zone a sense of belonging. When this is not done, acrimonies will start building up, which usually fuels agitations across the land.
I plead that there should be equity in the distribution of the principal offices of the National Assembly so that every zone feels included and for the growth and unity of the party.
People are looking beyond 2019 and are focusing on 2023; some argue that presidency should remain in the North, while others opposed that. Which zone do you think should produce the president?
If we are fair with each other, the next president of Nigeria should come from the South East. We have six zones in the country, the other five have had shot at the presidency since the inception of this present democratic dispensation. We all go to the church or mosque and preach justice, fair play and equity, so what we preach, let us put it into action, by ensuring that political power goes to South East region by 2023. The way it has been is that it goes to North and comes down to the South and it continues.Irrespective of party, it has gone to the South and was in the North, and it has continued to rotate. By 2023 it should rotate to the South. In the South, South West has had its share, likewise South South. It shouldn’t be a question of party, but in the overall interest of Nigeria. So, let us continue to do this thing in this way. There is a saying in our place that if you know what can cause trouble, you do well to avoid it. When we started in 1999, it went to the South West with former President Olusegun Obasanjo, thereafter, it was the turn of the North, with Umaru Yar’Adua in the saddle, but unfortunately, he couldn’t complete it, as he passed on in his third year of the first term, then Goodluck Jonathan from South South continued till 2015. Then it went back to the North with President Buhari from 2015 and his second term will end in 2023 by God’s grace. So, going by fair play and equity, which we all trumpet at different times, South East should produce the president in 2023. This will end the cry of marginalisation and help to address the separatist agitation in the region.
What are your expectations from the elected APC members from South East region, going to the National Assembly?
Particularly, those from Abia State, we expect that they go there and make impact, so that people will know that they are there, and not to go there to sleep. Take for an example, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, remember that he was a governor in Abia State and he set record; carried out massive infrastructure projects. He was performing in such a way that the then President Obasanjo, when he visited Abia State, named him, ‘Action Governor’. So, we do not expect anything less; he should go the Senate with action. Nigerians believe that if equity is done, he should be in a very good leadership position in the Senate. He is going there not only to be a good political representative of his people, but also the entire Nigeria. He is not going there to be sleeping or to pursue self aggrandisement. He is going to represent the people and we have a lot of confidence in him as he did when he was governor in terms of performance, particularly the fact that he has a reach out to all parts of the country – North West, North East, North Central, South West, South South and his South East base. He has a national character and can relate with anybody. This is reflected in the initiative he has taken to broker peace between APC National Leader, Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu and Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, over their feud. He has good rapport with everybody.
We have also Nkiru Onyejiocha, who is a member of the House of Representatives. She has been doing very well there and we are very proud of her. We will continue to see sterling performance from her.Though Benjamin Kalu, who won the Bende Federal Constituency, is still new, he is a politician of no small mean, we have so much confidence in him and that was why he was voted in, and he is going to justify that confidence. We believe these people and others will change the face of politics in the Abia State.