Obinna Odogwu, Awka
Governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress [APC] in the 2015 general election in Ebonyi State, Senator Julius Ucha, has said that Nigeria needs divine intervention to secure and enjoy stability in every area of its national life.
Ucha, who represented Ebonyi Central Senatorial District in the National Assembly twice from 2003 to 2007 and 2007 to 2011, said that everything in the country appears to be turning upside down, saying that a lot of efforts need to be made to put the country back on track and restore its lost glory.
The former lawmaker, who was also the pioneer Speaker of the Ebonyi State House of Assembly, stated that the problems Nigeria is grappling with were not peculiar to either the country or its government under the control of his party, the APC. He also spoke on other issues of national concern. Excerpts:
At 60, do you think Nigeria has progressed or retrogressed especially looking at the Nigeria of our founding fathers and the Nigeria of today?
This question is not a question that can be pigeon-holed into a particular answer. It is just a question that cannot be defined. Progressing and retrogressing are also relative. In terms of democracy, the country has made reasonable progress in stability in democracy without military interregnum. So, democratically, we can say we have made reasonable progress because internationally, no matter the nature of the democracy, it is also better than dictatorship. So, to that extent I can say that given the stability in our democratic culture, one can say that we have advanced democratically.
In the area of infrastructural development, do you hold the same view?
It all depends on the nature of the infrastructure one is looking at because infrastructure, like I said earlier, is also relative. What has happened in the infrastructure…take for instance, agricultural infrastructure. In the agricultural infrastructure, there are states and zones that have kept on making sure that the agricultural infrastructure is supported and improved. Unfortunately, some zones have not actually paid reasonable attention to agriculture. And this is one thing that is very important. In every society, people should have food to eat. When people have food to eat, there is less agitation and the society will naturally be at peace because food is the ultimate.
Many people, including those in the opposition parties, have accused your party of taking the country many steps backwards. As one of the leaders of the APC, do you think these commentators are fair to your party?
The problem we have in every country, what happens is that every society is dynamic to the extent that it is not what you see today that you expect to see tomorrow. It could be an intervening variable that will create a scenario that will be tough, challenging and difficult to be handled. And that those who are complaining, if they were in such a situation, wouldn’t have been able to address the same issue. So, that is the kind of scenario we see especially in every developing economy. The world today is almost completely in recession and because of that, every developing economy is getting the heat. And that is what has created this kind of challenge which people are referring to.
But in your view, do you think that your party has done well in the past five years since it took over control of the government at the centre?
It is the same question you have reframed, anyway. I think what is important in every situation is that one, there is…let us give an example with the Southeast. You live in Anambra State. What has not happened in the past 60 years appears today to be happening in Second Niger Bridge in Onitsha. It is a bridge that is about 11 kilometres long or more. And we understand that the approach road will be about 40 kilometres and about four runways. That is a very magnificent structure and a developmental stride that is supposed to be commended. It is only a government that has a large heart that can embark on that kind of project. That is what is happening to the Southeast today. There is no system that is default proof at all. What happens is that we have a generation where everything appears to be turning upside down. And every society, even in the US, is struggling to come out of the challenges of this generation. So, it is not peculiar to the government in Nigeria and it is not also peculiar to the APC government. The way things are going needs divine intervention to hold on to a system to make it very stable. But we thank God that in spite of what is happening, which has been happening because it just didn’t start today in Nigeria; a country that has a self defence mechanism to sustain itself because God is always with us.
What would be your advice to the leaders of this country on what to do to make this country better if you’re called upon to do so; especially to President Muhammadu Buhari?
One, I am not a financial expert, but I also know that the wish of every government and every leader is to make his country and the people he is leading feel better and I think the government and the president are not oblivious of this fact. They are also working towards achieving it.
As a two-time senator and the former Speaker of the Ebonyi State House of Assembly, you are eminently qualified and in a better position to assess a legislature. What would you make of the insinuations in some quarters that the National Assembly, especially its leadership, as presently constituted is a rubberstamp of the presidency?
Well, let me just say one thing. The legislature is a separate arm of the government, but what you have is one government. The legislature will not run at cross purposes with the executive. It doesn’t happen that way. The legislature can be even more powerful with cooperation with the executive without compromising its independence. So, people misunderstand the strength of the legislature with confrontation. It doesn’t happen like that. Between 1999 and 2003, you know that some Houses of Assembly were very, very strong and they were also cooperating with the executives. When they work harmoniously, you will find out that friction will be minimal and there will be free flow of function of the government. So, I don’t think that because there is no crisis; because the legislature is not barking at the executive, that it is a rubber stamp. Let me tell you, the President of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is about the strongest president of the legislature in the world. It is the same thing with the Speaker of the House of Representatives. So, the positions are very powerful positions. Even in the US that we are copying their democracy, what they have is the leader of the Senate where the Vice President acts as the Senate President when there is a tie in voting. So, the President of the Senate here and the Speaker of the House of Representatives are very powerful people. They are not people that can be subjected to the whims and caprices of the executives. But they can achieve what they want through legislative dialogue with the executive without making trouble about it. So, I don’t think it is true.
Last time we spoke, you raised some issues about your party, the APC. You said that your party, at the time, had a poor reward mechanism. Has the situation improved or is it still the same or has it worsened?
Well, I think the situation may have reasonably improved. But I don’t have…, you know, I am not in a position where I’ll begin to collect and collate data, but I think that the situation, if it has not improved, then you also find out that in spite of what is very important; because this reward we talk about is that political parties focus rewards more on performance. But since political structure is a dynamic thing, if the only thing that is done is to encourage those who perform, those who didn’t perform may also be discouraged more. And being one country, I don’t think that there is any zone or any state that should be short-changed because of electoral performance because it is also what can be done. The performance can be improved and the Southeast, in all honesty, deserves to work harder to be at the central stage of the Nigerian politics.
The same last time we spoke, I sought for your view on the friction between the former National Chairman of your party, Adams Oshiomhole, and his governor, Godwin Obaseki, who recently got re-elected. You told me that the two gentlemen would resolve their differences in a way they deem fit. The outcome of that Edo State governorship election and, of course, the events that preceded the election itself; could those be the resolutions you were referring to; the defeat suffered by your party?
I am not a soothsayer. I was merely talking as an ordinary mortal, believing that when people of the same family quarrel, there is a tendency to reconcile. Husbands and wives quarrel but they reconcile to keep their house in order. Even father and son may disagree, but they also reconcile to put the family in order. So, I didn’t know that it would get to the extent that everything would be torn apart. So, that is what it came to be; that the two sides refused to shift ground until everything went ablaze.