Senator Hope Uzodimma, chairman, Senate Committee on Customs and Excise, is also the chairman of the Southern Senators Forum. He spoke to a select group of journalists recently on the state of the nation.
Your party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) will hold its Convention this Saturday, but your state chapter of the party, that is Imo State, appears to be in total disarray. How will Imo APC attend the Convention?
First of all, let me say that I’m not the spokesman of the APC in Imo. Yes, I’m a stakeholder but the party has responsible officers who speak for the party. However, I don’t think it is correct to say that the APC in Imo is in total disarray. The party is very peaceful. I’m not aware of any theory of organisation that allows it to be so described. As for how the Imo State will attend the National Convention, again I am at a loss as to what you exactly mean. However, to answer your question pointedly, Imo APC will attend the convention, just as any other state chapter of the party will.
Your state Governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, tells it to whoever cares to hear that there was no Congress in Imo, from ward to state, but a faction of the party popularly known as the ‘Coalition
Group’ says congresses held. So, is the party not in disarray and who are the delegates that will attend the Convention?
If the governor says there were no Congresses, I believe he knows better than to make it a media affair. The party has established channels for complaints and as a leader in the party; he should know how to go about any grievances. However, the Congresses held in Imo State at all levels and they were quite successful. Having said that, I must admit that in every such exercise there are bound to be complaints here and there.
In politics, losers often complain and sometimes even the winners too. So, yes, there were bound to be complaints and as I said earlier, there are established channels for handling such complaints. When any party to a political dispute legitimately takes up a complaint, it is judiciously handled, and who knows, in the end he or she may be vindicated.
This is why; even a governor may be elected today and removed by the courts tomorrow. It is all about due process. Once an election has been held, there is an established process for complaint and those who diligently pursue this process may end up being vindicated.
But I must say clearly, there are no factions in Imo APC. Yes, there are discordant tunes because some people lost and won in the Congresses, but that does not translate to fractionalisation. Politics is about the struggle for power and you can’t have a struggle without a ruffle. You must ruffle yourselves if you’re truly struggling to get a prize in a fight. But soon after the fight, all is well again.
But the public opinion is that there are so many struggles in the APC because all the trouble makers in the PDP have now joined the APC. Is that correct?
That is a very ridiculous assertion. I don’t really know how to define a trouble maker. But I know there’s a difference between ‘waka pass’ politicians and consequential politicians, that is, those who make the difference and those who don’t. I know that before some of us joined APC in the state, it was practically non-existent. It was more like a one-man circus show than a vibrant political party. But the entry of people like us injected life into the party and men and women of consequence appeared on the scene. Of course, this has made all the difference. So maybe, rather than say the so-called trouble makers in PDP in Imo State are now in APC, I would say that the men of consequence and real political gladiators in Imo State are now in the APC. That of course, comes with its own heat, but in the end the truth of the matter is that what you now have in the Imo PDP is a shadow of its old self. The substance is gone and the drum rolling over the whole place is an empty one. So what PDP has lost APC has gained.
Now, talking about losing and gaining, do you really think APC in Imo State will have electoral advantage from all these?
Politics is about people, about opinion leaders. About the leaders, people look up to. So, if a party has a concentration of such leaders, logically it will translate into electoral victory. So, I think it will because where you have more of the leaders people look up to, for honest and fruitful leadership, there, the people will go. Like the Igbo adage has it, the goat is always after the man carrying the green leaves that serve as its food.
Do you think the APC will win the presidency next year?
Why do you think so?
Well, I don’t believe anyone has conducted an opinion poll to arrive at this groundswell of opinion, but all I know is that the facts on the ground tell me otherwise. I don’t know how President Buhari has failed, when today, we have an economy that is picking up and looking good. All the indices for measuring a healthy economy point out that the Nigerian economy is better today, than it was four years ago.
I am sure you will agree that in spite of all odds, the security situation is far better than it was some years ago. The international community acknowledges that and are actually commending the government and lending the logistic support they were not willing to offer a few years ago. Recently, President Buhari was in the United States for an official visit and you are aware that President Donald Trump was full of praise for him for the successes he has recorded in fighting insurgency and terrorism. On the strength of this, Trump gladly offered to support the government on the fight against insurgency and terrorism.
But above every other thing is the fact that President Buhari so far, is the most honest and patriotic president Nigeria has ever had. His transparency is equal to none. This is why he has made so much progress in the fight against corruption. We must acknowledge the fact that there is greater sanity in the public sector today because many are afraid of being indicted for corrupt practices. So, I think that if we want to be honest with ourselves, then President Buhari should be re-elected because he is re-electable and deserves a second tenure to consolidate on the good work he has started.
A lot of people will contest your position. Are you not aware that President Buhari is accused in many quarters of having dictatorial tendencies that is a threat to democracy?
It is natural to accuse a strong President of being dictatorial. President Trump of the United States is facing similar allegations. But what is clear to me is that to clear the rot in the Nigerian society requires a strong willed man who will do the right thing without minding whose ox is gored. President Buhari is such a man.
Your people, the Igbo appear to be very uncomfortable with the Buhari administration. How do you hope to convince them to vote for him next year?
You may well be right that the South- east is not completely comfortable with this administration. Yes, there are complaints here and there about not being accommodated in appointments and infrastructure provisions, etc. But the only way to address this is by ensuring that we employ every legitimate force we can muster as our arsenal. The legitimate force I mean here is by voting massively for Buhari next year. When we do that, then we would have properly positioned ourselves to demand, as of right, a better accommodation in government. So, I intend to let our people know that it is in our best interest to vote massively for Buhari in 2019, so that we can legitimately make demands for a robust accommodation in the federal government.
Let me draw your attention to the fact that I have already stated. I delivered a lecture at University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN) where I challenged Igbo intellectuals to come up with the best dispassionate road map to the presidency of Igbo extraction in 2023. From what I read in the papers, I think they are taking the challenge serious. So you can see that I have already started.
Why did I throw this challenge? I did it because I know that the South -east is very desirous of producing the President of Nigeria. In the South, the South-west has produced the president. That is, Olusegun Obasanjo. The South- south also produced Goodluck Jonathan. So, it is only the South -east that has not. Now, going by the rotational arrangement, the presidency will come back to the south in 2023. When it does, the South-east can rightly lay claim to it as the only zone that has not produced the president.
However, it will only be possible if Buhari wins, because, he is the only one from the north who will not exceed 2023 in office. Any other northerner, mind you, all the major parties have already zoned the Presidency to the north in 2019, so any other candidate that is given power in 2019 will certainly want to do eight years in office. This may mean that the South-east will have to wait till 2027 before it can dream of the presidency. So, my take is that if we are truly desirous of the presidency, then we should vote Buhari so that we can go for it in 2023. I will try to convince my people that it is the rational thing to do. I believe they will listen.