From Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
Armed as an English graduate, a journalist, politician and now a lawyer, Senator Osita Izunaso, has no doubt become an indispensable asset of sort in the country.
After his Call to Bar recently, he spoke to Sunday Sun on various range of issues including his motivation to return to school to study Law at old age, the contentious APC zoning arrangement ahead of the 2023 presidential election, the crisis rocking the APC in both national and his state, Imo, and the possibility of the APC retaining power beyond President Muhammadu Buhari.
Having equipped yourself in areas of journalism, politics and now law, what is next for you?
I will remain in politics, but will not go far away from law. The only thing I may probably not do again is journalism. Once the court resumes from vacation, I will start going to court. I am going to attach myself with one of the most serious chambers in town to go through the practical legal tutelage before setting up my own chambers and employing lawyers to work with me.
Going by the enviable records you have built in politics, would you say that this is the APC of your dream?
You know that the party came to be as a merger and amalgamation of three, four or five entities. While three came in full, two others came half. The party struggled to gain power. Yes, we are still in power, but you don’t expect us to get everything right. Don’t forget that even the PDP that ruled for 16 years did not get everything right. What the APC is doing now is still a learning process of a learning party. We are still putting our acts together and putting things right. We might make some mistakes, but the truth of the matter is that whenever there is a problem in the APC, such problems never scatter the party. APC is doing well, but there is still room for correction of what we have not done well.
Which regime created more problems for APC between Oyegun not returning or Oshiomhole’s removal?
You know that I was directly involved and would not want to comment on this so that people will not misinterpret me. However, everybody knows that when Oyegun was chairman, there was some level of proper party administration and cohesion. He does not go to NWC meetings with a mindset and believes that his thoughts will prevail. That is not correct. Under Oyegun, the meeting decides what happens. Like I said, I don’t want to dabble into those areas. The good thing is that our party is on the right track and footing again. The congresses are conducted which will end with a national convention. The convention will guarantee the final stability of the APC.
What are your fears against APC coasting home in the 2023 elections?
Why should I entertain any fear when the governors of the PDP are joining us, the APC, on their own? Even the blinds could see that the APC is growing bigger than what it was previously. Yes, I admit that the party grew high at one point and shaded weight; however, it is getting fatter again. The indication of the growth is that APC is getting fatter towards the election, which means that the party will certainly coast to victory in the 2023 general elections. Let me emphasize it that even if there are crises after the convention, it will still be sorted out well enough before we go into the primaries that will produce the candidate of our party for the 2023 elections.
Did you take into consideration the fact that President Buhari will not contest the election in expressing confidence for APC victory?
If President Buhari is not contesting, does it mean that he will not have interest in what is going on in the party? An Igbo adage says that traditional rulers should not put hands in politics did not say that they should also remove their eyes. President Buhari will remain a major factor in deciding who the party’s presidential candidate will be in 2023 whether he is contesting or not.
What is your take on Igbo presidency in 2023?
That matter will be settled very soon. The party has not zoned any position to any place. There is going to be a zoning committee to decide which zone gets what. Party members will understand what is expected of them. But, you should know that APC will start zoning with the party’s leadership positions. It is after this first zoning that we decide on the elective zoning arrangements. There is no need for anybody to get worried about the zoning arrangements for the 2023 presidential ticket. I am sure that APC must do what is fair and right. We should not start putting the cart before the horse. We are almost there and there is no need for this hurry and anxiety over zoning.
Have you also heard the speculations that Southeast has no competent person to give the party’s ticket?
How can anybody say such a thing? It is not true because there is no zone in this country that does not have thousands of competent hands to rule this country. People should dismiss with the wave of the hand the speculation that the Southeast has no competent person to produce a president.
Did your attending Imo APC stakeholders’ meeting confirm that there is peace in the party’s state chapter?
Of course, there has always been peace in the APC in Imo State. The governor is in charge. So, what is wrong in attending the meeting as major stakeholders of Imo State? On the contrary, if I didn’t attend, it would be a confirmation that I am not politically relevant in the state. For your information, some of the people that did not attend were actually invited, but could not make it due to one engagement or the other. I don’t think there is any debate over the peace in the APC fold in Imo State. Yes, there are people who may not agree with one another, but that does not mean that the party is not peaceful in the state. In Nigeria today, there are people who don’t agree with President Buhari, but does that dispute the fact that he is the president of this country? Even if there is disagreement, there must always be a forum for reconciliation.
Why has it become difficult for Imo APC stakeholders to reconcile the governor and Okorocha?
It is wrong to say that the governor and Okorocha are fighting each other. It is a misinterpretation of what is going on in the Imo APC. There is no basis for any fighting because one is the governor while the other is the past governor. The party is big enough to accommodate everybody. During registration, everybody was told to register and how is it anybody’s fault if someone chose not to register. I don’t think that there is any quarrel, so to say, between the governor and the past governor. The question necessary now is what Imo people want at this point. Is the governor doing what Imo people want or not and if he is not, then it means that he is not doing well. It is not a personality thing and we must know that no singular person is above the state. A governor will come and go, but the state remains. The most popular person to govern Imo State is no longer alive, yet people still talk about him. His legacy is speaking for him and every governor must try to leave a legacy for people to remember him when he is no longer here.
As a member of the Campaign Committee for Anambra governorship election, are you comfortable with the aftermath of the state party primaries?
APC has bright chances to win the Anambra governorship election. I did not play an active role in the primary, but I can tell you that some people are not happy with the way the primary went. However, what is certain is that there is always room for reconciliation. Therefore, the first assignment for the Campaign Committee will be to reconcile the aggrieved persons. We have to do that even before we start election strategy and planning. We must have to listen to the aggrieved persons and even create a reconciliatory sub-committee to ensure they were not shutout.
What advice do you have for those behind the spate of insecurity in the Southeast?
I am happy that peace is gradually returning in the Southeast especially in Imo State. There are great improvements from what it used to be three months ago. Some people are beginning to reason better. Even in war situations, people still engage in dialogue. What we actually need most in the zone right now is peace. Even in protesting against those things we felt were denied us, we need a peaceful atmosphere to make our agitations known. Only recently, we saw the traditional rulers pouring libation on the ground in Imo, urging our sons and daughters to calm down and embrace peace. Nobody is saying that people should not air their minds, but we must give peace a chance. What is happening is not what anybody should encourage and no Igbo culture encourages anybody taking another person’s life. It should be detested because killing is an abomination in Igbo land. In Igbo land, no matter how you struggle for anything with anybody, it is not possible to allow it to degenerate to the level of killing someone.
What motivated you to return to school to study law at an old age?
Reading law was an ambition I nursed even when I was a young person. After getting my A-Level, my ambition was to go back to school and read Law. But I was given English instead of the course I desired when I gained admission in the University of Jos. I thought I would switch over after the first year, but because it was a direct entry for three years, it became very difficult to change the course. When I graduated, I left the ambition to read Law for a while and ventured into journalism after a Post Graduate Diploma in Journalism. I practiced journalism until I ventured into politics which is also very time-consuming. Despite all these, the desire to return to school to study law still persisted. I actually did by gaining admission to Nile University to read the course. However, after graduation, I faced the challenge of going to Law School because it is time consuming and stressful. The lockdown occasioned by COVID-19 pandemic struck three months after my commencement of the programme, but they continued online until we finished all the course work. The satisfaction is that I was eventually called to the Bar after everything. It is the satisfaction of a long-time ambition. I like my tenacity, resilience, perseverance and doggedness to continue with the programme because it is something that any small thing would have disrupted. I even lost some opportunities because reading law prevented me from getting one government appointment or the other. I resolved that good things can always come because once you are appointed into any executive position; you have to withdraw from Law School.
From journalism to politics and now law, where do you think you can fit in most?
On the contrary, we should look at it from the point of versatility. However, I can tell you that journalism properly prepared and propelled me into venturing into politics. As a journalist, you read a lot; meet many people, and you are a custodian of the past and the present. Journalism brought me close to the political class and was a very fantastic foundation and launchpad for me to venture into politics. I have worked in both chambers of the House of Representatives and Senate as a staff. I have also been a member of both chambers as a legislator. All these are courtesy of my background as a journalist. As a politician, I noticed that politics is an interesting game. I am already deep into politics and I am not quitting it for now. I love the intrigues in politics. It is a game with lots of interests Law, as I said earlier, is something I have always dreamt of. Now that I have done it, I will still practice the profession and my satisfaction is to practice what I have learnt and the profession I believe was my first calling. I am full of expectation of how far I can fit into it. Even when I relate with people, they keep asking me if I am a lawyer. Others even called me an apprentice lawyer while we were in the APC NWC. I don’t attend NWC meetings without arming myself with both the party and Nigeria constitution. I even go deeper to read the other party’s constitution which helped me to speak with authority on most legal issues. I almost dropped out in my second and third year because the pressure of work was getting too much, but my happiness is that I persevered especially when I was rigged out of my victory during the last APC National Convention. I saw it as divine directive to help me complete the studies.