By Brown Chimezie
Robert Ekwebelem represented Onuimo State Constituency in Imo State House of Assembly from 2011 to 2015, on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The former chairman, House committee on Security, Budget and Appropriations, who is now a chieftain of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) said the recent Supreme Court judgment that put to rest the crisis in the PDP was a welcome development, as it would strengthen the opposition. He was however quick to add that the party has lost grounds and cannot defeat APC at the centre in 2019 or regain power in Imo.
With PDP’s leadership crisis over, are you considering going back to the party?
I have no regret leaving PDP and I have moved on. Yes, PDP gave me a platform through which I began my political journey. I will remain grateful to my former party but I have found a better choice in APC. On whether APC will fly over PDP in 2019 because peace has returned to the former ruling party due to the recent judgment of the Apex court that recognized Sen. Ahmed Makarfi as the authentic chairman of PDP, of course not, although t it is good for our democracy, at least we now have opposition that can put APC on its toes, it won’t affect my party’s chance of retaining power in 2019. However, the crisis that engulfed PDP made it lost so much ground and cannot stop APC in 2019. In a nutshell, PDP is not a threat to APC.
Did you leave PDP because your people did not re-elect you?
My people did not understand the benefit of a ranking member, they believe in one tenure, and this idea has not helped us. It means we keep sending green-horns to represent us at every election year and by the time the person is settling down to know the job, three years is gone. Then the 4th year, next election follows. Currently Imo State House of Assembly House Rule as amended in 2015, states that you must be a ranking member or returning member to be qualified to contest for the office of the presiding officer, (Speaker or Deputy Speaker). This is what gave birth to Acho Ihim as The Speaker and Ugonna Ozuruigbo as the Deputy Speaker. And if my people of Onuimo continue to dwell on one-tenure instead of re-electing somebody who did well in his first tenure, then the desired development may not come and there will be no strong political structure in the area. But I went to APC because of the good work Governor Owelle Rochas Okorocha is doing in Imo.
He is accused of constructing sub-standard roads and projects, how come you say he is doing a good work?
Like I said earlier that was a wrong impression some elites in the state created about the governor which we later found out to be lies. Indeed, he is a gift to Imo people which some of us did not understand initially especially some of the elites.
My Late father, HRM Eze AA Ekwebelem, Duruemezue the 2nd Of Okwelle Ancient Kingdom once told me that the biggest gift anyone could give to a child is education, may his soul rest in peace.
Okorocha is the first governor in Nigeria to have introduced free and qualitative education from Primary school to tertiary institution with the co-operation of the 7th Imo State House of Assembly. I was part of that House. He is a good man who wants young people to grow and become useful to themselves and the state. The governor is a man of few words who does not say what he cannot do. Okorocha has developmental vision for Ndi-Imo. Today, Imo State is ranking among the fastest growing states in the country, in terms of infrastructural development, that is why Owerri is wearing a new face.
In the health sector, Okorocha has built 27 general hospitals. Yes it is true they are on completion stage, even if he did not complete them, governance is a continuity, the structure has been laid down, the next administration will continue from where he stops and finish it up. But I’m sure that he will complete them before he leaves in 2019.
You were among the politicians in Imo State that criticized Okorocha’s leadership style, why the sudden change?
It is unfortunate that I was sentimental in my judgment of Okorocha and I regretted not following him during the 2015 election. This is because we did not belong to same political party. Then I had the mandate of PDP and as one who is brought up by the British, I do not believe in defecting while holding other party’s mandate. No amount of money or persuasion would make me change my mind then. But right now, I’m a free man without mandate of any political party. Therefore, I have gone back to my father and my mentor, Governor Rochas Okorocha where I should have being. I repeat, all the negative impression about Okorocha came from those who do not understand his vision. But in all ramifications, Okorocha has done well with the ongoing urban renewal, which has given Owerri, the capital, a new look.