By Philip Nwosu
Senator Hope Uzodimma who represents Imo West Senatorial District and Chairman, Senate Committee on Customs, Excise and Tariff, is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). He spoke to reporters recently on the challenges in his party, his governorship ambition and other issues.
There are speculations that you plan to contest for the Imo governorship seat in 2019, and it is causing crisis in your state’s chapter of PDP. How true is this?
I am happy that you said they are speculations, meaning that people are just guessing. There is no way something that is not yet certain can be the cause of our differences. We should look for concrete issues to address, not mere speculations. I have not told anybody that I will run for governor in 2019 but since you are talking about it, why should my own speculated ambition be the issue? Are there no other people in the Imo PDP that have governorship ambitions even if it is also in the realm of speculation?
Maybe it is because you come from the zone that has produced the most governors?
It is wrong to say that any zone has monopolized the governorship seat in Imo State. What we have are the forces of democracy at work. In 2007, the forces of democracy took the governorship seat to Okigwe zone. In 2011, the same forces of democracy were at play. You saw what happened in 2015, the PDP governorship standard bearer who is from Owerri zone got a lot of support from even the same Orlu zone we are talking about. When you say monopolize, it would appear as if some people sat down somewhere and said, “We hereby monopolize the governorship position”. It must be made clear that no zone in Imo can win the governorship seat without the support of others. Imo people generally are desirous of having the governorship seat go around and I believe we will get there, but we should not make enmity over that. I personally stayed away from contesting the governorship contest in 2015 because of the same sentiments. We are concerned about the survival of our party. Yes, we are all brothers and sisters from the same state but we are talking about party politics. Democracy is hinged on party politics.
In Imo, we have to make PDP survive first and for that to happen, we have to go beyond sentiments. As I noted earlier, we all saw what happened in 2015. People across the state expressed sentiments that the governorship seat should go outside Orlu Zone but that was not enough. So, this time around, we have to go beyond that. The party must look for a candidate that has the structure to win the governorship election for it. I am not saying that I am the one, but what I am saying is that in that context, it means that we cannot limit ourselves to geographical delineations. For 2019, so much will be at stake for both the PDP and the entire state that there will be need for pragmatism. Like I said before, we are all one and for there to be equality, there must be stability. We have to see ourselves first as one people, not necessarily on the basis of zones, to be able to make progress. You can see that the insistence that the governorship seat must rotate has tended to destabilize the state. We have to find some stability by looking at the state as one constituency. As I said earlier, the same forces of democracy will eventually restore rotation and at that time, it will be effortless.
How true is it that you plan to dump the PDP?
The true position is that there are no such plans by me to leave the PDP. Those are mere speculations. I have no plans to leave the PDP. What am I leaving PDP for? People move from one party to another out of desperation in search of political office or patronage from those in power. But personally, I have nothing more to prove. Even if I do not go beyond where I am today, I am completely satisfied with what God has done for me. I have been elected senator twice by my people. God in His infinite mercies has blessed me and I am not complaining, though, I have become poorer since coming into politics proper. So, I am not desperate for anything to warrant going from one party to another. Rather, I am taking it as a challenge to ensure that PDP bounces back. It doesn’t matter how long it takes but I am personally determined to stick to the party that gave me the opportunity to serve.
The rumour is probably based on the crisis which seems to have defied solution.
It is not true that the problem of the PDP has defied a solution. A solution is in the offing, in the sense that very soon our other brothers and sisters will express their support for Senator Ali Modu Sheriff’s leadership and we will move ahead. From the present situation, will rise a greater PDP. What we are witnessing today is only a reflection of the fact that the PDP is a citadel of democracy in which different interests want to make their voices known. I want Nigerians to realize the fact that for a party that exercised power for over 16 years, a lot of powerful blocs had been created, each with its understanding of how things should be done. Nigerians should remain steadfast in their support for the PDP because what is happening in our party is temporary. PDP has what it takes to grow democracy in Nigeria. This is our longest republic since independence and it is to the credit of the PDP that our democracy has been sustained this long. Under the PDP, Nigeria produced three different presidents through a democratic process. The party supervised an election from which power transited from one political party to another, for the first time in Africa. Remember that before the 2015 general election, there were all sorts of speculations that Nigeria will collapse. But that did not happen and the credit goes to the PDP.
There is this speculation about a mega party being put together by the Makarfi-led faction in conjunction with other top politicians in the APC. Is your own faction not frightened by that?
PDP is recognized as one corporate entity, not two. So, any other party can only merge with the PDP as one corporate entity, not with a part of it. So, there is no fear. Politicians in APC or whatever party know that for the mega party idea to work, there has to be involved the entire PDP which is the only party apart from the APC that has a national structure as of today. Nigerians would rather prefer that the PDP remains on its own. There really can be no mega party that can be bigger than the PDP. But, of course, politics is a dynamic thing and ideas rule the world.
Let’s come to your state, Imo. The people, I mean the members and supporters of the party in the state are confused and afraid. What do you have to tell them?
Let me ask you, is anybody still occupying the party secretariat at 47 Okigwe Road, Owerri? If your answer is yes and you know it is yes, then that is where to find the leadership of the party in Imo state. You should ask yourself why the others who claim leadership of the party are not operating from the registered secretariat of the party. The other so-called groups have no addresses and you cannot lead a party or a people by being a fugitive. So, if they are genuine members of the party, let them return to the known address of the party so that together we can build the party.
Are you not worried that PDP members may begin to leave in droves out of anger and frustration?
Where will they leave to? If they would leave, they would have done so long before now. It is not a hidden matter that Imolites are not enthusiastic about any other political party than the PDP because of the character of leaders of other parties in the state. Of all people in Nigeria, Imo people are perhaps the most progressive. They will not follow a party that has shown gross insensitivity to the feelings of Imo people.
I can assure our teeming members and supporters that PDP remains their best bet. I thank them for their support and solidarity with the party.
They should remain steadfast and resilient. We will soon overcome.
There is the talk that even if reconciliation takes place at the national level, it will be difficult if not impossible to achieve such in Imo. What do you have to say about this?
There is nothing to reconcile in Imo. I told you earlier where to find the leadership of the PDP in Imo state. That is where ultimately everybody will return to. Contrary to the fear you have just expressed, the Imo matter is quite easy and simple to handle because the people know where to find their leaders in the state.
By the grace of God, I am the most senior political office holder on the platform of the PDP in Imo State today, being a ranking senator with due respect to my colleague, Senator Samuel Anyanwu. Together, we are the party’s highest representatives from the state. It is therefore wrong to ask members of the party in the state to look elsewhere for leadership. The Imo people don’t do things like that. So, that is where we are now and like I said earlier, the PDP leadership in Imo State is one and the same. People know where to find their leaders; not in make shift attachments scattered all over Owerri.