By Dickson Okafor
Honourable Obinna Chidoka is representing Idenmili North Federal Constituency of Anambra State on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The Obosi-born lawmaker is Chairman, Committee on Environment and Habitat. He recalled his short stay in the Green chamber in 2007 before his election was annulled and how he got re-elected in 2015. Chidoka said even though the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) had not fulfilled its campaign promises to Nigerians, yet he supports the corruption stand of the Buhari administration.
How would you compare the lower chamber when you first came and now?
I was elected in 2007 to represent Idenmili South Federal Constituency but I stayed for just 13 months before my election was annulled. So, when we first came in 2007, we were in the driver’s seat; we were not in opposition. The PDP was in power and at that time, there was synergy between the legislature and the executive. Of course, then we were in power, so it was not a learning stage. Unlike what we have today like what happened to the budget containing some mistakes that needed us to clarify. And the leadership tussle within the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) between the executive and interference of leadership issue in the Senate. However, we have put all this behind for common good of the Nigerian people. Our approach then was what we call output, input and outcome to ensure that what Nigerians will get was what will benefit the ordinary people. In 2015, we were lucky to have a Speaker who is pro-people and a wonderful politician. The Speaker, Hon Yakubu Dogara always carry us along and we have been able to bring bills, motions and other activities that will stimulate the economy which is on the same page with the Nigerian people.
Do you agree that the 2016 budget was politicised which many say caused the delay in signing it?
No, it was not politicised. The National Assembly as an institution is one because when we are in chambers, we don’t know what party one belongs even though some fundamental mistakes have been made which is as result of a government that did not have agenda. Their aim was to win an election and they won the election which they did not know what else to do with it. So, the APC still find it difficult to put its house in order and present a budget that will take the issue concerning the wellbeing of Nigerians at heart. That is why you see a lot of blunders and mistakes in this year’s budget, hence you hear, the first or missing budget. These are some of the issues that the APC would have sorted out. If there is a synergy between the National Assembly and executive, you hear about missing budget. So, that is the cardinal differences between the National Assembly of 2007 and 2015.
Southern Senators asked Buhari not to sign the budget if the Calabar and Lagos rail was not in the appropriation?
I don’t want dabble into areas I’m not conversant with. What I can tell you like what I said earlier, this budget was defective from the beginning. It was not properly put together, hence it contained a lot of omissions. So, when you hear that the Lagos/Calabar rail line was in the budget initially but when it returned it was no more in the appropriation Act, this ought not to happen in the first place if the budget was properly put together. My take is that, it is something that would have been resolved if not for the divergent opinions and politics of bitterness being played especially among members of the ruling party. APC needs to get its acts together because Nigerians voted for them to work and better the lives of the masses. Even when they couldn’t get it right, they should have sat down, made corrections and save the nation this embarrassment. So, whether the rail lines were in the budget initially or infused in the corrected version, it showed that APC lacks cohesion.
PDP through its National Chairman, Ali Modu Sherif re-echoed the party’s readiness to reclaim power at the centre in 2019, do you see PDP bouncing back?
Why not? PDP remains the alternative and mainstream party. Now that we are in opposition, Nigerians have seen the difference between when PDP was in power and now that APC is at helm of affairs. Yes, we may be in opposition today, I’m hopeful that come 2019 PDP will take over power. All we need to do is bring back those who left the party and allow internal democracy to prevail. That is why we must elect the right people at the forthcoming convention to run the affairs of the party if PDP must reclaim power at the centre. So, I see PDP as the party to beat in the next general election.
China has approved $2billion loan for Nigeria, is Nigeria broke?
That is an interesting question. If Nigeria is broke? Due to over dependent on one resource (oil) as a source of revenue, the country is in a tight corner because of depletion in the price of oil in the international market. It has also caused depletion in the nation’s foreign reserve. That is exactly what is happening to Nigeria. So, when there is depletion in the source of revenue earning, it will affect the payment of salaries, infrastructural development and the budget. We must go to where the world is headed today which is agriculture, mining and information and communication technology (ICT) to boost the economy because we cannot forever depend on oil as a source of revenue, hence once there is distortion in the price of oil, the nation falters. Now you see Nigerians queuing in filling stations for hours to buy fuel though this government is trying to put Nigeria on the right track. We need to fix the refineries, diversify the economy and put infrastructure in place. We need to think out of the box on how to fund the budget. It is no longer APC affair but that of all of us because hunger knows no political divide. I support the fight against corruption embarked upon by President Muhammadu Buhari because we need people who are not corrupt to run the affairs of this country. Those who are found to be corrupt should be prosecuted.
What are your plans for the people of Idemili South?
I’m passionate about education because I want my people to be educated especially the drop in the boy-girl ratio in Anambra State which is alarming. In Anambra, more boys are dropping out of school not because their parents cannot pay their school fees but most of them preferred to take to trading. So, education is an important infrastructure to my constituency. Not just education but the quality of education they will get. Health is also another important infrastructure and we captured in the budget construction of primary health centres in the electoral wards. Power is vital in the development of Idemili because our people are very industrious. We are basically traders as the informal sector is an area that grows any economy. Most of our young men and women are artisans and they need electricity to function optimally. We hope to actualise that by bringing in transformers which will help the clusters. You know that Idenmili is close to Onitsha which has a huge market base, hence the need for skill acquisition for our people and creation of Small Medium Enterprise (SME). Insecurity is one aspect we captured in the budget. We hope to build more police stations in the area to boost security in Idemili South as this will attract more investments. So, Ndidemili should know that they have a strong voice in the Green chamber of the National Assembly. In 2007, I moved the motion for the construction of the Second Niger Bridge and the repair of the existing one. The construction was ongoing and it would have been commissioned at the tail end of the last administration. The project was supposed to gulp $700million which is about N130billion and it was under PPP; unfortunately, the job stopped under the present administration. I implore this government to sort out grey areas and move the contractors to the construction site of the Second Niger Bridge.
That bridge is the link with the South-East and South-south and if completed would improve trade and commerce in the region. I also want them to go ahead with the construction of the dry port at Onitsha which is moribund. The last administration also commissioned that project but today, there are no activities going on at the Onitsha seaport. Look at Enugu-Onitsha Expressway; it is a death trap as most part of the road has collapsed.
What would you say is responsible for the unending crisis in Anambra State chapter of PDP?
One of the reasons is what I call the Nigerian factor where people see what is right as wrong and what is wrong as right. Even though the APC government is not at par with their promises, I support the corruption stand. The entire institutions are corrupt. I don’t see how we that are duly elected should vacate office for a group of people who did not win elections. It is funny that some government officials are behind this undemocratic move and that is corruption itself. So, I expect the new leadership of PDP to resolve the crisis rocking the party in Anambra State and in other states. If this is done, I assure that PDP will take over Anambra State in 2019.