From Obinna Odogwu, Awka
Former representative of Ezza South/Ikwo Federal Constituency of Ebonyi State in the National Assembly, Chief Lazarus Ogbee, has advised the people of the Southeast region to consider re-electing their representatives in the National Assembly for second or more terms.
This, he said, would give them more time to master the rope of lawmaking, garner more experience and also have more opportunity to attract developmental projects to their various constituencies.
Ogbee, who was returned elected by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in the 2019 election for a second term, lost the position to the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Hon. Chinedu Ogah, at the Court of Appeal.
The ex-lawmaker, who is currently the zonal auditor of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the Southeast, blamed his state governor, Chief David Umahi, for his electoral misfortune.
In this interview with Sunday Sun, Ogbee also spoke on other issues of national issues, including the quest of the Southeast people to lead Nigeria in 2023. Excerpts:
We heard the story of how the 2019 election went in your constituency and how you were removed from the House of Representatives. We want to know what actually happened. How did you lose when the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had declared you winner?
The politics of the country today is not one someone can actually trust and say that he has won his election and that the position is his or hers until all the gimmicks they do in the judiciary has come and gone. I won my election into the House of Representatives for a second term. It was declared and it was a landslide victory. The senator for Ebonyi Central equally won. He got the same number of votes I got in Ikwo. He got nearly the same number of votes I got in my own local government area, Ezza South. We were all declared. Others accepted the result except the candidate of the APC who had one thing or the other to do with the present governor of Ebonyi State (Chief David Umahi) who has actually defected to the APC. So, the APC candidate went to court. It was glaringly clear that I won my election. But I was sacked by the Appeal Court in Enugu on the 1st of November, 2019. Actually, as a human being, I did everything humanly possible to win my election. I had the backing of the people of Ikwo/Ezza South Federal Constituency, but the Appeal Court saw it differently and awarded that my victory to my opponent. It’s been a long time; over one year and I have taken it in good fate; believing that the future holds so many brighter things for me. Looking around me, I am seeing that there is life and that God is with me; and that my people have not rejected me. It’s only that they truncated the journey of my second term. And in our local parlance, we have it that the hunter remains favourably disposed to hunt down another animal tomorrow if the same animal runs away today. So, I think that the future is brighter. And I don’t hold any grudges against anybody any longer. I am looking up to God for a better tomorrow.
You said that the governor had one thing or the other to do with the candidate of the APC. Are you saying that Governor David Umahi had a hand in your ordeal directly or indirectly?
The world can see it. He has recently defected to the APC. And the person that took my position through court process has been his anchor man for his recent defection to the APC. So, whatever had happened or transpired, I leave it in the hands of God.
So, how has life been with you since you left the National Assembly?
I was not born into the National Assembly. I have always taken life very easy; and naturally, I am grateful to God for taking me so far in politics, in my life’s endeavour. I am comfortable with myself; and I thank God on a daily basis. I remain grateful to God.
You are the zonal auditor of your party, the PDP, in the Southeast today. What is your next move? Do you wish to contest for the same position you lost in 2023 or any other position of your choice?
It depends on the party. In Ebonyi, we believe in zoning system. If my party deems it necessary to zone any position to my constituency and I feel that I should contest the position, I will make myself available; most importantly, if I have the backing of my people to contest that election. The party and the people decide who goes for them.
There are a lot of intrigues that play out in the National Assembly on a daily basis. Are there things that in the course of making laws there that you would have done differently with the experience you have already garnered today?
In legislative business, come and go has never helped the legislature in the polity of the country. The more you are in the legislative house, the more experience you garner; then you’ll be more disposed to the issues of national politics most especially in lawmaking. And that is why you see people both at the state level of legislative business and at the national level showcasing experiences depending on the number of terms they have stayed. And in most cases, first timers are seen as toddlers in the business; as neophytes in the game. They are not allowed to hold some vital positions except where that particular set is not opportune to have second timers, third timers, fourth timers, fifth timers. Like in the National Assembly, you will see people at the Green Chambers that have been there since 1999. They have already constituted themselves as authority in the business experience-wise, knowledge-wise, wisdom-wise. It is like that even in the local government legislative system. The more number of years you stay there, the more experience you garner and the more knowledge you have about lawmaking and then, the business of the house equally. Both at the lower chamber and the Red Chamber, the Senate, it is the same. What has become the bane of most states, most especially in the Southeast, is that when they vote or send their ward to go to the National Assembly, they will go once and they will withdraw that person; moving in another person that will be a new face. And within the first tenure of that person in the National Assembly, he will continue to learn the business of the House. In most cases, by the time you’ll start to prove yourself to have come to the National Assembly the first tenure is already over. Gathering your elements to prepare for a second tenure, your people may withdraw you or the court may stop you or any other thing. It is my humble advice most especially to the people of the Southeast to allow their people to represent them at the National Assembly more than one term. It has always helped. That is why you see people, they have been Majority Leader, Minority Leader, Speaker, Deputy Speaker, checking the number of years the people have stayed there and then their experience being counted. Like the Deputy Minority Leader from the Southeast today, Tobi Okechukwu, I think this is his fourth term or third term in the National Assembly and a whole lot of others. And you see them performing very creditably because they are already acquainted with the system. And they are knowledgeable about lawmaking.
A lot of things have been said about the 2023 presidency aspiration of the Igbo in the Southeast. You’ve been to the National Assembly and you understand the kind of politics being played in Abuja. Do you think the Southeast people are approaching this their 2023 presidential aspiration the right way or not? If they are applying the wrong approach to it, what do you think should be the right way?
The Igbo are approaching it the right way. No singular tribe in Nigeria is even more united than the Igbo. At any point in time, when it is the turn of the Southeast to produce anything, not only presidency, other tribes and even some Igbo people will start talking about unity. Who is more united than the Igbo? Was there any time any northerner has emerged as the president of the country that another northerner did not contest; contesting primaries against the person that would eventually emerge or contesting in other parties? When it comes to the turn of the Igbo to produce any meaningful position; either presidency or whichever other position in the country, people will start talking that the Igbo are not united; that they will use the Igbo against the Igbo. Those things are calling people a bad name in order to deprive them of their rightful position. So, I think the Igbo are approaching it the right way. And ourselves, we will continue to give support to any person that would eventually emerge as the candidate. It is the position of the people of the Southeast in any party; both in the PDP and other parties that it is at least the turn of the Southeast to produce the president of the country. It is our position, but we cannot force our party to do it. We distanced ourselves from the position of the then executive members of the PDP in Ebonyi State when they gave ultimatum to the National Working Committee of the party. You can’t tell your father, when your father is still alive, that if he doesn’t will off his property to you now that you will disown him as your father. No, you don’t do that. The National Working Committee (NEC) is the apex body of the party and we cannot give it conditions. If actually they sit, we have our people there and in their final meetings they zone the presidency to the Southeast, it will be good for us. If other parties will equally toe that line of zoning the presidency to the Southeast, to God be the glory. But we cannot give our party condition. So, that is my position and I think that the Igbo are ripe and right to actually produce the next president of the country come 2023 all things being equal.