Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja
A member of the House of Representatives, Chukwuma Umeoji, has said that the lower chamber has not debated the suspended Ruga policy on the floor of the House for fear that it may increase ethnic and religious tension. Umeoji, who represents Aguata Federal Constituency of Anambra State, on the platform of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), wants the Federal Government to restrict the RUGA project to states that are favourably disposed to it.
The APGA has always been embroiled in leadership crises right from its formation till date. Does this bother you?
APGA is peaceful and Victor Oye is our national chairman because he was properly elected in a convention for a four-year tenure. Whatever problem we are experiencing is because some people are kicking against his election. It is always like that in a political party where you have divergent opinions and interests but that does not invalidate the fact that we have a duly elected National Working Committee that is led by a national chairman.
We have seen the expansion of the party since Oye came in. We now have members in states like Taraba and Benue; things that were not there before. That means the party is growing and it is the only political party in the country with an ideology.
You know the political party system in Nigeria is not developed. It is not like the US, where you have traditional conservatives and democrats. Here, it is a fluid state where if people feel they cannot achieve their targets in a political party, they exit or they start causing trouble. Once you hear there is crisis in a political party, it means somebody wants to leave the party and is trying to switch camps, so he will now instigate crisis in a place that is peaceful to justify his departure.
APGA is intact and the governor of Anambra State, Willie Obiano, who is performing well, is our selling point. What is happening in APGA is in every political party that is prominent; APC and PDP have their own crises too. Even in some cases, they could not produce governorship candidates because of crises. But in APGA, the internal problems we have are not to the extent of destroying the party or denying the party candidates in general elections. There is no place you have a gathering of people that you will not have discordant tunes but the party has an internal mechanism through which these things are resolved.
The Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo recently called on the APC in Anambra to step up efforts to take over the state in the next governorship election. What was your reaction when you heard what he said?
That is what he is supposed to say. As a leader of the party, he will set a programme for his political party but you know quite well that in Anambra State, there is nothing like APC. The people in APC are from PDP. Anambra is a state where you don’t have APC; I have never seen any serious APC person in my local government. Those you have in APC today are people who are desirous of getting one appointment or the other from the Federal Government. What do they have on ground? In reality, were they able to win even one federal constituency or state assembly seat in the last election? So, where is the party?
The Vice President came and gave them a marching order to take over. He couldn’t have told them to continue not to exist. He will try to give them a push so that they can buckle up but he knows quite alright that in the party, they can never reconcile their differences. All the problems you see in Anambra APC are as a result of the next governorship election. Tell me, who will they give the APC governorship ticket that will get support? The members will fight among themselves and even at the grassroots the party is not visible. This is a party that in the last governorship election gave somebody the governorship ticket and the entire party structure worked against the person. If you give another person now, the remaining members who were dealt with the other time will still exact their revenge. The party should forget Anambra State.
In Anambra, there is nothing for them to show for to voters to support APC. They want to rely on the stories of the past where results are written –‘I will write results’, ‘I will use the army and police’; These are the kind of things you hear from their members that makes you know they are not serious.
What is your take on the ministerial list submitted to National Assembly by the president? Is that the best the country can get at this time?
We are not going to get anything different from what happened in the last four years. Even if you bring an angel and make him a minister, if it is not in line with what the president wants, the man will still be rendered redundant. Whatever happens in the Presidency determines what you get in the ministries. So, no matter who you put there as ministers, it will be the same story. If they want to develop a rail line from Lagos to Kaduna, excluding the entire South East, it will still continue even if you put an Igbo man as minister of transport. That is the way I look at it. If you want to get change, it must come from the head; where the leadership goes, that is where all the ministries will go.
It is not easy under this arrangement to have an independent mind in running your ministry, it will not happen.
What should anybody be expecting to have an improved security? That there would be community policing? What is anybody expecting that will change? I don’t see any change coming.
Look at international statistics on where Nigeria is. In terms of security, we are the worst country, anybody can live in. Is it in terms of food production? With the displacement of farmers, where will you get the food from? So, I wonder where people think these changes will come from.
What is your take on the chairmanship of committees announced by the speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, a few weeks back?
The issue of who becomes a chairman or deputy chairman is at the discretion of the speaker. Sometimes, there might be internal politics, to determine who becomes what. Maybe, he will look at the people who gave him support and use it as a parameter. It does not mean that when you are chairman or deputy, you are more intelligent than the people who are not. It is just the same thing that happens when you contest election. I won election into the House of Representatives, but I am not better than all the people I contested against. Sometimes, what determines who wins is beyond man. Sometimes, luck and chance play a big role. It doesn’t mean that if you are not a chairman or deputy, you are not good. It means you are not in his calculation; that is the way I look at it and that is why politics is described as a game of who gets what, when and how.
What is your take on the state of the country?
If you go to the manifesto of APGA, it was clearly stated that Nigeria is a failed state. It is important for you to know that you have a failed state and you put up mechanism in place, on how to rectify the failure in the state; which I think is through restructuring.
If the country does not restructure, I don’t think anything positive will come from what we have now because the foundation is faulty. Those fault lines will continue to manifest and whatever you put on it will not stand. No matter the kind of government you change, if you have these basic structures that we have today, you are not going to get the development you desire. The truth of the matter is that most of those things that will help Nigeria to develop in the unitary constitution that we have today like power, mining, are still in the exclusive list. So there is nothing left for states to do. Even up to today, issues concerning health and basic education are still handled by the Federal Government. I don’t think Nigeria can achieve much without restructuring.
There have been divergent opinions about the RUGA settlement project for herdsmen. There are insinuations that though the government has suspended the project, they might still want to implement it in another guise, what is your take?
It will continue to come up in different guise. If you fight against it as RUGA, it will come up in another dimension. There is desperation behind the implementation of that policy. But I think the people are aware and conscious. Immediately you change the programme, the people will know and still kick against it. It is not a programme that is acceptable in some parts of the country. Even in the North, there are minorities who are not disposed to it.
But the areas where you can do it are in Sambisa which is bigger than Anambra. You can also have it in states like Sokoto and Katsina, but for you to use government machinery to enforce this type programme in a federation is going to be counterproductive because the people will resist it.
Why has no lawmaker raised the issue of Ruga settlement in the House?
There is a current trend in Nigerian political discourse. Hardly will you discuss anything without people reading negative meanings into it. There is always this negative reaction; if it is not tribal, it is religious. Immediately you say I don’t want Ruga settlement, the other man thinks you are saying I don’t want Fulani and it is not healthy for the progress of this country. If you mention, I don’t want Ruga, it will seem as if you are fighting against a particular set of people. But that is not what it means.
There should be Ruga settlement for states that have land, where it is in line with the cultural practices in that state. Forget Ruga or anything you call it. It is just where cattle will stay- ranching. Ruga is a political dimension to ranching where you displace a population and resettle people. I don’t think Ruga has anything to do with cattle rearing. Cattle rearing as it is done in modern society is through ranching.