Princess Odinaka Onuoha is the candidate of All Progressives Congress (APC) in the forthcoming House of Representatives rerun election for Okigwe North Federal Constituency of Imo State. In this interview, the woman who instituted the petition that led to the cancellation of the election fondly called Mama SURE-P by her admirers commended the Court of Appeal for upholding the wish of the people of Okigwe North.
The former Coordinator of SURE-P in Okigwe zone said she is in the race to clean what she described as the mess left behind by her opponent, Obinna Onwubuariri through provision of quality and effective representation which was lacking in the four years the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) candidate was in the green chamber.
Onuoha said the major stakeholders in the constituency decided to endorse her as a consensus candidate because she is tested and trusted.
She speaks on other issues.
What inspired you to wanting to represent the people of Okigwe North in the Green chamber of the National Assembly having contested the position thrice?
You are aware that by an order of the Appellate Court as a result of a petition I instituted against the conduct of the National Assembly election held in Okigwe North Federal Constituency, I have yet, another opportunity to offer myself to represent my people. However, I commend the Appellate Court for annulling the election citing irregularities and order a fresh election in the 33 wards in the three local government areas which include, Isiala Mbano, Onuimo and Okigwe.
How prepared are you for the contest?
I’m very prepared and ready. This rerun as a result of the cancellation was greeted with excitement and ovation from the youth, women and the entire indigenes of Okigwe North because we have suffered poor representation in the last four years. We can hardly point to any project that is attracted to my constituency or Federal Government’s presence in Okigwe North through my opponent, Obinna Onwubuariri. Unemployment rate is increasing by the day. I know that it might be a bit difficult for him as a legislator to create jobs, but you know that in a House where you have 336 legislators scrambling for limited spaces, you need only your best or your brightest to go for the lean resources. That is why it is survival of the fittest and that is a place where you need to put your best foot forward. I can tell you that the man we have there as our representative is minus one. No nation goes to war with her weakest army. Isiala Mbano LGA by our charter of equity wherein every local government area nominates and sponsors a candidate to run two terms of eight years for each of the LGAs, have nominated me. Our people having seen that the person who had represented us for four years, Onwubuariri has performed way below average. Just like in football match, when you have a good team and a good coach, there is 90 per cent chances of victory. In our case, Isiala Mbano is the coach and our player is Onwubuariri who is being withdrawn by the coach because we have 90 minutes game to play and we are in the 66 minutes and the coach or Isiala Mbano stakeholders called him back and have decided to replace him with Princess Onuoha so that our team can win the match. That is why I said in my campaign that three years is enough for me to clean up the mess and Onuimo stakeholders who are in line to take over in 2023 are behind me because they have tested me and trust me. To them, it is better to have Princess Onuoha complete the remaining three years so that Isiala Mbano would have taken their eight years of two terms. To them, it is better they still have their house with roof and windows intact than to allow someone who doesn’t know how to maintain a house that is collectively built, destroy the house so that by the time we will be handing over to Okigwe LGA, there might be no roof, doors and windows because no house can be sustained without maintenance.
In all you have said, you sound so confident, how can you contend with an incumbent whose party, the PDP is at the helm of affairs in the state considering the fact that Governor Emeka Ihedioha will want his party to retain the position?
Let me bring to your notice that I have contested this position three times consecutively back to back. I ran for this position in 2011 on the platform of PDP; in 2015, I was the candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and now I’m the candidate of APC. So, you can see that even Governor Emeka Ihedioha may prefer me to Onwubuariri because my followership cuts across party lines. Many people call me, Mama SURE-P because in 2011 and 2015, I was the SURE-P Coordinator for the entire Okigwe zone and a lot of people within the party, across party line and the general public could see how creditably I discharged that duty which made them name me Mama SURE-P. I have a lot of sympathizers in all the political parties because I’m a party woman. The person I’m up against in PDP, Onwubuariri doesn’t know how to play politics. He has no regard for party and would not honour party agreement because he only knows about his interest. Check his record, you will find out that he is not a party man because not one of his party men or woman won in his polling unit. No party man would want to die for him or stick their neck for him because as the saying goes, he who comes to equity, must come with clean hands and he has not operated in that regard. And you know that Okigwe North is controlled by key stakeholders prominent among them is Sen. Ifeanyi Ararume and the governorship candidate of APGA in the last general election in Nigeria who in his wisdom has initiated alliances and consensus building in the interest of Okigwe North and after sampling opinion in his wisdom and that of his party have adopted me as their candidate and have thrown their support behind me. In the same vein, the Action Alliance (AA) within Okigwe North has done the same thing and as you can see, series of meetings are going on for me. So, what the people of Okigwe North have decided to call me now is, ‘Consensus for term’.
This one term thing known as gentleman agreement is hardly kept as no politician since 1999 has obeyed the agreement, what makes you believe that the people of Onuimo will trust you?
I’m a woman of principle. No woman has represented Okigwe North in the National Assembly and no woman has been able to break the jinx. Therefore, the gentleman arrangement has become sacrosanct and it is almost impossible for anyone to alter it not even me. I give you an example, when the member who represented Okigwe North in the House of Representatives, the late Maurice Ibekwe who was from Onuimo passed on, Onuimo nominated Ohia to complete Ibekwe’s tenure. After completing Ibekwe’s tenure, Ohia made an attempt to come back, it didn’t work. Another good example is the case of Matthew Omegara who represented the constituency for 8 years and when he wanted to come back after serving his tenure in 2015 because he wanted to become the Speaker of the House of Representatives as a ranking member and the only APC member from the South-East then; the people rejected him from continuing. So, one fundamental truth is that no Isiala person will retain this position in 2023 without the support of the Onuimo and Okigwe. I don’t see it as a campaign mantra wherein my opponent is saying that he is the only one that needs to finish his second term and go. It doesn’t apply because we had Omegara who after 8 years wanted to do 12 years and the constitution did not limit a legislator from doing as much terms as he wants. So, I don’t want to lead my people by deceit. Rather, I will tell them what is achievable and that is why I tell them that three years is enough for me to clean up the mess left by Onwubuariri and whoever they chose after my tenure from Onuimo LGA is their business.
You are aspiring to become a lawmaker without executive powers, how do you intend to fulfill your campaign promises especially in the area of job creation?
I have garnered the prerequisite experience to represent my people in the Green chamber of the National Assembly. Like I said earlier, I was the Coordinator of SURE-P in the entire Imo North Senatorial District. I’m also the Coordinator of Social Network Programme, a social security programme dealing on job creation, youth and women empowerment. I was Senior Special Adviser to Governor of Bayelsa State, Seriki Dickson on International Development and Cooperation wherein I manage the donor basket. I brought international agencies including the World Bank, DFID project and a lot of international organizations to Bayelsa State. I’ am a team player and a negotiator. I have the ability and right contact especially at the federal level to network and bring the goodies of the government back home. There are programmes and projects of Federal Government that I can attract to Okigwe North with my contact both locally and internationally. The bible says, “my people perish for lack of knowledge”, we are simply in a pool of water, but with soapy eyes because the man representing us in the lower chamber of the national Assembly is a blind man who could not lead us through, hence, you cannot give what you don’t have. He doesn’t have the contact and he doesn’t have the experience. He doesn’t have the reach. He could not make contributions to quality legislations and for that reason, nothing is happening in my constituency because there is no robust engagement that would transform the people of Okigwe North. I mean contributions, motions and bills that can bring about development and connect my people with national and global leaders. If I’m elected, there will be trainings both locally and internationally to engage and empower my people for self actualization and development. I will collaborate with stakeholders that help create an enabling environment that will situate industries and plants that will empower and employ my people. I will ensure that there is equity in distribution of wealth and resources irrespective of gender and status. Also, my representation will formally bring to an end the aspersion being cast on female politicians wherein any woman who aspires for higher position of authority irrespective of how well you have established yourself in your chosen endeavour, they tag you a prostitute. Most of us are mother, wives and daughters and we have all given our children equal opportunity to go to school and just like the men, women too have the right to vote and be voted for. So, it is uncalled for to hear men say in the campaign grounds that how can they vote for a woman who bends down before she urinates. That is the kind of campaign jargon some male politicians engage in. I’m proud to be a woman because I have not been beaten by my classmates in school. When it comes to intellectual capacity, I always excel. My gender has never been a hindrance rather it has always been a plus. I’m a woman everybody will like to associate with, a woman with a mark of God. I’m a woman that will bring the devil’s kingdom down in Okigwe North because I see that there is a dark cloud that is covering us from accessing that which God has preserved for us. Perhaps, it is a woman that will bruise the head of the serpent like it is said in the bible. So, this is our time and I have all it takes to win this election. I like to bring to the fore the threat by my opponent, Onwubuariri to unleash mayhem. I have always been known to be at the right side of the law and the people are also aware and ready to protect their votes and ensure they count.