Okwuosa, who is angling to represent Anambra South in the forthcoming 2019 election, gave reasons he wants to go to the upper legislative chamber.
David Onwuchekwa, Nnewi
Honourable Azuka Okwuosa is a knight of the Anglican Church and frontline politician in Anambra State, who was mentored by the late Igbo leader, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu. Therefore, Okwuosa like the late Ojukwu believes in politics that favours all as against one played for personal aggrandizement. He has seen it all beginning with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), to All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), where he understudied the late Ikemba Nnewi and now the All Progressives Congress (APC). In this interview he warned the Igbo not to repeat the mistake of not voting massively for the APC in 2019.
Okwuosa, who is angling to represent Anambra South Senatorial District in the forthcoming 2019 election, gave reasons he wants to go to the upper legislative chamber. Excerpts:
Could you tell us briefly about your political background?
I was the chairman of Nnewi Local Government Council between 1994 and 1996, which at the time was made up of Nnewi and Ekwusigo LGA. I was chairman of all chairmen; I was the youngest chairman because of my leadership qualities. Subsequently in 1999, I was Commissioner for Works and Transport in Anambra State. I played a key role in developing a blueprint for the infrastructural development of the state, which successive administrations in the state have been using. I was also the Secretary General of South East Development Initiative in 2002 for almost eight years. Then I ran for Senate in 2007 for Anambra South Senatorial zone and I adjudged I won that election on the platform of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA). Subsequently, I was in the Election Petitions Tribunal for two years. It was on record that I was the only APGA candidate then that won his case at the Court of Appeal, Enugu. I got the election nullified and a fresh election was conducted in 2009. So, thereafter I have been playing a key and leading role within the society and the political arena.
Who was your role model in politics?
I was actually tutored by the Great Ikemba Nnewi, the late Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu. I was privileged to have understudied him for at least 10 years. He came back from exile in 1982. And I started working for him immediately after my National Youth Service programme in 1984 for 10 years. It was in 1994 that I became local government chairman. I was privileged to have tapped his wealth of experience and philosophy, which is lacking today in most people who are now parading themselves as his disciples and apostles. Most of those people never knew him and never worked with him. But they felt they could ride under his crest and use his name to win elections. But for me, I understand his ideology. I understand his vision and what he really stood for. That is still what I’m propagating today in my political moves, which have really guided me up to this level.
Are you saying that APGA is no longer propagating the ideologies of Ikemba?
Yes, to a large extent because I was a foundation member of APGA. I was formerly in PDP and also a foundation member of PDP in 1999. In 2003 the Great Ikemba called me and said we should forge ahead and have a political party that would represent the ideals and interest of our people. Ikemba was then the chairman of ANPP Board of Trustees. I was from PDP background. So, we all resigned and then came together and forged a common front, the APGA. So, I knew his vision, I knew what he stood for, his commitments, the ideals of Igbo nation. We were propagating it from that 2003 till 2007 when I ran for an elective position. By then Ikemba was less active due to ill health and everything. So, most of those ideals and philosophies have been watered down by those who call themselves the disciples and apostles of Ikemba to the extent that my senatorial ambition was sabotaged by the party over a pot of porridge. When I saw that the party was working at cross purposes with members of the party, especially the leaders who did not have the vision which Ikemba stood for, that was when I felt that the party could no longer propagate those ideals. I tarried a while. I wanted to leave APGA in 2009 after my re-run but the Great Ikemba called me and said I shouldn’t do that. He told me to exercise patience that it was his last wish. That was when he made that popular statement. And still in 2010 we all worked for Governor Peter Obi’s re-election and he won. But the moment the Great Ikemba died, I felt that my part with him had expired. And the remnant of what we had at hand in the party was no longer representing what Ikemba stood for. ticate what I said, in less than six months or one year, Peter Obi left APGA and joined the PDP. That was a confirmation of what happened that time. So, to me, the center could no longer hold. That was when we started looking for another healthy platform in order to further ventilate and propagate those ideals Ojukwu stood for.
READ ALSO: Peter Obi and the moment of truth
Do you think you can achieve those ideals in APC?
Well, to me I really feel that a party is a vehicle through which you can do your journey. The most important thing is the driver and occupants of that vehicle. Nigeria has reached a level where we should begin to look at candidates, their programmes and philosophies, their antecedents, track records, their vision, what they think they can do. To me, we made a fundamental mistake at the formative stage of Buhari’s administration. Everybody in the whole South-East clustered in PDP even when we had a clarion call that we should not put all our eggs in one basket. The leadership then, in quotes, under the PDP where most of the Igbo elite found themselves jettisoned the APC to the extent that the position of Senate President under an APC government was zoned to the South-East but we could not produce a single senator to occupy that position. That was why the Senate Presidency went back to the North. The South-West has more political sagacity. You saw how they were able to entrench themselves both in APC and the PDP to the extent that if Jonathan had won, they would still have their rightful position in government, but APC won and they have the Vice President and other juicy parts of the administration. The failure of the people of South-East extraction to support the APC in the first instance was a costly mistake. So, as far as I’m concerned, the dynamics of politics is for you to know what your interest is. Today, APC is in government and in power. We are now crying today about marginalization, shortchanging and all that.
But our so-called elite in the PDP, who confused most of the people and electorate into making them to believe that nothing good can ever come out of that system, initiated the marginalization. When they failed, most of them now made a fast move to join the APC. This is what they could have done at the formative stage when they would have been in the position to negotiate for power and be given what is due to us. But I wasn’t surprised because there is this saying that an average Igbo man does not like to board a stationary vehicle. He chooses to enter the vehicle when it is in motion. If an Igbo man wants to enter a luxury bus going to Lagos from Onitsha, he will first of all peep into the bus and if there are only few passengers he will not enter rather he will go and look for akara or peanut to buy to play on time. And by the time he comes back the bus is already filled up and he will go for attachment when the juicy seats have all been occupied. So, he will not be in a position to choose a seat. So, they believe in a moving vehicle. The moment it starts moving they begin to come in. To me, I feel that we shouldn’t put all our eggs in one basket. APC is an alternative. Every party is an alternative ,but APC is a party in government. We need to come together and take what belongs to us within the annals of that political party. Any idea, any conspiracy towards making our people jettison that party will be the worst mistake because in politics and other areas of life, nobody knows tomorrow. It is only God that knows who is going to be the next president. Supposing you jettison the party now and tomorrow Buhari still wins, what will you do? Will you still cry about marginalization when you are given a second option, a second chance to correct the previous mistake you made about three or four years ago? And you repeat the same mistake. So, we are at the crossroads of our political journey to correct our mistakes. Forget about propaganda being peddled everywhere. We look at facts; we negotiate to get what belongs to us. Let me tell you a story. You remember the story of the Israelites when the sons of Jacob sold their only brother, Joseph, to Egyptian slave traders. At a point in their history there was a great famine and there was no food in Israel. They had to move to Egypt to look for corn and fortunately enough for them, they didn’t know that their brother that was sold into slavery many years ago had become a Prime Minister in Egypt. He was the one that gave them a soft landing. So, if they didn’t have their brother at the helm of affairs, what do you think would have happened? There is this adage that a person whose brother is in heaven
does not go to hell fire. That was what helped them. You know the rest of the story. We must have a situation whereby we key in and begin to play politics the way it ought to be played so that we can be relevant in this present dispensation. Politics is very dynamic now and it is only for people who are very dynamic, who know how to act and when to act, who do not look at personal interest but group interest, these are the people worthy to be listened to. To that extent, I feel that APC is the alternative and the vehicle that will take us to the Promised Land and our fair share in this country.
Was the reason that the Igbo did not massively vote for Buhari in his first tenure enough to deny the South-East juicy positions in his administration?
Are you saying that our people are not accommodated in Buhari’s administration? We have our people in government. No state in this country has been shortchanged in the issue of ministerial appointments. Ministerial appointments are spread across the component states. You might say that probably during the time of Jonathan the Igbo had more. We had the deputy Senate President, we had Secretary to Government of the Federation, we had Minister for Finance, we had Economic Adviser, we had the Central Bank Governor, and so on and so forth. It was even adjudged the golden age of appointments in our history. But then what do we have in return for that? All the federal roads during that golden era of massive appointments for the people of the South-East are completely bad. They are not being maintained. Money voted for federal roads were being diverted for ancillary roads within individual constituencies of some of those people who were elected to go and represent the interest of the region. Enugu-Onitsha road was almost impassable, the same for the Enugu-Port Harcourt road. Oba-Okigwe expressway was in a very deplorable state. All the major federal highways, and that was what crippled the economic value of the zone, commerce and industry started suffering. That was the highest ebb of our appointments within the federal structure, but that was also the lowest ebb of our level of development because those who were there at that time went after their personal interest, not the interest of the South-East. So, to me it is not the number of people you have in a system that matters but what they are able to achieve. Okay let’s look at the present dispensation under President Buhari. Today, Enugu-Onitsha road, one lane has been almost completed from Enugu axis down to Awka. That is verifiable. That is in less than two years. Regarding Enugu-Port Harcourt, you need to go and see the massive reconstruction work going on there, Enugu airport project is being accelerated, the Second Niger Bridge construction is ongoing. Go and see what is happening there. Under Jonathan, they did a wishy-washy job. They said they had a consortium to do the jobs for the interest of the people. Do you know how much they spent in consultancy alone but there is nothing to show for it? But today under the Buhari administration, construction work is ongoing at the Second Niger Bridge. Look at other areas. I can authoritatively tell you that in other phases of our lives things are relatively okay compared to what happened in the time of Jonathan. We have more developmental projects going on, executed and properly done vis-a-viz for six years we were under Jonathan. Compare this with three years under Buhari as it concerns the South-East.
Many Nigerians think it is rather suicidal to vote Buhari for second tenure because of high level of insecurity and killings everywhere. What’s your take on that?
Well, the issue of security in this country has been a very delicate issue. That did not start with the present administration. It has been there even during the time of Olusegun Obasanjo. We heard what happened at Odi, we heard what happened at Ogoni land, we saw what happened at Zango Kataff, Maitesine riots, etc. The issue of the present day Boko Haram had long been there. During the time of Jonathan, it was in high proportion in terms of escalation. It was even that time we had the issue of kidnapping of Chibok girls and some other incidents. So, today the fallout of those indices is what the present administration inherited. It is a big challenge. There is no doubt about that. But today, to a large extent I believe that the issue of insecurity in Nigeria is being politicized. If you look at the latest killing in Plataeu State and even in Benue, most of the people apprehended had already confessed about their source of sponsorship by some key opposition leaders. You can now see that there is political colouration to the issue of insecurity in this country. So, we really need to understand where the problem is actually coming from. We should not allow our personal interest to be used to mortgage the lives of our fellow citizens to shore up political popularity. What I’m trying to say is that we should all come together and see this thing as national crisis irrespective of the political party we belong to because the person that will be slaughtered tomorrow can be you.