Obinna Odogwu, Awka
The crisis rocking the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) has dealt a devastating blow to the party and would only take a miracle for the party to be reinvigorated ahead the 2021 Anambra governorship election. This was the verdict of the former representative of Awka North and South in the National Assembly, Hon. Chukwuemeke Nwogbo.
Nwogbo, who was a victim of the internal crisis which is threatening the future of the party, alleged that the party, under the leadership of its former National Chairman, Chief Victor Umeh, recruited mercenaries who are gradually killing the party by their conduct.
He also spoke on other issues of national importance in this interview with Sunday Sun. Excerpts:
The All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) gave you the platform through which you went to the National Assembly, but you eventually dumped the party along the line. What went wrong?
Yes, I was a member of the National Assembly from 2011 to 2015 popularly known as the Seventh Assembly. I went to the National Assembly under the platform of APGA. And that incidentally was the first political party I ever joined in my life because I entered active politics late. And when I entered, I joined APGA. Before then, I was the President-General of Awka Development Union. That was my first shot at any kind of politics; active politicking, albeit not partisan at that point. But subsequently, I entered APGA. And I contested for the National Assembly position and by the grace of God I was successful. It was fruitful time for me, but thereafter I left APGA. The reason for leaving APGA was hydra-headed because APGA for me and for a lot of us who joined APGA during the time of the late Dim Ojukwu under the tutelage of His Excellency, Mr Peter Obi; for some of us, APGA was a dream of a better polity for the Igbo man. It was a vehicle that the Igbo man will use in getting into the scheme of things in the Nigerian polity. We had a lot of dreams. Peter had charted a course for APGA alongside Ojukwu and a couple of our forebears. But unfortunately, from nowhere greed and avarice crept into the polity and a lot of us who they felt were threat to their personal aggrandisement became victims. And we all left. It was a shame because for us, APGA was not just a party. APGA was an ideology. APGA stood for something that would have held them as better people; that would have helped give the people a direction as to where and how to gain our rightful place in Nigeria. Unfortunately, we lost all that. We, not being ones to give up, strategized. We are re-strategizing. If one door closes, another one opens. Well, the dream of APGA died for some of us because certain blind men led us into a deep hole. So, right now we have re-strategized and we are hoping that the platform which would be established or which is already established will lead us to the Promised Land.
Looking at the feud between the state governor, Chief Willie Obiano, and the wife of Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu and now relating same to your own experience, are you surprised it is happening?
There was something I said. It was prophetic. When we were being sacrificed, a Shakespearean quote I gave in an interview I granted was that ‘when beggars die there are no comets seen; the heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes.’ I remember saying that clearly. When we were being sacrificed, people were not mindful of that. People were talking about different things. It’s a musical chair. I told them that it was going round. It was rather prophetic. Everybody became victim at the end of the day. If we had curbed the problem when we saw it creeping in; if we hadn’t kept silent, probably we would have salvaged APGA. Everybody has suffered in one way or the other. But when one is in the eye of the storm, others personalize it, especially the leadership. Eventually it came full circle and everybody became victim. But what can we say? If they have these problems, they should have seen yesterday. They should have done something about it yesterday. And this problem has finally dealt APGA a deathblow.
By saying deathblow are you suggesting; or rather, do you foresee APGA going eventually with Governor Obiano?
It will take a miracle to reinvigorate APGA. Even when we left APGA, we were still making overtures for the powers that be to listen to the voice of reason; call a reconciliatory team; heal old wounds and make sure that APGA does not die. That did not happen. People were rather playing the ostrich. They set up a committee which up till today I don’t know what they have done because nobody has approached me. What is happening now, I am not surprised. It is something that we know that we will get to because APGA under Victor Umeh recruited mercenaries who were decimating people; people of integrity to line their greedy pockets or to serve their clandestine ambitions. So, unfortunately, we were playing the Nero’s fiddle when our own was burning.
What can you say about the open visa policy of President Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government? Does the president have the power to throw Nigeria’s gate open for foreigners? Does the National Assembly have to approve such?
I know that Buhari has been president before as a military man and he was a general in the army. He also served in a top parastatal in Nigeria. He has been here as a civilian one term and contested again. He contested for presidency for three times before he finally won. I do not think that Buhari does not recognize the processes that he will follow if the borders should be thrown open. He must have been quoted out of context because I cannot believe that His Excellency, the President of Nigeria thinks that he can open all the borders in Nigeria and invite people to come in. How do you do that? It is not possible. Let us wait and see the modalities that would be followed to throw the Nigerian borders open when unilaterally they closed the borders of Nigeria and everybody is happy that certain things are being achieved. Is that not a contradiction to all of a sudden throw it open, and invite everybody from all over the world to come in? I don’t see the possibly.
There have been outcries by Nigerian people over the N37 billion budgeted for the renovation of the National Assembly while the cost of building the same structure was reportedly N7 billion. Considering what was budgeted for some critical sectors in the 2020 budget, do you think that the present crop of lawmakers are helping to build Nigeria or destroy it?
May be yesterday, I would have answered this question differently. But today, I have looked at what we do to our national monuments. It portrays us as a people without pride. We build and we destroy because we lack maintenance culture. I will not make a case for the figure being bandied because I wasn’t part of the appropriation, but I can tell you that sometimes when I sat in the chambers of the National Assembly I look up and see stains in the dome of one of the top buildings in Nigeria, I feel sad because that’s where foreigners come. That is the eyes through which the world sees Nigeria. And these places are not maintained serially. If you do not maintain something, it portrays the fact that you are a man without pride. A national monument, you don’t maintain it? It shows that you do not have one pride in you. Two, it shows how willingly you are burning your assets in a furnace. It also shows that we are a very irresponsible people. In every aspect of our national life, we build and we ignore and we start shouting when we have to do it all over again. Take, for instance, the Nigerian road. A road that should ordinarily last for 20 to 30 years, if you set out a good maintenance programme; but we build it; in three years the road is dead. Not only because it was shoddily done, we are ‘saving money.’ We are spending, may be, 90 per cent of what we should have spent and build a shoddy road. Then we do not set out a maintenance programme; the road dies in three years. Then, in four years we are setting out another money to build a fresh road. In that 20 years, we probably would have built that road about four to five times. Do we call that wisdom? In National Assembly, I don’t know about maintenance budget, but I can tell you that in National Assembly how many years ago, 2011 to 2015, is still the same thing; the same stains on the roof; possibly worse by now. And it is a national monument. If we don’t maintain things why do we cry? When we maintain a place after 30 years, we do adhoc maintenance. We need as a people to develop maintenance culture. Once we build something, we develop a maintenance culture. We set out a maintenance programme for that thing, then it will last long otherwise we will keep going this way. Look, if you have to rebuild National Assembly again; the whole structures, may be you will set out between N150 to N200 billion. Are we waiting for the place to fall so that we will use that N200 billion to build a new place? We wait for things to get obsolete then we begin to shout when we want to maintain it. Do we want to let it fall? By the way, that money we are talking about is going to be paid to one contractor who is not in the National Assembly and he is going to do it. Did they tell anybody that every member of the National Assembly is going to get largesse out of the money? It is going to be paid to a contractor who is going to build it. So, how does the National Assembly get to be blamed for wanting to maintain a national monument given the pride of the place? The fault is ours. This complicity, the National Assembly is not being absolved of it. Of course, they have a power of the purse. So, if we are saying that the National Assembly did not do their job after building the monument by setting out a maintenance programme for it, yes you may be right. But if anybody is saying to me today, that maintaining the place today with N37 billion after about 30 years is a misnomer then we have to have our heads examined.