In this interview, the immediate past Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate in the 2015 Imo State gubernatorial election, Emeka Ihedioha, speaks on the crisis in the party and the defection of some PDP members to APC
The All Progressives Congress is celebrating that they are getting a foothold in the South-east that used to be their Waterloo with the defection of some key Igbo leaders to the party. Are you worried for the survival of PDP in Igboland?
When you go through the experience that we went through as a political party that was in office over a period of time and losing it without preparing to lose, it is normal to have people defecting. The characters that have moved are obviously suspects that would act in the way they did. Why did I say so? If you look into their antecedents, they have never been consistent with the PDP. One of these elder statesmen was indeed working against our political party so I wouldn’t call him a faithful PDP member. But because of the stature he has attained in the society it is right to call him a leader. The people in question, I don’t know when last you saw them in any PDP activity and I don’t know how relevant they were at the point in time in their respective states. In my state, Imo, some of the people that are being celebrated to have left the PDP were those who worked hard to compromise my election. President Buhari visited Imo on a Wednesday before our election on Saturday and he met with these characters. Those are the characters that are known to act in that manner. And they were approached to say ‘this is the direction that, it is important that you interact with the incoming President”, they are businessmen and so they will call them political merchants and what matters to them is the enhancement of their business and protection of their past and so they can only reason in the manner they have. Some of them even collected money from our party only to undermine us.
The APC is celebrating that they have gotten some names which they believe would give an impression that they are on ground, but any close watcher of South-east politics will tell you that these men would not make any impact. Our party is not in the kind of state as it is being projected by the APC. The APC is doing what it knows how best to do: propaganda. Propaganda is what will help them to give an impression that they are on ground. For instance, the governor of my state (Rochas Okorocha) would want to as usual give the impression that he is attracting people but my people are asking, what benefits have accrued to Imo through him under the Buhari administration as close as he is as the Chairman of APC Governors Forum? We are yet to see any infrastructural development in our state. And so we will continue to see these things but be rest assured that the PDP remains the dominant party. Our crisis was caused by an error of judgment on the part of some of our leaders who were not conscious of the havoc Ali Modu Sheriff could wreak. They made him our Chairman. He ended up destabilising the party. But we are trusting God to help us out of this situation. I am sure our party would get out of the problem in no distant time. However I am convinced that what we are going through today is necessary for the revolution that is taking place today in PDP. If it didn’t happen now, it would have happened sooner or later. So it was better for us that the problem came early enough when we can solve it and get back stronger. I bet you we shall not have such a character as Sheriff again as the Chairman of the PDP.
Do you think Nigerians look forward to having the PDP back in power?
What I hear from people who speak to me across board is that we should put our house in order as quickly as possible and people are encouraged by the efforts we are making. And I can tell you that this is about the best moments of the PDP. We were carried away by the power that we got in 1999 and so we never bothered to have time to sit back and evaluate our situation. As a party, we are now looking inward to ask questions like, how did we get to where we are in? And I believe we will be guided by the ugly experience we have had over the period of time.
Do you foresee the South-east becoming the battle ground for the presidency in 2019?
First of all, I cannot deny the fact that Sen. Jim Nwobodo and Sen. Ken Nnamani are leaders of the Igbo nation, and I can never castigate them. , I am not one that would deride them as not being. What had attracted people to the PDP is not these big names. In 1998 in Imo for instance where PDP won clearly, virtually all the big political wigs like Sen. Arthur Nzeribe, Chief Emmanuel Nwanyanwu and Sen. Ifeanyi Ararume were in the ANPP. None of them was in the PDP, yet we won the elections. It is at times like this that we appreciate the strength of character and the commitment of the Igbo man. I would simply say pause and take a deep breath and let’s wait for 2019.
Days after former President Olusegun Obasanjo said 2019 is right for the Igbo to produce the President of Nigeria, the governor of Imo, Rochas Okorocha, countered, saying the Igbo should wait till 2023. How do you look at the scenario that is playing out?
I have not had time to reflect on the statement of Obasanjo who is a very knowledgeable Nigerian of international repute, a critical leader who understands Nigeria and perhaps better than virtually everyone else and I am sure he must have his conviction and reasons. As we progress, I will study his projection and see the reality of it.As for Okorocha, he is a show man and he has always set his eyes on the presidency and I am aware that he is trying to position himself to look attractive. If that is what he is doing, he is going about it the wrong way because if any party wants to project him, they would be interested in his performance at home and obviously that performance does not sound positive.
You aspired to be the governor of Imo but it didn’t work out. You just put down the performance of the man you wanted to unseat.
Governor Okorocha lacks understanding of the basics, the fundamentals and rudiments of constitutional democracy which is evident in the way he is running the affairs of our state. He has repeatedly confessed that he abhors the rule of law and he has lived up to that confession. He sees Imo State government as a one-man business where he is the Chairman/CEO. He does not appreciate the trinity of power, the tripod upon which democracy rests. To him, it is about Okorocha, Okorocha and Okorocha. I am not aware that there is anywhere in Imo that you have pipe borne water in use, as opposed to what he inherited. Ours is almost a hopeless case. The local government system no longer exists in Imo. That is an aberration because it is in violation of the Constitution and I hope that he realises what he is doing. I am aware that in some states, governors appoint caretaker committees. That is not what is happening in our state. There is nothing like that in Imo. The hospitals in our state are barely functional. Some times I wonder what has befallen us. Obviously if I was governor I wouldn’t be doing things the way he is doing things. If I was governor, Imo would be a better state to live in; if I was governor, Imo would be one of the positively talked about states in Nigeria and not a negatively talked about state. If I was governor, our people would have been happy and proud of the fact that they come from Imo. I am sure today that many of our people are not proud and happy to say that they have Okorocha as the governor of their state. Where he has put Imo today is not where Imo used to be before he became governor and that is not where we expected Imo to be. Imo is a state that is endowed with human and natural resources. What the governor needed to do was to harness those resources and potentials and get the best from the people and out of the system. Imo is about the worst governed state today in Nigeria.
Each time the government at the federal level is taken to task about some its failures, the response is always that “the PDP administration brought us to where we are because they didn’t manage the economy well”. What do you make of this statement?
I want to say that I am aware and you know that critical players in the past PDP governments are today key players in the APC government. Quite a number of APC governors were key players in PDP administrations and they played significant roles. They were quite very well informed of the state of things in the country when they were aspiring to take over power. I don’t want to believe, and this is being honest, that they were not conscious of the status of things, I am sure they knew. It is either they were not telling the people the truth or they have chosen not to do the right thing. How do you assess the performance of the Federal Government? I don’t know if Nigerians are happy with what they are seeing today but it is clear that electricity supply in the country is at its lowest ebb. We simply do not have power supply in Nigeria anymore. The value of the Naira has gone down to an unprecedented level; there is no access to forex. The cost of living is so high that the average Nigerian can hardly afford to feed. It is difficult to figure out which sector of the economy has done well. Nigerians must give the PDP administration credit FOR GIVING Nigerians the telecommunication pathway. It is very clear that the fight against corruption is selective. We are not where we should be. The scandal in the sports sector where a minister boldly told Nigerians that he was not expecting our girls to win speaks volumes for this administration.
With benefit of insight, what do you think the National Assembly can do differently to improve our budgeting process?
I believe in institution and, between 1992 and 2015, I was consistently part and parcel of the National Assembly. I worked in the Senate as a staff of the President of the Senate and I came back again and worked in the Senate as the special assistant to the President of the Senate. I worked earlier with the deputy Senate President. I came to the House after I was elected and I became the Chairman of a committee, a key committee. I became a principal officer as a Chief Whip and I became Deputy Speaker and I left the House as acting Speaker. I respect the institution of the legislature, I appreciate their predicament, I appreciate the fact that, most times, there are a lot of misconceptions around them. I have access to the presiding officers of the National Assembly, the Senate President, the Speaker and their deputies. I have access to the entire leadership and members and so I share my views with them and if there are suggestions I think would be beneficial to them, I share it with them. I don’t think it is right for me as a former presiding officer to begin to discuss that institution that elevated me to such height on the pages of newspapers.
The people of Imo wanted you to serve them and like you said your mandate was taken by force. Are you still available to serve the people of the state?
I spend reasonable time in Imo. I have friends, relations, associates and, in the course of my campaign, I interacted with many. I established relations with quite a number of persons and, so I have a responsibility to nurture those relationships. I have no other state, I cannot ask for a transfer of state, I am born in Imo and I am proud of that heritage to have come from Imo but I am not proud the way it is governed today. And so, as we proceed, if there is the general view by my political associates, my friends, my constituents and my family considers it necessary and expedient that I should put myself yet again to the service of the people, I would give it positive consideration. VANGUARD. M