interviewBy Davidson Iriekpen
Senator Emma Nwaka is chairman of the Abia State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party. In this interview with Davidson Iriekpen, he sheds light on former governor Orji Kalu's bid to return to the PDP and efforts of the current administration of Governor Theodore Orji amongst other issues. Excerpts:
How has it been as chairman of PDP?
I came in at a time that the major stakeholders of the party were like walking at cross purposes. They needed a leadership that was acceptable to everyone. When my name cropped up, I found general acceptance from General Ike Nwakwuchwu, Governor Theodore Orji, Chief Onyema Ugochukwu, Senator Abaribe, among others. Since I came on board, my major concern has been to make sure that I do not let them down. My major concern was how to bring everybody together, and give them assurance that I would be fair-minded in dealing with every person.
My mantra is establishing a level playing field for everybody. To a large extent, we have succeeded in doing that. One thing the leadership here has done is to gain the confidence of every person. If at the end of the day, one loses out in a political contest, it is not that the party shows preference for any person. Here, we do not emphasise money which is what has been causing problems in many political parties. I am not into money politics because I'm contented. One thing that is important in life is to respect oneself if one wants others to respect him. That is one of the things helping us here.
How have you been able to moderate the governor and government in the area of politics?
We have a wonderful man as Governor of Abia State. In the PDP hierarchy, even at the national level, there is the president as the leader of the party. There is also the chairman of the party who runs the party administration on a day-to-day basis. We need the cooperation of the governor. In this state, we have a governor who is disposed to working with every person. Although, he is doing his last term, he works like a man who wants to do another term. The political heavyweights in Abia are pleased with him. We have realised that for the party to replicate its giant strides in 2015 general election, we need to maintain the momentum.
What is working for us here is that we have a governor who has respect for all and sundry. He is not into this divide-and-rule thing. In some states, the bone of contention is who will succeed who. But here, the governor maintains an open mind. I see a situation whereby the person who succeeds the governor is the person who the various interests want. For sure, we want the best for Abia State. We don't want charlatans here anymore. We don't want somebody who will make Abia State a barrier state which is what is it was under Governor Orji Uzor Kalu.
We don't also want a governor who spends half of his time abusing everybody in Nigeria. Orji Kalu then would abuse Obasanjo in the morning, in the evening he would abuse another person. In another morning, he would invite traditional rulers to plead on his behalf. That is the time a governor ought to use to attract projects to his state. Under this leadership, we enjoy a situation where the state is working in harmony with the Federal Government.
A proof of this is the fact that people from Abia State are occupying very important positions in the Federal Government. It wasn't so under Governor Kalu. For your information, I'm a close pal of Governor Kalu. In 2003 when he wanted to run for second term, (I'm from Isukwuato) we needed to embark on a campaign tour to the area. I told him there was nothing to show in Isukwuato as to the successes of the government for four years.
He asked me what could be done. I told him of a road dear to our people. The road is Nnonya road. When he came to campaign, there was nothing to commission. So, the day he came to campaign was the day he did the ground breaking ceremony for that road. But under Governor T.A. Orji, there is no local government that has no state government presence.
Why are your people resisting his return to the PDP?
What is new that he is bringing to the party? He couldn't run his party. He ran it aground. He had Imo and Abia States sometime, and lost both within the first term. Doesn't it tell you something about Kalu? Orji Kalu is not a good politician, but a good business man, perhaps. I will ask him to concentrate on his business. He has run a party, won two states; instead of maintaining the tempo, he is now running back to the party he left. And all he has to show for his failures is celebrating that he has been accepted into the PDP.
Has he been accepted?
Who said so? It tells you something about his person. We are becoming very wary of him. The fears expressed by some elders of the party are now justified. In fact, God has a way of doing His things. Sometime ago, the PDP chairmen of Igbere Ward A (Orji's ward) and Ward B, returned the wards register of the party to the LG party chairman and said they had resigned from the PDP. Subsequently, Orji Kalu invited them for a meeting; that was on the 10th of January; only for us to hear that on the 17th or thereabouts that the same people that resigned their membership of the party have readmitted Orji Uzo Kalu into the party.
They are no longer members of the party. On what capacity did they do that? As the state chairman of the party, I issue out cards to registered members. In every ward, we assign unique numbers to every ward, accordingly. The card Orji Uzo Kalu is parading doesn't fall into the register we gave to Igbere Ward A, not even Igbere Ward B. He granted an interview in the Sun where he quoted his number.
Our book of life in the state PDP is the membership register. Any person can carry a card, but if your name is not in the register, you are not part of us. In summary, Orji Uzor Kalu is not a member of our party. In fact, if you know him, he won't like to end his politics in Igbere wards A and B. One day, he will come to me and I will ask him where he got the card he is parading.
How did he get the card then?
See the interview he granted the Sun, you will see the number he quoted. Check our register whether you can find the number he quoted. The local government chairman where Orji Uzo Kalu comes from was at my recent press conference. He brought out the register, and you'll discover that that number doesn't fall into that category. People print naira and dollars; he could have done same.
Why are you refusing him into the party? Isn't that an infringement on his right?
Freedom of association is not the same thing as imposition. When you look at the party's constitution, it says the ward executive can even refuse any person membership of the party based on what they know about the person. The stakeholders of the party in Abia State say from what they know about Orji Kalu, if he comes in, there will be trouble. And there is already trouble. You can see him abusing the state governor. That's a man who wants to be member. He is already saying the state governor will come for social justice and all that. He also says he wants to reclaim the party, instead of leaving it to 'madmen'. Who are you calling madmen? The bifurcation in the party all this while was because of Orji Uzor Kalu.
Reasonable men like Tony Ukasanya, Ojo Maduekwe, Onyema Ugochukwu and many more said they couldn't work under this person. We started knowing them as Abuja politicians. Then he had a free hand here. Abia paid dearly for it. Take a tour of Abia State and look for any iconic landmark that Orji Uzor Kalu left behind. He had eight years and it is just now that we are building the state secretariat and a conference centre; we are now doing those basic things that we require to say that we are a state. When the minister for information said he was coming, we were very happy because we had much to display. The minister couldn't even see one quarter of what we are doing in Abia State.
What's the highlight of the current administration?
The second phase of this administration will be two years in May 2013. If you look at T.A Orji's achievements in these years compared to the eight years we had under Governor Kalu, we have so much to celebrate. Under the PPA, he didn't do anything. They won't allow him. He accepted it. These days, you don't become anything here because you are taken to one shrine or the other. The governor assesses whoever is qualified for a position and gives to the person. You don't pay allegiance. One thing about bribery is that once you collect money from someone, you become the person's slave. You can't caution the person even when he is going wrong. It doesn't happen anymore in Abia State.
We have a situation now where all the leagues in the state sit down and iron out issues. It is not a family monopoly anymore. It is an achievement. Again there is security. Governor TA Orji has been celebrated all over the world for what he did to achieve security in Abia State. Otherwise, no one would have been here. The chief of army staff commended the governor recently on his strides. Again the governor is accessible to any security man all the time. That is why we have peace. Hitherto, contractors don't go to site because of kidnappers. It is now over. When people will celebrate TA Orji is after he has left office.
Do you foresee the Kalu's return to the PDP?
If he wants to come back, it should not be through the window. Again, what is he going to add to the party? But this is a man who found a party and couldn't run it. It died in his hand. His party won two states and lost them. He ran a senatorial seat and lost it. In his recent interview in the Sun, he is abusing everybody. He assumes he has the magic wand. His aspiration is to become the president of Nigeria. Someday, he will say he is out of politics; another time he is running in his village to rejoin a party he had left. If he has a card, its validity ends in Igbere.