This Day (Lagos)

23 February 2013

Nigeria: Power Shift in Abia Requires Lots of Sacrifices

interview

Ginger Onwusibe, a politician and businessman was a transition chairman in Isiala Ngwo North local government. The outspoken youth leader bared his mind on current political issues in Abia State in this interview with Emmanuel Ugwu.

As a stakeholder in the Ukwa/Ngwa political bloc, do you foresee this section of Abia actualising their dream for power shift come 2015?

Power shift is non-negotiable. It's something we know. The governor promised Ukwa/Ngwa people that he will hand over power to Ukwa/Ngwa people. And the man I know, who is the governor of Abia State, is somebody that doesn't go back on his promise; I trust him that he's going to make good his words. He's going to ensure that power shift from the old Bende to Aba zone, which is Ukwa/Ngwa.

In doing that, he's not going to do it alone. At the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) stakeholders meeting last year the governor made it clear the factors that would determine who becomes the next governor: himself, the stakeholders of the party and God. And I know he is not going to renege. So if you come to the zone known as Ukwa/Ngwa it is made up of nine local governments: Ukwa East, Ukwa West, Aba South, Aba North, Obingwa, Ugwunagbo, Osisioma, Isiala Ngwa North and Isiala Ngwa South. From Isiala Ngwa North, South and part of Osisioma are in Abia Central.

We're also agitating that the governorship that is coming to Ukwa/Ngwa should come from us. The Abia South people are also agitating that if governorship is coming, it should come to Abia South and Ngwa part of Abia South. Then if you go to the extreme end of the state, which is Ukwa East and Ukwa West they are also saying they want to produce the next governor.

So, a lot of work needs to be done, a lot of sacrifices need to be made to make this thing a reality because there is no way in the Constitution where it is written that somebody from Bende (Abia North) would not contest or that somebody from Isuikwuato would not contest. The zoning formula is just an internal arrangement to allow things move smoothly.

So I want to advise the Ukwa/Ngwa people to be ready to make sacrifices so that the efforts of the governor would not be jeopardised. A situation where everybody is saying if it is not me let it go to another zone is going to discourage the people who want to hand over power.

Another thing I want to debunk is what some people are saying that they are afraid to hand over power to an Ngwa man. That is not supposed to be said anywhere. Some people are saying that an Ngwa man would not be loyal to the governor when he hands over power, but I don't think we should think in that direction. No governor that handed over to another governor and along the line they did not misunderstand each other.

If you look at our governor, you'll see that he is somebody who can accommodate and work under serious pressure. When he was Chief of Staff, his office was always open; he would be standing up and attending to people, almost everybody. As a governor, if you send him a text message he will reply you, if you call him on phone he will answer. If you come to his office you'll see a lot of people and he will make sure he attends to everybody even if you bring something that will annoy him, he will still see you. You can see, the relative peace we are enjoying in Abia state now is because of the type of governor we have. So these are some of the things we must consider before a selection of candidate can be made.

So you're saying an Ngwa man can be trusted with political power?

We have every reason to be trusted. We have not failed in any system in which we are given responsibility. Let me give you an instance, when Abaribe was deputy governor to Orji Uzor Kalu people didn't know the type of man Orji was, but they were saying Abaribe was not loyal, Abaribe was this, Abaribe was that but the man (Abaribe) was struggling to survive.

Those outside government saw it that the man was not loyal, that he was overambitious and he was forced out of that office. Another person came, Chima Nwafor and the same thing happened. Chima Nwafor's own led to his death. What I'm saying in essence is that an Ngwa man in character, in intellect, in disposition and in anything you can think of is one person you can trust to hand over power to. If you look at Aba, you will see how populated the place is, if an Ngwa man is not an accommodating person, if an Ngwa man is not somebody you can trust, if an Ngwa man is not hospitable he would have rejected ab initio people that came to reside in that own.

Given the configuration of Abia Central and Abia South Senatorial zones where Ngwa dominated local governments fall into these two zones, are you saying the political location of Ukwa/Ngwa people will not count in power shift?

Ordinarily the proper thing is that power should shift to Abia South but during the campaigns what the governor and other major stakeholders in the politics of Abia State said, is that power will shift to Ukwa/Ngwa, I mean Aba zone. That was what Aba zone was at that time. So I wouldn't want us for any reason to go contrary to that because the same paradigm that was canvassed to say that power should shift to Ukwa/Ngwa was done in Isiala Ngwa South, Isiala Ngwa North and Osisioma, which are part of Abia Central and because of that same position, our people voted en mass against their own son, Reagan Ufomba (APGA candidate) who is from Isiala Ngwa North. If you look at the result, you'll see that in Ntigha where he comes from, he did not pass because people voted against him. Somebody can come from Isiala Ngwa North and say he wants to contest but the proper thing is that since Abia Central has taken two shots on the governorship seat it should go to Abia South.

Still on the political configuration, Abia South is made up of the Ukwa and the Ngwa, but the Ukwa are in the minority and are entertaining some fears of being marginalised in the sharing of political posts when power shifts to Abia South. So what should be done to assuage their feelings if Ngwa should pick the gubernatorial slot?

If the party agrees that the governorship is going to be zoned to Abia South they have an advantage in that they can reach a compromise as a governor will come from there and a senator will also come from there. What it means is that if the governorship candidate is coming from Ukwa, then the senatorial candidate would definitely come from Aba North, Aba South, Ugwunagbo or Obingwa. But I know that our people would ask their Ukwa brothers to allow an Ngwa man to have the first shot of the governorship position so that they can now produce the senator. I think that is what should be done but that does not mean that the Ukwa man cannot aspire to be governor.

The National Good Governance Tour team visited Abia and passed favourable verdict on the performance of Governor T.A Orji administration. What's your take on that assessment?

I must congratulate Governor T.A Orji for proving his critics wrong and for making those of us who supported him and canvassed for him to be elected, proud. The Governor has performed very well considering the meagre resources we have in the state. The Governor has performed in all departments of governance. If you come to the issue of road infrastructure he promised that once the rains were over he was going to embark on massive road construction and that he has done. You can now see the vision in the construction of the International Conference Centre, the State Secretariat. In fact, if you come to the state capital these are the structures you need to see.

What people didn't know is that the immediate past governor of this state underdeveloped this state heavily. You can imagine that for eight years of governance we didn't have streetlights in Umuahia, the state capital. It was only when T.A Orji came that we had the first street light in the capital. That is to tell you the level at which the state suffered underdevelopment. What that means is that the first eight years of this present democratic dispensation was a waste in Abia.

If the immediate past governor did something, what the present governor would have done was to consolidate on it, but the past governor did not do anything. That is why when Orji came on board, they didn't want him to succeed or perform. Today you can see the ultra modern diagnostic centre. People are coming from far and wide to get medical services there. You can see several edifices springing up here and there. The governor is putting up a new government house, there is the new industrial market and Umuahia Central market is moving to a new site, which is almost ready. Most importantly, the governor has provided security.

Let's talk about the dust generated by the claim of former governor, Orji Uzor Kalu's that he has rejoined PDP. Why the fuss in Abia PDP over this development. Is anybody afraid of Kalu?

I don't think they are refusing Orji Uzor Kalu entry into the party (PDP) because they are afraid of him. Anybody who is afraid of Kalu is not a politician in Abia because Kalu lost it long time ago. I think the reason why the major stakeholders of the party are refusing him entry is that they know that he is coming to spoil the party. Let me give you an instance: Kalu is coming into the party (PDP) but his remaining supporters are busy hoisting APGA flag in all the political wards in Abia. Strategically what does that tell you? It tells you that the man is not actually coming to the party to be in the party. He is coming to scatter the party and run back. If he is somebody who wants to come to the party sincerely, he has to come with his followers.

His major followers, those of them that are remaining now are busy somewhere and he is coming to spoil the PDP. As far as I'm concerned this issue of his entry into the party is not a concern to me because Kalu is one man that if he asks you to stay here you should start running because everything about him is not proper. I worked with him. I don't even think the governor is bothered about his entry. I'm not bothered about him either. The only thing is that our party don't want the prevailing peace we a enjoying to be spoiled by anybody.

As a youth leader, how do you react to people criticising Chinedu Orji' youth empowerment programmes, saying he should not be involved in such ventures since his father is the state governor?

If you look at most governors in Nigeria you'll see that either their sons are teenagers or they are growing up. There are few governors whose sons are adults. Kalu became the governor of Abia state at the age of 39 and Chinedu is not less than 39. There is no way, as intelligent as that young man is that he will not participate in government. He has the right. He is not holding any political appointment. He is an engineer by profession and if you come very close to him, you will know that he is very intelligent. Some governors' sons who are grown up you don't see them in the country. What they do is take their friends in private jets, today and attend nightclubs in South Africa or Ireland to seek fun. But this young man (Chinedu Orji) doesn't live that kind of life. He decided to use his own God-given privilege as the governor's son to impact positively on the lives of his fellow youths. He has been doing it through his own personal initiatives.

Those criticizing him, if they are close to the governor will do worse things. If you get close to this young man he is unassuming, you'll see that he has this love for the next person. He hates to hear that somebody is suffering, that somebody has not eaten or that somebody is not going to school. He uses his personal resources to ensure that school fees are paid for indigent persons. So, Chinedu Orji needs to be commended and encouraged to do more for Abia youths rather than people saying bad things about him. He is so passionate about youth empowerment and poverty alleviation.

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