Chief Theodore Orji
Mr. Emeka Onochie was a former media aide to ex-Abia State governor, Chief Orji Uzor Kalu and a friend to the incumbent, Chief Theodore Orji. He had put many years into the banking sector, journalism and later politics. In this interview with Anayo Okolie and Nkiruka Okoh, he speaks on the politics of the state and the deep involvement of his former boss, the issue of states creation in the South-east region and the clamour for Igbo presidency, amongst other issues. Excerpts:
There has been controversy over the return of Orji Uzor Kalu to Abia State PDP. Why is that so?
Why is there controversy about it? The constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is very clear on the Freedom of Association and from what I know politics is a very tricky business. I believe the Abia State may have their reasons for raising eyebrows over Kalu’s move to return to PDP. I have not been following the situation but if a man builds a house but decides to become a tenant in another person’s house, he should be accepted as a tenant. Or is he returning to PDP as a landlord?
At the end of the day, I think the most important issue is not about Orji Kalu and the people against his return to PDP, it is about the people of Abia State. What they need at this point in time is unity and development and without unity, you cannot develop Abia. Without looking at the past, the present and without planning for the future, this is their only opportunity to have a common ground.
Let me say this, you don’t need to like a person’s face to work with him. If you are in an organisation and they ask you to work with a person, you cannot say you don’t like a person’s face, so you will not work with the person. You have to find a common ground. I believe that it is in the interest of the Abia people that both parties work together. I also want to say that, I do not think that there is so much misunderstanding between Orji Kalu and the present governor. What we have are sycophants on both sides, trying to take advantage of the situation.
Why governance doesn’t work in Nigeria is because of sycophants. Sycophants have never allowed things to work and at this instance, I haven’t spoken to Orji Kalu nor the governor but if Orji Kalu wants to join a political party, mind you, he is coming in as a minority why can’t the majority allow him to come in and then show that we are in a democracy and tell him to sit down? Why is the majority bent on refusing the minority from coming in?
Going forward, it is not about Orji Kalu, he has played his part. If for whatever reason, he decides to leave the house he built and goes to become a tenant elsewhere, it is only fair that they allow him in and see what he has to offer. He is coming back to PDP and don’t judge a man by his mistakes, judge a man by his efforts to correct them. In any case, like I have said earlier, for Abia to move forward, there are three stages to consider, the past, the present and the future.
2015 is close by and Ndigbo are clamouring for Igbo Presidency. Do you think it is feasible?
The South-east people are entitled to a President. Everybody is entitled to a president but what will give the Igbos what they need is Unity of Purpose. One does not wake up in the morning and become President. In this 21st century, I don’t want to be talking about an Igbo President and I don’t want to sound like Ojo Madueke, ‘A Nigerian President from the Igbo extraction’. With unity of purpose, the Igbos can form alliances and consensus with other tribes and at the end of the day, realise it.
Democracy is fast becoming complex and it’s a game of numbers. If you look at the history and circumstances of the people that have become President of Nigeria, we can see that the Igbos have not been so lucky to have benefited in becoming president. The solution is that if the Igbos want the Presidency, they cannot do it on their own; they must unite with other tribes and groups. Also, the South-east people need to work on themselves internally.
Let the Igbos show love to one another. As an Igbo man, I am ashamed that Ifeanyi Uba and Coscharis are fighting each other. There is no love. A small business relationship has been turned into a national discourse on the floor of the National Assembly. If we cannot handle such minor challenges, we shouldn’t be talking about an Igbo President. During the last dispensation, the Igbos were at the forefront of producing five Senate President. In this present dispensation, we have had only one Senate President till date.
One of the issues that have dominated the constitution review process is local government autonomy. Are you in support?
The issue is money. The issue is not independence of the local governments. The issue is the allocation from the federation account. If it is about the autonomy of the local government, it is beautiful, but if you look at the crux of the matter, it is about money and knowing what money has done and can do; knowing what is obtainable now, we have to be careful.
If we allow local government to be independent, the objective might not be achieved. Let that autonomy be tied to some form of development, let that autonomy be subject to a commission that will ensure that projects will be effectively carried out. What I am saying is that local governments are entitled to be independent but that independence will not be the type of independence that will have resources allocated straight from the federation account to the local government purse, otherwise we will go into conflict.
When the local government chairmen get access to so much money, it becomes a competition with the state governors. There will be more conflict and thuggery and at the end of the day, the grassroots will suffer. Anything we are doing in this country, we should be able to get it right. Local government autonomy- how does that positively affect development?
Look at Anambra State; it has not conducted council election for a while now. What does that portend?
I cannot speak for what I do not know. What are the reasons for the non-conduct of the election? What does the law say about conducting local government election? If a governor has not conducted local government election in his state, we should rely on the law to correct that abnormity. It is not my personal opinion that will right that wrong in Anambra State. There must be some form of check in the system that ought to investigate why elections have not been conducted for the local government councils and correct that.
No matter how strong a chain is, it is only as strong as the weakest link. If we cannot tidy the weak links in our governance, we cannot trade it for bigger things. If a governor stays in office and cannot conduct elections; abusing the system will not correct that situation. The law should be applied.
What’s your take on the clamour for additional state for the South-east region?
South-east is entitled to another state. The psychology of war had gone to the extent that it is synonymous with marginalization. We are not talking about marginalisation, we are talking about under development. The South-east is highly under-developed, I mean the South-east as a region. Individually, the people have tried to develop themselves, and for this democracy to be meaningful, the South-east should be given additional states.
It is however, not about the state that should be given to the South-east, it is the unity of purpose of the people from that region. It needs to be emphasised. The Igbos should be able to show love amongst themselves, if the National Assembly decides to create a state in the South-east, there will be so much bickering and war regarding the location of the state. People who cannot talk amongst themselves and trust themselves cannot go forward. That is the dilemma of the South-east- unity of purpose.
What do you think about State police?
Security is a very complex issue which is why it is placed under the purview of the Federal Government. No matter the solutions proffered, we will need other indices to determine if it will work for us as a people. The so called insecurity boils down to politics. I believe that the Nigeria Police is next to Scotland Yard and Nigeria has the best police in Africa. The problem of Nigeria police is the Nigerian factor.
Unemployment is on the rise, what can the government do to stem the tide?
The Nigerian media has failed to throw light on the increasing problem of the high rate of unemployment and inflation. Yet, attention is now on the supposed rift between Obasanjo and Jonathan and this irrelevant news makes the front page. Nigeria has intelligent people. We have success stories when we leave for other countries in search of education. Our people excel, we have universities, so how come Nigerians cannot be gainfully employed?
Nigerians are contract workers even in their own country. Most multi-nationals use Nigerians as contract workers. Let our Labour laws benefit the Nigerian people rather than having people leave schools and becoming dependent. Insecurity issues in Nigeria are closely linked to Unemployment.
Are you worried about the predicted Population boom by 2025?
We should advise the president to initiate a weekly broadcast to have developmental issues discussed, ranging from education, health, power, defence and how Nigeria has succeeded to launching its satellite. If we consider that China is just 10 years older than Nigeria, it is disheartening where we are as a people. Tackling the development issues will help the president improve his legacy profile. The press should challenge the government to sit up.