Philomena Desmond Ogugua: I Want to Liberate My People
Princess Philomena Desmond Ogugua in this interview with Stanley Nkwazema talks about her ambition to represent her people in the House of Representatives. She also speaks about her time serving as a precinct chair of the United States of America’s Democratic Party and being one of Bill Clinton’s delegates during his official visit to Nigeria
Why do you want to run for the seat of Ahiazu/Ezinihite federal constituency at the House of Representatives?
Firstly, I want to let you know that there is time for everything and there is a moment which you will come of age irrespective of time and I think I have come of age now to liberate my people from the bondage they have been under, from the claws of the present member representing them because he has taken us for granted and taken the masses to the cleaners for the past eight years. It is a calling as I have always been a grassroots person, I have always cried when the poor are crying; cried when the youths are crying; cried when the men and women are crying and my people know that. I think it is time to come and solve the problems so that I will give back to my federal constituency. This where I was born, raised and I don’t know any other place than my federal constituency and Mbaise at large, Imo State in particular. I think it is time for the paradigm change for those who really want to roll up their sleeves, legislate and create the enabled environment for things to happen for the implementation of programmes that would add value to the lives of rural dwellers. When you are a legislator you are not a legislator for the city, for hotels or travelling abroad every time but a lawmaker for your federal constituency. You are supposed to dialogue with them and find out what their needs are and how you can help to bring federal presence, lobby multilateral and bilateral agencies, the international community, and the international donors to come and help.
Do you think when you’re elected into the National Assembly you can get these bodies easily?
I am talking from experience because I want to tap – go back to the people I know that I have worked with for several years; the International community and the multilateral agencies. I have seen them help rural dwellers. They are not here because our people don’t know how to approach them. They don’t know the technique and how to lobby – all this takes lobbying and goodwill. I have worked with them before and they will be kind enough to listen to me, because I am somebody they know.
Your constituency seems to be suffering from infrastructure deficit, poor representation in the state and at National Assembly. Is that correct?
I must be frank with you that for my federal constituency, they have not done anything. The only person who tried to do something before he died was Hon. Tony Anyanwu and he was the person who respected zoning during the period. He knew of the arrangement between Ahiazu and Ezinihitte. After him nobody has done anything. The roads are not motorable; there’s infrastructural decay, no good schools, health system; environmental decay like erosion has taken over farmlands. Some villages are cut off from others and in front of their houses are gullies. If the people representing us know their onions well, they should know there are ecological funds set out by the Federal Government through the ecological agency and go to lobby the secretary to the government with pictures as evidence and get them to come and undertake on-the-spot assessment where they can come to our rescue like Eziudo, Egeberemini and several other places in the area ravaged by erosion. It is killing us in Ezinihitte.
How will you get the support you need in lawmakers and the government?
You should know that legislation is not a one-man show. If you wash my right hand, I wash your left hand. If you see budgetary allocations, projects and bills that are going to be passed you make sure you lobby them to add your own. And since you see this as a matter within the office of the SGF, you go there and present your matter. You go the Speaker, those in charge of environment, show them evidence sand arrange to take them on tour of the place, not that you are just talking and come to a compromise with your colleagues. Again, you make sure that the right company that deals with erosion.
Why are you interested in the House of Representatives?
I have been trying on my own even without being a lawmaker. Since I have been trying without any empowerment or anything behind me, it is better I go in and be the crying legislator – I don’t mind like our late Onuneku Sam Mbakwe was called the ‘crying governor’. He cried and got something for Imo State. I want to be the second Mbakwe to be the crying legislator for Ahiazu/Ezinihite federal constituency.
Are you worried about the gap in female representation in politics?
For my constituency no woman has been in the House of Representatives. The only woman that has gone to the National Assembly is distinguished Senator Chris Anyanwu. She is born in Ahiazu but married to an Aboh Mbaise man. Her late father, the late Hon M.D. Uka, was one of the great parliamentarians we had in Mbaise. As a woman, I think women in the National Assembly should do more. They are trying but you know in our society, women are not often given the opportunity to show or do their best. In essence, they are not given the opportunity because I would have loved to see more of them taking the lead. The 35 per cent affirmative is just on paper. It is not being implemented. I will advocate for more representation because there a lot of strong women who can do the work. The truth is that at times when they get the women they don’t pick the best amongst us so that they can control. It is negotiation. We are not here to insult the men. They are still the head of the household although there are some homes that women are the head because the men are unable to play their roles. There should be mutual respect between the men and the women because there are so many countries that the women are leading as heads of state or presidents and doing well too like in Croatia. The strongest lady, Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany is leading a strong economy; Indira Ghandi when she was the prime minister of India. I think it is time to give women the opportunity in Nigeria. Firstly, the men should realise that we are mothers; we are sisters. We can do well in our country, senatorial zones and constituencies because God created us with the gift or natural abilities to handle difficult situations.
Which political party are you using to realise your ambition?
I am going to run on the platform of APGA and I pray they give me the opportunity to be their flag-bearer. They will never regret it. Nigeria will never regret it. My federal constituency and Imo state will be proud that they have a daughter at the National Assembly making impact on the society and doing the work of the legislators and know what she is supposed to do there. If our constitution had anything like independent candidate I would have taken that option. I have looked at all the parties but it is the people that make it what it is. I have checked APGA and the people there are level-headed. It is not all about money. I have found out that in Nigerian politics that if you don’t have money you are not going anywhere and that is why we are getting bad representation. The good people who can legislate and bring bottom line legislation don’t have money to pay, INEC, police, pay everybody even the delegates. In APGA it is not like that.
Are you riding on the goodwill of your father?
Before now, I have been serving my people without riding on the goodwill of my father. My father, Eze Desmond Ogugua, is a great Igbo man, son of Mbaise. He has done things for people and I have always been by his side learning. He has been tutoring me. He is my sidekick and I have learnt how he has served his people. There are certain things I do and he doesn’t know unless I tell him. If I ride on his goodwill, there is nothing wrong with that and that means he is a good man. A lot of people in politics, the Kennedys are on the goodwill of their father. The Bush; they performed very well because they learned and bettered the master. My father at his age still listens to people. Not only that, I am qualified to vie for a seat in the House of Representatives. I went to school in the United States of America. I did my undergraduate and postgraduate degrees. I worked there and also I remembered the advice my father gave us when we were going saying, ‘When you go there also learn how they operate so that when it is good you bring it here.’ Luckily, when I went there, I participated in the political process and learned how politics is played. I was a strong party member of the Democrats. I have been a state delegate. I volunteered in elections. I raised money. I did election and vote’s protection. I am proud that when former President Bill Clinton came on an official visit to Nigeria my name was on the list of his delegates because of my participation. Also, the Africa Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA); I was one of the private sectors that lobbied the congress to pass it. When it was signed into law, I was one of those invited to the White House to witness the ceremony. Besides, I am a precinct chair (Ward Chairman) of where I lived in the United States where they play politics without bitterness because you can be in the opposition and do your thing and go out together to represent common interests. But here it is politics with bitterness and it shouldn’t be like that. Also, I learnt when I worked for one of the South-East governors as a senior special adviser on International Relations/Multilateral and Bilateral Agencies. I did a lot of work for the state on international scene and helped bring United Nations Institute for Training and Research (NUITA) for them to have an office in the South-East and that exposed me also to politics in Nigeria.