‘I Wonder Why Ihedioha Refused to Enter Government House throughout His Eight-Month Stay’

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Nseobong Okon-Ekong discusses the recent political upheavals in Imo State with Chief Longers Anyanwu, a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress

What is the most important thing that the APC in Imo needs to do now?

The first thing to do is to regain and sustain the confidence and trust on the APC led government under Distinguished Senator Hope Uzodinma as the governor.

Under the new administration, we shall ensure that the governor being large hearted and a man of the people, will consciously embark on actions and policies that will establish equity and eliminate nepotism and antagonism. Governor Uzodinma will promote an all-inclusive and peaceful system in the state that will inevitably bring prosperity to the people of Ìmo state. Above all, the governor has assured Ìmo people that upon confirmation of the status of all on-going projects started by all the past governments, he will expeditiously finish them.

It will be the priority of the APC to expand the popularity of the party especially in Ìmo state and the entire South-east in general in order to integrate our zone into the Nigerian project.

One of the lessons of the 2019 general election in Ìmo to our party APC is never again shall we go into any election with a divided house. And if you look at the way the governor is embracing all the leaders back to the party, you will agree with me that he’s an experienced party man.

The leaders have agreed not to tolerate external meddlesomeness in the party. The governor, given his approach based on an all-inclusive disposition will be capable of handling the party matters.

I call on the APC warlords to drop their guns and embrace peace and collapse all their factions and join Hope’s mainstream party to strengthen the party in the state

Many of the legislators in the state House of Assembly have suddenly switched political party allegiance, making the APC which had no legislator to become the majority, can they be trusted?

Nigeria is practicing party politics. APC, apart from being a national party, is also the ruling party at the centre and in the majority of the states in the country. It is also a fact that the state had been an APC state until the recent debacle. Legislators are the true representatives of the people and close to their people. Whatever action they take is the true representation of the wishes and aspirations of the people.

Will these defection reduce the tension? Did these people have to defect in order to work amicably with the governor?

Legislative duties require the corporation of the executive to maximise the dividends they attract to their constituents. It’s their choice to remain in the mainstream or struggle with the opposition.

Seeing that the legislators took this decision unilaterally without going back to the people who elected them, how do you think this will affect the relationship with their constituents?

You don’t say that because you are not one of their constituents. I can tell you for free that most of them enjoy the encouragement of their constituents, who trooped out in large numbers to give solidarity on that defection.

Is it true the Governor Hope Uzodinma disbursed a lot of money to buy the Imo legislators over?

As one of the APC leaders who was on hand to receive the defecting members, I can tell you that the governor never disbursed any fund for that, rather, most of the defecting members openly disclosed to everyone in public how the governor even before he was elected governor used to assist them without expectation and expressed hope that his government will engender an explosion of prosperity in Ìmo state hence their action to defect to the governor’s party, the APC. I look at this allegation that the governor enticed the legislators with money as cheap blackmail and spurious. Money from where? As you may know, the governor has not accessed any official document of the government till date.

The reputation of the APC in Imo under the immediate past governor, Senator Rochas Okorocha was seriously damaged, what should the party and the governor do to avoid the mistakes of the past?

The governor is a man with an irresistible appeal. He is at home with the masses, captains of industry, the private sector, the church and traditional institutions. He suffers no complex whatsoever. Above all, he is a devote Christian and a ‘communicant’ of the Catholic faith. Unlike the past, Hope is a man of immense political experience.

A lot of investment and effort was made by the former governor to get the buy-in of most of the elites in the state. However, I think he wasn’t sure of the sustainability of his brief mandate such that he didn’t embark on any tangible and conclusive project for that eight months. One month before his exit, he embarked on sporadic construction projects that could not get 10 percent completion that has left the entire state of confusion and reckless abandonment of incomplete projects.

The Ihedioha government was already trying to steer governance away from everything linked to Okorocha, would you advice Uzondinma to continue on that path?

I believe Governor Hope Uzodinma has come to establish his own legacy. It is unfortunate that Ihedioha’s government has retained the record of being the first in history not to commission a single project after eight months in the saddle despite all the lofty and flowery dream of the governor. I know that he could have done a lot better within that eight months but for some bad and “over qualified” appointees who thought they knew better and were more experienced than the governor. It was a story of dashed high expectations. Very sad.

Frankly, I was shocked at level of abandonment and decadence at the Government House. Not a single room was functional or put in use. I could not recognize the beautiful structure and clean Government House environment that Governor Ohakim left behind in 2011. I wonder why Governor Ihedioha refused to enter the premises throughout his eight months stay not to talk of rehabilitation of a single office. I am really shocked why he was scared of entering the Government House which worsened the deplorable state of the infrastructure he inherited from Rochas. It was indeed a great disservice to Ìmo people and it is my hope that Governor Uzondinma will courageously tackle the problem straight away. Hope will not waste time in sloganeering like Ihedioha.

For a few months, Imo was run by a political party in opposition to the party at the centre, do you see any comfort in Imo being aligned again with the party that controls the Federal Government?

Taking the state back to APC will solidify the state at the center. Ìmo state can now be counted as a major player in the Nigerian project. I also call on the APC federal government to include Ìmo state this time into the league of states under the ruling party with all necessary extra political dividends and perks.

The governorship candidates of the AA and APGA accompanied Uzodinma to receive his Certificate of Return from INEC, was that a hint at some kind of collaboration among them? And could this arrangement be on individual basis or does this understanding include their parties?

And indeed gubernatorial candidates of other parties who participated in the 2019 governorship election. APC was the dominant and ruling party before the 2019 election. Few months before the election, there was an implosion within the party. Consequently, when the Supreme Court reversed the judgement, it was natural that people who left party out of annoyance rushed back to where they belong.

Recall that the struggle to free Ìmo from the clutches of the governor before the last election was across all the political parties. Consequently, upon the emergence of Governor Uzodinma, every other discerning leader in Ìmo saw himself as a winner. All the members of the coalition across the parties were jubilant over the Supreme Court verdict. I will say, therefore, that it was the role played personally by Uzodinma and the coalition spirit that is pulling people from different political parties back to APC.

Do you see the street protests continuing now that the leaders of the people as represented by Imo legislators have jumped ship?

Is the protest is against the Supreme Court, President Buhari or who? How come the protest was more pronounced in Sokoto and other states than in Ìmo state? I believe it was an externally sponsored demonstration. The immediate past governor was not part that senseless conspiracy because he is a promoter of the principles of the rule of law.

The sponsors of the mischievous protests will be in a better position to answer that question. I call on Ìmo indigenes to be vigilant and circumspect. Anybody who thinks he can use Ìmo as an excuse for attacking the Federal Government should please think twice.

The governor is appreciative of the enormity of job to be down and pleads to be given a fair chance not by “hitting him left right and center with unnecessary blackmail.”

Injustice to one is injustice to all. After every election, it is part of the electoral process to seek redress at the tribunal if you feel your right has been infringed upon or you have been shortchanged instead of resorting to self-help.

The court is not a Father Christmas, as the say. It is what you asked the court it will grant or deny you. And in the case of Hope and APC, the case was very straight forward, “include the votes that was not included in about 383 polling booths, add it to the overall votes cast, whoever that has more votes declare him the winner!

The tribunals and the Appeal Court ignored this cogent alarm because the defense team in their own strategy thought it could be swept under the carpet, alas the justices of the Supreme Court in their supreme wisdom said, ‘no’ that the claim was germane and that was the blow that broke the camel’s back in my view as a non-lawyer. Do you blame the appellant who only harvested the legal fruit of his dexterity?

The law deals squarely on provable and incontrovertible facts. Sentiments can’t give you victory on such contentious matters as this.

There is a serious push from the PDP and interest groups to have the Supreme Court reverse itself on the Imo governorship verdict, is that a source of concern to your party and the governor?

You can see that the PDP is determined to make a mockery of all vital and sacred institutions in Nigeria.

As they are set to fight the Supreme Court of Nigeria let’s watch how the court will react to them.

I think it’s a bizarre adventure in jurisprudence which I think can keep some smart lawyers busy to earn their living.

Conversely Governor Uzodinma has the rarest opportunity of ascending office as governor of Ìmo state by a proclamation of the Supreme Court unlike his predecessors who battled with endless litigation that amounted to avoidable distraction. For Uzodinma, there is no further tribunal distraction for the rest of his four years.

QUOTE:

I believe Governor Hope Uzodinma has come to establish his own legacy. It is unfortunate that Ihedioha’s government has retained the record of being the first in history not to commission a single project after eight months in the saddle despite all the lofty and flowery dream of the governor. I know that he could have done a lot better within that eight months but for some bad and “over qualified” appointees who thought they knew better and were more experienced than the governor. It was a story of dashed high expectations. Very sad. Frankly, I was shocked at level of abandonment and decadence at the Government House. Not a single room was functional or put in use. I could not recognize the beautiful structure and clean Government House environment that Governor Ohakim left behind in 2011