Connect with us


Igbo Have Embraced APC –Uwajimogu



Senator Benjamin Uwajimogu representing Imo North Senatorial District in the National Assembly on the platform of All Progressives Congress (APC), in this interview said that the just concluded Anambra governorship election shows that Igbo have accepted the ruling party. While congratulating the candidate of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and Governor of Anambra State, Willie Obiano for his re-election the lawmaker also congratulated the candidate of APC, Dr. Tony Nwoye for his impressive outing, saying he has improved the fortune of APC in South-East region.

What is your reaction over the just concluded Anambra governorship election?   

It was free and fair. I commend the umpire, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for job well done. Also, I thank President Muhammadu Buhari for allowing a level playing field for all the candidates. Let me also use this opportunity to congratulate Governor Willie Obiano for his victory at the poll. I want to as well congratulate the candidate of my party, APC, Dr. Tony Nwoye for his impressive outing which has resulted in the acceptance of APC in the South-East.     

2018 Appropriation Bill proposal has just been suspended by the Senators because of budget padding. Many are also of the view that the 2017 budget has not been fully implemented. What is your take? 

Government has decided to ensure that budget runs from December, to change the current system whereby budgets are passed late in the year and with increasing time for its implementation. Because of that President Muhammadu Buhari chose to present the Budget when he did and he expected both chambers to finish work on the budget and pass it before the end of December 2017 so that he can sign the budget into law by January 2018. Unfortunately when the details of the budget were presented to the lawmakers and we went through the copies of the budget we discovered some irregularities therein, so we had no option but to put it on hold until we resume next year. It is called ‘Budget of Consolidation’. Don’t forget that the budget is in excess of N8billion and the biggest budget we ever had in the history of this country. Of course, part of the problem we had with the 2017 budget is that very little of the capital project was actually executed; the execution was less than 20 per cent. But the President has given directive that the budget should be executed up to 70 per cent and the rest will be rolled over to 2018. So, for the fact that at the time the budget was presented to the joint session of the national assembly by the President, we did not see the details of the budget, we couldn’t comment so much. But having gone through it diligently there are indications that the budget will help in the social fabrics of the economy if some corrections are made. For instance, there is an additional N150million for social payment or poverty alleviation in 2018 Appropriation Bill which I believe is needed at this time.

APC has been labeled a party of excuses and for always blaming the last administration for the state of the economy, didn’t your party foresee these challenges?

Change does not mean that the economic problem of Nigeria will be over within a short time. The truth is that we inherited damaged economy because the previous administration destroyed the economy before leaving office. We all know that when the mantle of leadership was handed over to us the federal government was borrowing money to pay salaries and there was crisis in the Niger Delta, insurgency in the north-east and agitation for secession in the south-east. Our foreign reserve was N55billion when Jonathan assumed office but was whittled down to N2billion by the last administration. The economy was in a sharp decline and there were so many challenges this government had to grapple with and this government has done well to get us out of recession. So, the economic team should be commended.

This administration has continued to do the needful especially now that oil price crashed to below $40. Don’t forget that there was a time Nigeria was exporting up to 3million barrels of oil at $145 per barrel. But today it has gone down to less than 700 barrel   at $27 per barrel. Now we are in a period when the cost of production of oil is high couple with corruption and restiveness in the Niger Delta; this is the reason cost of production has gone up to $25 per barrel. So, you can see that the government has so much to grapple with. There is no way you can make a nest without breaking eggs as the government have to take very strong decisions to ensure that the economy is better. However, part of the decisions is the ban of about 48 items including rice. Some of these items we need not to import because we can produce them here in Nigeria. Formerly Nigeria used to import 700, 000 tons of rice every year but today we hardly import up to 500 tons including the ones that are smuggled into the country through land borders. Before now everything including tooth pick were imported which is not needed or required in the country. Yes, with such steps taken by government things became a bit difficult for Nigerians. I plead with Nigerians to continue to support this government because things are gradually getting better.

Out of the 109 members in the senate you are the only elected Senator from South-East on the platform of APC, how do you cope especially when you need support from your South-East colleagues during debate?

I used to be like a lone voice in the wilderness until Senator Andy Uba crossed over from PDP to APC. I’m hopeful that in 2019 more Senators will be elected on the platform of APC from the south-east.

What has been your experience as the only APC Senator from South-East?             

It has been quite challenging because I always come early to the chamber before others but like everything in life I have overcome it.

You said your party has fought corruption to a standstill, but just few days ago President Buhari promised to punish Ikoyigate culprits, isn’t the action an afterthought?

Let’s not forget that the President was out of the country that period because of his health. The incidents happened before he went on medical vacation in London. So, when he came back there must have been a whole lot of reports waiting for him to deal with. What the President did was to allow for a proper investigation to be carried out. Now that the investigation has been done properly and he just received the report and he did what every Nigerian expected him to do. Don’t forget that during that period some persons were in acting capacities in both positions of Secretary of the Government of the Federation (SGF) and National Intelligent Agency (NIA) because Babachir Lawal  and Ayo Oke were suspended as they were not on seat while investigation was on. Now, they have been found guilty and the President said they will be punished. I don’t see anything like an afterthought in this matter. The important thing is that justice has been done.

Recently South-East leaders paid a visit to President Buhari where they complained of marginalisation of the region in appointments by the APC- led government, the President made a lot of promises to Igbo including the construction of Second Niger Bridge, how can Buhari within the remaining two years fulfill these promises?

In the case of Second Niger Bridge, the government has mobilised and has approved fund for Julius Berger and work will soon commence when the money is released. In the 2018 budget about N10billion was allocated the project and construction of roads in the south-east. He reaffirmed his commitment towards the development of the region during his recent visit to the south-east. He assured leaders in the area of his government’s determination to infrastructural development of the region

Is that the major reason APC made impressive outing during the just concluded Anambra Governorship election by coming second after the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA)?   

You are absolutely correct. APC had a successful outing by coming second ahead of the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The outcome of Anambra election is an indicator that Ndigbo have finally accepted APC and a sign of endorsement of Buhari for second term in office. I can tell you that Buhari will be returned in 2019. We can’t keep on playing politics of sentiment that is against the interest of Igbo.

There are a lot of Igbo politicians and leaders who defected from other political parties to APC. The number is overwhelming. And some of them are the best 11 in Nigeria politics and the political heavyweights in the south-east. Definitely, that made great impact in the Anambra election, APC also improved on its rating in the south-east. I assure you that Governor Willie Obiano and APGA will endorse Buhari as Presidential candidate of the party in 2019. So, all hands must be on deck to pave way for president of Igbo extraction come 2023.

You once headed the reconciliation committee of aggrieved members of APC in the south-east, would you say the move has helped your party in Anambra?

Yes, we achieved so much by reconciling aggrieved members which I can say helped in the success story of APC in the Anambra governorship election.           

Many are of view that you are now in the camp of Sen. Ifeanyi Ararume ahead of the 2019 governorship race in Imo State for the struggle for power shift to Okigwe zone, have you fallen out with Governor Rochas Okorocha?          

 First of all, I’m not contesting for governorship position in Imo State in 2019. I’m not one of those being considered for governorship. Again, I’m elected to represent the interest of Okigwe zone and as long as Sen. Ifeanyi Ararume is in my party and he is running for governorship, I’m in support that Okigwe be given chance to complete its tenure of eight years in 2019. I cannot work against Ararume and that is why I’m in support of his aspiration. For now he is the only one who has shown interest in the governorship position on the platform of APC from the zone. So, he is in my party and also our leader.

How do you relate this with the desire by governors to anoint their successors, are you not concern that Okorocha may anoint a successor which may create problem for your party?

It is normal that governors have interest in who succeed them and that is the play of politics. But the truth is, the governor can bring a successor when the people are ready to vote for that person. So, you cannot deny any governor that opportunity. Like I know Governor Okorocha has not declared interest officially to support anybody and until he declares interest I cannot conclude.

Nigeria’s top youth newspaper - actively working to deliver credible news, entertainment, and empowerment to 50 million young Africans daily.