As the Chairman of APGA in Enugu State and senatorial candidate for Enugu West, how do you feel about the twin roles?
I feel very privileged. They both fit into my desire to serve and try to improve the lots of our people. Moreover, my experience as chairman is part of what has prepared me for the task of representing my senatorial zone. I live with the communities and I understand and feel their pains.
Moreover, my singular objective is to deliver APGA candidates, who will reverse the deterioration in public service characterised by the last seven and half years of poor governance in the state.
Enugu State has been noted for its religious observation of zoning into political offices. Is that a compliment or an apology for mediocrity?
If what you are trying to say is that we have had governors from each of the three senatorial zones; yes, we have. But has it translated to any good? Absolutely no! Governance is about capacity, vision, empathy, leadership, courage etc. It has nothing to do with where a person comes from. It is the absence of vision and leadership that has made it possible for the divide-and-rule leaders to use zoning as a strategy to give power to friends, business associates and family members.
How come your senatorial district does not abide by that power rotation arrangement?
There is no tenure for senators. As long as the people desire and vote for you, there is no legal restriction to your running. The usual clamour for change is because of poor representation, lack of vision and a skewed implementation of intervention and policy decisions. Once we have representatives who see beyond tribe, religion, community, family and friends and work towards the improvement of the whole constituency, talk about zoning will die a natural death.
Some people say that was possible because PDP is the dominant party in the state.
There is a party in power from years of faulty elections. The voice of the people has never been heard. Parties dominate by good performance, which improves the lives of the governed. The Peoples Democratic Party in Enugu has done exactly the opposite. Primary school teachers and civil servants go on strike, pensions and gratuities are not paid, everywhere is filled with filth, insecurity is worsening, no water, roads are in disrepair, and businesses are going under due to the stress of over-taxation and broken infrastructure. It has never been this bad.
I expect Enugu to protest with their votes next month. Enough is enough.
The only time your party, APGA, appeared very competitive in an election in Enugu was about 20 years ago. Can you rate the party’s chances this time around?
Political parties keep evolving with all the strategic and human challenges of Enugu’s peculiar anti-opposition environment. We are where we are and it is in a good place.
We have competed in the last two local council elections. Although results were pre-written and pre-determined by the state government and their electoral agency, everywhere voting took place, the people supported us. We were the only party that conducted competitive free and fair primaries in Enugu, with five candidates, who had excelled in different areas of personal endeavour.
Today, we have a former minister and former director-general of the Nigeria Economic Summit Group, Frank Nweke Jnr, as our governorship candidate. This is a man who has excelled in all the public positions he has held, and who has never been linked with corruption, stealing or abuse of office. He is the only person running on his track record of integrity, courage and accountability in leadership. We also have quality candidates of integrity, like me, running for other positions. Go around; the message from the people is “enough is enough”.
The PDP has wasted 24 years of opportunities. On the street, the only area where people are talking about supporting another party outside APGA is the presidency, where a lot of young people support Peter Obi, who, by the way, is presenting a scorecard of service under APGA.
What specific legislative agenda do you intend to pursue in the Senate?
A major obvious challenge we have is insecurity. Nothing can function in an environment of insecurity. I believe in multi-level policing. While the long-term goal would be constitutional changes to enable state and community policing, we need to immediately use legislation to resource, orientate, train, equip and motivate the various policing units at play.
Our people also need to work and earn a decent living. Agriculture is the sector that will create jobs, feed the nation, drive exports and revamp the economy. We must use legislation to direct, support and encourage massive investment in commercial agriculture and the various value chains. Legislation should also direct infrastructure towards enabling and supporting agriculture.
My senatorial zone is a hub that connects all the South East states. It is also a link between the North and South of Nigeria. The right investment and policies can energise my senatorial zone into becoming a transport, warehousing, manufacturing, technology, tourism and agricultural hub. A hub can only work with free and good access. We will pursue the immediate repair and reconstruction of the Ninth Mile/Opi, Enugu/Onitsha and Enugu/PH expressways. This is a top priority because the advancement of our senatorial zone depends on it.
We will vigorously pursue an improvement of our laws to enable the death penalty for official corruption. It is an antidote for cutting the cost of governance, improving public sector expenditure performance and encouraging citizens to support government initiatives and pay taxes. For this to work, rule of law, as well as the independence and efficiency of the judiciary must be pursued. We must also pursue policies that will promote community health insurance, as well as improve our educational and youth structure.
Beyond some of these, I will be representing Enugu West. Continuous engagement with my constituents will determine the specific focus of my legislative agenda, lobbying, interventions and oversight interventions
How do you think Nigeria’s electoral system could be made more transparent and less capital-intensive?
To restore confidence in the political class, their people must see good governance to be able. We must ensure that the votes count, so that the people will recognise their power to determine their representatives and their future.
Do you have the financial muscle to compete for votes with the other two big parties, the All Progressives Congress and Peoples Democratic Party?
Competing for votes requires the ability to understand the people’s problems and present a plan they would buy into. Those who talk about financial muscle and structure live in the old cocoon of election riggers. Money is important, but people have also realised that the more you spend to get elected, the more difficult it is to manage the scarce resources in their interest. A man, who spends billions on billboards alone, will try and recover that money when he gets elected. Moreover, the people you mentioned in PDP and APC, where did they get the money they spend? A lot of them are wrapped in various corruption charges and spend stolen money to get elected. That vicious cycle must stop. Enough is enough
How can vote-buying be curbed?
It can be curbed through education and public enlightenment. However, as long as the people do not see good governance and fail to restore trust in the political system, it may be difficult to curb
Are you comfortable with the Electoral Act 2022, particularly its ability to checkmate rigging?
It is what it is, and it is what we will use for the next election. The Independent National Electoral Commission needs everyone’s support to deliver on the mandate. When we resume in the next assembly, we would be looking at how to continuously improve the electoral process, so that it will be free, fair and reliable.
Does INEC’s state of preparedness give you confidence that it would deliver a credible and transparent election?
There are good and clear signs of seriousness from INEC. They require our support, sacrifice and commitment. INEC alone cannot deliver credible elections. The security agencies, the government at various levels, the political parties and the politicians must show patriotism and commit to doing what is required to deliver good elections.
Sacrifice is what is missing in our polity. If we desire good elections, we must sacrifice personal interests for national glory.
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