Senator Hope Uzodinma was the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Imo State in the March 9 election. In this interview with TONY AKOWE, he speaks on the outcome of the poll and rift with the out-going governor, Chief Rochas Okorocha.
Could you give an insight into the conduct of the recent governorship election in Imo State?
It is a sad situation because our people came out to vote but results that did not reflect the will of the people were declared. We campaigned, our people embraced the party and we sold our messages and because the people needed a change, they supported my candidature, they came out in enmass and voted for us. But unfortunately, the electoral umpire, for whatever reasons gave the type of declaration they gave. As a law abiding citizen, I have remained calm and approached the governorship election tribunal and I am hopeful that at the end of the day justice will be done.
People attributed the defeat APC suffered to the internal crisis within the APC in the state…
Party is about human beings. When we came into the party from the PDP, we populated the party sufficiently and majority of our people came into APC and it became the party to beat in Imo state. We have the men and women who can deliver in every election. I emerged through a keenly contested party primaries and became the candidate of our party. Both the political class in Imo, religious leaders, were unanimous in agreeing that Hope Uzodinma is the solution to the dictatorial regime of Governor Okorocha. So, they joined us to campaign and the people came out to support APC despite the sabotage by the governor. Yes, there were issues in the party, but the enthusiasm of our people to ensure that another APC-led administration is enthroned after the woeful outing of Governor Okorocha propelled them to come out and vote for the APC despite the crisis. We are hopeful that the wish of Imo people who voted massively for me will prevail at the end of the judicial process.
Governor Okorocha has boasted on several occasions that without him, there is no APC in Imo and the Southeast. How would you react to that?
I will not like to join issues with Okorocha but as we all have seen that Okorocha became the problem of APC not only in Imo state but the entire South East due to his character as a person and as a governor. He allowed his greed to supersede his sense of reasoning. He is one man who run people down to survive and that is why today karma is catching up with him. Political party is not about one man and leadership is not something that one sit in his bedroom to claim. Leadership is defined by the type of followership that you have. The governor, of course you know his current status is on suspension from the party and the APC did not just wake up overnight to suspend him. They suspended him due to various cases of anti-party activities. I have refused deliberately to join issues with the governor publicly, the reason is because I am a loyal party man. Once the leadership of the party takes decision I follow. No one man can arrogate to himself the powers of God, that without him the party will not be. The party is for all of us. That is why in Imo State we have 305 electoral wards and in those electoral wards we have party Executives. In 27 Local Governments we have party executives and at all these levels we have Executive Committees and membership. So, it will be unfair for anybody to say that without him there is no APC in the Southeast. Southeast has great men and women in the APC. If Okorocha has such powers as he is arrogating to himself, he should have also won the governorship election for his son in-law Uche Nwosu whom he sponsored. He is a man that loves attracting attention to himself and also enjoys misinforming the people with a view to score cheap political points. But his time is up. I warned Okorocha at the beginning of our struggle to liberate Imo State that he will surely leave government House on May 29, and if he likes let him appoint all members of his family into positions in the state. He thought I was joking, maybe he was thinking he is going to amend the constitution to remain in power. Okorocha never thought tomorrow will come and here we come. APC, any time any day, will win election in Imo and the Southeast without Okorocha. And I can tell you that in the next election, APC will win more states in the Southeast when people like Okorocha is out of the scene. Okorocha should actually learn from the leadership style of President Buhari and Comrade Oshiomhole to be a good leader. And I can also add that the elections in the Southeast were manipulated in favour of the PDP and I am optimistic that by the time the cases in various courts are over the popular wish of the people will emanate. The results declared in some of the states in the South East does not reflect the true wishes of the people but I am optimistic that justice will prevail at the end of the day.
Governor Okorocha has accused the National Chairman of the APC, Comrade Oshiomhole, and INEC of being behind his travails, especially the non-issuance of Certificate of Return to him. What do you have to say about that?
Let me also tell you, he is not only accusing the national chairman. In his heart, he is also accusing the Presidency, but due to his sycophancy he has not said it. He is scared, that is why he has not said it openly, because he has been accusing everybody. I don’t know where and how the National chairman will possess that kind of powers to direct INEC to cease certificate of return, decides what happens in the DSS, the police, decides what happens in INEC. Meanwhile this is a national chairman that campaigned vigorously across the length and breathe of Nigeria to ensure that the APC emerged victorious not only at the state level but also at the national level. So if he has such powers as Okorocha is saying, it means that APC would have won in the entire 774 Local Governments in Nigeria, the 36 states and the entire National Assembly seats would have been won by APC because that is the wish of every national chairman of a party that is in power. But he confined himself to the dictates of democratic norms by campaigning for his party with our presidential candidate which led to the victory of President Muhammadu Buhari and other APC candidates. I don’t want to discuss Okorocha because he is one of those who are not comfortable with the discipline that the Oshiomhole led NWC has brought to the APC. Greedy politicians like Okorocha cannot like Oshiomhole. Was Oshiomhole in Imo the day Okorocha harassed INEC returning officer to declare him winner under duress as alleged by the returning officer? The man just makes frivolous claims to draw attention to himself because he is looking for an escape route. I think something is definitely not normal with governor Okorocha going by his recent utterances in public. It gives cause for concern. No matter what he wants to say about Oshiomhole, Nigerians know the former Edo state governor as a true leader and what makes a true leader, a leader must be bold, courageous, flexible, influential, charismatic, enjoys followership and a leader must have passion for the party and the people. I can tell you every committed member of our party believes that Oshiomhole is a round peg in a round hole for our party today.
What should Nigerians expect from President Buhari’s second term?
His re-election shows the confidence Nigerians have on the President. And when a President is re-elected, it means he has done well to justify the confidence reposed on him by the electorate. All we need to do as Nigerians is to continue to support his good works. He needs the support of all Nigerians to ensure that his war against corruption is sustained. His agricultural policy is sustained. I can tell you that under the leadership of President Buhari, things will change for the better. Electricity will work, drinking water will be available, our transport system will function, we will have quality education. We need to support Mr President because he means well for Nigerians. He believes in one Nigeria and we need to ensure that under one united Nigeria, an elder statesman, like President Buhari will be supported to remove Nigeria from the woods. His anti-corruption crusade has worked. His vision for Nigeria is working. So we do hope that in the next four years Nigerians will have cause to rejoice.
The people of the Southeast are agitating for principal positions in the 9th Assembly while some Nigerians are saying they don’t deserve it since they failed to vote for the APC. What is your take on that?
Honestly, this is politics. During the campaigns, I spoke to our people at different fora and informed them that APC is the ruling party and for us as Igbos to be relevant to the Nigerian project, APC is the best route. I warned them that tomorrow, we cannot come and cry about marginalisation, if we failed to join the ruling party now. I told them that because of the impeccable records of President Buhari, that Nigerians will re-elect him for a second term, therefore the Igbos needed to be part of this moving train. We told our people to join, but some thought otherwise. However, the voting pattern in the Southeast will come out better after the various litigations in court because of the poor handling of the electoral process, particularly in the Southeast, because I knew majority voted for APC.
Having served your people as a Senator, what were your achievements?
If you go and check my records, I have many motions sponsored and passed by the senate. I sponsored many bills, some which has become laws just like the Electronic transaction bill which Mr President signed into law which makes electronic contract a valid way of transaction now in Nigeria. All my bills that I sponsored are there. I attracted several roads to my constituency, I was able to give jobs to unemployed graduates in my constituency through the assistance of various agencies and we have many of them working today. I brought rural electrification projects in my constituency. I built several town halls and rehabilitated some federal roads in my constituency through the assistance of the Federal Ministry of Works and the NDDC. So I did a lot and because of the so many things I achieved, I have received awards from Churches, communities. My passion for rural development gave me the urge to attract developmental projects to my constituency. I am putting my achievements into a document which will soon be unveiled. Infact in that book, I am called the Democratic Soldier. I am happy I was given the opportunity to serve my people, I was never declared under duress (laughter). And I am always ready to serve my people in any capacity. We will continue to serve our people to the glory of God.
There are people who also felt that the party was becoming over bearing regarding the leadership position of the 9th National Assembly…
I have been around for a very long time playing partisan politics. I am a good party man, I will not be one of those that will question the decisions of the party hierarchy. The essence of party democracy is that the party is supreme. So if the party takes a decision it is incumbent on all of us to follow and toe the line of the party because no matter where you are, House of Reps, senate or governor, you got there through the instrumentality of the party. So it is even the party that wins the election and not the candidates. So if you are saying that you don’t want to be loyal to the party, it means you are telling the party to withdraw their sponsorship. And once the party does that it means you have lost your position. So I think that the 9th National Assembly should adhere to the decision of the party and not to be disobedient to the party because constitutionally speaking, you cannot contest elections in Nigeria without the sponsorship of a political party. There is no provision for an independent candidate in our constitution. So they should all bear this in mind.
Source News Express