By Nnamdi Ojiego
…Says “our focus is on 2015″
CHIEF Eze Duruiheoma, SAN, is the Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in Imo State. In this interview, he explains why the party challenged the outcome of the 2011 governorship election in the state, despite congratulating the winner. He also speaks on the sacking of Local Government chairmen in Imo state and his efforts to reposition the party ahead 2015 among other issues. Excerpts:
Shortly after the Independent National Electoral Commission,INEC, declared Okorocha the winner of the 2011 governorship election, PDP candidate, Ikedi Ohakim congratulated him. Why did you turn around to challenge his victory at the tribunal?
Boutros Boutros-Ghali, former Secretary-General of the United Nations once announced that he would not go for a second term but he later changed his mind and decided to contest again. When he was asked why he changed his mind, he answered: Only a fool cannot change his mind. That is only part of the point. The truth about it was that at that time, even the PDP joined in congratulating the governor.
And you will agree with me that that is a show of good faith and good faith should beget good faith. But when these things happened, the governor instead of reciprocating the good faith, the goodwill from us, took up an aggressive posture, took up a very hostile posture towards the PDP.
Is that why you went to court?
Of course we needed to let him know that it takes two to tango. If we did this to show you goodwill, you owe us something in return. But when you now proved to us that you didn’t owe us anything, we then went to court to remind him that there were irregularities during the election. So, on the one hand, that is what happened. But all that is history now.
Now that the election/court matters are done and dusted, what’s next for your party?
To settle down to play opposition politics in the state just like the governor has settled down to govern.
And you think you are a vibrant opposition to the ruling APGA?
Of course. Opposition politics calls for everything you can muster, it calls for creativeness, pro-activeness and alertness of the mind. It demands too much from you so that you are on top of every situation. I can tell you it has not been a pleasant experience.
What policies of this administration have you taken a stand on?
PDP as a party has been raising its voice against unpopular policies of the government through the media. When the government came up with the idea of relocating Imo State University to another place, the party raised its voice against the move.
We took up that matter, issued releases stating our stand. We also did the same to every other unpopular decisions of the this administration. For example, the opening of the road that causes regular congestion along Assumpta Avenue. PDP was the first group of people that condemned the decision. The opening of that road is the reason for the traffic congestion at Assumpta Avenue. Not many people noticed it before we did and so many other things.
On free education
We have repeatedly said it here that this administration is very long on promises but short in fulfillment. Take for example, the issue of free eduction. When this government came up with the idea of free education, they didn’t know what they were going into but now it is becoming obvious that they can’t achieve free education at the university level.
It is dishonesty to talk about free education at the primary and secondary school levels because, they have been always there. Free education at the primary school level has been there from the period of UBE and it has not changed. Free education at secondary school level has also been there. What may be new is university level. What our people need is not this type of free education that is being bandied about.
What we need in our tertiary institutions is investment and development in infrastructure. But because the administration does not listen to anybody except itself, it is drumming it into people’s ears that free education is achievable. Now the chips are down and the chickens have come home to roost. They are now looking for a way to reduce the number of beneficiaries and that is why admission into Imo State University, which is the only university that they have agreed to implement the free education is being controlled.
In other words, any Imo son or daughter in any other university is not good enough for free education. You must be in the Imo State University to enjoy the free education. Because they cannot control admission in these other universities except in Imo State university, that’s why they are pegging it to ridiculous 30%, can you imagine 30% admission of Imo children into their own university? I mean it’s flash point and it will create serious problem. I’m worried, everybody is worried. That’s the mother of all injustice.
On community/fourth tier government
Our position on fourth tier government has been consistent. We are oppose to it because, it is an unnecessary distraction. If you go into the law, if you read the law on this subject matter, you will wonder why anybody should sit down to think about it. Autonomous communities have always been in existence. Their town unions have also always existed. They on their own evolved their own modus operandi and also the relationship between the town unions and the traditional rulers have worked so well for communities over time. Most communities in Imo State are other than the state.
I mean before Imo state was created, these communities were functioning. They had town unions and operated smoothly and effectively. Why come now to introduce these alien ideas? Why? And the result is disharmony and unnecessary conflicts in the communities. Before ninety seventy something, when they introduced this uniform ezeship thing, most communities lived in absolute peace but as soon it was introduced, ezeship tussle now became the
other of the day. If you go to the courts, ezeship tussle accounts for 70% of cases there.
Today, because of government involvement in the way communities should be run, tussle of leadership of communities and ezeship tussle now become the major social problems confronting our people. Why? Communities should be allowed to develop at their own pace. Some communities are stronger than others. Those that are weak today may be strong tomorrow but let them do so at their own pace. But to wake up one morning to introduce a uniform style of government in every community destroying the people’s culture in the process does not follow. That is taking matters too far.
On security challenges
Well I don’t want to make the mistake the incumbent governor made. He made that mistake when he politicised the issue of insecurity. Security is a very serious matter and should not be trivialised. So I’m not prepared to blame it on him. Some other people may do that but the kind of politics that I play, I will not hold him responsible for that because, the issue of kidnapping and robbery appears to be now endemic. It is something that has been existing, he didn’t introduce it. But if he rode into power with the promise that he will eradicate all these, and today we are still saddled with them, the, that is a lesson to him and other people not to promise anything they can’t deliver.
On abandoned projects
We want to advice the governor to complete people-oriented projects began by previous administration. Nobody says he cannot complete them and put down his name on them. There is no point abandoning projects because the man who started it is your enemy or from a different party, it’s wrong. And the losers at the end of it all are Imo people. Take for instance the two fly-over bridges started by the previous administration, if he starts work there today, the cost of completing the projects will be different from their cost as at two years ago when he abandoned them. Now, who bears the responsibility of the extra cost, isn’t Imo people? And that money would have been used for other better things for the people.
Repositioning the party ahead of 2015 elections
Well, if you like and I beg you to like it, We are focusing on 2015. Our emphasis, our focus now is on 2015. What has gone has gone. Whatever may have led to what happened is now history. However, we have learnt our lesson but it is not something we can share….it is something we have internalized, something we have since understood and I can tell you that it is helping us in our present efforts to reposition the party for 2015. I can tell you that we are working so hard now to regain the confidence of every member of this party. We are also doing everything possible to ensure that members who left the party for one reason or the other return to the party before the next election.
The PDP which I head stands for justice, peace and everything good. The gospel we are preaching now is that those who will fly our banners in the next election must be ready to serve the people. They must be service-oriented people who are ready to serve the people. In the past, the issue of money used to cause a lot of problems. We will ensure that this time, our candidates spend less so as to give the people quality service in leadership. We can assure you that whomever we are going to field in 2015 must be a human being not a small god or a super human who knows it all and promises everything. The person must be humble. Humility will teach him to level with the people.
On governor Okorocha returning to the PDP
I think I have answered this question several times. It is not my decision to take. It is a general decision of the party. In fact, it will involve the national leadership. However, The governor and indeed any other person who wants to join PDP knows what to do. We don’t have to cross any bridge until we get to that bridge. So I don’t want to do with this speculation about ‘if the governor comes, if the governor comes’. If he decides to join PDP tomorrow, he knows what to do. He will join in his ward and they will spell out the guidelines and the constitution of the party for him.
Efforts to recall Imo Speaker, Uwajiogu
The Speaker, Imo State House of Assemby is not part of what I am saying here. Meanwhile, we have commenced efforts to recall him. We are in court with him and as I am talking with you, the case has reached an advanced stage even though he is going about telling people that he has not left the PDP which shows you how fraudulent he is . How can somebody, a public officer, a highly placed one at that talked from two sides of his mouth? Very soon, his seat will be declared vacant…
Yes. The party believes in zoning as a tool for equity. Haven made this statement that the party believes in zoning, the issue of which zone will take advantage of the zoning policy is a matter the PDP as a party and not me as the chairman will make pronouncement upon at the appropriate time. At the appropriate time, the party will say or do something about it.
On sacking of council bosses
The Court of Appeal has made pronouncement on that, describing the governor’s action illegal. So, that Court of Appeal decision is still valid because, it has not been set aside. Now, the governor has purported to have sacked the chairmen because according to him, their tenure is over and the chairmen are in court. As I’m talking to you now, there is an order of court in favour of the LG chairmen.
What all this will mean is that nobody should tamper with the status quo until the matter in court is resolved one way or the other. So there is no question about conducting fresh elections. Of course, are you going to conduct election when the chairmen are still deemed to be occupying their offices? Are you going to elect people who will wait for them to now finish their tenure before you swear them in? No no! Things are not done like that.