Senator Enyinninya Abaribe, erstwhile deputy governor of Abia State and presently the senator representing the Abia South Senatorial District is one of the major aspirants in the Abia State governorship contest. In this interview he speaks on his prospects and plans.
By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
What are the problems the next governor of Abia State will inherit from the outgoing governor?
Let me say that the challenges of development in every State in Nigeria will also be exactly the same that if you are in Abia, you will have to confront – underdevelopment, massive unemployment, infrastructure that is not up to par with what you need for a 21st century economy and then of course the basic ones of education, health, environment and agriculture.
Basically, what I think is the biggest challenge you have to face will have to do with all arising from the infrastructure, of course, you will have to deal with all the other areas that are lacking. The Governor of the State at the moment is doing certain things that we have tagged legacy projects. What we are going to do is to sustain what he has done.
One of the biggest problems in our governance structures in Nigeria has always been that a new government would always want to do something different from what the previous government has done. I don’t have that kind of ego problem of completing what another person has done without giving the person credit. By my background as a university lecturer, it’s drilled into you that when you are doing a paper, you will acknowledge the person who you are taking from his work so that you avoid the charge of plagiarism.
For your own ambition, what are the challenges you see on the way?
I have been in the field; I have done consultations at all levels; I’ve done consultations with stakeholders in the State – individually and collectively. I’ve done consultations with the party people in Abia North, Abia Central and Abia South. I come from Abia South and I have also done consultations with people at the state party level. I can tell you that I had a lot of enthusiasm from people where I went. No other aspirant in Abia has been able to traverse the State in the way that I am doing.
I’m going into the second level of consultations of doing one-on-one consultations at every local government level in the state.
How well have you represented your district in the Senate in the last eight years for you to be aspiring to another level?
What I bring to the table is not theoretical; it is something that has already been done and among all the things I have done when I was talking about exposing our people to the 21st century, we did something that was very unique which has never been done by anybody before; Aba is the key to the industrial sector in the Southeast. In Nigeria, things made in Aba used to enjoy wild patronage until we started having the twin problems of lack of physical infrastructure and the problem of power. We think that if those two things are dealt with, Aba will rise again to continue to fulfil her potential.
So, do you think you have done well in the Senate to deserve being trusted with the governorship of Abia State?
Of all the people who have been in the Senate from Abia, I think I have done more than anybody. If what you have done for your people is the criteria, then I deserve to be governor based on that and the evidence is clear. This is not evidence that is coming just out of my mouth but the evidence is pictorial and otherwise, for which we will expect that people can verify.
What are you bringing to this race that will distinguish you from your competitors?
Three things: Character, competence and integrity. All the political actors in Abia know for one thing that it’s not just enough to talk the talk. You should also be able to demonstrate by your actions the type of person that you are. I can say this without any fear of contradiction that anybody in Abia knows that if it is in terms of character, uprightness and being able to be your own person and actually work for the people of Abia, they will not find me wanting.
If it is in terms of being competent enough to do the job of governor, they will also not find me wanting because I have been at various levels and demonstrated at various times that I have the ability to run a state. For everybody who is a governor, your word is your bond. We have also had the unfortunate situation of having had a governor in Abia who will say one thing today and tomorrow will do exactly the opposite. That will never be me and that is why when I meet with Abians, they agree that this is the sort of person that is needed at this time of our national development.
Which governor ? Is it the incumbent governor or the one before him?
It’s not the incumbent governor.
You are seen as too independent, don’t you think that could dissuade you from getting the governor’s support?
Let me say this very unequivocally that at the time we heard some people making claims of being anointed or so by the Governor, I contacted the governor. I called a meeting of Abia South Senatorial zone, being a political leader of the area and we needed to deal with that matter. The governor told me that I should please tell the people when I meet with them that he has never anointed anybody and that he didn’t have any intention of anointing anybody. Subsequently, the government of Abia also went on air and disowned any such statement.
Also recently when the governor swore in the transition Chairman, he made the same statement and said he was not going to influence anybody; that what he is going to do is to ensure that the field is made in such a way that everybody will have an equal chance of being able to emerge as governor and he said it very clearly that the person who will become governor will be made by three persons – the first person will be God himself because everything that we do as human beings, its only when God wills it; secondly, that he himself as the incumbent will also have a say on how the process is done; thirdly is the party apparatus, that is those within the party who will eventually be the delegates to the Congresses that will bring out the nominee.
Abia PDP chieftains have in the past been accused of finding it difficult to work together. Will it be different this time?
I think that matter has already been settled and dealt with by the incumbent governor, Governor T.A Orji. Since 2010 when he came back into PDP, he has been able to wield everybody together; he has been able to bring the different factions of PDP together. So, what we have seen really is that that syndrome of disunity has actually been permanently buried by the way that Governor Orji has handled everybody. Let me tell you that between 2003 and 2010, for example, several of us never went to Umuahia, not to talk of going to Government House in Umuahia, even though we were senior members of the party; even though somebody like me was senator in 2007; we never went there because of the way the previous incumbent scattered everybody.