By Chioma Gabriel, Deputy Editor
Isidore Uzoatu is a journalist , writer and businessman and is currently running for the House of Representatives on the platform of All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA for Onitsha North/South Federal Constituency of Anambra State. In this encounter, he answers questions on his political aspiration.
You quit journalism for full time business and writing and now you are joining politics. How come?
That’s true. Before then, I had to quit teaching for reminders. Eyebrows are only raised when politics is mentioned because whoever is in politics is aggregated with the mass of them that have no other handiwork. Personally, I believe that while practising whatever I profess, there will still be time enough to directly contribute to the development of our nation at the Federal House of Representatives through positive legislation devoid of self interest and nepotism.
Why the House of Representatives?
Because I’m a Nigerian citizen and have attained the age of thirty years – in fact I’m 48. Educationally, I have been educated up to at least School Certificate.
But one would have expected you to learn the ropes in lower positions?
Then the Constitution should have said that.
Why did you choose APGA of all the parties?
I’m contesting in APGA because it is the party I have always belonged to. Perhaps you mistake me for those who only migrated recently. I consider myself a progressive. So I had to align with like minds to see that the right things are done at the right time. APGA was a natural choice which has proved correct in all ramifications where I come from in Anambra state.
The history of electioneering in Anambra State is well known to all. Elections are held for formality sake – that is where they are held at all. Party primaries are conducted in godfathers’ kitchens and so on. So you see, no serious minded person can boast of that like you were asking. All the political experiences garnered in these times were through the back door and cannot count if we have to move this nation forward.
What of the talk that APGA in your state is contemplating the fielding of consensus candidates for the forthcoming elections?
My dear I’m not the spokesperson of the party but I can tell you here and now for the records that consensus candidacy is only a baptismal name for the enthronement of mediocrity; in fact, another subtle way of subverting democracy. APGA should be the last party to contemplate such an anomaly, the more so in Anambra State with its peculiar history. It will be tantamount to crossing a bridge and bombing it.
But there is the argument that it will solidify the party against its adversaries.
How can that be? If it would double the strength of the party, then allowing for credible primaries will quadruple it. It is like the latent talk of Option A4 over secret ballot in these days of Millennium Development Goals. These things are anachronistic maneuvers by unpopular moneybags, political scavengers who think money can buy consciences.
Are you contesting without money?
Who can? I use money to achieve set targets. For instance, if I invite people to a meeting I must give them kola. That is a norm. After all, do not forget that to qualify to run, I had to obtain and return the nomination form and you know for how much – minus the amount I spent on transport to and from Abuja. So the talk is not about whether money is spent or not but the outright ploy of purchasing votes with cash.
Back to where we were, another writer in politics, how will you fit in?
It all re-echoes in the bane of our politics that I had hinted . We do not need to have professional politicians in this country. Creative writing is not an end in itself; you have to know about something to write about it effectively. I’m a writer because of my antecedents. I have worked as a teacher, journalist and trader and all these bring to bear on my life and writing.
Therefore in politics, these will in turn come to play – in as much as I will be there with like minds who want the best for our country. This is why I have called for all to jettison the idea of leaving politicking to dropouts. We shall be the worse off for it. Of course, this can only be possible in a level playing field of free and fair elections.
Do you see this happening in this dispensation?
Why not? In fact, it should have been possible all along. The hope this time is that there is a silent revolution on. I believe even the perpetrators of these anomalies should have tired of their chicaneries by now. If after 50 years, we cannot come to our senses then we are doomed for good. Not all of us can afford to send our children to lands that did not fritter away their own chances at greatness.
Any electoral promises for your constituents?
It is the thesis of my campaign that the most important dividend of democracy possible is non-interference with the peoples’ will. So the only promise I’m making is transparency. I will represent them as effectively as possible and any benefit that accrues in the process will get to wherever it is billed. Constituency projects will be carried out to the letter with the facts available for all to verify – in accordance with the stillborn Freedom of Information Bill.
But you are not an indigene of where you are representing.
This is what makes it the more interesting. The time is ripe for our constitution to be carried out to the letter. Until a Zamfara man living in Onitsha for decades can run for elections here and be voted for on account of his qualities, we cannot genuinely talk of nationhood and all its benefits.
I have lived in Onitsha now for 17 years nonstop – more than I have ever lived anywhere else. I met and married my beautiful wife here and all my children – the one dead and three surviving – were all born here. Like a fellow poet would say, I’m bound to Onitsha by blood. So woes will betide whosoever would come between us on that account.
You speak with passion about this town…
Why wouldn’t I? Have you ever wondered why of all places , latent illiteracy and all, it is the birthplace of Nigerian literature? Is it its market – the largest in West Africa, famous all over the world? People just denigrate it out of envy. I can tell you that if there was much as an institution of higher learning in Onitsha, all its grown-up inhabitants would have been graduates.
This is where raw money is made; with cash calls in all towns filtering down to it in the long run. Yet not one bank has its regional office here. Is it our infrastructure? When all these wayfarers in indigene clothing come down from wherever to represent us, they don’t even call attention to the town and its needs.