BY CLIFFORD NDUJIHE
AHEAD of the 2014 governorship election in Anambra State, a member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Afam Ogene (APGA, Ogbaru Federal Constituency) has dismissed as false claims by some politicians that there was no consensus that the next governor of the state should come from Anambra North, which has never produced the helmsman since the inception of the state. Regretting that only Governor Peter Obi has kept the agreement, Ogene said in this interview that Anambra North has what it takes to fight the electoral battle.
Does Anambra North have what it takes to compete with the other senatorial districts in the contest?
I come from Anambra North. Before the public sessions, the agitation for Anambra North to produce the governor reached a crescendo during the 2010 governorship elections in where all the front runners did promise the people of Anambra North that come 2014, they will support a candidate from Anambra North extraction for governorship of the state.
Today, we have people who are trying to reverse history. We know that Professor Charles Soludo, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP candidate, Prof Chris Ngige, the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN candidate, his Excellency, Mr. Peter Obi, the incumbent governor did make promises to the people of Anambra North.
But today as we speak, it is only Peter Obi that is keeping faith with that promise. He is not mincing words that it is the turn of Anambra North for governorship in 2014. And we are not asking on a beggarly note, we are saying that our quest is anchored on justice, equity and fair play.
We have capable human resources. We have people that have the resources to traverse the length and breadth of the state but because politics is a process of consensus building that is why we are appealing to our brothers from Anambra South and Central to allow good reason to prevail. If we are canvassing for rotation at the centre that there must be power shift between the North and South then it must be hypocritical for anybody in Anambra State to do otherwise.
What is your take on allegations by some APGA members that Governor Obi is responsible for the APGA crisis?
What has indicated that Peter Obi is the mastermind? He is not responsible for the crisis. Like I told you earlier, Soludo and Ngige are not of APGA but they did promise the people of Anambra North when they were campaigning in 2010 that they would support an Anambra North candidate.
So, if Mr. Peter Obi, an incumbent governor is saying that he will keep faith with the promise he made, I don’t see how that can precipitate any crisis. What I think is behind the crisis in APGA is management of substance. If you recall, APGA didn’t have anybody in the National Assembly. They had one House of Reps member sometime in 2003, but this time we have an APGA caucus, we have an APGA Senator, two governors; we have two state Houses of Assembly controlled by APGA.
When you rise from a position of nothingness to a position of something, then if you don’t manage the attendant success, you might have crisis. But I don’t see it as crisis I see it as a process, regeneration for a greater APGA. APGA is a movement; it is not just a political party, so it is bigger than any single individual in Igboland. APGA is a mass movement of Ndigbo, so if they localise the problem of APGA as it is today to the governorship of the Anambra State it will be begging the question.
What is your stand on agitation for local council autonomy?
The House of Representatives is on the same page with the Nigerian people. We have always said that the Nigerian people are our employers and we are there in the House of Representatives at their behest, to side them.
A member, Hon. Friday Usula had proposed a bill to amend the part of the constitution that dwells on local government administration. As a House, we were not happy with the current situation where we have close to 20 states that are not operating on democratic governance at the local government level and that is supposed to be the third tier of government.
So, the people are now agitating, like my local government in Ogbaru Federal Constituency, they were clearly vehement that the government at the centre should seize funds meant for the local government that are not under democratic watch, so that simply tells you that everybody is desirous to have democracy at that level.
On fears that the Niger Bridge could collapse
The Niger Bridge is the major gateway into the South-East from the West. People from the South-East and South-South all use the Niger Bridge. So the volume of traffic on the bridge gets worse every festive period like Christmas and the New Year and you expect another round during Easter. Aside the man hours that are lost, there are also increasing worries over security and safety.
If an accident occurs where you have over 1000 vehicles lined up bumper to bumper, the outcome can only be imagined. We have seen a situation where you have multiple accident of a petroleum tanker. We should not wait for such calamity to occur. People do not just lose man hours in the traffic at the Niger Bridge but increases the security risk because you cannot get to your destination the expected or estimated time.
For those of them who are driving farther than Onitsha, by the time you spend six hours on the bridge trying to get over the bridge for a journey of about 10 minutes, the meaning is that you are either going to sleep out in the open at or you take the risk of continuing your journey and be left at the mercy of kidnappers, armed robbers and spiritualists. The situation is no longer funny and because of the load on the bridge fears are increasing daily and that is a major calamity waiting to happen.
The President has said that the ground breaking of the Second Niger Bridge will be held soon; now we are not asking only for the ground-breaking ceremony but also for the construction of the bridge. Although, we hold on to that promise, recent experience on the Niger Bridge has made the calls for the Second Niger Bridge much more important than every other infrastructural project in Nigeria today. The Federal Ministry of Works should take another look at the existing bridge and ensure that stabilisation work is done by tightening bolts and knots.