BY DAPO AKINREFON
CHIEF Andrew Uchendu is the member representing Ikwerre/Emohua Federal Constituency, Rivers State in the House of Representatives. Uchendu, a member of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in this interview, faults the court ruling that produced Chief Felix Obuah as the chairman of the PDP in Rivers State saying that ambitious persons are responsible for the crisis in the state chapter of the party. He also denounces the suspension of 23 legislators in the state House of Assembly by the PDP and the declaration of their seats vacant. Excerpts:
THE PDP in Rivers State is engulfed in crisis. What would you say is the genesis?
As a party man, I am greatly shocked at what I have observed unfold in the once peaceful party in Rivers State, the party that is in power, both at the state and federal level. I am shocked because it should not have arisen at all, there is no reason for it.
What would you say is responsible?
I have sat back and reviewed the entire episode and again I will say I don’t know what may have led to the crisis because it should not have arisen. I would have expected some schism in the party if, during the series of party congresses, there was any disagreement with anybody along the line.
We had a peaceful ward congress, we had a peaceful local government congress and we had a peaceful, harmonious state congress. Seven to eight months down the line, we now woke up to hear that some people are in court contesting an election that was generally accepted. So, if there is any reason, it must be an unbridled ambition of somebody or some group of persons who, I may say, know what is uppermost on their mind.
You mentioned ambition as being a factor fuelling the crisis but some people in Abuja have been alleged to be masterminding the crisis. Do you agree?
Definitely some people must be pushing for this crisis in the party and I have observed from newspaper reports that certain persons have arrogated themselves as being party elders and are in support of the Felix Obuah-led executive. I have not seen them in the past four years in the affairs of the party, they never participated in anything and, to be specific, before the general elections, I know that Honourable Austin Opara was chairman of the reconciliation committee, after that, I did not see him.
For me to now see him on television saying that they are the elders of the party, I am shocked because I have never seen him after the committee which he headed. For Chief Sergeant Awuse, he is one person that has been jumping from one party to another. I am a foundation member of PDP in Rivers State, he was not there when we formed the party. So, I am shocked that people who were not there during party activities are claiming to be elders of the party. We know the elders of the party.
Are you not surprised that this crisis is coming at a time the president is believed to be at loggerheads with Governor Rotimi Amaechi?
The hawks around President Jonathan will want to fan these issues and will want to make a sing-song out of the face-off and therefore leverage on it. It is unfortunate. I want to be fair, to my understanding of the nature of the relationship between the president and the governor. I do not think there is a face-off between the president and the governor of Rivers State. There are two issues involved: governance in the state and the management of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum. I am yet to know any governor that has disassociated himself from any major pronouncement Amaechi made on behalf of the Governors’ Forum.
It is expected in a democracy that once in a while, some group of persons and indeed the Nigeria Governors’ Forum may present issues that may be in conflict with the position of the Federal Government. That is democracy and I will not think that such conflict will necessarily degenerate to personal issues that to say the governor of Rivers State is having some problem with the president.
On the other hand, as governor of Rivers State, Amaechi must protect the interest of the people of the state including lives and property. And if in the course of general governance, he believes the Federal Government has not appropriately addressed the problems in Rivers State, as governor, he must present before the Federal Government for discussion. His own is to get as much as possible for Rivers State people. If there is any interest of Rivers State that is being undermined, he has the responsibility, constitutionally; and if he fails to do that, then he has failed to uphold the oath of office he has sworn to keep.
One of the allegations levelled against the governor is that he is dictatorial.
Only those who don’t like the governor will describe him in those words and it is unfortunate. Majority of them that were given positions have exhibited unbridled rascality. The governor has conducted himself in a manner that I will think should be convincing to all and sundry that he is a man of the people.
All his programmes are people-driven. He derived all that from his background and he has the inertia of the people at heart. In the defense of the interest of the people, some of the elite will wish that the governor shares the resources of the state among them but the governor has made it abundantly clear that he never engaged in such conduct.
When people say he is arrogant, he went further to say that why would any community write him for a health centre, primary school or secondary school or water and road? He said that is his responsibility. Anybody doing that is wasting his or her time because that is the responsibility of the governor. To the uninformed, the governor is arrogant but he says there is no need dancing for him for doing his job. Does that show arrogance?
And the governor runs one of the most open system, he goes round to hold town hall meetings where he castigates his commissioner when he prevents people from asking questions. People should descend from their Olympian height and see from the prism of the governor. People’s interest matters most.