Says Ngige may not return to Senate
DR. Obiora Okonkwo, political scientist and entrepreneur is the coordinator of Anambra State Good Governance Forum (ASGGOF) and leader of Nzuko Imeobi Idemili North and South, the apex socio cultural and political organization of Idemili in Anambra Central Senatorial District, which played crucial roles in the recent Anambra governorship election.
In this interview, Okonkwo, who is Political and Economic adviser to the Archbishop of Onitsha and founder, Nigeria – Belgium Business Forum (NBBF), spoke on burning national issues and Anambra politics among others.
BY CLIFFORD NDUJIHE
HOW would you analyse the readiness of Ndigbo ahead of the 2015 elections?
There may not be a time a section can say they are prepared to grab power. We will always have competent men and women for even the office of president. But we should realize that political power is not served à la carte. The only power that is handed over without a fuss is the “power of attorney.” I am not scared about the readiness of Ndigbo to put up that fight for political power.
But we must bear in mind that the contest is usually carried out within a context. As we look ahead to 2015, the question is whether Ndigbo can realistically go into the fight for any national position? Which position will that be? It is only when the position is identified that the readiness will be assessed within the dynamics. Such dynamics include the principles of rotation and power shift, regardless of the party.
Anambra Central is the only place in the South-East where the APC has lawmakers in both the state House of Assembly and National Assembly. How would you assess the impact of APC representation especially in the National Assembly?
The impact of Senator Chris Ngige should go beyond Idemili and Anambra, knowing that he is a senator of the Federal Republic. So it is not easy assessing him in that context. But maybe expectations from his immediate constituency have not been met or maybe the expectations were too high and that is why the yearning for a change is beginning to reverberate.
The people wish for a change in the House of Representatives for several reasons. Hon. Charles Odedo might have done well in certain areas but Idemili would wish for a change.
We feel that we lost the opportunity to have credible representation and at a time stakeholders including myself met with him on this score and he explained how it took him a long time to scale the hurdles of litigation in going to the House of Representatives to regain his mandate.
He begged for an opportunity to return there for a second term and make amends. He was obliged.
But the people collectively have raised the question of zoning his seat. The federal constituency, which he represents, is made up of two major councils and the other section from the North is saying it is their turn.
I brokered that deal that he should return for a second term with the understanding that in the 2015 election, Idemili North should produce the candidate. And we believe that this is the issue the APC leader, Ngige was referring to when he said the man will not get the ticket because other people must be given a chance and this might be why he is now running back to the PDP.
I give Ngige credit for sticking to that understanding reached after very tough negotiations.
On the role played by Nzuko Imeobi during last year’s governorship election in Anambra State a rallying point for politicians in the Anambra Central
The organization is a grassroots movement, which is focused on enhancing the participation of the people of Idemili North and South, and beyond, in politics. In the last election, Nzuko Imeobi led the people of Idemili to understand that fairness, equity and justice should be the hallmark of our political development.
For that reason, we endorsed power shift to Anambra North regardless of the fact that there were candidates from our zone in Anambra Central.
We told the candidates that Anambra Central have had its fair share of political leadership at that level and for the sake of equity, it was time for things to change. The people listened and abided by that reality and in that election focused their attention on the candidates from the North in the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the ruling All Progressives People Alliance (APGA).
In the process of supporting the candidates from the North, we reminded them that we have a strong candidate in the APC (Ngige) and since APGA had not done much to attract total sympathy in the area, we were faced with a hard sell. How do we convince our people to vote APGA?
We said that having decided to give power shift a chance, we have already given PDP and APGA a 50 – 50 chance of winning. The PDP asked for only 25 per cent of the votes from the zone because they knew that they had performed woefully in the past. APGA has never had much success in the area too. In the end, we achieved what we planned.
Votes were denied a candidate in our area and the PDP and APGA benefited. The APGA team, which had shown a commitment to change the old system benefited from our good faith and support.
His assessment of Governor Willie Obiano’s performance so far
Although it is still too early to make an assessment, I dare say that the signs we are seeing are promising and they indicate better things to come. If these indications are maintained, I think we might witness a major shift in focus. The governor, if well guarded and guided will discover that ruling Anambra is not as difficult as many people have been made to believe.
Anambra is a state where we have people, whose business turnover could be higher than the monthly earnings of the government. They obviously don’t need the money from the government; they just want to be involved. In the past, communities in Anambra have built their roads, schools and hospitals and handed them over to the government. These are people who don’t know how to depend on government but if you alienate them, they will also alienate you.