Mr. Austine Chukwukere represents Ideato North and South Federal Constituency of Imo State in the House of Representatives on the platform of the All Progressives Congress, APC. In this interview, he faults the plot by some members of the APC leadership to exclude the South-East zone from sharing of principal offices in the National Assembly. Excerpts:
By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
On fears that the House of Representatives crisis will continue when it resumes next week
I want to believe that before the House resumes, these issues will be solved. I just hope and pray the issues will be solved before we resume.
How will it be resolved when the leadership of your party, the APC excluded two geopolitical zones in the sharing of principal offices?
I don’t think that the party has excluded the South-East. The party has not made its position known with reference to zoning in this issue. There is no official party position with regard to principal officers of the National Assembly.
If anybody is brandishing a letter purportedly written by the party, I don’t think it is from the same APC we belong to because as far as I am concerned, the party has not taken any decision on these issues.
The letter to the Speaker with names of nominees for principal officers position was written by the National Chairman of the APC which perhaps authenticates it, are you not worried that judging from the letter, your zone has been excluded?
I believe we have not been excluded. Like I said, the party has not taken any decision.
That the chairman sent a letter to whoever in the National Assembly, might be that the chairman was just thinking aloud, that is his personal opinion. That it came on the letter headed paper of the party is a different thing. But as far as I am concerned, there is no party position on that issue.
Anybody who is thinking that the Southeast will be excluded in the affairs of this nation or in the sharing of positions in the National Assembly is making a grave mistake. It is a grave mistake that must be corrected and should never be allowed to stand anywhere. The first reason is that South-East is a veritable part of the Nigeria project and the South-East has shed blood for Nigeria to stand. The South-East can never be swept aside on any issue that concerns Nigeria.
You should also note that the South-East played a significant role in ensuring that President Muhammadu Buhari emerged as president because if South-East APC did not play its role adequately, there is no way we will be talking of President Buhari as the president of Nigeria today.
So, I still believe that APC should encourage the South-East to come fully on its stake and do what is needful. So, anybody thinking that we from South-East should be swept aside because we are only two is making a big mistake and that is not politics.
What was it like being an APC candidate during the elections?
You know the South-East was one of the strongholds of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. Some of us, who carried the APC message to the South-East were tagged as people who didn’t know what they were saying. Our opponents in PDP used all kinds of campaign of calumny against us that we were Boko Haram, that APC was Boko Haram, etc. They tried to convince and confuse people not to believe us, but we kept pushing and telling people that APC is not Boko Haram, that Boko Haram is a terrorist outfit and a creation of the hardship caused by the PDP.
Your constituents recently presented myriads of problems facing them, how are you going to tackle the problems?
I can tell you the South-East has been neglected over the years by the Federal Government. We have been suffering a lot of neglect and this is why some of our constituents said we want to send you, go there and talk about these neglects and ensure that Nigerians listen and come to our aid. Our people are suffering in the South-East. We are suffering in terms of erosion, general ecological issues, bad roads and lack of amenities like water and power supply.
This is not good and those are the things they talked about and I sympathise with them because I also feel the same heat. What I am going to do and what I will do even include calling on the National Assembly and the Federal Government to do everything possible to save my constituents, who are suffering.