•Speaks on Buhari, 2019 elections and how Imo people rate Okorocha
By Charles Kumolu
Senator Hope Uzodimma, (PDP, Imo West) is a leading light in the National Assembly. The ranking senator is chairman, Senate Committee on Customs and Excise and Tariffs. He is also the chairman, Southern Senators’ Forum. Last year, he won the Abuja NUJ Award for Best Senator of the Year, 2017. He spoke to us in an interview in Abuja on a wide range of issues, including the ongoing debate on a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction in 2023.
For some time now you have been quiet, giving room for a lot of speculations. For instance, there is the notion that you will soon leave your party, the PDP, that is if you have not left already. If I may ask, are you still in the PDP?
You addressed me right now as a PDP senator and you’re asking me if I’m still in the PDP. I believe that if I have left the PDP, it will not be a secret. It will be known to all and sundry, including the media. So, the question is not really necessary. However, I’m sure some of you are asking the question because, you are aware of the crisis in the PDP or maybe the side I stood during the legal battle for the leadership of the party. Whichever one is the case, what I can say is that the PDP has not managed the politics of the post Supreme Court judgement very well and the conduct of the National Convention did not help matters either. So, you can see, you have a situation where, say in Imo State, my supporters are feeling unwanted in the party. They are treated like second eleven members of the party and in this kind of situation, our patience may not be so elastic it can last for ever. There must come a time when we will decide what to do and I think that may be very soon.
Can you confirm that you will be running for the governorship of Imo State come 2019?
First of all, I think it is only God who can confirm anything, because when you are in a position to confirm anything then you must be God. Confirmation means that whatever it is must happen. Secondly, I think there is nothing wrong if I aspire to be the governor of my state. But you and I know it is God that chooses kings and so we can all aspire but God enthrones. However, I can tell you that very well meaning Imo people have been making representations to me urging me to contest for governorship. I can also tell you that I am listening to them and putting everything in prayers too. At an auspicious moment, I shall, by the grace of God take a stand on the matter.
Talking of Imo State governorship, your state governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha is reported to be backing his son-in-law to succeed him in office. How do you react to that?
If what you said is correct, then I must say that such is the product of human thinking. As human beings, we are always in the habit of arrogating so much myth to ourselves, particularly when we are in power. But as I said earlier, it is only God that enthrones. As human beings we can have fantasies, or what I would call wishful thinking, or day-dreaming. It does not add or subtract from Divine will. So, the much I can say is that there is nothing wrong with fantasies. Everyone is entitled to it, but in the end I think that it is God, using Imo people, that will have the final say.
How do you rate the performance of your governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, so far?
I think Imo people are in the best position to do the rating. But as an Imo son and representative of the people, I hear them complain of hunger and poverty. They tell me that local government elections have not been held in seven years and they do not know how their funds are used. They tell me that their buildings have been demolished without compensation and their lands taken forcefully. They tell me that pensions have not been paid contrary to government propaganda and that salaries of workers are paid whimsically, without regard to civil service rules. So, when you look at the litany of woes that the people are bemoaning, then I think that the rating has already been done. And all I can say is that I stand by the people.
You have always been a champion of the need for Ndigbo to produce the president of Nigeria in 2023. What informed this position?
Every political party has zoning as a cardinal principle. All politicians are therefore agreed to the principle of rotating the presidency from the North to the South and vice versa. Now, if you check your records, you will find that since this political dispensation, the North has the Presidency at least twice. The South has had also twice. In the South, the South West produced President Obasanjo who ruled for eight years and the South South produced President Jonathan who ruled for six years. Now, the North is currently in power and is entitled to a second term which will end in 2023. After that the Presidency will naturally return to the South and when it does it certainly will come to South East, because South West and South South have already had their turn. So, I think this is a simple reality. And that is what informs my position.
But some people may accuse you of campaigning for the re-election of President Buhari, won’t that be correct?
Because Buhari is the only Northerner who will do four years if re-elected
Well, since that is the case, my answer is, why not? If they say I am campaigning for Buhari, so be it. I don’t owe any apology for that. After all, it is only logical that as an Igbo man who is clamouring for the Presidency to come to the South East in 2023, I should support the candidate who I am sure will not be standing for re-election in 2023. Why should I support another Northern candidate who will want to do another eight years and make Ndigbo wait till 2027 before producing the President of Nigeria? Yes, apart from the fact that President Buhari is good enough for re-election, he is the only Northern candidate who, if elected, must relinquish power in 2023 thereby paving the way for the South East. So, yes, I support his re-election and I think every right thinking South Easterner should do the same.
So, you will join APC to actualise the re-election of Buhari?
Well, I am not sure I must join APC to pursue the interest of my people. It is on record that political parties may adopt candidates outside their parties because it is in their best interest to do so. For instance, APGA did it for President Jonathan and I see them doing same for President Buhari. So I don’t need to join APC to pursue the noble agenda which will favour Ndigbo. But you know, in politics you never say, never! So, let us see how it goes. Time can change everything, you know.
Why is it so important for Ndigbo to provide the President of Nigeria in 2023?
You see; it is supremely important because that will assure Ndigbo that the ugly events of the civil war have been truly put behind us. If by 2023, the Presidency returns to the South and by acts of omission or commission, it eludes Ndigbo, then that will only be a confirmation that Igbos have not truly been accepted into the mainstream of Nigerian politics. As you know, in 1998, former Vice-President Dr Alex Ekwueme was coasting home with the PDP presidential ticket. It took a high level conspiracy to stop him. Many people believe that it was because he was Igbo and because of the stigma of the civil war. So, if in 2023 Igbos are stopped again, the simple conclusion will be that the rest of Nigeria do not welcome them as equal stakeholders in Project Nigeria.
Personalities, like former Governor of Kaduna State, Balarabe Musa, have indicated their support for an Igbo president in 2023, what can Ndigbo do to galvanise the views of people like that to achieve the dream. More importantly, how can they prevent a situation where a weak or unpopular Igbo president is imposed on Nigeria by a political cabal?
First of all, I think that people like Balarabe Musa should be commended for speaking out and for their patriotism. Actually, I think he even suggested that in the same way the rest of Nigeria compensated the South West with the presidency for the annulment of the June 12 election, by allowing only Yoruba candidates, in 2023, Igbos should be compensated for the civil war by allowing only Igbo candidates for the Presidency. This is a noble suggestion which should be embraced by every patriotic Nigerian. As for stopping a weak or unpopular Igbo president in 2023, I think that if the right synergy is struck between the South East and other zones before the election, that will not happen.
What qualities would you want to see in such a person that will emerge the Igbo President of Nigeria in 2023?
A: Thank you so much. This is a very good question. Permit me to refer you to my recent book, “Ndigbo, Nation Building and Project Nigeria.” In the book, you will find I dealt extensively with the quality of such a person. In one of the chapters where I talked about How to Actualize a Nigerian President of Igbo Extraction, I gave details of the qualities of such a person. But the summary is that such a person must have a Pan Nigerian world view to qualify because it is the collective collaboration of the other zones with the South East that will make the president not that of the South East alone. As Igbos, we need to start the politics now. That is why I think that the first step is to boldly support Buhari who we are sure will vacate office in 2023. So that when the time comes, we can look other zones straight in the face and say we were part of the pan Nigerian arrangement that re-elected Buhari, so you should reciprocate and support us. it will be highly counterproductive if we find ourselves outside of this pan Nigerian family in 2023