…Says Buhari’s achievement a big factor
By Chris Ochayi
Hon. Lawrence Onuchukwu is a politician of note, with a versatile knowledge in political mobilisation, especially at the grassroots level. This quality has endeared him to the warm embrace of the people of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, where he holds sway as Vice Chairman of the Abuja Municipal Area Council, AMAC.
Hon. Onuchukwu who is also the National Chairman of Association of Local Government Vice Chairmen, ALGOVC, in this interview with Vanguard in Abuja, spoke on critical issues affecting the nation and ongoing efforts by the ruling APC to take Anambra state in next year’s governorship election.
According to him, the 2021 governorship election would be a walk over for his party considering the achievements of President Muhammadu Buhari administration in the state. He also spoke on the failure of the local government administration to tame the spread of the dreaded coronavirus, at grassroots amongst sundry issues.
The number of persons infected by COVID-19 continues to rise daily across the country, what measures your colleagues at various Local government Councils in the states are taking to curb the spread of the pandemic?
As the National Chairman of all the Vice Chairmen in Nigeria, we have a platform where we all interact with ourselves and I believe from information I’m getting on ground that every politics is local, every Vice Chairman is working in all their local government to make sure that our people are been sensitized.
As you also know, a lot of our people have refused to believe that COVOD-19 is real. But for us as a government it is our responsibility to continue to talk to them and encourage them and let them know that COVID-19 is real, it’s here in Nigeria with us.
A lot of people have contacted and died from it. Like I said before, people are not doing any favour to government because it is a matter of life and death, so I expected that people should also listen to government and adhere to all protocols of government.
The issue of joint accounts still remains unresolved in spite of several efforts by the Federal Government, what is the association doing to ensure LGAs attain autonomous status?
For me as the ALGOVC National Chairman, my principle and philosophy in life is that it’s only an idiot that walks away from problem. But I will tell you that I’m actually devastated, unhappy, and also the way our states Governors have been handling this issue.
In December precisely I remember 2019, while featuring on a live interview on AIT and I said it clear, I’m not a prophet of doom but I know a day will come where we will be stuck, we will be in for trouble and that’s where we are today.
COVID-19 has exposed so many things. COVID-19 has practically exposed that the Local Government does not exist at all. And these are the government closer to the people. It is the duty of the Local Government to sensitize people, there is division of labour.
Our forefathers who put it in the constitution that there will be three tiers of government, they knew what they did but some people came and put it aside and brush away the third tier of government.
Today look at where we are, everything boils down on the local people. No Governor will come down and start going to the villages to sensitize people about COVOD-19. It is the duty of the Local Government to do so, which we are doing.
So the question you asked me, practically, it is not working whether we like it or not. I said it in December that it works in the afternoon and doesn’t work in the night and what do I mean by that?
It only works on the surface but behind the closed door no Local Government Chairman sees any money, so there’s nothing we can do, we are helpless but we will continue to shout.
You can see example of what is happening in Imo State. Governor of the Imo State, Mr. Emeka Ihedioha assumed office on May 29, 2019, the first thing he did was to sack all the elected Local Government Chairmen.
He dissolved the arm of the government that is closer to the people. Fortunately or unfortunately the, Supreme Court removed him, the next person that came in, Governor Hope Uzodinma, instead of reverting to the elected chairmen he also appointed his caretaker.
It’s so disheartening that people who are supposed to keep the law are the ones breaking the law. But I will continue to shout and say that one day the problem of Local Government will stuck every one of us and nobody will escape it, whether rich or poor.
Today, the COVID-19 has practically showed us that when trouble comes your money may not save you; your private jet may not save you.
Today who is running to anywhere, everybody including big men are stuck in Nigeria, those who are abroad are finding a way to come back home.
So what it simply means is that our duty and responsibility is to make sure that those things that give us comfort, we should try and put them together.
Few weeks ago, the Court of Appeal in Owerri gave judgement that the former elected chairmen should return back to the office. And as the National Chairman, I issued a press release applauding the judgement and the judges.
Unfortunately again, the Governor (Hope Uzodinma) who benefited from judiciary system now went back to get stay of execution.
It shows you that some people do not even have interest of the masses at heart they are just there to make whatever they can make for themselves.
Like I said, COVID-19 has opened the eyes of those who want to know or those who want to understand because what is worse than COVID-19 that has to do with the people will surround us up here and we will have no where to run to. What we are saying is that when the Local Government system is functional at the grassroots level, a lot of things will go well for us.
A Local Government Chairman will be able to make provision of infrastructure where people will care less in going to the city.
They will be in their communities and doing businesses, people will be busy in their local communities. They will have no business in coming to the city, but the governors and people in power have made it impossible for people to concentrate on their local communities.
I will tell you that Mr. President has done wonderfully well. You can see what is happening in the country. The man meant good for the country.
The truth of the matter remains that anybody who is neglecting Local Government authority is digging his own grave; COVID-19 has just showed us. The government is about the people, if there are no people, there is no government.
Appointment of caretaker Committee Chairmen is unknown to the law, but some states governors still indulge in this unconstitutional practice, what is the association doing to stop this?
Like I said in December last year during the interview with AIT, I made it clear to everybody to hear that Caretaker Committee is a conduit pipe for greedy governors to siphon resources meant for the people. It is a conduit pipe.
The state where I come from, Anambra State the man there has been there for 6 years and he has never conducted Local Government election.
So like I said if I say I’m not tired of this back and front, I will be lying to you. But like I said only a fool will walk away from problem. We will continue to do the best; we will make them to understand.
But if they don’t understand I believe one day they will understand just like COVID-19 has made them to understand. Because when you have elected chairmen, maybe during his campaign tours, he will make some promise to the people this is the reason why we are asking for elected local government chairmen.
The caretaker man has no obligation to the people, his obligation lies with the man who wakes up in the morning and appointed him as a caretaker chairman, all his obligation.
I went for election, people come to me and said you promised us that you will give us empowerment that is how elected officials act in their office. But if you are not elected who will come and ask you for anything? Because the obligation lies with the man who appointed you to the position of authority.
How do you want to handle this, especially in your home state, Anambra State?
As far as I’m concerned and mark my word, on issue that has to do with local government administration, Anambra State is a disaster. And I will say it anywhere. It is a disaster in the sense that the 21 local government Chairmen are like common Personal Assistants to the Governor of the State, Chief Willy Obiano, which is not supposed to be so.
They are supposed to be servants of the people and not to one individual. But like I used to say nobody will be a Governor for life, you will go and some other person will come. So anybody who is in government and feels that he is now a mini god, good luck to him or her. The person will come back and face the realities and issues on ground.
Next governorship election in Anambra State is just around the corner, what is the level of preparations on ground for the polls coming up in 2021?
First of all, I’m a member of All Progressive Congress, APC, and I strongly believe that APC will take over Anambra State come 2021. And I will say that we have three Senatorial Districts in Anambra State, the North, South and Central.
The North Senatorial District is finishing its second of eight years and the Central has gone through Peter Obi. Courtesy, equity, fairness and justice demand that the people from the South Senatorial District where I come from will produce the next governor of the state.
The issue of rotational, for me as an individual just like they say in Nigeria I care less of becoming the president of Nigeria. What I care for is the man who will come to power and provide amenities and infrastructure for our local communities to develop, so that our nation will be like the contemporary in abroad.
So for fairness and equity it is expected that Anambra South will produce the next governor because like I have said concerning the North and Central.
So I believe that those who have good conscience and those who want also the progress of the state should key in and ensure that Anambra South will produce the next governor.
So finishing from South it goes back to Central. It is not constitutional, but it is a gentleman agreement that after you take your turn I take my turn, that is democracy it is not constitutional. So we believe that Anambra South will produce the governor and I will tell you authoritatively, mark my words today, that the governor will come from APC.
The APC is currently facing serious leadership crisis, and many analysts believe the party may break into pieces soon, what gives the confidence APC will come out of the crisis to think of participating in Anambra 2021 gubernatorial poll?
Crisis is a component of human race or is a common thing in political parties, especially the party that holds the power at the center.
If you remember when PDP was in power there was crisis all through out even as far as going to Supreme Court. So, for us crisis doesn’t really matter what matters is eyes on the ball, Anambra is up for grab, crisis or no crisis.
But what I can tell you is that in Anambra State we have no crisis at all. Come next year we will select our candidate who will represent the party and who I know will do wonderfully well at the state level.
What are the Federal presence in Anambra State you think APC will use as campaign point?
Let me give you example, you know that for me when people say or the propagandist say that Buhari don’t like Igbos, I quite disagree with them, you no why?
And I want to say it on this public domain today, that our National Orientation Agency, NOA, is not just sleeping but snoring. What do I mean by this?
The purpose of information or the agency in every country of the world is to let people know what the government is doing that they are not aware of. Some of us who are privilege to be in power know exactly what this government has done to the people of Anambra state.
Typical example, Anambra state unlike every other state has one minister, today we have two ministers sitting at our Federal Executive Council, FEC. That is a big plus whether anybody likes it or not.
Two, before now the PDP government has been commissioning second Niger bridge on the pages of newspaper and television; today we can see the reality on ground.
Onitsha-Enugu highway is under construction.
I’m not saying they say, I’m saying it because I have gone and seen it myself, it is been reconstructed by a reputable and competent construction firm. So, I said it and I will give you the facts and figures. I’m not part of those who dwell in propaganda. So for me giving us two ministerial slots is a big plus, why is it a big plus?
The reason why government gives appointment is not for the person as an individual but for the person to work for his or her people back home. So two ministerial slots is more than enough for any serious minded minister or Individual to work for his or her people.
So, we have that. And second Niger Bridge is there for the whole world to see.
So, for me, I will praise the President that he has done well for us but I will also still appeal to him that as Anambra state governorship election is coming around, he should put interest in Anambra, Anambra is a very serious state that APC must not ignore.
Anambra state is equivalent to Lagos State. So I want to use this opportunity to appeal to Mr. President to take issue that has to with Anambra State election next year seriously. We the Igbos who know what he is doing love him and will continue to love him.
That second Niger Bridge alone is more than enough for any right thinking Igbo man to praise President Muhammadu Buhari. If you go to that project site, you will agree with what I’m telling you today.
What do you say about Governor Obiano in the area of security?
Well security is practically the function of the governor, you see one good thing about me is I’m not those who will throw the baby away with the bath water, I don’t do that.
In the area you have done well, I will praise you, in area where you have not done well I will also say you have not done well. Like I said earlier as far as Local Government administration is concerned, Anambra is a disaster.
Now you have asked me this issue of security I will give it to the governor that the governor has done wonderfully well in securing the state, which is the primary responsibility of every responsible government. The man has done well. But I can assure you that the APC government will do better come 2021 when we take over in the State.
On the issue of zoning, the PDP in the state is already contemplating of jettison the arrangement; don’t you think that would affect the chances of South Senatorial district and APC?
For me, I’m a member of APC, I’m not a member of PDP. So, whatever PDP is doing is none of my business. Politics is all about strategy.
Our strategy in APC is that our candidate will come from Anambra South and I’m sure that any right thinking Anambra man will not go and vote for anybody from the North or Central Senatorial district.
Every politics is local; this is how we play our local politics in Anambra. The next governor will come from Anambra South and APC just mark my words.
What gives you that confidence?
I have that confidence because the people are yearning for change, the PDP has tried it and have failed us. The All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, has tried their best but their best was not enough.
I believe that the Anambra people will this time around try the APC and I assure you APC will not fail Anambra State because some of us will be on board to bring ideas.
APGA is believed to be traditionally rooted in Anambra State
How did you get your statistics, those are just political talk who told you that? Anambra people are free minded people, a typical Anambra man is care less about the party, what they care is about the individual, you are going to see the brand new candidate we are going to bring in Anambra.
Come November next year which is the election, two things I tell you here, mark my word, APC will takeover Anambra and the candidate from Anambra South will emerge. Forget about propaganda APGA is not on ground in Anambra.
The governor has done well in the area of security but I can assure you that the candidate of my party that we are going to produce will do better with the support of Mr President.
I won’t name the candidate yet today but we in the APC, we are grooming him and by the time we bring him out, every Anambra man will say you have brought out a good candidate and everybody will vote for him.
So don’t be bothered about propaganda, every politics is local. So when the time comes we will hit the ground running. They are our people, we know the language to speak to them and they will follow us.