—Nothing wrong if we shift convention – Uzodimma
By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari, on Tuesday, put off a meeting with governors of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, scheduled to hold at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Although the agenda of the meeting was not made public, sources at the State House said, it was not unconnected to the party’s national convention slated for February 26.
It was gathered that some APC governors had arrived at the presidential villa, only to learn that the meeting would no longer take place.
No official reason was given for the postponement but the president’s activities for the day had been scheduled to end earlier than usual as he was meant to depart for Belgium later same day for Europe-African Union Summit taking place in the country.
It is not clear whether the cancellation was for time constraints and when the meeting may be rescheduled.
The governors that were sighted in the villa were the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) and Ekiti state governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi; Chairman of the Northern Governors Forum, Simon Lalong (Plateau), Prof Ben Ayade (Cross River), Nasir el-Rufai (Kaduna), Hope Uzodinma (Imo) and Yahaya Bello (Kogi).
Also sighted were Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omon Agege and Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives, Ahmed Wase.
It was further gathered that despite the cancellation of the meeting, the two principal officers of the National Assembly were able to have a session with the president.
The Imo State governor, who was also able to have a separate session with the President on issues concerning the state while fielding questions from State House correspondents explained that there is nothing wrong if the APC decides to shift its national convention from the February 26 scheduled date.
Asked to comment on what should be the fate of the party over its inability to agree on the zoning of offices and setting up convention subcommittees with less than two weeks to the date, Uzodimma explained: “Of course, that is the decision of the party and there is nothing wrong even if it doesn’t hold. What is important is that we must have our convention. We have said it is the 26th. If anything, for any reason tomorrow, it is not doable in the opinion of the party, we will move. But that does not mean that there is any intention to move.
“We shouldn’t worry about little issues. I think our focus and attention should be towards having a workable democracy in Nigeria, like we have shown, supporting government policies and programmes and then being patriotic. Our democracy will do better if supported with the right attitude. You may not like my face, but the federal government is the federal government, the state government is the state government.
“We should be able to exhibit a sense of nationalism and patriotism. We should be able to support a government that is in power. Today, the President, even though produced by APC, is President of all the political parties in Nigeria and the government of all the political parties in Nigeria.
“This mentality of war, war, war, politics and democracy is not about war, it’s about ideology and the ability to sell your policy and the people will buy into it.
“So, I’m confident that our party, contrary to the expectations in some quarters, will be stronger and stronger as we make progress and of course, in the nearest future, I’m very confident that APC will still be in power because the programmes are the party, the manifesto of the party, the individuals in the party, majority of the political class in Nigeria understands that APC is the party to beat and that is why they are joining day by day.”
Governor Uzodimma dismissed the fears in some quarters over the national convention, saying that the APC being the ruling party has the wherewithal to deal with any issues that may arise.
According to him, “Don’t forget that the APC is not a mushroom party, APC is a giant, it’s the largest party today in Africa and that is the party that other small parties should copy. Because small parties come to do zoning and all that does not mean their internal mechanism must be the same as that of APC.
“APC is already the party on the ground that owns the federal government of Nigeria and up to 21 state governments. So, the discretion on how and when to do their convention should be an internal party affair and APC is the one wearing the shoe, with credible leadership, they know when to move and when not to move.
“So, I think we should just watch because, under the constitution of APC, buying form is one thing. We have three modes that we can adopt to elect our officers; either by direct primaries, by indirect primaries or by consensus. What if APC has adopted consensus and is not yet to the public knowledge? We don’t need again to begin to sell forms and do that zoning or not zoning.
“We are democratic enough to know when to shoot and when not to shoot. I think you should just bring your people who have not joined APC to join the party.”
On why he was at the State House, he said, “I came in to meet with Mr President, to also brief him on the various developments in Imo State, as it has to do with security, as it has to do with governance and I had a very quality audience with Mr President.
“I used the opportunity also to make some requests that will assist us in ensuring the security situation in Imo State is stable and that the fight against banditry is also sustained so that people can go about their businesses without fear of any molestation.
“In the same manner, I also used the opportunity to request Mr President to consider locating a power generating facility in Nworie River, where we have been able to empty all the flood control systems by balloon technology and the tide has gone up, and because of the sufficient water in the river now, we can use that river to generate electricity to serve the entire Owerri Metropolis.
“Mr. President also saw that as a good idea and pleased to support it and has given anticipatory approval for us to commence with the conceptual designs.”
On the security situation in the state, Senator Uzodimma said, “We’ve made tremendous progress, we’ve been able to confront the bandits and the situation in Imo now is relatively calm. The Imo State Government has also procured some equipment for Nigerian Police and the Department of State Services to be used by Imo Command to be able to sustain our efforts in confronting the monster.
“Only last week, we’ve placed an additional order for the procurement of armoured personnel carriers to be used by Nigerian Police in the ten federal consequences of Imo State and also we are supporting them with some other equipment, particularly in the area of technology, to make their work easier for them.”
Asked what his administration was doing about making the Oguta Lake more economically viable for Imo State, he said, “As you know, the work on Oguta Port has commenced. We finished the initial hydrological studies, we’ve done the hydrographic studies, we’ve completed the conceptual design and then the seaport, the detailed engineering is being done.
“In addition to that, only last year, Mr. President approved the location of a naval base in Oguta to enhance the security situation in that place. So, it is my hope, working in partnership with the private sector, that Oguta Port will soon be a reality and if that happens, it will not only improve the economic base of the state, neighbouring states like Anambra, Nnewi, Aba markets will use that for delivery of goods.
“We have seven oil companies in Imo State, most of them, part of the challenges that have today is the evacuation of their produce, and then also the importation of the materials they use for exploration and production. So, when Oguta Port comes on stream, it will go a long way in alleviating the challenges that the oil companies face in Imo state.”