Mr.Emmanuel Okwu is the President General, Imo Awareness Coalition, a political study group with its objectives driven by passionate desire to promote and enthrone good governance in the South East and the nation at large. He spoke to RALPH EJIMKONYE, innonews.com.ng ABUJA Correspondent on governance in Imo State, the quest for Igbo to produce Nigeria’s President in 2023 and other issues of national interest.
May We Know You Briefly?
I m Mr.Emmanuel Okwu, a lawyer, an activist and leader of Imo Awareness Coalition. We are affiliated to many pro- Igbo socio political associations.But as the name implies, the Imo Awareness Coalition, we are committed to ensuring good governance, responsible leadership in Imo State and by extension, the South East.Our membership is broad, you must not be a politician to be a member, we have many professionals in our fold who are our members and they are deeply concerned on how our State would move forward and at the same time promote Igbo interest within the context of ongoing political developments in the country.
Let us begin with your home State, Imo. How would you asses the present government in the last 100 days in addition to brewing political tension between Governor Emeka Ihedioha and his predecessor, Rochas Okorocha?
There is no tension in Imo State. We have carefully evaluated and analyzed the situation and we came to the conclusion that there is no tension. None at all. There is a new government in place which has started very well. By our assessment, we believe the Governor, Hon.Emeka Ihedioha, is living up to expectation. Our analysis and perception is based on what we have heard and seen from the new government.
Based on the condition of the State before now, I can say the Governor is taking his time itemizing and laying out his plans and vision for Imo State.There is a work- plan on ground.And it is all about rebuilding the State which is the unique selling points of the Governor.We have seen greater commitment on his part to make Imo anew, there is focus on rebuilding infrastructure such as roads, reviving education which is getting due attention and the local governments which were inactive in the past are working again. It will be premature to pass judgement on a government that is barely 100 days old in office. But we in the Coalition are satisfied with Governor Ihedioha and his plans for the State. There is restoration of real governance.If you understand the state of Imo before now, you will agree with me there is a clear roadmap initiated by the present government which will place Imo State on the pedestal of rapid development, economic re armament and stability.
Are you saying the coalition is satisfied with the pace of work of Governor Ihedioha?
Yes we are. We have a clear sight of the status of Imo State before now. Nothing was working and we saw what I will describe as unconventional governance which is alien to democracy and modern governance in the last eight years.There is this consensus that Imo State never had it so good in the past. And when you fall into a ditch unknowingly, the first thing to do is to seek ways of rescuing yourself.Governor Ihedioha has shown that he is not oblivious of the fact that so much needs to be done to get things right in Imo State. We had done our quiet investigation to know exactly if the State was in ruins before he came on board as Governor. And I must tell you, the revelations were quite shocking. This is why we in the Coalition believe the Governor needs all the time to get things work again in our State.
Things Like What?
Infrastructure. The roads in Owerri are near impassable.Almost all sectors in the State suffered. Little or nothing was done to at least provide a basic necessity of life for the people such as water. The taps in Owerri were dry for more than 10 years.That was unthinkable. That in this modern time, the entire State had no drinkable water. But all that has changed recently. The taps now flow with water. There is an ambitious plan to build roads in the 27 local governments across the State under the Rural Access and Mobility project, RAMP in conjunction with the World Bank.Roads are like arteries that boost economic development. And it is a welcome development that the State is being opened up to local and foreign investors. I read the other day that workers are now receiving 100 percent of their salaries and you can imagine that in the last eight years, the State Secretariat had no power supply for seven years. And you ask yourself how do you expect workers to give in their best when there is no power supply at the Secretariat?
Some accuse Governor Ihedioha of witch hunting former Governor Rochas Okorocha.Even the ex Governor had publicly said Ihedioha wants to make nonsense of his reign as Governor of the State for eight years?
I think Governor Ihedioha is overwhelmed with the rot he met on ground and he can’t just sweep it under the carpet. There are certain things you see and you cannot afford to keep quite.
Do you subscribe to allegations by the present government that the past govt In Imo failed?
It is not a matter of subscribing to allegations made against the past government. It’s about what was the condition of the State and the people when Okorocha was Governor and now he has left. That is the crux of the matter. Let the people make their assessment themselves and judge. If the State was okay then, why is the present government going through pains to reset things alright. There was nothing to build on or consolidate on and that is why there is a rebuilding process, to rebuild and repair a State which was in ruins for a long time.
There is a school of thought that says if Governor Ihedioha is so busy rebuilding the State, he will not have all the time going after his predecessor?
You cannot ignore the past and expect to have a bright future. There was a government in place before the present one. For a new government to suceed there must be need to look back and know exactly how to move forward. I think that is the scenario we have now.
Let’s move over to the South East, the Governors met and came up with measures to curb the activities of herdsmen in the region. What’s your take on that?
There is so much insecurity in the South East. We in the IAC supported the fresh moves of the Governors. And we still support them. We must protect the region. We cannot continue to allow the South East to remain prone to attacks. And I think it was a wise move for the Governor to take proactive measures to contain the activities of the herdsmen until the Federal Government takes far reaching measures to checkmate some of their activities which are really disturbing.
The South East is eying the Presidency in 2023. Any hope for it to come to reality?
I do not see why we should be hopeless about it. It’s our turn before God and before man to produce a President in 2023. How we go about it is very important. It has to be through constructive engagement. Our leaders should be proactive about it. We need the North for it to succeed. We cannot go it alone. We must talk to other ethnic groups. Make them see reason with us and aid us realize it particularly the North. We must align with the North if a Nigerian President of Igbo extraction will be realized.
The South West has also indicated interest in the position as well?
Their intentions are misplaced. No other zone is morally justified to lay claim to the Presidency in 2023 except the Igbo. It is very clear. The South West did 8 years with Obasanjo, The North by the time you join Yar’Adua’s two years and Buhari’s eight years in 2023 would have done 10 years. South South had six years with Jonathan.So what about South East, none. If we say Nigeria is for all of us, then the South East must be supported by others to produce a President in 2023.
The APC, the ruling party, seems not to believe in zoning judging from how it shared leadership positions after the 2019 elections. No one from the South East holds any of the Executive and legislative positions in the country. Is it not a sign that the South East may not clinch the Presidency in 2023 under the APC?
It is evident that the South East is not wanted in the APC. It is so clear.The signs are there. The exclusion of the South East in leadership positions in the country is very clear even to the blind. We cannot allow ourselves be fooled again.
Are you saying Igbo should foreclose the thought of using the APC to realize its presidential intention in 2023?
I do not need to say it. It is very clear. From the number one to the number 10th leadership position in the country, no Igbo occupies any position. In the Executive, the legislature, the security apparatus, the civil service, the South East is nowhere. And we never saw this during the period the PDP was in power. Federal character has been thrown to the wind. This is very worrisome. If we cannot produce even a common SGF, is it a Nigerian President of Igbo extraction in 2023 that will be possible in 2023 under the APC?
Could it be because the South East never voted for the APC in 2015 and 2019 elections, that is why they are not getting key positions in the APC led Federal Government?
That argument is not tenable. This is a country of diverse ethnic nationalities. You need not show it on our face that because we never voted for you, you tell us to go to hell. No responsible government behaves that way. Government should not segregate at all. This is very clear. When Obasanjo was President under the PDP, he still went ahead and gave key positions to the South West which was dominantly AD. After all, there are APC members in the South East who believe in the party. How do you help them market the party in the region when you do nothing for the people, when the segregation is just to clear. If we did not vote for you now, convince us to vote for you the next time. That is politics. You don’t t expect me to believe you when you keep on pushing me away and you expect me to embrace you. The South West never voted for Obasanjo because they never liked the PDP at that time. They embraced the AD. By the time Obasanjo wanted a second term, he had done a lot of work to convince the South West to leave the AD and join the PDP and it worked.
Don’t you think the agitations by IPOB is also contributing to the neglect of the South East ?
Are there no movements like the IPOB in the South West? What about the OPC?
But they are not pronounced and active like the IPOB?
But they exist. Don’t they? Why has the South West not been segregated by the APC because of that.
But the South East has benefited from President Buhari’s government despite the fact they never voted for him in 2015 and 2019? But he has continued to build infrastructure in the zone such as the second Niger Bridge
Yes I agree with you. but those infrastructure you talk about are also in the North and the South West. Across the country. The roads that are being built across the country, some zones benefited more that the South East as well.
“This is a country of diverse ethnic nationalities. You need not show it on our face that because we never voted for you, you tell us to go to hell. No responsible government behaves that way. Government should not segregate at all. This is very clear. When Obasanjo was President under the PDP, he still went ahead and gave key positions to the South West which was dominantly AD. After all, there are APC members in the South East who believe in the party. How do you help them market the party in the region when you do nothing for the people, when the segregation is just to clear. If we did not vote for you, convince us to vote for you the next time.That is politics”