KWENU: Our Culture, Our Future
"Ojukwu did not do anything wrong."
The interview with Deputy Governor Ebere Udeagu
Thursday, November 11, 2004
ďOjukwu did not do anything wrong,Ē says the deputy governor of Imo State, Nigeria, Engineer Ebere Udeagu who was in Texas few days ago. He granted an interview to PHILIP ODOEMENA, Media & Information Director for the World Igbo Congress (WIC)
Odoemena: The PDP was accused of all kinds of electoral fraud, including rigging during the 2003 general elections. What is your take on that?
Deputy Governor: The word rigging in elections in Nigeria is a word you will not run away from. There is no election in Nigeria that people would not complain that it has been rigged. If you win an election in Nigeria, they will say that you rigged the election. If you lose the election, they will say you did not rig the election.
One thing you have to know is that PDP did a very good job prior to the Election Day. PDP was the only party that campaigned vigorously for the elections. I know that they campaigned throughout the 27 local government areas in Imo State. Other parties were not seen anywhere campaigning. PDP worked hard and the results manifested. There was no such thing as rigging during the elections.
Odoemena: Were Nigerians & the foreign agents that monitored the elections wrong by saying that the elections were rigged?
Deputy Governor: Let us start with the International bodies that came to monitor the elections. Prior to the Election Day, about three members of the international bodies came to my office. I told them that within the 27 local government areas in Imo State, there were about 4000 booths and that it will take them about six months to cover all the 4000 booths. So they were not even prepared to monitor the elections. They were so ill equipped. I have no idea where they monitored. Imagine three people coming to monitor elections in 27 local government areas with 4000 booths.
Odoemena: The issue is not how many booths or local government areas that Imo State has. The issue is that the Nigerian public and the international agencies reported that the elections were rigged. Tell me Deputy Governor, what part did you play in the rigging of the 2003 elections.
Deputy Governor: I have already answered all about the Nigerian public. Whenever you win elections, they will say that it was rigged. Take for instance, (rtd. General) Buhari never came to Imo State to campaign, how do you expect Imo people to vote. Are they going to vote for someone who did not campaign to them?
Odoemena: Did you in any way partake in any fraudulent electoral practices during the 2003 elections?
Deputy Governor: Not at all. The elections were fair and transparent, at least in Imo State. I was not in other States.
Odoemena: The governor and his deputy are into their second term. How is the current term different from the first term?
Deputy Governor: The first term is a learning process. In the current term, we are implementing what we have already learned. After four years of apprenticeship, we are executing what we have learned.
Odoemena: Any significant improvements or achievements in the areas of economic development, infrastructure, and the welfare of citizens of Imo State?
Deputy Governor: Yes, there are remarkable improvements out there. The evidence of democracy is there for all to see. In our first term we were struggling to insure that all abandoned projects, all ill maintained roads are addressed. If you are not aware of how things were prior to 1999, you will not appreciate what I am saying. Roads in Imo State are now motorable except for federal roads. Imo State University is rated the best University in Nigeria. In education, we have done very well.
The teaching hospital in Owerri is the beneficiary of medical equipments that were donated by Imolites in USA. We are working to insure that the teaching hospital would be a center of excellence. If the governor (Governor Udenwa) hadnít taken the tour of United States, the hospital couldnít have benefited from these generous donations from Imolites in USA. In the agricultural sector, we have not done too badly. We have three-prong programs of agriculture. The governor is pursuing the programs seriously and has been working to ensure their success.
Odoemena: Recently, you did not have a kind word for the Federal House Committee in charge of Water Resources. Please tell me what happened.
Deputy Governor: It is still too early to comment on the outcome of my interaction with them. When the House of Representatives Committee on Water Resources visited my office, I didn't have to pretend. The committee said they came to inspect what the federal government has done with their budget. They came specifically for the federal governmentís project on water resources. I told them that there is no point deceiving them selves. There is water project at Okigwe in which the federal government is supposed to be executing. The contractor has completed over 85% of the project over one year ago.
The federal government owed over 140 million Naira to the contractor. The federal government in its 2004 budget allocated only 50 million Naira to the project. This amount is not sufficient to pay the contractor as well as completing the project. That goes to tell you that they are not serious about the project. All indications are pointing towards the intent of the federal government to abandon the project. I also used that opportunity to tell them about the road projects and other federal contracts, none of which has been completed. With all these explanations, do you think that the federal government is serious with its projects? Tell me Philip if they are serious.
Odoemena: You tell me Deputy Governor. What do you think they will do based on your confrontation with them?
Deputy Governor: They are not serious. That was why I reacted the way I did. It would have been disingenuous if I didnít point these things out to them. Let us wait and see their reaction to my complaint.
Odoemena: Youíre planning on contesting for the Imo State gubernatorial election in 2007, how are you preparing for it?
Deputy Governor: If I tell you that I would not be contesting, I would be deceiving myself. Having said that, the party decides who carries the flag, however, I am preparing for the 2007 by working very hard in my current mandate. We are still in the 2nd year of our 2nd. Term. All I am doing now is to work hard in order not to disappoint Imolites. If I abandon my current mandate and hoping for 2007, it will come to hunt me in 2007.
Odoemena: You still havenít told me whether or not you are contesting in 2007 for the governorship of Imo State.
Deputy Governor: Doesnít it look natural having served the people for 6 years and going to the 8th year. Does it not look natural that I should contest in order to maintain the continuity of the programs that we have been embarking on?
Odoemena: Are you going to be a candidate for the gubernatorial election in Imo State in 2007?
Deputy Governor: Yes. God on my side, I am going to contest.
Odoemena: Political killings are rampant in Nigeria, including Imo State. Would you purse your political ambitions at all cost?
Deputy Governor: Killings or no killings, there is no election that comes easy. I condemn political killings anytime. It does not make sense because you want to serve your people then you go about killing. It is very shameful. We must all condemn that act with all ramifications. I know that one must fight to get power, but not to the extent of killing or injuring somebody. It is shameful.
I am already into politics; political killings will not be a reason to shy away from politics. I will not be a part to political killings. I donít have to kill to be in power. Therefore, political killings are not going to stop me from pursuing my political ambition.
Odoemena: You belong to PDP. Majority of Nigerians are not satisfied with the partyís performance. Are you proud of your party?
Deputy Governor: The issue is that I am of PDP, however, it is not only members of PDP that is administering Nigeria. The president (Olusegun Obasanjo) is not the only politician administering Nigeria. You will agree with me that the current minister of finance (Okonji-Iweala) is not a politician. She was recruited from the World Bank to serve her nation. The problem with the economy is not with the politicians, in Nigeria, everyone wants the short cut. They are more interested in 419 and how to make quick money.
Why canít Nigerians observe and keep the rules and regulations. The contractor wants to short change the government, the man on the street wants to be a millionaire at all cost. What do you expect the president to do? He has to award contracts, if the contractors are not performing, you donít blame the President. Be it PDP or any other party, it will still be the same. The only thing that we are praying is for Nigerians to change their attitude. The moment Nigeria changes, such change of attitude will help us use our natural and human resources, to make Nigeria the best (country).
Odoemena: What are the governments (federal, state, local) doing to create jobs for the unemployed Nigerians?
Deputy Governor: In Imo State, we have a three prong programs in the agricultural sector. We can attract industries in Imo State with these programs. If the people can be orientated to do things right, I am sure we will do wonderful things. We have introduced in Imo State what we saw in Port Novo, we call it Sungai Project. It is an agricultural outfit located at Nekedi.
We are asking our youths to learn the trade from the Sungai project and stop depending on white-collar jobs that are not available now. There are other projects also; we are considering rice and cassava farming, as well as, palm plantation. We have also gone to rehabilitate cocoa farms. We have also discovered that Imo is a good place to plant coffee. In the industrial sector also, the Israelis have been invited to Imo State, as it is now, the initial investment in their project will be $17 million. It is a gigantic project.
Odoemena: Igbo Presidency. Should Ndi-Igbo embark on this project again in 2007?
Deputy Governor: I would say that Igbo presidency is possible. Nigerians are human beings. I think what the Igbos are saying is, do not refer to the Igbos as conquered people after over 30 years of the end of civil war. Since 1970, the highest political position the Igbos has held is that of the vice presidency, that is not fair enough. I am not jealous of the Northerners or the Westerners, they have served and tried for this country, but the fact remains that they have not served nor tried more than the Igbos.
There is no part of this country that the Igbos has not been part of its development. They were a party to the development of Lagos, Kaduna, Kano and others cities. Check out Abuja and you will find out that the Igbos undertakes the core development activities, except those undertaking by the federal government. Take a statistical data of the hotels at Abuja, you will agree with what I am saying. Since the Igbos are doing well in all areas, they will also do very well in the presidency of this country.
Odoemena: Is it fair to say that some of the major reasons Ndi-Igbo failed in this project in 2003 were attributed to Ndi-Igbo themselves?
Deputy Governor: Yes, we are our own problems. I think time has come when the Igboman should do a re-think and decide on the way forward. In the last election, majority of Northerners allowed Buhari alone to run from the North, the same thing for Obasanjo from the West. In the South East geopolitical zone, we had about seven or more presidential candidates thereby making a mockery of the whole project.
That is why we are saying that this time around, if you are coming out and serious about it, let us know about it. By the time Ndi-Igbo assesses those candidates that are interested and choose the right candidate with the blessing of all Igbos, then we can begin to lobby other parts of Nigeria for support. That is the only way we can succeed in this project. I agree with you that the problem in this project lies
with the Igbos.
Odoemena: Recently, there was a report that your boss, Governor Udenwa is preparing to run for the president of Nigeria. Has he told you about it?
Deputy Governor: Just like you asked me earlier if I plan to run for the governor of Imo State. Let me tell you this, even Atiku who is the vice president to President Obasanjo up to this moment has not made public pronouncement whether or not he is running.
Odoemena: Sir, I am not asking you about Atiku. I am asking you about Governor Achilike Udenwa, your boss.
Deputy Governor: You see Babangida has nothing at stake. He is independent and can pronounce his candidacy at will. but Atiku and Udenwa are still serving the people, therefore they have to consider many things and weigh their options carefully. We are still in our second term, the governor will not at this time tell me that he is running for the Igbo presidency in 2007. He has not told me. However, if youíre asking me if the governor can serve this country well, my answer would be yes because the young man has a lot of visions.
Odoemena: You told me earlier that you plan to run for the governorship of Imo State. Is Governor Udenwa supporting your candidacy?
Deputy Governor: How would I answer that, am I inside him? I cannot assume whether or not he would support me. I donít enter into assumptions. You see Philip, this is politics, if I say yes today and tomorrow if there is a cause for the governor and I to disagree you (media) will start quoting me that I said this and I am doing this. Time will take care of that. When we get to the bridge, we cross it.
Odoemena: General Ojukwu and the SSS saga. What are your thoughts?
Deputy Governor: Ojukwu is a prominent son of Nigeria. He made a statement because of what MASSOB did. There is no reason why he should be embraced. I do not think Ojukwu has done anything wrong. The only difference is that MASSOB is answering a funny name; otherwise there is no reason why anybody should be after them. MASSOB is a pressure group, thatís all. Like I said, the only difference is that MASSOB has a funny name. There is no way you will be in a country and wants to actualize another country. Other than that, MASSOB is not different from OPC, Arewa, or Delta youths. I know that the federal government is not happy with the name MASSOB, even at that; MASSOB has not done anything wrong. Chief Ojukwu also has not done anything wrong to warrant that saga with SSS.
Odoemena: Your thoughts about Okija Shrines, and please tell me specifically your experience if you have been there.
Deputy Governor: It is a shame. Since I donít know where Okija is, therefore the shrines cannot be my fate. If anyone believes that the shrines are the only way of achieving power, what ever befalls that person is his or her fate. I will not feel sorry for the person. The Okija exposure is shameful and embarrassing. I must say again that it is just because it is in the Igbo area and not in the West or North, as usual that was why the whole thing took a different dimension. Again, it is shameful and I condemn it outright.
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