Why Ekweremadu Should Step down as Deputy Senate President – APC Chieftain

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CHIEF K.O 1Chief Kingsley Okafor, Omeiheukwu of Ihioma is a member of the Traditional Council of Chiefs in Ihioma and an All Progressives Congress (APC) chieftain from Orlu, Imo State. He is presently the National Co-ordinator, National Progressives Coalition (NAPCO). In this interview with NDUKA, he said the recent trip by President Muhammadu Buhari to the United States of America (U.S.A), was a well calculated diplomatic move aimed at sharpening the focus on Nigeria by the international community for economic and security reasons and the fact that his administration was ready to fight the legacy of corruption bequeathed it by the Jonathan administration. Excerpts:

 

 

President Muhammadu Buhari was in the United States of America recently, in what was seen, in some quarters, as a costly diplomatic trip, given that the country is battling with grave financial challenges and there were some individuals, who should not have been part of his entourage. What’s your view on this?

President Muhammadu Buhari’s visit to United States of America has opened a new vista in our strategic military collaboration and organised fight against the Boko Haram terrorist group. By the visit, the American government is now ready to assist in the fight and even to the point of selling the dreaded Apache helicopters and other potent war materiel to our military. My honest thinking is that Buhari’s visit and the readiness of Washington to assist Nigeria in the fight against terrorism is in keeping with the fact that no one nation, today, is alone in fighting terrorism. It’s a collective, global duty, which is assessed first from the regional level, before foreign powers are invited into what is usually a resolve by the international community to present a united front – in form of a closely-knitted coalition to fight the lawless elements to a standstill. The instances of the United States-led Coalition Forces of more than 20 countries that led to the fall of the Saddam Hussein-led Ba’athist regime, in Iraq, after the bombings in the United States, on September 11, 2001. Besides, the case of piracy on the international sea lanes off the seaboard of the Horn of Africa and deep inside the Indian Ocean. By the treaty we have with the countries of the Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC) and Cameroon and Benin Republic, we have made some tremendous progress. Any fair-minded citizen of this country will appreciate the military strategy being applied by President Muhammadu Buhari in combating insecurity and the Boko Haram terrorist group.

 

In the past, you’ll recall, the terrorists used to takeover Emirates, local governments and districts and, in fact, install their own emirs and mount their flags. Today, because Buhari has brought to bear the military aspect of his character, and by closing all their supply points, all that is fading fast into history. Recall that Buhari is very familiar with acts of lawlessness in that part of the country: in the early ’80s, he was the one, who led the Nigerian troops, who chased away a band of invaders, who were believed to be Chadians. Besides, ours is a democracy and I’m sure the Americans would like it to thrive; Nigeria being the largest and very resilient economy in Africa, with a very strong potential to attract foreign direct investment (FDI) – including that from American investors. Still, the global rating of Nigeria, today, cannot be compared to the near-pariah state, which the Jonathan administration left her.

 

Presently, the image of Nigeria is fast regaining its sheen. We have not yet reached where and what it should be, but all the positive signs and indices are, encouragingly, improving. Every nation that is worth its salt, today, wants to do business with us.

 

It appears that it has taken the emergence of the APC and Buhari at the centre for a renewed fight against corruption and make, well worthwhile, the activities of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). How much hope should Nigerians invest in this enterprise and the pressing need to diversify the economy?

The fight against corruption and sleaze is being intensified. The fact that Buhari brings on board a lot of integrity has made a lot of corrupt government officials and citizens and those who have the intention to tamper with the country’s resources, in whichever manner, to have a rethink. Almost on a daily basis, we hear about unprecedented amount of money, criminally acquired or stashed, illegally, away, being discovered, returned or investigated by the anti-corruption agency – the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

 

That is the integrity aspect of Buhari and he deserves our support – the unflinching support of every Nigerian, including those of us in the National Progressives Coalition (NAPCO) and a majority of the industrialised countries. It is a development that is well representative of the Change that we all voted for – in protest against the Jonathan administration and the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP). It’s good news, in addition, that the American government, for instance, has signified its intention to assist the Buhari administration in sniffing out and repatriating the country’s stolen wealth. The member-states of the European Union, if you ask me, should be part of the quest and repatriation of our stolen wealth. The current global trend has affected the overall economic state of Nigeria. All the gains of the past were either frittered away or stolen by the officials of the past government. With Nigeria’s near total dependence on oil and the current south-bound price of crude oil in the global market, the diversification of the economy should be a state policy.

Nigeria is blessed with a lot of mineral resources and before we became too dependent on oil, cocoa, palm oil, groundnut, coal, tin, rubber, etc. were the topmost sources of the country’s foreign exchange. The present government is looking inwards, towards the promotion of agriculture and an improvement in our internal revenue base. All the actions of the Buhari administration, in plugging the loopholes and the fight against pipeline vandalisation, will start yielding dividends, in a short while.

 

The resolve by the Buhari administration to fight corruption is also an effort at consolidating Nigeria’s democracy. A whole lot would be involved in terms of fortifying the institutions that would help good governance, especially in terms of clear separation of powers. What’s your position on this?

The task of democratic consolidation must be matched with the deployment of urgent mechanisms and strategies for accelerated socio-economic transformation of the polity. The clear benchmarks for Nigerian developmental success story includes, but not limited to infrastructural renewal, an efficient energy sector, micro- and macro-economic stability, rapid industrialisation and diversification of the national economy, human capital empowerment, through poverty reduction, wealth creation, access to sustainable livelihood, sound education, improved health and, most importantly, peace and human security. Bear in mind that the first function of government, as required by the constitution, is the protection of life and property of the citizens. The present government is laden with so much expectations from the masses and the reason is the decay left behind by the PDP-led administration. We are now trying to shake off the burden of the years of locust by the PDP, which has entrenched all manner of negativity in the polity and in the lives of the ordinary Nigerians. All that may well explain a need for patience, on the part of every Nigerian, with the Buhari administration, as it strives to remake the Nigerian society, so as to give every one of us a deep, reassuring sense of belonging in the affairs of the country.

 

We have never had it so bad at the National Assembly. It’s almost as if the Senate or Red Chamber no longer exists. The crisis amongst the lawmakers, over who occupies what position, for instance, is far from healthy for the Fourth Republic?

Image result for ekweremadu pictureIt’s an unfortunate development, but truth, no less, is that I have been very vocal in my call for Senator Ikechukwu Ekweremadu to step down. Not just because he is of the PDP, but on two grounds. Firstly, for his colossal failure in the representation of the people of South East and for being a beneficiary of a fraudulent manipulation of National Assembly rules. This matter is sub judice, so I won’t delve into it. Secondly, he was, for eight, long years, the Deputy Senate President, in a government of his party and did not move the Igbo nation a step forward. Today, the 2nd Niger Bridge, which was started at the same time as the Benue Bridge, is still on its planning stage, while the Benue Bridge is almost completed. In his position, as the Chairman of the Constitution Amendment Committee, he did not see to the creation of an additional state that would bring the South East geo-political zone at par with the states of the other zones. The federal roads in the South East, under his watch, as the Deputy Senate President, did not receive any attention. He should step down immediately and let the Senators from the South East elect another member of their caucus to the position. All he has achieved is crude acquisition of personal wealth.

 

Will you say it is a part of the Change for which the APC is now famous that President Muhammadu Buhari has still not named members of his cabinet?

We have had ministers, who headed the Ministry of Petroleum, who withheld over 50% of our collective revenues. We have had ministers, who allocated government lands and properties to their friends and family members. All that was unfair, if not deeply criminal. We, therefore, want to believe that Buhari is taking his time in naming his cabinet, because he wants to get it right. There may not be angels in this part of the Earth, but with a proper screening, he can assemble a good team. When President Barack Obama came into office, he took his time to assemble a team that, today, has brought him success, in almost all the aspects of the American government. Nigerians have been through too much pain, in the past 16 years, such that they are willing to be patient with Buhari, as he scouts for individuals, who’d be in his cabinet. The baseline is having a cabinet – a government – that works for public good; not the kind that promotes corruption, as did the Jonathan administration.

 

It’s been said in some political circles that it took former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar’s inroad into the PDP to split the party and persuade some of its governors to pitch their tents with the APC. For this, some APC chieftains say, Abubakar ought to be made the Chairman of the Board of Trustees (B.O.T) of the party?

That is a well-founded opinion and one can say that it’s one that is widely held by individuals and groups, in all the six geo-political zones, who mean well for our party. The APC became a full national group with the entrance of the five former governors of the PDP into its fold. You will recall that this group, as at that time, was guided and led by the former Vice-President, Atiku. It was this strategic development, which cracked the PDP, and so gave the APC the liver and the nerve with which it was able to spread into the nooks and crannies of Nigerian politics and made history, as an opposition party, by winning the recent elections. It is, therefore, very important that the APC does not lose this tempo. And my view on this issue is that the APC needs the guiding and winning leadership qualities of Atiku Abubakar, as the Chairman of its Board of Trustees (B.O.T). We need to tap from his experience as a political strategist, so as to sustain our winning edge over the opposition, because he is an asset of immeasurable value to the APC. He has an unrivalled reach, in terms of depth and spread, in all the geo-political zones. I am not a spokesperson of Atiku, but I have the interest of the party in promoting this opinion. We all believe he is a unifier and has the requisite political sagacity and resources to guide the APC to a political Eldorado.

 

There’s some crisis within the APC in Imo State: the members of what was the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), who were behind Governor Rochas Okorocha’s tenancy at Douglas Road, say they are being unfairly treated. Some say Okorocha is running a one-man show and that he’s already grooming a successor. Looking ahead to 2019, how should the situation be helped?

I’ll not speculate on any personal political ambition. We, in the Imo State chapter of the APC, are restrategising. The opposition parties and the members of the legacy group, which were on ground before His Excellency Rochas Okorocha joined with his faction of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), have been dumped. Today, all the former members of the ACN have been shut out of the power equation. The capacity for grooming a successor does not exist in Imo State and, therefore, Okorocha may not be relevant in determining the core structure of Imo State politics about or after 2019. It is sad that everybody seems conquered and all the APC politicians seem subdued and comfortable with constant meetings that do not achieve anything. In a sane milieu, you cannot invite poor party supporters to meetings every day, and there you start and end the discussion and let them go in the dead of the night, without any arrangement for their accommodation or security. This attitude of some of our leaders, in not accommodating all shades of opinion, among the party members, is one of the reasons for which we formed NAPCO.

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