Monday, 23 August 2021

Why Other Zones Should Support South-East Presidency In 2023...Ebonyi Commissioner Orji Uchenna Orji

Barr. Orji Uchenna Orji is the Commissioner for Information and State Orientation, Ebonyi State. In this interview, he speaks on 2023 Igbo presidency; the aftermath of defection of Governor Dave Umahi to the All Progressives Congress; secessionist agitations by IPOB; and South East regional security network, Ebubeagu, among others

The issue of the 2023 Igbo presidency was at the front burner when your governor, Dave Umahi, defected to the All Progressives Congress (APC). Do you see the APC zoning its ticket to the South East zone?

Candidacy of any political party is the exclusive preserve of that party. I think that we have two major contending parties – the opposition PDP and the ruling APC. I think that where a party zones its presidency depends on the decision of the highest hierarchy of the party, so it’s not an issue for discussion, so to speak. The constitution of Nigeria does recognize fair play, equity and consideration that will make for brotherliness, oneness and entrust confidence in the polity. It is just that across the board, everybody wants fair treatment.

The South East wants to have a shot at the presidency given that after the Independence in 1960, and the Republican government which we started in 1963, there hasn’t been any democratically elected president from the South-East. For us in Ebonyi State, Igbo presidency is not something that is about violence; it should be through appeals here and there. It is something for negotiation; to see how every part of this country will buy into the idea that the South East is also given the opportunity to have a fair deal as regards the presidency.

 *But do you think the South East leaders and stakeholders are taking the needed steps of reaching out to other parts of the country to actualise Igbo presidency in 2023?* 

Actually, the presidency is not a tribal affair. It is a national issue that has to do with every part coming together to ensure fair deal for every part of the federation. But come to think about it, the South East has been part of the national politics except in the last few years under the APC where we have a few states that are in the minority. Having said that; it has been the political culture or philosophy of the South East to belong to the party at the centre from 1960 till date. Even in 1999, when the PDP came to power, the South-East was with the PDP. Under the Shagari administration, the South-East did mainstream with the party at the centre and that was how we produced the vice president. I think that it was a very worthwhile decision for the governor of Ebonyi State, who is chairman of South-East governors, to have defected together with the entire people of Ebonyi State to the APC. That has been our culture. 

Our idea about that is that it’s going to be double jeopardy to belong to a minority tribe and be in a minority party. It is not sensible at all.  But I think that the rest of the zone will look towards the South-East to pick the best. But I think the most important thing now is to be looking at the track record of leaders; we shouldn’t be looking at friendship or tribal sentiment but who can deliver. And I think in the South-East, we have quite a number of them. But, the governor of Ebonyi State, Dave Umahi, has got unique leadership credentials. As a governor, he believes in national unity, he believes in the unity of this country. He has been cajoled and bullied just because he is insisting on one Nigeria. This is because we can do a lot if we are under one Nigeria. That is the belief of our dear governor.

When we have people who can deliver, it will make a lot of change. The governor in the last six years has done fantastically well in Ebonyi State, taking the lead in the area of massive road construction. I think after Abuja and Lagos, Ebonyi has one of the best road networks. He introduced concrete pavement. Ebonyi is taking the lead under Umahi in the areas of basic infrastructural programmes that can make for economic development. 

After the Lagos and Abuja flyovers, Ebonyi has the highest number of flyovers. There is also the light tunnel which is named after President Muhammadu Buhari. These are some of the things that show that the governor of Ebonyi has the capacity, and if given the opportunity at the national level, he can perform.

 *Would you say that the defection of Governor Umahi from the PDP has in any way impacted on the people of the state?* 

In the first place, Ebonyi State now has unfettered access to the government at the federal level. You talk about federal appointments, civil service, etc. Talking about the opportunity to access a lot of facilities provided by the federal government and a lot of grants by the federal government, these are some of the things we now enjoy which perhaps, had he remained in the opposition, we wouldn’t have enjoyed. By and large, the party at the centre determines how things are done. His defection has really brought him close to the affairs at all levels of leadership without interference and that will really give our people greater opportunity.

 *There are fears over IPOB’s threats to stop the conduct of elections in the South East; what is your take?* 

The problems of agitations by groups, I can say, are not normal situations. What we need to do as governments of different jurisdictions is to look at those agitations; the merits of those agitations and see how to address them.

In the South-East, we have IPOB; in other areas, we have different groups that are agitating for fair treatment. The agitations by IPOB are actually not an exception; the only problem is that people are taking advantage of the situation to unleash mayhem and violence on the people of the nation and this is not healthy at all. We are talking to them to see how they can lay down their arms. We need to engage constructively. The leaders of the South East are very much ready to aggregate the issues and project them for national discourse.

 *The South-East governors came up with the issue of a regional security network – Ebubeagu, sometime ago; it appears nothing much has been heard on that. What’s really up with it?* 

Ebubeagu is working and I can speak for Ebonyi State because I am Commissioner for Information in the state; I’ve got no competence to speak for the South-East. Honestly, I must say that Ebubeagu has come to stay in the South-East. In Ebonyi State, a law has been made to back up all their functions and operational dimensions. I can say in Ebonyi State, they have been trained.

The short listing was made in consultation with necessary stakeholders such as traditional rulers, town union leaders and religious leaders. We got the conventional security outfits to train them. We are looking at intelligence gathering and information giving as critical aspects of security that Ebubeagu needs to imbibe. We are also looking at partnership with the conventional security outfits for success.


Today in Ebonyi State, Ebubeagu is a success story. We have got a calm environment. If you go to the IGPs records, apart from the pockets of attacks here and there, we can say that we have a low crime profile and the governor thinks that apart from fortifying the security architecture, the government needs to provide social security by making everybody have something to do. By doing so, the governor has turned every part of Ebonyi into construction sites and he is engaging the people in non skills, semi skills and skilled labour. We don’t have capital flight in Ebonyi State. Empowerment programmes are going in the state.


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