The jostle by the geo-political zones over which zone would produce the next President in 2023 is underway.
In this encounter with Ugo Aliogo, Ebonyi State Commissioner for Information, Mr. Uchenna Orji insists that the South-east geo-political zone must be united and rally behind a consensus candidate to produce the next president
In the past, politicians from the South-east have been blamed for putting their personal ambitions far and above the interest of the zone when it came to jostling for the presidency. This was documented in the number of aspirants who usually indicated interest from the zone.
Although Ebonyi State Commissioner for Information, Barr. Uchenna Orji says nothing is wrong in that he acknowledged that in a democratic setting especially in a republic such as Nigeria, you don’t rule out the possibility of multi-interests for any particular position.
He explained that “It is not an aberration that in the South-east there are many people contesting for one position, that is the presidency.
What is important is that, at this point in our history as a people, we need to look back and see what we have suffered and be sincere to ourselves that the next president of this country should be someone who will unite the country.”
Calling on the ruling class to insist on choosing someone with established pedigree to lead the country in the next dispensation, Orji stated that “We need someone who has the capacity and competence to lead us to the desired destination.
We need someone who will look at our ethnic comparative advantage and see how to build on it to enable our nation to move on in prosperity, as an egalitarian society.
We want a situation whereby whoever is going to emerge should be able to tackle the issue of security and know fundamentally what the problem .”
He called on stakeholders to settle for someone who will be able to solve economic problems such as unemployment, adding that it is only when that is done, that we can be sure that the future as a people will be bright. Orji pointed out that during the process of looking for the right one, many people may come and boast, making it diificult to know the best candidate. He profeered that stakeholders need to look at the antecedent and track record of people before they contest for this much-sort after position of the presidency. “I think without fear or favour, we should look at those persons that have made a mark as leaders in their own time. It is the only way to go,” he insisted.
Speaking on the groundswell of support that followed Governor Dave Umahi’s defection from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC), Orji said in Ebonyi State, the people speak only one language that is to support the governor. He insisted that wherever he goes “we shall go and his people shall be our people.”
He explained that the groundswell of support is underpinned by the realization that the governor is doing justifiably well. He added that “the APC, the stakeholders in the 13 Local Government Areas (LGA) are with the governor. APC in Ebonyi State is very strong and viral, the party will make it 100% in 2023, and APC in Ebonyi state has no rival.”
He dismissed the pockets of protest and opposition to the governor as mere rantings of flies. According to him “The only rivals that we have are a few people some of whom are already expiring as politicians; some of these politicians have no track record of performance, those are the people that decided to single themselves out and stay like Lords of the manor in their own kingdoms.”
He said those seemingly opposing the governor nurse the idea that now that they are lords of their own kingdoms, they will have opportunities of having automatic tickets in the PDP. Orji however remarked that these same politicians have a a day of reckoning ahead of them because the people of Ebonyi have resolved that after getting their automatic ticket in PDP, that they are coming home to face them and “they will chase them away with their votes, which is the mandate of the people of Ebonyi State.”
He predicted doom for PDP in Ebonyi State, stressing that “from what they are doing, they have signalled that there is no vacancy. So all the supporters of the so-called National Assembly members are going to be disillusioned, they are going to pull out because these people are going for the automatic tickets.
“There is no vacancy for PDP in the governorship, Senate and House of Representatives positions because they already have automatic tickets. All these people following the PDP sheepishly will soon turn around and say now, we know that you are in PDP for your own aggrandizement. Those people you’re seeing in PDP are a gathering of strange bedfellows who will clash, because when they remember the issue of 2001 and 2003, that will lead to the history of 2021 and 2023, it is history repeating itself,” he recalled.
Commending the governor for his selfless work for his people, Orji said,, “today, we have the biggest light tunnel that has not been built by any government in Africa, not yet commissioned. We also have 13 flyovers that will soon be completed yet to be commissioned.
We have the Ecumenical Centre that looks like heaven on earth, we have 1,500 kilometre state-owned roads, (he did some of these roads in concrete pavement), yet to be commissioned.
His thinking is that the cost of commissioning should be deployed to doing the project, in such ways, we will have more projects and the state will be developed.”
Lamenting the destruction of lives and property by unknown gunmen in the state recently, Orji stated that “In the history of Ebonyi State, especially under the current democratic dispensation, there have been cases of violent clashes between communities especially intra and interstate boundary disputes.”
He explained that the governor swung into action when he came on board in 2015, “there was the perennial Eziulu- Ezza crisis that was going to be a national concern. The governor with his skills in negotiation had to take the bull by the horn by determining the issue and ensuring permanent resolution.”
He disclosed that the governor went further to create permanent boundary demarcation and the area has been in peace now. “Since the governor came on board, he has been opening up rural communities; the nooks and crannies have opened up and that has raised the consciousness of rural dwellers on issues of boundary and ownership of land.
“You will recall that even before now, we have had unsolved boundary disputes between communities within and outside the state especially within Ebonyi and Enugu, Ebonyi and Abia, Ebonyi and Cross-River, Ebonyi and Benue States.
The governor has been handling the situation in a way that lives will not be lost.
Recently, we have had some pockets of violence despite how monumental these pockets of violence may be, we feel that the governor’s efforts so far have been very commendable,” he stated.
Asked to comment on whether the recent spate of security challenges could be from within provoked by the governor’s decampment to the APC? Orji said “This is an issue that security agency need to unravel and that is where intelligence comes into play.
As a responsible and responsive government, we don’t want to go into alleging what we are not sure of. But the truth of the matter is that when we were in PDP the situation was very quiet. But by the mention that we are defecting to the party of national colouration, then we are beginning to experience this.
So it appears somebody out there will allude it to the fact we joined APC that is to say the fact that some people are behind it.
We have gotten no evidence, but what is important is that we need to look at the menace of social media.
Security and intelligence group should be able to know the people behind it or persons who are peddling those social media lies and see how to get them to a round table to stop this because there are a lot to it and it is aimed at provoking and inciting the people.
We don’t know where all these are coming from, but I think that with time all these will be unraveled,” he stated.
The Commissioner acknowledged that although there was a recent security challenge, the governor remains highly focused and cannot be distracted.
“I say this without any fear of equivocation. All our projects are going on, if you enter the streets of Ebonyi State, you will realise that everywhere is quiet, except these isolated places that are being handled in such a way that very soon normalcy will return in those places otherwise, Ebonyi state is fine.
But it is only the flashpoints that are boiling, but very soon, given the efforts of government in bringing security especially by engaging the stakeholders, all these will be a thing of the past.
But if you go into Ebonyi state, you will not see much negative impact of the situation as it were,” Orji pointed out.
Orji praised the governor for deploying the issue of engagement with stakeholders and security agencies alongside sensitisation processes to ensure that the people understood the need to live together, despite what may be their differences.
He expressed the optimism that in no distant time, the governor’s efforts in all of these will resolve the problem.
He named the Effiong-Ezza crisis, Abomege crisis, and Enyibuchiri which at the moment are about land demarcation as among the crises areas that have been settled and peace is gradually returning.
On the issue of herdsmen carnage in communities within the South-east which is a source of concern, Orji maintained that the government is doing a lot to ensure that there is no reoccurrence of violent attacks on the people of Ebonyi state and it is to be done through investigation, tracking, and cracking down of criminal cartels.
He disclosed that plans are underway to engage with the leadership of Myetti-Allah to ensure that perpetrators are brought to book.
On insinuations in the social media that the President endorsed the recent attacks on some communities in Ebonyi by fulani militia, Orji said Umahi will be the last person to promote anything against the unity of the country.
He stressed that the governor has been very emphatic and continuously spoke on the need for people to live together, regardless of where they are coming from. He clarified that despite what is shared on social media, every stranger including herdsmen’ have the confidence to stay in the state.
We have a cordial relationship with every stranger living in our state, even the herdsmen. Even in the case of herdsmen, we have a committee at the local government level, set up by the state government and aimed at ensuring peaceful coexistence and resolving matters and problems when they come. We have also integrated some of the herders into the governance structure. Some of them are technical assistance on herdsmen matters, others have been given vehicles to see how they can be helping us coordinating and monitoring farmers’ and activities of herdsmen within the state.
We feel strongly that the people who are doing these things are not good citizens, therefore the herdsmen who are good citizens are in Ebonyi state and doing their legitimate business without any hindrance or embarrassment from the people of the state.
We do know also that our people are in the North and West, so we must preach peaceful co-existence, and let me say that the people that are doing all of these things are criminals.
I want to say that intelligence gathering is ongoing to unravel the masterminds of these criminal elements, some of whom are natives and non-natives,” he affirmed.
Speaking on the newly formed security outfit – Ebube Agu by the South-east governors to secure the geo-political zone, Orji endorsed it as a smart move in the right direction.
He explained that “the parlance Ebube-Agu in my view is seeking to go back to the glorious days of the South-east.
Ebubu means glory, while Agu means Tiger, and it is a symbol of strength which we all know in the South-east.
In dynastic parlance, Ebube-Agu, means the majesty of an empire is the safety of its protection, without the glory and majesty there will be nothing like an empire.
Therefore we need to look back at our glorious days socially and economically. This entails that we need to have a kind of renaissance in our economic and social abilities as a people.
This means that at all times, we should crack down on criminalities and criminals in parts of the South-east.
An injury to one in any part of the South-east is an injury to another, we should have collaboration to ensure that we flush out criminal elements in parts of the South-east.
We must also encourage that each State should make some legislations to make it possible for civilian security officials from the state to have the ability to go to another state to crack down on criminals without being hindered by the laws of any state. Thus, this is essentially the coloration of that time Ebube-Agu.
“I want to say that the governors of the South-east have been doing well. They may be silent, but they are working very well. No matter these pockets of banditry and herdsmen issue, I can say that in terms of normal social vices, the South-east is still the least among them the six-geopolitical zones. We are safest among them,” he assured.
Heaping encomiums on the governor for blazing an uncharted transformational path that has placed the state on the global developmental map, Orji said “I want the governor to be remembered by the next generation as a man of extraordinary ability, world-class leader, and performer per excellence. In a time we had economic recession, he came onboard. He became the first deputy governor in Nigeria history to become Governor, when the master was not supporting him and he conquered.
“Today, he is making history as the best performing governor in Ebonyi state. We want to remember him as a man with a special moral character in leadership. He is a man of humility, resilience and tenacity of purpose. He is someone who knows what is good for the people. He has the three Es of leadership.
The governor is well educated and exposed; he is more learned than a professor of Engineering. Sometimes, he bares his mind on issues; we call him an associate counsel.
The governor is very detailed and pays attention to every bit of information. He is a man that whenever he travels out of the country, comes back to replicate what he has seen overseas in Ebonyi state. This is a rare virtue; some of our leaders will travel overseas and will not be able to replicate what they have seen back here in Nigeria.
There was a time we went to China, and the Governor saw the transformation efforts in some parts of China, he prayed and asked God to give him the wisdom to replicate what he saw in China. It is what I describe as exposure at work,” he noted.
Orji said the governor has transformed Ebonyi to become the new Dubai and London using his wealth of experience; adding that due to his experience, he was able to deal with some of these former leaders, he had to use his spirit of accommodation to stoop low to conquer and manage them until when they betrayed themselves thinking that they betrayed him.
He described Umahi as a man that doesn’t go to war, but a man of valour and the David of old, stating that if he fights back he will conquer. According to him, “I think that these kinds of persons should be celebrated while they are alive. We should have a monument of this man to show his extraordinary virtues. The state is now a flagship of excellence, and a reference point in good governance. No matter who you are, when you visit Ebonyi, you will praise the giant strides of the governor.”
Regarding the pockets of violence that erupted recently, he assured that intelligence will unravel it; adding that “To the man in the street, he may think that something is behind the recent attacks in Ebonyi that is it is artificially created to distract this man that performs, but they don’t know that he cannot be distracted and many know his personality and the way he feels about Nigeria.”
According to him, “Umahi believes Nigeria should be one indivisible country where there is love for one another.
The governor is a bridge-builder between Ebonyi and the outside world. He is a man that can give the country the needed freedom, love, and prosperity for one another.
Nigerians are very hardworking, and they are not indolent, they are very independent.