Obinna Odogwu, Abakaliki
Hon. Innocent Ugo Chima is a fearless politician who likes to bare his mind on issues of national concern, especially as they affect his people.
A three-time member of the House of Representatives, Chima was first elected lawmaker during the Second Republic in 1979 and later again in 1983.
In 2007, he was elected to represent Ezza South and Ikwo Federal Constituency. Currently, he is warming up to contest for the Ebonyi Central Senatorial District seat in the 2019 general elections under the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
In this interview with Sunday Sun, the grassroots politician who is a member of the Knight of St. John International (KSJI) bared his mind on several issues of national importance. Excerpts:
Recently, you dumped the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC). What went wrong?
I have been a democrat all my life and I always believe that power belongs to the people. Whatever we do, the people should come first so that if there is any party that wants the representative of party in any election it should be thrown to the people and they will make their choice.
I believe in choice by the people and for the people and all along, since my political career in 1979; in 1983 the same problem we had with Jim Nwobodo over the creation of the state and he wanted to force certain people on us, but we rejected it.
At the end of the day, the entire zone then, Abakaliki zone, voted for NPN. And again, very recently, during Martin Elechi’s regime the same thing occurred.
They wanted to give us somebody, they came out with Prof Onyebuchi Chukwu as his first choice; the people said no; let us have a say. That’s the essence of creating Ebonyi State. We must know who governs us.
We know ourselves and, therefore, whoever we chose will be the person we know; not imposing anybody on the people.
I was of the APC then. I had to leave because of that singular act; to deepen democracy. We said that it’s good for the South to have their say. I came out with my whole heart and my people. At the end of the day Dave won.
Surprisingly, what we thought had gone resurfaced under his regime. All efforts to get him to reason; that it would be good for the people to choose, he said that the party at the national level said ‘endorsement of candidates’.
How can you endorse people who have not performed? For him, he has no problem. I have no problem with him for governorship. He has to toe the line of others by going for second tenure.
So, every effort to change him failed and I decided to leave on principle; and that has been my life. My life has been, let the people make their choice. And I am now in the APC.
Are you satisfied with the way the APC conducted its primaries in your state and across the country?
What is happening to APC, especially in Ebonyi State is a shame; it’s a sham, and it’s a rape on democracy. We thought that a political party that is in opposition in a state should look for credible candidates to run for that election. Incidentally, the party already has an executive from the ward level to national.
The executive they have is the same people that elected other officers of the party, including Comrade Oshiomhole. The same people elected the national working committee; the same people also elected state executives in all levels. Why come with what we have now?
They went and got a separate list; uncertified list of delegates from nowhere and as God would have it, they themselves went to court and court ruled against them. As I have been saying, no life of anybody is worth killing because you want to be in power.
Those who were instrumental to the mayhem in Ebonyi Central Senate primary election will pay dearly for it. Three people lost their lives and up to seven vehicles were burnt and yet the people went ahead. The same people who have no fixed address, claiming to have come from Abuja conducted the so-called primary.
Surprisingly, their activities were aided by unseen hands within the state in order to make sure that the APC has no candidate in this coming election.
You were in the National Assembly in 1979 as a lawmaker; 27 years after, you returned to the same National Assembly. Did you notice any difference between the NASS of then and now?
Well, I have been a member of the House of Representatives three times in three different political parties. I have never had Abraham as my father; I have always fought my way through. I have always thrown myself to the people for them to elect me. Everybody knows within the state that I am a grassroots politician. I don’t have thugs.
All I know is to do what I think is right and then bring the dividends of democracy to my people in terms of employment, rural electrification, water and so on. I was in the House in 1979, 1983, and 2007. There is a lot of difference.
So, I have seen the two walls. You cannot compare life with death. What you have now is ‘democrazy’; it is not democracy.
In 1979, you had men of honour; people who have distinguished themselves in different fields; who were professionals. Like in Ebonyi here, some of us were working.
Ofia Nwali was a known figure before he went to the Senate; Andrew Nwankwo was a military officer; Goddy Nwokocha was a graduate teaching in northern Nigeria; Agwu Nwogo Agwu was also a teacher and so on. So, eventually we had people of proven integrity; people who are known for their character. Outside that period, I saw a lot of things. I was in the National Assembly in 2007 and I saw a lot of things.
I saw those who naturally have no business to be in the House. I saw those who were not anything; who cannot claim to be doing one thing or the other; or have honour in their names and that is what we have today because the people did not elect them. They were all imposed on the people by their godfathers. From 2007 when I went there it was issue of godfatherism. It was no longer the people making their choice.
Secondly, there was party discipline. When we were in the House under APN, the party was supreme and whatever decision the party took, everybody toed it; there was no dissension. We used to have what we called caucus every Thursday which was attended by the president and the National Chairman of the party.
Today, there is nothing like party. You go to the House, the party says what they are doing and they say another. They arrange themselves in a manner that anybody can be the Speaker, which is not true. So, there is no party discipline.
A situation where the president becomes the leader of the party and the governor of the state becomes the leader of the party at that level is the party not gone? You cannot combine the executive work with the party function. So, there is no party discipline today. That is why the House can gang up and elect anybody.
Again, there is no programme of action. In the good old days, there were things people canvassed for. For example, the UPN canvassed for free education. You go to Lagos State you see what was going on under Jakande. You go to Bendel then; you see what Ambrose Ali was doing.
Then you go to NPN states you see housing. You can still see the remnants of the housing. These were programmes they canvassed to the electorate. ‘If you elect us see what we are going to do.’ Is there such a thing today? What Ebonyi is doing here is not what Enugu is doing.
Are they not of the same party? Somebody wakes up in the morning and starts taking one programme or the other, which did not come from the people. Look at Ebonyi State now, so many projects are going on that are not relevant to the people.
You did not tell them that this is what I am going to do. It is the same thing with Enugu State. So, what we have today is not party. You can even imagine in the National Assembly, I was there from 2007 to 2011, the party wanted a particular woman as Speaker, but we chose Bankole as against the wishes of the party.
So, there is no correlation between the executive and national. By right, it is the party that won the majority of the seats that should be in governance. They have programmes canvassed with people during campaign and that’s what they should be working on. What do we have here? A situation where such thing does not exist.
Look at Tambuwal, he was in PDP, but because of the other group, the other parties can join and twist the decision of the majority party and elect anybody as the leader of the House. Where on earth do you have Deputy Senate President from the opposition party and in this case the PDP?
In all of these you have said, you blamed it on indiscipline in the party system?
No, I said that they are three categories. One, the party itself; there is no discipline now. Two, the character of the leadership because they have no programme. They did not canvass for anything when they went into power. They only went in and started with their friends.
Some would say ‘Ah, I saw this kind of thing in Dubai and brought it home,’ but what did you tell the people when you were running the election? This was unlike the First and Second Republics. During the First Republic, look at the education in Yoruba land. Awolowo pursued it. In the North it was free education. In the East it was the same thing.
They were development oriented. Education was their hallmark. Nnamdi Azikiwe established the University of Nigeria, Nsukka in 1960. Awolowo answered him with University of Ife in 1961. Ahmadu Bello answered the same thing with Ahmadu Bello University. Look at Liberty Stadium, Ibadan. Michael Okpara answered with Enugu Stadium; the same thing with Ahmadu Bello Stadium. Look at hotels. They built modern hotel in Ibadan.
Okpara answered them with Presidential Hotel, Enugu. Ahmadu Bello answered with Amdola Hotel in Kaduna. These were people who were competing for the development of the people. There was free education everywhere.
They tried it in the East it couldn’t work, but there was an indirect way they were doing it. They then established scholarship scheme and under the scholarship scheme, it was in a manner that every area was represented in the scholarship board. An honourable member from each zone had to be there in that scholarship board. But what do we have today? Aggrandizement! People are doing whatever they liked.
Why should Ebonyi and Abia states not be pursing the same programme and yet they won the election under one political party? But the party has no programme; even APC. Their own is even much better that at least they are fighting corruption, insecurity and unemployment.
Tell me that of the PDP that can be universal. Even within the APC, it is not even being used universally. All APC states are doing different things. Go to Imo State and see the mess. So, I am sorry for the new generation.
As a Second Republic lawmaker, do you think the military incursion that took place in the country was in the national interest compared to the situation now?
They were not in the national interest because we did nothing. It was the way they wanted Igbo man not to be president because under the zoning system (Dr Alex) Ekwueme would have been president in 1987 after Shehu Shagari. It was a deliberate action.
Both Shagari and Ekwueme did nothing bad. Even when the two of them were arrested, Shagari was put in the Guest House while Ekwueme was put in Kirikiri Prison for no reason.
It was a classic case of a conductor going to jail for the action of the driver. Ekwueme was humiliated for nothing. He was there for almost three months. He was released because of the outcry of the people. So, what this man is doing today is just the continuation.
Let us put political party you belong aside. What is your view about Buhari and Atiku?
I cannot say for now because Atiku left the APC not long ago. He started with PDP looking for where to run election and win; which means that he has something to offer and if they frustrate him here he goes the other way.
I think today he has achieved his purpose. He is now a party candidate. It is now left for Nigerians to choose between him and Buhari. They know their weaknesses. Atiku has been tested. They know the view people have about him.
Buhari is also being tested. They know the view people have about him. My prayer is that the actors, those who have been given the opportunity to be involved in elections should allow that election to be free and fair so that the people should choose who should rule them.
And one of the ways is for them to canvass what they want to do. The people should make their choice without interference by INEC. The INEC should allow the election to be free and fair.
layed out in Osun State during the last governorship election whereby the PDP candidate won the highest number of valid votes, but the Returning Officer pronounced it inconclusive and later on the international community reportedly condemned the manner the rerun was carried out?
There is nothing I can make out of it. Two of them are the same thing. That you are in APC or PDP is crisscross.
So, it is the continuation of illegality. PDP did it. APC is now… It is the same people who are doing that.
Forget about the name they answer. The name is immaterial; that you are PDP or APC, they want to win at all costs. It is the same character because politics has been devoid of character. What makes a leader is character and service delivery.
After all, the Osun man what did he do? The governor there carted away everything. There is no development.
Osun is one of the least developed states in the South-west. There is nothing otherwise why should an incumbent governor be battling with his state for him to win? It shows that he has not worked. That was why it was difficult for him to win.
He needed extra force. Just as I said before if you don’t do what the people want, you will find it difficult to win; and if you want to win, you use an unusual method: to deny the people their rightful candidate. It is the denial of the people whom they want and now they are helpless.
The electorate are helpless. They wanted A, they saw B. That’s what we have been saying; to deepen democracy in primary elections.