Ahead of next months general elections, the electorates are burning their fingers to grasp issues from the two main political parties, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and the All Progressives Congress, APC, that will inform their choice of whom to cast their ballots for. In this interview, South-East Spokesperson of the APC, Osita Okechukwu bares his mind on a wide range of nagging issues. Excerpts…
Would you not say that PDP has done well in South East especially with the construction of international wing of Akanu-Ibiam International Airport?
Our position is basically fundamental. We have nothing against the budget process or all that PDP had attempted to do for the past sixteen years. But what we discovered was that year in year out, they make budget for all these projects, but because of corruption, the funding of the projects, the release of the funds for the projects is crippled. The Enugu Airport for instance, has been on budget to make it an international Airport since 1999.
What is the problem? And right now it is not yet completed. The problem has been misappropriation. Not that it is not in the federal budget or that they don’t know that it is a hub. But at any rate, we also say that even if you build it like the JFK in New York, it cannot attract major Airlines like the Lufthansa, the British Airline because you have left what made Enugu, Enugu.
Enugu is called coal city because it is coal that created the town. And since after the war, when we came back to democracy, we thought that the PDP government would find it worthwhile to revive the coal industry. We have also discovered that there are minerals in certain areas that can convert these areas to modern towns. If you do not do that, no matter what you build in that Enugu Airport, it cannot be an international Airport.
One thing is to subsidize Ethiopia Airline to come, another thing is to continue. For how long? Now that the Nigerian Federal Government has not been fully resourced, for how long will you continue to subsidize? The same thing that happened to that Airport also happened to all the federal roads such as Enugu-Onitsha expressway or Enugu-Port-Harcourt. These roads are death traps, yet billions of money have been squandered. But for us in the APC, we want to close the taps, the leakages. That is the first step we want to take.
People are saying that we are not different from others. But I have a presidential candidate that if he wins, will focus on public interest. And as it stands, everything is falling in place. For instance, Rev. Fr. Mbaka, out of his own inspiration, said something important. In fact, he started his homily by saying that people should not attack the messenger but the message. Fr. Mbaka more than any of us in APC has summarized the situation better than we did.
He said that Mr. President lacked the political will to either fight corruption or fight insecurity. It is not all about going to Maiduguri; for me, his trip to Maiduguri was election motivated. All this while the mayhem has been ravaging, the Chibok girls, the killings in Baga, Mubi and all that, he was never there. In fact, Gov. Shettima of Borno state once said that the Nigerian Army was not well funded and that they were under equipped. He stated that insurgents were better equipped. But they took him to the cleaners. Has he not been vindicated?
PDP had a hug rally in Enugu. Does it not indicate total victory for them?
I refer to Fr. Mbaka’s speech. As a professional journalist, you know what his speech means in public opinion. Not only that, there was another interview from an elder statesman – the formal Vice President Dr. Alex Ekwueme where he stated that the vision of the founding fathers of the PDP has been miss-directed. And that was why they did the presidential primaries the way they did it.
But for the APC, everything was clear. Nobody can accuse Alex Ekwueme of being a member of APC. AS an elder, he is looking at Nigeria under Jonathan sliding into a failed state. What are the factors of a failed state? A failed state is one where there is no trust between the leader and the led, that is an irretrievable break down of trust. In this case, the people start suspecting the institution of the government such as the judiciary, lacking trust in the police force and then resorting to self help.
The Igbo people know that Fr. Mbaka and Dr. Alex Ekwueme are not incredible people. Other people in the country have, in different ways, said that this government has failed. Looking at the apex Igbo socio-cultural group, the Ohaneze Ndi Igbo, recently the group was torn apart because they could not select their leader. What is your take in this issue?
Ans: Am not sure they were torn apart. The thing is that we must commend the Ohaneze ndi Igbo. They have resisted intense monetized pressure. So it is all about a crack. Earlier on Nov. 9 2014 in a meeting, they tabled a vote that President Jonathan should be endorsed. It was rejected on the floor. Rejecting on the floor does not mean there is a division. This is all about democracy; it is a debate.
At the end, the Ohaneze ndi Igbo did not endorse anybody. Then Chekwas Okoye agitated. He is presently the presidential candidate of DPP. And then between the major contenders, it won’t be rational to endorse anybody.
More so, President Jonathan has failed woefully. Look at the second Niger Bridge. It is not in the federal budget. They intend to recoup from toll gates. Our children will continue to pay till ages. Going by the records, that second Niger bridge will be the only Federal government bridge that will have toll gates. How can President Jonathan that the Igbos gave their votes be so nonchalant about the Igbos? He took the Igbos for granted.