Against the background of agitation for a South-East president in 2023, Governor Hope Uzodinma of Imo State has affirmed that the emergence of presidential candidates will not be based on ethnicity.
He told State House correspondents after a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari, on Tuesday, that the decision of who becomes the presidential flag bearer rests squarely with the respective political parties.
His reaction followed the remark by former Abia State Governor, Uzor Kalu, that anyone can contest for the presidency under the All Progressive Congress (APC) since it has not zoned the 2023 ticket to a particular part of the country.
Uzodinma said: “Well you know the position is not vacant now, there is a sitting President and we are practising partisan democracy and not tribal democracy. So the emergence of presidential candidate will come on the party by party basis, not tribe by tribe basis.
“But if there are other internal factors that will form part of the considerations for parties taking the decision, of course, that will be entirely the job of the leadership of those political parties and I think that is the right thing to do.”
The governor said he met the president to brief him of the problems in Imo State, particularly erosion and to seek his intervention.
He said: “In specific terms, the issue of erosion, the level of erosion in Imo state is alarming and I have taken time to explain to Mr President and he has assured me that the Federal Government will intervene as soon as possible.
“I used the opportunity also to bring to his knowledge the development in the South-East and that our people are grateful on the completion and opening of the Enugu Airport and we are also happy with the speed and the pace of work at the Second Niger Bridge and the various agric intervention programmes he brought to South-East.
“And also use the same opportunity to ask for more because you know in this business, the more you get, you must ask for more. I am sure and I believe that Mr President is committed to alleviating some of the problems in the South-East region and Imo in particular.”
Asked how erosion funds received by the state in the past had been deployed, he explained: “I don’t know of what happened before I became the governor but you know I am a parliamentarian and under the law, we have National Council of Environment and Ecological Fund. It is a discretionary fund, it takes only the approval of the President for those funds to be used.“If you identify an ecological site that requires intervention and you write to the President through the Secretary to the Federal Government and they consider some of the projects, those projects will be awarded by the Ecological Fund office.
“I don’t know of money being given to governors, maybe this was before my time but what I have done is to identify the critical areas. If you go to Federal University of Technology Owerri towards Avu, you will see that the road is almost being cut into two and because of the population of students living across the other side, if nothing is done, you find a situation where students will not have access to their usual lectures and again the lives and property of those in those areas are also threatened.
“If you recall in 1982 President Shagari visited Imo State of then and made a promise to correct Amucha erosion, that Amucha erosion has so degraded to the extent that it is now a death trap.
“Incidentally, it is part of the area that the Imo State government is struggling now to get Julius Berger to dualize the road. I am sure that if the Federal Government intervenes and take the erosion aspect of the road, it will be cheaper for Imo state and affordable for us to pay a contractor like Julius Berger to now concentrate on the road alone.
“So these are some of the things I brought to the knowledge of Mr President and I can assure you, in his usual magnanimous manner, he is committed because he has the listening ear.
“When I resumed in January, you will recall last year, Owerri people were going to market using a canoe, the level of flooding in Owerri was terrible. So, what I did first was to review the Owerri master plan, identify the drawing of the drainage system established since 1981 and then got in touch with the company that did the job from Isreal.”