Former Abia State All Progressive Congress (APC) governorship aspirant, Ndukwe Iko, in this interview with Musa Odoshimokhe explains why the Southwest is well prepared for the presidency in 2023 than the Southeast and how the party will retain Abia North Senatorial District. Excerpts
When the election of Orji Uzor Kalu was annulled at the tribunal, what was your reaction?
When the election was announced, I knew that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate Mao Ohuabunwa will go to court. I was in the collation room during the election, I spoke with him and I knew he was heading to court. After the March election, I have not spoken with Orji Kalu and have not been to Abuja. But I knew that a court process is on and anything can happen. However, that does not remove the fact that the APC in Abia north is strong. We knew there will be a court ruling; we knew we have a legitimate victory that will stand the test of all the challenges. At the end of it, the APC will triumph because we were in the field and we can tell you what happened in the field. If at the appeal court and we still have to go for a re-run, Kalu will trash Ohuabunwa even with wider margin.
What gives you that confidence?
What gives me confidence is that before the election, we were having trouble in the camp of Orji Uzor Kalu. We had trouble in some of the local governments that formed Abia North. Abia North has five local governments. They are Umunneochi, Isikwuato, Bende, Ohafia and Arochukwu. During election Orji will have Bende, Ohafia and Arochukwu LGAs. But Isikwuato and Umuneochi often be a battle ground. But this time around it was different. In Isikwuato, for instance we have the Minister of State, Mine and Steel Development Uchechukwu Ogar well prepared to deliver for the APC. I believe a million times over the people will support the APC. At Umuneochi, the APC will lead comfortably because we have politically influential people there. Orji with his strength and popularity will get hold of the place. Coming down to Bende, the place of Kalu, he always rules in the area like a colossus. In Ohafia, where I come from and many others, we will deliver to the APC and that is a fact. At Arochukwu, Kalu had never lost any election in the area, so we don’t have any fear, should there be a re-run. That is the basis of my confidence and if there is a re-run ten times over Orji will still win the election. If at the Appeal the court upturns the judgment of the tribunal fine. But if is otherwise, I want to say Kalu will win Abia North any time any day. He can even stand as an independent candidate in any election and win. He is a cult hero in Abia North and there is nobody to contest it with him.
Some people have raised concern that Abia government is not living up to expectation. Are you worried?
I have met governor Ikpeazu several times and in our meetings I have been very opened to him. I have always told him that this is an opportunity to stamp his legs on the sands of time. The Ngwa nation or clan has been clamouring for an opportunity to produce the governor of Abia State. He is the lucky one that has occupied the position. If he allows the eight years to go and there is nothing to write about him, then history will adjudge him bad. Ikpeazu should put his house together and make sure he delivers good governance in Abia and that is our prayer. Let him use his tongue to count his teeth, whether he is doing well or not. Like they say, the taste of the food is in the eating. The people of Abia State that I meet are not happy with the performance of government. So, I will just advise him to use the chance he has to justify the clamour of the Ngwa people.
The government owed its workers close to one year salaries now…
I am an employer of labour, I know how painful it is if you don’t pay your workers. The biggest problem of some of the people in government is mediocrity. We have people who are not properly nurtured in the art of leadership and they are in very high position. I think it is evil for someone to work for you for 30 days and you refuse to pay that person. How do you expect that person to feed his family? I don’t see a governor that will sleep well, if he refuses to pay salary.
Do you think the APC can make things better, if they have the chance in 2023?
We are not happy that the governor is not paying salaries; there are many issues in Abia that one could campaign about including prompt payment of salaries. If the government is not paying salaries, it is an act of evil punishable by God and it is not proper. So, every pressure on PDP in Abia is an opportunity for us in the APC to produce the next governor.
Is the Southeast prepared for the Presidency?
The Presidency is still a long way to go. But the race to occupy the position of the President started immediately after the last election. The emergence of President Muhammadu Buhari and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar will define the way in 2023. But being that as it may, I believe at the moment, the Southeast is not politically strong enough to produce the President in 2023. And that is my honest disposition. Some people may criticize this, saying what is this Ibo man saying? But as a politician and someone that has come of age, I know that we need a strong political party structure and national outreach. You need other factors like finance and others to get to that exalted office. You need enough handshakes across the regions. The Yoruba are better positioned than the Igbo. If you look at the government of today, I will say the Yoruba are controlling more than 40 per cent in the structure of governance, where you have a Vice President that is from the Southwest. You have a speaker of the House of Representatives that is from the Southwest. Out of the four high offices, they have two from the same zone. Even the north does not have it that way because the President is from the Northwest and the Senate President is from Northeast. In the north, the portfolio is divided among the zones in the north. In the south, a lot of power is concentrated in the Southwest because of the judgment of my political party the APC. Simply, what you give is what you get. That is if you give much, you will also get much in return. That is what the Southwest is enjoying. Now, how do you place the Southeast in this calculation? They are nowhere to be found. The highest position the Southeast is occupying, is at the National Assembly. That is the Chief whip, a party position and not a national position. The Chief Whip of the Senate represents mainly the APC senators. It does not have overwhelming control of the PDP senators. The occupant can only negotiate, so the Southeast is nowhere to be found in this equation at the moment. So, for the Southeast to jump the bottle neck, to emerge in 2023, it will be difficult. The PDP can still rely on the north. They know that if they break from the north and give the Presidential candidate to another zone, PDP will problem. So in 2023, PDP will still go back to zoning its Presidential candidate to the north. But for the APC, the fight is between the North and the Southwest for the President.
What is your view on the present cabinet of Buhari?
I do not have confidence in the present composition. And when I compare that of Lagos State to the Federal Government I think, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu is better. There is no gap in Lagos cabinet. You can see technocrats and when you put this side by side with the Federal Government, the federal cabinet is like a compensatory cabinet. People who can make things happen are not fully involved. This is why I say I do not expect much from the Federal Government.