All Progressives Congress (APC) chieftain and Chief of Staff, Imo State Government House, Uche Nwosu, has given reasons the majority of his party members want President Muhammadu Buhari to run again in 2019.
He also talked about governance in Imo State, particularly the controversial South African President, Jacob Zuma’s statue.
Recently, the APC governors gave President Muhammadu Buhari the nod to run again in 2019. While some of the governors think that Buhari deserves an automatic ticket, the opposition think that he is not fit to continue in 2019 because of health challenges, what is your take?
I support the governors that President Buhari should run in 2019 because we have seen him as a man who has come to lay the solid foundation upon which this country and other presidents coming after him will stand. I said this because it takes somebody like President Buhari to drag the country out of recession, it takes somebody like him to stand firm on the issue of corruption, and it takes somebody like him to battle the issue of insecurity in the country. So, I am happy with the issue of his running in 2019. Whether he will be given an automatic ticket or not, I think what the APC governors, particularly their chairman wanted to show to the world was that the APC has and respects internal democracy. And they want to demonstrate that Buhari can still win without people thinking that if he runs in the APC primary he will lose; so, they want to prove that if Buhari runs in our primary he will still win. So, it was to demonstrate to the world that APC has internal democracy, not in some of these other parties where someone will say he wants an automatic ticket; it is only when you are not popular that you will be looking for an automatic ticket, unlike Buhari who is very popular. So, we believe that if the primary is run 100 times, Buhari will still win the primary of the APC presidential election.
Why should the APC clamour for President Buhari to continue in 2019, knowing that he has been in and out of the hospital, does it mean that the APC has no alternative?
I don’t really understand what you mean that President Buhari is not fit. He has come out from hospital, so I wonder if these people saying this have come close to the president to ascertain his fitness. Everybody can be sick, nobody is above sickness, but the matter is that when you are sick you go to the hospital to receive treatment and thereafter come back to continue with your work. So, President Buhari was sick and went to the hospital and received treatment and is now fit, and had since returned to his job, running like every one of us.
Can you in all sincerity say that President Buhari has delivered enough dividends of democracy that will warrant his coming again in 2019?
Yes, President Buhari has delivered dividends of democracy very well. Remember that when we came into power in 2015, the country was going down. Remember what was happening in the North East, most of the local governments had been taken over by the Boko Haram, are we talking about the billions of naira and dollars stolen from the country, are we talking about corruption that nobody cared about what would happen, people thought that corruption was part of the system, things were going wrong and nobody cared. But now, we should be proud to say that Nigeria has moved from what it used to be before to a country that we can call our own. Nigeria’s reputation abroad now is something all of us can be happy with. Before now, most of us when you get to the embassy you will be ashamed of the green passport and when you are on the queue, you will see Ghanaians and Cameroonians move pass the immigration in the US, but when it comes to the turn of a Nigerian, they will keep you and ask you so many questions. So, these are some of the corrections Buhari has done and we are happy about them. On the issue of recession, some countries can go into recession and in two years they are not out of it, today Nigeria has come out of recession; this happened so soon because President Buhari has been able to manage the affairs of this country very well. Buhari therefore is the only one who can strengthen the gains achieved and do more.
How much of these dividends of democracy have come to the Igbo because the people of the South East still believe they have not gotten their due under the Buhari administration?
When it comes to the issue of infrastructure and dividends of democracy to the south east, let me start from Agriculture, I know that Buhari through the Central Bank of Nigeria has intervened in rice production in Ebonyi State. Ebonyi is one of the states in the south east that is very good in rice production, the federal government has rendered some assistance to Ebonyi in rice production; so now most of the people eat Abakaliki rice including me, nobody cares about foreign rice again. On the issue of roads and other infrastructure, just few weeks ago, the vice president told us that the federal government has released the sum of N2 billion for the Second Niger Bridge, remember that this is the same bridge that we have had promises in the years past and nobody was able to do it until Buhari came in. On the issue of road, if you go through the 2017 budget, you will see that most of the roads in the south east are captured in the budget. Let me give you examples, from the one that cuts through my state, the Port- Harcourt-Owerri road which was started by the Niger Delta Ministry, the federal government has promised to bring the contractor back to site to complete the road and the Aba-Owerri road, work has commenced on that road and the Enugu-Onitsha, Enugu-Aba roads are receiving attention by the federal government. When a budget is made, it does not mean that within two or three days work will commence, no it has to go through due process before work will commence. But the assurance the south east should have is that President Buhari will not forget the zone, the president I know will treat every political zone as one single entity and one country. So, I don’t believe that the south east has not benefited from the dividends of democracy under Buhari. Even here in Imo State, we never knew that Imo as a state in the south east could have an international cargo airport, if you come to Imo today the airport is almost 90 per cent completed, it was President Buhari who gave us Imo Cargo Airport; we never had any Air force Command, but Buhari gave us one, the same with the Army Command School and so many other laudable projects; and it is the same thing in other states of the south east. So, our people should support President Buhari to be part of the moving train.
So, why is it that controversies are always coming out from Imo, from demolition of structures to build roads, to demolition of the controversial Eke Ukwu Owerri to erect the statue of the South African President, Jacob Zuma?
You know for you to make an omelet you have to break an egg and for you to get the yoke you must break an egg and no leader in any part of this world would allow himself to fail. Every leader wants to succeed and for you to succeed as a leader you must take the bull by the horn. If you are a leader and you depend on sentiment or what people will say you will never achieve anything. Owelle Rochas Okorocha is the man who has taken the bull by the horn. Let me start with the issue of road dualisation, today people are happy that we have eight-lane road in Imo State. It can only take a governor with a vision, a governor with a strong mind to clear the shanties on the roads and make Imo roads eight-lanes because before now the Imo State capital was like a mini-local government where the only roads you can pass through were either Douglas Road, Wethdral Road or Bank Road, but today we have the First, Second, Third, Fourth and Fifth Inland roads connecting the new and old Owerri, and we have the Akachi road.
On the issue of President Zuma, I think people misunderstood the coming of President Zuma, the statue and the rest of it. Owelle Rochas Okorocha did not bring President Zuma to Imo State for a jamboree, what Okorocha brought was South Africa economy. Some people do not know the importance of a sitting president visiting a state, not a country. By mere coming of the South African President, now Imo businessmen can travel to South Africa and do business there based on our relationship with President Zuma. President Zuma Foundation is working hand in hand with the Rochas Foundation College; most of our children from Imo State who want to study in the universities in South Africa from the Rochas Foundation College can now go to South Africa easily to study. The South African cargo plane will land in Imo State very soon because the South African Airline has now signed an agreement with the Imo State government so that they can be part of this Imo Cargo Airport when it becomes functional, but some people don’t see all these, what they see is the visit of President Zuma. And when you talk of having the statue of President Zuma, it takes a wise man who knows how to get something to act fast; there is this saying that when you want to catch a butterfly, you also fly and dance like a butterfly. For Christ sake, South Africa is not a small country, so for you to get something from South Africa, you need to lure them into the state. So what Governor Okorocha did was to simply bring South Africa into Imo State, so that when Imo people go to South Africa they will be highly received there. I believe that by that singular act Okorocha has taken Imo State to the next level of business opportunities. Remember that the President of Ghana also visited Imo State and stayed for two days; the Prime Minister of Zambezi came to Imo State and stayed two days too. I have not seen in the history of the Federal Republic of Nigeria where a president will move straight to a state on a private visit. I think I give it to him, he is a man with good vision and heart. It will take only Owelle Rochas Okorocha, my governor, my governor, to do this.
But most Imo people believe that it was not wise to use a whooping N520 million to erect a statue of a foreign president, they said it could have been used to pay teachers and pensioners in the state, how do you react to that?
I laugh at the people who say this; so if you look at somebody like Owelle Rochas Okorocha, you think he can spend N500 million on a statue, this is laughable because I know my governor very well; for him to bring out N100,000 for a project he must go to the place to see it, we are talking about Rochas, we are not talking about somebody who is used to swinging money around, Rochas is very prudent with money. Rochas will say let me go and stand there so that you can give me the N500 million so that I can use the money to do my roads and build more schools. By mere looking at the statue you can know the value, how much it is worth. You can get an artist and ask him how much it takes get that kind of statue.
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