In this exclusive interview with Weekend Editor, OKEY MUOGO, the President-General of Ideato Peoples’ Assembly (IPA), Chief Augustine Onwuamaeze Eze, speaks on the activities this political pressure group of Ideato people of Imo state resident in Abuja. Excerpts:
What are the aims and objectives of the Assembly?
Our aims and objectives include the general wellbeing of Ideato nation, to promote peaceful co-existence and identification of Ideato indigenes resident in Abuja. It also includes the sensitization of members of the Assembly on their social and civic responsibilities to our Ideato nation and encourage the participation of members of the Assembly in the development of Ideato and our country at large.
As a non partisan political association, how do you coordinate your members who belong to or have sympathy for various political parties in Nigeria?
IPA is non partisan. But then, all individuals have their own individual political inclinations and we encourage them to be active in their political associations and aspirations. But then, we are a pressure group and as a pressure group, we try to liaise with all the political associations to see that whoever wins election or whoever is in power does not forget Ideato nation. So, we reach out to whoever is representing us at the state assembly, in fact at all governance levels: governorship level, National Assembly and even at local government levels. So, that is our duty. We pressure them to remember Ideato nation.
As an as<strong>sociation of Ideato indigenes in Abuja, how far have you influenced or would want to influence the politics of your home state, Imo?
Here we have reached out to our representatives at the national level. Senator Hope Uzodinma is our Senator, Hon. Austin Chukwukere is our House of Representative member. We sought audience with them, we tried to look at the national budget and how Ideato is reflected in it and we take it up with them. We try draw their attention to what is provided for Ideato nation and encourage them to ensure they are implemented and our efforts have yielded fruits. The Okigwe-Akokwa section of the Nnewi – Okigwe Road is now constructed. We have seen a lot of things Hon. Chukwukere is trying to do. We have written to all our representatives demanding accountability, asking them: please tell us what you have done so that our people will know what their representatives have done for them. I think we are in the right track and we will continue to do that with the incoming government.
Imo state governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha is from your area, how do you assess his administration in the last 7 years plus?
Well, if I have to assess his administration in terms of Ideato nation because I don’t want to talk about what he has done in Owerri, and the other cities in the state but then, it is on record that Ideato as a nation, the two local governments that make up Ideato: Ideato North and South, have not benefited from our governor and it is sad to know that somebody from our area is the governor and we are marginalised. It pains us when people talk that Ideato is being favoured in any way. Our roads are bad, our markets have been destroyed and our children are not employed. No federal presence in Ideato while we have a governor who should bring those things down to our area. So, we are not favoured despite the fact that we have our brother, so to say, as the governor of Imo state. We are definitely not happy, nobody is happy.
Gov Rochas, your brother, so to say, is believed to have performed poorly and has created deep-rooted animosity among the various sections of the state; how much backlash of his actions do you expect to fall on Ideato people and how prepared are your people for the looming hatred from the other 2 senatorial zones?
It is erroneous. Anybody who is saying that we are going to suffer backlash because Rochas the governor is from Ideato is not being fair. The records are there. Look at records of what he has done. Why should we suffer a backlash. Ideato suffered as much as any other part of Imo state. As I am talking to you, the bridge at Mgbee Town has collapsed and it is on record that the bridge that links Ideato with Orlu. That bridge has collapsed and that bridge was constructed by Rochas. You pressmen should go there and see the quality of construction that was done there. That road is uncompleted. The Akokwa section of the Road is impassable. So, what is it that he has done for Ideato that will make people feel that he favoured us in this his administration. We suffered as much as every other section of Imo state.
Given what you have said, would it not be right to blame the other parts of Imo state for Rochas’ election as governor since Ideato votes alone could not have made him governor?
You are right. Nobody will say that we alone made Rochas governor and that he has favoured us. Any governor coming in, in 2019, whether from Okigwe zone or Owerri zone cannot look at Ideato people that we made Rochas or that we benefited unduly from his administration. We have not and we alone didn’t make him governor. It was the whole of Imo state that made him governor.
Do you support the idea that an Orlu person should still aspire to be Imo state governor in next year’s election after the two terms each, of Chiefs Achike Udenwa and Rochas Okorocha, both from Orlu zone?
Well, I am not a politician. It is the politicians who determine who comes from where. It is them who will bring up their candidates. So, it will not be fair for me to say whether the governor will come from Orlu or Owerri zone. It is for politicians to decide and for us to vote for those they bring up. In fairness and for equity, ordinarily, the governorship should rotate among the three senatorial districts but in this case, what are the politicians doing? If the parties decide to bring an Orlu man again, what do you do? You vote for those who they bring. It is for the parties to take that decision let us bring an Okigwe man, let us bring an Owerri man. It is not for the voters to decide.
Given the experiences you people have had with this current administration in the state, what advice do you have for the voters in the state as next governorship election draws closer?
We must look for people with antecedents. We must look for people who have the love of the people at heart. A situation where we continue to vote for people because they have made money which we don’t know how they made it, we continue to vote for people because they have emmassed wealth -they are coming there to emmasse more Wealth. We should look for people who have relevant/requisite educational qualification, people who understand the intricacies of governance. You must be prepared, you must have had some governance/administration experience at one level or the other, not because you have money. So, people must look at the sincerity of people who are coming out, not because he is my own brother, or because he is coming from my own area. We should look beyond these mundane issues. Imo state has suffered tremendously-infrastructure has collapsed, Owerri that was rated the most beautiful capital in the whole of Nigeria is now a slum. Flood has taken over the place. We must have somebody who can plan and execute that plan, somebody who has foresight and then lay the plan for everybody to see and then follow it systematically and logically.
What advice do you have for Ideato people residing in Abuja concerning this Association?
My advice and call on Ideato people in Abuja is to identify with this Association. As the saying goes, gidigidi bu ugwu eze (the crowd makes the king). We will not have enough muscle and power to influence things or our representative to take our issues serious if we are not many in this Association . So, I am calling on all Ideato people to identify with the Ideato Peoples’ Assembly, let us join hands together to ensure that Ideato develops fast