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By Pamela Eboh, Awka on 23/06/2013

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A resilient and ambitious banker-turned-politician, Hon. Uche Ekwunife is a two-term member of the House of Representatives for Anaocha/Njikoka/Dunukofia Federal Constituency. She is eyeing the Anambra State Governor’s Seat on the platform of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) after having failed to grab it in 2010 when she contested on the platform of the Peoples Progressives Alliance (PPA). In this interview with News Express, Ekwunife speaks on her governorship ambition and the crisis rocking the party. Excerpts.

News Express: Your posters have flooded Anambra State. Are you going to contest the governorship election again?

Hon Uche Ekwunife: Essentially what you saw is true and that is what I am doing. I officially want to use this medium to declare my ambition to serve Anambra State in the capacity of an executive governor. This is also to tell my brothers and sisters in Anambra State that I am contesting for that position in the 2014 election. I also wish to state that I am not just coming out to join the bandwagon of those who say that they are contesting, but that I am fully prepared and ready to contest as a person who is contesting to win by the special grace of God.

At the moment, your party, APGA, is in crisis. Don’t you see that as an impediment?

I know you are talking about the disagreements in our party. This is normal in any political organisation and it is an ingredient of the democratic process. In politics there are bound to be litigations and there could also be controversies. Though APGA is a minority party in Nigeria; it is however the leading and majority party in Anambra State. I am sure that you are aware of the court matters about APGA leadership and what the Enugu Appeal Court said about the High Court judgment against Sir Victor Umeh. Going by that, Victor Umeh is still recognised as the National Chairman of APGA. We still have issues at the High Court, the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court over the matter. But at the moment Victor Umeh remains the National Chairman of All Progressives Grand Alliance and that is where I belong, unless something else happens legally. Besides, the Appeal Court position on the matter remains substantive until it is reverted. Even if we have any other position at the High Court level, the Appeal Court remains supreme and higher until a higher court makes any new pronouncement on the matter. So he is still the National Chairman of APGA.

You are from Anaocha Local Government Area and you have an ambition to replace Governor Peter Obi who is also from the same council area. How workable is that?

Anambra State is a unique state. Our people are highly politically aware and cannot be misled. What the people of Anambra State want is good governance irrespective of where the person comes from. I wish to make it known to you that zoning is not the issue in Anambra State. There has never been a time Anambra State agreed on zoning or a zoning formula. It is only when Anambra people come together through any manner and say this is what we want and which of the senatorial districts would start, then we address that issue and it takes off from there. Even those who are saying that it is their turn had contested with other zones in the past. By the way, George Bush Senior became President of the United States of America. Later his son became President of America and later another son became governor of a state. Though I share the same view with a cross section of Anambra State people, but this is democracy and people are entitled to their own views and opinions. However, Anambra State people want good governance, selfless service and carrying them along and they do not care where the governor comes from. It is even better that we have good governance than trying to respect zoning and get a governor who only became one because they said that it is the turn of his or her area and he could not deliver. Even in the constitution of Nigeria as amended, it does not recognise zoning of any political or elective office. The only area you may look at what you are talking about is in the area of federal character and not zoning.

There is this rumour that you have gone into a political marriage with an oil magnet in APGA who is also contesting for the same seat so that you can become his running mate?

Nobody runs for the post of deputy governor. I cannot be spending all my time and resources, draining energy, creating all the awareness across the state in the name of becoming a deputy governor. I wish to reiterate that I have what it takes to manage the affairs of Anambra State creditably. Anybody telling you that I am going to become running mate to anybody or deputy to anybody is not saying the truth. I have heard it before and I see those stories as rumour and it does not hold water. I want to make it clear that am running to win and I have the belief in God that I will win the election. I have been in the Federal House of Representatives for almost eight years now and you think that all those experience and knowledge that I have acquired is for me to become a deputy governor? So I wish to use this medium to disabuse the minds of Anambra people and indeed Nigerians that I have no such plans of becoming any body’s running mate or deputy governor. I am running governorship seat of Anambra State and I need the support of all Anambra people to provide quality service to my people through good governance, transparency and provision of social security for all and sundry.

Shortly before the 2010 governorship election, you left PDP to join PPA. Later you joined APGA to contest the 2011 National Assembly election. Some people feel that you may return to PDP in view of the APGA crisis . . .  

I have no intention to return to the PDP at anytime. I am a member of APGA and the party is dear to us and to me in particular. When you look at our party, APGA, you will discover that the party has done well in our state. This is through the instrumentality of our governor, Mr. Peter Obi. He has done so well and that is to the credit of APGA as a party. That is also the testimony that we are using as APGA. So we in APGA shall build on the foundation that he has laid to better Anambra State. So there is no point going to the Peoples Democratic Party when the APGA-led government has done well. Like I said before, the leadership problem in APGA does not mean an end to the party. It is normal in a democratic set-up for people to have disagreements and same is the case with political parties. We have a National Chairman, Sir Victor Umeh, and he remains as that. One cannot because of the normal democratic developments in his or her party, join another party. So I want to make it clear that I am not joining any political party and I am a member of the All Progressives Grand Alliance and not the PDP.

Don’t you think being a woman will be an impediment to your ambition and are you not intimidated by the presence of the men bearing in mind our people’s culture?

I am contesting for the post of a governor to render service to my people. Any person can render service to the people of Anambra State and it doesn’t matter if the person is a man or a woman. What matters is service to the people. I will like to adhere that being a woman is not an impediment at all. When Dame Virgy Etiaba was governor, you all saw her achievements within that short period of time she was in office. She was a success story and people still talk about what she did for our people. Her gender as a woman did not stop her at all. Come to think of it, we are not going there to fight physically where you would say we need men. Again, at my level and stage in politics, I am above such fear of intimidation by men. You should also know that I have passed that stage of intimidation in politics. I have spent close to eight years in the National Assembly and in the National Assembly we have about 360 members who are men and women of integrity – people experienced from all walks of life and we share ideas and rub minds on issues about our people and you feel that with such an experience any law maker cannot make a good governor? So it is not a man or woman thing; it is all about service to the people and it does not matter if the person at the helm of affairs is a man or a woman.

You are the House Committee Chairman Environment. What has your committee done so far about the ecological disaster in the South-East?

This is a natural thing and we in the National Assembly have been working hard by visiting all parts of Nigeria to study the situation and make recommendations on what to do. Here in the South-East, gully erosion can be natural or manmade, but we have continued to sensitise our people and to get the Federal Government to come to our aid. A good example is the Nanka gully erosion. The present contractor could not handle it. This is because from the beginning it has a designing defect and as such there is nothing the contractor can do about it. We need companies that have clout to tackle erosion. As we talk about the gully erosion the northern part of Nigeria is talking about desertification. It is a natural problem that needs attention and our committee is doing all it can to tackle the problem. We also ensure that the ecological funds are appropriated and disbursed judiciously. There has been that campaign that people should prepare against another flooding this year. I think the problem we have is that only the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) is working; the State Emergency Agency (SEMA) and the Local Government Emergency Agency (LEMA) are either non-existent or are not working. These two bodies should be equipped and made to be alive to their responsibilities at all times. We urge the state governments to equip them and make them operational against the impending flooding of this year.

•Photo shows Hon. Uche Ekwunife.

Source News Express

Posted 23/06/2013 2:08:18 PM


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