APC leaders are a bunch of loud mouths – Onuoha-Bourdex
Pioneer telecom expert and aspirant to Abia North Senatorial district seat in the Senate on the platform of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Abia State, Dr. David Ogba Onuoha-Bourdex, in this interview with select journalists looks at the many socio-political challenges facing Nigeria, Emmanuel Uzodinma reports for DailyPost:
President Goodluck Jonathan has approved the sum of N1.9 billion to battle the Ebola scourge; how do you see this initiative against the backdrop of the many socio-political challenges facing President Jonathan?
Well, I have always expressed the belief that God positioned President Goodluck Jonathan as Nigeria’s leader at this critical point in our nation’s history. I think your question is coming from the background of the prolonged security challenges in the country especially the insurgency in some parts of the country.
Let me say that Jonathan has proved that he is the best man for the job. From day one, the President started battling some grave challenges including natural and man-made obstacles to smooth governance. I hope Nigerians have not forgotten how the President was psychologically traumatized by the needless squabbles over whether the country should obey the Constitutional provision that the Vice President should become President on the event of incapacitation or death of the president. That furore was shortly succeeded by another round of distraction over whether the President should contest the presidential election or not in line with Peoples Democratic Party’s zoning blue print.
As if those were not enough distractions, President Jonathan’s election in a landslide victory was followed by an unwarranted regime of violence instigated by those who believe that they hold exclusive right to the country’s leadership. The nexus between that ogre of violence and the insurgency by the Boko Haram Islamic sect has not yet been fully explored. Should I now forget the flood disaster that left unimaginable social and infrastructure disaster in 2012? At one point after another President Jonathan has been battling some extra ordinary challenges that never before confronted any Nigerian leader.
I had to go down the memory lane to be able to not only answer your question but above all put it in the real perspective. By rising to the enormous emergency health challenge posed by the Ebola outbreak, President Jonathan has shown that he has been toughened by the series of adversities that have been the lot of his chequered presidency. He has proved the sincerity of his assurances to Nigerians that he would fight for their welfare. So by approving the sum of N1.9 billion to contain and address the challenge of the killer virus, the President has shown that he cares. The swiftness of that gesture also shows the humanity and responsiveness of the presidency.
Recall that the president explained that the N1.9 billion will be used to intensify measures to contain the spread of the disease such as establishment of more isolation centres, case management, contact tracing, recruiting additional personnel, screening at the borders and procurement of required items and facilities. The President went further also to declare the control and containment of the Ebola virus in the country, a national emergency. The immediate release of the fund which the president approved was therefore a practical demonstration of the seriousness the situation calls for. The huge sum would help in no small way in the establishment of additional isolation centres, case management, contact tracing, deployment of additional personnel, screening at borders, and the procurement of required items and facilities as the presidency outlined.
But how do you see the president’s request for N1 billion to confront insurgency, which is being dogged by division among legislators some of who refer to the cloud surrounding the alleged missing N49.8 billion oil revenue?
I think the senate committee charged with investigating that claim by the former Central Bank Governor, has come out with a clear declaration that such a humongous amount was not missing from the treasury.
That brings me back to what I was trying to explain earlier that a lot of sentiments have been built like a stone wall to distract the president. What I believe President Goodluck Jonathan needs, is the collective solidarity and support of all Nigerians as he tackles the myriads of socio-political challenges confronting our country at this point of its development. Certain commentators have alluded to the politicization of the insurgency to blame its escalation on a particular political party. I do not want to reject the suggestion that the Boko Haram insurgency could be serving the political interests of those who do not want President Jonathan to succeed in office.
However, I think the time has come to tackle the insurgency headlong as a clear affront on Nigeria’s sovereignty. Therefore the import of President Jonathan’s request to the National Assembly for approval for the release of the N1 billion to tackle national security, is that he wants to adopt a different strategy. It would therefore be childish for any lawmaker who is aware of the national embarrassment the insurgency is causing our country to withhold consent on the altar of political considerations.
With due respect, the Senate has shown more maturity in issues of this nature than the House of Representatives because the lower House seems to be always on the lookout for hidden political considerations or benefits in its examination of executive communications or requests. There is no doubt that the insurgency; especially the abduction of 219 girls from Girls Secondary School in Chibok has shown that the Nigeria military is in dire need of modern sophisticated equipment and hardware to tackle the intricate terrorist warfare. If part of the money being requested by the President would go to upgrading the military arsenal, I think it should get unanimous approval. When such challenge came upon Mali, it took the assistance of the French army to dislodge the Islamists who wanted to carve out a separate colony for their nefarious activities. President Jonathan has said that Nigeria would not cede any segment of the country. Nigeria is a big country and should demonstrate the capacity to defend its territorial integrity. The National Assembly should endeavour to be on the same page with the President on this issue of battling insurgency. As such I feel the legislators should grant the President approval for the contingency fund in this period of national emergency.
As zoning seems to be threatening most state chapters including Abia, don’t you think the arrangement would continue to haunt the party in 2015?
Attempts by the opposition to use zoning against PDP has continued to backfire. Despite its bogus claim as the bastion of internal democracy, the recent national convention of the All Progressives Congress, (APC) convinced Nigerians that the leaders are but a bunch of loud mouths whose lips and lives have very big gaps. That they do not do what they say came to light when they zoned the national chairmanship of APC to the South-South. Now I have it on good authority that they plan to tinker with the zoning arrangement further to accommodate a presidential running mate from the same South-South.
But regarding that wonderful innovation of zoning by PDP, the plan was to reduce bickering that usually follows nomination of presidential candidates in the party. The idea was also to deepen the search for credible candidates instead of crowding the field with many aspirants some of whom may be out just to win attention. What happened in 2010, though unforeseen; was an attempt to interpret the zoning arrangement without accommodating the superiority of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
It is therefore such narrow approach to the implementation of the zoning that created the fuss we witnessed at the demise of our former president Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. As you can see PDP has weathered that storm and I would like to reiterate the aspect of zoning which was disclosed by the Ebonyi State Governor, Chief Martin Elechi. The elder statesman stated that what PDP zoning sought to do was to extend the federal character principle which states that President and Vice President, Governor and his Deputy as well as Chairman and Vice Chairman should not come from the same ethnic group. That is the aspect that endears PDP zoning to Nigeria citizens. The arrangement should not make people lose sight of merit and competency. After all the electoral system gives the voters the last say! That is how it should be; whatever political parties do to win elections is welcome to the extent that it should not take away the right of the people to have the final say. Parties can zone, but the people can un-zone during the election by electing the man/woman they like. It is as simple as that.
I think President Jonathan has given Nigerians what they treasure most through the electoral reforms. The principle of ‘One man, One Vote’ is the ideal instrument to make power belong to the people in a democracy. That is part of the reason I urge Nigerians to support President Jonathan for a second term in office so that he could deepen this democratic culture and enhance good governance in Nigeria.
All eyes seem to be on your state, Abia as the 2015 election draws near; the Governor, Chief T. A. Orji has shown interest to go to the Senate and yet speaks of zoning the governorship to Abia South, which is raising some controversies; do you not think the Governor seems to be biting more than he can chew?
You journalists have a way of postulating abstractions. The reality on the ground in Abia State is that the Ochendo phenomenon marks the refreshing turning point in Abia politics and social life. Governor T. A Orji has in a quiet way brought down the transformation agenda of President Goodluck Jonathan to the practical experience of Abia people, both young and old. Therefore when Abians from all walks of life talk of him as the liberator, people from outside the shores of the state seem not to understand what Ochendo means to us. Governor T. A. Orji has through an uncommon understanding of statecraft lifted Abia State and Abians from the morass of official greed compounded by the waste and extravagance of the preceding years. Men and women now freely express their political preferences and ideas as opposed to the choking system of voodoo politics of yesteryears. Top of that Ochendo has raised a new consciousness among the people that it is easy for the government to provide a combination of physical and stomach infrastructure for the benefit of the masses. The legacy projects and economic empowerment programmes of the governor has made him the rallying point for leadership in the state. As such when the governor said that the search for the next Abia governor should start from the South, he was carrying out his responsibility as a leader instead of keeping the people in the dark. As a famous consensus builder, empathic and visionary leader, Governor T. A. Orji wants to mobilize Abians in the search for the appropriate candidate to succeed him in office and carry the touch of liberation further. His position should therefore not been seen from the narrow prism of political exigency but as a call for voter inclusion and involvement in the search for the next governor. Like I said before, Ochendo is not extinguishing the people’s right to the final say on who becomes the governor through the expression of their votes.
I can understand the apprehension in some quarters that the governor may already have a candidate settled in his mind as the next governor. But that is far from the truth. If it were to be his intention atleast he should have kept mute like one of the South East governors did who warned his loyalists against aspiring for the position of governor saying that he had a candidate in mind. But the democratic credentials of Ochendo have never been and cannot be in question.
As a true leader of men, our governor does not want to shirk his responsibility of opinion leadership. He calls a spade by its name and always means what he says. That is why the people of Abia Central Senatorial district, including the incumbent Senator Nkechi Nwogu, have freely and unanimously endorsed him to represent them in the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. And it shall come to pass! Abians are happy with the governor and wherever he leads, we follow.
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