Senate is For Bold and Courageous – Umeh
Chief (Sir) Victor Umeh, FNIVS, KSJI, OFR, is the National Chairman of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and Anambra Central senatorial candidate of his party. In this interview with Fides editorial team comprising Hon. Jude Atupulazi (Editor-in-chief); Uche Amunike and Abuchi Onwumelu, he bares his mind on why he is running for the senate, election postponement, campaign assessments and expectations and what package he has for his constituents and by extension Ndigbo
The campaigns are been rounded off and If not for the last minute change by INEC the elections would have been history today. But since the elections have been postponed how will you assess your campaigns so far and your expectations?
Well, I say that the postponement of the elections was very unfortunate in the sense that we had prepared and campaigned very well, we visited all the communities in Anambra Central senatorial district. I remained the only candidate that was able to visit all the communities and all the wards in the zone. I was able to meet with various interest groups within the Anambra Central senatorial district, I was able to see both traditional rulers, town union presidents, women leaders, students groups, market groups and virtually every group that would have had an impact in that elections. I was able to interact with all of them and intimate them about my mission and vision of going to the senate. Therefore, closed to 14th February 2015, I was already set for winning that election as it turned out the election have to shifted to March 28. So, for me I will say that if the election had taken place on the 14th of February, the outcome would have been in my favor and I would have won that election with landslide margin.
Nevertheless, shifting the election to 28 March will not produce different result, it is just that the cost of preparing and continuing the campaigns and doing the extra work will take a big toll on any serious candidate. We are preparing again to go to the elections on 28 March.
We have not lost the gains we made before the postponement; people are still abreast with the messages we gave to them. People are still so convinced about the purpose of my coming out to go to the senate, the purpose and my vision statement remains fresh in the minds of people and I can tell you with the way people received me during my campaign tour I need no one to tell me that victory is mine. Most of them received me based on my popularity and dexterity. They are things that they are convinced about ever before I joined the senatorial race, I don’t see anything that will change when election finally comes.
When you finally get elected what plans do you have for the people of Anambra Central Senatorial Zone?
Well, I am the only person who is campaigning; telling people why I want to go the senate, I didn’t just come out to run for this election because I want to be senator, No!. There was a compelling need for me to join the senatorial race and I made it abundantly clear to the people that my prime motivation to join the senatorial race is for me to go to the senate and give a very strong voice on issues that affect my people in Nigeria, most people did not know the problems the Igbos are facing in Nigeria. Even all these people running for senate now, pretending to be wanting to go there to represent do not know the core issues that affect the Igbos I have identified it ever before now, that the major problems facing the Igbo people had been the political structural disadvantage the Igbos have been subjected to due to the programmes and policies of successive military regimes that had been in-charge of affairs of Nigeria.
I pointed out clearly that the military balkanized Nigeria after the civil war into States and local governments and consciously and deliberately consigned the Igbos to the insignificant minority. The military created 774 LGAs and gave South east 95 Local Governments and five (5) States; they the South south 123 local governments and six (6) States ; they gave South west 137 Local governments and six (6) States. Up North the gap is wider. Now, how does it affect the Igbo people negatively? You share money (Federal revenue) on basis of Local Governments and States, statutory allocation goes to States and Local Governments, employment of people of into Federal Parastal, agencies and Federal Civil Service people are drawn from Local Governments; selections are done on the basis of Local Governments and States.
Again, if you go out to any national political activity like national convention of a party that you want elect somebody who will be presidential candidate of a party and things like that; delegates come from Local Governments. So, when you look at this you see that the Igbos get the least amount of money during revenue sharing because we have the least number of Local Governments and States to take the smallest money. As for the contributing delegates to any national political activities we the Igbos will come with the least number of delegates. But the most annoying thing is that when you begin to recruit people into the Police, Army, Air-Force, Navy, Customs, Immigration and other paramilitary organizations in Nigeria, people are taken from Local Governments either one or two per Local Government. You can see that the Igbos have been put at the rear in all national affairs.
I believe that the greatest problems the Igbos are facing today are borne out from this structural imbalance skewed against the Igbos in State creation and Local Government creation and when they finish this thing they put it in the constitution in a schedule listed the Local Governments 774 of them, Listed the 36 States and FCT and then made it very impossible for additional Local Governments and States to be created based on stringent condition inserted in section 8 in the constitution of the Federal Republic which we are operating today. The Igbos are locked up in Nigerian; we don’t have any breathing space, anywhere you call us out our voice will not be recognized, because we will be the least people in-terms of delegate in whatever we are doing.
I was privileged to be at National Conference last year and aware of this problems the Igbos are facing, I was very vocal; I was every where calling for a redress to this structural disadvantage the Igbos have been locked into and I campaigned for additional State along with other delegates, I led the campaign at least, during plenary I was the first Igboman to speak in this unwholesome issues that the Igbos should be given an additional State, even though, other delegates from the Southeast supported it .But I was the one who initiated it at the plenary which led to verbal exchanges between me and some Northern delegates .
At the end of the National Conference, we were able to secure an agreement that the Igbos should be given an additional State in the first instance and when you talk about the equality of States across the Zones the Igbos will also share if other States are created in equality basis. But for the existing imbalance, the conference accepted and passed a resolution that the South east should given an additional State making it six (6).
We were also able to make a case that the present 774 local governments recognized in the constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria should be dropped. It was a tough fight but at the end of the day, the Conference also agreed that the 774 LGAs recognized in our constitution should be expunged, so that money meant for Local Government administration will be shared among the States; If you like go to you go home and 2000 Local Governments in your State that will bridge the gap which the Igbos have been suffering in Nigeria.
Among many other things that we decided and resolved at National Conference, we sent our report to the President and the President pledged to implement them. Following National debate now I was actually the person who started saying that our support for Jonathan is hinged on his promise to implement the the report of the National Conference that will benefit the Igbos not promises of building roads, I started saying it and as it appears now even the Southwest have come out to say that the implementation of that Conference report will be their reason for supporting Jonathan.
The implementation of that report will be done by the National Assembly and that all these resolutions reached at the National Conference will be given legislative backing. So, the seal will be given at the National Assembly; that is my primary motivation. I said since we fought very hard at the National Conference and the battle have now shifted to the National Assembly where the report will be finally implemented, it requires somebody who is prepared to go to the Senate to fight and defend this report and ensure that it is given the priority attention that it deserves at the National Assembly. That is why I am running for senate. I believe, that the time we get this through at the Senate, the Igbos will come back to Nigeria in full force. They will no longer be marginalized people. With that Igbos will feel belonged and participate actively in the National affairs.
That is my compelling desire to go the senate and give the critical voice the Igbos will need at the National Assembly because I have done it at the National Conference to the acknowledgement of all Nigerians not only Igbo people the debate was very robust and it was intellectually and mentally demanding. So, the Igbo need to have people who will understand the issues and engage other parts of Nigeria during debate and get them convinced to support the implementation of the report of the National Conference. Senate is for strong characters and not weaklings. It is for the bold and courageous, people who can challenge people of other Zones . If I get there what am promising our people is that I will rest until we get this important bottleneck in the life of the Igbos sorted out; that is one major mission that I have then the rest are things I can consider normal. When you are at the Senate you have to ensure that senatorial Zone that you are representing get their rights. The present situation where people are promising transformers, boreholes cannot be the reason for going to National Assembly. So, people are missing the point
To me, those things are things that should be taken for granted that they are there but we need something extra to a secure the rights and privileges of our people in a country where things are done on a representative arrangement.You must be there to represent your people very well and ensure they get their entitlements, most importantly, to ensure that whenever anything comes up both National Assembly and the Senate that we have somebody who be ready to take on anybody to ensure that the things that accrue to your people must come to them .
The Senate is the chamber in Nigeria where laws are made and every zone will be sending very credible people; if you recalled Senate has about eight female members out of 109; it is just to show you that not that the women cannot work hard but it underscores the seriousness because it is going to be a battle.
We must send people who can square up with anybody without suffering and complex. If the North is sending very strong headed Alhaji, we must send someone who will have the courage to tell Alhaji to sit down when he begins to talk out of point particularly on issues that affect the Igbos .I demonstrated it at the National Conference where Alhaji Magaji Danbata described the Igbos as “So called Southeast people, why should so-called Southeast people be dashed a State”? After I made a presentation that our people are entitled to one additional State at least to balance up with the rest of the zones and his only own contribution to my argument is to referred the Southeast people as “So-called Southeast People” . I took a great exception to that, I had to ask our leader at the Conference, Gen. Ike Nwachukwu to extract an apology from Alh. Danbata , he got up and extracted an apology.
You can see that Senate is a place you go and aim to be above any form of intimidation ;Nobody can intimidate me in Nigeria and after we did all that at National Conference I became a cynosure of all eyes. Delegates from the North, delegates from the Southwest , delegates from the South south saw as an advocate of the Igbo people at the National Conference because when take it very easy l take it very strongly once is something that affect my people which to give 5% Nigeria’s revenue to Northern Nigeria to take care things destroyed by Boko Haram, I was the only person who opposed it and I challenged it; I mobilized delegates during the night from the Southwest and Southsouth and the Southeast and they shut it down at plenary the next day. I forced that proposal to be abandoned and gave a motion which was accepted in grafting that resolution where I said that 5 percent should be made for all parts Nigeria that are affected by internal conflicts, war which you know we fought war (Biafra/Nigeria Civil war), insurgency in any part of Nigeria not only in Northern Nigeria.
That my motion succeeded in National Conference and that was what they approved. I had to do that because I felt that we cannot be making provisions for the rehabilitation of infrastructure destroyed by Boko Haram in Northern Nigeria when Nigeria never approved 1% of her revenue to help in rehabilitation of infrastructure destroyed in the Old Eastern region that was Biafra’s territory; Nigeria Govt never did that, after the war, there was no provision made for reconstruction or rehabilitation of infrastructure destroyed in the Biafra’s territory which territory we occupy today.
I said it will be a grave injustice to provide for rehabilitation of infrastructure destroyed by Boko Haram in the North when such thing did not happened in the Old Eastern region after the war. I fought and I won it in the National Conference. That is the essence of sending somebody to a National debate like this because the Senate is a national debate where come you move motions and sponsor bills that will affect you and for the well-being of Nigerians . We need somebody who is mentally and intellectually equipped to do it and most importantly, it a centre stage in Nigeria that why am taking the battle there.
I did it at the National Confab , I am more determined to do it again in the Senatgive. Give me your support! . I am going to the Senate to give Ndigbo a strong voice.
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