A COMPASS INTERVIEW
Franklin Ogbuewu is a governorship aspirant in Ebonyi State. Recently, he defected from the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) to enable him contest the 2011 election. Ogbuewu, a former Minister of Culture and Tourism and ex- Ambassador to Republic of Greece said he decided to dump PDP because it lacks internal democracy. He had earlier contested the governorship election in 1999 and 2007 under ANPP and PDP respectively. JEFF AMECHI AGBODO met him.
WHY do you think Ebonyi people will vote for you?
I believed that Ebonyi people will vote for me because they know who is who in the political arena. I have been tested within the state and outside the state and my goodwill is enormous. I equally believed that I have invested politically and I’m convinced that Ebonyians will vote for me come 2011 governorship election.
Secondly, I stand for a change, I represent the change my people need and they want a change. They want somebody to lead them to that Promised Land and I have offered myself for service.
Could you outline your manifesto?
All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) as a party has a manifesto and I am going to blend my personal manifesto as it affects Ebonyi people with that of APGA. I know that the state lack hospitals, the one available is dead, no general hospitals in Ebonyi, and the teaching hospital is dead. The only health institution in Ebonyi State today is Federal Medical Centre (FMC) but Ebonyi people need hospitals.
Our educational facilities are gone, students are no more attending classes, no more lectures. Medical students are no more having comprehensive studies because of the closure of the teaching hospital; our educational system is almost gone. And, if you have youth and you don’t have plan for the youth, it means you have no plan for tomorrow and without education what do you have for the youth. We have to promote education to be able to give the reasonable capacity building that we need as a state to meet with the rest of the states in Nigeria. We are supposed to be agrarian state but we are not utilizing the fertile land. We need to reintroduce the required mechanized system of farming. We are going to assist the farmers by providing necessary farm implements and inputs like fertilizer for bumper harvest. The uncompleted projects are yearning for help in Ebonyi State
. The first executive governor of the state, Dr. Sam Egwu left some projects uncompleted and I expected the present administration to continue with the projects and complete them because government is a continuous process since no one can complete the projects he started. So, I expected Governor Martin Elechi to conclude all the projects Dr. Egwu left uncompleted because if he doesn’t complete them the money would be tie down. I know that Governor Elechi will leave a lot of uncompleted projects and if I become governor I am not going to abandon the projects he started and start my own project, no I’m going to complete them since government is a continuous process. That doesn’t mean that the important projects that Ebonyi people need would not be done, no I will do it but it is not good to introduce a project for the sake of it.
Then, there is a gap between the rich and the poor in the state. There is no middle class in Ebonyi State. I’m going to reintroduce middle class in Ebonyi State. How do you expect the youth to take over from you if the stage they are can not reach where you are then you are creating a very wide gap that is not necessary in any civilized society? I’m going to reintroduce the middle class and bring the people from the abject poverty level they are to a reasonable height.
Why do you dump PDP for APGA and how do you think APGA will give you victory?
I dumped PDP for APGA because PDP lacks internal democracy that I expected the new chairman, Dr. Okwesilese Nwodo was going to introduce. He made a lot of promises when he came on board I believed in him and expected we are going to have a change. But when that was not coming and I knew that the party executive in the state has made up their mind of whom they are going to give the ticket. And that will deprive the people of Ebonyi State the change they are yearning for. I decided to seek the opportunity in another platform and that is APGA to give the people the opportunity to say no to bad government, to say no to wrong government and to say yes to positive change.
Why APGA? Yes, APGA represents every thing that Igboman needs. I’m not trying to say that APGA is an Igbo party, no all am trying to say is that I found what I need as a man in APGA. It is a party that borders about internal democracy, a party that recognizes that the poor should exist alongside the rich ones. A party that recognizes that youth should be developed and people would be given opportunity to develop themselves according to their different capacities, a party that give to you what you consider that is very necessary in your life, a party that care for the health of the people. A party that care that people should drink pipe borne water, a party that care that people should be educated, a party that recognizes the economy of its state as important and that there should be growth to the economy so, that is why I decided to join APGA.
How would you curb the rigging excesses in 2011?
It is not all about me curbing it all alone but the people of Ebonyi State. The president of this country is saying that he is going to conduct free, fair and credible elections in 2011, that every vote will count in the next elections and I believed him and I have no reason to doubt his words. He has assured Nigerians. Recently, he said the same thing to General Assembly of United Nations. I know President Goodluck Jonathan is a man of his word; he is going to keep to his words. I also have confidence in the man at the helm of affairs of the INEC, Prof Attahiru Jega. He is a no nonsense man. The youth are clamouring for a change, the youth are going to vote and defend their votes. You know that the result would be declared in all the polling units, so there would be no opportunity for rigging.
Nigeria is 50 while Ebonyi is 14, how far have they been faring to its citizens?
Nigeria needs the kind of leadership that is proactive, selfless and patriotic that will address the immediate and remote needs of the populace. It is unfortunate that we have not been able to harness the benefits that abound in the natural resources which God had endowed this country with. Ebonyi State was created out of necessity and our desire for qualitative development of our space and people. However, 14 years on, the story has not been that palatable.
We have not gotten our priorities right. The much desired development looks slow in coming and presently, the gains that were recorded in the past are gradually ebbing. Health institutions in the state have turned to mere prescription-receiving centres, if the people to give the prescriptions are on duty. The State University Teaching Hospital which renders specialized health care to the people is under lock and key. The Federal Medical Center is now over stretched to its limit.
Our youths are not catered for as the State Government has not put anything in place to cater for the welfare of the youths, with the attendant unemployment. If measures were put in place, the rate of crimes would have been reduced to the barest minimum as most of the youths would have been gainfully engaged in one meaningful activity or the other.
Our road network has not improved as entry points into the state capital have remained death traps, the rural areas have not fared any better as the hope given them on good roads seem to have evaporated with the emergence of poorly- executed road network.
It is unfortunate that as we are in the twilight of the present administration in the state, it is difficult for us to place a finger on any project, which has direct benefit to the masses, we can say had been initiated and concluded. We are only fed with fairy tales. Every thing has remained a pipe-dream.
It is a known fact that government is a continuum and any succeeding administration continues with the projects of its predecessors in addition to new ones to be initiated by it. Unfortunately, in our state the ideal is not the situation. Many projects initiated by the previous administrations had been abandoned. None completed.
Presently they are talking about sourcing N20billion from the Capital Market with a repayment period that will span over five years, and deductable from Federal Allocations to the state. This means mortgaging the future of the state. They came up with the half-truth that the money will be put into some projects. But, they are not being sincere as it is evident that the money is simply to execute the forthcoming general elections.
What is your take on the recent lockout of prominent Igbo leaders at Owerri Concorde Hotel during their summit?
It is unfortunate that such things should happen in Igboland. I think honour should be given to whom honour is due. Chief Alex Ekweme was Vice President of this country. The men that attended the summit were the eminent Igbo leaders. For this to happen in Igboland it’s unfortunate. People have been holding meetings in different places why shouldn’t Igbos be allowed to hold their own meetings. People should be allowed to express their views and opinion, that is democracy. It is a bad signal because if that happens 2011 is at risk. The action is trying to change my belief in what the president is saying and I believe the president is not going to keep quiet about it because people are going to read different meaning into what happened. I believe that the new Inspector General of Police, Hafiz Ringim wouldn’t have known what happened; I believe that necessary action should be taken about those who disrupted that summit at Imo State. They pre-empted them, they don’t even know what they wanted to say, I don’t believe that there is anything wrong in dialogue or having meeting. I think, the governor of Imo state Chief Ohakim as a chief security officer shouldn’t have allowed that to happen in his own land. Police have denied that they don’t know anything about it. I want to believe that. I don’t want to believe it was planned at all and I don’t want to believe that anybody in authority can allow such thing to happen in Igboland because it is a bad signal.