By Ajibola Abayomi, Daily Independent
National Vice Chairman of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), South East, Olisa Metuh, believes the realisation of Igbo presidency is not far-fetched. In this interview with Acting News Editor , Saturday, Ajibola Abayomi, he speaks on issues affecting the growth of PDP in the region. He also speaks on other salient issues.
nite With the indifferences within the South East over the National Assembly (NASS) leadership zoning, do you not think this may igcrises within the PDP in the region soon?
The leadership of the party that cuts across the country, within the rank and file of our party, is talking; elected legislators too would have their say. At the end of the day, we would come up with something that is best for the country and the party. Controversial views are necessary for democratic development. Yes, some are not happy about what they assume about the NASS zoning order, but we would resolve whatever it is at the end of the day in the interest of our party and the country.
Are you not bothered that some Igbo leaders like former Governor of Anambra State, Emeka Ezeife, are beginning to call on the people to dump the PDP for another party in their own interest?
Chief Ezeife has never been a member of PDP. I am not saying he cannot comment on issues as a citizen of this country, but it is not for him to tell PDP what to do in its own affairs. When we have differences in the party, we have a channel of communication of reaching out to our leaders. We can table our matter before the President as a party man or the acting national chairman of the party. I am not bothered about people making comments to gain relevance; after all, the Igbo were led to Biafra. We were not prepared for it. Check for yourself, whether the reason for that was wrong or right. A discussion with leadership of the party is much more rewarding than to be crying wolf. Through that approach, we can negotiate or agree on several things.
Other concerned Igbo have criticised those who claimed to be the eye of the zone in PDP. Frankly, would you say you people have let down the South East zone in the party’s sharing formula?
I don’t want to make any categorical comment on this for now. Recently, I attended a meeting with South East governors and we are already making some moves that would be rewarding. I want to keep that to myself for now. So far, I am impressed with the way the governors are handling the matter, whether they negotiated before they gave their support to the President is a matter for discussion for another day.
Going by the way PDP in the South East lost some of the seats it won during the 2003 elections, don’t you think that the opposition was right to have accused your party of rigging?
In 2003, the PDP won virtually all seats in the South East including that of the governors. The trend did not really change during the last election. The only thing was that we lost the governorship election in Imo State. Again, if you recall, we didn’t win that in 2007. Right now we have over 85 per cent of the elective seats in our zone. What else do we want? We are on course; in Imo State, we are in the majority in the House of Assembly and in Anambra we also have a good showing, which in any case have now silenced those who think we have been rigging elections in that state. We are leading other parties with wide margin with the number of seats we have won so far.
Talking about the national chairman of PDP, why is that even among the governors, there were divisions as to whether the zone should have it?
The truth is that when the last national chairman of the party resigned the feeling was that another person should be nominated from the South East but for some reasons our leaders never bothered about that. Nature does abhor vacuum, the constitution of the party allows for the deputy chairman to become acting chairman and he has been performing creditably well. The party is moving and whenever the leaders decide to have a national convention another chairman would emerge. Apart from the leadership of the party, there are lots of things that are bothering our people in the South East that we must articulate in our own interest. For instance, the position of permanent secretary has been eluding our people. Apart from the ministry of transport and labour, the other sectors numbering about 13 have no Igbo representation. When you even rank these sectors in whatever category, our people are not in any of the leading ones. We shall make a strong case for that. Our people have been constantly denied opportunity to grow in the civil service. Other zones have six states and we have five states. People from other zones have been heading several ministries while our people have been denied clear opportunities. We would no longer close our eyes to that. In Abuja for instance, what is bad if an Igbo man becomes the minister of the Federal Capital Territory? Our people have contributed about 70 per cent of the total development in the city. We have the worst road network in the entire country when you take a sample of federal roads. Let them give us minister of works and see maybe that road would not be repaired. The Enugu-Onitsha road is the worst I have ever seen. Something must be done to correct all these. In terms of erosion, our people are seriously affected. What is bad to have minister of environment from the East?
Your agitations bother on the impact of the Federal Government in the South East and your party has been in power at the centre since 1999, is that not a failure on the part of the PDP not to have met the infrastructure demand and the call for equal representation at the federal cabinet?
It is not a failure. It is a neglect of the zone because these issues have been highlighted several times, even before I became the national vice chairman of PDP in the South East. I also championed this cause when I was a youth leader of PDP. All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) and several Igbo groups have also agitated for these including former governors. So, we have been neglected.
So who is to be blamed for the neglect, is it Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) or which party?
I won’t say that PDP as a party has neglected the South East but I can say it over and over again that the South East has not been treated well. We are beyond the issue of House of Representatives Speaker. What we are asking for is beyond that. We are bothered about equal representation and equitable distribution of national wealth.
But you are not going to table the agitation of your people before the government of the ACN or Congress for Progressive Change (CPC). If you can’t get anything for your people under the PDP, where else do you want to go?
The PDP has never failed the people of the South East but has failed to have a role in governance. The truth is that for the past 12 years the party has never had a position on governance in the country. The past Federal Government failed to have a clear role in governance. All you hear was that the politicians should not have a role in governance. They were saying the parties should concern themselves with organising congresses and settling disputes. The new leadership of PDP is now canvassing for the participation of professionals and party men in governance by charting a new course for the nation.
To what extend have you engaged the governors of the South East in ensuring that the dividends of democracy are provided for the people to start with at home?
In 2008, good politicians and the governors of PDP in the South East ensured that I was elected as national vice chairman of PDP. I would ever remain grateful to them for that honour. The issue of my influence over them as national vice chairman has been minimised. In 2010, I assisted the President to win the party’s primaries as well as all the governors in the South East. We were there for them during the planning of their election campaigns and manifestoes and we mobilised resources for them, so whatever favour they have done for me, we have repaid them. We also assisted our candidates who vied for House of Assembly and National Assembly polls. So now is the time to start the business of working for our people in ensuring that the dividends of democracy get to them. The most important thing for us is to swing into action within the first two or three months because if we fail to plan with them within the first one year in office, we may never have control over them.
There have been controversies as to what the South East PDP leaders negotiated with President Goodluck Jonathan before leading the people to endorse him. What did you demand from the President on behalf of the people?
I was never involved. The governors and Ohanaeze Ndigbo were involved in that. When I challenged the governors that they have not been carrying the leadership of the party along all through the negotiation with the President they apologised and promised to involve everybody and since then we have resoled to work together on that.
How long do you think the Igbo can wait to actualise the dream of producing an elected president?
When the environment is right and when our people understand what leadership is all about. For now, our people do not understand what leadership is all about. God appoints and gives leaders to the people based on what they deserve. It would happen when our people stop infighting, work together and be united as we are doing right now. Then God would smile on us and say this is the time to produce the president of the country. We don’t want to produce a president that would be stopped by court injunction from performing his duty. Our people are becoming more matured and exposed about political happenings now. Maybe now God will continue to consider us but God was right in the past.
It is said in some quarters that the Igbo have settled for the post of vice president come 2015. How true is it?
We are focused now with what we shall get from the current dispensation under President Goodluck Jonathan. Our approach is that we don’t bother him too much such that he would be distracted from performing his duties as president. If you help to produce somebody and he gets elected as President, you should not bother him too much. If you elect a man in Jonathan’s posture, all you need is to trust him and allow him to work. If there are things to discuss or negotiate with him, then we will do that diligently by involving all those that matter.