Chief Eugene Odoh, two-term Speaker of Enugu State House of Assembly and All Progressives Congress’s (APC’s) Senatorial candidate for Enugu North, in this interview with LAWRENCE NJOKU, explains the chances of the party in the coming elections in the Southeast
Ndigbo gathered recently and endorsed Atiku/Obi ticket. Do you think that has foreclosed the chances of APC in the Southeast in next month’s election?
I was disappointed when I read it on paper. If it is true that Ohanaeze and other Igbo leaders endorsed PDP’s presidential candidate that is political suicide.
It is political suicide because Arewa Consultative Forum has not endorsed their son, who is the president of Nigeria; the Afenifere has not endorsed their son, who is the vice president.
Why will Ohanaeze identify with one candidate all the time? That is wrong.
I call it the deceit of the elite, because there is no basis for it. It does not represent the aspiration of Igbo people.
What yardstick did they use in arriving at their decision? Are they saying every Igbo person must belong to PDP? As far as we are concerned, it was a gathering of PDP and not Ndigbo.
The government of APC has made some remarkable imprints in Igboland than any other. We have a situation where a few persons wants to impose their wishes on others.
Endorsement does not win elections; endorsement does not change an already bad situation.
We believe that the election will speak whether what happened in Enugu was the desire of Ndigbo or that of a few who have contributed in holding Ndigbo down.
Ndigbo have complained about APC’s level of marginalization against them. Is your party not guilty of that charged?
When you talk about marginalization, I begin to wonder who is driving it.
Is it true that APC has been unfair to Igbo? I do not think those who hold this view about marginalization are fair to the party.
In terms of appointment, I have a simple question to ask: during the PDP era, Igbo were appointed into different portfolios, as secretary to government, Senate President, Minister for Power, Aviation, Finance and what have you.
Can you point one single thing that they used the portfolios to achieve?
The concept of governance is beyond appointments. I am not discountenancing appointment by virtue of what will give people a sense of belonging.
If we had all these appointments with nothing to show, then it does not matter to me if we had no appointments, but with massive infrastructure to show for it.
APC is quite fair to Southeast, but needs improvement. It is not as bad as people paint it. It is our duty in the Southeast to tell ourselves the basic truth. Where are we as a people?
I think the highest we can benefit, as a zone is the highest office in the land, which is attaining the Presidency that has eluded the average Igbo for a long time.
If zoning is to be observed, which the APC has vowed to uphold, the common sense is that when Buhari finishes by 2023, political power will shift to the South.
If power shifts to the South, APC, being a party of equity, will consider that the last president, being from Southern Nigeria with the Southwest represented by Olusegun Obasanjo and South-South represented by Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, common sense should tell all Nigerians that the presidency should be allotted to the Southeast.
It is only the APC that has the capacity to do that. This is notwithstanding the achievements in the zone even when it did not vote for APC in 2015.
You can see the level of construction work going on in Enugu State being done by the Federal Government – the Akpugo to Ebonyi road, the Eha–Amafu to Nkalagu and many more.
For 16 years, no single project was recorded for the PDP in the Southeast. If you are familiar with Enugu-Onitsha Road, some portions of the road are currently under reconstruction.
When you pass through Niger Bridge, you will see that work is ongoing and the Federal Executive Council has equally mapped out money to continue with the project.
The Enugu–Port Harcourt road is also getting attention. Our idea is to remove our people from incidences and deceptions of the elite to enable them contribute in nation building for the good of our people.
But considering the strength of PDP in the zone, does APC have the capacity to penetrate Southeast politics?
IT is wrong impression that PDP dominates politics of Southeast. That could be in the past, because since the conclusion of the 2015 general election, APC has become the party of reckoning in the zone.
2019 election would be decided between APC and PDP. Take Enugu State, for example, the dominance of PDP is a product of what we initiated when we were there.
The last election was done in 2015 and I can tell you that all the people who made that election possible in the state are now in APC.
I was in PDP for 16 years and can assure you that in the entire Southeast, what APC has done in the past three and half years is far more than what PDP did in the Southeast in 16 years.
APC today boasts of bigwigs in Southeast politics who were not there in 2015. The party has continued to penetrate the states and those who made PDP tick are crossing over by the day. That was why you noticed the crisis we had during the primaries.
You will recall that when I joined APC in January 2017, beyond the massive turnout at the declaration, we have overtime canvassed for membership and as you can see, we have members in virtually all the wards.
By the grace of God, we are not going to have problems delivering APC in the state.
Beyond party, the people are tired of the present setting of legislative representation in Enugu North. So our candidature, as a matter of fact, transcends APC and PDP.
In terms of dominance, I can assure that PDP is no more a dominant party in the state. They could hold political positions as a result of our previous hard work, but as I speak, I don’t think the present setting suggests that there is massive followership for PDP, as it was known for.
What justifies your interest in the Senate seat of Enugu North?
There is a yawning gap in the legislative leadership of Enugu North Senatorial District.
We have been having Senators who have been performing to the best of their abilities, but what we have now is nothing to write home about. We are yet to see any federal presence in Enugu North from 2015 to date.
Our people are highly educated, but majority are unemployed. We are yet to see poverty alleviation by virtue of employment of our graduates into the Federal Civil Service.
Most importantly, there was fraudulent activity perpetrated in the zone. 2,500 of our people from Enugu North were hoodwinked into applying for loan to the CBN and nothing came out of it.
The project appears to be a mirage beyond the money paid for registration.
These people were made to pay a minimum of N7, 000 in order to facilitate building of business plan for them and from the nooks and crannies of local governments they attended a workshop, funded themselves and were made to buy books.
So an average person would have wasted between N35,000 to N50,000 and we feel something urgent has to be done.
What we are witnessing is abysmal failure of legislative representation. I was not really interested in running before now, but there is a limit to which you can watch things happen.
There is also marginalization of my zone in appointments. The last person who became a minister from Enugu North is Chief Nnia Nwodo.
It’s been a tradition that wherever the governor goes, the ministerial position, of course, goes there.
It may not be the best, but that has been the sequence, especially during Chimaroke Nnamani and Sullivan Chime.
Right now there is nothing of such. In the entire zone, we only have one federal political appointment-the Ambassador to India, General Eze. And I can assure you that in several other zones in this country, their appointments at federal level have surpassed that.
The problem is that our people want to know their legislator; their problem is that the Adada water scheme needs to be completed, which is capable of giving the entire Nsukka Senatorial District and its environs portable water.
Their problem is that of lack of access roads to their communities. I take Uzouwani, where the incumbent Senator comes from, for example.
Uzouwani is the only local government in Enugu State that has not hospital of any kind, so much so that if you have an emergency, you have nowhere to receive medical aid.
It is our hope that we should facilitate a moderate hospital for Uzouwani if we are elected. Federal roads are lacking in the senatorial zone. They are virtually death traps.
To come from Opi to Ninth Mile will take you several hours, and this is a road that cuts across the constituency I intend to represent.
The average Nsukka person equally needs job; it is only in Enugu north that you can see somebody with a master’s degree working as a commercial motorcycle operator to make a living.
So, we hope that we should be able to liaise with the relevant ministries to see how we can facilitate jobs for our teeming youths.
How did the marginalization come about?
I blame it on lack of adequate representation. If we have a Senator who can liaise with the powers that-be at the national level, there is no way we will be asking for what is due to us.
It is not even the fault of the present government in Enugu State or Federal Government.
It is the fault of representation, that someone has not done his duties well. It is poor representation, and it is the fault of the zone not to have elected somebody with capacity to effectively represent them.
I was not considering where I am coming from. Presently, the Senate Seat of Enugu North is zoned to Igboetiti-Uzouwani.
You will recall that Fidel Okoro went to the Senate for about three times and he is from Nsukka-Igboeze South; thereafter, Ayogu Eze went for eight years from Udenu-Igboeze north; now it is the turn of Uzouwani-Igboetiti.
It has nothing to do with zoning. Even if zoning should be put in place, we also stand a better position.
Nonetheless, I called upon to rescue our people knowing that I performed well while serving as Speaker for eight years.
As far as we are concerned, we do not have representation presently at the Senate. I am already a ranking Senator having headed the legislative arm for eight years.
If you read the rules, you will realise that I’m qualified to even be the Senate President.