INEC should conduct council polls, not state electoral commission – Enugu APC senatorial candidate

All Progressives Congress senatorial candidate for Enugu East senatorial seat, Princess Ada Ogbu, speaks with RAPHAEL EDE on her strength as a contender, her party’s chances and how the South East is no longer a one-party region, among other salient national issues

Some people believe that the All Progressives Congress cannot win the South East; can you talk about how APC has prepared to compete effectively in the region?

In Abia State, APC has a senator from the previous election and about three House of Representatives members. Even before Governor Dave Umahi joined APC, Ebonyi State had a House of Representatives member. APC has several senators and representatives in Imo State. The party has had some representatives in Anambra State in the past.

So I don’t think you can say that APC cannot compete in the South East. I think party politics is not what we are talking about now; it’s about individuals and what they have to offer. APC in this particular election is fielding a lot of very good candidates, of which I’m one, and I do believe that the era of saying that Enugu State is a one-party state is gone, never to be again.

What is your take on part-time legislation?

It still goes back to what I said before: this is an academic exercise. You are going to ask the senators, who have the power to amend the constitution to make themselves part-time, how will it work. It’s not about whether I support it or not; it is not practicable.

You’re running for Senate in the Enugu East Senatorial District, which is currently occupied by former governor Chimaroke Nnamani, who is also the leader of the Ebeano political dynasty that controls Enugu State politics and who is also running for a third term under the Peoples Democratic Party; what gives you the courage to vie against him?

As far as I’m concerned, there are 18 parties approved by the Independent National Electoral Commission to run for election in our senatorial zone, and out of those 18, I believe that eight or nine of them are fielding candidates to fill the seat of Enugu East in the senatorial zone. So, I have eight or nine opponents. I don’t like to dwell on any one person in particular. I believe all of us have equal chances to win so long as our names are on the ballot. The choice is up to the voters to vote for who they feel is best to represent them, and I know that come February 2023, the voters in the Enugu East senatorial zone will choose me because I’m the best candidate out of all of us running for the election.

I’m the one who has gone round the zone; I’ve visited every local government and I’m going to visit more; I’m going to take my message to the hinterland; I’m going to take my message far and wide, and I know the people. I know them and they know me and they see me; they have heard me, and they know the person who will bring back whatever is due to them in Abuja. So, I believe I have the advantage over all the other nine contestants in this race.

I asked the question because, since 1999, it appears PDP has been considered the dominant party, especially as your opponent in PDP is the leader of Ebeano. Also, you have never contested an election before, so why do you think you will win in your first election, especially with such a formidable opponent?

As I said, I’ll like to give respect to all the other contestants in this race. In the past, I will say that yes, the PDP has controlled and dominated the politics of Enugu State because there has never really been an election in Enugu State. Right now, the new Electoral Act has changed all that. We now have power going back to the voters, where the votes will count. For the first time since 1999, Enugu State will have an election.

The new Electoral Act has put power back in the hands of the voters. You know how voters are: when they feel that their votes won’t count, apathy takes over and they don’t come out. Now I have seen enthusiasm; we have all seen the upsurge in registration in our zone and all over the country; people have woken up, people have seen the light, people want a change, people want the power to determine who represents them, and I know that with that power, they will vote for me.

There are insinuations in some quarters that your late father, a foremost traditional ruler, Igwe Nathan Ogbu of Nara Unateze was instrumental; he galvanised other traditional rulers in Nkanu land to make Chimaroke governor, and some people feel that he should step down for you as a payback for what your father did for him. Do you share that view?

My father has been instrumental in enthroning so many people in Enugu State, including governors, senators, and others in different positions. My father was instrumental in making sure that a lot of Enugu State indigenes, even in business, were lifted; he was a godfather to so many people, and some former governors are also part of it, as are some senators.

I don’t think that, because of that, anybody owes me a seat on a platter of gold. I’m very willing to compete; let everybody go out there and compete for the votes. I believe people can go out there and make their choice. I don’t think that anybody needs to concede to me or step down for me because of what my father has done for them. In a fair and square election, I will win this senatorial seat hands down, and in a landslide.

Tell us the areas you want to make changes when you get there, as the South East has been crying of marginalisation in the scheme of things in Nigeria.

Yeah, you are looking at the world view; my idea of what I’m going to do in the Senate and what I’m going to offer my people in the Enugu East senatorial zone is what I call inward-looking representation. That means that whatever I do, every single day I’m serving as a senator representing the people of my zone, I will have my eyes firmly trained on the people of my zone. In terms of legislation, one that is close to my heart and that I would like to sponsor and that law regarding local government elections has come to fruition.

I would like to see the power to conduct local government elections taken away from the state electoral commissions and given to INEC. That way, you can be sure that the local governments are independent.

Local governments were independent and working in 1999; they were competing and doing more than culverts; they were building roads and school blocks; they were working because they were independent. It is not enough for them to receive their money directly from the national government; they must also receive their mandates from the national government for them to be independent and work.

What I want to see is development come into the nooks and crannies of Isi-Uzo, the nooks and crannies of Nkanu East, and Nkanu West. You go to the rural areas; Enugu South is rural; Enugu East is rural; those places, even part of Enugu North, are so rural; we need to see development go to the rural levels; half of my constituency is rural; I want to see development going on inside there, and the only and fastest way you can do that is to make sure that the local government structure is independent of the state government. Once you do that, you can see development. That is one piece of legislation that I would like to see passed.

The second one is the setting up of a rural development agency, just as you have the Niger Delta Development Commission. Nigeria needs to have what you call “emergency rural development.” You have some of my people in the rural constituency, where pregnant women die because they have to use wheelbarrows to take them to the nearest health centres; before they get there, they can develop complications and die. We don’t have access roads leading to the cities. When people farm in rural areas, how will they bring their farm products out to sell them? We don’t have access roads. So, that is what I will call an inward-looking representation.

As far as the South East is concerned, there are a lot of issues that all the senators from the South East can come together and talk about. But I want to talk about my people because they have been shortchanged for so many years. They don’t have enough development; they hear, but they don’t see; they hear about grants from the federal government, but they don’t see it; they hear about federal roads, but they don’t see it; they hear about federal water, but they don’t see it; they hear about federal power projects, but they don’t see it, and so on. We need an emergency intervention in the Enugu East senatorial zone for the development of the rural areas, and that is what my concentration will be on.

If you are talking about taking the conduct of local government elections from the state to the federal level, and some people think the senators don’t have votes, how do you think it can come to fruition?

It can come to fruition because it has been done before. You said senators don’t have any votes; I’m not sure what you mean by that. Senators have the power to confirm the budget, and that is their vote. They have the power to approve the budget; that is their vote. The senators are supposed to go in and look at the budget, examine it, and make sure that anything that concerns their zone is there; that is their vote. The Senate also has what they call “constituency project allocation” so that the senators can work on projects. If senators from Enugu West, senators from Benue, Anambra, Adamawa, Imo, and so on can bring in projects, our senators can also bring in projects.

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