S’East Doesn’t Regret Not Voting Buhari – Ogbaga

S’East Doesn’t Regret Not Voting Buhari – Ogbaga

In this interview with Ruth Choji, the lawmaker representing Abakaliki/Izzi Federal Constituency of Ebonyi State in the House of Representatives, Hon Sylvester Ogbaga, says the people of the South-east do not regret not voting President Muhammadu Buhari and also speaks on the need for the leadership of the House to be fair to all geo-political zones.
Our diversity as a nation was openly displayed during the elections. What impact does that in your opiniion, have on the unity of this country?
What is happening within the ruling party is another lesson for Nigerians; it’s not the sound of the bitter cola to the ear that sweetened the mouth. A lot of promises were made to Nigerians even though it is too early to assess them but the taste of the pudding is in the eating. We have seen with every sense of sincerity the activities of the new government and it showed they were not prepared for ruling right from the National Assembly members to the executive. Vacuum doesn’t exist in government and in this government, a lot of that is in operation. They have not been able to form the executive up till now and they have not been able to understand themselves as a united party. They have demonstrated what the country never expected; they are beginning to show failure. In the promises of Mr President during the campaign, he said he was going to make the dollar equivalent to the naira; that he would make some remuneration to the non-working class; give jobs to the jobless and now, he is unable to pay salaries of workers at the federal, state and local levels. If you look at the security aspect of the country especially insurgency, everyone used to believe that it was because of Goodluck Jonathan but see what is happening now that Jonathan is no longer there. What therefore is the problem? There are complains of corruption and I wonder who is corrupt and who is not. Nobody should run away from the fact that there are people who are richer than Nigeria as a country. But where are we going to start the probe from? Is it from independence or the 80s or 90s? Will they start from year 2000? If they want to start from democratic government, let’s go back to the first democratic government but if it’s all encompassing, let’s also look at the military governments, unless the aim is to sacrifice the immediate past president and his people. We should not make it a vindictive affair. For us to fight corruption, everybody must be comfortable. People must be paid their salaries, infrastructure must be available and the masses taken be care of. The House of Representatives has asked the president to publish the handover notes of the immediate past president for Nigerians to be able to know what he did and where he stopped and the impact of his government.
The PDP has accused the president of being slow in tackling issues bedevilling the country. They also complained about some of his recent appointments. What is your take on this?
Yes, the constitution provides for fairness in appointments. Let’s take the appointment of service chiefs for example, whether the South-east voted for him or not, the right order should have been followed. Whether the South-east does not believe in the agenda of the APC, the Constitution is clear on appointments and sharing formula of certain positions but today, the zone is losing out in some of the appointments being made. This goes back to what I said before that things should not be done vindictivly. In the case of service chiefs, two are from one geo-political zone and others don’t have. The APC government must not be vindictive but fair to all Nigerians as the Constitution says.
But he has only just started with more appointments to be made…
From what I see from his actions so far, my belief is that he is going to be segregatory. His appointments are one-sided; he talks about people who believe in him and not about the unity of Nigeria; there should be a balance. I don’t believe that a situation where everything goes to one particular zone of the country represents the change Nigerians voted for.
Do you still believe in the unity of Nigeria?
I will say yes if things are done right but a situation where a certain geo-political zone is an appendage of another will not be welcome; people will rise against it. The Constitution has shown what should be done and the leaders must work in line with it.
The election of the Speaker brought lots of tension to the House. Do you think he can withstand the pressure in spite of the seeming peace in that chamber?
The same process that brought him is the vehicle of change and change is like a situation that can occur at any moment.
Most Nigerians believe it was the PDP that made him to win the seat. Well, Dogara is a PDP man who changed because of the political situation. If he believes in the unity of Nigeria like he told us of which we the PDP accepted him, we believe that he will not betray us. We are not asking him to leave his party but he should be fair and there should be equity in the House. PDP has shown that they come from some particular zones and if these zones suffer, he must stand against it and be fair to all. He enjoys the patronage of the whole House except for a small fraction who were divided because they toed their party lines.
But were you surprised when the Speaker conceded leadership positions to some of his party’s nominees?
Anybody who says he conceded does not know the workings of the parliament. Certain positions are party positions and the leadership of the party on the floor of the House is purely that of the party; the minority positions are not the members’ positions either, they are the party’s positions. The minority party has to meet and select people they want to lead them. So, the party must have a hand in who emerges as leader of the party. For him to be fair to his party, he must allow them to choose who they want. Everybody rode on the back of the party and the party is supreme because nobody came as an individual.
Some APC Senators have been calling for the resignation of Sen Ike Ekweremadu. Do you see this as part of their vindictive actions against the South-east?
One important thing is to look at the ratio of senators of the PDP and those of the APC. The gap is so narrow that there is nothing APC would have done to get every position. The type of opposition in the Senate is not the same as the House of Reps. In the lower House, there is a complete two third majority of the APC, which does not exist in the Senate. For anybody to be elected in the Senate, they must strike a balance. You still have to accommodate the opposition as much as they are accommodating the ruling party. So, anybody who tries to disregard that fact is missing it. No senator is smaller than the other. The only thing is ranking because some have been there since 1999 or thereabouts.In the UK parliament, they have backbenchers; they are those people who have served for a long time in the parliament and who advise the serving parliament on what to do in some cases. There is no reason for him to resign. The Senate, upon inauguration, will sit and select for themselves a Senate president and deputy. Whether you are alone or two, when it comes to voting, nobody votes twice. What transpired was constitutional and so, there is no reason for him to resign.
Does the South-east have any regret not voting this government?
No, it is human action; once it satisfies your conscience, you take it in good faith. PDP has been ruling the entire region except for some few places where there are fracas. So, the region does not regret the way it voted. We believed in what Goodluck Jonathan was doing, even when they blamed him unjustly. Look at the insurgency, we thought it would reduce with the coming of the new government but instead, it has increased.
Do you think this administration is capable of ending insurgency in Nigeria?
Let’s hope the president’s visit to the African region and the US will bring something better than what we are seeing. But if you were going to discuss the economy of this country and you didn’t carry along your economic managers, I don’t know how you can expect that meeting to be fruitful. Nobody has monopoly of intelligence. It was just one person. When he was going to discuss the security of this country, he was alone, no service chief. Well, some media houses have described his move as a honeymoon approach. If he had been able to accommodate all the key players in the system, things would have been moving well.
Talking about the South east, who is leading the region now?
Ohaneze is taking care of the welfare of the Igbos and we cannot de-emphasise their role. In various strata of the zones, there are leaders at the National Assembly, like Sen Ekweremadu, so the region has leaders. The problem of the South-east is the loss of the PDP at the centre. It was like having all the eggs in one basket, but we are not losing hope. I believe the fight in the ruling party is the gain of the opposition.
What are your plans for your people now that they have given you a third term?
It was a hard earned victory but it was the constituency that did it. I advise them to understand that we are now the opposition because there are certain things that are a right to the ruling party but it is all about the will. We are in Nigeria and nothing will be secretive. Whatever I will do that will make them get their due, I will do it and make sure that their expectations are met.

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