From Aloysius Attah, Onitsha
Ebonyi State former Secretary to the State Government and governorship aspirant on the platform of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Bernard Ifeanyi Odoh in this interview speaks on his ambition and preparedness to make a difference in the lives of his people among other issues.
Why are you not satisfied with recent developments in Ebonyi State?
In Ebonyi here, we have watched as events have unfolded and political machinations threatening to bring the state dangerously close to anarchy.
But the political space cannot and must not be surrendered to political manipulators or to dangerous clashes of ambitions. As we witness the paralysis that has overcome the process of governance, Ebonyi people must be given hope for a better future and better prospects for themselves and their families. That is exactly what I am presenting to the table. I represent that positive alternative; a generational forward-match that will take us, as a people, into the immense developmental opportunities of the 21st century.
This state of paralysis today is dramatically typified by the comical spectacle whereby two-thirds of the State House of Assembly is judicially sacked and the remaining one-quarter has arbitrarily been suspended or allegedly resigned, leaving a lacuna in governance that is both intolerable and dangerous in a democratic setting. This would have been laughable under normal conditions but we live in dangerous and anguished times and, therefore, cannot afford any aspect of our full complement of governance to be in abeyance or crippled by crisis, no matter the circumstances.
You have been part of Umahi’s and had also contested for governorship under the All Progressives Congress(APC). How prepared are you this time over the race?
As I pointed out earlier, this is a season of heightened political rumours and speculations. I had deliberately chosen to bid my time, lay the necessary structural foundations alongside my political partners and collaborators, set up outreach network of historical dimensions before venturing into the field again. And only when I was satisfied that everything was in place to execute a challenging task such as running for governorship election, that I decided to let the world know my intentions and aspirations. Yes, I have done this before. I have learned a considerable amount of lessons from my 2019 experience as a gubernatorial aspirant under the banner of the APC). Building from that experience, we are confident in the mobilization of the youths of Ebonyi State who will in turn create a massive and unassailable movement of all citizens who are eager to see the return of power to those who will care for the essential ingredients of their existence and general welfare. In the course of the coming 10 months, we will demonstrate that Ebonyi people are yearning for a humane, protective and caring leadership genuinely anchored on extant human conscience, the fear and guidance of God Almighty. This moment calls for decisive leadership and unwavering dedication to the real aspirations and yearning of the citizens.
How are you going to tackle the problem of youth unemployment in the state?
Youth unemployment has become immeasurable in Ebonyi State. The yardstick to measure it no longer exists because, if graduates at all levels are achieving less than 10 percent employment rate in all sectors, then statistics becomes useless. In the military, the principle which says that if you lose 10 percent of your fighting force you can never win the war applies here. We have lost at least two generations of our youths to unemployment and desperation. It will require drastic, thoughtful and calculated measures to recover from this calamity. I believe that I am the man who can do this. I have not come to deliver a litany of woes or tragedies, even though it would obviously be hypocritical of me to be seeking to govern a state like our own without setting out a brief summary of its obvious and manifest challenges. In my manifesto, we have set out the general outlines of the policy directions, actions and solutions that my will bring to bear on these summarized challenges and numerous other problems that confront Ebonyi State today.
There are fears that with your new party, APGA, you may not have the required structure to win the governorship seat. What is your take on this?
I have friends across the divide and have continued to build coalition over the years, so there are no fears over structures. The core structures are human beings not trees. Our friends, associates and supporters across the 13 local are going to provide the momentum we require in this journey. The party members are also there so we are going to strengthen the party. Areas the party is weak we are going to inject new blood to ensure that the desired result is attained.
There is also the rumour that somebody has hijacked the APGA party structure in Ebonyi. How true is that?
They are all fake stories. Rumours are all part of politics but the good thing is that the party has a law; it has a process for its primaries stated in the constitution too. When we get there, things will get clearer but I can assure you that we have no problem of somebody hijacking the party. The primaries will hold in Ebonyi not outside and the delegates are Ebonyi people who know our problems and what they expect as their solutions.
People expected you to contest again under the APC party. When did you leave and why?
I have done a formal letter of resignation as an APC member which was received and acknowledged by my then ward chairman. If you recall when I left the Umahi in April 2018, I joined APC in August and ran for the primaries of the party in 2019 and was the first runner up. When my former boss, Dave Umahi joined APC in November 2020, I kept a distance from the party because I know his philosophy and mine will be difficult to co-exist in one place. Also, the way they have ran the party since then leaves much to be desired because even those who were there before he came were not given a voice. I have moved on because my interest is no longer protected in APC and you also remember that it is APGA that brought me to political limelight in Ebonyi and so I came back to where I’m valued.
Many people contesting for governorship are from Ezza clan. Are you not seeing it as a threat to your ambition?
Issue of many Ezzas in the race is the least of my problem. I am rather presenting myself because of my capacity, character and competence. I will appeal to Ebonyi people to assess me as an Ebonyi person first who has got the right experience and skills to deliver governance to the people not as an Ezza man.
Let the Ebonyi people make their choice and in the course of the campaign season, we will all engage the people for them to make their choices. The key thing for me now is to focus on what we intend to deliver because we are in the Red Zone now in this state in the scheme of things. When you look at the statistics, Ebonyi consistently in the last eight years has ranked third most poorest state in Nigeria even when we shouldn’t have any reason to be in that category. We should be among the first ten states with fastest growing GDP and not the other way round. These are the kind of policies we should be advocating, so if you are running for the office of the governor, let’s have a debate and you can tell us what you are going to do differently and I will bring my own for comparison.
Does APGA have a zoning formula in the state and what is your take over the assertion in some quarters that the next governor should come from the Ebonyi North senatorial zone where it started.?
I have painstakingly studied the APGA constitution but never saw where they promoted zoning there. By and large as a concerned Ebonyi man, this current democracy has lasted for 23 years and in these 23 years, if you ask me how much progress we’ve made in terms of advancement of knowledge, prosperity of individuals, wellness and overall growth of our people, I will tell you we’ve not made much progress. So after 23 years, I think we should focus more now on the quality of people who should govern us. I know that every zone has got the right kind of people but not all right kind of people will be willing in politics. So among those who are running for election, let the people evaluate them and make their choice. If my brother is not good enough for a job he is hired to do, he will wreck the place as it doesn’t matter whether it is my brother or sister. We should be looking at results and should ask ourselves what kind of results we should expect in the next four years or thereabout. Remember that people are moving forward and making progress elsewhere. If you go to other parts of the country, people are moving forward but till today some people still don’t know where Ebonyi is located. Other than the bad spotlight we’ve had in the last couple of months –communal clashes, political distortions, in terms of the real things that define a people, we are not playing any role. I am not worried about zoning because I said it before that the kind of horrible statistics we‘ve had, we should not be talking of zone to where and where. If you want to run, come out and tell the people what you want to do and don’t hide under zoning sentiments to be deceiving the people.