The Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP), candidate for Okigwe Senatorial zone, Chief Athan Nneji Achonu, has taken a swipe at the Governor of Imo State, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, saying that at the end of the governor’s tenure, the people will realise the high level of damage he would have inflicted on them. In this interview with, BEN WACHUKWU, he accuses Okorocha of embarking on reckless borrowing that has plunged the state into perpetual debt of over N200 billion.
What informed your desire to aspire for a senatorial seat?
I wasn’t just motivated by the fact that there are many inadequacies in the present representation; it was purely borne out of the fact that there is the need to change the direction of our democracy. We are doing well so far, but, we can do better and there are some constitutional issues that are limiting us, as a people, which they have not realised. I think with improved national economy and better well-being of the people, we would be better positioned, as a people, for a robust growth of the economy and that requires sound legislative back-up.
What are these new directions?
I believe that every Nigerian worker, who is gainfully employed, has the right to a mortgage. I know that giving our workers a mortgage will generate more employment, which will not cost government anything. You find out that people have worked all their life and yet cannot afford a roof over their head; even to rent a good accommodation is impossible, this is because there is no legislation to make it work. All these have not been possible because the way government thinks is a carryover from the military dictatorship.
Will your perception of the activities of government inform your contributions in the Senate if elected?
I don’t want to disclose everything I am going to do in the Senate here. Do you know that there is no, I mean, almost no mineral resource that we do not have in this country? If so, why don’t we have other people from all over Africa coming here to look for jobsin our various factories, which we are supposed to have established? What is the problem? Do you think we don’t have international investors who will come here to build those factories? Suffice it to say that I believe that this is a big shame to us as a country, that many years after oil was found in Oloibiri, we are still importing troleum products, that’s the greatest shame to Nigeria. The reason is not far-fetched; there is no legislative determination to compel the Executive to do what should be done in this sector.
Let’s narrow it down to the senatorial zone you want to represent at the National Assembly…
The Okigwe senatorial zone is, totally and completely, underdeveloped and everything I am talking about is on economic development. There is no gainsaying the fact that I will concentrate most of my efforts to improving the lot of people in my zone, definitely, which is why I am being elected in the first place and I am will do more for my senatorial zone, through massive development. Already, long before I went into politics, I had designed a master plan of transforming my zone into an industrial hub and I said it many times that I am getting worried people might copy and go to implement it in their zones before I get elected, so I decided to keep it close to my chest.
What is the master plan about and have you been involved in philanthropy?
Before I tell you the efforts I have been making to create massive employment, not only in Okigwe, but, in the state, generally, I have always been taunted by Governor Rochas Okorocha, with the support of Ben Uwajimogu, Speaker of the House of Assembly. The multiple housing schemes I spoke about earlier were to the benefit of the state, but, Okorocha was against it, while he is busy plunging the state into debt that would take our great grand-children more than two decades to pay and while Uwajimogu is a willing tool to actualise this. I don’t talk about philanthropy, I don’t blow my trumpet, it’s the duty of the Press to do that, dig into my affairs and find out who Chief Athan Nneji Achonu is and what he has done for his people that made them give him the mandate.
How do you plan to make your idea relevant in the Senate?
In the first place, this Senate has done well, so far. The National Assembly has been very effective, for example, the Freedom of Information Act, which made it possible for your profession, especially, to take its proper place and defend democracy, was passed by this National Assembly. Now, we are talking and hearing about corruption, yet, nobody has been prosecuted and convicted because the media has not been utilising the FOI Act effectively. The National Assembly listened to our yearning for the Act believing that when it was passed, then true democracy, which would take us out of military dictatorship mentality would have been enshrined in our Constitution. But, till date, the media has failed to utilise it, maximally. So I know that in democracy, it is always a give-and-take situation, in the sense that when I have an idea that I want to push, in order to get it through, I will also accommodate other ideas from my colleagues. What I mean is that I will not be rigid.
In your zone, there are also vibrant politicians contesting against you. What stands you out?
I am not Okigwe, it is Okigwe people that will say what they have seen in me that made them choose me, but, as a person, I know Benjamin Uwajimogu very well, but I don’t know Clement Owunna, although, I have watched him closely, he came into politics through the All Progressives Congress (APC) and from APC he moved to the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA). People who behave like that do not have self-confidence and I do not reckon with them. I don’t really respect them. For Uwajimogu, I have already told you the kind of person he is. Mind you, Okorocha does not own the Police; he does
not own the military, Prisons Service etc. yet Uwajimogu could not use his constitutional powers to save Imo from this terrible slavery, is it at the National Assembly that he will be relevant when the President controls the Armed Forces and the Police? As a Speaker, he watched while the ceramic industry, established by the late Chief Sam Mbakwe in our senatorial zone, was relocated. What did he do till today? Senate is not for children. He has helped Rochas (Okorocha) to ruin his people; Okigwe people cannot be happy with him.
How much is the debt?
I cannot readily tell you the amount, but, it is in the neighbourhood of N200 billion and it will take over two decades for Imo people to come out of it.
Where do you think the pendulum is swinging in the general election?
There is no stopping (President Goodluck) Jonathan. I am not saying it because I am in PDP. His performance is, surely, speaking for him. Don’t be carried away by the chanting of change. Many people are chanting that, but, do not know what they are saying. Already, the coming of Jonathan brought the desired change, so, all we need to do, as people that want progress for our country, is to assist him to consolidate the good job he started, by voting, massively, for him on March 28. As for Imo State, PDP is also returning to power. Okorocha has dealt with us and the earlier we stop him from a second term, the best for us or we will be sold into irredeemable debt.