The member representing Anambra East and West Federal Constituency Chinedu Obidigwe spoke to OKEY MADUFORO in this interview on preparation ahead of the perennial flood disaster in his area and the fate of his party, All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA). Excerpts…
Your Constituency is known to be prone to flood disasters every year; what plans do you have for the people this year?
Flooding in Anambra East and West Federal Constituency is as old as nature and those of us from that area have come to live with it; every year we expect it to happen. The highest of it all was in 2012 when we witnessed what almost looked like the world was coming to an end but to the glory of God, we prevailed. That does not mean that we have not been experiencing flooding each year but we have always tried our best to salvage the situation and with the assistance of successive administrations in Anambra State we have been able to checkmate it against all odds.
In the case of this year’s flooding, we as a people are getting ready to face it squarely and I can assure you that we are pulling out all stops to ensure that our people are not caught napping. Recall that I had moved a motion and sponsored bills at the floor of the National Assembly calling on the Federal Government to expedite actions on dredging the Omabala River which is a tributary of River Niger.
We are still waiting for government’s action in that regard because if that is done the level of perennial flooding would reduce drastically. Most farmlands are always submerged by flood and farmers and fisher men and women are badly affected. That also goes to affect food production in the area which has been the bane of agricultural development in our state and neighboring states including Kogi, Enugu and Rivers. So, should the Federal Government act fast such incidents would be put under check to the advantage of all and sundry. As a member of the National Assembly representing two affected local government areas, I have commenced sensitisation programme in conjunction with the relevant federal ministries and agencies to further educate our people on what to do when the flood comes. I have set up committees across my constituency to carry out this programme and also monitoring teams that are carrying out routine inspections and visitations to all the communities to report incidents of flooding and make recommendations on the action plan for those areas.
Where does the National Emergency Management Agency NEMA come in at this point?
NEMA has always been involved every step of the way and the body has a very strategic role to play in terms of provision of relief materials, medical assistance and creation of Internally Displaced Persons camps. However, the issue of promptness on the part of the agency is key to this activity and I have always led the vanguard of establishing permanent IDP camps that is a semblance of mini clinics with enough medical personnel to be there on hand to arrest emergency situations. At the moment, while waiting for NEMA to come in, three IDP camps are being put in place to complement the work of NEMA and also work in synergy with the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA ). Also, food items, treated bed nets and medicaments are already handy in anticipation of the flooding. Also, as part of the ongoing sensitisation programme, we have commenced training of medical personnel and ad-hoc medical workers, about 50 persons per local government area that is Anambra East and Anambra West Local Government Areas for the task ahead. Again, we have started collating list of volunteers from the communities in my constituency who would be placed on stipends while they are working; so far we have about 70 persons and they would also undergo training along with the ad hoc staff and the medical personnel . The three IDP camps are going to be equipped as much as we can to complement what NEMA and SEMA are bringing to the table before and during the flooding.
You talked about the effects of flooding on food production, what is being done to check the consequences?
Flooding is an act of nature and you cannot avert it but manage the situation. However, some time last year I took 40 farmers on a trip to Egypt for agricultural workshop on dry season farming so that what we lost to the flood can be regained during the dry season. What they learnt would be brought to bear on the activities towards boosting food production in the area. We have as a matter of policy been able to provide seedlings and other crops for cultivation and this has continued to produce multiplier effects on food production in the area. For fish farming, about 70 persons have also benefited in our empowerment schemes and we are still partnering with the relevant organisations to assist them. Our area is one of the food baskets of the state if not in the South East. The Federal Ministry of Agriculture has been helpful in that regard and we commend the Federal Government for their assistance.
Your party APGA is facing serious challenges giving the defection of some top politicians to other political parties, are you not worried?
APGA is waxing stronger irrespective of whatever you think and you cannot convince me that a party that has won governorship elections back to back since 2003 till date would lose the 2023 elections. As people are defecting to other parties, more people are joining our party from other parties. When you look at our candidates in all the elective positions you would discover that we are good to go in the coming election. This is politics and the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria gives room for any citizens to join any party of their choice and nobody can stop you. For us in the party, we are battle ready to win all the seats in the state assemblies and National Assembly. We have gubernatorial candidates that have capacity and structures to win the respective elections. So far the performance of Governor Charles Soludo is a testimony of what our party has to offer to the people. Our party has been further emboldened by that and even other states are copying from us, yet they say we have challenges.
But insecurity has been the bane of development in Anambra State?
It is not only in Anambra State. Go to the North East and North Central, you will witness worse situations compared with what we have in Anambra State. But you know that our governor is on top of the game and we are winning the war against insecurity. Our people are providing assistance through information gathering and the Joint Task Force on security is doing its best as well as the Federal Government. It is a matter of time and we shall get there. Remember that no one believed that the last governorship election would hold but what happened later? It was a free fair and credible election and people came out in their numbers to cast their votes and a winner emerged. This was a time it all seemed like heaven would fall and hell would be let loose. People were living in fear and a lot of killings were taking place but the election took place after all. So, all that we need is to continue to work with government and security operatives and you know that security issues are not for government alone but for everyone. If we are alive to our responsibility in the area of neighbourhood watch it would be tracked very well and I commend our people for their efforts so far.
How do you see Nigeria’s democracy since 1999?
This is about people and you don’t go to the laboratory to carry out control experiment over any democratic principle to find out if it would work or not. So, it is a process that would continue to improve as the years go by. We would make our mistakes and correct them as we move as a democratic nation. Today, the old order has changed and a lot of things have become part of our democracy and electoral process; I see a lot of improvement in the process. Nobody would go to a polling unit to grab ballot boxes anymore and today we are talking about electronic transfer of votes; that is yet another improvement. We have tried Bi-Vas and card readers- those are improvements in our democracy and electoral process.