Hon Chris Azubogu is a three-term member representing Nnewi North, Nnewi South and Ekwusigo Federal Constituency and Senatorial candidate for Anambra South District on the platform of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA). He spoke to OKEY MADUFORO on the 2023 general elections and the challenges before the process
What informed your ambition to go for the Red Chambers?
In the history of Nigerian politics and governance we have been having the challenges of leadership and our people are no longer happy with the turn of events. This coming election period is a season of soul searching on how best to face those challenges. We are of the opinion that whoever emerges as the President of this country has a great task of getting it right.
So when there is a problem you look out for men and women with their antecedents, their training and what they have done in the past and even their mindset is targeted at solving the problems.
My quest for the Red Chamber in the coming election came out of the experience that I have gathered over years both in this state and national political life. We are looking at a brand of leadership that will understand the situation in the country over time based on their training as well as competence and we shall offer genuine advice that would bring solutions especially coming from the legislative arm of government.
I want to stand up to be counted as one of those who are given to do the needful in the Upper Chamber. Considering the fact that when I was at the Green Chamber I championed what may be called effective representation and I can tell you reliably that from 2010- 2011 when I was aspiring to go for the House of Representatives I told everyone that cared to listen that if I got there I would make a difference.
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What was the difference? I understood practically that Anambra State and my constituency lack the presence of government?
When I got to the National Assembly I used the instrumentality of the parliament to attract useful development to my constituency, both human and material development. I can tell you that with that single act at the National Assembly every member of the National Assembly from Anambra State is striving to match what I have done and what I am doing. And what will one bring to us other than development? So there must be that partnership between those that are representing us at the National Assembly and those at the state and that means the state government. So there must be synergy among the two in order to bring development to our people.
Anambra people believe in self-help and mostly private people, so we need a development government and government at the center. If you watch closely among those representing us from the Senate to the Federal House of Representatives, you will discover a marked difference between now and at the past.
That is why I have come to raise the bar especially not only in the House of Representatives now but having spent three terms at the Green Chamber and acquired the needed skills that will make us one of the leaders of the National Assembly.
That explains why I am going to the Senate to raise the bar . All my brothers and sisters who have been there have done well but my assurance is that wherever I go you will see the difference because I take out time to study what I am going to do and I have taken time to study the National Assembly and Senate and there is a whole lot of gap and our future is very important. If God grants our heart desires people like us would be on ground at the National Assembly to make things work better than it is working.
The 2023 general elections are around the corner and there have been talks in favor and against the use of BIVAS. What is your position?
I want to assure you that we at the National Assembly, having worked hard and assiduously to enact the amended Electoral Act to adopt the application of technology in the electoral process and when people talk about transmission of results I call it transfer of results.
This will go a long way to avoid those key areas where fraud is being perpetrated in the election, and I have been part of elections with you over time and most of the electoral fraud include rigging takes place at the first collation at the polling units and to stop this we had to engage BIVAS which is biomedical verification of voters which was adopted and the machines have been tested and was first used at the Anambra State governorship election where it had some problems but it was perfected at the Osun State governorship election and we all saw the outcome of that election.
I want to assure you that the BIVAS in this coming election will see better improvement and with the proper technical staff the time wasted in the past in the collation of results and verification of voters at an average of 500 voters per polling unit and number of staff would make a whole lot of difference. It is also very important that our country finds a permanent solution to the issue of data processing and data recording. What I mean is that in other countries like the United States of America you don’t have voter’s cards, driver’s license and National Identity Cards.
All of these cards are in one card and with that they verify and confirm you as a citizen of that country and that makes it simpler and easier to access well-tailored data for socioeconomic planning and not just for general elections alone. With BIVAS you will cast your vote in full glare of everyone and votes are counted and incidented in Form EC8 1 and then would be captured by the BIVAS machine and transferred to Central Collation Center as a secondary document because the physical one is the primary document.
This will make collation safe and easy and by this process nobody would intercept any electoral officer as has been the case in the past. This would help establish when non- Nigerians come into the country to come and vote and we shall quickly identify them in good time before the election. Some people are approaching the courts to stop the election and the use of BIVAS? This is an academic exercise aimed at dying on delivery.
The Electoral Act and the amended Constitution made it explicit that no court of law can stop an election that has been fixed and the Independent National Electoral Commission INEC knows that are the Chairman of INEC has his role to play by conducting the election and after the election the results are announced and any party or candidate that feels otherwise has the right to challenge the outcome of the election at the court and that is the tribunal.
The law which is the granum of the land did not make provisions for someone to go to court to stop the electoral process or the election proper. At this point in time we must get it right and advance further in our subsequent elections in this country. You remember what happened in 1992 when Prof Humphrey Nwosu was the Chief Electoral Officer and that election was acclaimed as the free and fair and late MKO Abiola was winning when the military government stopped him from continuing.
Then at the National Assembly some of my colleagues moved a motion to honor Chief MKO Abiola and Babagana Kingibe and I stood up at floor of the National Assembly to oppose it on the ground that you cannot do that without recognizing the man that made it possible and that is Prof Humphrey Nwosu.
I told them that looking at the risk that he took to announce that results against pressures from the military and against all attempts to his life yet people don’t want to give him honor and they accepted that my submissions were correct
So when people are going to court to stop the election because of BIVAS you will discover that they are people who have been benefiting from the manipulations that take place at every general election in this country and they do not want the right thing to be done and they keep on drawing us back to those years.
The Onitsha – Enugu expressway has been a nightmare for people and we learnt that funds were appropriated for that?
The Agu-Awka-Amansea section of that road was paid for and work started on that section of the road where they sell livestock and the drains have been constructed before now and if you go there you will see the drains. The next section was fought for by me and some of my colleagues like Tony Nwoye and Tobi Okechukwu and we got the approval.
We moved the Consolidated Construction Company CCC from Umunya to Amawbia and the contract was for N5.87 billion and the other company IDP was handling the contract which the was taken over by the immediate past government in Anambra State but they used the money to construct bridges instead of doing the road . I went back to the Minister for Works, Mr. Babatunde Fashola and he told me that the money has been paid and the job was approved to have been completed so no more funds.
You know that when the state government executes Federal Government projects they get a refund and the refund has been made even when the project was not executed.
The other section was the concession given to the MTN for the Enugu bound road at N 2.47 billion and they are perfecting the papers for work to start. I am a member of Debt Management Committee and it was then that Fashola told me that it is not my business because the state government as it were, has been refunded and it is interesting to note that NIGERCAT has started work on the Oji River side of Enugu State coming down to Amansea.
What is happening to the threat by the minority members of the National Assembly to impeach the President over insecurity challenges?
We in the parliament are there to represent the people and you cannot take such actions without recourse to the people that sent you there. So it doesn’t start and end with the parliament and it is fair and proper to follow the constitution while taking such a step and let your people know about what you want to do.
It is also important to note that the threat is also part of negotiation between the National Assembly and the Executive and it must not end up in an impeachment but a carrot stick approach to getting things right.
We must not lose sight of the consequences of such an action in view of the circumstances that the country has found itself and the backlash it may result to. So the National Assembly must be guided in this approach by those that sent them there to represent them. We are not there for ourselves but for the people.