Chief Modestus Umenzekwe is a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and member, Federal Housing Authority (FHA) Board. In this interview, he speaks on the perception of the party in the South East and other issues
It appears that the APC is yet to be accepted by the people of South- East almost after eight years the party has been in power. What do ypu think is responsible for that?
I don’t think there is any hatred. People make choices, and when it comes to party politics, which is merely a process for choosing those to occupy elective positions, everybody has the right to choose who governs them, but in the end it is only one person for each position, and when such exercise is completed, the elected becomes responsible for governance of his jurisdiction or constituency.
So, the elected must see his duty beyond party once elected.
He governs his people without discrimination, without bias and without looking at who voted for him or who did not vote for him, and that is what APC government is doing in Nigeria, the South-East inclusive.
President Muhammadu Buhari seems to be impressed with the performance and developmental strides in APC governed states. Are you also impressed?
I don’t think it is right for me to begin to narrate the good works of the governors here. However, in one of President Buhari’s visits to one of the APC governed states, after assessing the massive infrastructure development in that state, he and said to the governor: ‘You have written your own history.’
So, the APC has done well in the area of infrastructure and I don’t think any person no matter the political leaning, will say that APC is not doing well in the area of Infrastructure as can be seen in the entire six geopolitical zones without minding if they voted for the party or not, because it is no more a party issue, but governance issue.
Do you think there is likely going to be a shift in the voting pattern by the people of the South-East come 2023?
There is no doubt about that. Remember that APC now controls two out of the five states in the South- East – Imo and Ebonyi – so there is no way the good works being done by the two governors will not influence the results of the election in 2023 in favour of the party.
Our people have seen that aside what the President is doing at the national level, the projects being executed by the two governors are all exemplary and our people in the other states of the zone will definitely like those signature projects to be replicated in their own states via the APC platform.
Some people are of the view that President Buhari has done what those in previous government couldn’t do for the South- East even though some of them were from the zone. I don’t normally discuss tribe when I am talking about politics, but sometimes it is necessary in terms of drawing a positive lesson in certain situations just as the question you asked.
You see, that is part of the irony of Nigerian existence. Muhammadu Buhari from the North appointed Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola from the Soouth-West to oversee the Works and Housing Ministry, and you see him doing the work without tribal considerations, and the President, on the other hand, also gave him free hand to do his work.
What I advise the various tribes is to synergise. Only the best should go for us. Those who were appointed in the last dispensation and who were predominantly of South-East extraction, what did they do? History will definitely be kind to the duo of Buhari and Fashola. I am sure of that.
Some people are saying many roads are still bad in the southeast, but you are saying that the government has done a lot in this regard. Where are the roads?
The APC government has done incredulously well in the South- East, if we must go by the ratio of votes from each region. I think APC loves the region. Let us be more practical now, look at the 2nd Niger Bridge at Asaba/Onitsha. By the end of 2021, more than 60 federal roads and bridge projects, across the five states of the South-East are ongoing, completed or at various stages of progress and completion; financed through SUKUK Bond and other deliberately designed funding mechanisms.
Look at the re-construction of Port Harcourt-Maiduguri rail line, linking the south eastern states to a planned new sea port in Bonny and to Northern Nigeria, which is ongoing. There is the 2.8MW Solar Power Plant at Alex Ekwueme Federal University, Ndufu-Alike Ikwo, Ebonyi State under the Energizing Education Programme (EEP) and the Ariaria International Market, Aba, Independent Power Plant supplying electricity to 4,000 shops in the market under the Energizing Economies Initiative (EEI).
There is the brand new $5.5m Medical Diagnostics Centre in Federal Medical Center (FMC) Umuahia under the NSIA Healthcare Investments. Approval has been given for new Air Force Base in Owerri and Naval Base in Oguta, both in Imo State. What of the revitalization of the moribund Fertilizer Blending Plant in Abakaliki, Ebonyi State, which now supplies NPK Fertilizer to farmers in the state and beyond under the Presidential Fertilizer Initiative (PFI)?
It is really massive. There is the ANOH Gas Processing Plant, with a processing capacity of 300 million standard cubic feet of gas and 1,200MW of electricity generation potential, in Imo State which is a joint venture between Seplat Petroleum Development Company and the Nigerian Gas Company, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Limited (NNPC Limited). Of course, President Buhari approved the investment of $10 million by the Federal Government into the Waltersmith Modular Refinery in Imo State, with a production capacity of 270 million liters of petrol annually.
First phase was commissioned by President Buhari in 2020. Besides, Imo State was selected as one of seven pilot states for the Special-Agro Industrial Processing Zones (SAPZ) Programme, which is a $500m partnership between the Federal Government, African Development Bank (AfDB) Group and other stakeholders including the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the Bank of Industry, with the goal of establishing modern agro-processing centres across the country.
So you are saying that the APC-led Federal Government has done well for the people of the South-East…
Yes, I am saying it because I have evidence to show that the government has done well for the zone more than the 16 years of PDP, when our best eleven were in juicy and inner cabinet positions. Thank God APC came and gave us better governance.