PDP LACKS DEMOCRATIC CULTURE - AMB OGBUEWU
Ambassador Frank Nchita Ogbuewu is the gubernatorial candidate of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) in Ebonyi State. The former Ambassador to Greece and former minister of Culture and Tourism believes the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is filled with anti-democratic elements. In this interview, he speaks on a wide range of issues including his governorship ambition. Excerpts…
You were formerly with the PDP and now you are in APGA, what happened?
I left PDP in September 2010 because I realised that PDP could never change. I've been in PDP since 1999 as one of the early joiners of the party. I have been opportune to serve the government in various capacities as an ambassador and as a Minister of Culture and Tourism. I am grateful to the party and to former President Olusegun Obasanjo. But it is not about me, it is about the people of Ebonyi, who are not getting good governance and development.
I realised the PDP lacks the basic ingredients of democracy and the major tenets of democracy is lacking in that party.
PDP is all about selection and not election, and I believe we need to change all that.
It is believed by many that Governor Martins Elechi is doing well; you want to fault that?
The word 'well' is relative and it depends on who you talked to. If he is performing, I won't have any reason to come out and say I want to contest. I am not a power-hungry politician and I believe in teamwork. I know he has not performed to the satisfaction of the vast majority of the people of the state. The rate at which he is going, Ebonyi will get nowhere. All the statescreated at the same time with Ebonyi are already miles ahead and we can't continue like that.
It is only his stooges that would say he is performing. If you ask the common man on the streets of Ebonyi, they will tell you this government is a letdown and a complete failure.
Health, education and roads are indices the United Nations uses to measure development index. How would you rate him in these areas?
Of all those things the United Nations sees as human development index, he has fallen short of all of them. Take the area of health, for instance, Ebonyi has no functional hospital as at today. The only one that is running is a Federal Medical Centre. That centre is today overwhelmed by patients simply because the government failed to do its own bit of the job.
The government abdicated its responsibility to the people of this state by providing healthcare and decided to be funding private hospitals. The government decided to be giving money to missionary hospitals instead of funding the public hospitals and equipping them.
When you give money to an organization that is not yours, the level of control will definitely be minimal, if not nil. That is definitely not enough to take care of the people of Ebonyi that has over two million people. That definitely is not a state. We are supposed to have well-equipped general hospitals in all the local governments in addition to whatever the government is doing with the private hospitals. I don't know what they are thinking when they are formulating their health policy, but surely, what we have on the ground is criminal and the good people of Ebonyi deserve more than this.
The state has lost more lives in Elechi's regime than it has lost since the state was established.
Is it through accidents?
Not through accidents; it is due to lack of medical facilities in our hospitals that are claiming innocent lives. There is no hospital for them to go and if there is a place they call hospital, the doctors are always on strike. We used to have one of the best brains at the Ebonyi State Teaching Hospitals, but that is no more the case, they have all migrated to another place because the government refused to give premium to the health sector. Today, I don't know where the medical students of the university do their attachments again.
In the area of education, the state university was on strike for over six months.
But it was all the states in the South East
Well, there is nothing like that. Ebonyi is a state. Ebonyi is not an appendage of any state. Ebonyi is the most educationally disadvantaged in the South East.. Ebonyi is Ebonyi, Anambra is Anambra and Enugu is Enugu. We have a separate identity and separate problems facing us.
Are you saying the governor should have pulled out of the regional thing?
There is no basis for the regional thing when we have our own peculiar problems. Nobody pays the salary of any one. Abia is educationally advanced than Ebonyi, same with Imo, Anambra and Enugu and that is why Sam Egwu in his wisdom set up the university to raise the educational level of people of the state. It is under the same Sam Egwu that we had one of the best teaching hospitals. Today, all that has gone down and someone is on the seat now.
The lecturers in the university decided to call off the strike because the NUC threatened to close down the university if they don't go back to school. The secondary education is better visited to see what they are really doing there.
But they introduced boarding schools
That is a mockery of what you call a boarding school. It is not the boarding school or lack of it that makes the student to pass exams. It is the equipment and the teaching staff that make that to happen. They have very poorly equipped schools and low level of manpower. How well trained are the teachers. Everybody is sending their children to private schools in Ebonyi because they don't have confidence in the public schools.
You still have people studying under the tree in Ebonyi and with several classrooms blown off.
Are you going to rate the government low in infrastructure too? That is definitely the area the government has scored high.
Why should I rate the government high in the area of roads and bridges? The government decided to bite more than it could chew. The internally generated revenue is very low and the money from the federal allocation is poor. You are therefore to embark on things you can afford. If your budget can afford ten, why do you award 15? If your budget can afford 10 bridges, why award 25? Is that sensible?
But many of the bridges are about to be completed?
I don't know where they took you to, but I know that many of these bridges are yet to be completed. In infrastructure, there are so many things you consider. What is the economic importance of these bridges? These are what you consider. Many of these bridges may not see any vehicle in two, three months, so why waste the money on them when there are some roads that are very important? The Ringroad is there unattended to and I know that the road was very important as it touched virtually all the senatorial areas. It is not touched. They plunged the state into debt of over N20 billion on bridges that are not of economic importance.
It is the same way they started the 'Ochudo Estate' and the International Market. At the end of the day, he will leave them uncompleted.
Sam Egwu left so many uncompleted projects and I expected Elechi to complete these projects, but he left them and started another set. At the end of the day, he will not complete half of the things he started.
If they continue this way, Ebonyi will have the record of having the highest number of uncompleted projects in the country. What they have done is create economic problem for the state. You denied the people the use of the funds and you plunge the state into debt in the process.
You keep saying he will leave, but the governor is contesting for another four years.
He will go. Ebonyians will ensure that he goes.
That means PDP losing another state?
They know they will lose Ebonyi State. They know.
Are you worried that so many people are withdrawing from the PDP?
I told you earlier that I left PDP because I realised they lack democratic tents and I think it is some of those reasons that are sending people out of that party. Nigeria is changing and people are beginning to realize that it is not going to be business as usual. The world is asking the President for a free and fair election and if we are going to have a free and fair election, the PDP will be booted out of power. PDP cannot win election because they select candidates based on godfatherism and deep pocket. It is never the popular choice of the people that they pick.
It is because of this that they rig elections. If you have a popular candidate in an election, you will have acceptability and the election will be easier.
But in 2011, if we have free and fair election, PDP won't win the number of states they won before.
You said if we have one man, one vote, PDP will not win, but do you see signs that we would have a free and fair election with people stealing Direct Data Capturing machines?
That is the PDP style of doing things. It is a way of showing that they are afraid of losing because they don't have a popular candidate. The person the police found the DDC machine with is the Chief of staff of the governor of this state. He was in Government House vehicle. But, if the police is not doing anything about it, I am not the police, if the INEC is not doing anything about it, I am not INEC.
The fact I know is that the chief of staff to the governor was caught with the DDC machine and it was taken from the Ikpo. The police impounded it from him.
The DDC machine was taken from Abakaliki and taken to the local governments and then to the villages, but he went to the village and took it and was bringing it back to Abakaliki. We are from the same ward and he took our own and was heading to Abakaliki before the police caught him. I don't know what he plans to do with it.
I am happy that he was caught and the item was retrieved from him and returned to the ward again.
Are you worried that this happened in your own ward?
That shows they are scared of losing to me. They want to manipulate the election because they are scared of losing. If they allow the electorate to vote, he knows they have lost that ward. That is why he is trying to do that. It is a panic measure by someone who wants to win his ward at all cost.
He was not the only one, the PDP youth leader did the same thing, but he was not caught, but the news of the failure of the chief of staff made him to return it. If the police had not arrested the chief of staff, many of our people might not be allowed to register to vote.
Already two members of the ruling party have tried to cheat, is that not suggestive that the opposition is sleeping?
We are not sleeping, it is because we were alert that the police was able to stop the chief of staff. But I am not happy with the manner some journalists tried to sweep the matter under the carpet. You are the whistle blower and you are not doing your job. I don't know what they are afraid of.
Why do you think you are the most suitable to rule Ebonyi?
I know my people and their needs. I have worn the shoes and I know where the shoe pinches. I live among the people and I know what they suffer and what they need. I have a blueprint that will liberate Ebonyi and set her firmly on the path of development. If I am given the state, I will turn her around.
I had always wished I had the opportunity to serve the people and I have a plan for this state. I came out in 2007, but I had to step down.
If voted in, I have plans to complete all the projects that are ongoing and I will ensure we deploy them into good use for the benefit of the people.