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WE'VE NOT HEARD THE LAST ON CONCENSUS – SEN. IZUNASO

By NBF News
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Senator Osita Izunaso Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) member for Imo State bared his mind on party primaries, 2011 elections, consensus candidacy and other political issues to ALVAN OWUZIE.

Excerpts:
Views on the election time-table
If you look at the time table, you will see that INEC is working with the 2006 electoral act. This is because the 2010 electoral act has not yet been completed. But, I believe that the time frame that INEC has brought is also very consistent with the provisions that were altered in the first amendment of the constitution, particularly as it concerns the general election proper. Now, on the other issue of party primaries and everything, they took the time line on the old electoral act. But, you cannot blame them, because they cannot fold their hands and be waiting, while time is moving. So, what they have done is okay, every thing is within the confine of the law , they have not done what is not accommodated in the law . In fact, everything INEC had done is in order.

We just had a consensus aspirant from the northern political leaders, in the PDP from your own point of view, what is the implication of that for the party and the nation

Well, the implication is not far- fetched, the PDP is a very large party, and I think it is a good development, if they reduce the number of aspirants to two. That President Goodluck is running and others decided to come together to present one candidate, to me is a good thing. It is a beauty of democracy and consensus building is allowed. But, whether that will make any impact towards PDP primaries is what I cannot say for now, only time shall tell. All I know is that what they have done so far is permissible in a democratic processes. A political party may even decide not to do primaries and select one person to be their candidate for the general election.

What about the moves by some governors to present alternative

consensus candidate
Well, that is why I said that time shall tell, because things are just developing. The issue of consensus just happened , and we are yet to hear the last on the consensus. So, let us see what happens later. For instance, when I was running for House of Representatives, I wanted to go for second term, which I did not do, before going for Senate, and another person wanted to run for second term as Senator, from my Constituency. Then, someone was asked say his opinion on that senario that I was going back to House of Reps and other man going back to senate, and the man said 'Well, the only thing I will say is that the continuity continues'. So, consensus has just started.

The political position in Imo State is quite unclear, in the sense that old enemies are becoming new friends for the purpose of becoming an alliance against the incumbent governor, what is your take on that concerning the chances of the incumbent and the party in the state?

Well, if old friends are aligning with old enemies and old enemies are aligning with old friends, it is nothing new in politics. In politics, what matters is permanent interest and not friendship or enmity. So, if your interest goes towards one direction, you are bound to come together, but whenever your interest conflicts, you are bound to go your different ways. So, may be, those people who were enemies before, but are now friends, their interests now are the same, that has brought friendship on one side. But on another side, the incumbent government, as far as I am concerned, has done a lot for the state, and today, we have a very stable party, PDP has done their congress, which we never had for years. The congress had been concluded. We now have a new party structure in the state, and with the new party structure in the state, all those who are running, under the platform of the party, would subject themselves to the party for electioneering processes.

So, the first thing is to do the right thing, and it has been done, which is to conduct a good party congress, and that has already been done by having a party structure on ground. Therefore, if you are now running for governorship or other positions in the state, under the platform of PDP, you now know how to do the election. Before, we are not sure who and who that are the delegates, but now, we are sure because the party congress has been done. So, having said this, I believe that giving every necessary platform, operating on a good footing, the governor of the state will win convincingly, in any primary election in Imo state, any day. Also, if you want to take it to the general election, I also believe that he will win convincingly. Imo is not different from what it used to be. All the actors and actresses are the same. We all know ourselves, we know what everybody can do, we know our reach, we also know what we cannot do, and it has not changed as such. So, if the election comes today, the governor will win, that is what I can tell you.

What really accounts for your conclusion
My conclusion is that the governor is a man of vision. He has done a whole lot of things in that state. Even if you do not like his face, you will also ascribe to him that he has done some work in the state. No body can finish any work, even in Nigeria. You just do what you can do within a particular period of time, give way and another person comes and continues. What we judge is how much money that comes to the state on a monthly basis. What comes in every month and what that is on ground, can it be justified? They cannot use Imo State to judge Akwa Ibom State, Lagos State or some others. But, you can use Imo State to judge states that get a similar thing like it.

Then, if you do that, I can tell you that the state has done very well in the last three and half years, and the things are there for everybody to see. But, the one is the issue of developmental activities, the governor wants to have a futuristic plan for the state. Most of the projects are well designed to even stand a test of time, anyone that is not implemented today, anyone they comes after him will also have basis where to take on from. So, I believe that he has done very well , and will win every election in the state. So many Imo leaders are working with the governor, and they cannot be working with him, if he is not doing well. You know, this is politics and no matter how well you do, there must be some people who will say that you are not doing well. So, it does not mean that if some people do not believe in him, he is not doing well.

There is an accusation that the governor did not have any structure, do you think that within this three and half years, he das built a kind of structure that can sustain him win an election?

What happened in Imo State in 2007 was divine. It was divine in the sense that the internal wrangling in PDP made it impossible for us to agree. We now brought a PPA candidate and made him the governor of the state through popular by the people the state, Now, since that time till today, the governor has consolidated. He has also built what can be seen. He has been very fair to PDP as a party. He had all the powers options of conducting a local government election when he was a PPA governor, but he never did that, because if he had done that , PPA would have swept all the local government in the state. What would have become of Imo State , now that he has joined PDP?. Then, the local governments will be PPA, while the governor will be in PDP. He delayed until he crossed over to PDP, before conducting the local government election . Even as we talk , 80 percent of Ohakim's cabinet, even as PPA governor were members of PDP. That shows what Ohakim is giving PDP a thought, and today , he has been able build structure across the state. We now have local government chairmen, members of the Exco, expanded exco , board members. So, how can it be said that he has not built enough structure and those structures are doing well.

What does this issue right of first refusal mean, is it right?

No, there is nothing like right of first of refusal . There is no bill or any proposal before the National Assembly on the right of first refusal. I think that is misconception. People are taking the overall parameter of what the new amendment of the electoral act is seeking to achieve, to mean what they call right of first refusal. May be, they are saying that if this or that happens, it will amount right of first refusal. But there is nothing in concrete terms that is representing that in the bill that is before us. What is before us is talking about the membership of National Executive Committee (NEC) of political parties, and few issues here and there. Some people are of the opinion that if something happens, it might be like giving us an undue advantage before the other opponents.

You said that consensus may trickle down, could you explain that more?

You know, we have just started consensus and those who entered into the agreement signed for it, and we are told that they have all accepted it. To, that is a welcome development as a party man, it has reduced the number of aspirants who are running in my party drastically. Now, if the party decides to go further to do concensus, are you now saying that they cannot do it. As I said, concenses has just started, there are options, so let us wait and see how the issue will end. I do not think that people are adverse to it , everybody is watching the issue of consensus upholding. What you have raised here about people who talking about raising alternative candidate, is also part of the consensus. These are parts of the democratic processes. Most times we sit down and agree on who will go or not go. So, let us watch and see.

What are your chances of coming back to the Senate ?

I said that I have consulted my people and they have asked me to submit myself for re election, based on what I have done in the past . You see, in politics, you do not expect everybody to be your friend . Some may not like you because you are too tall, too fat , too slim or even hate you because of the way you walk. But, what I am talking about is what do the generality of the people want. My track records within the three and half years in office are there, and if given another opportunity, I will do better. So, I am imploring the people of Orlu zone to remain on track, so that we can get to the destination point , that is why my slogan is 'Remain on track'. I would want to be distracted by oppositions, because they are bound to be there. There is nobody that does not have opposition , as long as you are in politics, you must have opposition. We recognize the rights of the opposition and they should also recognize ours. When they are making accusations of non performance, they have comparative analysis on where we have not achieved , and to just say that someone is not performing, in fact, that an irresponsible analysis. I am a very civilized person and I do not want to drag my opponents to any gutter type of politics. I believe in talking on issues with anyone that wants to run an election with me.