Nwabueze Onwuneme is a chieftain of All Progressive Congress (APC) in Abia State. A youth activist and Abia APC State House of Assembly aspirant for the Umuahia North State Constituency seat, Onwuneme told Associate Editor, Sam Egburonu, how he would build on the giant strides of the former Premier of the old Eastern Region and other salient national issues. Excerpts
JUST recently, some Igbo leaders visited President Muhammadu Buhari and endorsed him for a second term in office. As the Director-General of BUSEYEN, one of the foremost supporters of the president in the South-East zone, and as an outspoken APC chieftain from Abia, what is your take on the visit?
It’s a good and welcome development, quite strategic in the sense that supporting President Muhammadu Buhari to go for a second term in office will be the best political move Ndigbo would make, which will easily put us in a good position to run for the presidency in 2023 when power will traditionally come back to southern Nigeria. Of course, we all know that the Igbo is the only zone that has not occupied the seat since the advent of the Fourth Republic. So, its most appropriate to say that its more realistic for Ndigbo to accomplish this great feat in APC as against the PDP which is proposing 2027, that is if they ever get themselves into power again. Also, we have not forgotten their inconsistent nature, you understand, the fear that the party may again try to shortchange Ndigbo as they have done in the past. So, in all,I believe we should also reach out to not just President Muhammadu Buhari but other zones and tribes, we should build bridges and mend broken fences where necessary but above all we should seek God’s face because He alone gives power. Ndigbo, especially Igbo leaders, should also know that power is not given but taken.
With the recent killings, especially by Fulani herdsmen, and your party’s reluctance to tackle them headlong, do you think your party, APC and its most likely presidential candidate, President Muhammadu Buhari, will not meet stiff opposition from Nigerians?
Sincerely these wanton killings are quite unfortunate and regrettable and may I use this opportunity to sympathise with those who have lost their loved ones and pray for the repose of their souls. Yes, there is no doubt that if this issue is not resolved now it sure will affect the perception of electorates but I know it is not the President’s wish that his citizens would be slaughtered and killed. So, just like the Boko Haram issue, which he has done well in degrading, I am sure the President and his security team are drawing up strategies and plans which cannot be divulged to the public to counter and stop this act of barbarism. I also want to appeal to our Fulani brothers not to allow their children and wards to be used to destabilise this government because their action may lead to mass resentment and rejection by other tribes.
As an APC chieftain, do you support creation of cattle colonies in states?
To you as a Blackman do you like the sound of that word colony? To me as an individual, and taking cognizance of the diverse nature of the country, I think that word is most in-appropriate. To me, creation of ranches remains the best solution to this issue though I disagree with people that say cattle-rearing is a private business and therefore the government should not encourage or support it. Now I ask is rice, cassava, cocoa farming and all other forms of agricultural activities not private businesses but government, even in developed countries, still gives incentives and makes policies to enhance and encourage food production in their countries.
So, I think government can help and encourage cattle rearing, animal husbandry by encouraging establishment of ranches and providing infrastructure like access roads to them, water, electricity, etc., and then tax the users of those ranches.
The call to review downwards the age limit for elective offices is further strengthened by what is today called ‘not-too-young-to-run campaign.” Is that why people like you now want to contest for elected offices?
It is for me a wake-up call, a clarion call to serve. Today in Nigeria and Africa at large my generation has been greatly raped and cheated. It’s so bad that our elders have had their time and are still eating into ours. To worsen the story, they left us with no socio-infrastructural development even as they continue to employ age-old antics like religious and ethnic sentiment to divide us and have their way. Like former Governor Rotimi Amaechi would say, its only corruption that unites some Nigerians and knows no tribe or religion when the loot is being shared.
But you are seen as an ardent supporter of President Muhammadu Buhari how come you are still championing generational change?
There’s an Igbo adage that says it takes the man that masks the masquerade to unmask it; literally speaking, it was President Muhammadu Buhari’s generation that put us in this mess, so that’s why we chose the best we could get in their generation to clean the Augean stable, but mark it, President Muhammadu Buhari would be the last elderly president this country will have because we the youths have resolved to take our destinies in our hands and take over the reins of power just like our peers in other climes.
Recent letters from Obasanjo and Babangida to Buhari confirmed that they want the generational change now. So, why do you want to postpone it further?
Former Presidents Obasanjo and Babangida we all know are well respected elder statesmen who I know would not just talk for talking sake because they are neither seeking relevance nor political office but are expressing concerns on some critical issues of national importance which they are entitled to and I urge President Muhammadu Buhari to read through their concerns and address them, most especially the issues that have to do with national security and threat to our corporate existence as a nation putting into consideration our ethno-religious diversities. But I totally disagree on the call on President Muhammadu Buhari not to seek a second term in office because that is his prerogative and constitutional right which the Nigerian Constitution guarantees him. I also want to commend the President and his media team for not hauling insults at these elder statesmen in contrast to what used to obtain in the past where overzealous aides will throw caution to the wind and become attack dogs of their principal.
You are running for an assembly seat to represent the people of Umuahia North State Constituency in the Abia State House of Assembly. If you achieve this, what will you do differently from others that are there now or have represented your people previously?
You know my constituency, which is of the Ohuhu clan, has produced the likes of the late former Premier of Eastern Region, the Rt. Hon Michael Okpara, who represented us also in the old Eastern House of Assembly. My mission is straight but tasking because I intend to build on the giant strides of the former Premier, knowing the dynamics and economic strength of my people, which greatly lies in agriculture as can be seen by the various farm settlements the late Premier Michael Okpara set up. As for me, the primary means of empowering my constituents on wealth creation would be to focus on agriculture and building of agricultural clusters, creation of access roads for easy evacuation of agricultural produce, water and healthcare with emphasis on total eradication of child and infant mortality, youth empowerment via quality education and entrepreneurial capacity building in youths. Effective representation that will drive the desired democracy dividends to my constituents will be my focus.
– The Nation