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We failed: We left Igbo politics in tatters… worse than we met it 8 years ago

Posted by By IKENNA EMEWU (ikeroyal@yahoo.co.uk) on 2007/06/02 | Views: 911 |

We failed: We left Igbo politics in tatters… worse than we met it 8 years ago


Truths about core issues of the nation and its segments have started surfacing. They come from the major central players who now have left office.

Truths about core issues of the nation and its segments have started surfacing. They come from the major central players who now have left office.

One of such is Chief Achike Udenwa, former Imo State Governor. Last Saturday, during an encounter with the former state CEO in Government House Owerri, the PDP chieftain and core player in the affairs that shaped Igbo politics for the last eight years admitted that his generation of politicians of Igbo extraction failed the ethnic group which he described as the most populous in Nigeria.

In what could be termed the most frank interview and admission to the press, he told a team of journalists that “I frankly regret that the Igbo have come to the deepest of its political depth. We have made the last rung of the ladder of the nation’s politics.

This is the worst stage of the Igbo nation in Nigeria, I regret that we did not keep the spirit of leadership of our people towards an expected growth. The past leaders like the Great Zik, Okpara, Ibiam, Mbakwe and the rest did far more to position Igbo, and since they did well, we had no excuse to have failed”.

Cause of failure
But he admitted that the failure was a collective thing. “I blame ourselves for the fate of Nd’Igbo today, because we all contributed to the problem for elevating individual interest rather than that of the collective Igbo race. In the past eight years we were in office, I recollected one day during the period in review that all the five Igbo states produced a Senate President each. It is a sign of bad omen, of humiliation and lack of orientation. I know quite well that people from outside Igboland fueled the crisis to discredit us, but we gave them the opportunity of achieving their intention and messing the entire race around.
Today, it pains me to remember that Nd’Igbo have no place in Nigerian politics and in the leadership of the nation Nd’Igbo did more than others to bring into existence. This is our lowest point in Nigerian politics ever. I call Nd’Igbo as the largest minority in the nation. While we parade the largest population with the reputation of the second largest residents of every state of the nation after the natives, we remain irrelevant because we mismanaged our future. Unfortunately, we are going to pay the price so dearly, and pitiably, our children will continue to pay the same price because we failed”.

I did my best
Although the Imo politician admits a collective failure because he sees the failings of one man as that of all because they collectively were entrusted with the people’s interest, but the politician from Orlu would not take any person blames for the downturn. He feels he did his best, but would not enjoy the required support of his kinsmen and fellow politicians to profit from collective bargaining.
Chief Udenwa received a pointblank question on what he did to arrest the downhill-roll of Igbo fate as he knew these developments when he had the opportunity to cause a u-turn, and he said: “I take blames as part of the group, but as an individual, I will and can never take the blames for the failings because I am sure with a clear conscience that I did my best to check the situation, but there wasn’t the support and collective purpose of the people who held the mantle as I did to bring the intention to fruition”.
He listed his efforts to give Nd’Igbo leadership and stated that he initiated the Igbo (South East) Governors’ Forum and served as the first chairman. “I had intended to use that platform to get Nd’Igbo together. We held the first meeting at Owerri and later Enugu and other states. But at the time we started making impact, outsiders who felt threatened by the strength of our unity infiltrated our ranks and used some of us to destroy the union.
“In addition, I also initiated the Eastern Nigeria Governors’ Forum because all the states in the east used to be in the former Eastern Nigeria region. The North has three geo-political zones and about 19 States but still has the umbrella Northern Governors’ Forum. So, the states in the East should also have a platform to generate ideas and fight its cause in the affairs of the nation because we still have common goals and problems”.
As if that was not enough, Udenwa said he also took the steps that led to the formation of the South East Caucus which included all Governors, Senator, members of the House of Representatives, past political leaders and others. That did not survive also. What killed others is also the same ailment that brought it to an end. “Outsiders destroyed it with the assistance of insiders. We are unfortunately paying the price and generations to come will still pay”, he lamented.
He however admitted that during the 1999-2003 tenure the Governors especially did well, but after that, personal interest took the better of the Igbo politicians and the house went into disarray, lost focus and could not collectively articulate what Igbo want and how to get them.
Chief Udenwa is irked by the fact that even those that claim to be Igbo leaders in and outside PDP are the main offenders in the cricifixion of the Igbo interest.

What power has PDP chairman?
It makes Udenwa react like he has major stomach ache when asked if his future ambition will be to angle for the national chairman position of the PDP. To this questions he wrinkes his facial muscles and the resoponse came with so much acid. “Oh, are you saying they (who knows they’ is) have zoned the PDP chairmanship to the South East. I don’t know of that, but if that is the case, I wish them well and those of them that would like to clinch the position. But I want to ask what value the position adds to Igbo development and political wellbeing. Is there still any power left of that position and how can one put such powers to good use of Nd’Igbo in politics?, he inquired. He insisted that Igbo have for now crashed beyond repair, and it’s the fruit of its in-fighting and no PDP chairman’s position will rescue it.

Elite is Nigeria’s headache
Chief Udenwa admitted he learnt a major lesson while in power and that lesson is rather unusual because while in other climes the elite or privileged class contributes positively and power societal emancipation, the same class in Nigeria remains the snag and destroyers of the future of the nation.
“I discovered that the Nigerian masses are good, simple minded and contented people. Every little effort to lift the society impresses them. If you provide water in their neighbourhood, they will praise and support you, likewise if you give them power supply or health facility. Left to the masses, they would be no problem in Nigeria and leadership.
“But the elite can never take any of these. People of this class pester you endlessly for one personal gain or the other – from appointment to contract, financial solicitation and others and even if you provide all the amenities the society needs and you don’t give them person money to line their pockets, you are bad man and the worst leader. Under such situations, they castigate you and incite the people against you. The elite is selfish and inconsiderate of the wishes and benefits of others. You can never satisfy this class”.

Destroyer of old order
Udenwa has regrets but would also at all times thump his chest for hitting gold in at least one aspect of leadership and reform. “I came in and found out that money is the cornestone of politics in Nigeria. He that has money gets everything he wants in politics. In so doing, the poor man who has ideas and great plans of what to do to lift the nation has no place in politics because the money man bullies his way through. I vowed within myself that I must destroy this cult.
“In Imo State I succeeded in achieving that desire. All the money politicians who used to boast the state belonged exclsively to them were demystified. Those that had the impression that winning political office was always at their hands lost out. With the alliance of the masses, we crucified their dynasty and confined them to their rightful position. If that remains my only achievement, I am grateful because it is a form of liberation for my people, so that the good ones among them who have no money can now have a say in politics. I fought imposition and godfatherism and I won. Invariably the people of Imo State won”.

Assessing his eight years
In a stretch of sentences, almost without a pause, former Governor Udenwa recounted most of the things he did in office for the people of the state. According to him, he hinged his programmes and policies on what he called the ‘tripod’. That tripod has one leg as agriculture, the other as industry and the last as re-orientation of the people. In the industrial sector, he admitted not building new factories but privatised public enterprises own, and through that revived them. In the same effort, he said he got approval for the Imo Free Trade Zone, opened the doors for private sector players to get foreign partners and financiers to run the privatized industries. The government lifted the Imo Concorde Hotel from ruin and comatose and that has been a boost to tourim in the state.

“As per orientation, the people now have a better attitude to government and governance, to work, public service and patriotism”. He also noted that he has opened up the agricultural sector and given it great impetus in development of farms and the agricultural departments of higher institutions in the state.
The state is blessed with so many higher institutions and Udenwa said none of them – from Alvan Ikoku College of Education which got a Technical Education department to Michael Okpara College of Agriculture which now develops hybrid species of food crops and the state university left out. They all had a breath of extra life from the government of Udenwa.

The Teaching Hospital of this University according to him remains one of the best in the country. He endowed the varsity with state-of-the-art endoscopic surgery facility, radiology deprtment with most modern equipment and a well developed School of Nursing. It developed a partnership with the Howard University in USA to evolve the best modern College of Medicine.

Secondary and primary schools got facelift with equipment and classroom blocks as according to him, Imo has the highet primary and secondary school enrolment in Nigeria and there has to be adequate facility to handle this positive trend. He said every part of the state is now accessible by road through the roads constructed by his government to link all regions of the state, as a against what he met in 1999.
Udenwa remains happy that the state transited to a new government in peace, and said he has no grudges that someone he wanted to take over from him could not make it. “Yes, as a human being I should be interested in who succeeds me, but God has the final decision.

Moreover, my wish is just that of one person among over five million people of Imo State. If at last their wish outweighs mine, which is what democracy is all about, I should be a happy man, and I am. The man that takes over is the one the people want and they should have their way and I only need to join in what the masses accept”.

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