Benjamin Uwajumogu was the Speaker, Imo State House of Assembly between 2011 and 2015. In the 2015 elections, he ran for the Senate to represent Imo North District but the election was declared inconclusive by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC. Unity will drive us forward in the South-East
After a supplementary election, Uwajumogu was declared the winner. His inauguration, however, did not happen until September 2016. In this, Uwajumogu who was until recently the only All Progressive Congress, APC senator from the Southeast said that the Igbo will join the ruling party en masse before 2019 election, among other assertions.
HOW would you describe your experience in the Senate thus far?
It has been a different experience no doubt. It is a higher calling but basically, it is the same process in a bigger and wider platform. More responsibility in terms of reach.
Igbo cry of marginalisation in APC government. Do you agree with that?
Igbo have been marginalised in this country for so many years. It didn’t start with this administration. It is a known fact that after the civil war, we got marginalized in every form economically, socially and we have not been getting the kind of appointments we are supposed to get. Within this administration, we have complained so much about the Igbo marginalization. The Igbo voted for the PDP during the last election because most of their leaders at the time belonged to the PDP because, for the first time in the history of Nigeria, we had a President that appointed Igbo to very sensitive positions.
But today the question is what is more important? Is it the appointments or the projects that come with them? In this administration, all those projects that were promised us by the previous administration with all the appointments it gave to us in the south-east that didn’t see the daylight are now coming to fruition. Enugu-Onitsha express road is undergoing construction, Enugu-Port Harcourt express road is undergoing reconstruction and some other projects that will help lift the livelihood of the people that are living in the Southeast.
So, the question remains: what is important to the Igbo man? Is it the appointments or the projects that come with the appointments? And even within the appointments, I think we have not done so badly. It is just that our people look at the certain positions. The appointments of the two most important pension agencies in this country PenCom and PTAD are held by two Igbo women and these are very powerful positions and between them, they control over N5 trillion in funds and if properly utilized in this country can help boost the economy of the south-east and there are so many other appointments. So I believe that it is work in progress.
Do you think the story will change in 2019?
I believe so. One thing that I have known about the political antecedents of the south-east is that we support the ruling party and this is the ruling party and I believe that the Igbo would come along. I believe that between now and 2019, a lot of our political leaders in the Southeast would come. A lot have joined already. I know that previous governors will join and some other governors are negotiating to come over because Nigeria will understand the fact that this is the first administration to build a proper foundation for a country; things might be difficult right now but you cannot blame the economic difficulty on this government, rather this government is building the country.
In your own estimation, has APC government really performed well?
We have stemmed the drift of the economy; the economy was heading for destruction. Today we have reduced official corruption by almost 60-70%.
Ibrahim Magu was rejected twice as chairman of the EFCC even by APC senators. Why?
I like Magu as a person. I even have a personal relationship with him and I would have wished that Magu was cleared by the Senate.
In the first instance, the DSS wrote a report against Magu. And when he was re-presented by the president, the Senate also requested the DSS to re-confirm or change its position on the matter and the DSS re-confirmed their position and stated that they stood their ground that Magu is not the rightful candidate for that position. I am sure that if the DSS had not written such a report against Magu, he would have been cleared by the Senate.
And again the question to be asked, when you bring in anybody for clearance in the Senate, did you properly ensure that Senators were contacted? There are more than sixty something members of the APC sitting on the floor of the Senate.
How many of them were contacted and prevailed upon to vote for Magu? I believe that the government of the day needs to improve its relationship with the Senate.
Will the Senate be willing to recall Senator Ali Ndume from the six months suspension?
It is possible. When I was a speaker, we suspended a member of the House and recalled him after two months. Unfortunately, I was not in the chamber the day he (Ndume) was suspended. So, I cannot tell. He had raised issues of privileges against the Senate President and Senator Dino Melaye and I also felt at the time he raised that issue of privilege, that it would have been something that would have been discussed at the close session, not at the session where the media and everybody was around because this is a matter that had to do with the Senate especially that these were newspaper issues that probably had no basis.
I have a lot of respect for Senator Ndume and I have a personal relationship with him too and I had wished that this did not happen to him. I believe that there are ways of reconciling. He can also apologise to the Senate especially the Senate President and I believe that if the Senate President is convinced he has repented at least he can come back.Vanguard NGR