Nkechi Justina Nwaogu, is an Abia State-born politician and banker, founder and CEO Libra Investment. She is currently the pro-chancellor and chairman Governing Council University of Calabar. Senator Nwaogu was Member representing Osisioma Ngwa, Ugwunagbo and Obingwa Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives from 2003/2007. In 2007 she was elected as the Senator representing Abia Central Senatorial District and re-re-elected in 2011 for a second tenure in office. In this exclusive interview with Member, Businessday Editorial Board, she bares her mind on a number of national issues. Excerpt:
Distinguished, from 2003 to 2015 you were actively involved in politics, holding one political office or the other, from the House of Representative to the Senate, but since 2015 till now, not much has been heard about you politically. What have you been doing? Thank you for the question. Frankly speaking, I have not been idle. I contested for Senate in 2019 but I didn’t win because I was betrayed and sabotaged under my platform the All Progressives Congress (APC). That I am not in any electoral position does not mean that I have not been active in politics since I left Senate. At least, I have been part of the builders of APC at my constituency and Abia state where I serve as one of the leaders. I have been active
What do you mean by you were betrayed and who betrayed you?
It’s a long story, and I don’t want to reopen the wounds because it’s really heart-breaking. I came out to offer my people the quality service I have always been known for but reasons best known to some people, including some people from my party, I was betrayed. I want it to be on record that I was sabotaged and betrayed
Does it have anything to do with you being a woman?
I have always been a woman. I have the feeling that it was because some people had allegiance to another party which I think is Anti-party. Some people had allegiance to some people that were and are still in another party. I can’t see myself doing that. In other words, there was a level of insincerity.
Could that be the reason you left PDP a party that offered you platform to the national assembly to join APC?
No! I went to the House of Representatives under All Nigeria People’s Party, ANPP, then Senate PDP. I left PDP when I did because it lost the tenet for which we know them for. Even the Bible says ‘if salt loses its taste, it is no longer salt”. PDP became a party by money for money with money. It became a party where you have to steal, to give them during election, where merit was thrown to the wind on the altar of money. What happened in 2014 primaries was a national political calamity and shame that caused them dearly which is a known fact because they dwelt on who had the highest money to give the party functionaries than putting people who could add values to the national political and economic environment which is what politics is all about. When many people like me were thrown away because we didn’t meet the bidding price, most of us left. I left after primaries because I realized the party had lost its direction, and all the values they were known for. They were no longer democratic and patriotic and their values were no longer for the people. That was why I left.
You left PDP, came to APC where you were betrayed. Are you by implication saying both parties are the same?
No! My APC is completely different ; it was not an issue of money. It was the issue of wrong allegiance for reasons I could not decipher as at that time. One thing I want to put on record here is that every 4years provides or demands different political expectations. One thing is every politics is local. What’s predominant in an area in 4 years might not be a factor in the next 4years. In 2014 in my place, it was the issue of Ngwa governor and that was what everybody was thinking about. In 2019, it was something like this same Ngwa people they should be allowed to go twice. So in 2023 it’s going to be a different expectation. For those of us who understand politics, we can discern it. I read political science up to PHD and has practiced it for over 20years , so I know what I am talking about.
Looking back at the Abia state issue, the 3 zones have had their slots in the persons of governors Orji Uzor Kalu, Theodore Orji and now Okezie Ikpeazu. So 2023 where do you think the next governor would come from?
I wouldn’t categorically say this is where it is going to because just like you said the 3zones have tasted governorship positions, though Orji Kalu in 1999 didn’t go under Abia- North. He went under the platform of Aba Ngwa, which is Abia- South senatorial zone. I would also want it to be clear that Abia state for governorship purposes ought not to be by senatorial zone because the 3 Senatorial zones have mixed people, tribes and areas like we have the old Bende occupying 3 local governments. In Abia central we have the ngwa people occupying 3 local governments. The Abia central senatorial district made up of 6 local governments are not like the Ngwa- or the Umuahia people. For governorship purposes, from what we knew and what we still know, it ought to be the old Bende with 8 LGAS and the old Aba zone with 9 LGAS. If you say that Orji will now take the north which is not where he came from, as at that time, the 3 zones have all tested the position and that means any other zone minus the current zone occupying it can then vie for governorship.
One of the points raised during the recent # ENDSARS protest was the need for youths to take over the governance of this country. Do you think age has anything to do with performance?
Absolutely nonsense! Youth has nothing to do with governance. Experience is not gotten by twitting, sending messages in social media that could cause unrest in the country. Inasmuch as there are some smart ones, things like governance, administration and management is through experience, you can’t get it by wishes. Obama was quite young when he became US president but look at his profile; he didn’t come out from the University and became president. He went through processes but some of our youths are not ready for that. All I can say is that the youth should be patient, take up employment if they find one. Government of today should also do well by designing programs and policies aimed at giving the youth opportunities.
For the first time in the 45 years history of the University of Calabar where you preside as the Pro-chancellor and Chairman Governing Council, a woman was elected as the Vice Chancellor. Her appointment has received wide acceptance. Was it a case of gender balancing? How were you able to do that?
It was not single- handedly done by me. I am the chairman of the governing council, we have council members and luckily we had guidelines from the federal ministry of education which we followed rigidly and for that particular exercise, I decided from the beginning to objectively carry out the exercise and whoever emerged would be declared the winner. Luckily from the criteria that we had, Professor Florence Obi had the highest score not minding that she was a woman. I have been told many people thought it was because I am a woman that I appointed a fellow woman as VC. That is not true. We must begin to demystify this wrong notion. Why would a qualified woman who performed excellently be turned down because of her gender?. She got the appointment not because we wanted gender balance but because she earned it.
The Senate has become dumping ground for former governors as most of them after serving their states end up in the Senate. This has brought serious criticism from across the country. Are you comfortable with the development?
Absolutely not! l made a comment last year when the 9th National Assembly was inaugurated. I beckoned on the current administration to be courageous enough to do something to stop the ugly trend otherwise those who ride on the back of the tiger will end in the tiger’s stomach. So we must halt the idea of retired governors using the Senate Chamber as place of rest. If we do not halt the exodus of retired governors entering into the Senate of the national assembly and using the chamber as place of rest, time will come when these governors would detect to any president what budget should come into the national assembly. They have the way to suffocate any executive if we do not check the influx of these governors. Time will come when out of 109 senators, majority including the presiding officer of that Senate would be a former governor and because of their number, they would detect to the executive and the judiciary. It’s a situation that will happen one day if not checked. The earlier we act the best for this country and democracy.
How can it be checked?
If there can be a law from the various states to prevent outgoing governors from contesting for Senate, just like we have the law for 8years of service. I see that place (Senate) being populated by governors very soon. We really need a law to check mate the influx.
A s a country, do you think we are more divided now than before?
Yes we are more divided now! Nnamdi Azikiwe was born in Niger state and lived there. My mother used to trade goods and she frequented Kano by train to Aba but we dont have such anymore. It seems the country is retrogressing. I believe in this country but the center is shaking. We are not seeing the wealth of this nation as we see the population growth, there is no balance. Also I don’t see efforts in place for remedy and that is why there is tension in the land.
Are you saying we are not practicing federalism?
We claim to be practicing federalism although some political scientists said there is no true federalism. We have left the things that unit us more and we are dwelling on things that are dividing us. Take for instance the issue of trade, we are more of a trader nation and we are not doing more in promoting regional growth. I believe there should have been much more efforts for the northern parts of Nigeria to develop their agriculture. There should be conscious effort to help them feed themselves and other regions. The south-east is more of a trading region, my heart bleeds that things that made that region to blossom has been totally destroyed and nobody is saying anything. We need to find out where we derailed. I also think we should return to regional government. I believe in devolution of power . If we have regional government and devolution of power, we should be able to take out from the central to the regions and we would see the regions grow according to their capabilities and capacity rather than being forced. I believe in Nigeria as a nation but I am frightened at the weak institutions, the level of division where we no longer see ourselves as fellow Nigerians is worrisome. No nation can grow like this.
Before you Run (1)
“Whatever political level you have laced up to run for: presidential, governorship, senatorial, house, local government, or ward, before you run, hear now what you are coming in to run or govern.”