Hon Austin Nwachukwu is the Special Adviser to Imo State Governor, Senator Hope Uzodimma on national assembly matters and ecological projects. He is a former member of the Federal House Representatives, where he represented Okigwe South Federal constituency comprising of; Ehime Mbano, Ihitte Uboma and Obowo local government areas, between 2007 to 2011.
A lawyer by profession, he possesses an LLB in law from the Rivers State University of Science and Technology, Nkpolu. Hon Austin Nwachukwu hails from Ezeoke-Nsu in Ehime Mbano Local Governmnet Area of Imo State
In this interview with our Executive Editor Jennifer John, in Owerri, Nwachukwu bared his heart on salient national and state matters in relation to the celebration of Nigeria at 60.
Nigerians are celebrating 60 years of the country’s independence. How can you describe Nigeria at 60?
Well, it has been a very long journey that has spanned long period of time. I will say for those of us who are post independence children, we met a country where we were eager, happy, delighted, elated to celebrate independence because, as primary and secondary School pupils students, we usually go out for independence match and I remember representing my school so very well in school’s inter independence match past. I attended Zik’s Grammar school, Sapele, Delta State and I was the one that bears the school banner. It was always a thing of joy and I still remember it with nostalgia.
Nigeria got independence from Britain on 1st of October, 1960. Would you describe the independence as a blessing or a curse, 60 years after?
Whichever way you look at it, independence is a blessing, because it means that you are now dependent on no one. You can do things on your own, without anybody calling the shots for you. We were under the grip of our colonial masters and they were the ones telling us to; turn left, turn right, stand at ease, but as it is right now, as a country that has attained nationhood, we are now self sustaining. It is a thing of joy that we are no longer under the control of another country. So I see independence as a blessing and not a curse.
In your view and judging by the fact that institutions that worked in the past are no longer working, would you say the country has progressed or retrogressed these 60 years?
In as much as I agree that there are so much disconnect in so many areas in the governance of our country from independence till date, also we have made tremendous strides and bold steps. For instance, we used to cue up at telephone booths in order to make calls to our loved ones, but now we can seat down in the comfort of our homes to talk to our loved ones anywhere they may be across the globe. The international recognition of Nigeria as a nation has also been there. In terms of sports, the Nigerian Green Eagles, now Super Eagles, have been a force to reckon with in global competitions among nations. We have made some bold strides; socially, economically and all spheres of life. So, I will say we are making progress, though we have not attained that full height we are expected to have attained. There is still much room for amendment and improvement.
What do you think is our greatest mistake as a nation after 60 years of existence?
If you say mistake, it is quite expansive and subjective in a sense, but I will say that even the Bible recognizes that we human beings are prone to falling/errors. I know very well that mistakes are there to occur, because if there are no mistakes, there will be no correction. Government is a continuum and the mistake of one government, gives room for the new government to make amends/correction. So, mistakes can occur, but the ability for us to know where we are coming from and where we are heading to, makes us a moving nation.
In your own view, what is our greatest achievement as a country?
Irrespective of the so many calamities that have befallen us in terms of terrorism, marginalization in so many quarters, the hatred, the corruption, the transgression and all of that, we are still together. That means that we have really made progress. Some nations are no longer together today, but we are still together, managing ourselves, which means there are still rooms for improvement in our societal behavior.
Can you mention six personalities that have been outstanding in various fields in the last sixty decades?
People like Nnamdi Azkiwe, Tafawa Belewa, Obafemi Awolowo, are the grand fathers of post independent Nigeria. They had the passion to put in place, a country where every Nigerian will have mutual respect, respect the rule of law and have justice at no cost. Then in much recent, we have had outstanding personalities like former president, Olusegun Obasanjo who was never lackadaisical in his style of leadership. President Goodluck Jonathan also did his best. One of his outstanding dispositions is when he made it clear that his ambition is not worth the blood of any Nigerian. He played politics without bitterness and made history when he conceded defeat as an incumbent president and became the first person to congratulate his opponent in an election, even before the announcement of the final result and did not explore the option of going to court.
The Governor of Imo State, Senator Hope Uzodimma is a good role model. Because of his in-depth knowledge and pragmatic leadership, he put in place the very unique office that I am occupying today as the special adviser on national assembly matters and ecological projects, which no governor in the past ever thought wise to establish. He did this because of the devastating effects of ecology and the synergy that has to be built between members of the national assembly of Imo State origin. For the state to attract something from the federal government the assistance of national assembly members is required and if they are not brought closer to the state government, they will be in the frolic of their own and be aloof while the state is denied so many federal benefits
Why do you think Uzodimma’s government is better than past governments in the state?
You see, there is a saying that that when the righteous is in authority, the people rejoice. Looking at the way Hope Uzodimma came to power, you can fathom that the hand of God is upon him. He was robbed of his victory, but God used the instrumentality of the law court, which is the last hope of the common man to restore his mandate. His emergence could be likened to that of David in the Bible. So his government is unique from every other government in the state.
I know he might not have done everything perfectly well, because he is human. However, opposition should learn to sheath their sword, join hands with him and let us better the state. When his government came on board, there was a free for all payment of salaries, even to ghost workers and Imo was a beehive of people collecting money indiscriminately, even in three, four to five places that they never go to work, but he came on board and streamlined these things and put in place a procedure to make salary and pension system automated, making it possible for civil servants and pensioners to get their salaries and pension with ease.
We are aware that some people have not got theirs, which has been proven to be their fault, either as a result of; fraud, mistake or some types of errors. My advice to people who are clamouring and bickering that they have not been paid is to check themselves and those who are not happy with what the governor is doing in terms of correcting the abnormalities in the payment system of Imo State should know that the problem is from them.
What do you make of the accusations that Governor Hope Uzodimma is not doing well in terms of; salaries, pensions and road construction?
Like I said, even in a family of about five, there will be Judas, one who will not be happy with what others are doing and will never say yes to any good ideas of others. So I see the people who are not happy with the administration of Governor Hope Uzodimma as enemies of the state and opposition elements. Opposition elements will always be there. In governance, majority will always have their way and the minority, their say.
The people who are bickering and saying that he is not doing well are in tiny minority. Majority of Imolites are comfortable with the style of governance of Senator Hope Uzodimma, but those who are not happy that the loopholes of siphoning money from the government has been blocked will not be happy because their avenues of getting illegal money have been blocked. In terms of road infrastructure, it is a well-known fact that we are in the deep period of the rainy season. However, a lot is being done in terms of reconstruction of roads, but watch out, as soon as the dry season sets in, Imolites will witness an unimaginable and massive construction that will envelope the state. The governor has put the machineries in motion.
He is not sleeping, he knows that Imo people are watching to see how he will take them to the next level and he is doing just that.