Chief Dr. George Nkwoji, is the traditional prime minister of Egbelu-Obube in Ngor-Okpala local government. He is the publisher of the Nigerian Moment newspaper, an Owerri based tabloid. He was also the Publicity Secretary of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) in Imo State. The French trained Water engineer in this interview with our Editor, AFAM ECHI , condemns the silence of the South East governors on the Enugu killing while chiding workers for praising governors for paying their wage bills.
In the last 8 months you have functioned as the traditional Prime Minister (TPM) of your Ulakwo Obube community. How has it been with you in community government?
Well my experience is that nothing is ever constant, human beings change. After all the fanfare we can now see that there are lots of challenges. There are people who want to control and manipulate power in the community and once they are bent on achieving that they will continue to create havoc. As human beings we are here to ensure control.
Are you in any way implying that your TPM position is being challenged?
What I am actually saying is that by virtue of my position there are lot of problems coming up which people continually generate. People will come with many issues unlike before when I will say that I don’t have any issue to contend with.
In other words, you are actually busy now than before?
Yes, that is true.
Some of your community members are victims of governance issues especially those who are owed arrears of salary. How are you responding to those challenges especially when they lament?
As an employer of labour I think the whole thing is being politicized. It is being politicized in the sense that ab initio workers have began to praise governors for payment of salaries. They are not supposed to praise governors for the payment of salaries or gratuity. The pensioners and civil servants do so thinking that they impress the governors. I am not referring to the present governor because it is the same thing that has been going on. There is no basis praising government for paying your salary. Bank workers, factory workers, don’t praise their employers for paying their emoluments. It is only when you don’t pay me salary that there will be issues. They are part and parcel of the problem.
Are you implying that this is the reason the governors owe them so that it is used as an instrument to control their loyalty?
As long as they continue to praise governors when they pay salary this problem will continue.
Now that you are part of the chieftaincy institution which is a stakeholder in the state what do you think is the reason the natural rulers are not bothered about interfacing with the government to ensure that the welfare (salary) of their subjects are redeemed as at when due?
T h e t r a d i t i o n a l institution is burdened by traditional matters. They are not in the labour union. Workers have their unions, the NUT, the NLC etc. These are the unions whose responsibilities it is to do so. The natural rulers cannot leave their domain to be speaking for the workers when workers have their representatives.
How would you look at the performance of Gov Hope Uzodimma so far?
Speaking from the beneﬁt of hindsight we know how the governor came in. No person was expecting him and probably he never knew he was going to come in. If we are to judge him based on what he has done and what he has not done I would think that he is doing fairly well because if you look at the construction work which this administration commenced some of us would wish that he retain those credible contractors. We are seeing a lot of work for instance, the usual go slow that we experience at Wetheral road here has disappeared. The only explanation is that from Chukwuma Nwoha to Egbu road has been opened. If you go there you will see massive construction going on . P e o p l e g o i n g t o government house from Egbu road will no longer pass through Wetheral. They join Egbu road, pass through Chukwuma Nwoha and join up. Dick Tiger road oﬀ MCC to Egbu road is being opened up and motorists are using all these places. Those are the things we expect from a good government. For me I think the man is doing well notwithstanding that he is trying to consolidate.
How would you comment on the IPOB killings in which Igbo youths met their untimely death at Enugu?
It is really unfortunate. It is not the ﬁrst time and may not be the last time. IPOB members have been killed dumped and buried secretly unknown to their parents. It is unfortunate that in Nigeria Federal government is using multiple standards in Nigeria to meet diﬀerent ethnic groups. I believe that something may happen tomorrow and the federal government may have a rethink but killing innocent people, unarmed IPOB boys is quite condemnable whereas more violent groups are walking free. The security they used in killing IPOB boys why don’t they use them against the insurgents in the north.
This has attracted public outrage locally and internationally but unfortunately the South East governors have kept mute on the issue. How do you see that?
You know that politicians are a diﬀerent breed of leaders. They are not the original genuine leaders that you would expect to get. For instance you see a People’s Democratic Party (PDP) governor paying allegiance to an APC government. Take for instance sometime in the past few years when there was another killing in Enugu State, the governor when going to meet with the president dressed like an Hausa man. What do you expect from such a man yet he went to report of crisis in his domain. They cannot even speak for the Igbos unlike their northern and western counterparts that speak on behalf of their people. You will never see any governor either APC or PDP speak up for the South East people. We have not gotten that type of governor with courage to speak for the Igbos in the South East. Liberating the South Easterners cannot come from the governors.
Imo North bye-election comes up on the 31st of October. How would you assess the chances of the parties especially the two major political parties, the PDP, APC?
Looking at where they are coming from in 2015, PDP won but was nulliﬁed giving APC a chance to emerge in a rescheduled election. Even in that election APC was not anywhere for Ben Uwajumogu to be elected but APC emerged. A lot of things come into play, not necessarily the votes. Ordinarily the APC federal government is interested in winning the seat, so is the sitting governor who would like to be seen to deliver, but the problem they may have is dependent upon who emerges after the primaries. Araraume has shown interest and is known as a dogged ﬁghter. Nwajiuba has shown interest too. On the side of PDP, it may not be so easy. I give it to APC. Araraume has been there for 8 years so Okigwe people may be looking elsewhere.
Are you not seeing the internal schisms in the party as a factor to work against them especially the ﬁght between Nlemigbo and Nwafor for the chairmanship position?
That boils down to what Prof Obiareri said recently that the rerun election is for the APC to lose. The APC is not actually intact, not working to win the election. It is true that any party that is not organized for an election should not expect to win. The party has a way of getting its thing done, legitimate or illegitimate chairman notwithstanding. The governor knows who the legitimate governor is.
Recently you launched a printing press for your paper. Is it strictly for the paper or for a commercial purpose? Can you give us an insight?
We acquired our printing press to enable the paper appear on the stand regularly. We also acquired it as a business unit, a commercial venture that can serve members of the public and we are here to add value to what the printing industry is doing here. We want to be oﬀering special services to the public.
What are the chances of the Igbo man getting elected in 2023? Do you think that Igbos are ready for the top job?
When we talk about president of Igbo extraction I think it is something that is achievable if the people are working in unity. In a situation, some of us become agents of people outside Igbo land sharing money to others; it means we are now divided. That is where the problem lies. Igbos must get their acts together and they will get it.
Okorocha’s men (past appointees) had a chat with Uzodimma recently and speculations are strong that they may have moved over to him. It is also rumored that there may be a cabinet reshuﬄe to accommodate them soon in Uzodimma’s cabinet. What are your views especially on the politics of Imo State
There is nothing strange about that. Uzodimma is not a stranger in Imo including those Okorocha’s men. Okorocha was able to appoint them because he was governor. He is no longer the governor; the person who has powers to appoint is Uzodimma. He is a member of the APC and those who approached him are his friends, his conﬁdants. So nothing wrong about that. It is all about consolidation.