Chief Ndukwe Iko, is a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) from Abia South and former governorship aspirant of the state. He spoke with select journalists on a whole range of issues such as the COVID-19 pandemic and Federal Government’s efforts, the recent Supreme Court judgment on Senator Orji Uzor Kalu, among other salient issues. CHIBUIKE CHUKWU brings the excerpts.
Given the devastating effects of COVID-19 pandemic, what short term measures do you think government should adopt to strengthen the economy for it not to enter recession?
COVID 19 gave the world a punctuation that will leave almost an eternal scare on the body of a confused world. Nobody had prepared for a pandemic of this magnitude and cost, even the super powers. The scientists, the political leaders, the economist are all at a loss as to the cause, the cost and the impact of this totally strange pandemic. The strategy now is for the government to do anything other nations are doing to sustain a defence against this battle. The Nigerian Government must continue to be innovative, share other countries’ successful innovations and apply all the internationally accepted safety modules in the struggle to defeat this supersonically contagious and deadly pandemic. Short term economic strategy at war time is to sustain a living economy. Any strategy that will ensure food security to the people is good for now. Government must scale down on major capital projects at this juncture and face the challenges in health care and food sustainability.
In three months, Nigeria tested about 23,000 persons for COVID-19 and the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) has complained that it is very poor compared to other countries. What is your assessment of the way FG has handled the pandemic so far?
Resources and supplies have remained very challenging elements of this fight against the pandemic. Countries are competing to get the right quantities of supplies from manufacturers who are completely overwhelmed with demands. Indeed Nigeria is not testing enough. Not anywhere near, for instance, what we see of the USA and some of our African neighbors. It is very dangerous and may make us suffer great loses for a very long time with this disease. It will not be good that whilst other countries are flattening their curves, ours will be rising which will give us the toga of the epicenter of the disease. The world will stigmatise us. Our economy shall be totally damaged. The government must do all it can to scale up testing now, considering our huge population.
Due to many complaints, do you think it is time for the inter-state restrictions to be relaxed?
Coronavirus like other known viruses has come to stay. No amount of human fight will totally obliterate it from amongst us. It can only take the supernatural to eliminate it permanently; very soon it shall be handled the same way like other viruses, so simply, without the level of panic and trepidation that subsists now. Governments should work ingeniously with caution and not fears going forward to ease the lockdown and return to full economic engagement and activities across states and regions.
The Supreme Court recently overturned the conviction of a former Abia State governor, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu. What do you think the judgment means for the judiciary in the country given the manner he obtained the judgment?
This Supreme Court judgment like many others will certainly impact positively on the country’s jurisprudence. The Supreme Court, legally speaking, is infallible in judgment and we must respect always the sacrosanctity of decisions from that highest altar of justice in the land. The judgment on Senator Kalu shall in a very big way restore quality representative of the good people of Abia North in the red chambers. Kalu has always been a superlative performer in his long years in service to his people; he will just continue to do what he does best for his people, which is to bring about development and quality representation. Abia people, Ndi Igbo and indeed other Nigerians who have come in contact with Senator Kalu love him so much so that when the news of his faulty conviction came in December 5, 2019, people were shell shocked. We, his close allies, with faith in God began to pray for divine and legal intervention. We are very grateful to God for the turn of event now and shall continue to pray to God that He sees Kalu through until he is fully vindicated. Abia North shall continue to experience Kalu’s touch in all positive manners.
Do you think it was right for this government to accept further loan from IMF given the fact that it had borrowed so much from countries like China with little or nothing to show for it?
For me, there is nothing wrong in picking any useful loan; I mean economically justifiable and profit-oriented loans. As for the loans the government has taken so far, we must be very careful in criticising without carefully understanding where the loans have been put to use. The country has plethora of problems in security, infrastructure, poverty, etc and we can all see the Federal Government’s strides in fixing these challenges. Only a blind critic would say the government is doing nothing at all.
Let us talk on the Federal Government’s COVID-19 palliatives; there is this hue and cry in some quarters, particularly from Ndigbo, of the beneficiaries coming mainly from the north. As a member of the ruling APC from Igbo, what is your take on this?
From my constituency (Ohafia, Abia State), we receive the same report on daily basis of the Federal Government’s negligence especially at this period of dire need. If I, a leader of my party, say this and other leaders say the same of their respective constituencies, then indeed something is wrong in the way and manner the Federal Government agency saddled with the distribution of any such social intervention fund is carrying out its function. The people’s representatives at the National Assembly must ask poignant questions in this regard now, to correct the anomalies. Every section of the country must be treated equally.
Chief John Nnia Nwodo, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo President, was quoted as saying that Ndigbo do not need presidency even if offered on a platter of gold, that what Ndigbo need now is total restructuring of the country; what is your take here?
That must be his personal opinion, if you have quoted him right. Igbos needs the presidency in 2023 and this is my own opinion and also represents the thinking of the vast majority of Nde Igbo. Another thought of mine is how would it happen? I am still thinking.
Looking at all the sectors of the economy, do you think APC has what it takes to make a comeback in 2023?
APC will return to power at the centre in 2023, all things being equal. Yet there is always an accident in politics. Accident of irreconcilable internal squabbles, accident of wrong candidates and so on. We don’t pray it happens but if any of these accidents happens in the APC , then anything can happen. But we cannot lose the presidency based on performance, not at all. The government has been reconstructing the country and it has been doing that job diligently.