Honourable Nko Nkole represents Arochukwu /Ohafi federal constituency of Abia State on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. In this interview with Leadership, he decried the poor state of infrastructure in the South-east as well as total neglect of the region by the present administration.
What motivated you to aspire to lead your people in the legislature?
I have always wanted to give my people quality representation, because that is one thing that is lacking and I saw the need to fill in that gap at my level within the budgetary provisions especially as it affects my constituency. I am determined to protect their interest by ensuring that what is due them gets to them especially in the area of infrastructure, which is of grave concern.
To what extent would you say you have achieved that?
I am doing my best, but as you know, my party the PDP is no longer in control of power at the centre and that is a major challenge , however I am capitalizing on my personal relationship and the bridges that I have built in the past to do all I could, but the gap is still there. Thank God we reasons as colleagues in the House and once we are set for the business we are here, the issues of party differences are put behind and we operate as brothers and colleagues and that is commendable.
Do you share the view that the south east is being marginalized in anyway?
That is one issue that needs to be addressed; to say that we are being marginalized is an understatement, what is happening is that we are forgotten. We are not included in the scheme of things in this administration; we are treated as if we are not part of Nigeria. Our infrastructure is totally collapsed; you can hardy criss-cross in the south-east because of the poor state of the roads which includes federal government owned roads. Take Arochukwu-Uhafia road, the road that links this places is in total shambles for the past thirty years, sadly, this road was not captured even in the 2016 budget. I have shouted and raised alarm, but nothing has happened, yet this is a federal road. We have tourist centres in this place and many other revenue generating opportunities that can be well tapped, if that road is fixed. Whatever that is the problem should be put aside so that we can move on and carry the south-east along, the present administration should look at Nigeria as one entity. Whether they voted for you or not, it is immaterial because they have a choice to chose who they would vote for, but once you are there, you must carry everyone along.
The death toll on the roads in the south-east is high, because even ambulances cannot access areas where there are accidents. I believe that there are still people who voted for the ruling party who are from that zone even if that is the consideration. So rightly, there is that general feeling that we are forgotten. Look at the appointments; look at the power allocations in the budget, the whole of the south-east was allocated 2.9 percent while other regions are have about 55 percent and the rest. This is inexplicable because the majority of industries are in the south-east and Nnewi in particular. Look at the dollar exchange to the naira and the fact that our people are majorly business people who would be largely affected then you ask what is the foreign policy of this administration? If our people cannot do business, which is our major occupation because of lack of policies, then for us, the war has not ended. So whatever sins that my people have committed should be forgiven. Let us be taken as a part of this country.
What is the effect of the fallen naira to the dollar on your people, who are predominantly business inclined?
Generally, the purchasing power of the citizenry has not improved and that is on one hand, Nigeria is a consuming country, we largely depend on imported and finished items. The industrialists in the south- east are the people importing these items that we consume, now, the government , through the Central Bank of Nigeria, has not made access to the foreign exchange available, and when people cannot source from the CBN, they go to the Bureau De Change, the implication is that when they get from the BDC’s at the rate that they are getting and import these items, they meet stiff challenges because the purchasing power of the people has not improved and the larger implication is that you run at a huge loss. You will have the product, but nobody to buy, so it has a multi-facet problem for the people of the south-east and that is just one aspect.
This is also affecting the petty traders who would change their $10,000 and go to China to buy soft ware or mobile phones; they keep having issues with customs once the amount exceeds the limit. And you know customs in this country will even seek to know the source of the money you have declared and how you got the extra one dollar, along that line of argument a lot of things would happen and at the end of the day, your business can be crippled. Talking about customs is something else because there was even an incidence in Onitsha where they had an encounter with some people on the bridge and lives were lost, just because they said they were looking for goods that should not have come into the country, meanwhile those same goods passed through their borders. So these policy summersaults and inconsistencies are really stifling the people and I believe we should look inwards, products and goods do not discriminate whether you are Igbo or Yoruba or Hausa. I am not saying the other parts of the country are not filling the heat, but the truth is that the Igbo are the real business people, that is our trade and identity and we are proud of that. So there is need to liberalize this sector and make it work.
You are from Abia State, how have you supported the made in Aba products, as a way of looking inwards.?
As a lawmaker we are doing our best in terms of motions, so it is left to the executive arm of the government to take it up from there. They executive can even tell you that your motion is advisory, but in truth, these motions can help some of these things we are talking about. Look at the made in Aba trade fair that was coordinated by Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe where they showcased what they people have. Now, if the executive will now say, since these people can produce wears, let all our military uniforms and shoes be produced by them, we are not importing them from abroad again, it will create jobs for the country and that would become a national policy. This importation of these things would stop; we can also export and make more money. If that happens, the president as he travels, would not only be talking about foreign investments, he will also be talking about what his country produce. I bet you, if this is done, in a few years Nigeria will not be the same.
What is the guarantee that the PDP would reclaim power in 2019?
Power comes from God and that is my personal believe, that is my approach, so if God in His wisdom, which I believe He will, decides that power returns to the PDP, nobody can stop it. The question for some of us is how Nigeria is faring in this current administration, because the APC is still behaving as if they are still in the opposition. The business of governance has dropped, it was even funny that a minister of Health was blaming the Jonathan administration over lasser fever, which is pure mischief, this is an epidemic, even ebola broke up, and the last administration did not blame any past government. The dollar is falling, which didn’t happen during the Jonathan administration and that show the level of management of the economy of these two regimes. You cannot brand a people as corrupt just like that, yet people from the party you are branding as corrupt are in your APC. I wish the President well, but he must realize that he is the President for all and not any political party.
What is your assessment of governor Ikpeazu of Abia State?
Dr Okezie Ikpeazu is an expression of the fact that you cannot tell the blind man now, that there is no oil in the soup. This is because the man is doing wonderfully well and everybody can see. We know our problems in Abia regarding rotation and it is yielding the desired results. I come from Abia North and we had our fair share of 8 years and that was Dr Orzi Uzor Kalu, he transferred power to Abia Central and the lot fell on Senator Theodore Orji who also did 8 years, they all did their best. Today is the turn of Abia South and it went to Dr Okezie Ikpeazu who is doing so wonderfully well, taking every one along. Aba today is wearing a totally new look, look at the cement investment and many others. The luck we also have is that the past administration did not borrow and the current governor does not owe salaries even with the meagre allocations and, only God knows how he is doing it. I must really commend him.