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I’ll defeat Ikpeazu, Abaribe in 2023 Senatorial contest – Hon Blessing Nwagba, APC candidate – VELOXNEWS

By Daniel Kanu

Dame Blessing Nwagba, Ph.D, a seasoned grassroots politician has represented Aba North Constituency twice in the Abia State House of Assembly on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

She later moved to the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and became the governorship candidate of the party in the 2019 elections.

Mrs Nwagba who won the ticket of Abia South Senatorial District on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC), will be slugging it out with the State governor, Okezie Ikpeazu (PDP), and former Senate Minority leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe (APGA), among other big names, running for the Senatorial seat.

She told Sunday Sun that she has what it takes to crush her opponents at the polls while speaking on other crucial issues like the performance of the APC, the neglect of the Aba Federal constituency, women in politics, and the rush for PVCs by Nigerians, among others. Excerpt:

How do you intend to cope with some of the big names that have emerged from other political parties for the same Senatorial seat, like Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe and incumbent governor, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu, among others? What is the magic, your strategy to swing the votes for your victory?

That question is an interesting one. Well, I am not afraid, it is not a physical combat issue, it is an issue that the people will decide, but above all, it is God that gives power, and we should not take that for granted. It is God that decides who will be in authority and I know that He has always led me and directed my path and I believe He will grant me victory. But beyond that is the fact that the two names you have mentioned are my brothers, my friends, they are people I respect, people I have worked together with over time, and in as much as this is a competition, a contest, I know that they will let justice prevail, especially in a situation where we now have BVAS for our elections. I hold them in high esteem; they have played their roles in governance and have been there over the years. The two persons you have mentioned have played their roles as I said earlier, I am not going to be judging whether they did well or not, but the voters will decide that. But outside that is also the fact that it’s always good to have a change, especially if the change is bringing in something new, something positively fresh for the people. One of them (Abaribe) has been there as a Senator for the past 16 years. With all due respect, he has done his bit and I also think it’s time to enable somebody else to try and see whether the person can bring a change. My governor (Ikpeazu) has been there for almost eight years also, he has played his role and is again eying the Senate seat,  but I am saying that somebody else can play that role and play it exceedingly well. What is my legislative experience? Of course, it is not in doubt, my record of performance is out there for anybody to verify. What is my experience in politics? What is my managerial ability even as a woman? What was my performance when I was a member of the state House of Assembly, when I was nicknamed: Madam Matter of Urgent Public Importance? I was called that name because I was very visible, very active and all my contributions are out there for all to see. But beyond all that is the fact that my federal constituency, Aba North has never produced a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.         

From the records, you can see that Obingwa local government has had a senator for 16 years, you can also notice that Ukwa East local government had the former President of the Senate for eight years, but Aba North/Aba South has never had any representation of a Senator, so the argument that is on now is that it is the turn of Aba to produce a Senator and Aba is the goose that lays the golden egg. Aba is the Japan of Africa; Aba is where you have the highest population of people from that Senatorial district. Aba also has very qualified and experienced politicians, so the fact that we have been giving support to other local government areas does not forestall our desire or interest in going in for the position. So, the simple truth is that it is the turn of Aba to produce the Senator for Abia South Senatorial district and the expectation is that other local governments, like Obingwa, Ukwa East, Ukwa West that have all tasted the office should support the turn of Aba to produce the next Senator for the Senatorial district. The current Senator (Abaribe) and the governor (Okezie Ikpeazu) come from the same local government, Obingwa. Obingwa has had a turn for 16 years, so it is not just right and proper for the current governor who is aspiring, desiring, and angling to take over the position in the Senate after his tenure. The general thinking in the area is that it is the turn of Aba to go to the Senate. I am prepared to deliver. I am qualified, an experienced politician and my gender is also an advantage because I am going to deeply ensure that things walk out as a woman, as I will use my networking and good contacts to ensure I bring the dividends of democracy to my people and positively turn things around. We need a change of person, change of gender, change of experience, we need a change in many ways because there is much to be done for Abia South, and I am committed to being the game-changer. If I am given the chance, I will turn Abia South around. I am not scared, I am going to do a serious grassroots campaign, present my manifesto to the people, and do door to door campaign to convince them why they should give me the opportunity to serve. You recall that the former President of the Senate, Adolphus Nwabara buried his wife recently and there was no road to his place. The burial of his wife brought out the neglect of the people of my area by the government, so to speak. We need somebody that will assist in correcting these issues, and I am presenting myself for the task, among other critical issues to be tackled for my people. I need to be given a chance to go and make a difference that will be pleasing to my people. What has happened to Ebonyi State, the transformation that turned the place around, is it not somebody that did it? I will turn Abia South around.

Some critics are proposing that the business of law-making in Nigeria should be made part-time rather than full-time. What is your take on this?

In most developed parts of the world, the business of law-making is largely part-time and it is for highly experienced people. That is why they say the legislature is like the old wine, the older the better. Your experience impacts your performance as a legislature. But I am not sure those developed countries started immediately as part-time. You graduate into some of these things with time, as you develop. For those who are just going in for the first time without legislative experience, it will take you like two years to get your feet or rhythm. With the experience that I have had, it’s going to impact greatly on my performance, so I will take off from day one. You see, if you have people that are already experienced it could be part-time and they will still be productive. Most people are complaining that a lot of money is put into the legislature, for instance, and this is because the projects expected from the legislator in our circumstance by your constituency are so high. To go back to what you asked: If you don’t have qualified and experienced people it can’t be part-time.  In Africa, not just in Nigeria the money we say that is spent on legislation or by legislators is mostly spent on the constituents (constituency project). There is so much poverty in our society so your people expect you to do the work of the executive and even more. Here, your people expect you to construct roads, build clinics, even pay hospital bills and school fees, etc. That is where the challenge is and you cannot refuse them as they don’t want to know that your responsibility is simply to help in the drafting of good laws to protect them. I don’t really need much money as an individual but when you get back to your people and you see the poverty that abounds you cannot but assist and all these require finance. They want you to attend their social functions and all of this requires money. If we can educate the people on the function of the legislator, and what not to expect, the better for us. When you see the poverty, the suffering your people are going through, do you close your eyes from helping them financially and otherwise? Most constituents’ only criteria to judge performance is in how much you can spend for them, not about the number of bills or motions you passed in their best interest.

How do you react to the assertion that women are their own worst enemy when it comes to politics. Have you had such an experience?

    We have grown beyond such statements by our detractors. These are people who are finding ways of judging us, pulling us down, but we have talked to our women in conferences, workshops, etc to say that we are not truly our problem. Don’t the men have their problems? Most men are fond of over-emphasizing any problem a woman has with another woman. Some men do not also support themselves because some will also say things like “that man is not going”. We have many situations where the women are supporting women. Today our sing-song is “women for women”. We are supporting ourselves today and we are no longer our own problem. Men also work against men.

Most Nigerians seem to be dissatisfied with the conduct of governance provided by the APC, your party, especially at the national level. Do you think your party has done well?

My party, the APC, has done well because governance is a continuum. There was a government before the APC took over and inherited some of the problems they are tackling today. There is so much condemnation of the party, you know it is easy to criticise, but when you get in, you find out that leadership is not easy. When you are not in the driving seat there is a tendency for criticism and condemnation, but when you are in the driving seat, you realise the enormity of the problem and will then have an objective assessment of the situation. So, criticism is not bad when they are objective but some critics will never see anything good about what you or the party are doing. Of course, if they praise you, especially your opponents, how can they challenge or defeat you during the elections? They (APC leadership) have provided lots of infrastructure and there is no way you can have genuine development without relevant infrastructure. I had the opportunity of being on the APC convention conference committee and we were able to articulate the scorecard of the party. You know the trust of what the party came to change: transforming the economy, security and corruption fight, social investment programmes etc, these things are gradual. Go and see the records provided by the Minister of Works (Babatunde Fashola) on the great works done and those ongoing? In 2015, the infrastructure budget was, I think N18 billion, but when they came in they made it up to N500 billion. No government has built as many roads (constructed and rehabilitated) as this President Buhari-APC government. You can close your eyes now and drive through Aba to Enugu road, for instance. What of Lagos—Ibadan express road? If I begin to mention the roads constructed, bridges, rail system, giant strides in the agricultural sector, of course, you know them, reforms, etc, made in different sectors are huge. A lot of moribund fertilizer plants, at least eight of them have been revived. The COVID-19 pandemic, no doubt, affected, even the global economy, many countries, as you know, were affected even as we speak some have not recovered and not less than 42, very active fertilizer blending plants have been built and you know the impact it will add. This government has diversified the economy of the country. This government inherited a budget of about N5 trillion, now it is about N16 trillion. The truth is that the APC government is not folding its hands; on the issue of insecurity, the government is on top of it. For me, insecurity is the greatest problem in the country as we speak and I pray things to get better. The government as you can see is making efforts to tackle the IDPs resettlement. As I have always said, we can improve on security which for me is the problem of everyone and the action must be a collective one. The government may not have done 100 per cent of what it promised, but they should be given credit for the ones that deserve to be praised.

But with all that you have enumerated as some of the gains of this government, why is it that Nigeria is still being seen as the poverty capital of the world?

I think the perception is majorly a result of the insecurity which I mentioned above. It is a huge challenge, no doubt, but I still think that government is not silent over it, although they need to up their action in that area. Without this insecurity, there will be so much peace and rapid development in the land.

There is this rush to obtain PVCs by Nigerians…?

(Cuts in) I think it’s a welcome development. It is important we collect our PVCs to be part of elections and to ensure our votes count.

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