By Jude Atupulazi
Hon Ikem Uzoezie needs no introduction in the politics of Anambra State, especially after the ''coup'' he led in the state legislature against the speaker, Hon Mrs Rita Maduagwu. A very vocal voice in the House, Uzoezie, in this interview with Fides editor-in-chief, Jude Atupulazi, speaks on that experience, plus other matters, including why he dumped APGA for APC.
You recently joined the All Progressives Congress, what's your reason and the motivation?
First of all, I'm Rt Hon Ikemefuna Uzoezie, member representing Aguata 2 Constituency in State House of Assembly. Yes, I've joined All Progressives Congress. The motion to move from APGA to All Progressives Congress was moved by me at the floor of the house. It came to a lot of people as a surprise. To the glory of God, I am very happy with what I did and I believe that time will tell and posterity will know that what I did is the right thing to do at this point in time.
One would be asking, why I left my erstwhile party to another party. Yes, you remember sometime last year, I was suspended from APGA by the party; I and two of my friends were suspended for no just reason and we made frantic efforts to obtain reasons and see that those decisions were rescinded, but five months down the line, the party still didn't change their terms on that issue. So, I felt that since I was not wanted, the best thing to do is to leave the party so that I will have peace of mind. In life, one thing I cherish most is my happiness and peace of mind, so the platform could not afford me that opportunity to be happy with my work and the best thing to do was to leave and move to another party.
So Why APC and not, say, PDP?
Well, why APC and not PDP or any other party? Remember we have a plethora of parties as registered by the INEC. APC is a national party, likewise PDP and every other party. So, I felt that in APC I have like minds and people of my character that share the same kind of ideology with me, that want to change this country where the young and the old will be happy and proud to be Nigerians. So, I felt that at this point in time, the opportunity had presented itself in APC. That's why I moved to APC to join hands with like minds to make the necessary changes to move this country and state to the next level where everyone will be happy.
You were part of the house members that tried to change the leadership of the house. Later on, it went into the limbo. How far is the court case that you instituted?
Sometime ago, in November, when we resumed after a long break, about 22 of us effected a change in leadership and it was successful, but down the line, we had a plethora of extraneous hands and factors that did everything possible to scuttle that change. At a point the assembly was sealed for more than three weeks. Later on we went to court and were in court for a very long time, the case kept on delaying and with several adjournments. At a point, you know in life, there are so many challenges that one will see and say, okay, let's leave it and move on. The matter is still in court. Though I'm not pursuing it the way I should have, but I know we have made our mark and our voices have been heard so loud and clear; that the then speaker, Rita Maduagwu, was actually removed and it's there in her records that the change was done. So, I have no regrets for what we did at that point in time.
Do you think the reasons for that move have been justified and that lessons have been learnt?
I believe that amongst my colleagues, they are well aware that the house deserves the change we moved for and even the public were anxious to have a vibrant and a responsive house that they deserved and they harkened to support the leadership change. I believe that lessons have been learnt, even by the new members-elect that are coming in. I believe they would have learnt a lot of lessons from what happened with this present assembly and do well to elect a leader that is very pro-active, that is very sensitive to the plight of the people they represent or preside over and I believe the house, going forward in the next assembly, will be more progressive and more interactive than what we met. For me, I don't have any regrets and I'm more or less a fulfilled person.
What legacies are you leaving behind as a house member of 8 years?
For me, I give God all the glory for keeping me this long, for giving me the opportunity and making it possible for me to be elected and to serve my constituency and my local government for this length of time. I was able to institute so many programmes in my constituency, ranging from social infrastructure to things that have to do with healthcare. I instituted one of the best health insurance programmes in my constituency. I also sponsored a lot of scholarships and youth empowerment programmes. I equally empowered a lot of women, supported a lot of women programmes to help them to be self-sufficient. I equally built a lot of classroom blocks, toilets and supported a lot of markets in the local govt to build their toilet facilities. Above all, I was able to give the constituency a voice that they are proud of. Down at the assembly, I was one of the few vocal voices during the 8 years in service. I was one of those that made sure things were done properly and contributed positively to the bills and motions and arguments and debates in the course of our plenary and other assignments. And I made sure I carried out oversight functions reflective of what the people wanted.
In terms of budgeting, I was a very strong member of the Appropriation Committee and I contributed positively to the workings of the appropriation laws that were passed in the past. So my interactions with the staff of the assembly was very, very cordial. I took them as equals and friends. And to the glory of God, I was awarded a plaque of recognition by the Parliamentary Staff Association recently for my remarkable and outstanding performance in the assembly. They gave me an award as being the most outstanding member of the 6th assembly. So to me, I'm very happy with the honour and the award so given. And coming from the staff who have evaluated our different contributions and performance, I felt honoured and cherish the award and hold it so dear to my heart.
So to me, I have done my bit and I believe the people coming after us will also contribute positively to the success of the assembly. And I have contributed equally to seeing that the assembly exercises some measure of independence. So, I believe the next assembly will surely get those privileges we fought for. So to me, I'm very happy for those few and remarkable achievements so recorded in the last eight years.
Following your position as the leader of the house then, some people started perceiving you as a rebel, are you a rebel?
If fighting for a just cause is termed as being rebellious, then term me a rebel; but if fighting for humanitarian cause is being progressive, then you have to call me a progressive. So for me, I have an independent mind. I see things objectively. I don't have a lot of emotional attachments to mundane issues, so I treat things the way they come. I do things that will benefit society; that will promote an egalitarian society, a just and egalitarian society at that. So some people will term me a rebel, some will term me a progressive, some will say I'm a conservative, some will call me a socialite. It all depends on the side you are viewing me. It all depends on the angle you are looking at or perceiving my performance or my style of play.
But since then, how has your relationship with other members of the house been, especially those who were on the other side?
It's been so excellent. Among my peers, I have friends cut across party lines and different divides. On every argument or every issue, everybody must not succumb or toe your line. But the most important thing is, let your voice be heard and I'm sure my voice was heard loud and clear. So I still maintain very wonderful and cordial relationship with house members, both the ones that supported us and those that did not support us. Even the ones that didn't support at first, they know deep down in their mind that what we were doing was a right and just cause. But for some reasons and issues personal to them, they toed the other line. For me, I still maintain private and personal relationships with my colleagues
How about your relationship with the governor?
It's still cordial. I see him as the governor of the state. He is there to show leadership to the state and I will surely support him in all his laudable endeavours. And I will continue to wish him well and pray for him to succeed because it's injunctive that we pray for our leaders to do the right thing. So my own prayer is that he will continue to do the right thing that will endear him to the people.
I don't have any personal issues with the governor, I don't have anything against him. I still maintain cordial and professional relationship with him.
After Spending 8 years in the house, what will you say has been the greatest lesson you learned?
Firstly, I don't see my stay in the house to fall into that category of regrets. For me, I'm a fulfilled person. I have not left anything undone. I have always at all times bared my mind on issues concerning governance and legislative duties. So for me as an assembly man, I don't have any regrets. It's just that in governance, there are certain issues you would want a whole lot of people to toe your line, including the government and executive. They, not toeing your line, does not mean that they don't love you or your ideas, but maybe the situation or environment does not permit such an argument at that time. So for me, I don't have any regrets in the house. I am fulfilled that I gave qualitative representation to my constituents, and I made them proud by being a vocal person in the assembly and I contributed to so many issues, both the ones people may perceive to be controversial and not. I always bare my mind on issues that concern the people. I don't have any regrets.
So where do you move from here? Are you going to leave politics or are you still in politics?
I'm still in politics. I'm in All Progressives Congress. So I will join hands with progressive minded people to promote the ideals that the party represent, both at the national and the grassroots levels. For us or for me, I will lead the vanguard of the people that will change the perception about the APC, both at the local and at the state levels. We will engage in a lot of voter education, we will make people to ask questions and make our leaders to be more accountable to their followers. For me, I will still continue with those programmes that will endear me to the people; my social programmes that have to do with youth empowerment, women empowerment and development. Though, I will be returning to a private life, I will still be participating actively in politics because anybody that is alive is a political being. So I will still be very active in politics.
Like contesting in future elections?
If the opportunity presents itself in the future, why not? It's only time that will tell. It is my people or my constituents that will make that decision. If they desire me to contest in subsequent elections, I will. It's all about service. I don't see contesting elections as something terrible or bad. And for one to contest during elections, he/she must have something to offer. It's all about service and I love to serve positively.
Thank you and good luck