Chief Uzor Ihuka is the commissioner representing Isiala-ngwa North, Isiala-ngwa South and Osisioma Local Government Areas on the Board of Abia State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission, ASOPADEC. Sir Ihuka is also the President Ngwa Patriots Forum, a socio-cultural cum political organisation for the Ngwa nation both at home and in Diaspora with the primary objective to foster unity among all Ngwa people. In this interview with the NewsCritic online, the President of Ngwa Patriots Forum says that ASOPADEC is doing enough to curb youth restiveness in the state through its various youth empowerment initiatives. He also said that it is not true that Governor Okezie Ikpeazu’s administration favour the people of Ngwa more than others, adding that the Governor is fair to all sections of the state. Excerpts:
Q: Who is Uzor Ihuka?
A: Chief Sir Uzoma Ihuka is a Commissioner on the Board of Abia State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission, ASOPADEC, and also the President Ngwa Patriots Forum. I am from Isiala-Ngwa North Local Government Area, and happily married to one of the most beautiful woman in the world with wonderful children.
Q: What is Ngwa Patriots Forum all about?
A: Ngwa Patriots Forum is a socio-cultural cum political organisation for the Ngwa nation. Our primary aim is to foster peace and unity among all Ngwa people, to promote development and encourage oneness that will make the Ngwa people speak with one voice in all issues.
Q: How has Ngwa Patriots Forum been able to advance development in Abia State?
A: The Forum has been around for a long time as a group, but officially we started nine years ago, and within this period we have done enough to harness the best of Ngwa men and women to come together under one umbrella, it was not an easy task. After achieving that we have gone further to engage in so many programmes, prominent among which is that in pre-2015 election we were able to pull the whole Ngwa together under one umbrella. Ngwa Patriots Forum was the first organisation that adopted Dr Okezie Ikpeazu as their candidate for the whole of Ngwa nation and we are grateful that our gambit worked out.
Outside that we have engaged in so many social activities like to promote the culture of the Ngwa man. I’m a Christian, a knight in the Catholic Church but our culture is being gradually eroded, but the Ngwa Patriots Forum is promoting the culture, so that the culture of the Ngwa man does not die. We are also embarking on developmental projects, in empowerment programmes. I can say that we narrowed it down to education empowerment because we want to raise the next generation of the Ngwa man that will not be the normal teacher or peasant farmer that we all came out from, we want to change the narrative of the Ngwa man.
Our vision is also to get everybody together, Ngwa is the largest single ethnic nationality in Nigeria and we need to come together. You can rarely find any single ethnic group that has seven local government areas in a state and we have not been able to harness our strength and size, so that is what Ngwa Patriots Forum is all about. Mbaise nation which is supposed to be next to us is about three LGAs of Imo state. So, we want to galvanise the Ngwa people, it is not for the Ngwa in Nigeria alone but we have members worldwide. Like in the last election that I emerged president people voted from US, Europe, South Africa etc, so we have members across the globe and they are active members. And we will do more especially this my administration.
Q: There appears to be a new reawakening of the Ngwa nation, some call it Ngwa nationalism, does it have anything to do with the election of an Ngwa man as Governor of Abia State?
A: The answer to your question is yes and no…in the sense that Ngwa being the largest single ethnic nationality in Abia state, we have not produced a governor before 2015, in spite of our population. The truth remains that if we mobilise our people we can always produce the governor of Abia State for sure if we are together. But for some reasons that have to do with disunity we have not been able to come together, that agitation has been on it didn’t start in 2015. In 2002 I contested for LGA Chairman under the Otu Onu platform, it was an Ngwa movement that if not for the power of incumbency nobody could have stopped it. So, the Ngwa has been agitating to get to that level of governance in the state.
Let me also give you an insight into the Ngwa man, they are predominantly peasant farmers and the dedicated ones were teachers that is what they were known for in the past. If you go to Aba the majority of the properties are owned by foreigners why? Because the average Ngwa man is the contented peasant farmer that was not ambitious, but times have changed all that. People now go to school beyond the standard six level, exposed and doing business all over the world apart from public service. So the psyche is changing, we are clamouring for new things and we wish and aspire to do greater things like our mates.
Q: In terms of Development initiatives of the Ngwa Patriots Forum, what is your stand on the issues of infrastructure development in Aba, the commercial city of Abia state?
A: The answer to that question will come from our new vision of what we want to do in the new administration. The previous administration did very well by gathering the Ngwa people, and this administration want to go a step further by engaging in programmes and activities that will bring about development in Ngwa land. Within my one month of coming into office I have set up different committees that will help to deliver the agenda. We have the Infrastructure Committee, the Ngwa Development Committee, the Education Committee, the Poverty Alleviation Committee, we also have the Information Committee.
Our brother is the governor and we need to complement his efforts in the development of the state and Ngwa land. Every citizen has a role to play in the development of his or her environment. Aba like you all know is Aba-Ngwa, and it belongs to us. You don’t expect us to fold our hands and leave it for government alone because government has limited resources. The roads in Aba are more than all the roads in South east states capital put together and the city was abandoned over a long period of time, it didn’t start today.
Now the development committee intends to engage development partners who will come and partner with us in mini road projects…we intend to contribute our little quota. Then the number two is that the Development Committee want to set up what we call the Ngwa Micro-Finance Bank, it is what will help the local trader access funds to expand his or her business. Every Ngwa man will have a stake in that bank no matter how little your holding is…that way we can do empowerment.
I don’t believe in empowerment in the context that it is being used here. You don’t empower somebody in what he doesn’t know, I believe in enhancement…if you have a skill it will be easier for you to benefit from our kind of empowerment to expand your business. If you are selling provision store, we can give you money to expand your business, we can even help you to acquire a skill so I don’t believe in giving a bus to somebody who does not know anything about transport business. Most of the empowerment vehicles ended up at the mechanic village, Ohiya, that is where you will find them. So we empower based on the skill you have acquired.
So, it is not advisable to just give a young boy of 25 years say N500,000 as empowerment because he will misuse it, and the empowerment money will finish and he will come back to you.
Q: Your Ukwa brothers are complaining about neglect that it is only during election period that you remember you are one people. That once the elections are over they are forgotten, how do you respond to this?
A: When I was doing my MBA we did a course in advertising which is that if you don’t say here I am, no one will say there you are. We belong to one family you can’t address Ngwa without mentioning Ukwa. It is for them to accept that we are brothers in truth and in spirit then we work together. I have set up a committee to have a common forum where the Ukwa and Ngwa people will come together, likewise with other ethnic groups in Abia so that we can form a common front that will unite Abia State. Abia belongs to all of us. Basically we will forge a common front with our Ukwa brothers to pursue a common goal.
Q: There is this insinuation that since the emergence of Dr Okezie Ikpeazu as governor that the Ngwa people no longer bother about other groups in Abia, as it is Ngwa first policy that is being implemented. How true is this allusion?
A: Everybody is entitled to his or her opinion, but Governor Okezie Ikpeazu is governor of Abia not of Ngwa people and I know he has been very fair to all. Let me also remind us that the people that you call Ngwa occupies seven LGAs in the state out of the 17 LGAs in Abia, and that’s a huge number if you ask me. So if there are 17 positions or slots and it is to be shared equitably, Ngwa will get seven slots and there is no other ethnic nationality in Abia that can boost of one LGA, except maybe Arochukwu. Ibeku is a small part of Umuahia North, while Igbere is a small part of Bende.
Maybe because our brother is the governor of Abia State so we are getting the complete seven slots before we were not getting it. So, I don’t see any imbalance as some people might perceive it. Let me say one thing that if you go to Government House you will see that other groups might have more representation than the Ngwa people.
Q: As commissioner in ASOPADEC how do you intend to use your office to drive development in the areas that you represent?
A: I represent three LGAs of Isiala-Ngwa South, North and Osisioma, and ASOPADEC is an interventionist agency, what we do is intervention. Presently we have launched operation zero pothole in Aba. We are doing it and we are involved in so many other development projects in Aba, including electrification projects, drilling of water boreholes. I have built village halls in Isiala Ngwa, and also giving out transformers to communities. So I know I have represented my people well.
Q: Did Abia State benefit from the Amnesty programme of the federal government and if not, why?
A: When the amnesty programme started we were not yet in office; we came into office in September 2017. But this commission has been involved in a lot of youth empowerment programmes. Presently we have over 500 youth we put in the academy at Obingwa to acquire various skills. It is ASOPADEC that is training them and will also see that they start their own after the training. We also have some youths we sent to the university in Aba to read IJMB after which they go for their degree programmes through our sponsorship. So we are doing a lot to curb youth restiveness.
Q: The oil companies operating in Abia state how far have they gone in providing social amenities to the host communities as part of their social responsibility?
A: It is not peculiar to Abia State alone, even in Rivers, Bayelsa you find out that they prefer to operate from Lagos where they have their head offices. Here they use bus to drive their staff from Port Harcourt to Ukwa. We have engaged them in a discussion, the management of Total came so we are discussing with them. I believe before the end of next year there will be a difference.