Filed in Politics by on August 28, 2010

I hold no grudge against Mark for delaying my inauguration – Senator Onwe
Saturday, 28 Aug 2010

After fighting in the courts for more than three years to reclaim his mandate, Emmanuel Onwe was inaugurated on August 10, 2010 as the senator representing Ebonyi Central Senatorial District. He shared his experience with journalists in Abakaliki. OZIOMA UBABUKOH was there.

It took more than three years for your petition to be decided in the courts. Based on your experience, what do you think is the way out of the bottlenecks in our judicial system?

There is a cliché to the effect that justice delayed is justice denied. In my own case, it was justice denied. I have one simple recommendation, namely, expand access to justice and deliver the facilities. I don‘t blame judges, because in Enugu alone, 60 per cent of the litigations in the country come to the Appeal Court sitting there, with many coming from Anambra State. In this situation, the judges are left with so many cases to handle. And there are other reasons why delays occur. Once the resources are not there, you are bound to experience delays. I have seen judges deliver judgments with phone and candle lights, because they operate in a country where power supply is erratic or not available at all. No matter how good or professional you are, you definitely need the right resources to succeed. So, it is about resources and training. But in our own case, the judiciary has a long way to go.

Even after the Court of Appeal ruled that you should be sworn in, the Senate President, David Mark still delayed it. What would you say was the reason for his action?

There were logistic problems. The first time I was to be sworn in on July 29, 2010, the Senate President called me into his office and told me that he was not properly briefed. The second opportunity presented itself and I was eventually sworn in. The Senate President is not to blame; it was just a matter of logistics.

How would you react to the insinuation that the Ebonyi State Government was instrumental to your victory at the Appeal Court?

In extreme situations like this, there are bound to be rumours and innuendos. All I would say to that is that the Ebonyi State Government knows and understands what happened and the implications therein. Those who made the allegation know and understand the implications of what happened. I can assure you that if you present this question to the state government, they will give you a clear answer. If they say they played a role, let me know. If there is evidence that they played a role, also call my attention to it. It is unfortunate that we live in a society where people ascribe claims and allegations to certain sources. Even when things that are impossible are said to have taken place, they attribute them to sources.

Now that you have been sworn in as a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, what would be your contributions to democracy?

My contributions are just like that of every other Nigerian. My perception is not that I am going to change things on my own. What I believe is that I have a different voice and can contribute to the debate; that if all of us are allowed to contribute our ideas, based on our deep experiences, we really can shape things on our own. But if we remain rigid and undynamic, obviously, we will not be able to change anything, especially in a democracy like ours, which is very large, inexperienced and with so many props of poverty, lack of infrastructure and insecurity. So if any man tells you he is going to change things on his own, he is lying. What we have to accept is that all of us have a responsibility to contribute our ideas on how to tackle the challenges confronting the country. I have come to understand that the best way to manage a country‘s progress is to allow every branch of idea to become fruitful.

What is your relationship with your party now?

I am a Senator of the Peoples Democratic Party. So, you can make up your mind about that.

How many days do you have left in the National Assembly?

I have few days. But it is not how long, but how substantial.

Are you going to seek re-election?

I am still thinking about it. Once I make up my mind, you will know.

If the PDP denies you a re-election ticket, will you choose another platform?

PDP won‘t deny me the ticket.

What is your impression of Nigeria‘s democracy?

Mine, perhaps, is not exactly the impression others would have about it, which is that we have an emerging democracy and it has numerous problems. But I am pretty confidence that with time, if we really care about this country, things will change for the better. The problems with our democracy are too numerous. Imagine elections coming up in a few weeks but we seem not to be ready. We can‘t even boast of a comprehensive voter register, and we are not even in a position to guarantee that it will be ready in time for the elections. That is just one tiny example. There are many others. Logistics in this country is extremely difficult. But my belief is that as time goes on and we continue to believe that democracy is the best form of government, we will get it right. My impression, however, is a positive one.

How do you think the problem of insecurity in the country can be tackled?

Reduce poverty and you will reduce insecurity. Once you make it impossible for people to have three square meals a day, insecurity will remain a problem. Once people are starved of breakfast, lunch or dinner, they would always look for the quickest way out. That is where crime comes in. Israel, a desert country, produces enough food to feed the whole of Africa. Nigeria is six times larger than Israel, yet Ebonyi State, with its fertile land, can not even produce enough food to feed its people, let alone the entire country. On a second note, the police must be adequately equipped. Those who engage in kidnapping and other forms of crime are aware that the police are not as sophisticated as they are in terms of ammunition. That gives them the confidence to go about their gruesome and nocturnal activities unchecked.

With four years gone, can you compare the Martin Elechi-led government with that of his predecessor, Sam Egwu in terms of infrastructure development and economic empowerment of the people?

The resources available to the previous government are not the same as those available to the present one. You are comparing oranges and apples. Of course, the priority of the former government may not be the priority of the present administration. So, a basis for comparison does not arise.

Why did you decide to get involved in politics?

After my PhD (programme) in the United Kingdom, I returned to Nigeria. On my way home to see my old mother in the village, the car I was travelling in got stuck in the bad road and it took the villagers more than three hours to pull it out. At that point, I told myself that I if I had the resources, I would fix the road for users who ply it on a daily basis. I had to save enough money, went to Germany and bought road-making equipment. However, on the third day the labourers were at work, the state government came to stop the work. I was told that I as an individual had no right to construct or renovate roads. It suddenly dawned on me that if God has blessed me and I want to make a change and I am being stopped, the only way to accomplish my dream was to seek political power.


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