What is the purpose of your visit to Mr President?
I came to see Mr. President and to thank him for his gracious approval that the Army Day celebration is held in Owerri, South East of the country. That, of course, we know will strengthen the measures that are already on the ground to contain banditry and insecurity in the region. So for me, it is a good thing and for the people of Imo State, we are indeed very delighted about that.
The sit-at-home order is affecting businesses in the South East region. What are leaders in the region doing to address this? Do you think the current “sit and look” approach is the best?
There is no “sit and look” in the South East. The governors in the South East are all working together to ensure that security is guaranteed for people to go about their businesses. The sit-at-order is not operational in Imo State. It is not working in Owerri and sometimes and in some parts of the South East where it’s still in operation, the governors are also working in synergy to ensure that it becomes a thing of the past.
One of your colleagues from Zamfara State has asked individuals to procure licenses to own guns in the face of insecurity. Your state is also experiencing something similar. Would you support this?
Well, the situation in Zamfara State is not the same as in Imo State. However, if the governor called for individuals to apply for licenses, I think the government will only give the license to a qualified and eligible candidate, provided he is the approving authority that is responsible for the issuance of licenses that will issue the license. But I don’t think there is a need for individuals, and unauthorised people to carry arms in Imo State because the situation in Imo State, currently, is being managed and we have seen relative peace in the past weeks and the normal businesses incrementally have resumed.
The reason the governor is asking for gun licenses for individuals is that the security services are no longer operational. And that they cannot continue to live in a situation where their people are murdered every day and they can’t do anything. Are you saying that in your state, security services are up and doing and there is no need for citizens to prepare to defend themselves?
I didn’t hear the Zamfara State governor say that and if he did, I’m not in Zamfara State to know what exactly is the situation. However, I don’t think that the security situation is beyond our security services.
In Imo State, the security agencies have risen to the occasion and we’re in charge of the security. Like I told you earlier, the agencies are working in synergy and the situation has been controlled to the barest minimum. Currently, businesses have resumed and people are going about their day-to-day businesses without any molestation. So I think that we’re all working in an accord to ensure that nationally, the security situation is improved.
What do you hope to see after the Army Day Celebration?
Two days ago, I called on the criminal gangs in Imo State, the unknown gunmen, and bandits who are hiding in one way or the other in the forest and in the bush to come out. I granted them a 10-day period, during which if they come out and lay down their arms, we will grant them pardon. As of this morning (yesterday) I’m told that some people are already surrendering their arms. So is it a good development? Because we have to attack the situation from all fronts and ensure that innocent citizens are not molested.
Of recent, they seem to be a deliberate attack against Catholic priests, how concerned are you about what is currently going on?
Regrettably, recently some Catholic priests became victims of the banditry saga in Nigeria. I’m not aware that it is deliberate because no report has said that. But I think that it is an unfortunate incident that is condemnable here and everywhere. And it’s not as if the other persons being killed are not important but we as Catholics, condemn that. And we detest any form of violence or taking of lives. The church is against that. Islam is also against that and our local tradition is also against that. So nobody will stand to tolerate any arrangement by anybody, man or woman to take human lives. it is condemnable. I’m not in support of that and I’m calling on security agencies to do everything humanly possible to fish out those who are behind this and bring them to book.
We heard the killers of Ahmed Gulak were arrested, is there any new information on that?
We are waiting for situation reports. As soon as they are ready, I’m sure to make them available to us, and I’ll make that also open to you people.
You have said repeatedly that you are confident of your party, the APC, emerging victorious in the 2023 elections. Are you not worried that some senators in the National Assembly are leaving your party?
Did some leave the party or are leaving the party? Until they leave… but for those few who left, of course, some others left other parties and joined the APC. So one cancels the other.
With the difficulty of your party finding a running mate, are you still convinced your party remains the party to beat in Nigeria?
What do you mean by difficulty? Who told you? The deadline is not yet here, until the period of submission is over and we are not able to put a running mate, that is the only way you can ask this kind of question. However, I know because of the strength of character in our party, being the ruling party, and how important the party is to us, including you here, I appreciate your concern but be rest assured that we will field a complete ticket for the presidential contest.
You seem very confident as a loyal party member about your party winning the forthcoming elections. But there have been issues and I wonder how you respond to this. For instance, in Akwa Ibom, you have no candidate. Then your presidential candidate is enmeshed in controversies about a certificate that has refused to go away. What is your party saying to this? Is it not worried?
All the things so mentioned are entire party challenges that will be resolved. But for my presidential candidate, the issue of the certificate shouldn’t even arise. In 1999 he contested elections and became the governor of Lagos, and in 2003 he contested the election for second-term governor of Lagos. He ran and won as a senator in the country, where record keeping is efficient, and the INEC server is functional, he doesn’t need to do the fresh submission. However, if whatever he is supposed to submit is not handy, it is not late yet. I’m sure before that time he will submit whatever is required of him.
One of your aides recently resigned and accused you of running a non-inclusive government and that you are undemocratic in your administration. What’s your reaction to that?
You know, politics and leadership is a business that thrives on ideology. Sometimes, you hire aides who by our primary assessment, you think would be able to fit into the ideology and your vision for your people. So if the way things are going to the best of their idiosyncrasies is not consistent with the thought process, it means that they are licensed to try their luck in another place.
Have you paid the N27 million that he is claiming?
So this aide who accused his boss of non-inclusiveness, unfortunately, we’re not running a limited liability company, where shareholders must all via for. So I accepted his resignation and I wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors and that brings the matter to a close. I don’t know how I will owe N27 million to an aide. You are talking about my political adviser, I don’t know what he sold to me that I bought.