The Honourable Minister of State for Education and 2023 Presidential hopeful on the platform of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC)Hon. Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba was in Owerri,Imo State Capital,penultimate Sunday on invitation of the highly rated,Imo Guild of Elders,led by renowned technocrat and first class corporate leader in Nigeria, Dr. Pascal Dozie,Chairman MTN Nigeria for a meeting with the Guild.
The Ehime Mbano born former Federal Lawmaker and immediate past Executive Chairman of TETFUND was able to squeeze out time from his tight schedule and arrived Sunday afternoon at the venue of the meeting,Full Moon Hotel,Owerri to the warm embrace of the elders who were already seated waiting for their August visitor.
The meeting which commenced shortly after the arrival of the Honourable Minister was preceded by opening prayer and Kola-nut formalities,officiated by Prof.Francis Dike, (SAN),a Professor of Law and Former Attorney-General of Imo State Prof.Dike described the Guild of Imo Elders as an assemblage of professionals and technocrats drawn from leadership of socio-cultural bodies of the three zones of Orlu, Okigwe and Owerri; namely Olu Owerri,Olu Okigwe and Orlu Zurumee. He said that they were elders who mediate at various levels without partisan bias in the overall interest and progress of Imo State.
Prof.Dike welcomed the Honourable Minister to his homeland and thanked him for honouring their invitation. He eulogized General Collins Ihekire,Rtd for facilitating the meeting and formally called on the Hon. Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba to come forward and address the elders on the mindset of the federal Government of Nigeria about Ndigbo of South East of Nigeria.
Shortly after the Honourable Minister rose to address the Elders,the Corporate Guru and Leader of the Guild, Dr. Pascal Dozie walked in amid standing ovation while the Minister returned to his seat to allow the leader observe relevant protocols before he returned to the stage to continue with his address.
Dr. Dozie,in his brief remark,told the Honourable Minister that they were glad to have him in their midst as Elders wishing to know from him the body language of the Federal Government. He thanked the Minister for honouring their invitation as an obedient son whose fathers requested to see for important discourse,adding that they are proud of him.
In his remark,the Honourable Minister of State and Guest of the Guild of Imo Elders,Hon. Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba expressed appreciation to the Guild for finding him worthy to be invited for an interactive session with them. He congratulated them on the vision and mission of such novel organization whose membership is drawn from the finest of the Imo citizenry. He thanked specially, General Ihekire,Rtd for facilitating the meeting and eulogized former speaker of Imo State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Maxwell Duru whom he recognized as an elder brother from his Okigwe zone,and Constituency.
Hon. Nwajiuba told the Elders that his political journey in the last 30 years has equipped him with vast experience, expertise and exposure which made it possible for him to have built durable bridges of understanding across geo-political boundaries of Nigeria,especially in the Northern part of the country. He said that despite the age,which is still on his side,he had held various sensitive and strategic positions namely; two-time Member of the Federal House of Representatives, two-time Gubernatorial Candidate,CPC nominee for the merger and formation of APC in 2014,Executive Chairman of TETFUND,a position of trust that made him the first Igbo man to preside over the Multibillion naira Federal Government owned Interventionist Agency.
According to him,being a key and trusted player in the ruling All Progressives Congress and top member of one of the legacy parties, CPC,that consummated the merger that threw up the ruling APC,there was a deliberate arrangement to cede key position to the South-East during 2015 with him as the beneficiary/point man for such plum position. He said that the initial calculation was for him to return to the House of Representatives and emerge as the speaker but that could not work due to some inherent domestic issues associated with the style of the then Governor of the State,Rochas Okorocha.
Again,he stressed that when he was favoured for the ministerial slot ceded to Imo State,the same domestic matters made him to voluntarily relinquish the position to the whims of the Governor and his own faction of the ruling party that migrated from the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA),in the spirit of oneness and progress.Hon. Nwajiuba said that in tune with the mindset of the powers that be in Abuja that had always wanted to cede those positions to the South-East because of him,he was eventually appointed the Executive Chairman of TETFUND, an Organization he described as highly funded Federal Government Interventionist Agency that is like a government of its own. According to him,that was the first time an Igbo man was entrusted with such national assignment which they deemed him worthy as a trusted, tested and accomplished ally from the east.
Hon. Nwajiuba,informed the Elders that he utilized that position judiciously and was able to impact on several tertiary institutions in Imo South-East and the nation at large, infrastructurally and other wise.He revealed that several positive things were made possible for our people in the education sector through his leadership of the Agency,in the areas of employment and other sensitive appointments.
Speaking further,Hon. Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba revealed that during 2019 general elections,the same scenario played out against the calculation of Abuja which needed him in the House of Representatives to become the Speaker of the Lower Parliament. He said that the then Governor Okorocha in his usual style altered the arrangement and denied him the party’s ticket and that his joining another party and eventual emergence as the winner of the election after litigations made the speakership position reserved for the South-East through him to elude the zone because before getting there,the leadership of the party APC had sorted out the various positions with almost nothing for Ndigbo. He said that while in the House of Representatives as a ranking Member without any position,the President on his own decided to surprise him with a ministerial appointment without his prior knowledge.
Nwajiuba revealed that the President had earlier told the nation before the ministerial appointment that he would only work with those he knew and not those imposed on him by political leaders and observed that his nomination by Mr. President was to an extent a fulfillment of that earlier notice served the political leaders, recalling that he has been working with President Muhammadu Buhari since 2002 in the All Nigeria People’s Party ANPP.
As a Federal Minister, Nwajiuba said that he has ensured that Imo State and indeed South-East was carried along in the nation’s education scheme of things. He revealed that numerous Federal Programmes in the education sector like the School Feeding Programme,Employment and the Sitting of Federal Science and Technical College,Umuaka which was mishandled under the Rescue Mission Administration among several other sensitive matters got readdressed cum resolved following his emergence as the Minister and coming onboard of Senator Hope Uzodinma(Onwa) led 3R Shared Prosperity Government which ensured that past anomalies were taken care of and Imo Citizens were carried along in those programmes that were meant to alleviate poverty.
He also said that the Federal Government and Technical College, Umuaka which was subject of controversy over its unresolved issue of location was resolved with the coming on board of Governor Uzodimma who worked so hard and in collaboration with him to get the institution sited at St. Saviour’s Secondary School, Umuaka. He informed the Elders that the Imo State Governor, Senator Hope Uzodinma (Onwa)is doing very well and has been able to make judicious use of every opportunity coming from the Federal Government to improve the educational sector in the state unlike the unfortunate episode that pervaded Imo State in the eight years of the so called Rescue Mission when funds were mismanaged with nothing to show for them. He commended Governor Uzodimma for his dexterity,maturity and sincerity of purpose in giving the state a purposeful and fruitful leadership since the inception of his administration.
On the 2023 elections and the high expectations across the country,Hon. Nwajiuba said that the mindset of the key national players was to cede the Presidential slot to the South and that what will determine whether it will be narrowed to the South-East will depend on the faces they will see jostling for the position from there. He stated that he has attained national political height and recognition and with his contacts,exposure, experience and bridges built over the years,with age on his side,he is well positioned for such a position.
Nwajiuba regretted that other Nigerians are scared of some characters that have been by omission or commission thrown up from the South-East in National politics and because of their antecedents they don’t trust them for sensitive positions at the National level. He assured that once a trusted, honourable,dependable and respectable person is identified from the South-East,the ceding of the Presidency will be as good as concluded and declared that he has already been identified hence he is a confluence of the three key qualities for consideration when a serious people are in search of a leader at that level,which according to him are competence, character and capacity.
Hon.Nwajiuba observed that the ruling All Progressives Congress,APC will still be at the top by 2023 and that South-East should make its best pick that will attract the support of other Nigerians and make possible the emergence of a Nigerian President of South-East extraction. He further called on the Elders to support him and make the project a reality.
Earlier before the response of the elders, the Imo State Co-ordinator of Project Nigeria Group,PNG,the official support group of Nwajiuba for 2023 Presidency, Hon.Chief Val Mbamala thanked the Imo Guild of Elders for inviting their Principal, Hon. Emeka Nwajiuba for such a crucial meeting, observing that the Hon. Minister is already favoured to be the next President of Nigeria. He solicited for their co-operation and support for subsequent meetings and interactions towards the actualization of the project.
While responding to the Honourable Minister,the leader of Guild of Imo Elders,Dr. Paschal Dozie commended Hon. Nwajiuba for availing himself to address and inform them about sensitive national issues that deserved their attention. He observed that the Minister has spoken volumes which needed critical thinking but said that the Elders cannot just leave the matter like that and called on at least three persons to make a remark before they will adjourn the meeting for another broader meeting to discuss the issues raised. He assured that the Guild as a non partisan group will always support any good thing that will come to the state and South-East irrespective of the political party that is involved.
In their remarks, Rev. Father Professor Philip Ogbonna pointed out the urgent need for the Minister to intervene in some needs of the Imo State University,Owerri notwithstanding its status as a State owned University. Also in his contribution,HRH Eze Barrister Emma Obiako requested the Minister to tell them the kind of help he needed from them whether it was only prayers for him or what else?
Air Commodore Ochulor,Rtd,Former Military Administrator of Delta State while adding his voice asked the Minister the body language of the Federal Government on Security issues ahead of 2023. Also contributing,Former Deputy Governor of Imo State, Dr. Douglas Acholonu said that they will support anything that is associated with the ceding of Presidency to the South-East and revealed that before now the issue of Nwajiuba’s aspiration has been whispered to him by one of his younger brothers and close ally to the Honourable Minister, Comrade Sir Chinedu Ogubuike . He said that they should adjourn and reconvene to do the needful.
The Minister while responding to their questions/remarks told them that the support of the elders was very important to the project both in prayer and strategic engagement because it is a collective project. On the issue of security ahead of 2023, Hon. Nwajiuba assured them that proactive measures are already in place to contain the situation and urged the Elders as leaders to contribute effectively hence security is everybody’s business.
The leader of the Imo Guild of Elders Dr. Pascal Dozie,commended the Minister for squeezing out time to meet with them and called for an adjournment for them to reconvene for another meeting where and when more information will be provided and reassured the Minister of their prayer and support as Leaders and Fathers.
The Guild of Elders paraded prominent Imo citizens in attendance such as; Dr. Pascal Dozie (Leader), Dr. Marshall A. Madu, Rev. Fr. Prof. Philip Ogbonna, Chief Chimee Nzeribe,Prof. Peter Okorie,Chief Tony Emeruem, General Collins Ihekire,Rtd., Rt. Hon. Maxwell I. Duru, Ph.D (Former Speaker Imo State House of Assembly),Prof. Francis C. Dike SAN (Former Attorney-General of Imo State),His Excellency,Air Commodore Dr. Chief L. Ochiulo-Former Military Administrator of Delta State,Hon.Sir Ejike Uche, Barr. Pascal C. Egbujor (Secretary),Prof. Ukachukwu Awuzie (Former V.C, Imo State University),Prof. Protus Nathan Uzoma,HRH Igwe Barr. Emma Obiako,Surv. Clement Nwabichie, Chief Nwaneri and others.
The Honourable Minister’s entourage includes; Senator-Elect for Imo North,Sir Frank Ibezim,Sir Chinedu Comrade Ogubuike,Chief Val Mbamala (State Co-ordinator PNG),Rt. Hon. Chika Madumere (Orlu Zonal Co-ordinator PNG),Hon. Uche Eze (Okigwe Zonal Co-ordinator PNG),Barr. Soronnadi Njoku (Owerri Zonal Co-ordinator PNG)amongst others.
By Greg Obioha