Senator Theodore Orji represents Abia Central Senatorial District in the Red Chamber of the National Assembly. In this interview , the Vice Chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and immediate past governor of Abia State spoke on the herdsmen/farmers crisis, the letter from fomer President, Olusegun Obasanjo to President Muhammadu Buhari, among others:
Distinguished senator sir, the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has just resumed plenary. What should Nigerians be expecting?
Without mincing words, Nigerians should expect a more vibrant legislative session where good laws that will bind the nation together as one indivisible entity will be made. Among all the senators, irrespective of party affiliation, one thing has remained constant and that is the fact that we want Nigeria to remain together as one united front where the rule of law, equity, justice, fairness and good governance is the hallmark. This Senate is determined to ensure that whatever seem to divide us is quickly and roundly nipped in the bud and that we work with the same mind on the same template all for the good of the people. So having just resumed plenary, we are working on the same template which we set for ourselves when we were proclaimed in June of 2015 and I believe we will continue to work and run with it until our term expires. As you can see, there are no barriers when it has to do with any issue that affects any part of the country as Distinguished Senators have always spoken out and commended where commendation is required and condemnation where condemnation is required. That will clearly tell you that when we say we walk the talk on national unity, we are not begging the question. I also want to assure you that we are not going to toy with this session because all the knotty issues that will affect the conduct of a free, fair and credible elections will be speedily dealt with so that we can provide the Independent National Electoral Commission the grounds to operate on. The commission has done a good job in the elections it conducted recently, so we need to encourage them to continue in this direction.
The clashes between herdsmen and farmers has led to the death of many Nigerians especially the recent carnage in Benue, what is your advice?
It is a very sad and condemnable action, which had roundly been condemned by well-meaning Nigerians across party lines and ethnicity. The death of any Nigerian must be condemned and those that perpetrated the acts brought to book. The issue of cattle grazing is a personal but lucrative business which those involved in it are aware of what to do. It is very sad that people deliberately feign ignorance of how to prosper their business even when the truth is very glaring to them. All over the world, cattle rearing is done in ranches and those involved build ranches on personal grounds. This is what is expected of those involved in the same business in Nigeria. It is condemnable that one business will via into another and make a complete destruction of it and then, you are asked not to cry out or take action to protect yourself and your means of livelihood, it is very sad. The solution to the problem is not colony because it will lead to further crisis. The only solution is ranching. Now the governors of the South East have said they are not going to offer any of their land for the proposed colony and they are justified because they have envisaged the problem that will emanate from that too. And you can see that the killings in Benue and other parts of the country was roundly condemned by the senators. So the federal government must do the needful to ensure that peace returns to every segment of this nation. Since this is a business that is localized in an area, while in other areas there are other businesses too, will you now be providing for all manner of businesses. It is not the right thing to do. The most sensible thing is to call on those involved in the business to take the only and sure way of prospering their business and that sure way is building ranches in their areas. If the issue of destruction of farmlands is not immediately and permanently arrested we may find ourselves in a situation where food shortages or famine will be added to the already trauma Nigerians are grappling with and the after effect will be better imagined than described.
Sir, recently former President Olusegun Obasanjo wrote to the sitting President where he aired his opinion on current happening issues in the country and also proffered an advice. What are your views on the letter?
Well, I can only advice the federal government to accede to the advice from the elder statesman and former President of Nigeria. The man has become a prophet and that is why I advise that his letter should not be treated with levity, but with the seriousness it deserves. It is not the first time he has written to a President. He has done so over the years and no sooner has the letter been received than those that failed to heed it have themselves to blame. But seriously speaking the former President has performed his role as a former President and an elder statesman. Such a person cannot be around and see things going wrong and keep quiet. So for me, there is nothing wrong with what he has done and I also think that there will be nothing wrong for the federal government to take his advice and do the proper thing. There was nothing personal in the letter he wrote and he was merely writing to a friend and brother both in the military and democracy. Both of them have come a long way so they owe themselves only the truth and that is what President Obasanjo has done. He should be commended for the courage as he was commended when he wrote in 2013. He should not be villified.
The debacle between former President Obasanjo and his former deputy Atiku Abubakar seem not to end, as it looks like the former President is not backing him this time again?
Well I don’t want to dabble into what has happened or is happening between the former President and his deputy. but suffice it to say that if the former President says he will not be back his former deputy, it is within his right so to do and it is also within the right of his former deputy to continue to try his luck. The former President has only one vote which he will cast for his preferred candidate in an election. It should not discourage his former deputy because there maybe many out there that are ready to cast their votes for him. I think that for the fact that former Vice President Atiku Abubakar has gone to his former boss and pleaded for forgiveness should have ended the issue no matter the seriousness of the offense, but having done that and it has not changed the situation, then the former Vice President should seek help elsewhere. He should continue to try his luck because nobody knows tomorrow. To err is human, but to forgive is divine and it is the divine side that is important in our human relationships.
Recently the All Progressives Congress ( APC) held a mega rally in Umuahia where they said they have prepared the ground to take over governance from the ruling party in the state?
What was mega about what they did in Umuahia? It was nothing to write home about. It was a shameful outing because what those that organized the event did was to expose their inadequacies and unpreparedness to even proffer a challenge to the government in power in the state.
Those that gathered at the Umuahia Township Stadium looked like people that have no direction or better still like chickens that had been visited by a heavy downpour. Who were the serious minded Abians that you saw in the gathering that had won elections in their wards on recent time? How many of them are on ground to give the ruling party a fight? What are they going to point out to the people of Abia State that they have done? Whatever you hear them say is just for the sake of saying something not because they feel they have anything to offer. Do they think that Abia is the same state they milked without giving back anything or do they think that Abia is that state where you can cook up all manner of falsehood to deceive the people? Abia has passed that stage and moving on to higher grounds. Do they think that Abia will quickly forget how they wanted to throw the state into confusion by attempting to steal the mandate of the people through the back door?
At the appropriate time the people of Abia State will tell them to their faces the evil they have committed. I want to advice those masquerading to first of all go to the people and confess their sins and ask for forgiveness before anything else. The party on ground is solid and the governor is delivering the dividends of democracy to all the segment of the state. There is no area that is currently not enjoying the presence of government, and the people are happy and applauding what they are seeing. I want to assure you that what happened in 2015 is not going to happen again.
Those who took the wrong steps then have come to understand that they were deceived and have reconciled. We are not losing any sleep in 2019 because we have seen the strength of those gathering and have identified them as failed politicians which is what they all have in common.