EBONYI HOUSE 2015: ‘In my ‘work’ revolution, I will work for my people till I bend’ -Afikpo Chic

  10966614_395387077290588_1035891817_nMaria Ude Nwachi, popularly known as Afikpo Chic is an entrepreneur and media expert who is gunning for the Afikpo North-East Constituency slot in the Ebonyi State House of Assembly. Nwachi, whose legacies flow from philanthropy to statesmanship spoke with Onu Ibiniukpabi in her country home at Afikpo town, Ebonyi State, Nigeria.
She analyses the Nigerian political arena, enumerating reasons why she thinks the time has come for more women like herself to venture into political leadership, and contribute meaningfully to the development of not just the nation, but also the world at large. She also expresses confidence that rigging via ballot snatching has become a thing of the past:

10966989_395387073957255_2041027488_nWhat gave you the impression that you can serve in the capacity of the lawmaker for Afikpo North East?

My people know my strengths and weaknesses, and they believe with certainty that I am the only one that will go out there, make N10, add my own personal N2 to it and work for them. I will do it, because I have been doing it since I was born. I have been sharing whatever money I have, when I am very rich, when I am not rich, when I am broke, I still share whatever money I have with others. Especially with my people.
So they know that I am eager to serve, that I am eager to change the face of Afikpo. I will do it. In my first week of resumption of office, I will put over 50 people on the streets of my constituency, to sweep it every day and ensure that it is very clean. We will also go ahead and beautify Afikpo. This will be done on a continual basis, its not going to be a one-time thing. What I have in mind, I am going to break a record that doesn’t even exist in America. I will bring in investments which will double the allocations I am working with. I don’t say anything unless I am sure I can do it. I am going to be the most-impacting legislator in the whole world.
Get this clear- I am also going to impact on the lives of people, not just in my constituency, but others in Ebonyi State, and probably beyond.
10723427_395387070623922_1104736882_nWhat is the assurance that your promises are not empty, just like in the case of other politicians?

The situation in Nigeria today is that, before they can believe in you, they would look at your life before. In Igbo land for instance, because of the experiences of the people in the hands of their political leaders, they would never allow themselves be deceived by any politician unless they know the antecedents of these people.
In Abia State today, Dr. Uchechukwu Sampson Ogah of Masters Energy came out to run for governorship, and the people are going gaga. The reason is because of his antecedents. He has done a lot, and he has a super clean record of philanthropy. Real philanthropy, people like him, who have trained people, gives scholarships, helps the poor have records people can make reference to. The same is applicable to me, in my own little way. I don’t want to brag, but there are things I have done that not even men have been able to do.
10967040_395387080623921_849391234_nWhat are some of these things you have done for your people?

I literally bridged the gap between the poor and the rich in this town. There were times when things like cars were big deals in this town. I rubbished that idea when I bought a car for myself and also buying a bunch of cars which I gave out to people. That immediately brought down the value they placed in cars. On a daily basis, if a I walk down the streets of Afikpo with N3 million, by the time I am home, I am left with nothing. I just go on and share it around. So my whole life is about sharing whatever I have with my people, and making sure that no one is looked down upon. If I see anyone look down on others, I must do something for the victim. These are the things my people know me for. My people know that I have seen so much money, and so, that my reasons for running for this elections is not to enrich myself.
I don’t want to brag, but I still have the biggest house in this part of the town, yet I am still the same person- still walks the streets when I like, still takes okada, greets you the same way, and respect you, and love you the same. No matter how lowly you may be, I don’t care. I am still the same old Maria. There is no height, the only height that is above all is God. I don’t consider earthly heights-it means nothing to me, no matter how big you are. So my people know this of me, that’s why they are loving me and I am loving them. I love my people with all my heart, I can die for Afikpo.
10955862_395387083957254_1350523119_nIs that why they address you as ‘our mother’, ‘Eze Nwanyi’, and so on. Are these names there because of the things you do for them?

They nicknamed me ‘Eze Nwanyi’(Woman King). It’s not a title, it’s just a nickname. They just looked at the things I do and named me that. I am the Woman King in this town, it also means that I am the mother of all, men and women, and they are my children. Every Ehugbo person is my child, and as a mother, a mother cannot eat when her children have not eaten, and I will not eat until my children eat. So if I enter the government, I will not put food into my mouth until I put food in their own mouths. It’s my daily life. My people don’t joke with me because they know I don’t joke with them.

IMG_20150117_140325I noticed that the crowd overwhelmed the venue of your flag off, and even made it difficult for your convoy to move around Afikpo. It was like the days of Jim Nwobodo’s campaigns in the old Anambra State. Did you anticipate such a crowd coming out?

Never. This is a presidential crowd, what my people gave me will never pass for a crowd coming out for me. Imagine, I am only running for a House of Assembly office. But it happened. The funny thing is, everybody kept saying I must run for governorship. Nobody was promoting me for anything else. And I asked why they didn’t. someone said to me, ‘your kind needs to lead a state. If you are a senator, you will only deal with a certain constituency, if you are a rep, only a certain constituency. But if you are a governor, you will lead the whole state, and Nigeria will experience another type of leadership’. I was overwhelmed. I knew my people love me, but I never ever in my wildest imagination expect this type of love. Afikpo people do not worship anyone, if you like be a governor. I don’t understand it, I don’t. it’s too much, its beyond me. All I IMG_20150117_140244If you are called tomorrow to be a governor of Ebonyi State, what will you do?

I am very happy that I am starting with the state assembly. I need to make a very important point with it. I want to work. I want to use whatever they give us, the so-called allocations to work, so that Nigerians will see how much is in the state assembly, and how much someone in the state assembly is capable of generating in order to do what they need to do. I want it like this, assembly which they consider in their scheme to be the lowest. I want to start with it and show the world that if people elected to serve actually use the money they get to serve, Nigeria won’t have any problem. Nigeria will be a beautiful country. I want to start working like yesterday- June is so far away. I want to start yesterday to show people, to prove to people that there is nothing with the Nigerian system of governance. It is the people who are so heartless and greedy that make is look so. Imagine going in there, you are aid N100, you send the whole cash into your bank account and start building houses, buying lands, doing all sorts of things, without thinking of the people you are sent out to represent. This is wickedness and heartlessness of the highest order. It amazes me that so many people are doing this and I wonder, are they not ashamed? I would be so embarrassed, so ashamed of myself. I wouldn’t even want to be seen on the street, or to walk down the streets. I know now why these people don’t like to be seen. Me, I like to walk around in my town. Now I know why most of them don’t like to be seen.
How can you embezzle money belonging to every one? Building houses, buying cars, looking good, looking hot, while everybody else suffer. This has to end, I have to end it. I am going to start a revolution in this country- work revolution. You are elected to work, work. Bring out the money, spend it. Do the work. Am going to start it.
10947703_395387063957256_249754449_nThere are certain politicians who might want to stop you. Are you prepared to ensure that no matter what, your revolution continues?

They cannot stop what is about to happen. This is because I am glad you are here in Afikpo with me, to see the genuine love these people have for me. You have to put this question to Ehugbo people, because they are the ones to fight this battle, not Maria. I am just a vessel to carry out this mission. I am going to do my best, whatever it is I have to do. I cannot stop the bigwigs from doing their thing, but the bigwigs can be big, but no one is almighty. They cannot get everything they want. I am going to be a change agent, powerful change agent- selfless. I will work, work, work, until I bend. If they don’t want to follow suit, that’s not my problem, because I cannot encourage bad. We can’t leave politics for scoundrels. Enough of them. If you don’t enter and work, they will be your masters for life, because they are the ones making the rules. If you like sit in your house and insult them, it makes no difference. Rather, enter and show us what you can do. Most of the time, you insult him because you haven’t had an opportunity to go and loot your own.
How are you prepared to protect the votes and defend the peoples’ mandate after the votes are cast?

The rigging that used to be there is no more there. The issue of snatching ballot boxes, if you try it in my town, they will burn you instantly. You can’t even try it, so anybody who is planning to come and carry ballot box, don’t try it. Afikpo people will lynch you. You can give anybody else whatever you want to give them, but nobody must steal my mandate. Afikpo people said, let anybody who will get anything get it. But just give us Maria. It’s not too much to ask, and Maria is going to be handling only seven wards in the whole of Ebonyi State. Anybody that tries to deny them of Maria, sorry for that person. This is beyond me. I don’t want anybody to rig for me, but do not rig me out. Just allow my people to have their choice. If you attempt rigging in this Afikpo, sorry for you.

10966684_395387067290589_355575964_nWhy do they call you NEPA? Do you work with the Enugu Electricity Distribution Company (EEDC)?

What happened is that my town had been in darkness for almost three months, and this darkness affected four local governments in Ebonyi South- including Edda, Okposi, Amasiri, Unwana, and all these areas. They were in darkness for about three months. Normally, I will pay something, and they will restore the power. But during this election period, I was spending a lot of money so things were tight. I couldn’t act. But at a point I just said to myself, ‘Maria, if this NEPA thing continues like this, my people will be in darkness for Christmas, and many people will not come home, and it’s going to be boring’. Also, I use my generator 24/7 because I am an internet junkie. So I just said to myself, ‘you just have to take some of your election money and do this’. So I went to EEDC, and they told me. I wired the money to them same day. A few days later, there was light.
It made my people so happy, so happy, I can’t even quantify how happy they were. People in Owutu-Edda, Amasiri, Unwana, everybody was happy, calling me, thanking me. The light issue has taught me that any president that gives us stable electricity will never be forgotten in the history of Nigeria. Any amount of money he looted will be forgiven. So since then, my people call me ‘Up NEPA, up Maria, oku(light), and all sorts of NEPAish names. I didn’t even think it was a big deal, but it became such a big deal.
This is because they felt that we had all the big duds, all the politicians, and they didn’t do anything. But me, the way I look at it, I just did what I had to do. I cannot be enjoying electricity 24/7 in my house and then, allow my people stay in darkness.
When I am elected, the matter will be treated legislatively. There has to be a way we should have a better working relationship with EEDC. We will work out a situation whereby our people have light whenever they need it.

Oil pipeline explodes in Ogun State, casualties feared to be high

There has been a pipeline explosion in the Arepo area of Ogun State.

The explosion occurred on Sunday with eyewitness reports of a huge cloud of smoke covering the affected area.

The explosion is believed to have been caused by the action of vandals who attack Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) pipelines in order to siphon petroleum products.

The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) spokesman, Ibrahim Farinloye said the incident occurred around 5:20am and that fire fighting experts from the NNPC have been deployed to the area.

Farinloye refused to put a figure to the casualties who are may have been affected by the explosion but he explained that supplies have been stopped and valves locked up to prevent more fire.

WAR THREATS: Niger Delta ex-militants give Danjuma 7-day ultimatum

Former defence minister, Gen. Yakubu Danjuma, yesterday got a seven-day ultimatum from a group of ex-militants in the Niger Delta to withdraw his statement in which he called for the arrest of some former warlords or face their wrath.

Gen. Danjuma had, on Wednesday,  condemned last weekend’s meeting of the former warlords in Yenagoa where they threatened to unleash terror on the country if President Goodluck Jonathan loses next month’s election.

Danjuma called for immediate arrest of the war mongers including Government Ekpemupolo a.k.a. Tompolo, Asari Dokubo and Victor Ben Ebikabowei a.k.a. Boyloaf.

A group of ex-militants —the Leadership, Peace and Cultural Development Initiative—led by Reuben Wilson, issued the ultimatum to Danjuma to withdraw the ‘insult’, failing which it said he would be courting trouble.

Boyloaf, reacting separately to Danjuma’s call for the arrest of the militants, threatened yesterday to attack the general’s assets in the Niger Delta if he fails to “retrace his steps” and apologise to the former militants and the people of the Niger Delta.

The Leadership, Peace and Cultural Development Initiative, in a statement by its  President, Reuben Wilson, said that Danjuma, by calling for the arrest of the militants “has walked on the tail of the serpent.”

The group said: “As much as he has the right to free speech, Danjuma ought to know that the oil money he is enjoying today, through his ownership of oil blocs, came from our sacrifices and blood. We staked our lives to fight for the development of our country.

“We fought for freedom for our land and it pains us that people like Danjuma who have reaped bountifully from the Niger Delta, can wake up to insult our sensibilities.

“For Danjuma to call for the arrest of Asari Dokubo, then he has walked on the tail of the serpent.

“The much we know is that we the ex militants who decided to drop our guns to join forces with the federal government to develop the country, especially the Niger Delta, have never said anything or taken any action that would warrant such explosives from Danjuma.“

Restating its support for President Jonathan in next month’s election,the group said: “All we have said overtime is that our brother and president, Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, a true son of the Niger Delta, deserves to enjoy the two terms in office provided for in the constitution.

“We stand by this right and we will do everything legal and legitimate to make sure that he is not robbed of that right; not by a thousand Danjumas.

“Danjuma cannot be enjoying our oil money and be insulting us at the same time. We are therefore giving him seven days from today to retract the statement he made to the media on the arrest of Asari Dokubo. We see his call as a declaration of war with the former fighters and we will like to tell him that we are ready to face him, having declared himself our enemy.

“We are well aware that he owns oil blocs in the Niger Delta. He cannot be eating from our farm and at the same time calling us stupid and wishing that we should be arrested while he continues to harvest from our farm.

“Danjuma should apologise to all the former fighters or we will assume that he has no regrets for his utterances.

“We wish to sound this note of warning to all those who think they can intimidate us and force us to abandon our struggle for the re-election of Jonathan-their joint effort aimed at denying us our right will not work. They may be in the majority but we have a minority oil and that is what is feeding this country.

“If they want to push a minority man out of Aso Rock by force, they should start thinking of where they will get money to keep their man in Aso Rock because our oil money will no more be there for them to share.

“Danjuma must retract the statement within 7 days and apologise to us.”

Ebokabowei, on his part described Danjuma’s demand for their arrest as “reckless and provocative,” and wondered why the former chief of army staff did not condemn the attack on the president’s convoy in some northern states.

His words:“What are the issues that elicited retired General TY Danjuma’s reckless and provocative call? When the motor convoy (sic)  of the symbol of our collective national sovereignty, President Goodluck Jonathan, was attacked in northern cities of Jos, Katsina and Bauchi, by hegemonic Northern establishment and their hired elements, retired General T.Y Danjuma did not grant any interview to condemn the act.

“He lost his voice because he is in tacit support of such manoeuvres to disgrace and remove President Goodluck Jonathan from office using whatever means possible.

“Nigerians should not be deceived; retired General TY Danjuma is not moved to intervene in national issues for altruistic reasons.”

He alleged that Danjuma has failed to provide for the Niger Delta communities where his company prospects for oil.

“Is this the kind of man that will now speak about the unity of Nigeria? For General TY Danjuma and his likes, the unity of Nigeria centres on the control of the oil resources in the Niger Delta.

“Our eyes are now open. Wwe are watching. Any attempt to cause any inconvenience by way of arrest or intimidation of any Niger Delta leader will be met with stiff resistance and the consequences will be grave and disproportional. This is a promise and not a threat,” he said.

However, Special Adviser to President Goodluck Jonathan on the amnesty programme, Mr Kingsley Kuku, dismissed reports that the Ijaw will go to war if President Goodluck Jonathan is not re-elected into office.

Tompolo, Dokubo, Boyloaf and other former warlords, Kuku said, only expressed concern over the way the president was treated during his campaign in Bauchi and Katsina states.

Kuku reacted to the reports in Abuja yesterday at a forum on how to apply the lessons learnt from the solutions that brought the Niger Delta militancy to a calm, in solving the Boko Haram problem.

Aside from this, Kuku also asked leaders from the North-East to take ownership of the Boko Haram problem and end it.

Kuku and Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State were at the Yenagoa meeting of the ex-warlords.

The meeting took place at the Government House, Yenagoa.

Also yesterday, the Northern Coalition for Good Governance condemned the recent war threats issued by the Niger Delta militants.

It urged politicians to shun acts capable of endangering the country’s democracy.

The group also insisted that all the people suspected to have played any role in the post 2011 election violence should be brought to book with a view to ensuring violence-free elections next month.

The Group’s Director of Research and Documentation, Dr. Ibrahim Baba, told journalists in Abuja after a protest demanding justice during the elections that Nigerians should not allow the 2011 post-election violence repeat itself.

He argued that one of the ways that election violence could be averted is by the prosecution of those involved.

He said the group would stand against anybody or group trying to divide the country through religion, ethnicity or tribalism.

On Dokubo, he said, “We condemn Dokubo’s threat and any act of linguistics intimidation. We condemn it in all entirety. There is nobody that is above the law; nobody should try to sectionalize the country for whatever reason. We condemn Asari-Dokubo and his vituperations; we condemn any person that is trying to promote ethnicity, religion and tribalism. Asari-Dokubo is not an exception and we want to say that if he is found culpable in any thing we will also take him head on”.

Bisi OLANIYI and Vincent IKUOMOLA, The Nation

Boko Haram shelling Maiduguri now

Members of the dreaded Boko Haram sect are at the moment exchanging fire power with soldiers of the Nigerian Army.

This is the second Sunday, in which the city is coming under such attack. Christians in the troubled capital of Borno State, Northeast Nigeria could not leave their houses to worship in churches for fear of killing.

Bomb blasts and sporadic gunfire were heard all over the town as from 6am as the insurgents tried to invade the town.

A member of the youth vigilante group, Hassan Ibrahim, on phone from Maiduguri said the insurgents who attempted to invade the town from Ajilari Cross area were been engaged by the military and members of the youth vigilante.

As at 7:30 am Sunday, the battle was still on with many residents apprehensive and staying off the roads.

It would be recalled that just last Sunday the town was under attack and a-24 hour
curfew had to be imposed.

During the siege about 65 persons were reportedly killed.

Buhari, Jonathan finally agree to presidential debate

The campaign teams of President Goodluck Jonathan and General Muhammad Buhari have finally reached a consensus agreement to hold a presidential debate on Tuesday, February 3, 2015.

The debate will be anchored by Channels Television, Arise Television and Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria.

This puts to rest the controversies arising from Buhari’s refusal to participate in a debate organized by the Nigeria Election Debate Group (NEDG) to be beamed live on national television and radio channels.

All Progressives Congress (APC) had excused the boycott on “unhidden bias and campaign of calumny by some key organizers of the programme, against the corporate political interest of the party (APC) and its candidates.”