The new government, must carry the people along. We have allowed the past ones to be controlled by a minority that didn’t think about or do anything well for the larger society
Maduako Igbokwe I Wednesday, June 21, 2023
UMUAHIA, Abia – St Moses Ogbonna, a lawyer and Abia State Organizing Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), recently resigned from the party, and in fact partisan politics. In this interview, he gave reasons for leaving as having been sidelined for years from carrying out his official duties and still, notoriously associated with bad deeds he knows nothing about as a leader of the party.
Abians, especially those that know you, were surprised at your sudden resignation from the PDP, and in fact, partisan politics. Could it have been a fallout of your party losing the governorship election, to the Labour Party?
No, I don’t see it that way. I had endured so much from the party internally, though I remained faithful and muted in expressing what was going on. You remembered that I had midstream, prior to the electioneering period resignation due to not being able to carry out my official responsibilities as the State Organizing Secretary, but I was persuaded to withdraw it. While not being allowed to do my duty as Organizing Secretary, I was associated with all dirty jobs done by the party, in Abia.
My name became notorious over what I didn’t do, and had no hand in. I was a Working Committee (SWCS) member of the PDP, holding one of the most sensitive positions, because the Organizing Secretary is the engine room of the party. I was being looked upon and called for action by everyone associating with the party in the state.
People called me to ask questions about materials, nomination forms and dates for primary elections, asking questions about information from the National Headquarters of the party, INEC, strategies for elections, and other issues. I was in office by name, saw forms for nomination into elective offices, but didn’t know how they were being brought to us in Abia. My name was even removed as Local Government party agent, during the primaries, by agents claiming to be working for the then Gov Okezie Ikpeazu. INEC, was calling me, as State Organizing Secretary, to come to their office for certain information and collection of materials, but some people were already being sent, at my back to do so.
As a party chieftain, did you report this near usurpation of your official functions to the Chairman, if so, what response did he give?
On one occasion, I went to the State Party Chairman to collect an identity tag to go to INEC to collect materials, he told me that someone had already gone to get the materials. We were suffering in the party. Even, when, the party executives, were trekking to the office and other official activities, aids to the governor, were busy building mansions, tall houses in urban cities, and also buying cars.
It was when I threatened the authorities, that the party chairman and secretary, were given cars. I became the bad man of the PDP in Abia State. Everybody mentioned St Moses Ogbonna, for every bad act the government and it’s party agents put up. Even the ones I didn’t know about and was not present when they were hatched, got associated with my name.
I suffered for a total of 24 years, receiving notorious titles that I did not directly earn for being a PDP member, 8 years during the Chief Orji Uzor Kalu, administration, in the Abuja and Abia PDP factional divides, another 8 years with the Chief TA Orji regime, and yet the 8 years of Dr Okezie Ikpeazu, that just ended. This is why, I said, “No”, let me leave politics and let people see me sincerely for who actually, I am, as St Moses Ogbonna, so that anyone I deal with, will not see politicking in our relationship. Again, if I advise or attack any public office holder, he or she will see it as purely brotherly act and not otherwise. I lost so much in associating with those I felt were my political associates, when I was arrested and put in detention.
It was only the Aba branch of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), that insisted that I be released and set free. Even one of my associates, a Senator, saw me at an occasion after being released and said as I came to shake him, “Old boy, they no dey shake you in public, again oh” Meaning, I was now an unwanted person in their fold. I was also told after my release, that people that sought favour from the government of Chief TA Orji, then, will cook up frivolous allegations against me, to tell the government.
We inherited a situation in which professional politicians use blackmail, to get appointment, thrive and express their loyalty and obedience to the sitting governor. Blackmail, propaganda and lying are trademarks of loyalty in winning the Governor’s ears. Former Gov TA Orji, during his time, used to jokingly chide us, to in local language, “Boo ya, ihe di substantial,” meaning “accuse him with substantial wrong doings,” and once the allegations are made, they will capitulate on it, to destroy the person.
As Organizing Secretary, you were said to have held the members in the jugular, especially during clearance for collection of forms for elective offices, or party approvals for appointments?
Such thing never occurred and I neither demanded nor collected money from anyone. Even, the then Governor, TA Orji, never gave me money, except on one occasion, when he came for clearance in my office. As the Governor then, I didn’t allow him to pass through the rituals of showing us his file, his certificates, tax clearance papers and other needed materials and information for proper nomination. I had to prepare his file even before his arrival, gave him a chair to sit down in my office, and then told him to go after documentations. It was while leaving, that he gave me N100,000, in appreciation, saying he was grateful for the honour I accorded him. I didn’t and never approached him for anything, so, he couldn’t have given me.
Your radio and television stations, including the film academy, are said to being run in partnership with a top chieftain of the immediate past administration in the State. While, one is free to own such businesses privately, is there any government interest as per share holding in the establishments?
People have said that the immediate past Governor, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu, gave me all the things I use in the establishments. It is not true. Government under his administration nor the PDP, never gave me anything and never invited me to the coverage any of their projects, congresses, and did not pay me any dime for attendance. Even when I requested, to officially cover their events, they were not approved. We only went to occasions on programmes content recordings. I once approached him to approve a State sponsorship of the training of 20 youths from each of the 17 Local Government Areas of the State, in our Skills Acquisition Centre.
While, he gave approval on paper, and the trainees began their apprenticeship, neither the approved N18 million cost, nor stipends for the pupils, were released until, he left office. I had then, gone on air to announce, that the governor had magnanimously approved government sponsorship of the apprentices in the Film Academy, so their parents released them to join us, only for the government to back off, without informing us or the public.
We started the station from doing bulk SMS business, and worked with some approved private television organizations, such as PBS, and MCL, all in Aba, before they were closed. We had to approach the NBC, for approval to run the Living Television and Radio Stations, for which licences were approved and issued. We also have a Living Television Film Academy, for training film producers, among other professionals in the industry, leading to the award of diploma, of approved polytechnic in the country.
Having been absolved from partisan politics, and returning to your trenches as an activist, as you put it, how do you sincerely, want to assist the new administration in Abia, achieve it’s promises to the people?
The new government, must carry the people along. We have allowed the past ones to be controlled by a minority that didn’t think about or do anything well for the larger society. The citizens that I am talking about, include the traders, lawyers, professionals, artisans, market women, doctors, the business community that have made Aba, a commercial nerve centre in the zone and beyond.
We must come out in full support of the Governor, and his government. My new responsibility is to unite Aba residents (society), to support the government. When we are united and working purposefully, the authorities will listen, if we talk. The Governor, will work with us. He will have an ear to listen.