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BreakingNews 18/5/16 - Ali Modu Sheriff Should be Supported to Rebuild PDP -Senator T. A. Orji

BreakingNews 18/5/16 - Ali Modu Sheriff Should be Supported to Rebuild PDP -Senator T. A. Orji

[ Masterweb Reports ] - Senator Theodore Ahamefule Orji, representing Abia Central Senatorial District at the Red Chamber, in this interview with journalists in Abuja, speaks on the just concluded PDP ward, local government and state congresses, the party’s forthcoming national convention, the candidacy of Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, problems created by Fulani herdsmen, among other issues. 

 
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) ward, local government and state congresses held without any rancour. As a good party man, what were your observations?
 
 
Well, as a good party man I participated in the congresses at the ward, local government and state levels. And my impression about it is that this concept we have about rebuilding PDP is working. You see that our own was peaceful, there was no fight, there was no rancor. I believe that that should be the spirit that should, at least, guide PDP, now that we want to rebuild the party. Because we have learnt from our previous mistakes. You cannot bring a candidate and insist it must be this candidate. No. You don’t do it nowadays because this is democracy. Even if you have a candidate in mind, you have to bring a candidate who is generally accepted, a candidate that will perform, a candidate that the people will vote for. That is what democracy is all about. It’s not about impunity, it’s not about imposition. So, I think we are learning now and we are learning very fast.
 
 

But PDP at the national level seems to be having some problems as some groups are calling for the cancellation of the planned national convention of the party. What is your take on this development?
 
 
These things are things that are expected in a party that has a lot of people with diverse interests. In PDP, we know that we now have an Acting National Chairman in the person of Senator Ali Modu Sheriff. If he participates in the election for the party’s chairmanship position in the forthcoming national convention and emerges victorious and his victory is ratified, in accordance with PDP laws, he automatically becomes the National Chairman. When such happens I will implore all members of the party to support him, to move the party forward. If he doesn’t win, he knows the right thing to do, which is to hand over to the winner of the chairmanship position. So far, we have seen in him that he has the passion to rebuild the party. Let us give him the chance to try his best, especially now that he has agreed to be with the PDP. He has come with all his mind and heart, so we should accept him and give him all the support to rebuild the party. This is a time to rebuild and not to diversify. Therefore all I’m saying is that we should allow Sheriff to rebuild this party and let us watch him. If there is anywhere that he is not doing well, he should be cautioned and if he continues, the laws are there to remove him. But as at now, let us squarely focus on rebuilding the party and not creating different factions in the party that will divide us the more. All the factions should come together to build a united PDP.
 
 

What are the qualities that you see in Senator Ali Modu Sheriff that makes you think that he will deliver at the end of the day?
 
 
He has the experience. This is a man who has been governor. This is a man who has severally been elected senator and he has been in many parties. This thing they are saying that he has been to many parties, is an advantage to us in PDP, because he has garnered experience in ANPP and other parties. At least he knew and knows, as of now, the problems in those parties. And certain things will continue recurring in political parties as far as political parties are concerned. So if it occurs in PDP, with his experience he can handle it.
 

Now, a man who has made up his mind finally to come to the PDP, we shouldn’t seriously doubt his sincerity. And apart from having the capacity, the mental capacity and the experience to lead the party, he has the resources also to assist PDP now that we are no longer in the central government where people can help you out voluntarily because you are in central government. So I know he can help the party out to the extent that he can.
 
 

Recently, the Fulani herdsmen wreaked havoc in some parts of the country killing and destroying properties worth millions of naira. Some people are suggesting that grazing land should be allocated to the them. What is your position on this?  
 
 
My position on this is guided by the position of my people where I come from. I’m a Nigerian, I agree, but I come from the South-east. And if you go around the South-east, you will know that there is no person who supports this issue of allowing cattle to come and graze freely because they come and destroy the farms. We are basically farmers and we guard our farms jealously plus the land, because land is very precious to us. We don’t have that expanse of land, so whichever that is yours, you guard it jealously. So it is very painful when you see cattle coming to graze freely on your limited, scarce farmland. And these cattle rearers come with impunity, carrying guns, threatening to kill you if you disturb them. That shouldn’t be tolerated in this country. Cattle rearing is a private business. Cattle rearing I know very well, when we were very small in Umuahia where I was born, there was one Alhaji Bako Mohammed. He lived in Umuahia, his business was selling cattle. He will go to Kano and buy a lot of cattle, put them on the train, because the railway was very efficient then. So, they will transport them straight to Umuahia, they will off load them in Umuahia Gariki. He had herdsmen whom he pays, who will now take care of the cattle. These cattle will graze and there wasn’t any trouble here. We lived harmoniously with them, and after grazing they can now transport them to Port Harcourt and sell and kill and the meat will go to every person. That was the system that time. Even if any cow strayed and entered any farm, you don’t start fighting with the herdsman. You just go to Alhaji Bako Mohammed, he will call them to order. Why is that type of thing not happening again? And the point I want to stress here is that these cattle are owned by wealthy people. They are not owned by these people who follow the cattle and take them to graze. Rich men own the cattle. Do you know how much AK47 costs? It’s wealthy men that buy these guns and give to herdsmen. So I don’t support the idea of free grazing. What I know is that cattle rearing is a private business; they should leave the private sector to drive it. These wealthy men who own these cows should go and buy land and develop ranches where these cattle will stay and feed and people will go there and buy thecattle for their use. Or if the government wants to come into it, then government should look towards the arid areas and import grasses to feed the cattle. It’s done in Israel. There are some deserts that are now fertile in Israel. Let them make those places fertile and grow grasses so that these animals can go there and graze. Let them not come to other areas that are peaceful, in terms of grazing, because we also graze in this part of the country. You know we rear sheep and goat and we know how to deal with such. You don’t allow them to enter the farm, you keep them in your house, in the morning,you take them to an open bush, not the farm, tie them to trees and allow them to feed. In the evening, you come and take them back. That one doesn’t cause any harm to any person. But, now, to allow your animal to go into another person’s farm to destroy his property and your own will be safe is unacceptable. Nobody will accept that. So my own suggestion is that private people should go and establish ranches.

 
But is it true that there is a grazing bill before the Senate?
 
 
There is no bill like that in the Senate. The senators were highly embarrassed when our numbers appeared in an online media outfit. So they picked our numbers from there and started bombarding us with insults. “Ah you are there and this type of bill is on and you are not doing anything. Okay finish and come home.” Some of them will say “okay you are there, we will recall you”. There were all sorts of insults and we started looking for the bill, but there was no bill like that in the Senate. The rumour was so much that Senator Abaribe had to raise the issue in one of our plenary sessions, which helped to douse the situation. And to those who were phoning me, I was explaining plainly to them without insulting any person. But some people on social media used that to castigate some senators, even myself. One girl called me one day and, while I was explaining to her, the woman charged. I didn’t know her. The next thing she did was to write my name that I was supporting the grazing bill, a bill that was nonexistent in the Senate. So that is part and parcel of the blackmail. Politicians are used to blackmail but eventually, one day, the truth will surface.
 

President Muhammadu Buhari recently signed the 2016 Budget into law. What are your expectations?
 
 
What we expect is that the budget should be religiously implemented, and it’s the executive that will implement the budget, not the Senate. On our own part, what we will do is to intensify our own oversight functions to help the executive to ensure that the budget is religiously implemented, to benefit the generality of Nigerians, especially the poor people. That is my expectation. Mr. President has signed the budget, the budget now is a legal document. The next thing is religious implementation. Let the executive implement the budget. The legislature will do their oversight function to assist the executive to ensure that the budget is well implemented for the benefits of all Nigerians.



 
You are the Deputy Chairman Senate Committee on Agriculture, what should Nigerians expect from this important sector of the country’s economy now that the budget has finally been signed into law by Mr. President?
 
 
Of course every person is now aware that agriculture is the Sector that hardly disappoints if well handled. The other day I was watching a programme where somebody mentioned an amount that is in the reserve of a country outside Africa and 80 per cent of that amount came from agriculture. If such a thing can happen in other countries why can’t it happen in Nigeria, where God has given us fertile land and also the human resources to cultivate the land, and the intellect also to do that. So we expect a revolution to start in agriculture from this budget. We should be in a position to feed ourselves without depending on imported food and the budget has taken care of some of those areas that can make this possible. Farmers at least will have facilities at reduced cost, where they can access finance and farm inputs provided it is put into agriculture. The government also has programmes to assist farmers by making farming attractive. Let’s feed ourselves first then if there is any surplus we can export. So this budget has, to a large extent, taken care of some of the problems we are having in the agricultural sector and I believe with proper implementation we will get the dividends.
 
 
 
As a governor you established what was called Liberation Farms in the three senatorial districts of Abia State. Are you thinking of introducing this policy to the national level?
 
 
Of course, when I was governor I made an impact on agriculture. For sure throughout my period as governor I produced the best cocoa farmer in Nigeria. Each time we went for agricultural exhibition, Chief David Onyeweaku will come first in the production of cocoa. And I brought this concept of establishing farms on senatorial zones. We called them Liberation Farms. We will go to one senatorial zone and the community will give us large hectares of land and people from that locality and zone will be employed to establish a farm, that will be in tandem with what that senatorial zone produces. We also got experts and trained manpower for those farms and they started working. I established one in Abia South senatorial zone, did one in Abia Central and did another one in Abia North. For that of Abia South we looked at palm, cash crops. In Abia Central it was cocoa, palm, cassava, rubber and vegetables. In Abia North we looked at rice, and rubber plantation, the farms were doing very well; it didn’t cost us a lot of money. The money it cost us was in terms of paying the staff and the agriculture inputs. So it’s an idea that could be sold to the federal government. And as we are there in the agriculture committee, when the opportunity comes, we will chip in such ideas and any other fresh idea that will, at least, improve agriculture.

 
Your Bill on Food Security was well received by senators. Can you throw more light on this bill?
 
 
Of course the importance of agriculture has made people to shift attention to that and you have to make laws that will at least make food production to be of priority. So that Food Security Bill that I sponsored is a bill that will ensure that food reaches every person. It will remove hunger. There are people who are hungry in this country. There are people who cannot afford two good meals in a day, the poor in the village. So the bill is aimed at making sure that they get what they can eat, including those who are disabled, including women who are mothers who are breastfeeding their babies. So it’s a bill that is very dear to me and I’m happy that it was received very well in the Senate and once it’s passed into law and implemented you will see the result. It will be for the benefit of every person both the rich and the poor.
 
 
 
You are a member of Senate Committee on Health. Recently the Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospital, Ile Ife, performed six successful open heart surgeries. How do you feel about this breakthrough?
 
 
It’s interesting but that is not the first time. I know that they have had open heart surgery in Lagos. That will show you that we have Nigerians who are ready to do very well in the medical sector. If you go to the US, to the UK, most of the Doctors who are working in those big teaching hospitals are Nigerians. They are using their talents to develop other countries and we want them to come back and help out. But those Doctors who are here need just the push, the facilities, the incentives and you will see that they will excel. That one in OAU is a typical example of that. Give them the little incentive, give them the equipment and make the environment very conducive for them you will see that they will perform. As it’s done in OAU, so also it will be done in Nsukka, done in Ibadan, done in Maiduguri, done in Kano or Sokoto where you have teaching hospitals. So we are happy with that because, you see, there are lot ailments nowadays. I know that Nigerians have tried to venture into areas of curative medicine. So if they have the conducive environment, if they have the incentives, if they have the facilities, they will excel. So I encourage them. When I was Governor of Abia State, I established a Specialist Hospital in Umuahia with the best diagnostic centres that extended to Aba. The Hospital is equipped with the most modern diagnostic equipment like MRI etc, a dialysis centre with five new dialysis machines, an eye centre with equipment comparable to the ones in Jons Hopkins Hospital, a Heart centre with the appropriate equipment and a children centre. This hospital attracted people from far and wide, and the Nigerian Medical and Dental Council inspected and certified the place as a training place for one year internship for new medical Doctors. Well-equipped hostels were also built for the fresh Doctors and allowances paid to them. This reduced the burden of fresh Doctors looking for a place of placement before proceeding for the NYSC programme.

 

As Governor, we built 712 health centres on the whole all to encourage health care delivery. Therefore every person should try in his capacity to encourage health care and the practitioners, Doctors, Nurses, etc.
 
*Photo Caption - Senator T. A. Orji