Abia state Deputy Governor, Rt. Hon. Ude Oko Chukwu was a former Speaker, Abia State House of Assembly before his elevation cum election as Abia State Deputy Governor in May 29, 2015. In this exclusive interview with Verbatim, Sam Obinna Ibe, Assistant Editor of the Magazine, the number two citizen of the state extolled his boss in glowing terms saying that he can beat his chest that the administration of his boss/Governor, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu has delivered on his electioneering promises in all sectors of the state economy. He also told Verbatim that he has a wonderful, cordial relationship with the Governor, pointing out that the conferment of Governor of the year 2017 on Governor Ikpeazu by Verbatim Magazine was well deserved. He also dismissed threats from two opposition parties, APGA and APC, to unseat the government in 2019 as an empty threat which will not see the light of the day.
Verbatim: By May 29, 2018, the PDP led government in Abia state will clock 3 years in office. How would you assess the performance of the government of Okezie Ikpeazu, the Governor, with you as Deputy Governor?
Chukwu: I must thank God for his mercies thus far. On May 29, 2018, we shall be exactly 3 years in office indeed. When you look back for the past three years and ask yourself, have you been able to deliver on your electioneering promises, I can beat my chest; we have been able to do most of the things we promised especially what my boss promised in his inaugural speech. We said we will be able to attend to road infrastructures and as I speak to you, we have been able to do that effectively. We have been able to construct the roads that would be able to stand the test of time. We have done several roads. In fact we have changed the narratives of roads in Aba ditto to other parts of Abia state. We have done more than 60 roads projects both in Abia south, Abia central and Abia north.
In area of health, we have also done remarkably well in Primary, secondary and tertiary health care, the latest is the launching of Abia Tele-Health Initiative, somebody described it as the first in Africa because it has not happened anywhere, it is such an initiative that once you have a card, what you have to do at your closet where you are, once you have issues, challenges health wise, just open the card and dial a doctor, once you press the number that was given to you, you will be able to speak to your Doctor, either a male or female doctor, depending on your choice, use your language either in vernacular or English, and you will be able to explain to the doctor what is happening to you and then either he prescribes a drug for you which you will go and buy over the counter and attend to you or alternatively he may also refer you to a laboratory investigation and once you do and send it back they will give you drugs depending on the observations. These are the things we have been able to bring to bear in the health sector.
In education, for your information, Abia state has been able to make it tops, for the past three consecutive years in WAEC and NECO exams.
We have also engaged in Education for Employment to look at people being unemployed, we discovered that some of those people we said are unemployed are unemployable, reason being that they lacked the skill so what we do is that in Education For Employment, we make sure that we train this people so that they will be able to acquire a skill that will make them employable, these are some of the things we have been able to do under education. We have gone on to build a lot of classrooms blocks, improve the capacity of our teachers and also try to renovate our dilapidated buildings.
In area of commerce, for the past three years, my governor has been championing for made in Aba goods. Encouraging people to buy made in Aba goods is just a symbol thing but the main essence is try to let people know what we produce in this country and by so doing get market for those made in Aba goods. Virtually we have been able to achieve in those areas we set target. I can tell you that for the past three years I can beat my chest and say we have done remarkably well.
Verbatim: Your Excellency, it has been common, seeing deputies fighting their governors or governors fighting their deputies, what is your relationship with your boss, the governor, like?
Chukwu: One thing you will know is that if the Deputy Governor is fighting the governor or governor fighting the deputy governor, you will know that. It is not a hidden thing. We have a very wonderful working relationship, I thank the governor for that because firstly he is a man that has a good heart, he is a man that wants everybody around him to be happy once you are doing your work diligently. We have a very wonderful and robust relationship and I give God glory and thanks for this grace apart from every other thing, it is the grace of God that guards and directs us.
Verbatim: Sir, 2019 general election is around the corner; opposition parties in the state have vowed to unseat the PDP led government in the state. What are the chances of this government?
Chukwu: You are talking about Abia state, the issue of threat is out of it. There is nothing like threat. Yes, we have other political parties in Abia state. I don’t think we have any threat because the party that even came close to us in the 2015 election, that is APGA. APGA in 2015 has 10 seats in the Abia State House of Assembly. The party has lost more than 7 or 8 of its members and a political party within this space of three years lost 7 or 8 members, what does that imply? APGA as far as the state is concerned is almost gone. Most of their members in 2015 have decamped and came back to PDP, so what threat? The one that was almost close to us has almost gone aground. So what threat do we have? The fact of the matter is that it is not over until it is over. But for the issue of threat, we do not have any threat in Abia State.
Verbatim: In a statement credited to APGA governorship candidate, Dr. Alex Otti said he defeated Ikpeazu in 2015 and will still defeat him again in 2019, what is your take on this?
Chukwu: If a man is saying that he defeated another party in 2015, why is he not in government house? So why is he not in government house? What other parameters, elections were conducted and results declared and he was not declared the winner and he said he defeated us, does that make any sense?
If he wants to say anything let him say that he tried in 2015 and he wants to try again. In 2019 no problem, no issues but saying you defeated people who are sitting as governor and deputy governor, is a lie. I have been in government for three years, even when he took us to court and court said we won the elections, so what is the basis?
The electoral umpire did not declare you the winner, court did not declare you the winner, so why do you come and say you defeated Ikpeazu in 2015. If he is ready to re-contest in 2019, we are waiting for him. This time around, he is going to lose his deposit.
Verbatim: On April 26th April, 2018, your boss, governor Okezie Ikpeazu was conferred with Verbatim Governor of the year award 2017 in Abuja, how do you see this recognition?
Chukwu: Verbatim, knowing the class of magazine that you are, knowing the quality of the outlet, once you are able to recognize a particular governor, give him an award, it means that he has been doing very well.
You cannot give an award to a governor that has not done well. It is an indication that we have done well and you are an independent person, your magazine is not owned by Abians and on your own, you have seen what he has done and decided to honour him. Vanguard newspaper also conferred on him similar award on Saturday 14th April, 2018. This is an indication that you are only giving credence to what I have said and every other person have said concerning my governor and also the government of Abia state.
Verbatim: Your Excellency, you just acted as acting governor when your boss governor was on two weeks’ vacation. How was the experience like?
Chukwu: Thank you very much. I must tell you it was quite interesting and at the same time one begin to appreciate more what my boss was doing, and virtually what he does when he is around. On his absence you discover that apart from doing my own assignment, do the work of my office, I have to take charge of the activities of the Governor when he was not around, so it was quite challenging, I must tell you. But however it exposes my mind to the greater thing my boss always does while he is around. But the most important is that it was quite challenging and interesting as well.