Home Politics I Shall Work To Leapfrog Orlu Into An Industrial Smart City -Rt.Hon....

I Shall Work To Leapfrog Orlu Into An Industrial Smart City -Rt.Hon. Jones Onyereri PhD

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EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH HON. JONES C. ONYERERI.

Q. Your candidacy for the Orlu PDP senatorial ticket was upheld by the court. What was the reason for the court case and how do you feel about the judgment?

A. To be honest with you, I feel quite excited like anybody would when you win your court case. But, I think that is just the beginning of the whole judicial process because my opponents have also taken me to the appeal court, so we are in Supreme court now and I want to restrain from making so much comments on the court case, because I don’t want to be accused of delving into a matter that is before the court.

But because the court case is already in the public domain, I will just give you the background and leave it at that. They have gone to the court to ask the court to declare whether it was proper to uphold election in Owerri instead of holding it in the senatorial zone. Secondly, they have also asked the court to decide whether it was proper for statutory delegates not to have participated in the election. And to be honest, from the pronouncement of the court, they didn’t think that any of the issues raised before them could stand the test of time in respect to the electioneering process in terms of whether it was substantially compliant.

For me, we had that mutual agreement not just among ourselves but with the state to have wisely chosen the venue of the election to avoid the security challenges that have occupied the senatorial zone. For the statutory delegates, it was a matter of extant provision of the electoral act. If one could recall, the National Assembly, when they realized that they have shot themselves in the leg, went back to Mr. President to say that they erroneously excluded the statutory delegates from participating at the election and wanted the President to attest to the new amendment but which did not happen and have not yet happened even after the primary. So, the statutory delegates were not supposed to have participated in that election. It was strictly for the ad-hoc delegates who were elected for the sole purpose of the primaries and it happened across party lines in all parties in Nigeria. Statutory delegates did not vote in any of the parties.

Q. What is your take on the new electoral act?

A. In sincerity, I want to applaud the National Assembly. It was a very wonderful piece of legislation. It brought to bear the very concerns of the electorate and also for the political parties. Obviously it is a wonderful innovation. It gives confidence, hope, and credibility for participatory democracy. It helped to solve basic problems that we have encountered over time in respect to irregularities and manipulations as experienced in most elections.

And the one that interests me most is that it took account to avoid issues of what happened even in Imo West senatorial district in last election 2019 – the issue of duress. So with the new amendment, the INEC has been so empowered to review elections even after the announcement of the result in case there are basic concerns with respect to irregularities. So, for me, it is quite interesting and a whole lot has been captured in the amendment, and of course the issue of BVAS, to ensure that votes count. In most of the court cases, because they were not specifically embedded in the electoral act, most people were not able to defend the actual result they had because the last electoral act did not take note of the electronic voting, not necessarily electronic voting but using technology in terms of accreditation. Now it has been well captured, it makes it more interesting and we believe by God’s grace, there will be free and fair elections.

Q. You served as the member representing Isu/Njaba/Nkwerre/Nwangele Federal constituency for two tenures. What were the bills and motions you sponsored for the benefit of your constituency?

A. Sincerely, I have a lot of them. The motions include, Need to review federal constituencies and create additional constituency from Nkwerre/Isu/Nwangele/Njaba federal constituency, Call on the FG to adopt a more serious posture about diversifying the economy through non-oil exports, Need to investigate the license status of GoTV in the Provisions of Digital Terrestrial Television services in Nigeria, Urgent need for the banks to halt the retrenchment of its staff and for an immediate recall of all those already sacked etc.The Bills include, Bill for an act to repeal the foreign exchange (monitoring and miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2017 (HB. 1066), Bill for an act to establish and regulate the Nigerian Assets management agency, 2017 (HB 1088), Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria Amendment Bill 2017 AMCON (HB, 1083), A Bill for an Act to provide for and regulate assignment of receivables and to promote domestic and international trade through the availability of capital aid trade receivables and for matters connected therewith, A Bill for an Act to make provision for securitization transaction and the issuance of Assets backed securities and for other related matters, Chartered institute of Bankers of Nigeria (Amendment) Bill, 2015, etc.

But the one that interest me most is the amendment of the AMCON act. For me, that has helped to safeguard the banking sector. It is clear that the banks were exposed in a way of the huge facilities they have given to all these obligors and most of them were finding it difficult to pay back because of the surrounding economic situation, some were not willing to pay back even when their business were thriving. So we needed to amend the AMCON act in order to find ways of compelling them to pay back the loans that were genuinely given to them. Funny enough, some of the banks did not collect collaterals from these obligors. So AMCON was fortified in other to get the obligors pay back. We also had to deal with a lot of motions that brought to bear issues that concern Nigerians and will also naturally affect my constituents.

Q. This is the second time you are contesting for the Orlu Senatorial seat. Why do you want to be the senator representing Orlu senatorial zone?

A. Every Senator is elected for a period of four years at any instance, to represent and to serve the interest of his constituents at the national legislature. Hence, he/she becomes their eyes, legs and hands in the hallowed chambers of the legislature. He carries their hopes and expectations to the federation. I am therefore obligated to give good representation to my Senatorial Zone.What really took me to the National Assembly is that I needed to have opportunity to bring to bear the true meaning of having a representative in the green chamber and now going to the senatorial platform which I see as a bigger platform for us to become what we have been known for as an oil producing zone back to the map of Nigeria. I want to call the attention of Nigerians back to the issues that will improve on the wellbeing of my people. There won’t be any better platform than the senatorial platform to do it. I believe, by God’s grace, I will bring that to bear, issues that will impact their lives greatly. Looking at my manifesto, I have what I termed Orlu Development and Investment Masterplan (ODIMa) “Maka Odimma Orlu.” The whole idea of that is to interface with professional bodies – Orlu Professionals – in order to develop a very sound masterplan that can bring development to Orlu. The whole idea is to work with the grassroots closely and bring the national attention to matters that affect Orlu.The Diasporas are not left out of this also. The diaspora funding has improved quite a lot in our foreign reserve. In America there is a body called Orlu Regional Assembly (ORA). You need to know the volumes that they bring back home. One has to champion the drive to make them think back home which is the major reason why they set up the ORA. I want to champion the drive to partner with these our brothers and sisters in Diaspora to bring real development in Orlu. If Nigeria can benefit from the Diaspora funding, you can imagine what Orlu will benefit from our brothers and sisters who live outside the shores of the country.

Q. Are you confident that the people of Orlu zone will give you their votes?

A. I believe they would. It is often said that by their fruit we shall know them. What that tells me is that people will judge you by your antecedents. The people of Orlu zone need a strong voice, someone who will represent them effectively. I am a fantastic grassroot man, a missionary parliamentarian of note, a lover of humanity without discrimination. Of course that is the overall essence of effective representation. If by God’s grace, I was able to make impact in my federal constituency, I believe, without having a doubt that the people of Orlu will want me to do even more to the entirety of Orlu zone just like I did in my federal constituency and this will be across party lines. Across different political parties I believe I am highly loved and favoured by the electorates, therefore I have the confidence that the good people of Orlu zone across party lines will vote for me.

Q. As an aspiring Senator, what are some of the legislations you intend to push if elected?

A. Basically, it will be people centered legislation. It will be centered on things that would have direct bearing on the lives of the people, issues on human development, education, health care, empowerment etc. When you talk about empowerment, it is broad. Looking at our nation and Orlu in particular, the middleclass is extinct. The only thing that can recreate the middleclass is to improve on our Micro Small Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) by empowering people on entrepreneurship development. When I was in the Federal House of Representative I brought Microsoft in conjunction with Lagos Business School to train youths of my Federal Constituency in Nkwerre. This is what I’m going to bring in the larger scale because our private sector contribution to the GDP is almost next to nothing and the only thing that can impact in Orlu GDP is skill acquisition, MSMEs. So it is only proper that I should be able to have at least, from my constituency projects, one skill acquisition center per federal constituency, to start with. Looking at the World Health Organization (WHO) standard, there shouldn’t be reasons for malnutrition amongst children, high mortality rate. So there is need to also improve on already existing health care centers.

Q. The All Progressives Congress (APC) is trying to get a foothold of the south-east. What do you think are your chances as the PDP Orlu senatorial candidate?

A. You can compare the cost of living in 2015 with what we have now. The Orlu people know everything now. They know the price of fuel, the exchange rate, price of building materials, price of food stuffs, etc. Orlu interestingly is an industrial hub. So they know the high cost of living, everybody feels it and they know what the situation was when PDP was in government. So they have the answers to this. I believe that the APC at the federal level have not done well, and whatever happens at the federal level trickles down to the state and the local government. So it is going to be a huge challenge for the federal government. They have even accepted and confessed with their own mouth that poverty is real in the land. The issue is that who will bail the cat? That is why, for some of us, we are stepping into the arena to ask God to use us to be the ones that will bring smiles on the faces of the people. I believe God will hear our prayers.

Q. What is your take on the Igbo quest for the presidency?

A. In my mind, it is a legitimate quest and Igbos, being major stakeholders in the Nigerian project, deserve the best. Looking at the life of Moses, when the chips are down, one is genuinely and spiritually empowered to defend the course of the people. Moses despite living in the palace of Pharaoh, even with the seeming goodies, at the end of the day, remembered where he was coming from. I will leave it at that.

Q. If you eventually win, what should members of your constituency expect from you?

A. Much will be expected. Taking a look at Esther, when her people were about to be killed, it took Mordecai to speak to the heart of Esther. Esther in turn used her position to call the attention of the king to save her people. With what is happening, not everyone will have the opportunity but the opportunity is given to one person to speak on behalf of others. So I believe that my primary assignment will be to speak on behalf of my people, to draw the attention of the National to issues that concern Orlu people in respect to security, economy, empowerment, dividend of democracy and only a strong voice can do that. Also, the scriptures remind us that when we hear the cry of the poor, the Lord will also hear us when we cry unto Him. This means that somebody at any point in time is expected to stand on behalf of the poor. Now I am already in the position of attending to the cry of my people. So, my prayer is that God will empower me by sending me to the National Assembly so that I can do that which pleases Him which is to serve and work “Maka odimma ndi Orlu.”My mission is geared towards ensuring achievement of my plan of action which include, creating a framework for the accomplishments of all the goals in my manifesto. As I said earlier, I shall work with Orlu Professionals Forum to set up a committee to craft a development Masterplan designed to leapfrog Orlu from its status of suburban area to an industrialized smart city. I shall operate functional constituency office and administrative framework to ensure the achievements of these objectives. I shall be a working Senator and not Senator-for-Show. Similarly, I shall devote my energies towards uniting the people, reviving our development unions and making them strong pillars in grassroot development in Orlu district. Similarly, I shall carry out extensive foreign tours aimed at reaching out to our sons and daughters abroad with a view to harnessing the potentials of our Diaspora and to attract their interest at home. There is a popular saying that it is not how much you know but how much you care. Care basically is the heartbeat of God. When I was hungry, you fed me, thirsty, you gave me drink, naked and you clothed me. And God gives accolades to such a person who shows care to others. I simply want that accolade to do that which pleases God and that is about being human, impacting on humanity and it is not at variance with the constitution of the country. Chapter 2 of the constitution states that the primary purpose in government is to take care of the security and the welfare of the people they govern. If every representative would uphold this for which all of us swore to, no country in the world would be better than Nigeria. That is why even outside government, I still go out impacting on the lives of the people, looking after the people, the widows, that is the heartbeat of God who called himself the father of the fatherless, the husband of the widows. And we need to have this as our guide in all our interactions with people and that is what I am determined to do and that is the very reason I need the very bigger platform that will bring better avenue for me to keep impacting on the lives of the people. All I need is for God to use me to do that which pleases him.

Q. How would you assess the political situation in the state in particular and the country as a whole under the ruling party, APC?

A. It is a common knowledge that the current APC government in the federation has failed to meet the expectations of Nigerians. With the current hardship, high cost of living, highest level of poverty experienced by Nigerians. Is it not annoying and disgusting that a bag of rice which sold at #8,000 as at May 29th 2015 is now selling at #40,000 per bag? Therefore the electorates in Orlu zone are poised to vote in PDP as their senator come February 2023. Left for the APC, they wouldn’t have amended the Electoral act. God in his infinite wisdom has said it that the hearts of the Kings are in his hands, and he can twist them to any direction he wills. I can tell you that when they signed that electoral act, they didn’t know and that is the beginning of progress but it was divinely orchestrated. You can remember the back and forth they went before the electoral act was signed, because if they could do it now why didn’t they do it in 2015. It wasn’t something that they willingly wanted to do but it was divinely orchestrated.

Q. In the recent past, Orlu zone has been a hot bed of insecurity. What are your plans to help restore security, peace and tranquility in the zone?

A. There is a saying that an idle mind is the devil’s workshop. If one is busy, it will reduce crime and insecurity. This is actually the reason people need to be empowered. If the people who operate the illegal oil bunkering can be exposed and undergo proper training, they will do much which will add so greatly to the GDP of the nation’s economy. This is the success story of China. China started by producing substandard goods and products. It was a burden of leadership to give proper training to those involved in the manufacture of substandard goods. And in few years time they started producing goods and products of high quality and today China is a manufacturing powerhouse in the world and a world economic power. The Nigerian government should mandate the International Oil Companies (IOC) to set aside 15% for the proper training and exposure of the youths involved in illegal oil bunkering activities. If this is done, I tell you, within a space of few years, these youths will start producing modular refinery. With this, you can change the lives of these youths for good and impart greatly on our GDP. In biology, there is something called Phenotype. Phenotype is the combination of one’s genes and environment. You can have the best genes that will give you high IQ, but if the environment is wrong your phenotype is useless. The two must work together. So it is our duty to provide the right environment so that the qualities which God has put in our people would have need to express positively for our own collective good. And it is the duty of the leaders to do that. That is why I am coming out to stand in the gap for them.Thus, I shall work to improve the welfare of Orlu people, and this shall reflect in the improvement on the Human Development Indices of the Zone. My key deliverables here shall include but not limited to: Building new Public Health Centre (PHCs) or upgrading existing ones in all the wards. This would serve as facilities for ensuring child nutrition, achieving lower maternal mortality rate as well as enhancing the overall health and well-being of the people; Equipping all the health facilities in Orlu Zone in keeping to World Health Organization (WHO) standards, namely: Public Education. Proper Nutrition, Clean Water & Sanitation, Maternal & Child Health Care, Immunization, Local Disease Control, Accessible Treatment and Drug Provision; Improving education through upgrade of school facilities, provision of instructional materials and thereby achieving increased enrollment and combating incidence of out-of school children in Orlu Zone; Building the capacity of the youth through inculcation of globally relevant and industry standard employment skills; Promoting youth development through job creation, entrepreneurship development, and engagement in sports and building leadership skills.

Q. What are your final words to the good people of Orlu?

A. My words to the people of Orlu would be to let God speak into their hearts. Let them ask God who He wants to be their Senator. They should be able to discern between time and seasons. There is a time to be a representative and there is a time to be a servant.
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