I Will Take My Case Before A Tribunal And Recover My Mandates, Says Engr. Chinedu Onyeizu14 min read
By the time he joined the Abia South senatorial race in the run-up to the 2023 elections on the platform of the Labour Party (LP) from relative anonymity, Engr. Chinedu Onyeizu became an instant factor to reckon with.
Most of the ‘experienced’ aspirants for the plum seat at the Red Chamber, including the big and the mighty in the politics of Abia South, became jittery over Onyeizu’s immediate acceptability and growing popularity amongst the youths and increasing percentage of the old.
Many had wondered why a young and vibrant engineer of international repute with a flourishing career in the oil and gas industry at the management level could stick out his neck in the murky waters of Nigeria’s political space at the prime age of 38 years.
What political watchers didn’t know was that Onyeizu had developed an undying passion for remoulding the mindset of Nigerian youth for leadership impact. He believes that Nigeria’s future greatness lies squarely in the hands of the youth because of the dynamics of the time. The current spectator leaning of the youth towards political participation, despite signing into law the not-too-young-to-rule bill, does not help bridge the existing gap of youth involvement in the leadership of the country through the ballot. He also believes that the youth of this country have a lot to offer the socio-economic development of Nigeria in diverse ways.
He speaks his mind in this exclusive interview with Swift Reporters and shares his hope of retrieving his stolen mandate from the Saturday, February 25th, National Assembly elections.
Que: Can we meet you?
Ans: My name is Engr. Chinedu Onyeizu. I am the Labour Party Abia South Senatorial District for the 2023 Election.
Que: Tell us about your educational background.
Ans: I studied petroleum engineering at the Federal University of Technology (FUTO) in Owerri, Imo State. I graduated in 2002 and served in Bayelsa State for my NYSC. I graduated from FUTO as one of the top three people in the class. I was the best Corp member of the year. After that, I went to MIT, where I finished as a Snow Fellow for my Master’s Degree programme. I also studied at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government in Boston between then and now. I did my postgraduate education with an additional Master’s in Strategic Planning at Heriot-Watt University, UK, Scotland.
Que: Can you share your work experience with us?
Ans: My first job experience was with PTDF, which was in 2003 after my NYSC. I walked for PTDF for about four years. I was a research associate at the PTDF. My research work was focused on Nigeria’s Deepwater gas resources, so I had to work out a technology that would be used to repatriate Nigeria’s Deepwater gas resources, which earned me an award as the best young engineer in West Africa in 2006. I want was awarded by Pen Well Petroleum, United Kingdom. In 2007, I joined Chevron Nigeria Limited as a petroleum engineer. I worked at Chevron for about 15 years. I started as a petroleum engineer, and three years into the job, I rose up the cadre; I became the manager of a global project, so I was sent out to Pau, a city called Pau in France, for two years.
I return to Chevrons Nigeria Limited. Again, I grew in the ranks, and then in 2012, I was sent out to work for Chevron in Louisiana, USA, representing Chevron’s interests in its operations in Africa. It allowed me to work with Global and Chevron. In August 2021, I retired from Chevron in an early retirement programme. That is my work experience, and since then, I have worked as a consultant in the energy space. I open my own oil and gas energy consulting company. I have worked for three presidents or three governments since leaving Chevron. I have worked for the governments of Mauritius and Nigeria. I advise the office of the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osibanjo, on oil and gas issues, particularly the fuel scarcity problem and policy recommendations on how to solve the problem of fuel scarcity and the payment of subsidies. I also work for the President of Uganda. Last year, in June, I was in Uganda for two weeks, looking at the energy policies and framework that could help the government avoid the mistakes countries like Nigeria and other oil-producing countries in Africa have made. So looking back, I have been privileged to work with global leaders like Dr Dambisa Moyo, one of the most renowned economists from Gambia. So finally, my second attempt at running for the Senate In 2018, even while at Chevron, I contested for Senate under the APC political platform, but unfortunately I couldn’t go past the primary phase. Today, I am in court trying to recover my mandate as a Senator representing Abia South Senatorial District.
What are my drivers? I believe young people with capacity, young people with competence, and young people with credibility are supposed to participate in nation-building projects. I am concerned about energy laws. I am concerned about infrastructure laws. I am concerned about the condition of young Nigerians. You know, most of them are unemployed, and most of them require basic forms of empowerment for them to live up to their potential, so those are the key things that drove me to run for the Senate.
Que: What are your plans for Abia South when you reclaim your mandate?
Ans: Thank you for that question. For, I think the office of the Senate; there are two roles of a senator. You have the primary roles and the secondary roles. I believe the primary roles are to make laws, legislate, and then discharge oversight functions. You know of the MDA’s Ministries, Departments, and Agencies, and the secondary role of a senator is to attract foreign direct investment into your senatorial zone and carry out local projects, or what they call “constituency projects,” within your constituency. So for the first and primary role, that makes us the best-prepared campaign in the Senate if we compare ourselves with other candidates. In my primary role, I think the law on energy, which I want to promote, will be critical to the people and the development of the country. I think the Nigerian energy policy laws need to be revisited.
I don’t believe that as a country, with over 38 billion barrels of crude oil in reserve, we should be importing fuel and byproducts of petrol, so we need to look at the laws that are already in place and put in place a new law that will incentivize the establishment of refineries in the country. I want a scenario where oil companies that efficiently produce crude oil in the Niger Delta, such as Chevron, Mobil, Seplat, and so on, would incorporate a plan that would put in place the infrastructure for refining a percentage of the crude oil they produce in Nigeria. I believe if we do that, we would have excess product for domestic consumption, and then we could export whatever is leftover, which would naturally manage the problem of subsidy payments because, in that scenario, we would have enough to consume locally and any excess could be exported. On the gas phase or gas aspect of the energy law, Nigeria has flared its gas for over sixty years. It is interesting to note that Nigeria is blessed with over 200 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in reserves. Nigeria gas from what experts have said can sustain industrial development; can sustain the electrification of all our homes for over three hundred and five years.
So we just need to put in place laws that will incentivize the establishment of the key infrastructure for us to consume the gas that we currently flare. So if you look at the laws that we want to pursue, they are pro-economic growth, and that is what our candidature is about. The other law we want to pursue is what we call the REVI Law. REVI is an acronym for what we call a Relative Economic Value Index. It is an infrastructure framework law that will introduce some formal framework into the infrastructure developments we pursue in Nigeria and the development projects we pursue there. And just to put that into perspective, we recall a scenario where a minister, because of the lack of framework and infrastructure projects we pursue, decided to build a university of transportation in the middle of a desert, somewhere in Katsina, just to curry the favour of President Buhari and perhaps some cabals in the villa, without any economic driver. We also saw another scenario where the same minister decided to build a railway line between Abuja and another part of the continent, another country in Africa, the Niger Republic.
That project was done without assessing the economic value it was going to bring to the country. So these are the kinds of waste we as a people must manage or eliminate, and these are ways the Senate can come in to support the Executive in achieving a better Nigeria and a growing economy. So if we have a law that will prioritize infrastructure projects we pursue in this country, we will be able to reduce waste. So if such laws come into force, projects like the Aba-Port Harcourt motorway, if fixed, will help us evacuate trillions of dollars worth of Aba-made products from Ariaria to other parts of the world. Aba to Ikot Ekpene is another abandoned federal road that has been abandoned for the past twenty years, and we all agree that if it is fixed, markets in Akwa Ibom, Port Harcourt, and other parts of the world can access products made in Aba through the Onne seaports. So I have a lot of things I will work out immediately after we are inaugurated.
With regards to the secondary roles of a senator, I am already in final talks with Vance International. It is a company that manufactures bioethanol out of cassava and maize, and in our area or my senatorial zones, cassava and maize are primary agricultural products that we are good at farming, so Nigeria imports about three million litres of bioethanol, of which only nine per cent is produced in the country. So that tells you that you already have ninety-one per cent of the local demand for bioethanol. So if we bring in such foreign investors in our senatorial zone, it will only help introduce growth in the value chain of cassava. We will be able to move our country, and that represents what Peter Obi represents. He represents a system of government that will move us from a position of consumption to a position of production. So with those kinds of ideas, we tie into his vision of making us a producing country.
So that is just one of a lot of ideas and programmes we have already developed. We are only waiting for us to return or retrieve our mandate, and then we start doing all these things.
Que: What is your message for the youths in your constituency as you wait to retrieve your mandate?
Ans: Yes, my message for them is to stay calm and continue to stay calm and persistent. There has been a lot of agitation for them to go to the streets and demonstrate. I fear that if I allow them to do this, it might get out of hand because we all know what Aba is. When young people in Aba participate in a peaceful protest, it can easily get out of hand. So I want to tell them to stay committed to the cause. Their senator will not compromise for any reason now and will pursue my case to the level of a tribunal if it also needs us to go to the Appeal Court. I will escalate this to the appeals court. I will fight it to the last, and God willing, we will restore it. We will retrieve our mandate.
Que: What is your message for the voters concerning the coming gubernatorial elections?
Ans: So I want to urge them to troop out en masse and support all Labour Party candidates. They should vote for all our House of Assembly candidates, and they should all vote for our governorship candidate, Dr Alex Otti. If they do that, it will give us a lot more opportunity to bring the kind of transformational change we yearn for to Nigeria.
Que: Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe has been in the Senate for too long. Don’t you think he should allow a young man like you to step in?
Ans: Just to put things in perspective, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe has been in government for twenty years. For the first four years, he was a deputy governor in Abia State, after which he got into the Senate. He’s been in the Senate for sixteen years. God forbid, if he goes back to the Senate, it will be twenty years in the Senate. What we are saying is this and then that, and that is why we have the kind of followership and the kind of votes that we already have in Abia South. He was a senator for the first eight years under the ruling party, the PDP. He was a member of the PDP, the ruling party, and having spent the first eight years in the Senate, he wasn’t able to achieve any measurable developmental goals or attract any form of a project to the people of Abia South. His representation was lackluster, and we all know that. His excuse for not performing in his first eight years was that he was always dragged through the courts. Another eight years after the first, he was a senator under an opposition party, the APC. We also didn’t see any difference in the results.
So what our people are saying is that we believe the pattern he has been using for the past sixteen years has not yielded any positive results for the people of Abia South. If that pattern has not worked for sixteen years, we don’t believe that it will work for us if he is allowed to go into the Senate for another four years, so that makes the case for a new mind, a fresh mind to go into the Senate, and you try new ways of attracting developmental projects for the people of Abia South. As we speak, the road that passes through his own house in Abia State is impassable, in a very deplorable state. Young youths that are within Abia South are languishing in poverty. I know he’s not an executive or occupies an executive position, but those are secondary roles a senator can play to alleviate the poverty and suffering of the people within his senatorial zone. So just to speak to what happened, what transpired on the 25th of February, and I know we’ve not been able to talk about that.
On the 25th of February, I experienced the worst form of travesty of justice in the history of democracy in Nigeria. We saw a scenario where the election result coalition was completed by the early hours of Tuesday, the returning officer by the name of Professor Georgina Ugwuanyi came on the video to announce to every coalition officer of other political parties that the result was inconclusive due to numerous irregularities that were observed during the coalition processes, and then she announced that it was inconclusive and that supplementary elections will hold, and it was only for us to see her five hours after that announcement come back to the coalition with truckloads of military personnel and mobile police to announce Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe as the winner of the elections. That is not acceptable. We have it on record that over one hundred and eight polling units did not experience any form of election, and the sad part of it is that those one hundred and eight polling units are my strongholds. The Aba South, Aba North, and Obinwa areas are also the most densely populated local governments in the senatorial district.
Aba South and Aba North hold over 500,000 votes in total, and if you disenfranchise people in over one hundred and eight polling units, you won’t be able to get the correct figures that will support any declaration. Looking at the results that have been published already in the Aba Metropolis, we have an average of seven hundred votes per polling unit, on average, so if it is on record that one hundred didn’t conduct an election, that translates to seventy votes, so you cannot declare anyone the winner with a purported five thousand vote lead, To buttress my push for a rerun, we have also looked at the uploaded polling unit results on the INEC portal; the difference between Senator Abaribe and myself is less than 1,200. So I don’t know where they got the number they used in announcing him the winner, and that is what we like to see at the tribunal, which is the reason why we are going to the court. Finally, what has played out here is a scenario where a senator who has spent sixty years as a lawmaker of the Federal Republic of Nigeria spent his time gathering contacts of the INEC officials at Abuja, gathering contacts of the military battalion leaders in Nigeria, and gathering contacts of influential men in the country, while on the other hand, you have Chinedu Onyeizu, who spent his own time gathering contacts of poor and less privileged people of Abia State, who deserve quality representation.
I was spending time on the streets campaigning, understanding their problems, putting that together as part of my campaign, and also using that to develop a programme that would solve the teething problems of the people, and then at the end of the day you find him using those contacts to suppress the will of the people. So I want to ask my fellow Nigerians whether it is important; it is now mandatory that I know the chairman of INEC or influencers in INEC, and we need to know them before I can be able to win elections in Nigeria. Are they telling us I must know the commander in charge of the military before I can help us win an election? I think the proper thing is to know the contacts of the poor people of Nigeria and then canvass votes amongst them. Get them to vote for you. Let their votes be counted, and if their votes are counted, you win elections. I think that is more proper and honourable than working with the high people in society. I want this to be a form of motivation. My story would be a form of motivation for young Nigerians out there that are still struggling with the decision to throw in the towel in the ring for democracy for the elections and for them to participate in nation-building in the country.
Que: What will be your message if you are to meet Abaribe face-to-face?
Ans: I will tell you that as a lawmaker who has spent sixteen years in office, he should be the custodian of legislation and law in Nigeria. He was one of those who promoted the current electoral law, so why would he be violating these laws? So I will tell him to obey the will of the people. He has spent sixteen years; the people have spoken through the votes. They don’t want him again. So I prefer he takes a back seat and plays the role of an elder statesman. That is a very critical role, and Nigeria needs more of them, so if you have issues as a young person that wants to see progress, we can return to him for advice. Thank you.