By Jude Atupulazi
Barrister Okoli Akirika, a stalwart of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, in Anambra State, and a former commissioner in the state , as well as former APGA State Secretary, in this interview with Fides Editor-in-Chief, Jude Atupulazi, speaks on the plans by the party to take over Anambra State in the next governorship election.
Your party, the PDP, is the opposition party in Anambra State, but the incumbent party appears to be in crisis over issues arising from the last election and also leadership, so how are you observing these developments?
Well, what is happening in APGA is not coming to me and to so many discerning minds as a surprise. The truth and indubitable fact is that glory has departed from APGA. APGA has failed very miserably and woefully to appreciate that the strength of the party derives from the element of moral authority. The affairs of the party are no longer being conducted in accordance with morality, equity and accountability. The party is no longer accountable to the members, the party is no longer accountable to the common man. They are no longer accountable to the electorate. That was why in the course of conducting their party primaries, they threw caution to the winds. You can see what is happening now, not just in Anambra State, but in the entire South East geo-political zone.
Bianca Ojukwu got disenchanted and left. She is no longer attending party functions. Victor Umeh is disturbing daily and exchanging fireworks with the incumbent national chairman, Victor Oye, and you see people now saying that Mbuze Agulu is on air; that he said if you know we ever collected money from you, you should go to that person and take your money.
So you can see that if you put together the entire affairs of APGA, we can say that APGA is now tossed about by the political wind. We can see that APGA is going back to the past as they keep having series and series of unending litigations. So if you add the political anarchy in the party to the unending litigations, you can see that at the end of the day, I don’t see APGA surviving the political tussle that is most likely to be the end product of what is happening. So with this background, one can safely say that it behoves members of PDP to put their house in order and offer to Ndi Anambra a veritable and acceptable alternative political platform. Once this is done, I entertain no doubt that once PDP gets united, once PDP puts it’s act in order, once PDP plays by the rules and ensures that a credible candidate is produced, I don’t think the party will be afraid to go into elections in Anambra State and come out victorious.
And apart from the issue of APGA primaries, it is now in the public domain that the government of Obiano has failed in all aspects of governance. You are moving from a stable debt-free state to one of the ranking states in order of indebtedness and no reason has been given for this. If he said he has been investing in industrialization or infrastructure in the citizenry, we can appreciate the fact that the govt is borrowing to fund better projects. But lo and behold, Anambrarians are not aware of any viable govt industry. Neither can we with certainty point to projects or infrastructure justifying the huge amount of debt running into billions of naira which this state is owing. Another aspect of it is that as at now one cannot pick the budget of Anambra State. It is truly disturbing that the budget of a state ought to be a matter of law. The State House of Assembly ought to pass it into law signed by the governor and made available to the citizens. From last year till date, I have made frantic and concerted efforts to get the signed budget of Anambra State as a law of Anambra State, but I have not been able to do that; either from the office of the governor, or from Anambra citizens. So there is need for Ndi Anambra to start to ask pertinent questions regarding the affairs of the state. Because I don’t want the governor to fail as a governor, because if he fails, the state has failed and if the state fails, the citizenry shall bear the brunt. So it is our abiding duty to make sure that due process is observed. The government should do everything possible to avail Ndi Anambra our duly passed and signed budget. So a situation where matters of governance, issues of finances, are shrouded in unwarranted secrecy does not augur well for the welfare of the citizens or to attain and sustain any meaningful development.
Inasmuch as we may look at the benefits that accrue to other parties in view of the problems APGA is facing as a party, we should also look beyond the issue of controversies and issues in APGA and concern ourselves with the ultimate welfare of Ndi Anambra. But that does not mean that if APGA fails to put her house in order; that Ndi Anambra shall team up and sing for the party. If APGA fails to put their house in order as they are now doing, they are only giving other political parties the opportunity. So that is why I said that PDP shall put their house in order to take advantage of the problems in APGA. So if you add the problems in APGA to obiano’s fully established mis-governance of the state, the only option for Ndi Anambra is to look for a viable political alternative.
I am aware that some notable individuals are lining up on the APGA platform to have a shot at the guber seat. Have any candidates in PDP indicated interest and how sure are you that they have enough quality to withstand the qualities that we have already seen in those contesting under APGA?
When it comes to character, PDP is not lacking. They say that charity starts at home, let me start with my own constituency. In Nnewi North, Nnewi South, Ekwusigo Federal Constituency, we have a very young man, very vibrant, very energetic, very hard working, Hon Chris Azubogu, popularly known as Mr. Projects, and he has been doing very wonderfully well. He has gone for his first tenure, gone for his second tenure and the people overwhelmingly voted for him. So PDP is not deficient or lacking in resourceful and resilient men to fly its flag. We also have Chief Ezeemo, the Umuchu born industrialist and philanthropist. He has all it takes. He has the character, he has the comportment, has the reach, has the humility and incidentally he is also from Anambra South. So you can see that PDP has all it takes.
If you want to go outside Anambra South, Uche Ekwunife is there. She is an acting senator, a ranking member from the House of Reps. We also have Obiora also from central. If we want to move up north, OHO, the man who flew our flag in the previous election, is also there. So from the North, through the Central, down to the South, we have a plethora of personalities who can confidently and conveniently fly PDP’s flag.
The truth must be told that it is the turn of the South to produce the next governor of the state. I have mentioned two names already, but that does not mean that our doors are shut against anyone. No, our doors are wide open. In law they say that you must put in a minimum of 18 months, so from now till 2021 is far more beyond 18 months. So people can come in and appreciate what the party stands for. So when the time comes, the party will conduct free and fair primary elections. Once a political party toils with its party primaries, what is playing out in APGA today will certainly repeat itself.
So what PDP needs to do is to put our house in order, then comply with our rules and regulations and ensure that all the contestants are given a level playing ground. I believe that we have all it takes to go into the battle and win the elections. If you take a look at what played out during the last elections, you can now notice that the political fortunes of PDP are improving on a daily basis. Now PDP has 2 senators against 1, with 6 House of reps against 5, having about 6 House of Assembly members against 1. So you can see that no matter how you look at it, PDP is gradually and consistently gaining grounds in Anambra State. The statistics are there and what is heart-warming is that this criss-crosses the geo political zones. We have a senator in Anambra North, a senator in Anambra Central. We have a member of House of Reps in Anambra South. We have members of Anambra House of Assembly in Anambra North, South and Central.
So PDP is gradually, steadily and persistently putting its house in order and getting properly situated and anchored to go into the battle and give APGA a very big fight. So barring any other unforeseen circumstances, if PDP maintains its steady growth, I think that by 2021 Ndi Anambra will be have a better alternative in governance.
Finally, knowing the problems that usually bedevil PDP in every election, are you sure that this time around you will go as one strong unit?
I made allusions to that in the recent past, PDP is putting their house in order and getting properly organized. The fortunes of PDP in politics are improving. Yes, Obaze suffered the usual PDP fate of having a house being against itself. But thereafter, it appears some lessons have been learnt, though in a very hard way. You would notice that during the presidential elections, PDP came out as a family. Even before then, it had properly organized party primaries. So we didn’t have the usual rancour attendant to PDP primaries. It was more of a family; very organised party primaries.
So following what is happening recently, which is that PDP is beginning to put its house together, PDP is beginning to tidy up her house, it is beginning to get properly situated, it is beginning to get focused because we are beginning to have some changes in the party and we say that PDP should not be judged by its previous rascality and its erstwhile disregard for due process. It should not be judged by its foregone banalities. PDP shall not be tied down to the ugly past, we have to be a little bit forward looking, we have to anticipate that in the course of time what started in the recent past will be gradually and steadily built upon to make sure that by 2021, we have a very strong political platform that will give Ndi Anambra the kind of leadership that Peter Obi offered that made us number 1 in virtually all aspects of life in the country.