In this interview with ENIOLA AKINKUOTU, the Chairman of the Lagos State chapter of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, Mr. Campbell Umeh-Nzekwe, who is also a Senior Special Assistant to the party’s national chairman, speaks on the crisis within the party and its plans for the 2015 general elections
What is the grouse the party has with former Governor Peter Obi, the first person to win a governorship seat on your party’s platform?
We asked him to conduct local government election in 2010 and he agreed and then we worked for him, he won a second term but he reneged. Conducting local government elections was the only way he could have kept the party on ground in the state. The party has not won a senatorial election in Anambra since 2003 because Obi refused to allow the party to have a foothold. That is the issue he is having with the national leader of the party, Chief Victor Umeh. Immediately Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu died, Obi withheld the money that comes from the local government, he will take it and give it to caretaker committees and when we insisted on election, he attempted to remove Umeh as national chairman and impose Maxi Okwu. That was how APGA got two chairmen but after series of court cases, Umeh finally won. Finally, Obi approached Umeh and as a party man, he forgave Obi and then Obi brought in his successor, Willie Obiano, and Umeh nominated the deputy governor and then we won the Anambra State governorship election.
But Obi is still having problems with the party?
Since he left office, have you seen him talk about APGA anywhere? Even the political summit that was held in Abuja, he did not promote APGA, he went there to campaign for President Goodluck Jonathan. He went there as APGA representative but he still fails to recognise Umeh as the leader of the party. Obi’s case now is that all the people he nominated as National Assembly members, who he used in signing support for Okwu, have now defected to the PDP. They were not sure of winning primaries in APGA that is why they ran to the PDP but they have no electoral value.
There is this rumour that Obi was supposed to be made the Minister of Aviation before it was given to the former Corps Marshal of the Federal Road Safety Corps, Osita Chidoka.
That is why I said Obi is after the PDP so he is avoiding APGA and does not want to be seen as an APGA man but wants to be a minister in Abuja. He lobbied PDP stakeholders who nominated him for ministerial appointment but the Presidency refused based on a petition by Emeka Ofor, Andy Ubah, Arthur Eze and others who said an outsider should not be given the position. He is not in APGA, he only pretends to be part of us. We are not after Jonathan. In 2011, there was no agreement of alliance or negotiation to support Jonathan.
But your party has declared to support Jonathan for re-election.
Who said the party has agreed to support Jonathan? Where was the decision taken? Those are mere speculations based on a rumour that APGA is an extension of the PDP because we did not contest in the presidential election in 2011 when Ojukwu was sick and finally died in 2012 that was why we had no candidate so we decided to support Jonathan. We are independent and the current defection shows that the PDP and APGA are not the same party. And we want anybody who wants to deal with APGA should come directly to us.
We fought the PDP in Anambra and Imo and we won them and we will win them again so what kind of accord do we have? Right now, our thinking is that all over the world, political power is negotiated and I am using this opportunity to tell President Jonathan and the PDP that APGA will not fold its arms and allow some political wanderers in the South-East to use the President’s name to disorganise us. Even some who cannot win their ward use Jonathan’s name to deceive people. We are telling Jonathan that we are going to negotiate both APGA and Igbo support for him. Our negotiation is that all PDP aspirants in the South-East for governor, Senate, House of Assembly and House of Representatives should step down for APGA. That was what happened in 1979 during the Shehu Shagari and Alex Ekwueme administration.
Politics is give and take. The PDP should choose whether it wants Presidency or governorship. Do they want governorship in South-East or Presidency? We cannot allow what happened in the South-West in 2003 between the PDP and the Alliance for Democracy where they supported former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s second term bid without studying the intricacies because it is hard to tell people to vote PDP for the Presidency and then another party at the state level. You cannot be contesting against us at the state level and we will be supporting your party at the national level, there will be confusion and the chances of Jonathan winning the South-East will be slim. The All Progressives Congress is there, dragging, APGA and PDP are also dragging and it will be messy.
Does APGA have the right to make any demand now? Since many people have left the party. You lost Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State to the APC and have now lost about six federal and state lawmakers to the PDP?
APGA is a movement for the Igbo race. Any party that says APGA and Ndi Igbo are not friendly is deceiving himself. Without manipulation, APGA has no competition in the South-East. Anambra State is a case in point. In Imo State, APGA is ready to take over. Forget the likes of Arthur Nzeribe, Achike Udenwa that have joined the PDP. Udenwa even ran for governor on the platform of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria and lost. As I am talking to you, we have no rival in the South-East. In fact, I am sure Okorocha is regretting to have left APGA because his supporters did not follow him to the APC. He can’t win one local government with the APC. He joined the APC because he was offered vice-presidency but the APGA he tried to bring in did not work out successfully. He joined as an individual and since he failed to bring in APGA, the APC cannot even field him as a vice-presidential candidate. The APC cannot win an election in the South-East. Okorocha never won a council election in his life before joining APGA. He once ran for Presidency and lost. In 1999, he was in the PDP and ran for governor and lost to Udenwa. In 2003, he ran on the platform of the defunct All Nigerian Peoples Party and lost the primaries to Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (retd). In 2007, he contested against President Umaru Yar’dua at the PDP primaries and lost. In 2011, he ran on the platform of APGA and won.
Why don’t you want to support Jonathan without condition since it is rumoured that Jonathan will hand over the Presidency to the Igbo in 2019?
That is not the issue. He can only handover to those on ground but the PDP is nowhere in the South-East. Most of the PDP governors in the South-East are leaving next year and the PDP will not continue ruling. The PDP has been using and dumping the Igbo. APGA is the only party that can give the Igbo what they want.
You have questioned Obi’s loyalty to the party. What of his successor, Obiano?
Obiano is a professional and is very intelligent. He knows that it is wiser to build your base like Governor Bola Tinubu did in Lagos rather than to go and join the PDP. He is busy with Anambra State and is a staunch APGA loyalist. We made him win and even when other candidates took the matter to the election tribunal, we supported him. He knows that charity begins at home and that APGA belongs to all of us. Where are the former PDP governors in the South-East today? Where is Orji Uzor Kalu in the PDP today? Where is Achike Udenwa in the PDP today? Where is Ken Nnamani? The PDP’s way is to use and dump and the only way Obiano can stand the test of time is to properly build his base.
How can your proposed deal with Jonathan work?
It worked between the National Party of Nigeria and the Nigerian Peoples Party to earn majority votes in the National Assembly, in 1979. The NPP controlled the South-East including Plateau and Benue being governed by Solomon Lar. The NPN won the North while Chief Obafemi Awolowo won the South-West. The NPN entered into an alliance with the NPP to earn majority votes in the National Assembly. They called NnamdiAzikiwe, the leader of the NPP then and they ceded the Speaker of House of Representatives to him and some other roles, they continued until 1983 when they jettisoned the idea because the NPN did not want to share power again. The election was rigged and then Buhari finally took over. So, Jonathan should learn from that experience, if you overdo things, the outcome may be bad so we are telling Jonathan that for him to win election and be at peace, he should tell PDP aspirants in South-East states to step down for APGA so that he can get the Igbo support in 2015.