Anyaoha: Ojukwu, Chekwas, Peter Obi Igbo heroes of democracy

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* Reveals how Peter Obi aided the Progress, Survival of APGA
* Says, situation ripe for APGA to reclaim Imo State

The crisis currently rocking the Imo State Chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) following alleged plans by the State governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha to install his son in-law,Uche Nwosu, as his successor in 2019 has drawn the attention of political enthusiasts who wish to see a better situation of things in the State.

In this interview with THEO RAYS, an Onitsha-based legal practitioner, Barr Emeka Anyaoha, who hails from Imo State but has at different times contested election in Anambra and Imo States and has also served as the legal adviser to APGA in the South East, speaks on the politics of Imo State, the APGA project and the impact of the founding fathers of the party on democracy in Igbo land, and expectations in 2019, among other issues.

Excerpts:

Let’s start with your sojourn into politics, your view about politics and experiences too having played politics both in Anambra and Imo States respectively?

Naturally, man is a political animal, very jealous in nature and cohabit the society with other fellows among whom he strives to be the best he can, thus politics and politicking are inevitable to man.

To me, I have over the years participated in politics and politicking at different levels from the ward level to the local government, State and regional, upwards to the national level. I worked primarily with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) at a time when the party bestrode the entire political space in Nigeria.

I worked with my mentor and godfather, the late Chief Joseph Igwe alias Bolingo who was the proprietor of the popular Bolingo Hotels. I also worked with the late Vice President of Nigeria Dr Alex Ekwueme. These opportunities of working with great men came through the auspices of my in-law Mrs Jesse Balonwu and her husband who was also my mentor and godfather Chief NnabuenyiBalonwu (SAN).

Given this interesting opportunity and exposure I had in PDP, I aspired to go to the Federal House of Representatives in Abuja to represent the good people of Onitsha North and South Federal Constituency but unfortunately, I lost at the primary election.

I had the ambition to go to the National Assembly to contribute my quota to the development of Nigeria in general and to the development of the commercial city of Onitsha in particular but my ambition couldn’t see the light of day because something went wrong somewhere.

Some elements in the party ganged up against me on the grounds that I am not an indigene of Onitsha and therefore I should be dropped for Onitsha indigene. So they denied me the ticket of the PDP for the Federal House of Representatives election in 1999. I was provoked, annoyed and totally discouraged about politics. However I learnt my lesson that politics can either make or mar you.

I also learnt that in most cases, it is not the best candidate that wins the party primary and the main election too. Really, I was disappointed because I was the best candidate for the election as far as the PDP was concerned and for the fact that I was not fielded as the flag bearer of the party even as the best candidate, PDP lost the election to the defunct All People’s Party (APP) which later became All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP). Nemesis caught with PDP and they lost the election to less popular party then.

After losing the PDP ticket, what next did you do? Did you stick out your neck for PDP, as a faithful party man or did you abandon the party like many politicians did and or do?

No, while nursing the hurt that I suffered in PDP, I didn’t give up on politics and politicking. I switched over to All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) when the party was formed because of the ideology and manifesto of the party.

Though I wasn’t part of the people that created both the ideology and the manifesto of the party, I was impressed with APGA’s pro-Igbo ideology and manifesto. I doff my cap for the founding fathers of APGA. I doff my cap for ChekwasOkorie, alias OjoziNdigbo.

I doff my cap in nostalgic memory for the late Biafranleader and IkembaNnewi, Dim ChukwuEmekaOdumegwuOjukwu, the man who will never die in the minds of his people. I doff my cap for former governor of Anambra State, Mr Peter Obi who, along with Ojukwu, moved APGA on a fast lane to win the first governorship seat as a political party in 2003 and took APGA to the Promised Land by showcasing what Nigerians were yearning for in governance.

I also doff my cap for the only Senator of APGA extraction Senator Victor Umeh, a beneficiary of the APGA project and all those politicians who have invariably contributed in several ways to move APGA forward. Specifically people like Ojukwu, Chekwas, PeterObi and Umeh are heroes of democracy in Igbo land and they deserve special place in our democratic journey.

In APGA, I worked as a legal adviser and again I contested State House of Assembly for the seat of Ideato North State Constituency and lost to PDP. PDP muzzled me out of the race to the State House of Assembly by fire by force.

I won the election but they thwarted the result in favour of the PDP; I have the result sheet and everything showing that I won but they refused to concede victory to me. After that, I came back to my Chambers and began to reminiscent on politics.

As a victim of politics of indigene and non-indigenes in Onitsha in those days, what do you think could be done to effectively deal with it because it is still creating problems in political circles?

Philosophers have observed that man born free is everywhere in chain. In Nigeria, people are politically in chain following the issue of indigenes and or non-indigenes. The 1979 Constitution as well as 1999 Constitution as amended are supposed to have measures to deal with the problem but, unfortunately, they don’t.

So, as a lawyer, it is my earnest wish that the National Assembly should enact and promulgate laws and policies that are good enough to address the issue once and for all. People should be allowed to participate in politics the way they participate in business outside their homeland.

People are free to do business, go to school, build houses, get married and have children outside their homeland but when it comes to politics of contesting election, some elements will suddenly remember that you are not an indigene.

That is not acceptable because such is a huge sign that we are still backward politically. People should be allowed to contest election outside their native lands the way they are allowed to do business, go to school, build houses, get married and have children outside their native lands.

How would you assess the progress of the APGA project considering that the party has largely failed to make inroad outside Anambra State?

As I said earlier, I have special tribute to ChekwasOkorie, the late IkembaNnewi and Peter Obi for their efforts and contributions for APGA. Peter Obi in particular aided the progress APGA in many ways and ensured the survival of the party.

I give you one or two examples of the impact of Obi on APGA. After the governorship election in 2003, Peter went to court to challenge the victory of Dr Chris Ngige of the PDP who was declared winner of the election.

Somehow along the line, the leaders and other stalwarts of APGA, including myself, decided that since Ngige was doing well,he should be allowed to continue in office. Really,Ngige, unlike his immediate predecessor, was doing well but his own party, the PDP was fighting him from the back, left, right and centre.

On this note that Nigige was doing well, the leadership of APGA decided to withdraw APGA from the case filed at the election tribunal. APGA as a party pulled out of the case but Peter Obi refused to withdraw from the case and eventually at the end of the day, the Court of Appeal gave judgment in his favour.

So, based on that judgment,Obi became the saviour of APGA because if Ngige had won the case, am sure APGA couldn’t have produced a governor in Anambra even at this moment.

Secondly, as governor, Obi preformed wonderfully well and his performance made APGA very much acceptable to the good people of Anambra State. Obi was the key to the progress of APGA as a political party.

Obi used everything he has, his connections, his business acumen and sagacity to give Anambra best governance ever under the platform of APGA and that made the party strong in the State. No sane person can take that away from Mr. Obi.

Critics are wondering why Obi and Umeh could not move APGA outside Anambra State.

The issue is not about Obi and Umeh; it is about politicians accepting APGA as a platform to do politics and politicking. During the 2003 election, there was a committee set up by the leadership APGA to persuade the governors of the South East to use the platform of APGA to contest election in 2003 but all of them refused. Governor Clement Mbadinuju of Anambra State may be regretting not accepting the APGA overtures.

When it was clear that PDP would not give Mbadinuju the ticket to seek re-election in office, Mbadinujuwas advised to embrace APGA and invest in the party but he refused because he was looking for an already-made party. He ended up pitching his tent with Alliance for Democracy (AD) and failed to retain the governorship seat under AD.

So, the progress of APGA depends on politicians. From what APGA is doing in Anambra State, it is clear that the party is a good and great party, so let politicians embrace the party, invest in it and use the platform of the party to contest election so that the party could replicate what it is doing in Anambra at Abia, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo State respectively.

In Imo State particularly, the situation is ripe for APGA to reclaim the State and it is my earnest wish that the candidate of APGA will be declared winner of the governorship election in 2019 in Imo State.

A governor is a governor regardless of the party. There is nothing different between an APC governor and PDP or AD governor and so on. The difference between governors is performance. APGA has a well thought-out ideology and manifesto and what is happening in Anambra State under APGA shows that the party means business of good leadership for the people.

Are you now asking politicians in APC, PDP and others from the South East in particular to defect to APGA?

It is not about defecting. When you talk about defection, your are referring to the legislators in the State House of Assembly or National Assembly leaving one party for another. It is about people accepting APGA and investing in it as a platform to contest election on. As I said, a governor is a governor regardless of his political party.

A Senator is a Senator regardless of his political party. A Rep is a Rep regardless of his political party and so on, so why can’t they embrace APGA, invest in it and use it to play politics? Why? No reason, by my own judgement.

In next year’s general election, where would you like the Igbo people to pitch their tent? In APC, PDP, APGA, SDP or Obasanjo’s Third Force with ADC?

Ndigbo should focus on capacity-building at home. Let us be stronger at home to the extent that we have a bloc force courtesy of a bloc vote for bargaining power. Let us, for goodness sake, embrace APGA and build on it for bargaining power. That is where I want Ndigbo to pitch their tent.

Buhari for second term; is it worth it?

It is not worth it. What did he achieve in his first term to deserve a second term? In his first term,we have seen security, the economy and the Naira crash. We have seen unemployment balloon; his so-called fight against corruption also crashed. Everything about governance crashed in his first term, so what is he coming to do in his second term? To me, the answer is nothing.

Do you have any ambition for 2019?

My political ambition is to see Nigeria as a country in good hands. And to see Ndigbo form a strong political bloc under APGA and use the bloc to negotiate for better political deal at the centre.


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