Osita Okechukwu, VON DG: Imposition, impunity cost APC Anambra governorship – Daily Sun
The Director General, Voice of Nigeria (VON), Osita Okechukwu, has bemoaned the abysmal performance of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the just concluded Anambra State governorship election.
In an interview, the APC stalwart poignantly told VINCENT KALU, that the party wanted to use the election as a bargaining chip for the president of Igbo extraction in 2023.
Anambra State governorship election has been won and lost. What lessons should be learnt from the exercise?
My brother, the lesson is simple; that imposition and impunity cost us an election we could have won, no matter how slim. The folly is that when our candidate won the party primary election with over 230,000 votes, my friend called me and was happy and was jubilating. And I asked what’s up, and he said that with a vote-bank of over 200,000, there was nothing stopping the APC from victory. That was the hope raised to the highest then.
Indeed this was an election we plotted to be our springboard to having a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction in the 2023 presidential election. We had gathered momentum, which carelessly had been flushed away. To be honest, one has been reluctant to grant an interview on our great party’s disastrous outing in the Anambra State governorship election. Who will ever dream that we cannot win a local government area? It was an unenforced error, for the APC’s Constitution in Article 20, clearly warned us that imposition breeds discontent and crisis.
What’s fantastic about the Article 20?
When one with nostalgia remembers the efforts of Aremo Segun Osoba and Co of the Constitution Sub-Committee of the APC’s merger committee at Chief Tom Ikimi’s Maitama house, one weeps.
Once, I confronted Chief Osoba, and told him that, one thought it was better for him to join us in the Manifesto Sub-Committee, as a media guru, but he quipped and said, ‘when we finish, go and read Article 20’, that’s why he chose the constitution committee. I weep that what Chief Osoba and co ingrained in black and white in our great party’s grundnorm, we deliberately breached at each turn. And it has continued to hunt us since 2013, especially in the 2019 general elections. Imposition-impunity was why we lost uncountable legislative seats, and gubernatorial elections. And we could have lost the presidential election, but for President Buhari’s 12 million vote-bank. We lost states like Bauchi, Zamfara, Sokoto, but Mr. President got majority votes.
How come you reposed so much confidence on Article 20?
The hope is based on the fact that the leadership of our great party in their own wisdom decided on consensus and I’m of those who upheld consensus as the best mode given the prevailing circumstance. Here is Article 20, ‘All party posts prescribed or implied by this constitution shall be filled by democratically conducted elections at respective National Convention or Congress subject, where possible, to consensus. Provided that, where a candidate has emerged by consensus for an elective position, a vote of “yes” or “no” by ballot or voice shall be called, to ensure that it was not an imposition, which could breed discontent and crisis.” The outcome of breaching this all important article is our loss.
Do you think the way the APC is structured that its leadership can stop what you called imposition-impunity?
Yes, imposition cannot continue because APC is a comeback party. We learn from our mistakes, introspect and change our approach. As a matter of fact, we have to restore the faith of foundation legacy members of our great party. Mr. President, for instance, will remind all of us party leaders the pledge he made to Nigerians, that he will bequeath a credible, free and fair election legacy. He will admonish quietly some of us for such misadventure. If you recall, he was kind of reluctant in raising our candidate’s hand. This is not the end of the road, even for Senator Andy Uba, the possibilities are open. Age is on his side and he can spring surprises in the nearest future.
However, let me state clearly that imposition-impunity is not peculiar to APC. In fact, methinks it was PDP, which exported into our great party the current imposition-impunity menace, especially in the South-East APC. This cannot be divorced from new migrants from PDP by those ‘Food is Ready’ politicians who regard APC as a rehabilitation centre.
Check closely and carefully, for modesty will not allow me to mention names. The Card Reader and its brother, the Biomodal Voters Accreditation System will be our savior. Failure will be our best teacher in future primaries and congresses.
What has Smart Card Reader or Biomodal Verification Accreditation System (BIOVAS) got do with APC leadership that seems to rely so much on their proverbial federal might?
There’s my father’s story, which reinforced my fate of how technology can change generational attitude of a cynic people like Nigerians. Technology no doubt will reinforce the social contract between the elected president, governors, and legislators and the electorate. Technology has commenced the transformation of psyche to be more loyal to the electorate than godfathers. It is a revolution. If federal might was deployed, APC could have won Anambra squarely. This was the folly of those who continue to breach Article 20 of APC Constitution.
You didn’t narrate your father’s technology story. Can you in summary tell us the story for the interest of our readers?
My father of blessed memory was a bicycle repairer, serving the coal industry in Enugu in the 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s. He had a young student friend who often visited his uncle, a coal miner, for holidays. When his uncle went into the coal mine, he spent time with my father helping in his workshop. In 1958, he got scholarship to Imperial College to study Mechanical Engineering and my dad celebrated him with his tokenism. In his thank you response, he advised my father to go and learn how to repair motor vehicles. My dad was very angry. His anger was based on the fact that then there were not up to ten vehicles in the whole of Eastern Region. He refused to follow technology and remained with the bicycle. And not quite long, vehicles of all manners started streaming into Nigeria, and the bicycle was almost phased out. My dad regretted rejecting the advice and told us to always follow new technology.
Methinks, it will be same with tremendous improvement in our electoral process if we continue to adopt new technologies.
The APC members in the South-East were full of optimism that Anambra would fall for the party. But the party performed below expectations. What happened?
Exactly. We were excited and optimistic based on many reasons. One, we were second successively in 2013 and 2017 and expected to come first this time. Secondly, we had almost gained buy-in from major stakeholders that going by the zoning convention, that it is the turn of Ndigbo or, as some prefer, South-East. I’m expansive in this matter and we drummed that to put an end to IPOB and all manner of separatist agitations, arguing that the best is to give APC a sound foothold in our geopolitical zone. Thirdly, we have good infrastructure narrative than PDP in the geopolitical zone. PDP promised Second Niger Bridge for 16 years to no avail and President Buhari came and awarded the N200 billion project from the scratch, lifting the first bag of cement, first rod of iron and first shovel of gravel. Ditto Enugu- Onitsha, Enugu-Port Harcourt et al reconstruction.
Going by the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing report there are 35,000 kilometres of federal roads, out of which over 13,000 kilometres are under construction, and some have been completed by Buhari’s regime from 2015 to date. This record is unprecedented.
Why and what went wrong?
Mpu. Don’t forget that Mpu as Igbo word was adopted by English as a living language into impunity, same meaning. I’m not saying that Senator Andy Uba is not qualified to run, far from it, but the process. Very untidy primary.
Does it suggest that the South-East detests the party?
No! We were taught in Political Science class that when a political party has low approval rating, the best solution is to go for the most popular candidate to square up, especially when everyone knows that in terms of infrastructure, APC is head and shoulders above PDP. So, on the issue of marginalisation, the best solution is for the first time for an Igbo to preside over Nigeria. As I said earlier, there are several advantages going for Nigerian president of Igbo extraction.
But some of those opposed to having a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction are afraid that it may lead to secession, contrary to your position?
One has heard of such musings and even more bizarre spins, all meant to either retain power in certain regions, or tarnish the image of Ndigbo. But my questions are many. Who is a patriot? Is he the man who lives in every town, if not hamlet, of our dear country and builds houses and invests in there, or the one who refuses to even serve a federal appointment outside his region?
Are you saying that Ndigbo are not aggressive and may not cause trouble?
I will be an idiot to categorise my people as angels or saints, no. There’s the good, the bad and the ugly in every tribe, race and gender. What I’m saying is that stop separatist agitations, create a sense of belonging, national loyalty and national unity by giving Ndigbo the 2023 presidency. It will be the end of the civil war and Nigeria will turn a new leaf. An Igbo more than any other tribe will advance better the infrastructural development foundation laid by President Buhari. He or she will enthusiastically unite the country better and accommodate others better. I stand to be corrected.
South-East APC stakeholders like you had hoped to use Anambra as a bargaining chip for the presidency coming to the zone. Has that dream not turned forlorn?
Permit me to ask; when Chief Olusegun Obasanjo became the first beneficiary of the zoning convention, did he win Abeokuta local council as stipulated by the guidelines then? My canvas is that the zoning convention is as relevant today as it was in 1999. Nigeria is still a fragile state, more or less ethno-religiously divided today than in 1999. I know the sweetness and allure of power, yet to avoid Somalia, lets continue the bonding of our dear nation and to do all we can to engender ones. Methinks that we should continue the zoning convention. My appeal to our Northern brothers is to put Nigeria first, not their self-interest or regional interest. An Igbo may even develop the North and by extension Nigeria better. We must not forget the labours of heroes – Adamu Ciroma, Sola Saraki, Abubakar Rimi, Umaru Shankifi, Shehu Yar’Adua et al of blessed memory who shelved their personal ambitions for national unity.
Considering the state of the nation, insecurity, economy, do you think APC can win the presidency in 2023?
Yes! Yes! Yes for many reasons. One is the old maxim that politics is a game of number and most importantly victory premised on performance. On number, APC governs 22 states out of 36 and the major opposition political parties share the rest. What this means is that in the presidential election, APC will most likely poll the highest votes and make the proverbial and mandatory two thirds spread.
Methinks that we are even discussing the probability of APC’s victory because of the insecurity and consequent economic down turn. Otherwise, President Muhammadu Buhari’s legacy will be that of Mr. Infrastructure – physical, social and unprecedented agrarian revolution. I sincerely believe that with all the kinetic and non-kinetic security infrastructure being deployed, insecurity must abate before the 2023 general elections. Take for instance, the construction of ranches definitely will curb farmers/herders clashes.
When you talk of ranches, how do you consider the Southern Governors Forum that seems to be weary of ranches?
My own is only appeal to the Southern Governors Forum to kindly adhere to the National Livestock Transformation Plan (NLTP), which they weaved in 2018 under the National Economic Council. The NLTP, to me, is one of the most pragmatic solutions to the incessant menace of farmers/herders clashes, which is not only threatening our corporate existence, but has induced food insecurity and high cost of food. Do you know that the farmers/herders clashes have created unnecessary enemies in our fatherland? Ranches become the antidote to this unforced menace.
People have said the South-East has the worst of roads in the country. Could this be one of the reasons they see your party as anti Igbo?
President Buhari has addressed the bad roads better than any other regime since the return to civil rule in 1999. One has highlighted the over 13,000 federal roads embarked upon by the same regime as enunciated by Babatunde Fashola, the Minister of Works and Housing. May I point out that most of the roads were abandoned after the budgeted monies were either squandered or siphoned. Even the Lagos-Ota-Abeokuta Road, which Chief Obasanjo awarded to one of the most proficient companies in Nigeria – Julius Berger. If the 500 kilometre Kano-Maiduguri was fixed before 2015, Buhari could have deployed the billions being used to other vital projects.
While other railway projects in the country have been or are being upgraded to standard gauge, the contract for the Eastern corridor is still with the old, moribund gauge. Doesn’t this type of discrimination give you concern?
One cannot agree with all your submission or dismiss it either, for I’m aware that while the narrow gauge is on board, the Hon Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Rotimi Amechi is working with British Africa Business Alliance (BABA/MPH) Consortium for Standard gauge rail line from Port Harcourt to Maiduguri, crossing about 18 states. I’m not his spokesman, but when I remember that he comes from the same zone, I remain calm. Don’t forget that he simulated the Deep Bony Seaport. It is better to give the minister the benefit of the doubt. Time will tell.
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The Director General, Voice of Nigeria (VON), Osita Okechukwu, has bemoaned the abysmal performance of the All…
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