Professor Jude Njoku was former Vice Chancellor, Federal University of Technology (FUTO), Owerri, Imo State and one of the governorship aspirants in the last party primaries on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
He expressed confidence that PDP will return to power at the centre, noting that former Vice President and the presidential candidate of PDP, Atiku Abubakar, will defeat President Muhammadu Buhari and candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in next month’s election.
Why did you back out of the governorship race?
It is not right to say I backed out because I took apart in the primary election and I didn’t get the ticket.
I didn’t get the ticket because I haven’t the kind of money that others I was competing with had. So, because you did not give huge sums of money to party leaders and delegates, they won’t vote for you. That is the nature of our politics the delegates’ election of PDP was not a direct primary where card carrying members of the party just vote. They were selected delegates who were given specific sums of money by the other aspirants to enable the delegates vote for them and I don’t have such amount of money to give out to those I intend to serve.
Even in the All Progressives Congress (APC) where direct primary took place in some states, there were cases of irregularities, why are you so sure that if PDP had allowed for direct primary, you won’t be shortchanged?
When you have direct primaries, the chances of vote buying become limited because people are too many and it will be difficult for an aspirant to buy all the card carrying members of the party. That was why I supported direct primaries as the fairest means to select candidates of PDP in Imo State. I know that at a meeting of the PDP Constitution Drafting Committee, direct primary was proposed, but it was ruled out because it would be marred by irregularities. So, the monetary inducement associated with delegates’ primaries outweighed the irregularities in direct method. Direct primaries show who is popular, but delegates’ primaries create opportunity for the highest bidder to get the party’s ticket.
It was alleged by some members in APC that the party’s governorship primaries in Imo State, where direct primary was deployed was marred by irregularities which led to Uche Nwosu’s exit from the party. Don’t you think that the problem is not the system adopted, but politicians?
Yes, I agree with you. Across political parties, Imo political space is adorned by people who from the beginning never want things to be done right.
Are you saying the candidates that emerged in PDP and other parties are not the choice of the people?
I think you can feel the pulse of the people. The feelings of Imo people can be seen on their faces because most of the party candidates are not the people they expected. They were expecting credible, knowledgeable and people with very clear cut antecedents to take over governance at all levels in the state, but that did not happen. You need to listen to the people talk and you find out that a lot of people are disappointed at the caliber of people that emerged candidates of the parties. It is unfortunate that the same people who have kept the state backward are still the standard bearers of virtually all the political parties in all the positions. They thought there was going to be a new generation of politicians, people whose faces are new, but what did they have? The same old people who are the problem of the politics of the state. These are people who will never allow anything to be done properly.
Is there a future for Imo people with the quality of candidates in this general election?
I don’t expect any miracle from these calibers of candidates because they cannot give what they don’t have. I don’t want to be personal, but I want you to monitor the feelings of Imo people and the general feelings are that the primaries did not produce right caliber of people that can turn the state around. Imo people were expecting people with high pedigree and technocrats as candidate of the major political parties. People with track records, people whose capacity is not in doubt, people we know what they are capable of doing in the future. Imo electorate expected a paradigm shift, a new crop of people that would have changed the narrative based on their knowledge and experience.
Sometimes ago I was discussing with a friend and he said it seems Imo is cursed just a way to say a family is cursed, Imo is cursed.
You talked about paradigm shift earlier, what become of power shift to Owerri zone which you canvassed for?
Go and listen to the so called Owerri people, they are saying different things. Some of them are in political parties that do not field Owerri people as governorship candidates. People from the zone have allowed their personal interests to override the overall interest of Owerri people. Therefore, in the circumstance, we have only one major Owerri man as candidate of one the major political parties and that is Emeka Ihedioha of the PDP. Even at that, you hear people from the area saying that they will support either the candidate from Okigwe or the one from Orlu. They are not united. So, it poses a danger.
If you had picked the PDP’s ticket, would you have united them?
Just before the primaries there was a general thinking that there was going to be a division in the PDP if Emeka Ihedioha or Senator Sam Anyanwu picks the PDP governorship ticket because if any of them gets the ticket, the other will fight. Therefore, the right thing to do was to look for a rightful candidate. Somebody of my caliber who is acceptable both to Ihedioha and Anyanwu and that was the wish of the generality of the party faithful. But who will speak out? Nobody! That is failure of leadership. The leadership which would have spoken about it had already taken sides and the ordinary members who saw the internal fighting going on, proposed the other option, but nobody had the courage to say this is the right step to take.
Are you saying PDP in Imo is divided now based on the choice of its candidate?
You can see it with your eyes that the party is divided. Ihedioha got the ticket and Senator Anyanwu went to court. So, it is clear that there is division in Imo PDP. We are trying to close up the division.
Are you confident of Atiku/ Obi ticket for the February 16 presidential election?
Why not, the ticket is flying already. As far as I can see, if APC does not rig the election, Atiku will defeat Buhari. In a free and fair election, Atiku will win Buhari.
Even when Atiku did not consult South-East stakeholders like you before selecting Obi as his running mate?
The fact that some people are complaining that they were not consulted does not reduce the quality of Peter Obi’s candidature. You can see it in the last debate. Obi was very outstanding and had a grasp of what economic issues are and issues of development and good governance in Nigeria. Obi is a man of high caliber and he is loved and respected not only by Igbo but Nigerians based on his performances as governor of Anambra State. I’m also aware that those grievances have been addressed when Atiku visited.
Are you undermining the power of incumbency?
Like I said earlier, if the election is free and fair, Atiku will defeat Buhari. I know there is the possibility and tendency of the incumbent to want to try to rig. So, that is why I say in a transparent and credible election, Atiku will win.
Many are of the few that Atiku is not dwelling much on how to fight corruption like this government is doing. It seems PDP may not fight corruption like APC is doing, what is your view?
Why would you expect PDP to be saying the same thing or making the same emphasis as APC? We are debating and you mentioned your programme, making fight against corruption your flagship and you will expect me to make the same issue my flagship? It doesn’t work. We also do know that they are not fighting corruption. If you ask me, the first event that will tell me someone is fighting corruption is when I see policemen not collecting money at checkpoints. The mere fact that today, policemen stand on the road and collect money openly all over the country is the first sign that Buhari is not fighting corruption. You don’t see this happen in any developed country. How can you see policeman collect money on the road including the military and other paramilitary agencies and the APC said they are fighting corruption? This should have been the number one index that they are fighting corruption. Buhari is just witch-hunting his political enemies using EFCC and other anti- graft agencies. That’s all he is doing. What is more than nepotism?