Jeff Amechi Agbodo, Onitsha
Chief Basil Ejidike is the acting Chairman of All Progressives Congress (APC) in Anambra State. He was former Chairman of Onitsha South local Government Area and a former commissioner in Anambra Education Commission. He speaks on how APC is working hard to win the state’s governorship election in 2021.
What is APC’s plan for 2021 Anambra State governorship election?
Well, you should not forget that you are talking about a national party which is at the centre. Actually before now we have not been able to put our house in order in the state and since after the last general elections you realised that the party has taken some steps to reposition itself in the state and the first thing we did was setting up of the facts finding committee to find out exactly what we have as our problems and as we are talking about problems we are also talking about the area of strength and the committee has submitted its reports which we are looking into with a view to implementing some of its recommendations. But before now we have been able to set out some steps that we must undergo within the next 12 months and I’m sure by the time we are able to pull through these steps we would have been able to reposition the party. This is because one thing I have come to understand is that in terms of the content and human capacity, I think we have more than enough of that in the party in Anambra State because name any political stakeholder in the state that does not in any way belong to APC. I think the problem has been that we have not been able to knit together all the potentials we have to be able to forge ahead and that is exactly what we are doing.
Are you saying that you have the capacity to win the Anambra governorship in 2021?
Yes, more than capacity to win the state. Then, I ask you, just name any political stakeholder in Anambra State, you will found out that most of them are in APC but the problem we are having is that we have too many hands and because they have not been able to come together before now, it has not been easy for the party to come together and move ahead. You know that a house divided against itself will not stand and that is the problem we are having. The focus now is to unite the various stakeholders and the moment we are able to do that it would have gone a long way. I know we have all it takes to take back Anambra State because in terms of number, we have the numbers. By the special grace of God, my leadership is doing everything we can to unite the stakeholders to take over the state in next the election.
What could be attributed to the performance of your party in last general elections where none of your party candidates won any seat in both National and state assemblies?
Yes, it boils down to the problem I have been talking about, that the party before now had not been able to put its house together. But if you talk of the number of votes delivered this time for the president, of course we did more than what we did in the 2015 general elections. The party had between 15,000 and 18,000 votes in the state but in 2019 presidential election the party got between 33,000 and 40,000 votes. For me that is not something we had all expected but the fact remains that there was a remarkable improvement from below 20, 000 to over 30,000 votes and that is something one should be happy about anyway. The fact is that we are at the point of putting our house in order and once we are able to do that the party will be stronger. If you look at the membership of the party, at least from the register I saw, we have over 250,000 members, what has happened to those registered members of the party in the state and that is what we are trying to look into and the moment we are able to do all these, we will be able to achieve all the achievable.
What achievement has APC recorded or attracted to the South East geopolitical zone in the last four years?
That is one area our people have not come out to appreciate so much. When you are talking of APC, you are talking about a national party, a party at the centre and of course centre is where everybody wants to belong. If you are not within the house and you are talking from outside, you know there is a big difference from somebody who is within and the other from outside, they are not the same. In terms of what we have benefited from Anambra State and in the South East as a whole, our people have benefited immensely from this party just within four years. Within this period, the APC has been able to achieve what PDP as a national party then was unable to deliver to Igbo people within the 16 years of PDP with all the involvement of our people. When we had the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), when we had the minister of Finance and coordinating minister on economy, when we had Deputy President of the Senate and Deputy Speaker of House of Representatives, yet in terms of infrastructure development, we have nothing to show but within the four years of APC alone, are you talking about the road infrastructure; the Enugu-Onitsha expressway of course you see the nature and the quality of the road, the layers of the road is about two feet, it’s unprecedented, the road is undergoing serious rehabilitation, then you talk of Oba-Nnewi-Amaichi-Uga federal highway, just go there you will see a massive work going on there. Then you talk of Zik’s Mausoleum that is just completed and commissioned as a final resting place for our own first president of Nigeria, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe even when the former president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan added Zik’s name to his own just to garner support from Igbo people. But at the end of his tenure he did not honour the man he named himself after. It is President Muhammadu Buhari who came and took over the project that was abandoned, he completed and commissioned it.
Are you talking of the second Niger bridge that was used to achieve political gains for the last 16 years? When this administration came in, President Buhari took it up and instead of two lanes, it was converted to three lanes each on both sides that is six lanes and the entire project is now going to cover over 11.5 kilometres, isn’t that not a major achievement? Is it Nwafor Orizu College of Education that is now being upgraded to a university status or the school feeding system where our children in school are now being fed from the central purse and with that programme came a massive employment for our people, just as cooks and goods suppliers from the zone are making good business from it. The vice president visited Anambra State two months ago to commission and kick start the Tradermoniand Market Moni empowerment programmes in the state to and Anambra people will be the beneficiaries. All these things as far I am concerned are enough achievements because they have been there before now. You are on ground and you should be able to point out to me one major project that was done and executed by PDP in the last 16 years in Anambra State even when we had all the manpower. So out of these two presidents (Jonathan and Buhari) who then would you say favoured Igbo people in terms of achievement?
What is your take on 2023 presidential election?
When it comes to that issue, we must tell ourselves the simple truth, what you put is what you get at the end of the day. You cannot plant coconut and expect to get banana. Our people may be prospering in other areas but when it comes to the realm of politics we appear not be doing so well, nobody puts all his eggs in one basket, it’s a suicidal project. Look at other sections of the country, look at the South South you discover that APC garner 25 percent of the votes in most of the states in the last general elections, does it mean we are wiser than them, then the South West delivered the best result for the party. Look at the way Ohanaeze Ndigbo openly supported a political party and its candidate when there were other candidates contesting the same position, it is not good. But, by and large, my take is that there is need for dialogue and you must realise that power is never given, you must seek for power. It is when you seek for power that you begin to attract sympathy and how do you do that, it is when you begin to engage in discussion and dialogue with various sections of the country. So, it is not what Igbo elements will do alone neither is the Yoruba or Hausa. In other words we must reach out but for you to sit back and expect that at the end of the day, people will come begging you, I don’t think it is the best; you must go out for what you want. So my take on that is that we should try to do a lot of engagements on our part to other parts of the country and it is something we must not sit back and say it is our right or it is automatic, nothing is automatic.
Tell us about the forthcoming APC summit?
We want to use it as a starting point, something that will act as a spring board for other activities we have outlined for ourselves. During the summit, we are going to look at various issues that have been affecting the party adversely; the issue of discipline, the issue of relationship between the party and stakeholders, the issue of the people who have been benefiting from the party and are in different positions but are not relating with the party the way they should. We intend to use that period to come up with a lot of bye laws that will assist the party and at the end of the summit whatever thing we arrived at, at the State Working Committee (SEC), we will now get back and begin to implement the bye laws. We intend to bring in people from within and outside the state. We are expecting the vice president, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo to declare the summit open and should be able to talk to Anambra people, particularly the APC members. We want to bring the federal presence to bear in the party, to let the party members realise that the party doesn’t start from Anambra and end in the state. We are also expecting other influential Igbo elements like former President of the Senate, Chief Ken Nnamani, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu and Dr. Ogbonnya Onu among others, at the summit.
Our national chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, will also grace the event to let Anambra people know of the need to reconnect to the main stream. We need to get feelers, reactions from the party members and it will be a propeller kind of event that would be used to reengineer the party once again into action.