From Magnus Eze, Enugu
Dr. Obiora Okonkwo is a major contender in the November 6 Anambra State governorship election on the platform of Zenith Labour Party (ZLP). He believes that his robust campaign anchored on a well-thought out 10-point agenda for the state, will give him victory at the polls. He spoke on various issues in this interview.
If the election is held today, where do you and your party stand?
We have gone a very long way since we emerged the candidate of Zenith Labour Party which was relatively an unknown party. And from the progress we have made in the last two months, I am pretty much convinced that if the election is conducted free and fair; we stand a chance of being the winner, for the reason that the reality is dawning on Anambrarians that the three major political parties; APGA, PDP and APC are not the best options as things stand today. Apart from the damage these parties have done to themselves because of their previous actions and inactions; the people are also realizing that certain circumstances that have to do with various litigations do not leave the parties in the right positions. Also, they know that due to the situation of things that are not getting better on daily basis, it has further become clear to Anambrarians that this race is not about party; it’s about the candidate-his competence, his vision and his dedication to development in Anambra State. Having seen in recent times people jumping from one party to another; so, they are now saying; what is it in parties anymore when one can be in a party today and tomorrow he jumps to another. So, they are saying, let’s follow somebody they can trust and believe in his vision even if it means blindly. So, people are looking towards individuals and when it comes to individual consideration, with all sense of humility, we are not rated lower than any one of them. So, a combination of these factors is what gives me confidence that this election is for my party, Zenith Labour Party and I to lose; knowing also that we have entrusted every other thing we do in God. We know that once God has said yes; nobody can change it.
Though you are quite popular as seen out there in Anambra, but some persons are concerned about your platform; they say that the ZLP doesn’t have the structure to win the Anambra governorship seat. Don’t you see this as an impediment?
Yes, for a party that has not won any election in Anambra State, it’s expected not to be known; that concern and thought might be right. But that may be before two-three months ago. The situation on ground now is different because political structures that we talk about are human beings; they are not concretes. Where human beings move is where the structure moves. As we speak today, we have developed the structure of the party at the grassroots; the 326 wards and 5720 polling units in Anambra State, having completed the list of our agents attached to each of the polling units in the state. We have also set a parallel structure made up of not the party structure but from our support groups in each polling unit. Those are numbers and when you merge them, they run into hundreds of thousands of people. So, we have been quietly and silently doing the most important thing towards this election, which is building silent, physical human structures instead of doing public show; the ones that eyes could see. We can give you names and list of those who really believe in us that are already dedicated to cast their votes. Beyond that, we have also received within our fold a whole lot of other structures which we are inheriting. These are groups of people who have their own structures who do bulk voting and we have been going into some negotiations; a good number of them we are keeping low and quiet as instrument for upset and few others we will probably make public in the coming days. For what we know, which people do not know; I think that I am quite happy at the stage things are now. Besides, it remains work in progress as a lot of critical things would still happen few days to the election and we are positioning ourselves, so that when that happens, it will be to our advantage.
Some people feel that you have taken a wrong political step by leaving the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to vie for governorship seat on ZLP?
If you look at leaving a popular party to a relatively unknown party in a normal political situation, that feeling might be correct. I mean when all the political parties are up and running and all their candidates are brand fire; doing all they have to do, have their own segments of the voters, then if you find yourself in a small party, then that feeling and insinuation are correct. But in this case, and the way things are turning out; I, to the contrary, see more people coming around now, than those who may have thought this same way last two-three months, to tell us that they can see this is really a divine move; we’ve seen the wisdom and divinity to go to this party; we are now seeing clearer what we didn’t see two-three months ago. And because the three major political parties are in disarray; APGA as a political party is in total disarray and rejected by the greater percentage of Anambra people and they have made up their minds that they are not in any way going to reward their failures with another succession. There seems to be a common ground and consensus among the voters. APGA members have seen their frustrations and are defecting to parties where they don’t even have any advantage but to express their anger. Then on the side of the other bigger party; which is PDP, and as you may know, PDP in Anambra today, I was the face of the party. I picked PDP from the bottomless pit it was, cleaned it up and rebranded it; put my face on it and made it viable and vibrant until injustice of Peter Obi and his cohorts was meted out to me on June 26. They were afraid of a non-dependent, self-opinionated person emerging as a governor. These are people who are in the business of god-fatherism. But I don’t think they will survive that mistake; the last minute injustice they dished out to me because it was a terrible mistake and they will live with the stigma until the end of the election. So, the consequences are visible that even the party; the campaign team has been rejected by a whole lot of people and all those grassroots party members are waiting for opportunity to show the PDP their anger and they are patient enough waiting for the day of reckoning. So, you will see a massive PDP votes coming to my humble self as a payback for what I had done for the party. They have remained angry saying that another person cannot just move into an already-made house that someone else built. The greater part of PDP members still prefer us and for what they already know that I stand for; our 10-point agenda, our vision which they have identified with a long time ago; they feel that wherever I go, they will go with me. So, remaining in the party is not the issue. You see, ten percent of the voters are probably those who are registered party members; the rest 90 percent of them are not affiliated with any political parties. The other political party which you know is the APC. There is a whole lot of shows going on here and there; the drama of people decamping and all that. But what do you say when people have made a deal; defected and then they are not welcomed in their constituencies by the electorate? So, the story of people defecting to the APC are just shows for the cameras and the press because these defectors afterwards are scared to return to their constituencies and call meeting of their people to appeal to them to join them to their new party. Then, it is of no benefit to the APC in terms of grassroots mobilization which it desires. Have you not heard of cases where those who defected to the APC were beaten up and chased out of their areas in their bid to convoke meetings in their constituencies to tell them of their new party? They ran away and never went back home again. So, I can tell you that probably many of these defectors may not be home until the election is over. Beyond that, Anambra people are fully abreast of other issues happening in the political parties; the court cases, the faulty nomination processes and all of that which are capable of upturning any electoral victory if by crook or any means, any of them finds himself declared winner of the election. So, any winner from the three major political parties still have baggage because he has pending issues that can upturn it. Part of the things going for us is that outside the three major political parties, Zenith Labour Party now is next in terms of party popularity; no doubt about that. And in terms of individual candidacy; I think we must be counted among the first. It’s a combination of factors; my name is driving Zenith Labour Party and because the electorate know that we are clean; we don’t have any judicial mines; we are coming with new hope for Anambra people, we are the only party and candidate that has no godfather issue. Anambra people are quite convinced that the issue of godfather has been one of the biggest problems of the state starting from 1999 till date and they feel that it’s enough with god-fatherism. To them, that person that they must vote is somebody that is independent and unencumbered with any godfather and also, somebody who has something to show and prove that what he says he will do, that he has done it and people will see it practically. I think that amongst all these candidates, they have nothing to show when they say they will do, and they have nothing practical to show in the past. One criterion that Anambra people are united on is that for you to be voted for; you must not just tell them what you will do as governor, you have to tell them what you do for a living; what’s your source of income. It’s no more a case of former this and that; because they have realised that it’s a big danger allowing the destiny of this state in the hands of someone who has no source of income or will not have any source of income apart from the state government purse. This is one of the criteria already spelt out by Ndi-Anambra which none of the candidates of these three major parties can rarely meet.
What do you think could stop you from winning the November 6 governorship election?
The only thing that can stop me from winning this election is if God says no; otherwise, human beings had done their worst by manipulating the governorship primary election of the PDP which we were already coasting home with 80 percent victory as the most popular contestant. They had done their worst and I was not stopped; today, I am a candidate, I am in the race. So, nothing else can stop me except God. And we have always said that we have God the father; He knows that in our mind, that we’re coming for service, we’re coming to offer our talent and endowment to the service of humanity, and glorify the name of God. So, we believe that He is God that can do everything and there’s nothing that He cannot do. If it pleases Him that we win this election, nothing else can stop us except if He says no.
Are you expecting any surprises in this election?
In terms of surprise, we are the surprise. What I know that will happen will rather be a surprise to other people which is seeing somebody who has no godfather coming from a relatively new party in the state and winning the election. The surprise to them also should be that all the plots to rig the election; manipulate the process, God will destabilize them and they will become impotent on that fateful day which will lead to their downfall. The truth of the matter is that the three major political parties in the election are making every move to rig the election to their favour because they had always won elections in the past by having such undue advantage. But we believe that the almighty God who sees their moves in darkness and in secret, who knows that what Anambra people need at the moment is the right person and they have actually embarked on prayers asking God to give them that right man. There is an adoration going on, asking God to bring a God-fearing leader who will have the interest of the people of the state at heart. So, if this prayer is heard and God does His will, the surprise is that all these people will fail in their plot and God’s will then prevails.