Judex Okoro, Calabar
Chukwuemeka Egwuonwu is the Senior Special Assistant to Governor Willie Obiano on Community Liaison. He wants South-East politicians to embrace the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), saying it can drive Igbo Presidency to Aso Rock.
Egwuonwu, who stated this shortly after meeting with APGA stakeholders in Calabar, said the APGA is a traditional party for the South-East people and it behooves on them to rally support for the party.
Ahead of 2019 elections, do you see APGA posing any challenge to APC and PDP?
Yes, APGA as a political party has made one segment of the country proud which is the South-East, especially from the area of security, good governance and people oriented policies. During APGA fact-finding mission, headed by the former minister of Information, Labaran Maku, we were mandated among others to find out what the party need to do for the state or local government or town and see how APGA, as the alternative vehicle, will drive it. We visited almost 17 states in the country and we found out that people see APGA as an APC appendage and that is why they refused to embrace us. We educated and showed them facts as to why APGA is in not in alliance with any political party. We submitted our report to the leadership, which gave birth to fielding a presidential candidate as well as the policy statement that APGA is fielding a candidate from the north.
Since then, we have had influx of politicians into our party. Besides, we equally asked our leader, the governor of Anambra State to go and discuss with the president of the country. APGA as a political party, we have our own manifesto and agenda.
If they are seeing their own manifesto as something that is failing our nation, we are willing to give them ours to salvage this nation. In the midst of the hues and cries about bailout funds that most states collected, Anambra State never touched bailout funds. Now if a smaller party as APGA did not touch bailout funds, it therefore means that some other states have been deceiving their people.
Some people have the notion that it is only when we form a coalition with APC or PDP that we will in turn be given the opportunity to govern the nation. I disagree because in the 1950’s we had a political marriage with the far north and nothing came out of it. By 1979 – 83, when we should have had hope, it never worked. This is the auspicious time for South-East to prove that they have capacity by embracing APGA and then drive the party to the centre. APGA is a traditional party for the South-East. So the message I preach everywhere we find ourselves is that people should give us a trial. If Obiano can pay salaries without bailout funds, it means there is hope in that political party.
How do you hope to extend the leadership of APGA to other states?
Yes, Imo State is over ripe for APGA to take over. Remember we won election in Imo State with Governor Rochas Okorocha. He is using our mandate but you see every house that is built on a faulty foundation must collapse. Okorocha came and deceived us and we gave him our ticket and delivered him. But the governor paid us back by defecting to APC. Today, he is facing battle in APC because he runs a government that does not have a direction. I am sure that Imo people have realised that their destiny lies in APGA and not APC. So Imo is overripe for APGA to pluck.
We are equally trying to launch APGA in North-Central because all of us know that our political marriage with the North-Central have once worked in states like Plateau. APGA won elections in Nasarawa in 2015, I don’t know whether you people are aware, Labaran Maku won elections but was rigged out. In 2019 we will win Nasarawa and Abia States. If we succeed in taking Nasarawa State, then APGA will now be a national party. We are working seriously to ensure that in 2019, APGA will produce at least 20 members of the House of Representatives. We have about five representatives from Taraba, Anambra, and Abia. We are also supposed to even move to Ebonyi but we saw that Governor Dave Umahi represents what APGA is preaching. Umahi is trying but he needs to be part of APGA to be better.
Considering the incessant communal clashes in Anambra vis-a-vis your core mandate, which is to restore peace among conflict areas, how do you intend to pursue such enormous task?
I come from a community that has the background of a political nobody as we have never gone beyond councillorship before now. I commend the governor to have found me worthy to have been appointed as one of his senior special assistants, Community Liaison. My appointment has further wiped away the tears of my Awa community. I feel good and my Awa community in Orumba North is excited about the appointment because to them we have finally broken the barrier.
My core mandate is to work with various warring communities or liaise with crisis-ridden communities and restore peace among them. You know when there is peace, there is development. I can tell you that Anambra has about 323 communities and a good number of Anambra communities are at war with one another over boundary matters. So, you can imagine the enormity of the task ahead and to be able to perform we have appointed 21 coordinators in all the local governments to oversee danger spots. But I am sure that Governor Obiano knew the enormity of communal conflicts in the state and he decided to create a special portfolio to give it urgent attention.
Therefore, we are prepared to go the whole hog to resolving some of these communal clashes. We cannot continue to fight one another because of mere piece of land or over a mere disagreement that could be easily brought to the table for us to jaw-jaw. Already, I and my team at the grassroots have swung into action and have started reaching out to community leaders, youths’ groups, women leaders and some key stakeholders especially in crisis-prone communities with a view to holding town hall meetings on the way out and the need to live in peace and harmony.