Stanley Uzoaru, Owerri
Vitalis Ajumbe was the pioneer Chairman of the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) in Imo State; he served in Governor Rochas Okorocha’s administration as Commissioner for Information and Strategy. During the last general election, he was the Director, Contact and Mobilisation for the Senator Ifeanyi Araraume Campaign Organisation. Ajumbe, presently a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC); in this interview, reveals the intrigues that played out at the polls.
What is your general view about the elections, particularly in Imo State?
The election has shown that we have not really improved; it is very obvious that the elections were full of malpractices, violence, people were killed, remember the Oyo legislator that was killed and those killed in other places, see what happened in Rivers State, in this modern day, we are still involved in violence in an election, that is not proper, and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is not doing well at all, in the sense that all their promises of free and fair election, we did not see any, generally, the rating is poor, below 30 per cent.
Your area, Ikeduru, was one of the trouble spots, what exactly happened, how did the election go there?
Actually, there was violence in almost all the 147 polling units in Ikeduru. Apart from that, they came to the local government collation centre at Iho with explosives to bomb all of us at that centre, if not for the vigilance of the youths and security personnel who were on ground, we would not have been saying what we are saying now. They were about 11 but three were arrested, the rest escaped. Who brought them there? That is the question? Even the soldiers too would have died; all of us in the hall during the collation would have died. In this modern age, nobody can win election free and fair except by violence.
How do you think we can improve on our electoral system?
The better way if I am to suggest is to copy the Automated Teller Machine (ATM), in this case, you don’t need a police, everywhere you go you just slot in your card and the logo will appear and you vote any candidate of your choice, this will stop ballot box snatching, otherwise, if we continue this way, we would continue to witness violence in our elections.
With the controversy of not making the 2/3 spread in the 18 Local Government Areas, do you think INEC was right in declaring Emeka Ihedioha winner?
That is in their own judgment, the Returning Officer declared him winner; it is now left for the other candidates to see if the judgment was right or wrong. Some are saying that he met the 2/3; some say he did not, I think it is a subject the tribunal will determine. It is not for me and you to discuss, it is now post-election matter. I heard some of them have gone to tribunal, so let me not talk about it.
As Araraume’s close ally, don’t you think that it’s over for him in Imo governorship?
Araraume is still young, still full of wisdom; he has the intellectual capacity to govern the state. I don’t think this may be his last. He is still an astute administrator. I believe if given the chance to govern the state, he will do well.
What do you think is wrong with the state politically?
What is wrong with the state is that the electorate are more interested in the money than the quality of that person, I don’t see why somebody like Mike Nwachukwu with all the stuff he has in his head should lose election, with all that he has to give to Owerri Constituency. I have discovered that you just need to meet leaders, do a rally and on the day of the election, send your aides to spray money. That is the magic; this is very bad, we should change our orientation.
Many people believe the state has been in bondage all this while, do you agree with them?
The state has not been in bondage, who kept it in bondage? In a situation where one man, Rochas Okorocha is the only person, there was a time when some elders lined up to go and collect money, when you sold your conscience, tomorrow you will say you are in bondage. I Vitalis Orokaeze Ajumbe; I’m not in bondage. Rochas cannot put me in bondage. The bondage we are in is the bondage we put ourselves; self-inflicted bondage caused by Imo people.
What do you expect of the incoming administration?
I know a lot would be expected of them, the state is decayed and they need somebody to put it to shape. As a former commissioner, I can tell you that nothing happens in the ministry, the civil servants see themselves as those that have been abandoned, it will take over N5 billion to revive the civil service system in Imo; they need to go for refresher courses because Okorocha has lost track. The incoming government should not destroy the structure of the outgoing one, they should look at the good ones and consolidate on them, we cannot say that Rochas did not do any work; they should make the state a one city state with good rural roads. They should also look at water, for the eight years of Okorocha; water has not run in the state. Also, they should look at the drainage system, any time it rains, everywhere is waterlogged and they should not run the government like a family business because if it is a family business the economy of the state will not move.