Iheanacho Nwosu, Abuja
Senator Ifeanyi Araraume is the Imo State governorship candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA). He speaks on how he emerged the candidate of the party and his chances in next year’s contest.
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You have emerged winner of the APGA governorship primary election in Imo State. What next?
Like in every contest, you have winners and losers. But the most important thing is to unite the party by talking to all those who contested the primary with you at all levels. We talk to them that APGA is
one big formidable family. All of us must work together. The size of government is very large and everyone has to find some accommodation somehow. People will work from the local government level up to the national level. But what is most important is to unite everybody and make APGA win the election in 2019. That is what we are doing at the moment.
The party, at the national level has also set up a national reconciliation committee headed by our Vice Presidential candidate, Chief Jerry Chukwueke. Besides that, we are doing a lot at our own level. I have had talks with all those who contested with me and we are talking. Our talks are yielding results. You know my running mate also aspired to be governor. He is from Owerri zone and his is now my running mate.
That shows you the level of reconciliation we have done. Everyone is working hard on this. APGA members and even non APGA member are involved. They are all doing this because they know that APGA is a party that parades what it takes to deal with post-Rochas Imo and to manage the state. One thing is obvious. To manage a state, you need a lot of skills, sometimes, unusual skills. It takes just more than your qualifications. There are usually unusual happenings and it means that in the post-Rochas Imo, you would need to do a lot to manage the issues. First, you would need to bring our people together. Government has actually divided our people. We have a lot of polarisation in Imo. Everyone is divided and there is need to bring the people together. Therefore, we need to do a lot to prepare our people for the task ahead.
Are you not bothered about the development of a group within APGA which appointed Ike Ibe as consensus candidate?
You don’t appoint a consensus candidate after a primary election. What will be the platform? The party guidelines on the conduct of primary elections are there and they are clear. Even before the primary election, if you meet and appoint someone, the person still has to go through the process of election as set out by the party. The person still has to stand for a Yes or No vote. The Electoral panel will still come to observe and ratify it and then send the report to the party. So, what they have done was done out of time and outside the party guidelines. To my mind, what they did is outside the law and it is a nullity. It has no foundation in law, and even in the party guideline.
Former Imo State governor, Ikedi Ohakim, authored an article which was published in the papers, where he alleged that the APGA primary was for the highest bidder. How do you reconcile your position and those of some people who seem implacable with the outcome?
I won’t like to join issues with Ohakim. In any case, I am not the National chairman of APGA. However, if the ticket was for the highest bidder, he would have bided higher. He was a former governor and nobody would have bided higher than him. He was governor in Imo for four years and he is still in a position to outbid others if the ticket was for sale. Unfortunately, the APGA ticket was not for sale. Those who voted had seen all of us. Ohakim was given opportunity to lead Imo State for four years and the people saw him perform. The delegates to the APGA primary election were all adults when Ohakim was governor. They saw him as governor. In any case, this is not the first primary he has gone through since he left Government House. The question is: How did he fare in previous primary elections he contested? Did he win those ones? So, this is not to join issues with Ohakim, but I want to say that he had the opportunity to govern Imo State. There are others who have not had the opportunity. I am sure the delegates, in their wisdom, decided to try some other person. I think he ought to be kind enough to support the outcome of the primaries. In any case, we hear he is in Accord Party. I don’t believe that, but that is what is being said. Ohakim is my brother. I love him as my brother and will continue to love him as a brother. I think that the best he should do is to support a brother who is now the candidate. He should support this cause. I have spoken with him. We know that the leadership of APGA is not corrupt and not as bad as some people try to paint it. However, I think that with time, things will fall in shape. Time heals wounds. We all should work together and make sure that APGA is successful in the 2019 election in Imo State.
What do you think are the most challenging issues in the governance of Imo state?
For me, the most challenging aspect of our governance is to get our people back. There is high distrust among the people and against the government. Our people are like a conquered people. The task is to bring them back to the level they were before and restore their confidence. It will take some time but I am sure that our victory will begin to address that.
On the issue of governance, the starting point is to create policies that will give the people hope. If you look at Imo critically, for instance, the education sector, you will find that nothing works. The education sector has collapsed. From the primary education level up to the tertiary level, our education has collapsed. We need to get back and rebuild confidence. We need to train and retrain the teachers, boost their morale and pay them. What is happening now is that when you go to our schools, you find that our teachers have become traders. They go to school carrying buckets containing confectioneries and soft drinks for sale. Some trade in second hand clothes.
Also, the dilapidation of infrastructure is an issue. Even the schools where these kids learn are not good for learning. We need to tackle these and address them immediately. Look also at our local government system. It is dead. As I speak to you, no local government in Imo State gets their allocation.
So, you need to work on that, reassure the people and rebuild their confidence. Make sure that each local government gets what is due to them and also work with it. I will ensure that each local government chairman resides within the local government. It boosts confidence of the people. What obtains today is that no one sees a local government chairman because he is never in his office. They come around once or twice in a month and disappear. They come when there is money to pay salary and that is it. Some don’t even go to the office. So, how does the local government area develop when the chief executive of the council does not even live in the area even when they have official residences?
Again, if you look at our traditional institution in Imo State, you will find that it has been destroyed and reduced to nothing. By the last count, we have more than 600 autonomous communities and our Ezes are reduced to nothing. They are made to come to the stadium for match past, like students, when a dignitary visits the state. That is not done anywhere in the world. So, we must restore the dignity of the traditional institution, and bring back the respect that they used to have. But more importantly is the issue of good governance. There is urgent need to recover Imo and bring it back. Imo is derailed. To bring Imo back is a task that must be done and to do that, you need a formidable team. Luckily, we have a very vibrant crop of young people who are ready to work. All you need to do is to bring them together, engage them and they will do the work. Imo used to be one of the best states in terms of education, sanitation, hospitality – the state used to be number one. But it has gone down. These are challenges that we will tackle as soon as we take over.
One of the candidates you will face is the APC candidate. Some have argued that there are no differences between him and the incumbent. Do you see things from that perspective too?
Those who argue that there are no differences between the APC candidate and the incumbent, may, in a way, be right because both of them are from the same senatorial district. They are from the same Orlu senatorial district that produced Udenwa who was there for eight years. That district has held the governorship for 16 years and the APC candidate is also coming from there. Many people in Imo state feel it is not fair on the sensibility of people from other zones. To that extent, there is no difference. But again, in terms of the issues of governance, every Imo person knows the three of us. I am the candidate of APGA. Emeka Ihedioha is candidate of PDP and Sen. Hope Uzodinma is candidate of APC. We are not new to Imo. Imo people know us all and they know our pedigrees. Imo people knew me before I became senator in 1999. They have seen me since I left the senate. They know the business that I do and some of them even visit my businesses.
APGA in the South-East has a very wonderful reference and that is Anambra State. It is a state where APGA has been in power progressively for more than 10 years. Now, compare the developments in Anambra on all sectoral fronts, education, agriculture, security, infrastructure, governance, relationship between Church and society etc, and you see that Anambra stands out. There is no other state in the South-East that equates to Anambra on all development indicators. That is a reference for APGA. You can’t say that of PDP and APC in the South -East. Therefore, the party, on its own, stands out. If you stick to party manifesto, Imo will be a better place. There is no doubt about that. At the end of the day, the voters will look at the candidates, their pedigrees and background and then, look at the parties and what they represent and make their choice. And I believe that at the end of the day, they will choose Senator Ifeanyi Ararume.