By Peter Anosike
The presidential candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) for the 2023 general elections, Prof. Peter Umeadi has said that his ambition to become the next president of Nigeria is based on a tripod of equity, justice and competence.
Speaking in an interview with Sunday Sun, the former Chief Judge of Anambra State said that equity and justice was because the Southeast is the only geo-political zone that has not produced the president of Nigeria since the dawn of the present democratic dispensation from 1999 and competence because going by his track records, he is the most qualified among the 17 presidential candidates for the 2023 polls.
He also spoke on contentious issues of state police, restructuring, as well as the difference that he would make if he is elected president of Nigeria. Excerpts:
Who is Justice Peter Umeadi and what inspired you to run for the office of president of Nigeria?
My name is Peter Umeadi. I am from Agukwu-Nri in Anaocha LGA of Anambra State. I read Law at the University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus and graduated, LL. B (Hons) in 1979. I attended the Nigerian Law School, Lagos and was called to the Bar in 1980. I was appointed a Judge of High Court of Anambra State in 1997. In 2011, I was sworn in as the Chief Judge of Anambra State. I became member of the National Judicial Council and National Judicial Institute, respectively. I retired from the Judiciary in 2019 after eight years as Chief Judge. In March, 2019 I became a Visiting Professor at the Faculty of Law, University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus. In the same March 2019, I joined the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, and declared my intention to run for president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. On June 1, 2022 1 became the presidential candidate of APGA in the elections of 2023. Comrade Abdullahi Koli Mohammed is my running mate. He is the Sarduana of Nasaru and Dan Amar of Ningi in Bauchi State. My inspiration to run for president is to reconcile with ourselves across the length and breadth of our dear country Nigeria. In my days working as judicial officer, I discovered I had speed of delivery on work on my table. Rapidity must of necessity go with plans. I thought that with speed of work and good conscience I could reposition Nigeria in four years.
Why did you chose the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) as the platform to realize this ambition?
I joined APGA because it has cohesion which has given it the longevity, against all other political parties created at the same time with it. APGA is resilient as it has bounced back many times from crisis. I consider it a rare privilege to be the APGA presidential candidate. It is now my duty to galvanize its huge potential and lead Nigeria to its destiny.
APGA is no doubt the third biggest political party in Nigeria going by the fact that it is one of the three parties that are controlling states.
But in the build up to the 2023 presidential election, Labour is being touted as the Third Force, what has happened to APGA?
Yes, APGA is the third largest political party in Nigeria. The fact that Labour Party is now being touted as the Third Force is as a result of self-infliction by APGA. In the election year of 2003, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, became the presidential candidate of APGA and lost the election. He would be presidential candidate again in 2007 and lost. I agree with one submission written in 2021 that Ojukwu scored a victory even in the two electoral defeats in those years as his participation showed his manifest belief in a united Nigeria. I came to the same conclusion when Ojukwu on June 18, 1982 returned from exile by the magnanimity of President Shehu Shagari, the support of Chief Adeniran Ogunsanya, Alhaji Aminu
Kano, Dr Chuba Okadigbo and many others. Against popular expectations his motorcade did not stop at Oji River where Biafran war veterans were waiting for their returning war-time commander, but Ojukwu sped past them, making a bold, emphatic and historic statement that the era of the lost war had gone and gone for good. In the election year of 2011, APGA did not field a presidential candidate, but supported President Goodluck Jonathan. I have come to the conclusion that the party’s position in 2011 was a mistake which is still haunting the Southeast geopolitical zone till date. The North openly pleaded for the Southeast support to finish the second term of the late saintly President Yar’Adua and thereafter hand over to the Southeast but we turned a deaf ear. President Jonathan won in 2011 and ran again in election year of 2015 with APGA support when President Buhari defeated him. Those political miscalculations would be rubbed in when President Jonathan was being pushed to run again in 2023. In the election year of 2019, APGA fielded Major General John Gbor. The grapevine was awash that he was put up, to assist President Buhari get the required 25 per cent votes from, especially Anambra State, where Governor Peter Obi was running mate to former Vice President Atiku Abubakar of the PDP, which gambit collapsed. Now, in 2023 the APGA presidential candidate is Peter Umeadi, my humble self. I have set out the above to show that as a political party APGA denigrated itself. We failed to continue with the upbeat tone which Ikemba Dim Odumegwu-Ojukwu as grand patron bequeathed to the party. A case in hand is the recent valuable endorsement which Labour Party got from Afenifere. It ought to come to APGA if it positioned itself well. After all my uncle, Chief Philip Umeadi was running mate to Chief Obafemi Awolowo of UPN in 1979. There is still time ahead. APGA needs to buckle up and in our revamped electoral circumstances in Nigeria could post good and surprising results across the country.
You have been going around the country to sell your candidacy,what is the responses like?
Around the country, APGA is selling like hot cake. I have to be careful what I say. Let me keep our gun powder dry. There is spontaneous embrace which the mention of APGA have elicited across the country
waiting to be tapped into. It would come to fruition on voting day.
Are you running on the ground of equity and justice for the Igbo race or on competence?
Both. Everyone agreed that it is the turn of the Southeast geopolitical zone to produce the president in 2023. I am as qualified as any other person to work as the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria be it from APGA or any other political party. In all modesty, I say that from my antecedents I have the capacity, sense of history, humility and self-effacement to reconcile and weld our ethnic groups together. My focus is to reposition Nigeria in four years. I would take steps leading to recovery which would be difficult to be reversed after four years. I would remove my personal interest entirely from the picture. I would always put before me the triple banner of the rule of law, separation of powers and due process.
What is your views on restructuring and state police?
Restructuring means to organize differently. Nigeria requires change which only good leadership could provide. We need to change the way we think so we could change the way we do things. Where you restructure and continue with the old ways of doing things it would be like the parable of putting new wine into old wine skin. My own antidote in achieving restructuring is the triple banner of the rule of law, separation of powers and due process. I support the creation of state police. That would require the amendment of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended). Police and other government security services established by law appear on item 45 of the Exclusive Legislative List. In the United States of America, state police powers have been evaluated as to regulate behaviour and enforce order within their territory for the betterment of health, safety, morals and general welfare of their inhabitants. The main argument against state police is the fear of abuse of the system by state governors. I dare say that the Federal Government which controls police in the states have not done better in that regard. Our domestic laws recognizes community police even in the Local Government tier of government.
If you are elected Nigerian president, what do you think you can do differently?
As elected president, I should start on the home front to identify, harmonize and strengthen our comparative advantage to produce and distribute goods and services. The aim would be to resuscitate our economy and enhance our well being. We must admit to the dislocations caused by insecurity so far. As we tackle that emphasis would be laid on agriculture, industrialization and services. Two areas deserve immediate attention. The power sector and the education sector. In reality, Nigeria generates about 3,200 megawatts of electricity. We should aim to add 1,000 megawatts of electricity yearly for four years. We should invest in mini grids and diversify our power sources with emphasis on renewable energy. In the education sector we should see and treat education as a priority. Nigeria should implement the allocation of 20 per cent of its annual budget to education as a starting point immediately as stated in the UNESCO recommendations in the Abidjan Principles to enable her citizens enjoy quality education. We would urgently review our education system that would produce a workforce that can develop our country moving away from the system bequeath to us in the colonial days. I recommend the German model in which all would start up to middle level then separate for those who want to continue in white collar jobs and those who have tendencies to technical trainings. The structures for the technical education would be defined leading to skills acquisition and self employment. On the foreign scene we should work with African countries to cooperate in economy, security and cultural ties in a bid to minimize xenophobia. We should work to strengthen the value of the naira through robust exports of agricultural goods. We would build stronger bilateral relations with countries of the U.S.A., Europe, Russia, China and Asia. I understand that the useful statement to be made to the international community is done at home. It is the assessment of their diplomatic missions in the home country that amount to anything. We would engage in holistic urban rebuilding, which would include the renewal of slums and degraded environment. Thereafter, we should build new satellite towns and habitats.
Insecurity seems to be a jinx in Nigeria, how can you break this if elected president of Nigeria
Jinx? The insecurity in Nigeria has surpassed all markings. There is an Igbo proverb that when a wooden gong sounds too loud, it is told the tree from which it was hewed. I heard of a story about a man running for the highest office in the land on how tackle their severe insecurity. He said, on his first day in office he would invite the head of police, ask him to remove and put his badge on the table and leave, as his job is determined. He would go down the line and find a worthy police officer to take the badge and they begin the work of fixing the police. The moral is, if you fix the police, you fix security in Nigeria. Invariably the security of a country determines the type of country you get. Our security problems stem from laxity. You should not be half-hearted about solving any problem especially security. You want to secure an environment then you do not treat infractions with kid gloves.
Politics in Nigeria is too expensive and you are not a moneybag, how are you coping?
Section 88 (2- 7) of the Electoral Act 2022 (as amended) limits the election expenses. The limit to spend in presidential election is N5 billion and in councilor election is N5 million. No individual should donate more than N50 million to a candidate. As a presidential candidate I have adopted minimalism. My expenditure target simplicity, usefulness and clarity. I use materials which are most essential and in quantities that would convey the message only. It is working for me. I must admit that all over the world elections are expensive business. The difference is that in Nigeria there is no modicum of control from the supervisory authorities on how much a candidate receives or spends.
What advice do you have for Nigerians with regard to 2023 general election?
In 2023 elections, APGA has a presidential candidate, Peter Umeadi, my humble self. APGA has governorship candidates in across 19 states. APGA has senatorial, house of representatives and house of assembly candidates across the country. The APGA, wide ranging manifesto, upholds the principle of true federalism and sustenance of a prosperous nation in all its ramification. In 2023, we should be most vocal in enforcing the extant laws such that no person who is palpably below the age of 18 years should be allowed to vote. Such votes where cast are invalid votes and should not count in arriving at the result of the election in the particular polling booth across the country. In 2023, we should observe voter diligence. We are not going to record the big, big numbers as in the past. Only voters captured by BVAS would be recorded and counted. We should all endeavour to come out and vote.