From Geoffrey Anyanwu, Awka
With the Anambra Central Senatorial District re-run election barely 13 days away, the most favoured candidate and All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) flag bearer, Chief Victor Umeh has said that if elected he would be a unifying factor for Igbo Senators in the Red Chambers of the National Assembly.
Umeh who spoke in an interview with select newsmen at his Aguluzoigbo country home said the way things are in the country today, the precarious situation the Igbo have found themselves in the national politics, it was not time for any Igbo man to go to the National Assembly and be talking of his or her political party instead of the concerns of Ndigbo.
He contended that the cure for Nigeria ailment has been found in the resolution of the National Conference organized by the immediate past President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan cautioning that Nigeria cannot continue to be run in an atmosphere of tension.
You have just about two weeks to the re-run election; I like to ask you how your campaign experience has been so far?
Well, we all know that the elections are just about 19 days from today, and I am ready for the election. My party is ready for the election, and I have been going round to talk to people, visiting people, even in their private homes and reaching out to major stakeholders. I am talking to people of various groups as wells as maintaining a communication line with the voters of Anambra Central Senatorial Districts through my programmes on radio and television. I have Ohamadike hour on Odenigbo FM that runs every Wednesday since January 1, I have Ohamadike hour on Silverbird Radio, I have been to blaze FM, ABS, everywhere. So is about pushing forward to the electorates the relevant issues and making them to get convinced and make up their minds to continue supporting me.
Of course, you are aware that this is not entirely a brand new election; we have campaigned very vigorously in 2015 before the March 28 general election which was now later nullified by the Court of Appeal. One thing that pleases me more now is that any place I went, any place I go to even tomorrow, all the people who will vote in this election have made up their minds that I am the candidate they want at this time to go and represent them. So I find it very easy talking with them because even before I say anything, they take over and start reeling out my achievements and antecedents that made them properly convince that at this time they need my services as a senator. In summary I will say that the level of enthusiasm on the part of the electorates of Anambra Central Senatorial District is quite high. This can be seen in how the people are yearning for me all by themselves. Last Saturday, my phone was ringing repeatedly from one particular number, I did not know the owner of that number, so I did not pick it, after persistent calls, I took it, and a woman identified herself as Amaka Ubaka and told me that they were at Methodist Church Amaenyi Awka praying for me for this election, and that they need my physical presence and that they will end around 3pm, and I took the call at about 1pm, so I immediately promised her I will be there, and when I got there, I saw so many women of the Methodist Church fold, and as soon as I came in there they started singing, thanking God for me. And this is a church I have not had anything to do with, and they prayed for me specially and said they have been following me through my radio and television programmes, reading me in the newspapers and of course knowing what I have done in this state since the past 16 years or thereabout, and so they’ve searched through the candidates being paraded in this elections and decided that I am the man, and so were praying for God to see me through, so that I can help them, so on their own they called me. So for someone who is being sought after this way it makes my Job heavier because disappointment can never be an option in my representation for Anambra Central District. So I am happy to be seeing such emotions for me here and there, and that is because they believe in what I can do for them. So, I am just waiting for the day to come and let this elections be over so that I can settle down to task to work for them and I promise I will not disappoint them.
You appear to be the major candidates of this coming election, though you have 12 others, do you see it as a battle that will be easy for you?
In politics, if you are not humble, you can over shoot your range, but I will like to say without being immodest, that we were all part of this election in 2015, including the two others from PDP and APC, and I clearly won the election, even the ones that will not be in the election that are now making noise, I defeated them in that election last year. In the result that stood finally, I got 86,000 recorded for me on the result sheet; PDP that rigged the election massively using Amoured Personnel Carriers, tanks, using INEC and all security agencies got 93,000, that was what was recorded for them finally. 93,000 to 86,000, it was like David having 86,000 and the big goliath that has everything got only 93,000, changing figures almost everywhere, so you can see that the result of that election shows clearly that I won. APC got 24,000 with their super candidate, Dr. Chris Ngige then, myself 86, PDP with all their federal might and manipulation got 93,ooo so it is very easy for you to see who won the election.
Coming to the 12 candidates that are in the race now, no one can take anyone’s fight and fight for him or her, and most of them have been calling me that they are ready to work for me, to support me. They are candidates of other parties, but they believe in what I can do. I have also hear that those who are disgruntled have been ganging up to support even the least of the candidates to see how they can make me loss, but I don’t see how they can achieve that. So I don’t think it is so easy, because you still need to encourage people to come out and vote so you still have a lot of work to do, but I am confident that that election, when the votes are counted, I will win. Apart from my acceptability to the electorates, the APGA government in Anambra State is doing exceedingly well, I do not judge the success of a government, based on what armchair critics say, as a member of APGA, and someone who has been in the leadership of APGA for over 13years now, I have been in the forefront of championing APGA programmes in Anambra state, I can safely tell you that the Governor that is in charge of the affairs of Anambra State Government today is doing very well for the people of the state, so the achievements being recorded by the Governor through my party will also act as a boost to me in my election. The Governor has traditional critics who don’t like him, but they are those that are out of reality, those who believe that unless they are in charge, no other person can perform. I can say that Willie Obiano has surpassed my own expectations in just about two years. The progress of projects being executed in the state and particularly in Awka capital territory and elsewhere will show you that this government is a very serious government, and the governor is thinking about how to make Anambra State a great state. The problem of security was tackled immediately he came in, people thought it was going to be a flash in the palm, that after one month criminality will return. For two years now Anambra has been very peaceful, no kidnapping, no armed robbery and all that. So I don’t see how people will want a party that is doing all this to go down; what will be the alternative? We have everything going for us in this election, I have been here for a long time, and I have been a part of the success story, and two the government I also midwifed into being in place here is doing wonderfully well, all this things combined will give us unassailable victory. Even If PDP and APC are contesting this election with their strong candidates, we would have defeated them. What I insisted on not allowing to happen is to go into an election with illegitimate candidates, people who are not supposed to be in the election, you go into the election with them and you expose the election to further risk of nullification. That is the essence, otherwise we are not afraid of any candidate be it of APC or PDP, APGA is a dominant party in Anambra state with very robust grassroots structure.
The court of appeal judgment, one would say should ordinarily have declared you the winner of that election, so how do you feel going through this headache again?
Well, I am still grateful to the Court of Appeal because if you remember the Tribunal made a joke of my petition at the Tribunal, but the Court of Appeal decided to go deeper into the petition and decided to nullify the election convincing itself that the PDP did not hold any primary to select their candidates and that was what put forward this arrangement of conducting another election. For me it’s very painful, but I have to bear the pain, if they had said no like the tribunal, what will I do, this opportunity would not be there. So half a loaf of bread is better than none, that they were able to nullify the election and offer us a second chance is good enough. We will go through it, and there is no cost that I will bear in pursuing justice that I will consider too high. If I had allowed that charade of 2015 to stand, the psychology of people of Anambra Central Senatorial district would have been so terribly tortured because they were traumatized the way PDP militarized that election, people were beaten up, result sheets were carried away and they said is this the way to run a society? If they had gone away with that victory, it would have destroyed the interest of people in elections. For the fact that we were able to get this back, you can see the happiness in the faces of people that they stole this thing and they could not get away with it, and they have another day, and they are ready for another election to pay them back in their own bad coins. So, for me, I ought to have been declared winner, there was no need for a repeat of this election. But for the wisdom of the judges of the Court of Appeal that the nullification should suffice, I accept it. Good enough, it is just about 19 days away, and the extra cost of going for this repeat election should be borne by lovers of genuine democracy.
You had made a point that you were not opposed to President Buhari being the president, can you use this opportunity to tell us those things that are dear to you that when you get to the Senate you will work for them?
Yes, I said it clearly that I was not averse to Buhari becoming president as a person, my party wasn’t averse either, but we decided to vote the way we voted because of something our party considered very critical to the survival of Nigeria as a nation, and that critical thing was the promise made by Jonathan to implement the report of the national conference, which he put together in the first place. The report of that National Conference remains the key to the survival of this country as a nation. Anyone who wishes it away is postponing the dooms day. This country cannot continue to be run in an atmosphere of tension, where there are too many agitations and grievances from various parts of the country. Good leadership requires that a nation should be put on a pedestal of sustainable development and peace. The way Nigeria is configured and structured, tension will continue to pervade this land. There are too many people who have been cheated; the Igbo people of Nigeria have been cheated, I am known to be championing this cause all the time. The structural imbalance skewed against the Igbo people of Nigeria because of the war will not last for ever. Nations have fought wars all over the world, America fought wars, many nations in Europe fought wars, and they’ve come out of their wars stronger, and things that led to the wars were looked into at the end of the wars, and ways of maintaining sustainable peace became the order of the day. But in Nigeria they refuse to agree that the war has ended, they agree that the war has ended in principle, but the war is still on against the Igbo people of Nigeria. If I have time to illustrate it there are so many areas begging for attention or redress. So I find the Confab reports, the boldest effort Nigeria has made towards preserving its desired unity, where in a dialogue arrangement there were give and takes for all parts of Nigeria. The Igbos were given one additional state, to bring their number of state to six, because we presently have five. The issue about local government was also addressed. Local government funds can no longer be shared among the 774 local governments we presently have, money will be shared to the states and the states will now use the local government fund they get for local government administration. You can create 2,000 local governments if you like, these were the things we agreed to at the National conference. We also saw, that who becomes the president of Nigeria is a major hot action anytime we have an election, everybody wants his own person, or tribes man to become the president of Nigeria, so we said instead of killing ourselves over who becomes the president of Nigeria, let us have an arrangement where every part of Nigeria will have hope that one day they will ascend the presidency of this country, and it was agreed at the National Conference that the presidency should rotate between the North and South and across the geo-political zones, and with that type of arrangement, it won’t take time the presidency will reach to areas of people who have not had a shot at the presidency. Since about 50 years now, no Igbo man has been president of Nigeria, a very strong ethnic group in Nigeria in all aspects, intellectually, business acumen, industry, hard work, everything you are looking for, you will find it in an Igbo man, exceptional wisdom, knowledge, but they cannot be president of Nigeria.
We want a Nigeria, if I get to the Senate, where there will be equal rights and opportunity to all people of Nigeria, not just for the Igbo people. We will make efforts to close the gap created against the Igbo people. We want equity and fairness that will be done in Nigeria. We can easily achieve that through legislation because at the National Assembly you make laws.