By Onyedika Agbedo
Chief Charles Udo Udeogaranya is a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC). A former Lagos State chairman of the defunct African Renaissance Party (ARP) and former chairman of Lagos League of Political Parties (LLPP), he speaks on sundry issues in the polity including his 2019 presidential ambition, which he says was engineered by the need to have a youth at the helm of affairs in the country.
Two and a half years into the life of this administration, the politics of 2019 has started in earnest. Many people consider it as a distraction to governance. What’s your take?
I consider it a noble idea for one to seek to serve his or her nation in an elective position. However, for you to serve, you have to be elected and for you to be elected, you have to convince the electorates on what they stand to benefit. So from here, you can see that a rigorous and lengthy time is involved. This is the simple reason why in the United States presidential election, it takes almost two years from the time the candidates announce that they are running to the day that one of them will be sworn into office. This is to allow the candidates to sell themselves properly to the electorate and I am happy that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) understands this and has just directed that all party primaries for the 2019 general elections be held before May 15, 2018. So, we are even running late and it shouldn’t be distractive to a government that ought to have a good understanding of this.
You are contesting on the platform of the APC and from every indication, President Muhammadu Buhari appears to be gearing up to seek re-election. What are your chances?
My chances are very good in winning my party presidential primary election because my candidacy holds 100 per cent chance of winning the general elections and the reasons are not far-fetched. Nigerians need a young president with vibrant and creative ideas that will convert Nigeria into a producing nation, rather than a consuming nation. This is not the same with my good friend, President Muhammadu Buhari, and other interested aspirants, who are not as young as myself and cannot spring the quality of creative ideas that I can. In summary, any other candidate except my humble self will put the party’s chances at the general elections at a very high risk.
How would you react to the recent statement by Ohanaeze Ndigbo that in 2019, the South-east will only support a presidential candidate that pledges to hand over power to the zone in 2023? They appear ready to trade off the chances of the zone in 2019?
That was not the position of Ohanaeze Ndigbo and could not have been because Ohanaeze Ndigbo is pained and unhappy that since 30 years of our democracy and 50 years from the civil war, no Igbo has been elected president or have been allowed to preside over Nigeria in any settings, in spite of our contribution to national development and population size. So, your interpretation is flawed.
So, what is the correct position of Ohanaeze?
The correct position and interpretation of Ohanaeze is that if APC nominates me, who is a South-easterner as their presidential candidate, then Ohanaeze will back APC and would not need to enter into an agreement with the party any more because Ohanaeze wants a Nigerian president from the South-east, if possible tomorrow morning.
The clamour for the involvement of youths in governance appears to be getting momentum by the day. How does that rob off on your aspiration?
Times without number, I have said it that Nigeria needs a young man as president. I understand that just being a young man is not all that is required but when one is endowed with exceptional leadership qualities and have a good understanding of his people and willing to serve them, then creative ideas of solving problems would be at home with him. That’s why the holy bible says that young men shall see visions but old men shall dream dreams.
Nigeria today doesn’t need dreamers like Atiku, Abdulsalami and Buhari. They need a young president like my humble self. However, I would still work with our old men, present my visions to them and listen to their counsel in order not to repeat their mistakes for the good of all Nigerians.
You recently called for the amendment of the Electoral Act to include a provision that requires full medical report of governorship and presidential aspirants. Why?
Yes, I strongly urge members of our National Assembly to consider the need for our Electoral Act to contain a medical qualification standard for presidential and gubernatorial aspirants above the age of 55 years in the 2019 presidential elections and beyond. Nigeria has suffered severe costs and precious governance time on medical-related issues on their president, past presidents and governors that ought to have been minimised with a stroke of legislation. There is no justifiable reason for one to run for a public office if he or she does not have a standard medical fitness to address the needs of a wonderful and great people of Nigeria.
Finally, sir, what is your message to Nigerians in the face of the current state of the nation?
I encourage all Nigerians to still have hope and faith in Nigeria. I believe that God has not forgotten us and that we should do the right thing by voting in a leader that can truly bring a change and give us a new Nigeria that we all desire. You cannot vote in any of those that made Nigeria a nation you dislike and expect to have a new nation you desire. For a new nation you desire to occur, you must vote in a new president who is not part of the old order, a president that is his own man and not a surrogate of the old order and that president in waiting is me. But it is in your hands to make it happen.