PDP members are going to vote APGA come 2019 and the leadership of the PDP in Abia State is aware that they won’t be there come 2019.
Former President of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) Mr Chidi Ajaegbu is the candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) in Abia Central Senatorial District for the 2019 general election. In this interview, he speaks on why he joined the race, his chances and other issues.
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Why did you join the race for Abia Central Senatorial seat in the 2019 general election?
At a point in your life you decide whether you want to continue living in your small space or try and impact on the society. For me, I think I have actualised as an individual; my needs are not that massive. God has blessed me and to a large extent I think I have actualised. So, what is left for me is to see how I can impact on my society and possibly leave a positive legacy. Secondly, the events in my state in the last 20 years have been very pathetic. The state of infrastructure in that state is unbelievable. You need to go round the state, especially Abia Central to be able to appreciate what our people are going through. That is in the face of allocations that are over N1 trillion in the last 20 years. Essentially, they don’t have anything to show for such massive amount of money. The more you analyse what is going on the more you realise that the people that control this money believe that it belongs to them. They see it as their personal money and if they are giving out contracts (where they do) they see it as a favour to the people. They forget that the mandate that they are holding is actually that of the people and that they are holding it in trust for the people. So, essentially, I think it’s about time we challenge the status quo because we can’t continue doing the same thing over and over again and expect a different outcome.
How do you intend to address some of the challenges facing your people given that as a member of the Senate, you won’t have executive powers?
First and foremost, you have to make yourself very relevant in the Senate. And the only way you can do that is to make yourself very important, especially in your area of core competence. For example, if you are talking finance and accounting, I’m an accounting and finance professional. If you make yourself relevant, then you will be in a position to also attract projects through the committees you are going to chair or be a member of, because appropriation is a committee based system. You know that politics is about interests. If you want to build a bridge in your village, for example, and I want a road, and you are in another committee while I am in a committee that can approve bridges, we can horse trade. Now, because you are relevant, because you are there to represent the people, you will be able to horse trade your critical projects like the erosion problem in Umuahia and Ikwuano. You can talk to people in the Ecological Committee and Works Committee. Projects just don’t drop from the sky; it’s about how relevant you are; it’s about your negotiation skill. Aside from that, you have what is called constituency projects, which is about N700 million which people do all sorts of things with. N700 million times four is actually N2.8 billion. In Abia Central N2.8 billion can go a long way if optimally applied.
APGA reportedly had very rancorous primaries in your state and is now factionalised. It is believed that the development will negatively impact on the chances of the candidates in the elections. What is your take?
First of all, we didn’t have any faction in Abia State. What we had was a PDP sponsored group of people who they gave money consistently and they went to the press all the time. So, the so-called faction or crisis we had in Abia was basically a media thing. As we speak today, APGA is one family in Abia. We did our primaries; of course, there was one issue or the other, which was not peculiar to APGA, but which has been sorted out because the names of the candidates are now with INEC. The key problem why people felt we had issues was because the PDP was scared and they are still sacred of the APGA team. Our team is very formidable. We have Alex Otti as the gubernatorial candidate, Chief Bourdex as Abia North Senatorial candidate, myself as the candidate for Abia Central and Chris Nkwonta for Abia South. You can’t have a better team than that and they know it cannot be business as usual. So, what they did was to become disruptive; they wanted to make sure that the best candidates did not emerge by fuelling crisis upon crisis. But, of course, the people know who will truly represent them. And that is our team. So, at no point did we ever feel that the party structure in Abia State was threatened; we never felt that way. We knew the ultimate outcome of all of these noise and we have been vindicated. So, we are now focusing on how to liberate the state come 2019 and all hands are on deck. Even people the PDP and other parties are clamouring for a change, not the APC change though, but the real change for our people. PDP members are going to vote APGA come 2019 and the leadership of the PDP in Abia State is aware that they won’t be there come 2019.
You will be contesting against a former governor and incumbent senator, T. A Orji. What makes you think you will emerge victorious?
I actually think that is going to be the easiest one. He is the most unpopular governor ever in Abia State and obviously he didn’t perform. He knows he didn’t perform. Besides the man is quite old. It is about time for him to retire. Everything that has a beginning must have an end. You can’t be about 80 or even marginally above 80 and you are still not retired. You have done four or eight years as Chief of Staff, eight years as governor, four years as senator-super governor and you want to do another four years. You left civil service after serving 35 years, rising to the position of permanent secretary or whatever it is. So, effectively this guy is over 80. When they are electing a 31-year-old in Finland or thereabout in Europe as prime ministers and presidents, somebody who is 80 wants to continue after spending 20 years in government. What is it that you want to do that you have not been able to do in 20 years? What do you want to offer the people that you have not been able to offer them in 20 years?