By Fred Itua, Abuja
Obiora Okonkwo is the Chairman, United Nigeria Airlines. The Russian-trained political scientist and business mogul from Ogidi in Anambra State, is the frontline contender for the governorship position on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). He speaks with Daily Sun on zoning, his vision for the state, among other issues.
You’re a successful businessman. Why delve into the murky waters of politics?
The motivation comes from my belief that politics shouldn’t be about people who have no job to do. It shouldn’t be for people with no permanent address. It should be for people who have succeeded in their various places of endeavour. It doesn’t necessarily have to be politics. But it should be about someone who has the ability to perform. That’s what I’m bringing onboard. If you look at our modern politics, it lacks mentorship. We’ve a faulty recruitment process in getting the right leaders. When you look at Anambra State, you’ve people who have succeeded in their various places of endeavour. I’m probably the only person who is only trained and tutored in leadership. I’ve also garnered the requisite experience and exposure to fit that position of the governor of Anambra State. I’ve a first degree in Economics. Masters and a PhD. So, I’m a political scientist. I’ve been an active political player in my state. I don’t have to be a serial contender to be qualified.
There are contenders for the same position in the National Assembly who believe that it a good recruitment ground for leadership. Do you subscribe to that?
The National Assembly is not a good recruitment ground for leadership. The fact that you’ve won a small portion of a state and you went to the National Assembly to preside a budget and go on oversight doesn’t mean anything. Is that a training ground? What kind of leadership will such a person provide? The major thing you learn there is how to oversight and implement your own intervention programmes. If I’m to head a panel and you mention National Assembly as one of the places where you’ve garnered your experience to become a governor, you’ll be screened out. Apart from earning fat salaries, those in the National Assembly, what have they got to show for it? That’s not the kind of experience you need to govern Anambra State. Who’s teaching them there? If you’re a successful private sector person, it shows that you’re ready to lead. You’re coming to uplift the people. That private sector experience is what is missing in governance? A private sector experience should be an advantage.
Will zoning in Anambra State affect your chances?
Nobody is talking about zoning anyone. I’m running in PDP and not in another party. PDP has never had zoning in Anambra State. A party in opposition for 16 years doesn’t need zoning. PDP has nothing right. The only zone where you’ve had a PDP governor in Anambra State who served for four years was the Southern district. By the judgement of the court, Chris Ngige was never a governor. You can’t count the years spent in power of other political parties as part of an arrangement. It can’t happen that way. For the avoidance of any doubt, every zone in Anambra State has produced a governor. In fact, Anambra South has been dominating the political space in the state. They had all the godfathers. It was just recently that they lost that. Why are they complaining? In our party, go through the records. The PDP has given more governorship tickets to the South than to any zone. Our focus now is who gets the ticket first. Let’s deal with that. We have had three PDP tickets in the South. These same people are still running the affairs. Andy Uba and Charles Soludo have been running. When you come to Central, the only ticket ever given to a PDP person was to Ngige. The ticket was given to him by the Ubas. Anambra North has gotten it twice. I was there and part of the process. The last PDP ticket was given to Anambra North.
If your analysis is in order, why the sudden clamour for zoning now?
They’re clamouring for zoning because of me. They feel that I’ve a chance of winning. They know that we are coming as a strong force. They feel the only chance of stopping me is for me not to be on the ballot. I’ve big endorsements and they know that.
The PDP has been in opposition for almost 16 years. It has tried without success since then to win the governorship election. What will they do differently now to win?
We’ve never been this united as a party in the state before. There’s no faction. We’re very united. We’ve had a state executive since 2017. The party has me as a frontrunner. I’m the joker. That’s the major reason why I believe that the PDP has a strong chance of winning. APGA knows that. For the records, APGA is the biggest promoter of this zoning. If they’ve done well, why are they pushing for it? Every political party is focusing on the South. APC, APGA and YPP are all going there. APGA has seen that they’ll lock their horn in that zone with the least registered voters. I’m a strong candidate and a strong voice from my Senatorial District. That was why the PDP offered me a ticket to run for the Senatorial seat in 2019. I would have been in the Senate today if I’d accepted to run for the position. I knew what I wanted.
The same person you supported to go to the Senate is running against you today…
That’s a betrayal. We had an agreement and an understanding that I’ll support her for Senate and she’ll support me for the governorship. It is well known to people. I leave her to her conscience. It is a betrayal. If God says I’m the one, so be it. Back to the issue, if I get the ticket, I’ll be the only one from a big party running from the Central. Some of those aspirants in the PDP are moles for APGA. It is too late for them. They’ve collected money. PDP is ready to win and whoever wins the ticket will go to the polls.
The church has a critical role. What is your relationship with them?
I’m a friend of all the denominations in Anambra State. They all agree that I should be the favourite. I’m the only aspirant with cross relationship with all the denominations. That’s what is driving APGA crazy.
The Ojukwu factor in APGA is there. Do you think that Anambra people are tired of APGA despite that fact?
The people are tired of the party. APGA is like the fig tree in the Bible that Jesus referred to. I’m coming to cut down that tree. Everyone in Anambra State wants to be rescued from the bad leadership of APGA in Anambra. The people want who can deliver the dividends of democracy to them and not where the person comes from.