•APC would lose badly
Chief Chekwas Okorie is the National Chairman of the United Progressive Congress(UPP) and the party’s presidential candidate in the 2015 general elections. He has predicted that the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress(APC) would lose badly in the next general elections, and that 2019 would record upsets. In this interview with WILLY EYA, he spoke on various issues including the call by the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra(IPOB), Chief Nnamdi Kanu.
What do you say to the call for the boycott of Anambra election by IPOB?
I will say it is borne out of ignorance really, because those who are calling for the boycott of elections, when I say ignorance, without meaning any disrespect, is that they don’t know that there has been an election boycott in this part of Nigeria before. UPGA, United Progressives Grand Alliance, which was actually a coalition of political parties led by Dr. Michael Okpara, canvassed for boycott and it hurt the people of the area badly. Notwithstanding, election still took place and the NPC, the Northern Peoples Congress and NNPP led by Akintola swept the polls because the others boycotted. If not for the military intervention of 1966, NCNC, the Action Group, UMBG, that were part of that coalition that boycotted the election, would have found themselves seriously in the cold.
Everybody saw what happened and swore that never again shall we boycott any election. This was even before the war. So, if they were not born during the war to know how we all suffered then, how would they even know what happened before the war politically in this country? Election boycott is nothing new, but it is nothing palatable at all. It is fraught with a lot of danger, politically. In fact, you will make yourself totally extinct.
Now, you want to occupy your space to be able to determine who represents you, who governs you and at the same time you don’t want to participate in elections and elections will definitely take place. Many people have said that God forbid that APC will conquer Anambra State, for example, because APC victory in Anambra State is like a conquest. The same people, the younger ones are saying don’t participate in the election. That is the surest way of surrendering Anambra State to the APC, because there will be election and they will participate and carry the result and go. So, it requires some re-orientation. And it is catching on. Like what you saw at Awka, you saw many of them who have embraced the political process. They are all there in the field spreading the message to every doorstep and they are winning converts so rapidly. I’m so impressed. And those who are saying boycott, have not told us what we are bound to benefit from such a senseless and primitive act. Which country in this modern world embarks on election boycott? So, I don’t know from where the idea came to them. Maybe they had a brainwave and started talking about something they cannot sustain by simple logic. There is nothing to sustain such a proposal. It will fail and our people will participate actively in the election ahead. They will.
Let them not be carried away by the success of the sit-at-home. The sit-at-home couldn’t have been less successful, because they anchored it on the people that died during the war and other massacres our people suffered. There is not a single family, it will be difficult to find a single family in Igboland that didn’t lose one loved-one in any of those events. And so, there is nobody who would not want to seize an opportunity to honour such loved-ones even if it means just sitting at home for one day. So, it only caught on because the appeal was right, more especially as 50 years was quite auspicious to mark such a very solemn event. That is why it is not only successful, but massively successful.
But those who championed it, indeed a noble cause, should not think that is a measure of their ability to direct the Igbo nation to carry out their wishes. Having gone to this election boycott thing, as the next step, perhaps to test how much loyalty, you can now see the backlash. Ohanaeze was vehement in disowning them and the people of Anambra State, felt so insulted that somebody outside of the state, will now come to dictate to them whether they will elect a leader of their choice or not. So, instead of uniting the Igbo, that very singular and very thoughtless proposal is now trying to divide the Igbo. People from Anambra State are beginning to look at the leader of the group asking them to boycott the election from the point of view of where he comes from. They are now saying if you’re an indigene of Anambra, would you have said the same thing? Can you do the same thing in your state?
Recently, your party had a national convention, what is expected from the UPP from now?
Let me say that Nigerians should look forward to a political party that is ideologically-rooted and is very conversant with the needs of the country at this point in time. There is no doubt that an overwhelming majority of Nigerians, have looked forward to the implementation of the recommendations of the 2014 constitutional conference. Those recommendations were not as exhaustive as many would want them to be. But over 600 recommendations, touched on so many aspects of our national life that would have balanced this country better than it is today and release the potentialities of many federating units and ethnic nationalities to develop at their own pace, to engage in the very healthy competition that would bring out the comparative advantages of all the federating units, for development and growth of the country.
That we believe in. But sadly, the All Progressives Congress, that has even progressive in its name, and the party that participated from their state levels, because they control 24 states, out of the Nigeria’s 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory. And these 24 states and the Federal Capital Territory, contributed what they considered their best teams to the national conference. It was only the APC as a party that did not contribute the three slots given to them as a party. And so, one may say that those decisions were reached by a majority of the APC governors. And the same APC controls the National Assembly by majority.
So, for the President of Nigeria to dismiss that document and say that he has not read it, he would not read it and that it was going to be confined to the archives, was the biggest tragedy that befell Nigeria at the beginning of his government.
So, we felt as a political party there was something we could do about it. This is not a matter for the judiciary, to say we will go to court to challenge anybody. But that we will bring the entire recommendations, the highlights at least, and reduce it to a manifesto format and it becomes our social contract with the Nigerian people and an article of faith.
This is what we have succeeded in doing, at least, in terms of the ideological thrust of our party. And as we were doing this, we were also testing the grounds to see how prepared Nigerians are for this kind of radical departure from the status quo. And we found out that the people of Borno, especially the Southern Borno, would want the national conference recommendations almost as much as the people of the South East would want it. The people of the Middle Belt, responded as if the National Conference was intended to liberate them from the shackles of the hegemony of the caliphate. The Southern Zaria people responded enthusiastically to what we were ready to do as a political party. Not to talk about the Niger Delta people. Delegations upon delegations began to come to us from the various parts of the country to say this thing you’re canvassing, don’t ever relent, that is what is going to attract us to you. We want to see it in more concrete terms.
Again, Atiku Abubakar, began to play up the issue of restructuring. But the weakness in his own that made it look more like rhetoric was because he belongs to the party that is doing the opposite. And since Nigeria doesn’t run an independent candidate system, people could not see how he was going to implement the opposite of what his party believes in. But all the same, his weighty voice gave credence to what the UPP had already articulated in our manifesto and constitution. Now, IBB has joined in saying, restructure Nigeria.
So, self-determination and restructuring have become a national singsong. Today, we’re the only political party of the 45 that exists at the moment that has come out with this bold initiative. So, as we approach the campaigns for 2019, we’ll take this message to every nook and cranny of this country, so that they will not see it as an Igbo agenda, but an agenda that will liberate Nigeria. Because what is holding Nigeria down is the type of structure it is operating and that structure must be dismantled and a new one put in place and you will see Nigeria experience a quantum leap in its development. So, this is what Nigerians should expect from us.
We are certain that having carried out this convention successfully, we’re now equipped as a political party should be to meet Nigerians in the field.
You seem quite disappointed with APC, as reflected in your speech at the convention. What do you think are likely to happen on the way to 2019?
Quite frankly APC has gone too far with its bad attitude in governance and to the Nigerian people that I don’t expect any change. I don’t expect any turnaround to improve. So, what we are going to do very aggressively, is to take our message of restructuring, self-determinations and all the highlights of our social contract with the Nigerian people to every doorstep, so that we have a national movement that is determined to move from the present situation of things to a better one. It may be quite ambitious, but it is achievable, with single-minded determination and the grace of God.
We’re determined to make the 2019 election at all levels a kind of referendum, a yes or no kind of election, where Nigerians will be made to know that if you want to know the real change that will impact on you and your family and even generations unborn, you have only one choice and that is to vote UPP that has come out with a clear-cut position on this issue, but if you want to remain where you are, then vote any other party, including APC.
In that aggressive canvassing of what I call our revolutionary agenda, we are going to translate it into so many languages, so that the man in Sokoto, who may not be as literate as to understand the political lexicons, will understand it in his local language. We are going to produce our message in songs that can be played and the lyrics will be played everywhere across the country. And we will have enough time to build it into a crescendo. It is not going to happen overnight. I can assure that by 2019, the attitude of the average Nigerian will be different. The beauty of it is the electronic voting system. That’s why I took time in that short address to commend INEC and the National Assembly for their commitment to the electronic voting system, because that is the only way Nigerians can retire these people who have held them hostage.
The average Nigerian, I believe, is rational, especially in exercising his franchise. But when they have voted and the people go and write results, it creates the impression that Nigerians like bad governance. Never. Nobody will tell you that he likes bad governance. And bad governance does not exclude anybody. The Fulani are there, the Hausas are there, the Igbo, the Yoruba, all of them are suffering the same thing.
There will be a lot of upsets in 2019. One thing I can predict accurately is that no one party is going to have an overwhelming control of say the National Assembly and the executive arms all at the same time, as has been the case during the period of massive manipulation of election results. But when manipulation of results, was not as brazen as we had them today or in recent times, no one party controlled everything. The NPC needed NCNC to form government. NPN needed an NPP accord to form government. And so on and so forth. That overwhelming control never existed that allowed parties to ride roughshod over Nigerians and they behaved as they liked.
Tell me under any normal circumstance, how Nigeria will be operating a security council in which no Igbo man is a member. It has never happened. It is APC government that has done it for the first time in the history of this country. And in spite of protestations, even non-Igbo people have said that this is the height of injustice. Yet, government is not concerned, they don’t care. They even want to inflict more pain on the people that are complaining. Tell me how Nigeria can continue like that.
This is what you get when it is one party controlling everything. So, they behave as they like. I believe APC has shot itself in the foot. It will lose so badly in the next election in the way no incumbent government has ever lost in the history of this country.