From Iheanacho Nwosu,Abuja
Dr. Obiora Okonkwo is a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Anambra. He is currently in t court fighting over what he called the robbery of his ticket for the Anambra Central Senatorial election. In this interview he spoke on the matter, and the ongoing debate on restructuring among other issues.
The litigations against the conduct of Anambra Central Senatorial election seem to give credence to insinuations that there are plots to frustrate the poll from holding.
What do you make of the drama playing out?
It is really an unfortunate situation that it has taken this long for the situation to be resolved. I still believe in the rightful position that PDP contested the election and from every indication won the election, and was declared the winner rightfully.
As we all know, the winner was sent out of the senate by the court. And I emphasize that she could not show proof that she was validly nominated by the party. That is why I have been in the court for a pre-election matter. I am in the court that I was the candidate that was validly nominated for that election. I fully participated in all the processes and this claim has been further proven by the various affidavits that have been in the court during the whole period of litigation starting from 2014.
The national working committee panel members, from the chairman, some of them senators, professors sworn an affidavit before the court that I won the primaries which they conducted. They have confirmed that the name of the Returning Officer on my result sheet was the person validly nominated as officer to the primary of the central senatorial zone. And on the strength of that it authenticated my result sheet as the valid result sheet for that primary. From the result sheet it was obvious that I won the highest number of votes cast in the primary. On the other hand, then beneficiary of the process who thinks she won had come to join the suit to prove that she was the candidate of the party and in the process submitted her own result sheet. From the analysis and the document before the court, the Returning Officer, based on the affidavit she claimed that returned her, submitted an affidavit disclaiming his name and his signature in the result sheet before the court. So in a nutshell, I am the bona fide candidate of the PDP.
Do you agree with those who feel that some people are conspiring to frustrate the conduct of the senatorial election because they feel that the APGA candidate, Chief Victor Umeh will win if an election is held?
Conspiracy has always existed. But it does not apply in this situation because APGA candidate has absolutely nothing to do in this circumstance. If there is any legal conspiracy, if at all they exist anywhere, should be against me and those who are afraid of them. Since APGA candidate is not a party to the suit and some know that what I am waiting is the pronouncement of the court that I am the candidate and an order of the court for INEC to issue me a certificate of return and the senate to swear me in some are not happy. APGA does not come in here.
You sound so confident of the court declaring you winner, how about the court following path earlier taken by the Appeal court Enugu division that ruled for a rerun?
No, I don’t see the High Court plying the same path. The judgment of the Appeal Court has no effect on my suit. Because when that decision was taken, it was on a different issue. There was a clear ruling on that by one Justice Muhammed who stated that the matter is of no effect to this. These are two separate issues; a post-election matter and pre-election matter whereby the parties are different. For instance we have seen the recent judgement of the court, the senator and a House of Reps member who were taken out by the Supreme Court for internal party crises.
Even if the Court of Appeal had validated the candidacy of the then beneficiary she still would have had to face me. And if in any event the court declares, in my own case, that ab initio I am the one who ought to have been the candidate of the party the court would order that the Certificate of Return be withdrawn from her . The precedence is there. You have seen the other cases of Taraba and Benue, so it is with mine.
Recently the Ohanaeze president, John Nwodo said the Igbo are for restructuring and not for secession as being clamoured for by IPOB and MASSOB. Do you think his statement captures the feeling of many people?
Well, to that extent I think yes. It captures the reality of the situation. It also opposes, rightly some insinuation and claims about the agitation. Biafra as an ideology, just simply means equity and fairness. And then restructuring, not necessarily on the issue of an independent country, I believe in the unity, because economically, when people are united they become stronger. Even in the European Union, people that are fewer are asking to join because of the economic benefits and other common trade that they have. So I really think that the Biafra issue is just simply the issue of equity and justice. I think majority of Nigerians and other groups should be thinking about our structural composition as a nation which in effect is calling for restructuring.
Some people have taken on members of your party clamouring for the implementation of the 2014 conference report and restructuring, saying that PDP government had the opportunity to do so but kept the report by the side. What do you make of that?
The issue of restructuring is on the lips of everybody. It is beyond political parties. Even APC as a political party, I read, has set up a committee on restructuring. Even the acting president, I read recently that he would be addressing the issue of restructuring soon. The Afenifere is talking about restructuring and they are referring to the 2014 national conference. Prominent Nigerians, past leaders and so on are calling for restructuring. I really think that this is more or less a general issue of concern beyond party lines.
I want to believe that if we go back to 2014 when this conference took place it was very close to the general elections and any attempt to implement the recommendations before the elections would have been misinterpreted. However I am not speaking for the government at the time. I wasn’t part of their decision making. I didn’t know why they did it. In my own observation it was close to the general elections and it is not something that happened as a mistake or an oversight. The strategy was that the conference would hold and the outcome would be implemented after the general election.