Former Nigeria’s Ambassador to Spain, Mrs. Bianca Odumegwu-Ojukwu, has urged the people of Anambra state not to let down the spirit of the late Igbo leader and Spiritual head of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, in the November 18 governorship election.
She noted that the people of the state would be helping to sustain the legacies of Ojukwu which centred on the welfare of the people by returning Governor Willie Obiano, who she said has done very well in his first tenure.
How prepared is APGA for the governorship election?
APGA is fully prepared. Our records speak for us. The outstanding achievements of successive APGA administrations in the past 10 years in Anambra state have given us a lightning bolt head-start. It is a testament to the competence and ingenuity of the state administrators elected on the platform of our great party. Peter Obi did outstandingly well and Willie Obiano’s performance has been nothing short of superlative. It is for this reason that the people of Anambra state are poised to vote for continuity, and to reject impunity and brigandage in the forthcoming gubernatorial elections.
Our party has brought stability and security to the state and Ndi-Anambra have vowed to defend this mandate, and to preserve the hard-won peace which pervades the state. Of course, we recognize that the quest for political power by any individual or group of individuals in any other political party is perfectly legitimate, but what Ndi-Anambra will not tolerate is for any individual, group or party to unleash wholesale terror as a tactic of political campaign, neither will they accommodate any other form of political banditry that militates against their constitutional right to decide who their leaders and representatives will be. Those dark days, when Anambra state, was referred to as the ‘Wild, Wild East’ are over. But we have not forgotten. The memory is still fresh on our minds and Ndi-Anambra are now more determined than ever before not to let unscrupulous politicians take over our political landscape. Anambra state is APGA territory. We have earned the trust of the peace-loving people of this state; those who suffer the most when subjected to poor and ineffectual governance; are those who actually reside in this state, not absentee citizens who once in a while, conduct their social rounds and leave, only to return during elections when they need the people’s votes to seek political office. The election coming up in November will prove to be the litmus test of the readiness and commitment of both INEC and the Federal Government to conduct free and fair elections in the South-East and maintain credibility and transparency in the electoral process.
How do you see APGA vis-a-vis Ojukwu’s vision for the party?
APGA is not just another political party. APGA is a movement; and it is centered around Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu’s vision of a political organization and movement founded on social justice, equality of opportunities, religious freedom and social security. Ojukwu dreamt of a country founded on all these ideals as well as one of great economic possibilities which guarantee every citizen the right to live and labour for their daily bread regardless of which state they choose to do so and without fear, intimidation and victimization; a motherland in which no section shall lord it over the another. He believed that the underlying basis of any form of government should be justice. He dreamt of a political economy liberated from crippling corruption, a nation not constantly plagued by religious and ethnic brigandage, and which could guarantee and secure the lives and property of its citizens across the country from all kinds of violence. Our major strength is that we have a strong ideological foundation, and a distinct party history. Yes, we have suffered great upheavals, but we have emerged from all these stronger and wiser. APGA is the party of liberation. It is the party that liberated the people of Anambra state from the stranglehold of political god-fatherism. Though we are entrenched at the grassroots, we are not unmindful of some of the challenges we may face with certain groups of politicians who are bent on importing mayhem and creating confusion within the state. But our greatest support base, the masses of Anambra state are determined that their fate and their interest will no longer be left to the whims and caprices of political adventurers, serial opportunists and dishonourable men. They know the wolves in sheep’s clothing. APGA’s mobilization of popular votes has been propelled not by money politics but by Ndi-Anambra’s belief that APGA is a party committed to their collective welfare. It is not a ‘food don ready, come and chop’ party. Our administrators are dedicated to wide scale development, infrastructural-wise and otherwise.
But APGA has always been embroiled in conflicts, are there efforts being made to bring these under control before the next election?
Of course, like every party we have had challenges, but these are essentially the usual problems that emanate from personalization of politics in Nigeria, and issues revolving around internal party discipline. Like the proverbial phoenix, we have risen from the ashes stronger and wiser. Our party leader has made bold, spirited efforts to rebuild the party, coming out of crisis and is determined to create and sustain a party environment which employs the mode of constructive engagement rather than destructive confrontation. It is as a result of this strategy that the most recent crisis to have threatened our party unity, where some members of the National Working Committee claimed to have suspended the party chairman without due process or recourse to laid down guidelines in our party constitution, was brought under control. Of course, some tough decisions had to be made by our party leadership but vigorous efforts are being made to address the root causes of the conflicts.
Many see APGA as purely an Anambra party or an Igbo party; are there plans to expand the party’s political base?
APGA was conceived as a national party, and it is a national party which affords any individual in this country, regardless of religious or ethnic background, the platform upon which to contest for any political office or realize his or her political aspirations. Having said this however, Ojukwu had hoped, through APGA to encourage regional solidarity and greater co-operation among the governors of the South East, and to promote collaborations on a regional developmental blueprint. He was not oblivious to the fact that APGA might be tagged an ‘Igbo party’ but his attitude was that this should propel us to get our act together, showcase our potentials and our possibilities before venturing into other states in other regions. We are certainly on the right track. APGA’s template for governance and the exemplary developmental model implemented by its governors has been eulogized and is already being emulated by other state governments.
Our party has been able to offer progressive political players across Nigeria the opportunity to vie for political office in order to provide effective representation for the people. We are positioning APGA to take over the remaining four states of the South East and to move into other regions. We have party chairmen in all the 36 states of the federation. This shows we have a national presence. We field credible candidates, and have typically done well in areas and states outside the South- East such as FCT, Nassarawa, Lagos, Kaduna, Kano and so on. The national chairman and national leader recently hosted the national executive council meeting in Awka and it was well attended by members from all over the federation. We shall continue to spread our tentacles. APGA is a moving train. Our members are committed. It is passion for the party which drives this movement.
Obiano’s government will be three years on March 17, how would you rate his performance so far?
Governor Obiano is an administrator par excellence. His achievements are unquantifiable. Where does one start? Is it from the provision of adequate security within the state which has made it very uncomfortable for kidnappers and men of the underworld or in the increase and prompt payment of workers’ salaries, as well as pensions, at this time of recession when many states owe workers in arrears? Economic and social activities are thriving within the state and this have emboldened so many Ndi-Anambra living outside the state or those domiciled abroad to return home freely, confident that they are secure. Anambra is fast transforming into a vibrant state infrastructural-wise and otherwise with the iconic flyovers in Awka which have become definitive landmarks of an emerging cosmopolitan capital. Obiano has built and also completed a vast network of roads and bridges, including the longest bridge built by any state government in the South-East. I would certainly score his administration high in the areas of agriculture and agro-allied industrial ventures, in trade and commerce, education, environment, housing, health, job creation, human capital development and most importantly, security.
The Anambra electorate are known to be unpredictable, are you sure Governor Obiano has the people with him in this November poll?
He has brought economic prosperity to many people in the rural areas and embarked on an unprecedented and large scale social mobilization that has made citizens in their various communities the owners and drivers of their developmental framework. His N20 million per community ‘choose your project’ initiative is still making waves, because for the first time, the government gave the communities the opportunity to take part in the agenda setting, planning and implementation of their preferred projects. No town has been left behind on this empowerment mission. And I am sure you are aware that Obiano was the first governor to roll out economic palliatives to cushion the harsh effects of the recession, abolishing several taxes and levies, increasing support to SMEs and social intervention for low income households. This is why the market women, petty traders, Okada and Keke riders, barrow pushers and artisans in Anambra state hail him as their champion. These socio-economic interventions have helped to promote harmony within the commercial areas of the state.
The wife of the governor on her own part has been an invaluable partner in progress, touching and transforming lives through her CAFE Foundation by way of providing shelter to the indigent and homeless, assisting widows, rehabilitating the mentally challenged, providing mobility aids for the disabled, facilitating cleft palate corrective surgeries, providing boreholes as well as countless skill acquisition initiatives. No other first lady in the history of Anambra state has recorded this level of critical intervention in the lives of the physically and economically challenged in the state. Our party is proud of these achievements. Our ethos is grounded on welfarism and human oriented policies, and Governor Obiano, who is also the leader of APGA knows that the masses are looking up to him to set them on the path to sustainable prosperity; he knows that he is like a shepherd watching over their dreams. It is not by accident that the accolades keep pouring in for Governor Obiano, from the Zik Prize for good governance, The Sun Governor of the year, Vanguard Man of the year, Silverbird Man of the year and so many more.
We only need to have a level-playing field for this election so that the people can have the final say. We are very much aware of the challenges we may face. Some politicians in the ruling party are already threatening to bring the federal might to bear upon the electoral process. We saw what happened in 2004, however, we are undaunted, and so are the people of Anambra state, in their resolve to ensure that Obiano continues to deliver the dividends of good governance. His second tenure is non-negotiable because Ndi-Anambra have seen what he can do. They will not be seduced by the usual suspects, the political pied pipers of Hamelin, who are only interested in personal aggrandizement, who lure the masses with false promises, only to abandon them in the middle of the sea.
Obiano has achieved, before the expiration of his first tenure, what would ordinarily have taken most governors two terms to accomplish. The people of Anambra know which party will protect their interests. They will make their choice, and in so doing, will not let down the spirit, history and legacy of Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu. There is a saying that ‘It is the character of a man that follows mourners from the grave’. Though Ojukwu has made the transition unto greater glory, we hold up his ivory tusk like the rod of Moses. The impact made has been tremendous and we are living witnesses. We take every opportunity to share the good news of the renaissance that is today taking place in Anambra; we spread this gospel, because we believe.