By Daniel Kanu

Chief Chekwas Okorie is the former National Chairman of the United Progressive Party (UPP) and its presidential candidate in the 2015 election.

Following the de-registration of the party and the other 73 political parties by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), UPP collapsed its structures into the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

In this encounter with Sunday Sun, Chief Okorie, who also founded the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA),  opened up on what he feels is fueling the Anambra carnage and why APGA will be a disaster in the coming November 6 governorship election.

The politician also spoke on the Nigerian president of Southeast extraction, why they deserve the seat, and the underlying current to shortchange the Southeast, among other sensitive issues. Excerpt:

Let’s know your view on what is happening in Anambra State, can you figure out if there are any underground fingers?

What is happening in Anambra State to me is quite heartbreaking. It’s not the way the Igbo people are known for and politics in Anambra State has never been violent over the years. It could be quite robust, quite engaging, and quite aggressive in the way and manner the contestants have always gone about their campaign and it can be quite expensive in terms of financial cost. Those are things that Anambra State has been associated with over the years, but the issue of violence, killing people, and all that is a new one and we have had this type of thing in Imo State, especially the Orlu axis and as that one was being contained the Anambra own sprang up and very prominent persons have lost their lives in Anambra State. And unfortunately, IPOB is being accused or fingers are pointing at IPOB, principally IPOB had earlier said that there will be no election in Anambra State, and the sit-at-home policy which they started and later called-off had been clearly hijacked by people who definitely are not IPOB members because if they are, they should be able to obey a simple directive from their leadership.  So, it’s obvious that the people who are doing this are not IPOB members because the IPOB had called off the sit-at-home order. So something definitely has happened that is beyond the control of IPOB and it’s beginning to overwhelm the security agencies and that is very sad. That is the aspect I am worried about, but the election will hold, no doubt, but then, what I have doubt about is the level of participation, the number of people that will participate because people are always scared of losing their lives and so when the security agencies have not contained the issues of giving people the confidence to go about their normal businesses, especially on Mondays and some other people, will be issuing threats,  mostly from the Diaspora, and this is the very sad aspect of it, people who are not even here with us with no way of feeling the pains are people giving threats. They use the social media to threaten those who will come out. This is unfortunate.  My worry as I said earlier is that the number of people that will participate in the election will be greatly reduced and the leadership that will be elected with such a small number may not be reflecting the majority mandate, or whether it will be a leadership that they will accept. My appeal for the people is that nobody should perpetrate violence so that the people of Anambra State can come out en masse and elect the leader of their choice, especially now that INEC has given the assurance of a transparent and credible election using technology to conduct it. So, it shouldn’t be at this time that the sovereignty of the Nigerian voter is being restored by the INEC through the appropriate legislation that has already been passed, that this violence will be there to counter all of this good progress that has been made recently. Nobody can cut his nose to spite his face and will go about beating his chest that he has achieved something.

Anambra Deputy Governor, Dr. Okeke has decamped to the APC. Do you think it will be a boost for the party in terms of clinching power in the state?

You know I am a member of the APC, so I still will be quite dispassionate in discussing this issue. APC has been making tremendous gains in the Southeast and in Anambra in particular, especially because the election is around the corner. The decamping of the Deputy Governor to APC is very symbolic and it’s a major setback for APGA. I am very worried even though I left APGA long ago, but I am the founder of APGA, so, anything that happens to APGA somehow touches my emotions. But I had warned long ago that there are so many wrongs done in APGA and done to some people who mean well for Nigerian politics, especially people like us who had a particular vision that drove us to form that party. And I said if they did not do any restitution and toe the part of rectitude that the party was going to become an ordinary carcass. I made that statement in 2012 and it’s coming to full circle, that prediction or if you like, some people say it’s a curse is coming full circle right now. There is no way this present APGA under the present leadership will survive with the November election, it is a sure bet that APGA is not making it and that will be a disaster, a tragedy for a party that held so much promise for the Igbo people as a platform for political engagement and negotiation. Right now Igbo people are like political orphans in Nigeria and that was what APGA set out to solve and that was what gave Dim Odumegwu Ojukwu political rehabilitation. I was so proud to have done that for him and to have used that opportunity to mobilise our people to a certain level of political consciousness that was going to usher us into a political resurgence in the Nigerian political space, but unfortunately, those who thought that APGA should simply be a cash cow and not an ideological movement for self-determination of every nationality in Nigeria as we proposed it took control and this is why we are where we are today. What is happening in APGA has set Igbo people back 50 years, so it’s so sad, but however, APGA has a chance of doing a review for 2023 after losing the Anambra election if the right things are done, that prospect remains there because there is a major vacuum that needs to be filled in the Nigerian political space, and a rejuvenated APGA can fill that vacuum not any third force as some are dreaming about because I have been in the opposition for a long time, this is just the first time I am joining a ruling party in all my political life that has spanned over four decades. So, I can assure you that no new party whatever name called: third force or whatever force formed now can gain the ground to even challenge the APC and PDP, but APGA already has name recognition and there is some emotional attachment to it, but it requires the appropriate touch and re-orientation to bounce back and be a major contender for 2023.

Most Nigerians are today dissatisfied with the APC leadership under President Buhari when looking at the economy, insecurity including corruption issues among others…?

(Cuts in) On the issue of the economy, the Nigerian economy has actually expanded, but everybody knows that the issue of the COVID-19 pandemic is a worldwide phenomenon that devastated even most so-called strong economies. Most countries went into recession and many of them have still not come out of the recession, so it’s a worldwide thing affecting big countries, it will be charitable to admit that this government is doing its utmost best to navigate Nigeria’s economy through very turbulent economic weather, but in the area of insecurity, it is unprecedented in the insecurity we have in this country and the country is so deeply divided that it seems to have worsened the insecurity in it. What bothers me is that the division we are experiencing now and it will be difficult to lay the blame only on the table of either the president alone or any one person because this insecurity we have has now spread all over the country, no geographical zone is safe except that some are worse than the others. But having said that, some good suggestions have been made as to the way we are to go about tackling insecurity, but unfortunately, the government we have is not inclined in the direction of state police and community policing compelling some states and geo-political zones to try and do something for themselves in terms of regional security outfit and it is not even effective because the laws of the land, the constitution has placed certain constraints and limits to what they can do and how they can be equipped. So, fighting insecurity, therefore, remains a big problem and it is more of a systemic problem. The security architecture that we have is outdated; it can never cope with the security challenges. I just hope that the National Assembly that is looking at the constitutional amendment will be very dispassionate and patriotic enough to give Nigeria the necessary legal framework for state police and community policing. If that is done, it will reduce insecurity by more than 70 per cent. Then on corruption, I wouldn’t know, but I don’t think that the corruption we have now is more than what we had under the PDP. As a matter of fact, I shudder most times to imagine what could have happened in this country if the PDP had remained in power under these most difficult conditions because a party that couldn’t manage the economy in times of abundance can never cope in a time of scarcity, so this government has done tremendously in that area, but still, the situation is not perfect, we have not come out of the woods.

What is your position on the 2023 presidency shifting to the South, but even at that the Southwest is also strategizing seriously and not taking any chances to miss the 2023 opportunity…?       

( Cuts in) In the Southeast, the desire to produce the president of Nigeria in 2023 is very strong and on the basis of equity, justice, and fairness, they should be supported to produce the president, but the way things are going now, especially in the mainstream, two major political parties it does appear that the Southeast will be short-changed, that is the way I look at it. I don’t see the prospect of PDP supporting anybody from the Southeast and in the case of the APC, that is where the Southeast even has some prospects, but it requires work, and as you know power is never served ala carte, it requires very aggressive and strategic political lobbying. It’s not something that will be obtained by merely writing on Whatapp and online publications, there should be people on the ground reaching out to those who matter. At this point in time, it is a party affair, it is only when the party has zoned it, for instance, to the Southeast that you can now step out from the party and then begin to include opinion leaders who influence voters, but at this point in time, any effort outside of the party is like putting the cart before the horse, you have to secure the ticket before you can now reach out to Nigerians and solicit their votes, promising them that you will do something different for their benefit, the benefit of all. So, I wouldn’t say that we have done enough within the Southeast to have really sustained an effective lobby, maybe because no candidate has openly come out and the time is now.

But individuals like Prof Kingsley Moghalu, Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa have indicated strong interest and made their declarations that they are running?

Any person running for the president of Nigeria and who is conversant with the size of his country and all the other factors that influence voting cannot begin to just mouth desire without having a very strong political platform to actualize it. With due respect to the gentlemen you have mentioned: which political party are they going to use and how are they going to build a national structure? No matter the amount of money that you have if your party does not exist in all the wards of the federation and in all the polling units, what magic will you do? Nigeria is too large to just win presidency on television channels and newspaper programmes and interviews etc, no, what is involved is far more than that because your party has to have credible candidates contesting in other positions because it is a general election, so it’s not just a single presidential election, so there must be candidates contesting for the House of Assembly, House of Reps, Senate, governorship and then the presidency on the platform that you are running so that as they are campaigning for themselves they are also campaigning for you and when the election comes you will begin now to look as events evolve. I have run for the presidential position before so I know what I am talking about. I have also led Dim Odumegwu Ojukwu to campaign nationwide and I know the constraints we had. Moghalu has run for president before he can check the record of INEC and tell himself the truth about the number of votes he was able to garner and what is the platform? And Mazi Ohuabunwa that you mentioned what is the platform? You can be a good candidate, but that is not the only criteria needed, remember there are equally other very good candidates in the race with you.  If he (Ohuabunwa) for instance, comes to the APC, fine, then we now know that he is in a party that is capable of providing that nation-wide structure. If he goes to the PDP, the same thing, these are two frontline parties, but if it is in any of these small parties I can tell you that it’s a tall order, it’s not something you can do by wishful thinking, there is practical reality involved in this type of pursuit.

The post Anambra deputy governor decamping major setback for APGA –Chief Chekwas Okorie appeared first on The Sun Nigeria.

Source: news