From Chuks Collins, Awka
Chief Chuma Nzeribe, the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) candidate for Anambra South senatorial district in the April 9, 2011 general elections in which the embattled Dr Andy Uba of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) was announced winner and consequently sworn in. But after a long year of legal battle, the Court of Appeal ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission(INEC) to withdraw the Certificate of Return earlier issued to Dr Uba and for him to vacate the seat at once. Feb 18 has therefore been set aside by INEC for the re-run poll. Deep in their respective campaigns and preparations, Nzeribe and Uba spoke to CHUKS COLLINS in Awka.
Nzeribe’s interview excerpts:
Recently the court of Appeal in Enugu annulled the election of Dr. Andy Uba and ordered the INEC to conduct a fresh election involving all the parties. People had expected the court to declare you winner going by what you canvassed at the lower tribunal?
Well, that was the expectation of all but that was not what the learned justices of the court of Appeal pronounced. But we are contented with the nullification because that proves Mr. Andy Uba didn’t win the election and was fraudulent. That means that his election too was fraudulently procured, and he was fraudulently sworn in the senate. We are happy we are back in the field.
The court said the INEC should conduct a fresh election within 90 days.
Yes, the INEC has fixed February 18, for the re-run election.
How far has your preparation been?
I have been criss-crossing all the 118 electoral wards in the seven local governments of Anambra South Senatorial district, namely Ihiala, Aguata, Orumba North, Orumba South, Nnewi North, Nnewi South and Ekwusigo councils. We are ready for the election and we are consulting with all the major stakeholders and interest groups with a view to once again sweeping the polls across the entire senatorial district.
In the April 2011 election, the PDP presented two confusing candidates, Dr. Andy Uba and Nicholas Ukachukwu. Although the court gave the verdict against Uba who was eventually sworn-in, but we found that Ukachukwu is still in a federal high court over the party’s actual candidate between him and Uba and campaigning also. Who really is your PDP opponent in the election? Are you envisaging that two of them will file out to contest against you?
Well, the candidate in this election according to the INEC is Andy Uba whose nomination is being questioned as being fraudulently procured. However, Prince Nicholas Ukachukwu who was not a candidate in the last election is still parading himself as a candidate of PDP and canvassing and soliciting for votes from the electorate. It is the duty of the INEC to call them to order, but the INEC seems to be colluding with the PDP to field two candidates so that they could simultaneously be soliciting for votes against the electoral law.
Assuming two of them continue to canvass for votes until the last minute, would you be compelled to sue the PDP as a party.
We will beat them. In the last election two of them contested and we still beat them. Except for the 37, 000 votes they procured into the election. In the last election, Andy Uba mysteriously procured 22, 000 votes in 10 wards in Aguata when the INEC report indicated that there was violent ballot box and electoral material snatching in 10 wards. A similar scenario played out in Nnewi South, Ukachukwu’s home local government area. These were issues that came to bear in the nullification. Also in Orumba South, there was heavy falsification of results in about eight electoral wards in the area. And all these came to bear and even in three wards in Uli where PDP gave themselves almost 9, 000 votes. All these we were able to prove that they were fraudulently written votes in their favour and that assisted the court in nullifying the election because we proved beyond reasonable doubt that result in five out of the seven local governments were fraudulently obtained.
You have been campaigning in the past few weeks. Can you tell us your experience? Are you changing programme or are you still selling the programme you canvassed in your first outing.
Across the seven local governments, we have been selling the manifesto of APGA which is even development of all the areas. We have also been selling my own reasons for wanting to go to the National Assembly which is to accelerate even development of the seven local government areas. These are programmes we are busy marketing in the seven local governments while our opponents are in Abuja allegedly trying to coerce the INEC into writing result again for them. They will not succeed because the people of Anambra State and the youths of this senatorial district have vowed to stand by our votes and make sure that nobody tampers with the result again.
You were in House of Representatives, so what are those antecedents of yours you believe will stand for you in the elections.
I have been fearless in the defense of the weak, the down trodden and the masses of my community. I have been a distinguished public servant for two terms when I represented them at the National Assembly attracting numerous federal projects for our communities. I have been a distinguished public servant when as Special Adviser on security to Anambra State Governor; I stamped out violent crimes and armed robbery across Anambra State . These are enduring legacies which nobody can contradict. I have put myself out as an agent of change and true service and effective representation and I believe my people will re-elect me once again to midwife their interest in the National Assembly.
APGA is the ruling party in the state, to what extent has the party assisted you in your effort to get back to the National Assembly.
I thank my Governor, Mr. Peter Obi and the party. They have been with me and have given me all kinds of support – moral, financial support. I am eternally grateful to our Governor, the party – both at the state, local government and National level who have assisted me throughout this battle to wrestle back our mandate from the PDP.
Boko Haram insurgency and wave of bombings have almost become a daily occurrence now, as a former security adviser to an elected Governor, what would you FG to curtail the menace
I don’t know of any lapses in security. The current breeches we have in the security of the state are normal occurrences in any free society. I join millions of Nigerians in appealing to the adherents of Boko Haram sect to embrace dialogue, with the current administration and put their feelings and grievances on the table and through the machinery of the National Assembly seek for ways of improving the lots of their members instead of resorting to violence and destruction of lives and property. It is not right, it is inhuman and nobody should unnecessarily go after human lives. I also believe the security agencies are rising up to the challenges posed by the new threat which they were not prepared for in the first instance. With time, they will adjust to it and be able to secure lives and property adequately.
How do you look at the issue of subsidy removal, holistically?
Well, I cast my lot with the common people of this country. The increase of
N141 was very high. And I thank God and the President for having listened and brought it down. However, there are challenges in the administration of subsidy regime. As a person schooled in public finance, I make no pretences that I do not support the retention of subsidy on a key area like petroleum which is the life wire of our country. But at the same time, there is no reason why over these years our refineries were not producing. If the refineries had been producing, the issue of subsidy will not arise because am sure we can produce this gas for less than N40.00 locally. But because we depend on import for our PMS usage, the need for subsidy arises. But for the administration, we need to know how many litres of fuel we produce as a country.