Chief Sir Victor Umeh, Former National chairman of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA fielded questions from journalists on Monday. He stated that the ban on PDP is as a result of its sins, and will remain. He cautioned the likes of Chief Peter Obi who he said is making frantic efforts to be in the race to shelve it as the Appeal Court decision on the matter is final.
You have just weeks to the rerun election, I like to ask you how your campaign experience has been so far?
Yes, we all know the elections are just weeks away, and the experience has just been good, and I am fully prepared for the election. My party is ready for the election, and I have been going round to talk to people, visiting people, even in their private homes and reaching out to major stakeholders. I am talking to people of various groups as wells as maintaining a communication line with the voters of Anambra Central Senatorial Zone. I have also been on radio and television programmes. I have Ohamadike hour on Odenigbo FM that runs every Wednesday, I have Ohamadike hour on Silverbird Rhythm FM, I have been to blaze FM, ABS, everywhere dishing out to the electorates the relevant issues and making them to get convinced and make up their minds to continue supporting me.
Of course you are aware that this is not entirely a brand new election, we have campaigned very vigorously in 2015 before the March 28 general election which was now later annulled by the court of appeal. One thing that pleases me now is that any place I went, the places I have gone to and even the places will go to tomorrow the people have made up their minds that I am the candidate they want at this time to go and represent them. So I find it very easy talking with them because even before I say anything, they take it over and start reeling my achievements and antecedents that make them properly convince that at this time they need my services as a senator. In summary I will say that the level of enthusiasm on the part of the electorates of Anambra Central Senatorial district is quite high. This can be seen in how the people are yearning for me all by themselves. One Saturday, my phone was ringing repeatedly from one particular number, I did not know the owner of that number, so I did not pick it, after persistent calls, I took it, and a woman identified herself as Amaka Ubaka and told me that they were at Methodist Church Amaenyi Awka praying for me for this election, and that they need my physical presence and that they will end around 3pm, and I took the call at about 1pm, so I immediately promised her I will be there, and when I got there, I saw so many women of the Methodist Church fold, and as soon as I came in there they started singing, thanking God for me, And this is a church I have not had anything to do with, and they prayed for me specially and said they have been following me through my radio and television programmes, reading me in the newspapers and of course known what I have done in this state since the past 16 years or thereabout, and so there searched through the candidates being paraded in this elections and decided that I am the man, and so were praying for God to see me through, so that I can help them.
So on their own they called me, but for someone who is being sought after the way they are searching for me, it makes my Job heavier because disappointment can never be an option in my representation for Anambra Central zone, so I am happy to be seeing such emotions for me here and there, and that is because they believe in what I can do for them. So, I am just waiting for the day to come and let this elections be over so that I can settle down to task to work for them.
You appear to be the only major candidates of this coming election, though you have 12 others, do you see it as a battle that will be easy for you?
In politics, if you are not humble, you can over shoot your range, but I will like to say without being immodest, that we were all part of this election in 2015, including the two others from PDP and APC, and I clearly won the election, even the ones that will not be in the election that are now Making noise, I defeated them in that election last year. In that election, I got 86,000 recorded for me in the result sheet, and PDP were all over the place using Amoured Personnel Carriers, tanks, INEC and security agencies got 93,000, that was what was recorded for them. 93,000 to 86,000, it was like David having 86,000 and the big goliath who was everywhere was beaten, so you can see that the result of that election shows that I won. APC got 24,000 with their super candidate, Dr Chris Ngige then.
Coming to the 12 candidates that are in the race now, no one can take anyone’s fight and fight for him or her, and most of them have been calling me that they want to work for me, they support me. They are candidates of other parties, but they believe in what I can do. I have also hear that those who are disgruntled have been ganging up to support even the least of the candidates to see how they can make me loss, but I don’t see how they can achieve. I am confident that that election, when the votes are counted, I will win. Apart from my acceptability to the electorates, the APGA government in Anambra State is doing exceedingly well, I do not judge the success of a government, based on what armchair critics say, as a member of APGA, and someone who has been in the leadership of APGA for over 13years now, and someone who has been championing APGA programmes, I can tell you that the Government of APGA now is doing very well for the people of the state, see the achievements being recorded. So the governor being from my party will also act as a boost to me in my election. The governor has traditional critics who don’t like him, those who do not believe as far as they are not the ones that are in charge. I can say that Willie Obiano has surpassed my own expectations in less than two years. The level of projects being executed in the state and particularly in Awka capital territory and elsewhere will show you that this government is a very serious government, and the governor is thinking about how to make Anambra State a good state. Security; he has tackled immediately he came in. People thought it was going to be a flash which will stop after one month and criminality will start. Anambra has been very peaceful, no kidnapping, no armed robbery and all that. So I don’t see how people will want a party that is doing all these to go down; what will be the alternative? We have everything going for us in this election, I have been here for a long time, and I have been a part of the success story, and two, the government I also midwifed into being in place here is also doing very well, all this things combined will give us unassailable victory. Even If PDP and APC are contesting those election with their strong candidates, we would have defeated them. What I insisted on not allowing to happen was to go into this election with illegitimate candidates who are not supposed to be in the election, you go into the election with them and you expose the election to further risk of nullification. That is the essence, otherwise we are not afraid of a political party, APGA is a prominent political party and we know we have the structure.
The court of appeal judgment, one would say should ordinarily have declared you the winner of that election, so how do you feel going through this headache again?
Well, I am still grateful to the Court of Appeal because if you remember the tribunal made a joke of our petition at the tribunal, but the court of appeal decided to go deeper into the petition and decided to nullify the election and said that the PDP did not hold any primary to select their candidates and that was what put forward this arrangement of conducting another election. For me it’s very painful, but I have to bear the pain, if they had said no at the tribunal, what would do, this opportunity would not be there. So half a loaf of bread is better than none. That there were able to nullify the election and offer us a second chance is good enough. We will go through it, and there is not cost that I will bear in pursuing justice that I will consider too high. If I had considered that charade of 2015 to stand, the psychology of people of Anambra Central Senatorial district would have been so greatly tortured. There were traumatized with the way PDP militrialised that election, so many people were badly beaten up, and result sheets were carried away and they said is this the way to run a society? If they had gone away with that victory, it would have destroyed the interest of people in elections. For the fact that we were able to get this back, you can see the happiness in the faces of people that they stole this thing and they could not get away with it, and they have another day, and we are ready for the election to pay them back in their own bad coin.
So, for me, I ought to have been declared winner because they was no need for a repeat of this election. But for the wisdom of the judges of the court of appeal that the nullification should suffice, I accept it. Good enough, it is just about 19 days away, and the extra cost of going for this repeat election should be borne by lovers of genuine democracy.
You had made a point that you were not opposed to Buhari being the president, can you use this opportunity to tell us those things that are dear to you that when you get to the senate you will work with?
Yes, I said it clearly that was not averse to Buhari becoming president as a person, but we decided to vote the way we voted because of what our party considered very critical to the survival of Nigeria as a nation, and that critical thing was the promise made by Jonathan to implement the report of the national conference, which he put together in the first place. The report of that National Conference remains a key to the survival of this country as a nation. Anyone who wishes it away is postponing the dooms day. This country cannot continue to be run in an atmosphere of tension, where there are too many grievances from various parts of the nations. Good leadership requires that a nation should be put on a pedestal of sustainable development and peace. That way Nigeria is configured and structured, tension will continue to pervade this land. There are too many people who have been cheated, the real people of Nigeria have been cheated. I am known to be championing this cause all the time, the structural imbalance is skewed against the Igbo people of Nigeria because of the war will not last for ever. Nations have fought wars all over the world, America has fought wars, many nations in Europe fought wars, and they come out of their wars stronger, and things that caused the wars were looked into at the e3nd of the wars, and ways of maintaining sustainable peace became the order of the day, but in Nigeria they refuse to agree that the war has ended. They agree that the war has ended in principle, but the war is still on against the Igbo people of Nigeria. If I have time to state it, there are so many areas begging for attention. So outside the confab reports, the boldest efforts Nigeria has made towards preserving its desired unity where in a dialogue arrangement where there were give and takes for all parts of Nigeria. The Igbos were given one additional state, increasing their number of state to six, because we presently have five. The issues about local government were also addressed. Local government funds can no longer be shared to the 774 local governments, money will be shared to the state and the will now… you can create 2,000 local governments if you like. These were the things we agreed to at the National conference. We also saw, that who becomes the president of Nigeria was a major action in Nigeria anytime we are going to have an election, everybody wants his own person, or tribes man to become the president of Nigeria, so we said instead of killing ourselves over who becomes the president of Ngeria, let us have an arrangement where every part of Nigeria will have hope that one day they will have hope that they will ascend the presidency of this country, and it was agreed that the presidency should rotate between the north and south and across the geo political zones, and with that type of arrangement, it won’t take time and presidency will reach to places where it had not gotten. Since about 50 years now, no Igbo man has been president of Nigeria, a very strong ethnic group in Nigeria, intellectually, business acumen, industry, hard work, everything you are looking for, you will find it in an Igbo man. Exceptional wisdom, knowledge, you can locate it in an Igbo man, but they cannot be president of Nigeria. When I get to the senate, we want a Nigeria there will be equal rights and opportunity for all people of Nigeria, not just for the Igbo people. We will make efforts to close the gap created against the Igbo people. We want equity and fairness. We can easily achieve that through legislation. Every aspect of Nigerian life, you can use legislation to put things in proper perspective, and it will work for everybody. So if I go to the senate, I will pay my primary responsibility to Anambra Central Senatorial District, and I will get everything they are entitled to as a federal constituency in Nigeria in any form, be it infrastructural development, be it youth empowerment programmes, be it women empowerment programmes, be it education, anything that it being done at the centre for federal constituencies, that of Anambra Central will come home complete and none will be found wanting. I will be alert to my responsibility. On a second stanza, I will contribute to nation building, I want to be a part of any group in the senate or the national assembly for that matter that will be championing for a better Nigeria. A Nigeria that every citizen will be proud of. In the senate there are too many progressives from all parts of Nigeria, so the issue of people thinking that the status quo will always remain; even those who think they have the advantage today are aware that it will not be forever. Or if these pressure and agitations keep building in the land, people will be forced to let go some of the things they are holding, so that there will be peace in the land. At the senate I know there are people from the north, who are progressive minded and will want Nigeria to move forward. Nigeria of today is not like the Nigeria of 50, 60 years ago. Even in the north, education have changed thing, people have gone to other climes, and have seen how things are done, particularly in the area of civic rights, such people are in the senate now. Lets work for a great country called Nigeria and people will begin to de-emphasize their ethnic origin, their religious bias and others. There are people who are now thinking about making Nigeria a great country, and these are people I am going to walk my way around, so that we start thinking of a country that everybody will be proud of. There is no need going to America, you go there and you see how the people live in peace. America is a multi ethnic society, people from all corners of the world are in America. You have Jews, Spaniards, Caucasians all in America, and their code is equal rights. All these people don’t even think of their country of origin, they work for the common good of America. So this is the type of country I have a dream that Nigeria should be.
Last month, I was in England to attend the graduation of my daughter at the University of Warwick where she finished her master’s degree, I got there, and where we were directed to sit I saw Nigerians there, and one Alhaji Bashir from the north also came with his family members for his daughter that was graduating too. We sat there and we forgot that I am Igbo and Bashir and his contingent were Hausa. I wore my long red cap, and as soon as I came in, all of them got up and were hailing me. Alhaji Bashir, an influential northerner was pleased to see me, he started asking me about my election and we were all happy and we were like one family, and when our daughters were called out to receive their certificates, we were hailing each other, but as soon as we landed in Abuja, everybody will remember that I am from Kaduna and I am from here or there. So we must try to remove such things from our national life.
Thirdly, I want to help in building a more united Nigeria, a Nigeria where everybody will have confidence in. If we do not achieve that, we are wasting our time, and that is why I said we will address the various problems facing the country. That is why I also said that the only document that has addressed the problem of the country is the report of the national conference, which Jonathan handed over to buhari as one of the major handover document, so we will keep our eyes on that report.
Overtime, our people have been in the senate and held prominent positions too, so I want to ask about the state of federal roads in the zone, what can be done about it?
Its an obvious fact that the federal roads in the entire south eastern Nigeria are bad. There are death traps, there are no longer roads. Apart from Onitsha-Owerri road which has been completed, there is no other federal road in south eastern Nigeria that people don’t agonize when they pass through them or even remember they will pass through them. It is a failure of leadership and representation from the people of this zone, those who have found themselves in the corridors of power. I blame the past leaders for this situation, because we have been blessed with opportunity to get this things addressed but I don’t know why our people seek to look after themselves when they get this opportunity. Under president Goodluck Jonathan’s administration, the south east had very powerful people in government, they had secretary to the government of the federation, they had deputy senate president, we had coordinating minister of the economy, we had other ministers like the minister for works, Aviation, so under that government we had very good and exalted positions to push up the problems of our people for attention. At the national assembly, we also had very great committees chaired by our people, the senate committee on works, chaired by Senator Ayogu Eze, the house of reps committee for works, Ogbuefi Ozomgbachi, the chairman for FERMA, Hon Chukwuegbo who is also from Enugu state. So with these galaxy of important people, our roads were not built. It is very unfortunate, and they may think they did their best, but their best was not enough.
The dual carriage ways we have in the south east, Enugu-Onitsha, Enugu-Port Harcourt, they are all in a mess, but if you go to their own local governments, you will see Julius Berger and Setraco working there building very fine roads in the bush, roads that no one will ply, I think that they misjudged the interest of the Igbos. They are thinking that if they build a good network of roads in their communities they have served the interests of the Igbos. The key major carriage ways, the Enugu- Onitsha and the Enugu- Port Harcourt expressways remain the roads that our people want very urgently. We also have Oba-Okigwe Federal Highway, that road is a death trap, and that it has not been done by any government is a huge shame. I thank God that in Anambra State,th APGA government did very well in internal Road network in the state, and you can move around Anambra State with ease, and if there is anytime you have reason to go through a federal highway, that s when your nightmare starts. But I think that all hopes are not lost, it requires somebody who will mobilize our people much more effectively in the senate. I know we shall be 15 in number from the south east. It is not going to be a party affair; Umeh is from APGA, this man is from PDP and this man is from APC. The time to do that kind of politics is far gone, we shall see ourselves in the first place as senators representing Igbo people at the senate. If they have not been holding such meetings, when I get there that meeting will start. I will give them trouble, I will go to their houses one by one, and tell them that this is not the time to sleep, everybody should wake up. We have to put our acts together and present our common intention to our people, that is the way to do it. If they go there to begin to bicker about those in APC, those in PDP, then I am coming from APGA, I will be a unifying factor. I will arouse the consciousness of the Igbo people in the national assembly that we should remain one voting bloc on all issues, so that we will be able to get attention for our people. I will not allow that division to exist. All those guys in the senate, they are my friends, even now that we are in a still contest. People may think that it is a big war between the PDP and APC against APGA in Anambra State, but I can tell you people are looking for opportunities for themselves. We are not quarreling, I can tell you now. The senators that are there now are from PDP and APC, I meet them every day either in the Airplane or functions and they hail me, and tell me that they are waiting for me to come to the senate. They are hailing me because they know what I can do when I come there. So I want us to achieve that unity of purpose when I come there, so that we can begin to push forward the problems of our people for attention at the National Assembly.
Finally, the fear of you politicians is the winner takes it all mentality. I will like you to advice your PDP brothers who have been put out of the race, especially as we hear they are still making frantic effort through the court to be accommodated?
Well, this is the only senatorial seat that APGA has a very bright prospect of taking now, I don’t see that to be a problem for them. I think they still need a very strong character in the senate. They will say that one APGA senator in Chief Sir Victor Umeh is a large slot, but there is nothing like winner takes all in this matter. If you check all that I have just said about achieving unity at the senate for the good of our people, you will understand that the issue of being from one party or the other in the senate will be drastically reduced. We will begin to see ourselves as brothers and sisters working for the interest of our people. In this election, the APC and PDP are struggling to be a part of the election, but these things are self inflicted. The PDP removed themselves from the election, INEC did not remove PDP from the election, PDP removed itself by its own actions. Every time in Anambra State, we have told them to nominate one candidate and they have refused to do that. They want to go to election with three candidates for one position. It has been happening, and I remember the day I filled my petition, I addressed the press and I said one thing I am guaranteeing by coming to the tribunal is that I want to stop multiple candidates, so that they will sit up. It appeared difficult, but I was able to hit them through the court of appeal and they left and since then, they have been mourning.
And to make it worse, the Supreme court recently ruled on other state leadership, and through it, The PDP has no valid nomination at all. They had no invalid nomination, no valid primaries. The two sides claiming victory now, none is standing on a sound footing. The national leadership sent the names of one group without any primaries, then the state executives that was claiming to be in place sent another list to INEC without authority. A state executive cannot forward the names of candidates to INEC. Go and see section 31 of the electoral act. List of candidates can only be forwarded to the commission under the signature of the national chairman and the national secretary, and yet the national leadership must conduct a valid primary through the legitimate state executive committee in any state. They did not want to do that with the legitimate state executive committee, relied on the provision that the national chairman and national secretary are the ones to forward names, that was how one list went in. And the other group relied on the court order that they are the legitimate state executive went and performed an act they are not empowered to perform, that is forwarding names of candidates for PDP to INEC direct. They did it in 2011, it worked for some of them. If you remember, John Emeka who is always going through the state executive committee, went through that in 2011 and Margery Okadigbo who went through the national leadership removed him through the supreme court. So what is happening now in Anambra PDP is not new. What is happening is that these two PDP groups can be described as two cutlasses; one is sharp but has not handle and cannot be used, and the other has a handle but is blunt and can as well not be used. So while they sort out their own confusion, you can see that the Anambra central Senatorial rerun election has been fixed for 5th March. The man who is claiming to be the PDP candidate through on state executive committee, Senator Annie Okonkwo is still waiting for certificate of return in Abuja for an election that has been nullified. That election no longer exists because the court of appeal has nullified it, and he wants a certificate of return for an election that is dead, that one is already dead and nothing can resurrect it except this election scheduled for 5thMarch. I also heard that some people are making efforts through the court to bring to bring PDP back into the election. When I hear some of these things, I marvel at the level of ignorance some people who describe themselves as leaders exhibit. Supreme Court has said finally that when an election is nullified, and a repeat election is nullified, only the candidates who took part in the previous elections, who were validly nominated will take part in the election, no new candidate will come into it because the period for nomination of candidates has since elapsed, that is the law. And here people are still running round. At the nullification of the Anambra Central Senatorial election, the court of appeal said that the PDP candidate, Uche Ekwunife was not qualified to contest the election, so the court of Appeal disqualified here, and initially, she did not accept that she has been disqualified, but when it dawned on her that she has been disqualified, she moved to APC, so in APC, they stopped her finally there, and she has gone home in peace. Now some people who were not part of that same election are trying to force the court to declare that PDP must take part in that election. If there is any reason why any candidate will take part in that election, it ought to have been Uche Ekwunife if she was not disqualified. So why will somebody be wanting to do the impossible in an election you see that there is a very big iron steel shutting you out, and you keep over heating the polity, so the laws are there, and I want everyone to go by what the law says. On that note I look forward to the 5th of March that this process will be completed and from the feelers I am getting from across the state, people are even praying that these people will come into the election so that they will humiliate them with their votes.