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National  Chairman of the All Progressives Grand Alliance [APGA] Chief Victor Umeh, has described the Peoples Democratic Party, [PDP] as a visionless party, large in size and peopled by power mongers.

In his opinion, there is no quality content in the PDP that is tailored towards meeting the needs of the electorate.

Reacting to the recent appeal by the PDP National Chairman, Dr Okwesilizie Nwodo, on the people of the South- East to join mainstream politics, Umeh argued further that states under the control of opposition parties are better off in terms of quality living standard and feasible projects than those under the PDP. Excerpts:

How did the Abia Governor Theodore, Orji  slipped out of APGA fold? What transpired, because he had already declared for your party before he made a detour to Peoples Democratic Party?

Well, Governor Orji actually joined APGA, he joined us in the open, it wasn't a secret arrangement and shortly after he joined us, the story about his wanting to join the PDP took the center stage and we didn't want to join the fray, particularly as he assured us that he was still in APGA. We had to allow him play out in full time what was in his mind and finally on the 28th August, he defected to the PDP one more time.

He thinks it is right, APGA wouldn't have forced him to remain with us. The only thing was he had no business coming to us in the first place, if he knew he would spend only about one month in APGA, or less than two weeks before he opened discussions with PDP.

If when he was being persecuted, the way he put it he had gone to the PDP, straight from the Progressives Peoples Alliance (PPA), it wouldn't have been an  issue for discussion. The fact that he yelled out for help and ran to Ojukwu for succour … I would say he came to APGA to take refuge, we fully obliged him and assured him of maximum support , but without recourse to us he left.

So, the way we treat his exit is that he has left us and moved to another party and that is it for us. We aren't going to chase him to the PDP to drag him back to APGA. It is his fundamental right to choose where to belong to.

The way he handled the whole thing is left for him to continuously explain to the Nigerian public, what led him to  that absurd action.

It was Nwodo, the PDP National Chairman that actually travelled to Abia to meet with Governor Orji and he had said he would like the entire South-East to move to PDP. Don't you think, with time, even Anambra would be `captured`?

No, I have had cause to address that question in the past and I said, even if PDP succeeded in taking over the five governors in the South-East, that wouldn't amount to taking the South -East people.

Our people are very independent minded the politics of PDP is hinged on having the governors in line with their thought process—what they want to do.

It isn't correct, the governors are leaders of the government, but it doesn't amount to their control of the political direction of the people most of the time. It is the thinking of the PDP that if they take all the governors into PDP, then they have taken the people of the South-East.

No, that isn't true. Even as it is now, I know that our people, the people of the south- east have a clear perception of the things facing them in Nigeria today. They aren't people you can come and drag with one string of propaganda, you can not confuse them; they will use their votes to express their desires, their feelings when the elections come. That PDP governors are everywhere in the south- east, don't guarantee  that the people of the south- east would vote for PDP in an election. It doesn't follow.

But the message had been, “come to mainstream politics, don't be part of opposition.“ That's Nwodo`s appeal and that has informed the gravitation towards PDP in the zone.

Our people cannot be swayed by that argument, that you must belong to PDP, for you to get your problems solved for you. The people of the South-East have been under PDP controlled government between 1999 and 2007, the whole South-East. The five states in the South-East, four of them produced four governors with eight uninterrupted years tenure under PDP.

In Anambra they had four years and three years: four years by Mbadinuju and three years by Ngige, the mandate he usurped that was given to APGA .

So, one can even safely say that for eight years between 1999 and 2007, PDP held sway in the entire South-East and our people went through night mares within the period. If we weren't able to get ourproblems solved when the entire South-East was under PDP, what cananybody tell the people of South-East today that would be the magic they should expect, because of mainstream politics?

So, you can se that the deceit is obvious and our people do not believe that anymore. When APGA government came to Anambra state in 2006, go and check all the indices of development, Anambra State comes top in the whole south east. It isn't just an assessment somebody can make that would be subjective. Go to World Bank, go to all the development partners, World Health Organisation—- everywhere you go to check, Anambra State  is number one in the South-East, even in Millenium Development Goals, Anambra is  ahead of the four states in the South-East, all because of the approach to governance by Peter Obi, the state governor under APGA.

So, Anambra State today is the engine of the other south eastern. It is under APGA, it isn't under PDP. Nobody can come and tell our people today that it is only when you belong to the PDP that you can get attention from the federal government. That's is politics of intimidation.

If I take you back to history, the NCNC, that was in charge of Eastern Region, never controlled the government at the center in Nigeria, yet I tell you that today, all the things you see today in the old Eastern

Region that are landmarks projects were those  done by the NCNC government  of  Dr Michael Okpara; they weren't part of the center.

The Nigercem factory at Nkalagu was the brain child of Okpara administration; the Presidential Hotel that is still in Enugu today and the Eastern Nigeria House of Assembly which Enugu is using today as its own Eastern House of Assembly remained the best building in Enugu up till today. In Rivers State, the Hotel Presidential was built by Okpara administration, we had the Niger steel, we had Aba Glass factory, industries were littered all over the place under Okpara administration.

This government under the PDP can not point at any factory, just one, no matter how small that they were able to erect. The dying industries that we had were the ones nurtured by Sam Mbakwe and Jim Nwobodo when they were in the Nigerian Peoples Party.

If you take it round Nigeria, you also see that in the South-West, the Action Group  held sway in the South-West under Awolowo visionary leadership. The tallest building in Ibadan till today, the Cocoa House built with cocoa money, not oil money—all the owambe dance they are doing today was the money they are getting from the federal government. They have nothing that they can point to that  they have done to over take the giants stride recorded when we were still running a primitive economy, when we didn't have money.

It was cocoa that drove development in the South-West, in the East it was palm oil and all that. With the oil boom and money available to government, they have not been able to do anything that would eclipse the achievements recorded in the 60s` under regional administration.

So, I think our people are able to judge for themselves; that PDP is a very terrible burden to Nigeria. No matter the number that they are playing with today, the country has continued to fail, because it is being led by a visionless party that is large in size. There is something that is called big for nothing; PDP can be described as the party that is big for nothing, because there is no quality content in the organization that is tailored towards meeting the developmental needs of the Nigerian people.

So, what they are bandying about is their large number, an accident that occurred in 1999, when they were able to take power with the 1999 Constitution prepared by Abacha. The 1999 constitution empowered those who took over Nigeria then to resist change and that's why they have become so impervious to very rudimentary changes needed to make our democracy function, all in the self need to perpetuate themselves in power, without serving the Nigerian people in terms of delivering quality services. So, I would tell you that government that are in opposition are doing better for their people than those in PDP.

The other day I was watching the television I saw Governor Mimmiko of the Labour Party in Ondo State. He launched the agrarian policy of his administration and they are now taking seedlings to farmers, government is now acquiring cash crops and taking them to the farmers to plant. That's a revolution in agriculture. It is something somebody can talk about a  government that has vision; look at their health care emergency services in Ondo State. Labour Party is driving Ondo State today and I am sure the people of Ondo State are better for it than when Olusegun Agagu was there.

So, that is how it goes and I tell you that the earlier Nigerians begin to understand that they are better with smaller parties than big parties that take them for granted the better for the country.

So in the south- east now there is nothing like PDP . They themselves, they know it very well; PDP knows that as a party, the people of the south- east aren't with them. The Igbo of south eastern Nigeria aren't with the PDP. With time, credible elections would wipe out the party from the South-East. They had taken control of the South East without elections.

Remember that when Okwesilizie Nwodo went to conscript Orji  from APGA to PDP, he made an open statement that in the past, that results had been written for the PDP, that they have never earned the votes of the people; but this time they are now coming humbly to seek the support of the people.

So that statement summarizes the fate of every part of Nigeria since 1999, when under Obasanjo`s  presidency elections never took place.

There was no election in 2003, there was none in 2007. So it was just act of brigandage and intimidation of the Nigerian people. If the national chairman of the PDP can openly say that they never won elections, it goes to show you that the people of the South-East and many parts of Nigeria did not give PDP their mandate to govern them.

So, a credible elections that will return the sovereignty to the people will show you that PDP is a balloon and there is nothing inside that balloon; it will be deflated.

Where does south east stands in 2010 permutations for the presidency: the governors from the zone has pledged support for Jonathan, while others are saying, they have no mandate to  negotiate on behalf of the zone.

Will APGA has a presidential candidate?
Well, I can tell you that the people of the South-East hasn't conceded anything to anybody. It is the usual pattern of the past that you are seeing playing out, where somebody comes out for presidency and the fashion is to go and recruit coordinators in other places and give them money to go and set up offices, support groups. Those people are doing their businesses.

If you come to Enugu where I live, there are about four different offices of Goodluck Jonathan support groups. They are business shops, set up by people. Our people don't look into those offices, they know that some people are doing their businesses, collecting money from people, who want some people to make money on their behalf.

The average Ibo man knows the challenges facing Igbo people in Nigeria and it isn't something anybody can toy with. It is something that you must come to explain to them in a manner that they will understand it; that if they cast their votes for you, assuming no Ibo man is running for president when the time comes, that their interest would be well protected by your own administration and that it will also be equitable to the rest of Nigeria.

If you look at the country today the federal government is responsible for the woes Nigeria is passing through, because constitutionally the federal government takes fifty five per cent of the resources of this country— revenue, accruing to this country. It is a jumbo percentage.

The local government and the states grapple with forty- five per cent and when you break them down you see that the federal government is the master and because of the ways they have failed to deploy the huge chunk of resources under its control Nigeria is failing terribly.

So, for somebody to say he wants to be president, the Ibos of Nigeria must be sure that in that presidency, their interest is keenly protected and that they have opportunity of also being president one day in Nigeria, if they support you. Secondly we must be able to know that the person who would be president has the capacity to lead Nigeria with zero corruption.

The bane of Nigeria is corruption, people who are parading themselves

on the field today are people nobody can go into his bedroom and tell

himself the truth that they represent the best that would turn Nigeria

around. So, of course we would look for somebody who has those

qualities that would turn the plight of  the Nigeria people around for

the better.
That the country isn't working well is because of our inability in the

past to allow the Nigerian people really to decide on the type of

leadership they want; the leadership we have had was foisted on the

Nigerian people and by the time we begin to allow the people feel the

pains of bad leadership; by the time we allow them to decide who the

president would be, I would tell you  they will not allow criminals to

lead any further.
So, that is why we are trying at all times to bring to the front

burner, the issue of credible elections. It is only a credible

election that will return the  power to elect the leaders to the

Nigerian people. People are wallowing in abject poverty in the midst

of plenty in this country. People who have been in position of

authority have taken the Nigerian people for granted and that's why

there is so much pain in the country today.
If you allow people to choose somebody who will be president, they

will not want to push forward a criminal, or somebody of doubtful

integrity. It is going to be key. By the time we begin to do that,

most of the divisions in Nigeria will be thrown away.

We need people with visions that will drive development. Today, what

are we discussing? Whose turn it is. Nigerian politics today is being

driven by the politics of whose turn is it. Successful democracies

have not gone through that process to achieve the mark they have

achieved for themselves. So, you have to be looking for good people. I

am not saying that there is no need for power to rotate in Nigeria,

but the crux of the matter would be, what benefit the Nigerian people

would get from such rotation and what set of people would be thrown

up? Would it be people who feel very passionate about Nigeria?

Unfortunately, the people who feel very passionate about Nigeria

aren't in the race.
But we haven't seen presidential aspirants on APGA platform. Why?

You see, one critical thing you must address is your intention. What

do you want to achieve? APGA first of all, wants to build its own

strength. If presidency were to be our priority today, for example we

have only one state in Nigeria under our control. So, if we now say

that we are going to produce a president for Nigeria at this material

time, then somebody may look at us as people who are insane.

But the truth is that we have to build our capacity, we  need to grow

. We have to build our strength first before going for the plumb job

that is the presidency. We contested presidency in 2003, we did in

2007, but PDP  rigged the elections. So, how can you blame somebody

now, if he isn't running for presidency through APGA. You can see all

the presidential aspirants are in PDP. There is no other party you say

is very strongly slugging for the presidency. The Action Congress, yes

is trying to put forward somebody, the Labour Party has Dele Momodu.

Yes, they can do that but what is important is the viability of your

pursuit. We want to first of all do everything to strengthen our

strong base in the next election, if they do credible elections. If

Jega is alive to his promises, I can tell you that APGA will be bigger

after 2011 elections and like that it would continue to grow big all

over Nigeria. With time one day, we would  produce the president.

But one thing that you must take away from me today is that we haven't

said we aren't fielding a presidential candidate. We are going to make

our guidelines known and all the offices that would be competed for by

all the parties in Nigeria, as listed by INEC. We are going to

advertise all those positions. If anybody picks APGA nomination form,

then we produce a presidential candidate. The party has not taken a

decision that it wouldn't  field a presidential candidate.