Why APGA hasn’t moved against Okorocha –Sowunmi


Hon. Tayo Sowunmi, national vice chairman (South-West) of the All Progressives Grand Alliance ( APGA) and chairman, Anambra State governorship screening panel for APGA primary election, in this chat with POLITICS EDITOR, Daniel Kanu, says as that far as the party is concerned, Imo State Governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, has not defected from the party. He also speaks on the build up to the Anambra State governorship election and other issues

What exactly is your party, All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) doing about the defection of Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha?

He has not told us that he has defected. So far, he has not officially informed the party that he has gone to the newly registered All Progressives Congress (APC). We suspended him because of his romance with the APC without authority from the party. The day he defected openly, that day, we shall visit him with heavier punishment. For now, we still regard him as an APGA governor in Imo State. Certainly, he cannot carry our mandate to another party; if he does, then we take some other actions against him.

The state secretariat of APGA in Owerri, Imo State capital, has been deserted, so his exit from your party is no longer a secret. Don't you think this will affect the fortunes of your party in coming elections?

We understand that he has virtually told the Imo State people that the state is now APC state but this is still on the pages of newspapers. He is yet to tell us that point blank. Of course, he has not resigned as a member of APGA. For you to cross to another party, you have to formally resign; he has not sent us any letter of resignation. So, other than the suspension we gave him, we cannot proceed further because he has not told us in writing that he has defected, despite what his body language is saying. Legally, he knows that he must resign before he can cross to APC. As for his defection affecting the fortunes of APGA, it is not going to be so. It is possible that Rochas Okorocha thinks he won the state election on his personal credentials, that is not so. Those that voted for him voted APGA not Okorocha. He has tried many times to win election without success. He tried in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), he did not succed. He was not even given the ticket. He, at a time, used the party he founded, I think the Action Alliance (AA) but he did not succeed. It is the APGA that is dear to the heart of the people of Imo State that made him to realise his ambition. So, we are waiting for him to make the final move; then we shall set in.

Many Nigerians were shocked that a man like the former Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) boss, Chukwuemeka Charles Soludo, was screened out by your party

Yes, Prof Chukwuma Soludo no doubt is a personality that any party will look for. That he even came on his own to join APGA is a plus for the party but aside from the governorship position, there are other positions available that could be vied for. I was the chairman of the panel that screened the aspirants but for reasons I cannot say here we didn't find it expedient to clear him. There were 13 of them, seven cleared the hurdle, six did not and he was among this six. The other person did not return his form.

Ordinarily, one would have thought that throwing his hat in the ring like that would fetch him a ticket because it is expected to have been a matter of take a bow and go but that was not the case. We gave all of them a level playing ground at the interview and the reason for disqualifying those who did not succeed has been communicated to them in their certificate of attendance and every one of them by now knows the reason. It is not a reason the party would want to disclose for now but if you contact those that were involved in the sceening, they will tell you the reason for their disqualification or otherwise.

Is it true that Soludo was being planted in your party?

(Cuts in) There was that rumour but we did not take it serious. We saw it as a rumour that it was. Soludo is a man of high integrity; nobody, if you ask me, can use him. You know we cannot take anybody we think is planted in the party. We heard the rumour as others did but there was no iota of truth in it. I know that he came out of his own conviction and if you read his reaction to the disqualification, he said he is a member of APGA and will be willing to do anything for the party to make it grow. He is a man all parties may be chasing to get but he came of his own volition to APGA. If he was sent to join APGA we will know. It is because he was denied a fair chance in the PDP, but, unfortunately, it went the way it did for reasons best known to us and to him.

Maxi Okwu still sees himself as a factional chairman of APGA. What does the party think about this?

Well, this is a man who has been roundly defeated by the party and perhaps, now that the opportunity he has been looking for has slipped through his fingers judicially, if he still continues to parade himself as chairman, he must be living in a fool's paradise. We know that he is not the chairman; Chief Victor Umeh is, the law knows that, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) knows it and APGA knows it. If he is the chairman, why did he not stop the coming election in Anambra State? Why was he not the person or why is it that his faction did not screen the aspirants? Why is it that he cannot occupy APGA secretariat known to INEC? So, if he still says that he is the chairman, then he is deceiving himself.

But we know that being opportunistic, he will do anything possible to make people believe he has any hold on APGA. He is not a member of APGA and that is the truth.

INEC has recently registered the Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM), what implications do you see in that?

I think the PDM is a chlid of the ambition of northern political leaders. The only party that they have ever used under this dispensation to attain power has been the PDP. The PDP now is in firm control of the President and the ambition of President Jonathan to return in 2015 has not left any space for any northern politician to come in. So the north is just looking for a platform to challenge him. The PDM is not new, it used to be the platform the North normally used to come to power. They have a sizeable followership in the country but the time has now passed for such organisation to be a threat, either to the peace of Nigeria or to the political stability of the country. I cannot say what they hope to gain by using PDM but it has been registered according to the law. INEC has done the right thing to register it because they have fulfilled all the conditions necessary for the registration of a political party. It is not anything new.

How do you see the attitude of northern politicians in their bid to ensure power goes back to the North in 2015?

It is normal for people who are used to enjoying the fruits in power to feel agitated when they are no longer in power. The North has enjoyed power since independence and our colonial masters did not hide it that they were behind them. They have held on to power for more than 36 years, the South has always been cheated out of the leadership of this country. It is only fair that this power should rotate if we claim to be one country. Besides, we are in a democracy and I hate people saying it is their turn. If President Jonathan goes to poll today and Nigerians say they don't want him there is nothing he can do. Nigerians chose former President Olusegun Obasanjo and after his second term and he wanted a third term, they refused him. If you ask me, I will tell you the North is merely excising their democratic right but they cannot force the country to do so.

Do you think that that Presidency will guarantee free and fair election in 2015 ?

Well, I cannot guarantee anything in Nigeria but so far, INEC has been fair to everybody. You will agree that from 2007, all the elections the present INEC has conducted have been tolerably free and fair as attested to also by international observers. In 2007, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) felt they were cheated and they went to court and the court returned the mandate to them. INEC conducted election in Edo State and returned Governor Adams Oshiomhole. It was the same INEC that conducted Ekiti elections and ACN was returned and in Ondo elections governor Mimiko also won. So, if INEC has been working for the PDP as most people believe, what happened will not be possible. I have no reason not to believe that INEC will do justice to future elections in the country.

Do you have fears as Anambra election draws nearer?

Yes, not fears of victory but fears of desperation that may give birth to violence. Aside from that, I don't think there is anything stopping APGA from taking back the people's mandate. We are the only party to beat in Anambra State.

Is APGA leadership listening to the cry of Anambra North that they are yet to produce a governor for the state?

APGA is a party that does not believe in things like rotation of position; we want the best candidates to emerge and win. If Anambra North want to be governor they should go to other zones and discuss with them but most importantly, they have to produce a candidate that has what it takes to win the Anambra election. They have to convince the other zones that they have a better candidate.