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With the release of the election timetable by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), opinions are divided on the possibility of the electoral body conducting a credible poll in 2011. In this interview,

Prince Obinna Okwuaka, a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and former Commissioner for Finance, Imo State was emphatic that there is nothing to worry about. He bares his mind here on a wide range of issues. Excerpts…

What is your take on the election timetable recently released by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)?

It is no longer news and in doubt whether Nigeria will have a general election next year or not. The National Assembly's Act has said so and Mr. President has assented to it.

What was in doubt and dominated political discourse then and indeed, the subject of debate and speculation was whether President Jonathan would contest or not.

In fact, the suspense created and generated by this development hyped that a lot of centripetal and centrifugal political forces underlined with political intrigues, propaganda, vicious campaigns reminiscent to Abacha's type, were at play.

But President Goodluck Jonathan is about to declare his ambition.

That is what l am talking about. The issue is no longer a matter of conjecture. According to newspaper reports, Jonathan has declared and confided in some governors his intention to run and that cannot be doubted.

In good conscience, did you at any time expect him to run given the raging zoning issue the north appears not to be contented with?

I do not think there is good conscience in Nigeria's type of politics today. I do not think also it should apply now. At the same time, it does not appear that the entire north is seeking the retention of zoning though l admit many of their political heavy weights, substantial grassroots members of the public and his political opponents have been speaking and drumming it.

Be that as it may, l predicted in the media in June this year that if Mr. President's popularity in office garnered as a result of performance within the short period of his presidency and his personal ambition do not drive him, obviously his people, the south-south people, who have always agitated for it even to the extent of embracing militarism and sounding tantrums of national disintegration, would compel and intimidate him to do so. That appears to be happening now.

How easy do you think he can make it without tempering with the stability of PDP, his party?

In fact, it is alleged that the party's leadership manipulated the zoning issue to suit him and their position does not reflect the real situation.

Well, I am a loyal party man. I am not a fortune teller and cannot be in a position to predict the outcome of January elections including the presidential one. I think what is important and without exaggeration is that Mr. President should urgently overhaul his team, nay, marketers of his presidential project and use knowledgeable and experienced politicians to drive a presidency project of a country as big as Nigeria.

This brings us to your South-East zone. What do they really want?

They appear to have been schemed out and not doing anything about 2015` which some of the Northern Presidential candidates have said belongs to them. In fact, a lot of them are already campaigning for Mr. President.

This is one of the political variables l have recommended to Mr. President and his team. Please recall that at the beginning of the debate on zoning and rotation, South-East Governors said that no south easterner would vie for the 2011 presidential election. That position seemed withdrawn after their visit to Aso Villa as they claimed that the statement is for the governors only. This is a tacit admission that nothing tangible came out from that visit thereby proving his critics right.

The truth is that there are clandestine activities going on in the South-East that have given vent to discordant tunes. An Ibo fiery lawyer and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Olisa Agbakoba, captured it in his recent interview. I tend to agree with him on the parlous state of Ibo as an ethnic group in Nigeria. Honestly, there is a need for an immediate South-East summit to discuss the issue and take a stand, once and for all.

What is the state of affairs of PDP in Imo State, your State?

The state of affairs of PDP in Imo is anything but palatable and gives cause for worry. It is reasoned by the unsuspecting loyal members that with Imo State government spending three out of its four years tenure in weathering over 23 cases in court, majority of them sponsored by some party members, aggrieved members should have brought political peace to the state, once and for all. That is not to be!

How? What is really the problem?
There still abound the seemingly intractable feuds between party leaders to the extent it is openly discussed among party faithful. Vicious media hype, campaigns and propaganda supposedly sponsored by the critics of the administration are still at their best and the order of the day. It is obvious what is at stake is the soul and control of the party in the state.

How can it be resolved?
It is not in doubt that the leader is and should be the Governor of the State going by antecedents and tradition of the Party. The Governor has so demonstrated and proved it in the last successful conduct of the local government election.

The national leadership of the party should call a spade, a spade without further delay.

The persistent political clashes among the party leaders in Imo, in my opinion, is as a result of presumed irreconcilable personality issues which the national leadership of the PDP should urgently look into and help resolve before going into the slated January elections.