THE SUN SUMMIT
The adoption of the Peoples Democratic Party, [PDP] presidential candidate, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, as All Progressives Grand Alliance, [APGA] candidate for the 2011 presidential poll was a decision which took many APGA faithful by surprise, as they were stupefied, as to why an opposition party would adopt the presidential candidate of the ruling party.
In this exclusive interview with Daily Sun, Victor Umeh, National Chairman of APGA explains why the party leadership took the decision ''Many people may not like the PDP, like myself, I don't like the PDP and I can't hide it, but the truth is that PDP produced a good candidate for the presidential election and it is only important for the good of the nation that such people are allowed to continue in office and then have the opportunity of reforming PDP.
PDP needs reform and you can't reform PDP with criminals. So, if you have somebody, or a pair that can be trusted, even though they are running on the party platform, they should be supported for the good of the nation.''
Even as APGA had conceded the presidential ticket to the PDP, Umeh is confident that his party would win massively the other elections, particularly in the South-East.
How prepared is APGA for the April general elections?
Well, we have done our best, starting from the way we conducted our primaries. We were able to nominate our candidates with little or no controversy and that's the best way to prepare for an election-when you observe internal democracy in your party in nominating your candidates. So, our candidates were peacefully nominated and they took off right from January to campaign very aggressively without any distractions. They have been able to take their messages of hope to the electorate, very deeply because why other political parties are still struggling to establish who their candidates were, APGA had permeated all the corners of this county with their candidates.
So, that's the first good way to start and aside from that, it is on record that we were the first political party to nationally flag off our campaign for 2011 general elections, precisely on February 10, 2011 and since then, we have been campaigning across the country. So, in terms of mobilizing the electorate to vote for APGA, we have been able to do that and one thing that will help us in the forthcoming elections is the way we chose credible candidates . We were able to put in place candidates that are trusted by the people.
So, we are going to harvest a lot of votes and that will translate to, in some places, surprising victories when results begin to come out.
We have seen prominent people defecting to APGA and instantly picked your party tickets-- it has created the impression that aspirants for elective positions who for one reason or the other couldn't make it in their respective parties, took flight to APGA
These people you have mentioned, none of them went to the PDP before coming to APGA. Okorocha didn't contest for nomination in PDP; Akunyuli offered herself for nomination in PDP. She resigned from the PDP on December 15, 2010 and remember that primaries took place sometimes in January, some of them early January.
So, there was nobody who crossed over to APGA as a second chance.
These were people who were convinced on the potentials of APGA in terms of its electoral goodwill and they came to contest for these elections through the party. So, it wasn't a question of somebody losing the nomination in the PDP and then crossed over to APGA.
Go and cross-check. Where somebody just joined APGA primary after contesting in the PDP-maybe one or two persons they were able to come to APGA in good time before our own primary and our constitution permits that anybody who comes in that manner is eligible to contest and they really contested and won-- those who were good and I tell you that contrary to the feelings some people have that these candidates when they win in the various elections they would go back to PDP it isn't so. In fact, other than that, the people who joined us are celebrating that they have found peace of mind and soul in APGA.
Consider people who left the PDP on good time and went through the APGA primaries and were successful, compare them with the people they left in PDP who had to go through their own processes and PDP in Anambra ended up producing three candidates for each constituencies up till this moment, some people are still in court despite the fact that INEC has published the list of candidates, early this week, most of them are still campaigning saying that they are in court.
You go to a senatorial district, PDP would have three candidates mounting campaigns everywhere. So also in other constituencies and I am very happy that in today's meeting with the INEC I was able to bring the issue out and a decision was reached at the Commission meetings with political parties that since INEC has published lists of candidates it is now unlawful for anybody whose name isn't on that list to engaged in any form of campaign and they have written the security agencies to enforce that. Anybody whose name isn't in the list officially published by INEC should be arrested, because the electoral law requires political parties to sponsor one candidate for each constituency election.
So, how can somebody who enjoys peace in APGA through nomination and has been enjoying the tremendous electoral goodwill the party has ends up winning election and goes back to the place where there is Fuji House of Commotion. It isn't possible; they have joined APGA for good and they are very passionate about the party and they said it in all the rallies they attended : that they never know peace, until they joined APGA and they have been working hard to shore up the fortunes of the party. So, nobody would defect, I can assure you and I have obtained their assurances to that effect.
In the absence of a written pact or agreement. No, they are credible people. Somebody like Prof. Dora Akunyuli is somebody you know in Nigeria; she isn't somebody who takes any decision based on emotions or sentiments. She left the government as Minister of Information and Communications, people were expecting her to go to the PDP for the senatorial elections. She shocked Nigerians when from the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting, where she resigned, she headed straight to APGA office to pick the membership card of APGA.
So, from day one, she knew what she was looking for and she possesses the strength of character to stay where she is convinced she is in a position to serve the people better and that's what she has done. It is like that for the rest of the candidate.
But does she stands any chance in her senatorial district: with stalwarts like Annie Okonkwo and Chris Ngige in the race?
Well, you can see that she is the front- runner in the race. Her opponents are now frustrated and that's why somebody like Dr Ngige of the ACN have now left Anambra central senatorial zone where he is contesting to go to Anambra North to seek support! It shows you that he has no breathing space within the senatorial district, contrary to what he is making Nigerians to believe that he is popular .
The other day, the media carried it that 25 traditional rulers in the old Aguata union had endorsed him for the senatorial seat in Anambra central senatorial zone. Old Aguata, the three local government she referred to are part of Anambra South senatorial zone-people who would not vote for him.
How can people who will not be of any electoral value to you endorse you?
So, if you aren't getting the relevant endorsement from your constituency where you are seeking to be elected, it shows that you are an outsider in the contest. In his own local government of Ndemili North and South, the people had endorsed Okonkwo and they are asking Ngige to step down. I read all these in the newspapers. So, if he is actually the person who should win the election, his people would not be asking him to step down for another candidate.
So, Akunyuli is actually running against herself in this election, because she came into the contest with very high level of integrity that is nationally recognized and acknowledged. She is also well-rooted in her constituency; she is known everywhere and she is known as a positive thinker.
What you need in the Senate is somebody who is a positive thinker, somebody who has a command of the necessary intelligence to represent the people at the Senate floor, somebody who can push the case of his or her people and she possesses all those attributes. Where men cannot speak, Dora Akunyili will speak. So, she is an extra-ordinary candidate.
So, anybody who is wishing her away will be doing that to his peril. I laugh when Ngige and Okonkwo wish away her candidature. One thing to do is to actually face the reality . If Ngige had done a proper audit check of her chances, he wouldn't have come out for this senatorial election and now that he has joined the race and he isn't getting the support, he has now decided to shift to violence. He would further tarnish his reputation in the exercise, because he would surely lose the election, I can tell you that.
I come from Anambra central senatorial district; Governor Obi comes from there too, so also Ngige, Annie Okonkwo and Dora Akunyili. The way our government has worked for the people of Anambra State to defeat a candidate on APGA platform in a credible election is very difficult, how much more when the party has presented a world class candidate. You should be able to strike fear in any interested candidate for that election and because they misjudge the situation, they now put themselves forward for an election they wouldn't win, only to resort to noise-making.
So, Akunyili would win the election. Her chances her bright and I tell you I have been to the state one or two times to campaign with them and I know what the mood is like. That's what you see in the papers now; frustration is driving her opponents to unruly behavior which is very unfortunate.
Your party faithful are looking forward to seeing APGA extends its influence, beyond Anambra-at least winning some states in the gubernatorial election.
What are your chances?
We have done so much work and what we are waiting for is for the election to take place and let the result come out. So, anything we say today will be making of claims. It is only the results that will substantiate this claim. I will tell you that after April elections, APGA will take over South -East. Already, we are home and dry in Anambra state and because of the fraudulent election of the past we aren't able to have APGA members in the National Assembly and the state Assembly. Those we have now are people who crossed over to APGA from the PDP and other political parties, but a credible election would prove that point further that the people of Anambra state have always voted for APGA. So, APGA will use this election to consolidate fully in Anambra state by winning the house of assembly seats and the national assembly seats.
Now, across the South-East, we are happy with the level of campaign we have also mounted. Our candidates are candidates that will win, any day . In Ebonyi, the governor there has also been driven to violence now and the people of the state are now rooting for Ambassador Frank Ogbuewu, the APGA candidate for the governorship election and we aren't taking kindly to it. It is like when you see a house crumbling you become desperate. So, we took time to select our candidates and we are certain that they are going to win, everywhere.