Anambra Governorship: Desperation has set in – Umeh
The National Chairman, All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Chief Victor Umeh, has predicted that his party would not only win Saturday's Governorship election in Anambra, but also win it convincingly. In this interview with our REPORTER, CHUKWUJEKWU ILOZUE, Umeh analyses the strengths and weaknesses of the political parties in the race and their candidates, concluding that no other party has penetrated Anambra voters and won their hearts the way APGA had done. He spoke on other issues. Excerpts:
November 16 Governorship election is a few days away. Let me ask you, how prepared is your party to face that election?
I can say with confidence – if you have followed the campaign – you'd realize that we, members of APGA, are the people really campaigning, reaching out to people. We have held several big rallies at Awka, Onitsha and local government headquarters around the state and we have followed up with deeper grassroots penetration; sending our message of hope and asking for support. It is only APGA that is doing this today. The Labour Party is campaigning on AIT. They are nowhere in the state. Apart from two empty trailers that run through the streets of Anambra State we have not seen Labour Party anywhere, apart from AIT. The APC is doing a guerilla warfare. Occasionally you see them go somewhere then cause confusion and disappear. We have visited all the markets in Anambra State and people are very glued to our messages. The crowd we have been addressing in the past one month, I don't see any party that is in the consciousness of Anambra State people today other than APGA. The level of mobilization we have done has led our opponents to become desperate. Ngige clearly knows that if it is the vote of the people he is looking for here, that he is going to lose the election. So, he left his campaign and resorted to mischief-making; he is trying to breach peace here and there and attract attention; that is not campaign. Go round the State today, at very important junctions you see billboards. The only billboards that are painted black are APGA billboards. Ngige's billboards will be standing, glittering with picture; Labour (party) billboards will be standing, glittering with pictures of Ifeanyi Ubah, but Willie Obiano will be painted with black paint and Nkem Okeke all over the State. It has never happened in Anambra State before. This is the only time we are seeing it. The only reason they are resorting to this underhand tactics is because they are frustrated. If people are not receptive to what you are making them to understand, then frustration will set in. The only way to continue is to cause confusion because that is what they are doing. We campaign well and we are still continuously campaigning; we have not left any power unutilized. In politics, it is very dangerous for people to do things that will take other people's lives, and this is what we are facing. From the way we are seeing the tempo now it is very important to use this opportunity to call on the Inspector General of Police and Mr. President to look into what is happening in Anambra State now, security wise. People have become so desperate that they are no longer waiting for election day for them to win. What they want now is to bring the election to disrepute; cause confusion and destroy the election. They are no longer hopeful, what they do now is to mar the election with violence; that is what they have started. The adoration tragedy is one of such and I heard that they have lined up all sorts of things before the election day, so that Anambra State will be in chaos, so that the election will not be smooth. A lot of people are being brought into Anambra State from Enugu State, from Imo State, and from other parts of Nigeria. You see criminals from all over the place. I don't know what they have come to do, whether they have come to cast their vote for those who hired them or to cause confusion. Just yesterday, Chief Evaristus Uba was on his way to Aguleri and he was shot on the neck. He is in the hospital now. So, the level of violence they want to unleash here is too much. So, the police should not wait until the election day or two days to the election to begin action. Now is time to move in police men here to comb this place and rid this place of criminals. There are too many criminals in Anambra today all to be used to cause violence in the election. So, the police should come and use intelligence to comb this place.
Last week there was a shooting incident at Abagana where somebody was kidnapped near a police station; do you think the police is doing enough? Then, on Saturday APC spokesman, Lai Mohanmed, in a statement, blamed the government on the stampede at Uke saying that if you had not gone there the incident couldn't have happened. Do you regret going there?
How can I regret going there? He is somebody who has been talking as if he has diarrhoea in the mouth. How can you blame the governor and his team who quietly came to the adoration ground, participated in the mass, received Holy Communion, became spiritually fulfilled and left the area by 3 am? The incidence they are talking about happened at 5.45am. How can you associate the tragedy with our attendance of the adoration? It shows you that this is something they planned, maybe in Lagos and they were expecting that this would happen and they would use it as a smear campaign against us, but the record has come out; Nigerians are now quite clear about our attendance in that adoration vigil, fully aware that we had left there three hours before the incident. There was no way you can link that with any of us. So, they told Lai Mohammed to wait, in the morning people will die, heap the blame on APGA and the Governor. Such things will not work. Looking at the whole scenario, APC in Anambra State does not want peace here. What is happening here is reminiscent of APC controlled states. APC is known for violence. Wherever they are, they resort to violence using Alayes to cause problem, manhandle and intimidate people. It will not happen in Anambra State. On the issue of kidnapping, you would notice that there is upsurge in crime right now because of the election. In all the debates you have watched, Labour Party's candidate would be harping on security; APC candidate, Ngige, would be harping on security and the only thing they want to do is to stop kidnapping people to show people that the issue they are raising about security is real. It is not so. We have not been having this issue of kidnapping and violent crimes in the past two months in Anambra State. So, they make security campaign issue and they didn't want this place to be peaceful so the only thing they do is to start taking people. The other day they kidnapped two reverend fathers. One Rev. Fr. Innocent Obidegwu and one other reverend father, so that the priests would also feel the pinch of kidnapping and turn against APGA. These are the dirty plans they have with which to fight the election battle. They kill people and say oh! we are unsafe, vote for us we shall be safe, but they are the people who brought these criminals here, plotting to kidnap people, plotting mayhem; in adoration ground, plotting shooting of people so that people will say, APGA will not secure this state. By the end of election on the 16th of November, you will not hear these things again. So they are the people sponsoring this kind of thing: Labor Party and APC. So they are the ones sponsoring violence in Anambra State today, they are the people sponsoring kidnappings in Anambra State today, just to create false sense of insecurity.
So, what are the police doing? Are they doing enough?
Well, I am sure they are doing their bit; it is very difficult to achieve a crime free state anywhere in the world. It is not possible because you don't know where somebody will strike before you begin to chase him about. I will only use this opportunity to call on our people to be at alert. We have the vigilante people. We are not relying only on police. We have given the police over 500 vehicles and other equipment to help them fight crime. We have also given over 500 vehicles to communities and other groups to assist in mobilizing people to fight crime. What else will APGA government do? In every community we have 20 persons recruited and paid by government to fight crime and we are equipping them to help them fight crime. This is the only orthodox way to do it. Ngige said that when he was here he defended the people. What did he defend the people with? With matchete? He gave people knives and bought about 240 AK 47 riffles that he gave to criminals. It was Ngige who paid armed robbers' salary here. The man who coordinated it was his special Advisor on security. They paid armed robbers salary as a way of reducing crime. How can you pay armed robbers salary and you say you are reducing crime? But he recruited them and paid them N10,000 each and gave them AK-47 with which to do one thing or another, and when Ngige was flushed out from this place, the 240 AK-47 were not retrieved. The hoodlums who formed his unorthodox security outfit carried these guns into the streets. They are the people hurting everybody and carrying out these kidnappings. Ngige was the one who worsened the security situation in this state, endangering the lives of the people. We have been doing everything through the orthodox means to reduce and weed out crime in Anambra state. So, anything that you are seeing today is being orchestrated because of this election. Tomorrow now they will look for one important person and kidnap him and begin to issue statements that our lives are no longer safe; vote out APGA, they can no longer secure you, but they are the Kidnappers: APC and Labour Party. We have been collecting information because our ears are on the ground and the ones I get I pass on to the police. There are some movements and people are seeing the movements and our duty is to report to the police to take the correct action to secure the lives of our people.
Chairman, you said that the attacks on APGA by your opponents are a sign of frustration. Some say it is a mass protest against the party. With all this, do you think APGA will still win the election?
These have nothing to do with the mindset of the people to return APGA. In fact, their frustration stems from the fact that the electorate is not receiving them and their messages. Now that the sign is obvious that they will lose the election they have resorted to causing isolated crises around the state and heap them on APGA. Our people are not fools, it will not change anything. In fact, the way they have been, receiving our message, confirms to me that the Igbo, particularly Anambra people, are wise people. Before you give them any illustration they follow it and start emphasizing it for you. So, it is a campaign we have done based principally on issues and they know themselves; the Igbo know they are Igbo people. No amount of propaganda will make an Igbo man believe that he would draw his strength from the Yoruba nation. If you want to be their governor you have to come from within them; you have to come to them in a manner that they will understand, the language you are speaking. Somebody cannot send you to them and say this is your governor and you expect them to accept it. Once you point it out to them that it is a dangerous trend; that it has never happened before, they very easily accept it. So, it is not a protest at all. The people that will cast the vote are not doing anything to sabotage APGA. People who are trying to cause confusion here are the members of APC, a handful of them. You don't even know that Ngige that is going around have lost his members. Members of APC have been joining APGA everywhere because when you are following somebody and you know he is losing steam, that his chances are diminishing, the only thing left for you is to decamp. His members have been coming to APGA. I have been receiving them in all the rallies we have been doing. So he is going round the state alone. Anywhere he goes he causes confusion to draw attention and say Onwa! Onwa!! Let's wait for the voting day; you will see that he will not get anything. Even in his Idemili where he has been holding sway, he has lost hold of Idemili. Umuoji community organized a rally for APGA, they invited us; we didn't spend a Kobo. We were there; the Igwe and the town union, everybody, came out to declare support for APGA. We went for Idemili day the other day at St. Alponsus Catholic Church, Nkpor; Ngige was not there. He rather sponsored some people to criticize the organizers, that they are Abuja based politicians. He was not there; we got there in his own domain; big people from Idemili were all gathered there; Ngige and APC were not there. That shows you that a bad workman quarrels with his tools. This is the time he would have been receiving endorsements from his people, but his people are rather looking the other way. You can factor it into his frustration. He knows that very little is left of him. So, he is the one doing this. It has nothing to do with people who will vote for us. Anambra State people, I am the one coordinating this campaign and I can tell you that people that call me; stakeholders from various communities we can't exhaust their invitations for visits, very big, important people that have not supported APGA in the past you can't go far to see reason for these. The government has done very well for the people. I have gone round the state on campaign and I have been amazed at the level of development we have been able to give to the people: roads everywhere; we have been commissioning so many projects. There is no where we have gone that we did not have something to commission or something to start. So, the people are very happy and the law of nature is that you would want to keep what have than to give it away. So, all these people that are challenging APGA are making noise that Obi did not give them money. The town unions, Anambra State Association of Town Unions (ASATU) has endorsed APGA; the 177 Presidents General passed a resolution adopting APGA. It has never happened in previous elections that leaders of communities would meet to ask a government to continue. These are the harvests we have been making and I don't see how it would change, when community leaders are endorsing the campaign, the candidate and the party. So, who are those people endorsing them? Tell me one group that has endorsed Ngige or Ifeanyi Ubah, except propaganda. But you don't win elections through propaganda. Once you touch the heart of the people positively, then you are properly anchored to win any election and I can say we are not afraid of the election. As for PDP, what magic would they have within 12 days' time to convince anybody? All the things we said about our past they burnt all our public buildings here; so nothing has changed. Looking at Ngige on the spot, I will tell you that Anambra people should reject Ngige in this election. Anybody that wants to vote Ngige should forget it. The best thing to do is to look at the controversies that have trailed Ngige in all elections in Anambra State. His first political test was in 2003 when he contested for Governor. Anambra State became notorious because of Okija shrine when he went there to swear naked that he would honour all the agreements entered into with his godfathers. Then he went there naked; he rigged the election massively here, and they foisted him on Anambra people. Two months after, Ngige reneged on the whole agreement and they kidnapped him; that was when we started hearing about kidnapping. He escaped. That was 2003. We came in without violence; we went through the courts to get rid of him after nearly three years. That was the first election he contested. In 2011 he contested for the Senate, the one he is occupying today. In the first round of election he took somebody to a hotel to announce him winner. It took us very strident effort to get INEC to arrest the situation. A run off was ordered; he rigged the election again even though, due to time constraint through his meandering and slippery nature, he used all kinds of tricks to frustrate the election appeal against him and time bar prevented us from removing him from the Senate. This is 2013 again and he is running for Governor. Look at what we are experiencing, adoration tragedy, all kinds of things. People should begin to know that Ngige is an anathema in this society. There is no reason anybody should be considering him for any position any more. Every election he contested has not gone without controversy. So controversy is his second name. Two weeks to the election 25 persons have lost their lives. If he had no business in coming to the adoration, why should his supporters be there? They worshipped on Thursday, why come back on Friday night to cause problem. Now we are passing blame: who was responsible, was it a false alarm. Who raised the false alarm? That is the question. If it was false alarm that led to the stampede, who raised the false alarm? And somebody who raised the false alarm cannot be acting in good conscience. It was somebody who was drafted to raise the false alarm that would lead to stampede, so that people would die. So, it is not the way to look at it. A man who came for the adoration cannot raise false alarm that will result to stampede leading to the death of innocent people. That is why I said he should be arrested. We have a code of conduct that we signed. There are things somebody should not do during campaign. If APGA has secured a venue for political rally, no other political party is allowed to be there. We got appointment with market leaders, we were there and pockets of people inside there started shouting APC, throwing brooms. It is a breach of the code of conduct. What Ngige could have done is to book appointment to come and address them on his own given day. Not to stay there and attempt to disrupt our addressing the traders. It is indiscipline. So, look at the man and his stature, he is full of evil, so there will be no peace with Ngige anywhere. Look at the three accounts I have given you.
You seem to lay so much emphasis on APC and Labour Party, disregarding PDP and the massive money it is throwing around. You know what money can do and you know the financier of PDP. He has promised to give N7million to any ward that would deliver in the election and N5000 to any voter that would vote for PDP?
There is nothing like massive money. Yes, we know that money can be used to deceive people but there is a limit to which money can go. This election is not about money. We have been able to tell our people the importance of this election. Number I is that before APGA came here it was a theatre of war. It was APGA that restored stability and peace to this state. It was APGA, for the past seven and a half years, that has been able to develop all the sectors of our state simultaneously, and you can see the developments; they are verifiable. If we are talking about roads you can see them, if we are talking about rehabilitation of schools, you go and see them, and so on. What we are saying is: you cannot give up this kind of improvement because somebody gives you money. Who is offering the money? Is it not through PDP that this offer is being made? Who burnt all these places in the past, it was PDP. It is PDP that is responsible for our ugly past from 1999 to 2003. When Governor Chinwoke Mbadinuju was here, our schools were shut for one year. The same elements in PDP that ran this State aground are still members of PDP today. It is the same PDP that stole our mandate through Ngige and used Ngige to cause mayhem here for three years, are they the people you are going to bring back? Have they brought in new members into PDP? Are they not the same old members of PDP that would come back? If they come back, there are things that die hard; that thing is attitude. Those PDP people that are going around, they are waiting on the wings to collect money and run round the state for the remaining days to see if they can do anything and take over the government. If they are allowed to come into Anambra and take over power again we are going to go back to the old ways – their money sharing pattern will be the same thing, their struggle for state resources will come back. Look at APGA as a party. Even when I had disagreement with the governor on policy issues, this state was peaceful. I never sponsored any crisis here. I left and pursued my case in the court. But with PDP what you see is mayhem and violence. Once you shut the door to them they break the door, pull it down because they are looking for money. And this time around it is easier for our people to see. In the present effort only one man is bank-rolling the candidate of PDP. How can one man bank-roll the candidate of a party? Is it the way governors are made? Since they started they are no longer criticizing Obiano as having a godfather behind him because the super godfathers are our opponents. The character of governance PDP will give to Anambra state will never change. Our people will never go back to that Egypt they left long ago. So we don't see them as a threat, because they don't represent anything good for our people. Then in APGA, we have made it abundantly clear; even the way Ngige is going about it is so nauseating. There is no way you can take over a people by force. Election in Anambra state is not about one man. Ngige contested governorship in 2003, contested governorship in 2007, contested governorship in 2010, and he is contesting for governor in 2013. If I were him, I would take a break because he is polluting the political environment of Anambra State, because one cannot be contesting for one office any time election comes.