Chief Ndubisi Nwobu is the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Chairman in Anambra State in this interview with BIYI ADEGOROYE and ECHEZONA OKAFOR speaks on the impact of the All Progressives Congress (APC) government in the country, preparations for the Anambra State governorship elections and the recent appointment of ex-Service Chiefs as ambassadors
The All Progressives Congress (APC) in Anambra State strongly believes it’s their turn next to produce the next governor of the state, claiming that your party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had had its turn, while the All Progressives Grand Alliance, (APGA) is currently completing theirs. What is your view?
It’s a pity that they make such claims. The fact is that APC has nothing good for anyone, especially our people. Our electorate in Anambra State are wiser and will not have anything to do with APC. Their party has impoverished all Nigerians particularly our people. This is a government that knows that most of our people are predominantly into commerce and they closed the borders for almost two years and all entreaties for them to allow all the goods that had already arrived at the borders to come in fell on deaf ears. They have completely wrecked and bastardised the economy of this country. We have become more insecure than ever recorded in history. The federal administration had never been more clueless than this under the APC. They are very nepotic and desperately confused. So what are they going to offer the citizens of Anambra State? Absolutely nothing. I want to say that the government at the centre is stealing from the people. What do I mean? This is the first time in the history of Nigeria that every financial transaction you make you pay to the Federal Government. They will take part of your money. Meanwhile they are encouraging citizens to always carry out formal transaction that we should desist from doing it outside? So for every such transaction you make they steal your money. That is sad. Unfortunately, they have not done any tangible visible project with this money. They have borrowed from every source, institution and organisation. They have literally turned Nigeria into a financial leper before the world. It is such that the nation’s sovereignty is now under intense threat. So in that situation what would an APC member or candidate go to campaign with in Anambra State? What is he going to tell any Igbo man? It’s laughable. They have absolutely nothing to show. And if they are planning a repeat of the fraud in Imo state in Anambra State, then they need to have their heads examined.
The All Progressives Grand Alliance, (APGA) said they have completed an update of their membership register, while the APC has started theirs. Is the PDP going to do same?
The national headquarter has held a meeting on ways and means to carry out an electronic membership drive and update. It’s not concluded. It’s still work-in-progress. But while waiting further directives on that, we are about to hit the ground running with local government areas. It was to avail us opportunity us the opportunity to reach out to all citizens of this state.
The 2021 governorship election in Anambra State is only months away. How ready is the PDP, the members and the governorship aspirants considering that it’s been long you were out of power?
We are getting prepared in every area necessary. It’s a long journey and we have continued to improve our preparations as the days go by. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has just released the timetable and we are studying it and to consequently adjust our programs to align. Before now, INEC had also indicated readiness to experiment with electronic voting (e-voting) with the Anambra State 2021 governorship election. In summary, we are gearing up. At the same time we are watching INEC, we are watching our opponents. And most importantly we are gauging the political feelings of the Anambra citizens.
INEC had indicated that some amendments are likely to take place in the Electoral Act before the Anambra poll. Which areas would you want amendments and why?
I won’t say of the areas I anticipate changes, but areas where if amendments are made it would help bolster the confidence of the electorate in the electoral process. Definitely the citizens of this state would be better off if the e-voting system is activated and implemented. Again if INEC ensures that this would be one man one vote.
No longer a situation where even before the election people would be bandying around voter’s cards left, right and centre. So INEC need to look at their strategic planning, the security features of their e-machines and so on; to ensure the election would indeed be a one man one vote system and that each vote would count and be counted at the end of the day. It’s clear that the feeling that people’s votes don’t count that has led to a lot of disenchantment and apathy all these years. As soon as people get convinced that their votes count you will find out that majority of the electorate will troop out to go and cast their votes.
It’s really been long that the PDP lost the governorship seat of or in the state. What strategies are you adopting this time to enable you win?
Any responsible organisation will always assess their strategic plans to know why they have been failing so as to get it right once more. Part of the major problems of PDP is the issue of imposition of candidates. And it stems from all kinds of madness traceable to the leadership in the past, as well as high handedness from different quarters.
But since we came into office we have done a great deal to stabilise the party once again. In synergy with the national leadership which before now was always in the middle of the confusion where conflicting and contradictory directives and letters were thrown out of the national secretariat to the states and other organs of the party almost on a daily basis.
But the leadership of the party today under the incumbent National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus has been forthright in the handling of the affairs of the party. It has also been very decisive, showing itself as commanding the collective mandate of the people who elected them. The leadership has been following the party’s constitution. It is part of the reason we have appealed to the members who went to court, especially those who did so for no just course, but simply to destabilise the party and cause disharmony and disaffection. Outside these, our party has remained united, cohesive and that was something that has never been achieved in the party over the years. That was what saw us conduct rancor- free primaries in various states during the last general election. So, working in concert with the zonal and national leadership we are going to conduct a very commendable transparent primary in Anambra State. It will be second to none, such that anyone who loses will know that he lost because the delegates voted more for the winner. That’s why when I talk about the primary election I always emphasize that it’s not about just that day that matters but all that transpired along the line leading to the primary election. Today, once you indicate formal interest to run, you come to the secretariat and we give the list of all the Council and Ward executives of the party and encourage you to meet and get to know them. It’s no longer the situation where the leadership will be hiding the list and identity of those the contestants need to reach out to. Once you come we give you the detailed list because they are actually the ones who know all the delegates in their wards. When you go to them, you market yourself, manifesto and other programs to them. And if they are convinced they will surely vote for you. So once we get the primaries right, which am very optimistic because out national leadership has shown an uncommon steadfastness and fairness in its handling of all primaries conducted since they came to power, one of our biggest headaches would have been addressed. With that, am convinced that the electorates in the state especially will see begin to see a new PDP with a new thinking and mindset geared towards restoring life in the state to level of happiness once again.
At the last stakeholders meeting the party mandated members to withdraw all the court cases. What advised that, and how has the response been?
It was an appeal to those who have been fighting to cause rancour and discord to sheath the sword. It is clear that a party leadership has a tenure. We were elected in 2017 and by December 3, 2021 our tenure would expire. From there on, any other person who wants to lead the party will be free to aspire and if he wins the support of members then he will lead.
If these people do not have hidden agenda, what is the essence of going to truncate the leadership of a party that has served three years out of four years? It just remains few months to go. However, we are still appealing to them. In fact the party leadership has a role to play in the next six months, and after the primaries it becomes a matter of bringing every citizen of this state to support the party to win the election. So, ours has been that of appeal, appeal and appeal in the interest of the party.
This is because most of these combatants do these things and if the party loses an election it won’t bother them. They are well off. They can take care of themselves. But what about the followership who would be left bereft of any government incentive and dividends of democracy. They go hungry, beggarly and wretched. And the four years you come to call them out again to follow you? It doesn’t make sense at all. That’s why we are still appealing to them. The zonal leadership has given a warning, noting that they have seen that these antics were focused at truncating the party in the state, hence would no longer be tolerated. They observed that there were nothing in those suits. Same was the view of the national headquarters. Anyone who belongs to an association like political party must abide to its rules and constitution. When issues come up, you must exhaust the internal mechanisms and channels before considering going to court if still not assuaged. Bit these persons on their own continue to go to court against the party for no just cause. That is why the party has given them a mandate to withdraw the cases. We hope they will listen, and if they fail to listen the party has other channels to handle anyone or group that want to destabilize it or cause disaffection.
And how many of such cases do you still have?
Two of the cases are at the appeal level. Another one is at the High Court here in Awka, the state capital. Basically they are three cases. Like I said earlier they have no foundation at all.
How has the response to the directive been?
None has been withdrawn since after that appeal and directive from our zonal headquarters.
Can you give further details?
One is Sam Anyakora and 32 others Vs the PDP. He is from Ihiala Council area. Another one is Andrew Modili and about 300 others Vs the PDP and then the third one was Hon K.G. Enemo Vs the PDP.
How many aspirants have formally indicated interest in your party so far?
So far, Senator Uche Ekwunife, Dr. Obiora Okonkwo, Ike Oligbo, Barrister Wilson Udeh, Dr Godwin Maduka, Chief Valentine Ozigbo, Chief Godwin Ezeemo, Chief Ugochukwu Okeke, Johnny Maduafokwa and others. We are aware more are warming up, but it’s until they formally inform the party that we know.
It’s evident that the political fortunes of your party in the state is sliding downwards. There was a time you swept the entire 30 seats in the State Assembly and the 11 Federal Constituency seats. Unfortunately that is no longer the situation today. How do you intend to recover this lost ground.
Well, I will like you to look at my administration’s efforts from inception in 2017 till date. We came into office when PDP had no Senator, just four out of the 11 House of Representatives and only two State Assembly members. But today we have two senators, and six House of Representatives members. It would have been seven, but for some judicial technicalities we lost one. We also moved forward to six members in the state Assembly.
So you can see that under my watch we have recorded a monumental political leap forward. And if you watch the result of the last presidential election, despite all the hype to stop our ability to win Anambra we won with above 96 per cent. This is the only state in the country that APC couldn’t score up to five per cent. Yes, we have recorded tremendous progress and improvement in our political fortunes. Therefore we need to consolidate on it, work harder. This is because we need to reach out to the electorates, market yourself, your party and manifesto. You must earn their confidence and trust. Victory in election is not a tea party. One must work assiduously.
PDP lost some states through their governors, though you gained some too. We keep hearing that some are gearing up to leave too. What’s happening?
Truly it is not my wish to see any of our governors leave the party. It doesn’t augur too well for the party. But I must admit that these are personal decisions. That’s the reason why you cannot hold down anyone from holding discussions and hence no other person can stop anyone. After all you were not part of the discussion. I know that in this game there is so much quick sand where a lot of promises are usually made. It’s such that at the critical moment you discover you have been promised nothing. It’s not our wish to lose any more states. I caution all our members to note that it’s only God Almighty that will determine what will happen tomorrow.
The FG appears to be implementing digitalisation of things in the country piecemeal. How do you see it?
It’s a good innovation, but it must be done across board to cover every aspect of our national life. In western world once you have a number that is enough. Every other thing concerning you will be linked to that number. The move will eliminate the incidence of multiple voter registration. I advise the government to link the voters register with the National Identification Number (NIN).
This is the first governorship election you would be overseeing as PDP Chairman in Anambra State. What does this task mean to you?
It is a major task to me, and I will give it all that my political experience and sagacity can offer, and by the grace of God, I will deliver in this very first assignment.
It is becoming a ritual that in every major election like this, PDP in the state will sink into crisis. How would the party under your watch check this trend to ensure victory at the polls?
I had successfully presided over general election as well as state and national assemblies polls. It is on record that in 2019, there were no two centers where primaries were held by PDP in the state. All of them were conducted in one place. It is also on record that there were no two different results flying here and there for the election. It is also on record that after the election, there were no litigations against any of the results or candidates that emerged after the party’s primaries. Therefore, I do not have any doubt in my mind that under my watch, PDP will still replicate this feat in the coming governorship election in Anambra.
What is the very factor that favours PDP against the incumbent in the coming election?
The first factor is maladministration and poor performance of APGA government in the state. The second one is that the PDP, under my watch, in synergy with the zonal and national leadership of the party, is prepared to deliver transparent, free and fair exercises; not only for the primaries but also for all the exercises that will lead to the primaries; so that whoever that wins will know that he wins, and whoever that loses will also welcome the result.
That will also absolve the party leadership from getting entangled on the muddy waters of supporting a particular candidate. Again, the PDP has people-oriented programmes for the state. These will be unfolded as time comes. These programmes will also tell Anambra people that we have what it takes to change the narrative, and to keep the light shining.
What is your assessment of the APGA government in the state in the past seven years?
Abysmal failure! That is my assessment. The administration in the past seven years has robbed the state of the remaining hope in it. This government is a complete failure; that is the best way to describe it.
What is your view on the present herdsmen onslaught on communities across the Nigeria?
We need to understand the fact that we have a President, who does not appreciate that he is the President of the whole nation. If he really appreciates that he is the President of the entire nation, he would be worried and ashamed of what herdsmen are doing today in the country. He has given the impetus to his own kinsmen to be marauding everywhere in the country.
That is a clear indication of bad leadership. Instead of calling his people to order, he is giving them greater latitude to continue their onslaught in the country. Nigeria never had it this bad. We had Fulani herdsmen before now. They never had this kind of issue with other Nigerians before now. They were not carrying arms before now; but today, they carry arms terrorising all parts of the country. And he had failed on his duty as president by not calling them to order. He needs to call them to order this time around, before they will dismember this country.
What is your take on the present abysmal rating of Nigeria by the Transparency International, as one of the most corrupt nations of the world?
When the present APC government came into power, they pledged to turn Nigeria into a haven of sort. They were busy saying that PDP was corrupt. But for the past six years that APC assumed power, Transparency International had continued to rate the country very high in corruption index. Under this APC government, the body had rated Nigeria as one of the most corrupt countries of the world. If Mr. President claims to be corruption free, why is it that people around him are dirty and corrupt?
The President has submitted names of ex-Service Chiefs to the National Assembly for confirmation as noncareer ambassadors. How do you see that move?
Mr. President has not told Nigerians what he is hiding between him and the former Service Chiefs. It took him many years to listen to people’s outcry on their gross incompetence, before he removed them from office. What message is Mr. President conveying again by trying to make such people ambassadors? That is the king of country we find ourselves.
That is very unfortunate! There is something Mr. President and the ex-Service Chiefs are hiding that they have not told Nigerians. The appointment is for them to continue to cover up something, which, till now, is unknown to Nigerians