Chief Onyekachi Nwebonyi is the Chairman of Ebonyi State Working Committee of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that was dissolved by the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party, but recently reinstated by a Federal High Court sitting in Abakaliki. In this interview with UCHENNA INYA, he speaks on his reinstatement, chances of the party in 2023 and effects of Governor Dave Umahi’s defection to the All Progressives Congress (APC), among other issues
How is the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), coping since Governor Dave Umahi defected to the All Progressives Congress (APC) and what are the chances of party in the forthcoming 2023 general election?
To be honest to you, the defection of the governor of Ebonyi State from my party to APC was a big loss to the PDP in the state in the sense that Governor Unahi that we all know is a beautiful bride in terms of party politics and public administration. As a PDP government, he made us proud by embarking on so many life touching projects of which Ebonyians are proud of. So, his exit was a big blow to my party but that notwithstanding, PDP is still on ground in Ebonyi State. You will agree with me that eight out of the nine National Assembly members are still with me, they are in PDP; I have three senators and five House of Representatives members. Also, the House of Assembly is intact, they are all PDP starting from the Speaker to the last person in the House. We have a cordial relationship with other political parties because I don’t believe in politics of violence or bickering. I believe in due process and I believe in people orientated programmes. Ebonyi state is completely PDP not minding that the governor is in APC. If you ask an average Ebonyian, he will tell you that the state is PDP in all ramifications and I believe strongly that in no distant time, we are going to start our sensitization programmes at the ward level in order to let our people know that PDP is still intact in Ebonyi State, and I want to assure you without mincing words that come 2023, we will go back to government house because we are going to produce the next governor of Ebonyi State. I am very sure of that because Ebonyi State is PDP and you will see it happen by the grace of God.
What is the relationship between you and other stakeholders of the party like?
The relationship is very cordial except few desperate politicians like some of the members of the National Assembly, who approached me that I should pass a vote of confidence on them and give them automatic tickets and that is the area we differed. I said no; that our party has a constitution, and moreover, 2023 is still a long way to go and we have procedures of giving tickets to candidates and that when we get to the bridge, we will cross it. We will observe our primaries and if the people want them, they will be there. I believe in people oriented leadership.
People are saying that you are planted in PDP by Governor Umahi to destabilize the party in the state. What is your take on that?
It pains me a lot, when people advertise their ignorance because it is fallacious for anyone to conclude that we are with a governor who has defected to another party. The governor is just an individual, a member of a party with one vote, he has no two votes. So, his defection has nothing to do with our existence as a party. Moreover, I was elected by the entire members of the party in the state and the governor just gave me one vote. So, how can I wish away the votes of thousands of other people because of one vote? I don’t believe in that. I have no business with the governor; I have no business with him because he has left my party. I have no problem with him as person and I don’t hope to have one and I am capable of holding on Ebonyi State and I will return power to PDP come 2023. The governor is not an obstacle, the governor is just pursuing his own political dream in his new party, he has no business with us, he is not interfering with what we are doing directly or indirectly. So, it is out of it to say that we are working with the governor. Do I attend APC meetings? Do I meet with him? Is he sponsoring what we are doing? So, that allegation is baseless.
The Federal High Court sitting in Abakaliki recently delivered judgement on the leadership crisis rocking the PDP in the state and reinstated you as chairman, following your removal by the National Working Committee of the party. What is your take on the latest development?
Even before the verdict of the Federal High Court, which is a welcome development, an educated man should know that we were duly elected and we have not committed any offence as leaders of the party in Ebonyi State. Therefore, there was no basis for the purported dissolution by the National Working Committee of the party in the first place. So, I thank God for the court’s verdict and I have appealed to my friend, Elder Fred Udeogu and co to join us, so that we can rebuild this party because PDP is for all of us but I am seeing them as agents of the APC because they know the provisions of the party’s constitution. I am suspecting that the governor is using them to destabilize the party and not the other way round. If not, look at the constitution of the party. You said you dissolved an executive, but there was no offence, no disciplinary action. It is not done that way. We were not appointed; we were elected by members of the PDP. So, I am suspecting that the governor of Ebonyi State is using Elder Fred Udeogu to destroy the party in the state. Of course, Elder Udeogu is a good friend of the governor, so he is using him to destabilize the party and I want to warn him that if he continues doing so, he will face disciplinary action.
There is this rumour making the round that other remaining governors of PDP extraction in the South-East are planning to defect to the APC. How true is this?
As you know, I am a state chairman of PDP in Ebonyi, so I can tell you much of what is happening in Ebonyi State. I don’t know what is happening in other states but all I can tell you is that there is no such plan. Enugu State governor is in PDP. In fact, he is the new leader of the PDP in the South-East and I am sure you are aware of that. The Abia State governor is in PDP; we are even trying to woo Imo State governor to come over to PDP and I can tell you that in no distant time, Hope Uzodinma will join PDP.
A Magistrate in the state is currently undergoing trial in the state judiciary for granting the Youth Leader of the Udeogu-led faction of the party bail. Is it true that you are the one behind the whole thing?
You may recall that sometime ago, a group of people led by one Barrister Obinna Iteshi invaded my office and burgled the office and made away with some valuable items. That matter was reported to the office of Commissioner of Police, Ebonyi State Police Command and investigation was conducted. From the investigation, they were found culpable and they were charged to court and I know very well that the magistrate lacks jurisdiction to hear that matter in one of the charges against the suspects. So, I don’t know where the magistrate based his own law to grant the said Obinna Iteshi bail. It was upon this that I wrote to Ebonyi State Judicial Service Commission to review the action of the magistrate and I believe that justice will come my way.
What is your advice to your party men ahead of the next general election?
They should remain committed to PDP because the party is the answer. It is only PDP that can solve the problem of Nigeria, APC cannot do it. They lack the capacity, insecurity is on the rise, unemployment is on the rise, there is hunger in the land. On a daily basis, people are being murdered. You can see that APC has failed Nigerians, PDP is the answer.