Ogbuatu Chidi Simbad is the Publicity Secretary of All Progressives Congress (APC) in Ebonyi State. In this interview with UCHENNA INYA, he speaks on the chances of the party in 2023 elections, Governor Dave Umahi’s defection to the party and clamour for a president of Igbo extraction, among other issues
What has the defection of Governor Dave Umahi to the All Progressives Congress (APC) done to the party in Ebonyi State?
Before now, the engine house of PDP in Ebonyi State and the South East is our governor, Engr Dave Umahi but due to the flaws which he witnessed and many persons besides him witnessed in the PDP, we left to APC. Knowing him fully well as somebody who does his own things with total dedication and commitment, he came into APC with sincerity and honesty. That the APC has bounced back in Ebonyi State is because we have a sitting and peaceful governor.
You know the before now, APC was in opposition in Ebonyi State and the party had a lot of factions but with the reconciliation moves by the governor, there are no longer faction in Ebonyi State APC.
The only faction we have is just one; that faction led by the governor, which means that we have one indivisible family in Ebonyi APC. So, the peaceful approach the governor adopted in reconciling all members of the party gave birth to the strong APC you see in Ebonyi State today.
Some persons have continued to attack Governor Umahi since he defected to the APC. What is your impression about that?
Mark my words; those people will come back. The truth is that this the first time Ebonyi is leaving the party they have known for another party. So, you should expect things like that to happen but believe me that those people attacking the governor will soon come back. We know the governor; he is somebody who doesn’t play unnecessarily, he plays when the time is there and the game he has played or the game he has launched, we all saw his reasons. You can remember vividly that when he was talking about joining the APC, many in the South-East cajoled him, but recently in Igbere, Abia State, some Igbo leaders joined the agitation for a president of Igbo extraction.
When Umahi said that was his reason for joining the APC so that PDP will know that we are out to shun the marginalization of the South-East, they cajoled him. The people, who refused to join him in APC, have the right to do so and we thank God that the governor did not make it a must that they must join him. It is something that if you convince yourself, you join hence the majority are with the governor, so there is no cause for alarm.
The 13 local government chairmen are there, the 64 Development Centre Coordinators are there and these are the landlords of the grassroots. Ninety-eight per cent of the state exco members are there except the minors that left; over 1,000 Executive Assistants, Senior Technical Assistants and Technical Assistants are also there, Board and Commissions, Permanent Secretaries and others are all there.
What impact has the governor’s defection made in the state and the nation’s polity?
His defection to the APC has made us not to be orphans in Nigerian politics. We have gotten a father in the person of President Muhammadu Buhari and we are also connected to the centre. From this January, you will begin to see a lot of things this has brought to Ebonyi as an APC state.
The Governor has always maintained that every developmental stride is courtesy of Mr. President because of his cordial relationship with him and if that good relationship can give birth to Ebonyi becoming an APC state, that is to say that we will benefit more than before the state became an APC state.
So, our defection to APC is much better and our days in APC will be greater, it is going to yield more fruits which are already coming. When we defected last November, the Minister for Women Affairs came to this state and extended hands of fellowship to Ebonyi women, which never happened before.
What are the things the leadership of the APC has done to strengthen the party in the state?
The party has engaged in grassroots sensitization because it has always been the PDP since the creation of the state. We engaged in the sensitization to let the people know that where they see the symbol of broom is where we are. We have also engaged in reconciliation moves and these reconciliation moves have yielded so much results that all hands are now on deck in terms of party participation. Also, the youth are happy because they are witnessing inclusiveness in the administration of Governor Umahi.
Do you think that APC will win the state as Ebonyi has been a PDP state since 1999?
We are fully on ground, so we have every reason to win. The governor has performed tremendously well. Today, every Ebonyian is echoing that he must give us a successor and it is only him can give us somebody who can perform like him. Had it been that he is a first term governor, you will say that he is looking for second tenure. Even without the centre, we did it as opposition. Is it now that we are connected to the centre that we will lose? It can’t happen. We fought like an orphan in 2019 and we won.
Is it now that we have a father that we will not win? So, we are ready for 2023. PDP is a divided house; they are not even ready for election even at the ward level in Ebonyi State. We learnt that they have two factions; Ebonyi State faction and Abuja faction.
The Abuja faction of the PDP has only been reigning on social media and newspapers, while the state faction has occupied their party office insisting that they can’t leave the office. So, it is a very big tussle in the PDP and this is because they have no leader.
If it was when the governor was there, within 24 hours, peace would be restored the way he did in APC when he joined the party in November last year. Very soon, we will conduct our congress in APC and you will see how things are done.
The same manpower that was installed in PDP is the same manpower that would be installed in APC and you will see things moving on very well. We are praying for a viable opposition in Ebonyi State but we have not seen any because those who matter in Ebonyi politics are with the governor, so whosoever that is telling you there is opposition in Ebonyi State to battle APC in 2023 is not telling you the truth.
Yes, we know that opposition is the essence of politics and democracy but there is no viable opposition in Ebonyi State for now. They are divided, they are fighting themselves and they don’t even know if they will contest the 2023 elections. So, come 2023, Ebonyi will prove to Mr. President who is the father of this nation that we are APC body and soul.
There have been clamour for a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction, what is your take on it, and will your party in the state support Umahi if he declares to contest the position in 2023?
You heard what Mr. President told your colleagues in Abuja when he received Governor Umahi hours after his defection to the APC. He told them that he thank God for Governor Umahi’s defection to the APC. He added that Governor Umahi was not forced to join the APC; that his defection was on personal conviction. He then asked the journalists a question thus: ‘For those who are saying that Governor Umahi defected to the APC because he wants to be president, what is wrong in him becoming the president?’ The truth is that the clamour for a president of extraction by the people of the South-East is justifiable.
We don’t need to go into battle to get the position; diplomacy can fetch us a lot. Diplomacy and negotiation has to be deployed in this agitation, we have to sit down and talk with other regions for them to understand that they will be safe in our hands if we get the presidency we have been clamourig for.
Ever since the Easterners got disconnected, it has been hell for us, so we need to get back that cordial relationship that used to exist between us and other regions of the country. The South-East has been marginalized because we have not been united. But this time around, thank God for the person of Governor Umahi, who said that he has brought out himself as a sacrificial lamb. People thought that he made that statement as a politician but he made it as a leader and today many people have seen reasons why he made that statement.
So, we believe God because he is the one who gives power; we believe Him that come 2023, other regions will see reasons to allow the South-East to produce the next president of the country.