Chief Mike Okaka
Chief Mike Okaka was the first Chairman of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) in New England in the United States and the immediate past Special Adviser on Diaspora Affairs to Anambra State Governor, Mr. Peter Obi. He spoke with Charles Onyekamuo,on the state of APGA. Excerpts:
You were the first Chairman of APGA in New England, USA. How did the idea of registering APGA foundation come about?
When APGA came on board, I saw a semblance of those NPP features in the party and though I was in the United States of America then, I agreed with the party’s philosophy to be your brother’s keeper. Those of us who are Igbo people resident in New England which comprises Massachusetts, Dormont, Maine, Rhode Island, Connecticut and New York, all in the USA, met and began mobilisation for APGA. That was how the idea of registering the APGA foundation came about.
Was it your role as Ambassador of APGA in the USA that attracted the attention of Governor Peter Obi who later appointed you as SA on Diaspora Affairs?
Well, I wouldn’t know what prompted the governor to offer me that appointment to serve the people of the state in that capacity on which I must express extreme gratitude to him. But I know it has always been my desire to infuse the good practices those of us in the Diaspora have learnt in our various fields of endeavour and associate with our hosts the way we do things in our society.
So to the question, I will say that one does not praise oneself since others will always be his mirror and their perception of you depends on positive contributions he has made in uplifting his environment and making it a better place to live. But the governor, my mind tells me, must have seen one or two capabilities in me which he felt could be used to the advantage of the state.
You said the programmes of APGA drew you to the party. Would you say that the party’s programmes have been fairly executed in the state?
Without sounding immodest, I will tell you straight away that the APGA administration in Anambra State led by Governor Peter Obi has done satisfactorily well. When you think about what it used to be and what it is now in the area infrastructural provision, you would be left with no option than to acknowledge the effort of the governor to transform the state and make it a safe place to live in and invest.
Today, I am aware that the Obi administration has constructed over 500 kilometers of roads in the past six years, connecting hitherto neglected communities in the hinterland. There have also been bridges built all over the place and besides, there has been massive transformation in both the secondary and tertiary schools in the state as well as the hospitals. A lot is going on through the Anambra Integrated Development Strategy (ANIDS) and the people are winners.
What really was your role as SA to the Governor on Diaspora Affairs and how did it enhance the growth of APGA?
My major role was to liaise with those Anambrarians at home and those aboard. When I said abroad, I mean those Anambrarians outside the geographical confines of the state as it is known today. It includes those in the Western and Northern parts of the country as well as those in Europe, Asia and the Americas. I discussed how they could be of help to the development of the state because home is home.
In some of our discussions and activities and events, I normally show them the accomplishments of some of our captains of various industries and business concerns at home and by so doing, create wider awareness and markets for their various products and again allay their fears that if these people can operate from home here, without encumbrances, they too can do so.
APGA has been in crisis since the burial of its leader, Chief Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, what do you think is responsible for this crisis?
The first crisis that came into APGA was from all indications sponsored by the rival Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). After the 2003 governorship election, Dr. Chris Ngige was declared winner by the (Independent National Electoral Commission) INEC.
Peter Obi, the APGA candidate in that election who felt he won went to court to reclaim his mandate. So, when PDP noticed his determination to reclaim that mandate, they felt that the best way to destroy APGA so as that it could lose a common front in the struggle was to get the mandate was to balkanize it. First, they got the then National Chairman of the party, Chief Chekwas Okorie and some members of its National Working Committee and the state executive to denounce the struggle.
Some members like the then National Treasurer, Chief Victor Umeh and others who felt betrayed by Chekwas went towards removing him so that the struggle would continue. The long and short of it was that Umeh won at the court and was subsequently elected the National Chairman. The rest is history.
The current crisis, like I said before elsewhere, is largely a family affair. I pray and hope that reconciliation will take place soon because APGA remains the heartbeat of the Igbo people.
There is need for total reconciliation of all the aggrieved parties in the crisis and the earlier that is done, the better. My idea of reconciliation should be total without playing to the gallery.
We can no longer pretend that there is no crisis. The cri sis exists and the ability of the party’s leaders to come together and sink their differences once and for all at a round table will be the best thing that will happen to the party considering the fact that another election year in the state is not far away.