Former governor of Anambra State, Senator Chris Ngige who represents Anambra Central Senatorial district in the Senate, in this interview with journalists in Lagos, gives an update of the ongoing merger of the major opposition political parties as well as his governorship ambition among other issues. Anayo Okolie was there
What is the update on the merger of opposition parties?
The opposition political parties that have agreed to fuse are the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), All Nigerians Peoples Party (ANPP), Congress for Progressives Change (CPC), Democratic Peoples Party (DPP), while the merger with the major faction of All Progressives Grand Alliance is on course.
We are finalising our constitution, manifesto and slogan. Everything is in place. Our conventions have been summoned and convoked and most of the parties will conclude their convention by the end of April. We have a timetable of all these activities. The Action Congress of Nigeria convention is coming up on April 18. The CPC’s convention is also coming up about the same time, while that of ANPP is before the end of the same month, same with DPP. By the end of April we should be forwarding our resolution to the Independent National Electoral Commission and the resolution will be accompanied with all the other necessary conditionality we met at the time; like after we have re-baptised ourselves in our various conventions and INEC agrees to register us, we will surrender the certificates of the parties involved in the process. It will be done.
There are issues with the name you proposed for the new party, APC. How do you intend to resolve that?
We are on course. Yes, some group of people just surfaced over night and said they are African Peoples Congress and as we are discussing that, another group also came to say they are answering the name with us, All Progressive Congress and that polarised strategy by those who think they can use it to thwart our journey of forming a broad based coalition opposition party, but we are surely on course.
I said so with every amount of respect because there is nothing in name. If they want us to give them APC we can do so. There are so many other names to answer. We can answer APZ, APCZ, APCE or APCQ. So that doesn’t bother us at all. What really matter is the manifesto of our party, the content, what we have in stock for the people, whether in local government or at the state government level and I can assure you that we have quality men that will give good leadership at all these levels of government.
If the opposition merger coalition is successful, do you think the newly born political party has what it takes to defeat PDP in the coming elections?
Well, the question should have been the other way round. Will PDP be able to compete with us? Because we are not a new party, a new party is different from a party that merged. We have component parties’ governors. So why I said the question should be the other way round was that in all the states being controlled by all these opposition parties, the PDP states governors cannot match them in any way. Talk about Lagos, Edo, Nassarawa, Ekiti, Osun and our two indefatigable governors: Senator Ajimobi and Senator Amosun of Oyo and Ogun States respectively.
These are governors that are classical and if you look at them you see the templates of our party. If you go to CPC’s state, Nassarawa, you will also see a people-oriented-ideological governor. If you go to Borno, even with the ravages being done by the Boko Haram insurgency, you will see a governor that is determined to give people the best. He is promoting agriculture. He has given the people in the rural areas tractors for mechanised farming. If you also go to Yobe, it is the same and if you go down to Zamfara, it is the same. So there is no cause for alarm. The PDP members are panicky, but that doesn’t make the situation different. They should go and learn how to play opposition politics because they have to play it.
There are speculations that you are going to contest the Anambra governorship election and you are yet to declare intention, or are you not interested in the contest?
Anambra State governorship election is a long story but short as well. The long story is that I was governor in Anambra State from May 29, 2003 to March 15, 2006, 33 months and during that 33 months, I had blueprint on reconstruction, I had blueprint on agriculture, I had blueprint on education, I had blueprint on health and had blueprint on transportation and even local power and by the time I left office I had done only just 27 per cent of what I had in stock. So we had about 73 per cent undone.
So the issue now is do I go back to complete it or do I stay in the Senate and continue to give service to my people. So, my party men and women are brainstorming on it and I am also consulting on that. I do know that by mid April or by the end of April, I would have come out with an answer.
With 33 months, you said you were able to accomplish only 27 percent of your programmes as governor leaving 73 undone. Now, how would you assess the performance of your successor’s 86 months in office?
I have refused deliberately to assess Mr. Peter Obi. Since I did that assessment in 2009 when he wanted a second term, I now refrain from doing so. I actually criticised most of the things he was doing at that time, but he was declared winner by INEC. I won that election. As I speak to you, my petition is still in the tribunal. The tribunal panel was removed and a new panel to come before the 2011 election rolled in and with that I had to leave it first to run for the Senate election.
Some people are even telling me to go and resuscitate the case, but there are things we have in our basket. So I don’t want to assess Mr. Peter Obi because I did an assessment earlier and he knows and the people of Anambra State knew what I told them and today it has happened. Starting from non-conduct of local government election to insecurity problem, which I predicted will go from bad to worse because no jobs are being offered to the youth and the dilapidation in education. So these are the issues, but I will not talk about them now till when we get to the campaign, I will evaluate that government and people will now make their verdict.
The people of Anambra North are clamouring for the governorship to be zoned to them and that you are among the people that promised to support them in the next election and that you are backing out from promise…
What did I promised them?
That they should support you and you will support them in the next election?
That is a very woolly statement and a very white lie on the pages of newspapers. One member of the House of Representatives from Ogbaru said so; that person doesn’t play politics in Anambra, he just came back and he opened his mouth and said that Ngige promised them. I bet you at the time in question he was talking about; he was in far away Lagos. Another fellow also talked about it, I think it is the present SSG who was living in New York and working with the United Nations. So because these two absentee politicians are the ones saying these, I don’t take it serious. The real politicians in Anambra North will tell you that Ngige never said such.
On what basis will I say that? Assuming without conceding that such a thing was said, one of the conditionality that it will be said is if I had won. I never won! The conditionality will also be if they support me but they never supported me. So how can such a thing arise?
But do you support the clamour for shift?
What I am saying about the North contesting for the governorship election is just simple and clear. It is true that since the arrival of this dispensation and since 1999, there has never been any agreement that there will be rotation among the three senatorial districts in the state. Two, everybody from zone north to zone south to the central had been competing for the governorship position and sometime the people of the South will take it, while sometimes the people of the Central will take it and sometimes the people of the Anambra North will make an attempt and get near taking it before one or two things or the other will happen.
So they had been in a very vigorous contest with others and it is not when you contest and fail and others win you will come out to announce that its your turn and if there is a new contest, you come out again. So I find it difficult to know how the matter will be addressed. For example, if I come into a class and I am a teacher, I set exams and everybody must have been reading for the exams and contesting for the first position and it will favour a particular group and I come again and set another exams, somebody from that area will take the first position again and will come next time and say, people from this area should not study hard so that we can give this people chance to take the first position. Is it ever done? No.
So the solution will be that the politicians from the north should tell the governor, Mr. Peter Obi who is trying to do politics of exclusion, trying to favour a particular zone to convoke a discussion of stakeholders in Anambra State, where we will all seat on a round table and agree that we should start a zoning and rotation policy in Anambra State and that we are starting with zone A, zone B or zone C and it becomes an agreement and people can then sign it or to through it say after this meeting the zone that produces the governor will not participate in subsequent election. It makes sense that way even though it is undemocratic. What Peter Obi is doing is setting the Anambra people up, one zone against the other, one cultural group against the other and we have never experienced that before.
We regard ourselves as one. As a matter of fact, in the old Eastern region, they call us Onitsha people; from Awka to Ugwuoba and the Owerri people in the present Imo, then you now have the Wawa people from Enugu area. So that is the configuration. The Onitsha people have always loved themselves and we have been doing things together. What God has joined together let no man put it asunder.