Chief Mike Okoye
A constitutional lawyer, rights activist, and governorship aspirant in Anambra State, Chief Mike Okoye, says time has come to inject values and responsible character into the democratic culture. He spoke to Onyebuchi Ezigbo. Excerpts:
Let’s look at party politics, are you satisfied with the suspension of Governor Amaechi?
We cannot use one individual to decide the fate of millions of people that belong to the political party. Before we discuss the issue of Amaechi, let us understand that PDP is the only party that belongs to the people. PDP is the only party that is nationalistic. PDP is not a party that belongs to the north, east, west or south; it is a party of national coloration. Having that in mind, what happened in Rivers state cannot have an effect to decide the totality of Nigeria.
We should not use the issue of Amaechi as if it were a national issue; it is not. Amaechi is first a state matter; it is restricted to Rivers state. It is not national. There is no crack in the party structure of PDP. From BOT to the national chairman, there is no crack there. The issue is a governor that the party feels has acted improperly. Whether rightly or wrongly, we should wait and see how it unfolds. We should not judge. That is the mistake people make. They put a judgment before they understand what a matter is. Let us get the full picture, then, we can be able to see.
Anambra politics is tricky. Most elective positions in the state belong to the PDP but the party does not have the governor’s seat, why?
PDP is the national party and PDP is in power. The national influences the state. If PDP is at the national, it tells you that Anambra state is preparing to be a PDP state. In 2014, Anambra will be one of PDP states. What you are seeing is the sign of things to come. APGA is a dynamic political party. The Governor, Peter Obi, is somebody I have great respect for. At the same time, he understands the politics of Nigeria. He also understands what the Yoruba did when Obasanjo was in power; that they all moved to PDP to strengthen Obasanjo.
They left AD and moved to PDP. And, now, our brother is in power and we will move from APGA to strengthen PDP; there is no other issue. We will move from APGA to strengthen PDP. I was once in APGA. I was instrumental to most of the things they did in APGA but we must move to strengthen PDP because the President of Nigeria is our brother. All the pillars in Anambra State must be PDP to strengthen him.
If you were Governor of Anambra, what new things would you bring on the table?
I will bring change in governance. The governed and the governor do not understand what democracy is all about. The belief is that it is the governor that gives and decides what he does. Governance as of today is what I call ad-hoc. The governor wakes up and says this is a good project; I will build roads for you. Tomorrow, perhaps, I will demolish the secretariat that has historical whatever and I will build my own secretariat. There is no structural plan and there is no plan. Therefore, the governance as we see it is now is ad-hoc.
We will start in Anambra to practice true democracy whereby there will be a structure created by the ideas we have and the ideas the people have as to what they want. These things will be prepared by those who are intellectually equipped to prepare them. It is like building a plan for a house, the structural plan. The architect does his job, the builder just looks at the plan, that is, the chief executive; the job of the chief executive is not generating ideas but implementing ideas generated. That is what democracy is all about; that is what governance is all about. In so doing, Anambra will know this road map, even after Mr. Okoye has finished as the governor; the roadmap has been defined.
Intra-party crisis is rife in Anambra state. Are you sure this will not come into play in 2014?
This is my party and I believe the party is conscious of the situation. PDP is very conscious of it. And, I know that they are doing something to make sure that PDP goes for the election as one family. One thing I can tell you is that PDP today, especially for Anambra State, whoever amongst us aspirants emerges; we all will step down and follow that person.
What do you think gives you an edge over likely opposition like Senator Ngige who is reported to be interested in the gubernatorial race?
Looking at my stature as a constitutional lawyer; as a human right activist and all I have contributed legally, politically and otherwise to the federation- Nigeria to Anambra and the fact that I come from Anambra North that has a bloc vote, I believe that victory is mine. I think, looking at my pedigree and looking at the force my party has; looking at the vote we already got from the north, I can assure you that I am the man to beat. I can also say without fear or equivocation that Anambra State is yearning for a change; a new wine in an old sack. Ngige was nobody before he became governor.
It was opportunity given to him that made him excel. If the same opportunity is given to somebody else, that person can equally excel beyond him. But that person must be given opportunity and the person must be a new brand because the old brand people will say we all know them.
How would you appraise Nigeria’s 14 years of democracy?
The real issue is looking at all these years, the way I will describe it is that Nigeria will be going through these ups and downs. But ultimately, we will emerge triumphant. No nation started and got it right the same day. To me, I believe that Nigeria is on the right track; our democracy is on course. Politics of Nigeria has gone beyond tribal; we have gone beyond regional politics. Nigeria has come to a stage where we have national politics.