A governorship hopeful in Anambra State, Dr. Chike Obidigbo is the Chairman of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, South-east zone, and recently defected to the All Progressives Congress from the All Progressives Grand Alliance in a bid to chart a new political course. In this interview with Charles Onyekamuo, he gave reasons for his defection and provided some insight into his vision if elected governor of the state. Excerpts:
You recently left your party, the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) for the All Progressives Congress (APC). Why is that?
As a matter of fact, I have many reasons to leave APGA behind. The most important is that APGA got converted into a private company by two or three individuals. It was contrary to the original aims and objectives the founders of the party had in mind. APGA you may know is the brain child of Chief Chekwas Okorie sold to our late leader, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu. APGA was sponsored by many Igbo politicians from different political parties. The funding came from political leaders in Ebonyi, Enugu, Abia, Imo and almost all the Igbo nation.
The original concept was not to have a separatist party. The intervention was not to alienate the Igbos from the main stream politics in Nigeria. The idea was to have a political platform that originates from the South-east, where a majority of South Easterners will belong and have unencumbered access to contest political positions throughout the federation.
The idea then was for APGA to be a negotiating instrument whereby our people could go into strategic alliance with other groups within the country. The Igbos do not have the number that can support a presidential bidding but through negotiations with other groups of people at the political level could be in a position to get whatever out of Nigeria. That was the reason some people tagged it Igbo party. So in the true sense of it, APGA is never and has never been an Igbo party. It was intended to be a political arrangement through which we can bargain our way into main stream Nigerian politics and national government.
Some of us have seen through the lies and made efforts to steer APGA back on course but it became impossible because it is in the hands of people, who do not care for the welfare of our people and who as a result of personal gains they make out of APGA will resist any form of change. So, we have no choice than to leave and seek for the wellbeing of our people elsewhere.
During the 2014 gubernatorial preparations, you were the obvious choice of Anambra North people prior to the APGA primaries. Suddenly, the party exco settled for Willie Obiano, who incidentally is from the same North zone with you. Do you still enjoy that measure of support from people of the senatorial zone this time around?
Before I emerged the consensus candidate of Anambra North, so many of us were in the race and at the end of the day, Traditional Rulers, Presidents-General of Town Unions and Women Leaders were asked by former Governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi to select a candidate of their choice that their administration will support. A committee headed by the Obi of Onitsha, Igwe Alfred Nnaemeka Achebe, the Agbogidi of Onitsha, was set up.
All the Traditional Rulers and Presidents-General from the zone were in the committee and after series of discussions, interviews and others with a group of us that they invited, I came tops and my name was submitted to Governor Obi, who called and congratulated me.
Before this exercise, Obi had told me that he would want me to succeed him so that we will develop the economy of Anambra State. He did this because he is visionary and knew at that point what Anambra needed was somebody, who could competently work on the economy of the state in order to create jobs for our teeming unemployed youths.
I believed the then governor because I saw sincerity in the decision. I went on campaign with the support of Governor Peter Obi and all that he told me was to ensure that I continue with his developmental programmes which of course I agreed because many of his projects were such that touched the lives of people. All this while, the incumbent Governor, Chief Willie Obiano was not in the group, nor was he interviewed. He was somewhere else in the United States of America resting while we were busy campaigning and also running from pillar to post.
But a few days to the primaries, he was imported into the country and selected and he won the election using the structure I built. Since then till date, there has been a lot of political disquiet in Anambra State because the person they supported was not the person that won the election.
Governor Peter Obi became the first casualty of the administration which refused to have any dealing with the political class that worked tirelessly to see that APGA won. Happily though, Governor Peter Obi had seen his mistakes and had since apologised to Ndi Anambra for the wrong done to me and the state and he has promised that the mistake would be corrected in 2017.
Do you still enjoy the support of Anambra North people, because you seem silent on that?
Anambra North people were very unhappy when it happened because they felt deceived and so many of them said that much. When power shifts, the tendency is that some people should follow the direction of power and then a number of people from Anambra North joined the new administration.
But now, they have realised they made a mistake and retracing their steps to return to status quo. So, any day, I will enjoy the support of Anambra North and indeed Anambra State because during the campaign, I visited the 177 communities in the state and knew their problems first hand and they know me. I am not a stranger to them.
In concrete terms, why the desire to serve in governorship capacity?
Like I said earlier, there is a very urgent need to develop an economic base that will provide jobs for the teaming youths, put bread on the tables of many families. We have all the resources in place. We have men and women with massive creative energy. We have very industrious young men and women. There are so many people in this state with the burning desire to see the state develop. Unfortunately, the energy is elsewhere outside the state in other states and elsewhere in the world. We need our people, where they are to think home and bring back their ingenuity, their industry, their wealth of experience and resources to come and develop Anambra State.
Other regimes since the time of Chukwuemeka Ezeife to the present administration have been singing this song but then, it is not enough to ask people to come and develop their place. As a matter of fact, investment is not what you beg somebody to make because it is neither charity nor philanthropy. People make investments where they see potential for profit and you can only see profit where the universally acknowledged factors of production are in place.
So, what we intend to do is to create that environment that will attract genuine investments into Anambra State. This is not what anybody else can do. It requires a lot of knowledge and experience in the field of wealth creation. Before Chris Ngige became the Governor of Anambra State, he was complaining bitterly about the poor state of our roads and he was perfectly right. As soon as he became the Governor of Anambra State, he tackled road infrastructure. He is still remembered today as a man who solved lots of transport problems for the people of this state.
Again, before Peter Obi became the Governor, he had already drawn up his road map which some of us had the opportunity to read in his manifesto. He was discussing integrated development programme for Anambra State. He hit the ground running as soon as he became the governor and carried on with a lot of developmental programmes for which the people of Anambra State are grateful.
Towards the end of his tenure, we discussed and agreed that the next phase will be the economy. And I have done a lot of work in this direction. Unfortunately, the present Governor prepared no manifesto so he had none. He just got governorship responsibilities thrown at him. That is why nobody should blame him so much because he didn’t prepare for the responsibility of governance and he does not pretend to be prepared for it.
Why the choice of APC?
Well as I said, the original idea behind the formation of APGA by chief Chekwas Okorie and company was to give us a negotiating pad into the mainstream of the Nigerian politics. Since this original concept has been shoved aside and the party hijacked by political merchants and mercenaries, the option left to us is to find our way into the main political party which is the APC.
When former Governor Peter Obi joined the political mainstream at the time which was the PDP, some people in Anambra State accused him of all sorts of things but so many of us at the same time saw through his intention. We cannot continue to alienate ourselves from the main stream politics of this country and expect to get somewhere.
We can’t continue to remain in this enclave and complain about marginalisation. The people we complained that are marginalising us are men like us. We will therefore join forces with them to demand for our due and get our fair share of what belongs to all of us. That is why I chose APC because I believe that APC will better serve our interests within the context of the Nigerian nation.
What, therefore, are your chances in APC?
Politics and the fate of Anambra State is not an exclusive right of anybody. Political party is a union of a group of people with supposedly similar ideology. This being the case, the decision to run for the governorship of Anambra State on the platform of APC does not rest with me. The decision is for the party to take and if I am found worthy, I will be very grateful to fly the flag.
I know that with God on my side and the people of Anambra State giving me their support, I will win and I will deliver something very tangible and beneficial to the state. Now my message will go to the youths of the state because it is the energy of the Youths that builds a nation. Anambra State youths have suffered so much neglect, yet we expect them to become productive and competent leaders of tomorrow.
So, I enjoin them to look around and give their full support to whoever they believe they can trust to serve their interest. The people of Anambra State, I say pray let God give us the leader that will not short-change the people or misappropriate our wealth.
I have many reasons to leave APGA behind. The most important is that APGA got converted into a private company by two or three individuals. It was contrary to the original aims and objectives the founders of the party had in mind