National Vice Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Chief Austin Umahi, spoke on the crisis rocking his party and the defection of two former governors to the All Progressives Congress. He spoke with Benjamin Nworie who presents the excerpts:
What is your reaction to the victory of the Abia State governor, Okezie Ikpeazu at the Supreme Court?
The judgment of the apex court on the Abia governorship election is a welcome development and we as a party are very happy that today, the judiciary has prided itself as the true and last hope for the common man. We accept the judgment as the confirmation of the will of the people which they exercised freely in favour of our party, PDP and governor Ikpeazu in 2015 governorship election.
We wish to thank all Abians and members of our great party for their steadfastness during the trying moments when the mandate given to our party was being put to trial by some elements that wanted to achieve victory through the backdoor. We are launching a comprehensive rebranding of PDP in the zone and we are optimistic we shall reclaim Anambra and Imo States for PDP.
I congratulate you my dear brother on this landmark victory at the apex court. Your victory was a clear confirmation of your acceptance by the people of the state hence, your overwhelming victory at the polls. Your election was greeted with so many litigations and in all, God upheld your hand high in victory and today, you stand tall before your foes and they came trembling before your God.
Abia and Ebonyi State share so many things in common and have been united in our quest for collective development. Since the current administrations, we have seen the enormous challenges of navigating the ship of development through the turbulent waters and today, there are tremendous successes in Ebonyi and Abia states as we have obliterated the clog in the wheels of our development.
Recently, former governors of Ebonyi and Enugu states Chief
Martin Elechi and Sullivan Chime respectively defected to the APC. Will their defection not affect PDP?
The people that are defecting from PDP to APC have no political value. Yes, I was astonished to hear that an ex-governor of Enugu state defected to APC. This is a man that was in total darkness and PDP picked him up, made him a commissioner, two term governor and so on. Just because he wanted to go to the Senate, his people said no and he wanted to be a Lord to the man in Enugu State Government House and he failed and took to critics.
Very soon he will come back to tell Ndigbo why he defected. We learnt that his claims for his defection was to protect the people’s interest. Chime’s defection was for his selfish reasons because he did not defect as a result of the interest of the good people of South-east.
He defected just to protect his empire. The question about his defection I must ask is, how many people did he defect to APC with? The answer is nobody. Of what use is his defection?
We also have similar case in Ebonyi State, where an 83 year old former governor defected to APC. We all know that the former governor of Ebonyi State, Chief Martin Elechi, left PDP in the year 2014 to Labour Party (LP).
After two years of been in LP, he defected to APC. My question is, at his age, is he supposed to be jumping from one party to another? Capital No. Chief Martin Elechi cannot boast of defecting with his wife or son.
People defecting to APC are people who cannot win their polling units. Their defections cannot take sleep out of our eyes. As the National Vice Chairman of PDP South-east, they are junks and we must clear them to enable us move forward and bring the younger generations on board.
We are tired of promises. We are tired of recycling. That is the more reason we are not perturbed or disturbed by their defection. I call them Abuja politicians who donâ€™t know or have a grass root definition. I want to ask you, the years of PDP, can you compare it with the two years of the present government? Keep the answer to yourselves.
In governance, there is no way you give it 100 percent, 80-90 percent is pass mark. PDP is doing very well in human empowerment and stomach infrastructure. Check the states PDP are ruling. As the National Vice Chairman of PDP South-east, I give them excellent. To be frank with ourselves, Nigerians are missing PDP.
Look at youth empowerment. It is unprecedented in the history of Ebonyi state. I used to think Ebonyi State was alone on such meritorious achievements but when I visited Abia and Enugu states. I saw they were in the same league. Few days now, Abia state governor will be sending one hundred youths to China to understudy China. That is human empowerment. What again are we talking?
It pains me the level of marginalisation Ndigbo are passing through in the so-called diametric government and then some Igbo people will be proud to say that they are defecting. What are your reasons for defecting? Have you paused and pondered, to tell the people you are leading – your followers that these are your reasons.
Time will not permit me to enumerate so many things but to tell you the truth South-east has no regret whatsoever the way they voted for PDP in 2015 and they are going to vote even more than that in 2019. I can assure you by the special grace of God, APC has done all the work for PDP.
PDP has to do its homework very well and correct some mistakes and possess our possession come 2019 because Aso Rock is our possession and we must repossess it. As the National Vice Chairman of PDP South-east, I have no doubt that we can repossess it.
Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo has been quoted as allegedly boasting that APC will take-over Anambra state come the next general election in the state? What is your party doing about that?
I assure you that it is an empty boast. Okorocha should boast with what he is doing in Imo State, as a result of his transformation and what he is doing in Imo State that Anambra people will want to get the same party ruling Imo State.
Will Anambra State pray for that kind of governance in Imo State? The answer is capital no. Check when I was making my opening speech, I noted that politics of today is transformed and renewed. It is no longer politics of propaganda. People are interested in what you are doing; if it is road, they want to ply it; if it is light, they want to see it shining; if it is water, they will want to open it and see it running. Itâ€™s not any how water; the people must see the quality of water.
They want to see the quality of road, the quality of light, that is what the people want, that is why people are tired, there is so much frustration, there is so much enchantment, thank God he (Rochas) used the word boasted and I will let it be at that, when we get to the bridge we shall cross it.
I can assure you that Anambra people are knowledgeable. Anambra people can play their cards very well. They have been doing marriage and it must stop because of the present formidable South-east PDP officials, the marriage must stop and PDP must possess its possession.
We, the South-east PDP executives must simply, showcase what is happening in Ebonyi, Abia and Enugu States where PDP governors are in-charge, after all we are one inseparable family. Itâ€™s the word boast so he can boast, when we get to the bridge, he will know he was boasting.
What is the stand of PDP South-east on the release of 82 chibok girls? If there are divergent views?
Donâ€™t you have divergent issues in your home, with friends, brothers and among colleagues in office? Divergent opinions are inevitable in human endeavors. You are bound to have divergent issues.
If Sheriff and Makarfi have divergent views towards the release of Chibok girls by federal government, they are entitled to their opinions. Expression of opinions is the essence of democracy and that is what matters because without people, democracy is dead.
Even among my executives, we quarrel to understand and move forward and that is to say Makarfi and Sheriff are entitled to have divergent opinions which makes them human beings and I commend their divergent opinions.
Does South-east PDP support the formation of Advance Peoples Democratic Alliance (APDA) party by some members of the PDP and which of the faction does the zone support, Sheriff or Makarfi?
It is a rumour. I have heard more rumours than you. As a leader, there is nothing I have not heard even in social media. The truth of the matter is that here we are today is the South-east PDP Zonal Headquarters and with me are the South East PDP Zonal officers. As you can see, there is no PPA, APC flag or whatever here.
What you all are seeing is PDP and we are discussing PDP affairs which are all about power to the people. Issue of alliance, formation of this and formation of that, the South-easterners have been terribly marginalised. We are not fools. We all have to sit and iron issues out. God forbid if anything goes wrong. We all have to move as a formidable force. We are still PDP.
Yes, our case is in court. We are very optimistic. We believe God that justice must be done and why must it be done is to save democracy in Nigeria and that is why everyone is watching and listening. Our democracy must be saved and who will save it? Itâ€™s PDP.
Even APC members are busy begging, calling me and asking me how is your case in court so that we can easily do justice to our democracy. As the National Vice Chairman of PDP South-east, I must tell you authoritatively that APC is an association of people with different ideologies and different political interests.
Go and see them fighting themselves. There are lots of in-fighting of who will succeed who. They want to succeed a living man. Is it not an abomination? The truth of the matter remains that Igbo people are focused people. Igbo people are talented and very enterprising.
They have their own approach to issues. We have a living president and we should not begin to talk of succession. When his time elapses then you will see the true Igbo leaders speak and when they speak you will know and understand we are not in disarray.
You will also understand that we are one united family, demonstrating maturity at the right time towards the right path. The truth is some of these things you are seeing and hearing are just an arrangement.
I have to use the word â€˜arrangee.â€™ The tempo is dropping and the voices of masses are beginning to be heard. Nigeria will show-case a true democracy because I believe that Nigeria will be better. Just very soon, when we get to the bridge, we shall cross it by the grace of God.
We learnt that his claim for his defection was to protect the peoplesâ€™ interest. Sullivan Chime’s defection was for his selfish reasons because he did not defect as a result of the interest of the good people of South-east. He defected just to protect his empire. The question about his defection I must ask her is, how many people did he defect to APC with? The answer is nobody. Of what use is his defection?