Senator Osita Izunaso, the National Organizing Secretary of the All Progressives Congress and a former chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party, has taken a jibe at his former party, saying it is no longer a national party. He spoke with Amby Uneze in Owerri. Excerpts:
What are the plans of the APC to capture more states in the South-east, considering that it is the party at the centre?
In every political calculation, our party is doing well now in the South-east more than before. Recently we went to receive the former governor of Ebonyi state, Chief Martin Elechi into the party. In Abia state, we recently received officially all the decampees from the other political parties who joined APC. Today I can tell you that Abia has collapsed into APC. The former governor of Abia state, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu is now with APC. So also as Chief Marc Nwagbara, former Managing Director of Hallmark Bank Plc; former Minister of Labour, Emeka Nwogu; Senator Nkechi Nworgu; Senator Nwanunu; Senator Chris Adihijie and a whole lot of other people have all joined the party. Today APC has gotten its bearing in Abia and if there is going to be a general election today, the story in Abia will change.
In Enugu state, virtually all the big wigs have joined the party, beginning from Senator Jim Nwobodo, Senator Ken Nnamani, Senator Gbazuagu, former governor Sullivan Chime and a lot of other people in Enugu state have since joined the APC. In Ebonyi, the story is not different. In Anambra, you saw that during the just concluded governorship election, APC was a party to beat.
In Imo, we already have a sitting governor and a couple of other people are with the party. So the stand of APC in the South-east is improving and our chances are very bright. It is important I use this medium to call on my brothers and sisters from the South-east to know that the only channel for us to remain relevant in the national equation is through the APC.
Today PDP is no longer a national party as people would think. You may ask me my reasons; I will explain. PDP does not control one-third of the states in Nigeria as we speak. We have 36 States in Nigeria, plus FCT, APC is controlling 24 states, plus FCT. So if we have 37 states, then we 25 for APC; and if we say we have 36 states then we have 24 states for APC, APGA has one state, and PDP has 11 states. So one-third of 36 is 12. PDP does not have twelve.
Secondly PDP does not have any presence at all in two geo-political zones in Nigeria. PDP does not have any presence at all in the seven states of the North-west. This is the zone with the highest number of states; there is no PDP governor there. Also there is no PDP controlled-state in the North-central. They have only two in the North-east: Gombe and Taraba. So how can you describe PDP as a national party when it does not have spread in terms of control of states? Even when APC was in the opposition, we had presence in the South East (Imo), South South (Edo) and we had presence in other zones. There was no zone that we never had presence even when we were struggling to defeat President Goodluck Jonathan. But today PDP does not have presence in two geo-political zones.
Internal crises no doubt contributed to PDPâ€™s misfortune, but now it seems the party has put it differences aside and is now working together, donâ€™t you see there might be surprises?
Internal division is a normal democratic procedure, it happens in every political party. It is not supposed to be any issue because in a political party people always agree and disagree. But Iâ€™m saying that it was not even the reason why the party didnâ€™t have control of those states or the geo-political zones because their internal wrangling came after the 2015 general elections. Iâ€™m saying that their performance in 2015 general elections showed that they do not have control of one-third of Nigerian nation, so when you donâ€™t have control of the nation how can you call yourself a national party?
Having resolved its problems, donâ€™t you think PDP is much more serious now?
Have they solved their problems? They have not solved their problems. You are talking in the future, that is, when they solve their problems. Let us wait until they are able to solve their problems. Are we going to fold our hands? We are ahead of them because we want to control the entire nation in 2019. We are really working hard towards that and we also expect other political parties to work hard.
PDP is not even an option for Ndigbo, because, it is still not a national party for Ndigbo, that is the point Iâ€™m making. The only political vehicle available for the control of Nigeria as of today is through the APC. It is through APC that Ndigbo would bounce back to national reckoning. There is no other vehicle. PDP cannot be the vehicle. People have described APGA as the means to an end and not an end itself. APGA is for one or two personâ€™s personal aggrandizement. It is not for Ndigbo, because there is no way an Igbo man in 2017 would be playing regional politics.
We donâ€™t have control of the centre; we should be aspiring to have control of the centre not to have control of my house in Ohakpu. That is not what we should be aspiring for. We failed it during the merger, when the Yoruba through ACN collapsed all that they had for the new arrangement â€“ the bigger picture; CPC was predominant in the north, they collapsed it, ANPP collapsed it, and that was when APGA lost the opportunity. They should have collapsed APGA and move to the centre. When those regional parties were formed was when people retreated to go and re-plan. You canâ€™t do it alone.
The parable of the talent in the Bible, when Christ told us that a certain rich man was travelling and he gave different talents to his subjects and when he came back and requested for results, those that multiplied their own, he multiplied it in folds for them and those who did not multiple their own, had theirs taken away and was given to those who multiplied theirs. So have we multiplied own our which is APGA? We did not. We kept it because some people felt they should keep it to oil their interest.
It is of public knowledge that the various policies of the APC government are not enhancing the welfare of Nigerians?
That is very wrong in the sense that our programme had always been a welfarist programme. We came in with an agenda to ensure that corruption was removed in the system. There was a social agenda to empower the poor, getting the youths employed. That is what we are doing now with the N-Power project and all the rest of them. So we came in with an agenda to ensure that security is better guaranteed and that is what we are doing now in the north-east. I think in terms of providing what we had promised the people, the APC is doing it steadily without making noise. We are more interested in the commitment we have with the Nigerian people than the noise we make to the Nigerian people.
Are you saying that the APC has delivered on its promises to Nigerians?
Of course, yes! We have delivered and we are still delivering. It is just that people donâ€™t appreciate. When we came into the system Nigeria was in recession but today we have been able to navigate Nigeria out of recession. If it is not an APC-led government that inherited a Nigeria that was in recession, we would have moved to depression. So from recession we are able to get Nigeria out of the hole, so who says we are not doing our best?
But many households are having difficulty making ends meet?
Times like this call for people to take stock of the past and to see how we are going to use the past to leverage on the future. A situation where everything must be done without plan as it used to be no longer works. Today people must make some sacrifice. Whether you are APC, PDP or any other political party, time has come for people to make sacrifice to our country. This country belongs to all of us. It is far and above anybody, so nobody is deliberately making people to be hungry. No father will be happy to see the children hungry. So it is not a deliberate effort; it is targeted towards correcting the ills of the past and re-positioning the country for the future, in order to have a better future for Nigeria. It is not APC that made people hungry; it is because what we saw on ground can no longer be business as usual unless we donâ€™t want to have a country. But somebody had sworn an oath to protect Nigeria and to ensure that the country remains, so we must have a country, even if it means going through hard times to have the country that must be done.
As a stakeholder of the ruling party, the budget of 2017 is less that 30 percent implemented and Mr. President just presented another budget for 2018, how do we achieve success in the economy?
It is not true that the budget of 2017 is less than 30 percent implemented. Mr. President had always given directives for capital budget to be fully implemented but Iâ€™m aware that because of paucity of funds the 2017 budget has not been fully implemented. But you should ask when was the 2017 budget passed? That was just a couple of months ago. Every budget has a lifespan of one year, so the National Assembly has received a new budget and they have already started work on it, if they could finish it by December 31st and it is assented to, that means it becomes operational by January 1st. So let us wait to see when they would pass this budget, because as far as I am concerned the lifespan of 2017 budget is still alive. The constitution also empowers the government to spend at least 50 percent of the current budget even without any budget being in place. The President has done well by submitting the budget for next year early enough. It is better for budget year to begin by January 1st.
Back home to Imo state, what are the plans by your party to retain the power by 2019?
Imo State is the only state in the South east that is ruled by APC, so to that extent we will do all within our power to ensure that we also retain the state come 2019. How to win the state is to ensure that we carry many people along and try to avoid internal wrangling within the party. Presently there is none to the best of my knowledge, even if there is any; it has not reached to the level where people would say that the party is no longer one in the state. We donâ€™t have two state chairmen, we have one. It is not like the PDP in the state where you do not know who the state chairman is. In PDP, you donâ€™t even know who is who. In our party, we have one state office, one state chairman, etc.
How can you describe PDP as a national party when it does not have spread in terms of control of states?