A former governorship aspirant on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party in Anambra, Chief Kodilichukwu Okelekwe, after taking a critical look at the performance of the All Progressives Congress led-government, concludes that the next presidential election will be his party’s to lose in 2019. He spoke to Senator Iroegbu. Excepts:
What is your take on the state of Anambra PDP?
I really lack the right adjective to describe it. Here is a state that is predominantly PDP and yet, we have not been able to win the governorship election since 2003, because of internal crisis and bickering; that is just the only issue. If we can get over our internal crisis and bickering, no other party can smell the governorship of Anambra state. In fact, the PDP given the right circumstance, annd the right leadership can rule Anambra State in perpetuity, because Anambra is PDP and PDP is Anambra state. Our challenge is how to get over our differences and work together as a family.
The Anambra PDP was scheduled to have a congress recently, things did not go right. What actually was the problem?
Yes, we scheduled to have a congress. I was supposed to be a participant in that congress. I declared interest to run for the chairmanship of the party in Anambra State. I consulted widely; reached out far and wide to all the critical stakeholders, because my interest is to make sure that we unite the PDP in Anambra state as one happy family, where all our different interests will be aggregated into a common goal, which is to restore PDP back to power in Anambra state. That was what prompted me to contest for the chairmanship of the party in Anambra.
Unfortunately, some forces were bent on imposing a particular leadership on the party in Anambra state, and that stalled the congress. That was why the congress didn’t hold; but surprisingly, we heard that a letter was written recognising somebody as state chairman in an election that didn’t take place. I am sure that letter must have been forged, because there was no election. One of the reasons why the state congress did not hold was that the State Congress Electoral Panel that came from Abuja to conduct the election did not come with the authentic delegates list. Because of this, all the critical stakeholders, including the entire members of the National Assembly did not show up at the venue of the congress. Even the members of the electoral panel, led by Prof. Osita Ogbu, were not present at the purported congress.
Again, the outgone members of the National Caretaker Committee agreed that there was no election in Anambra state. That was why there were no special delegates from Anambra state in the PDP convention. Only about 21 statutory delegates voted at the convention, because the congress did not hold and because it didn’t hold, there was no special delegate from Anambra state. If there were no special delegates from Anambra state because the congress didn’t hold, how was the chairman elected?, Or was he appointed? That is why I said that the letter must have been forged, because there was no congress in Anambra state, but I am happy that the new leadership has stepped in. Recently, the national vice chairman, South-east zone, Chief Austin Umahi addressed a press conference at the national secretariat in Abuja, where he set the record straight that there was no congress in Anambra state and that the party would take its time to put things right in Anambra state. Anambra State is very strategic, once we get things right in Anambra state, it will be a pointer of greater things to come.
You are offering yourself for the chairmanship of Anambra PDP, what are you bringing to the table?
I am offering myself for the chairmanship of the party because of the state of affairs of the party in Anambra state. I believe I can do something to turn around the fortunes of the party in the state for good. Am not doing it for any personal gain but to turn things around, to show that things can be done differently. So, that we can begin to win again and that was why in my consultation with people all the critical stakeholders endorsed me for three basic reasons: one, integrity; I have integrity.
Two, without sounding immodest, I am comfortable and because I am comfortable, nobody can use money to tempt me to do something that is not in the interest of the party. Nobody can use money to push me around; nobody can use money to intimidate me. Thirdly, in the entire factional crisis in PDP in Anambra, I have remained neutral. I am friends with everybody in PDP and so, it was easy for me to get all the critical stakeholders to endorse my candidature for state chairmanship of the party. But like I said before, some forces that were bent on foisting a particular leadership on the party in Anambra weren’t comfortable with that. They were bent on having their way even at the detriment of the development and growth of the party. Back to your earlier question about the motivation for contesting for the chairmanship of the party, in my meetings with stakeholders, I presented a four-point agenda to all the critical stakeholders of the party in Anambra state. Number one on that agenda is to unite the party in Anambra. Without unity, we cannot achieve anything, unifying the different factions of the party, so that we can work as a family. Secondly, to integrate the party into the various communities in Anambra state, and how do we do that? We need to rebrand and strategically reposition the party. I have a clear thought out ideas on how to integrate the party into the various communities in Anambra state; but for strategic reasons I will not discuss them on the pages of newspaper, otherwise other parties will copy it. But that is my joker to make sure PDP wins the state and National Assembly elections in 2019. To ensure that PDP returns to Government House, Agu-Awka in 2022. And of course in making sure that whoever PDP fields in 2019 as presidential candidate wins convincingly in Anambra State.
Lastly, the fourth agenda, which I have mentioned in the course of this discussion, is to work with the national leadership of the party to make sure that PDP democratically returns to Aso Rock in 2019. That is my four-point agenda. I am not contesting because I want to turn PDP in Anambra state into a money making machine. No. I am contesting to restore the lost glory of the party in Anambra, so that we can begin to win again. I am encouraged by the fact that the critical stakeholders also bought into my agenda and that is why they are supporting me and I am grateful to them and ultimately grateful to God for the journey so far.
After the last convention, the new national chairman said he has a one point agenda: to return PDP to Aso Rock. Do you think this is achievable?
Yes, it is very achievable. If you look at the antecedents of the national chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, he was two-time chairman of PDP in Rivers State, former National Organising Secretary, former Deputy National Chairman, former acting national chairman and ultimately national chairman. Nobody is better equipped to return PDP to power than Prince Uche Secondus. He personifies PDP. He is an embodiment of PDP. He breathes PDP. He thinks PDP. So, it is achievable. The election of Uche Secondus as PDP national chairman can simply be described as putting a square peg in a square hole. He will return PDP to Aso Rock in 2019. I have no doubt about that, because he has the experience, exposure. He came into the office prepared. He is not going to waste a day learning on the job, he knows PDP like his palm.
For the first time in the history of the PDP we have the right man for the national chairmanship position. He has come to the job fully prepared and so he has hit the ground running from day one. You can see what he did, he took over on Monday and that same day, he inaugurated the reconciliation committee ably led by the governor of Bayelsa, Henry Seriake Dickson and they have already commenced work. So far, the response has been so positive in their encounter with the aggrieved people, I have no doubt in my mind that PDP has struck gold in the election of Prince Secondus as the national chairman.
…But the APC says Nigerians should not trust the PDP with power again, how do you react to that?
The facts speak for themselves. For 16 years we were in power, when we handed over power on the 29th of May 2015, what was the exchange rate of the dollar?, It was about 180 naira per dollar, today what is it? At a point it went to 500 naira per dollar and then came down to about 365 naira to a dollar, which is where it is now. What of petrol? When PDP was in power a litre of petrol was sold for N85, even when a barrel was being sold for about $100 in the international market yet the PDP government was able to keep the price of petrol at N85 per litre. Today, although the price of oil has gone down drastically, fuel is being sold at N145. The price of fuel ought to be a reflection of the international price of petrol, but instead the reverse is the case. While oil is falling in the international market, the pump price of petrol in Nigeria is rising. The APC promised that they will be creating three million jobs per annum and the reverse is the case. We are losing more than that number they promised to be creating per annum. This one is not my word. It is the figure from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). Where do you start? Our people have a saying it goes like this” it is good to carry firewood and also carry water so that you can determine which one is heavier”, Nigerians have tested PDP and they are now testing APC.
They now know which one is heavier and I can tell you that come 2019 Nigerians will overwhelmingly return PDP to power. My advice to PDP is that we must make sure that we elect the right person as our presidential candidate. The election is ours to lose. Once we pick the right presidential candidate, Nigerians will overwhelmingly return PDP to power. We can see that APC was not ready for governance. They were more interested in taking power but they have no blue print for governance. It is just a marriage of strange bed fellows, who were united by one objective which is their hatred for PDP and the quest to push PDP out of power; having done that they ran out of ideas; because they were never prepared in the first place for governance. Governance is a serious business and PDP we have done it before.
We have the experience and we can do it again. That does not mean that there were no mistakes in the past. As is the case with anything human, we are not infallible; infallibility belongs to God. We have learnt from those minor mistakes and we will take them into account when we return to the government in 2019. There are certain things that PDP will no doubt do differently based on past experiences. On the whole, PDP has done much better than APC has done. For instance, under PDP, Nigeria became the biggest economy in Africa. Today, what’s happening? I don’t even know where we are. The use of mobile phones in Nigeria is a PDP achievement. I like to speak with facts, not propaganda. I like to point to empirical evidence. The facts on ground will speak for PDP and my only advice to our leaders is to make sure that the right presidential candidate is picked for 2019. I have no doubt in my mind that once that is done, the rest as they say would be history.