Senator Ifeanyi Araraume, All Progressives Grand Alliance governorship candidate in Imo State fielded questions from a team of journalists including Nseobong Okon-Ekong on his chances and why he is giving the contest his best shot
What do you intend to do differently if elected governor of Imo state?
If we take road infrastructure alone, you cannot drive on smooth road for one kilometre in Imo, even in Owerri. And that was what informed the governor saying that the rains in Owerri are acidic. I don’t know whether God chooses the kind of rain and water that drops in Owerri as against the ones in Lagos. Go to Imo today, you can’t find one notable contractor like Julius Berger, RCC, Hitech or Setraco. Imo soil is not as bad as the soil of Lagos state. There is no design for any of the roads being constructed in Imo. In the 21st century, people are still using headpan and shovel. Look at the challenge of education; look at the ease of doing businesses. From the report of the Federal Bureau of Statistics, Imo is number 34 out of 36 states. It shouldn’t be. In Imo state, people are still a little bit confused. But one thing that is certain, any person that thinks well in Imo will not look at the direction of Orlu because since the inception of this phase of democracy, Achike Udenwa who ruled from 1999 to 2007 comes from there. Rochas Okorocha, the incumbent governor also comes from there. By May 29 2019, he would have spent 8 years as governor of Imo state. That would have been 16 years out of the 20 years of our current democratic dispensation. It is unfair, no matter how one looks at it. Let’s look at the individuals and forget the political parties. Post- Rochas’ Imo, I think that people should look at the person that aspires to be the governor because it’s not going to be like government after Achike Udenwa. We had four years of Governor Ikedi Ohakim in Imo which was not a very pleasant experience no matter the index or indices that you used. Now, put that together and it would have been 12 years that the state has gone through trauma. Therefore, to be governor, it’s not going to be a pleasant experience but we just have to begin somewhere to start fixing it. That is the way I look at it.
In the case of the three of us, Uche Nwosu coming from APC, Hope Uzodinma coming from APC and the case of myself who is now in APGA also coming from APC, you can as well say they also came from PDP. You can even take it a little backwards to say because at a point, Rochas himself and his son-in-law, they were all PDP. Hope Uzodinma also just came into APC not too long ago, not even up to three months. I left APC and joined APGA. In this country, and I can challenge anybody on this, in all of these parties, it doesn’t matter the region whether it is the South- West, South- East or any of the geo-political zones, there are really no clear-cut differences between these parties in terms of ideologies. If there are no ideological differences, what will now inform your movement will be the treatment you get from the parties.
There are no clear-cut ideological differences whether it is APC or PDP. That again depends on how these parties are registered. People take the constitution or manifesto of one party, they copy the contents and send to INEC for registration. So, there are no clear-cut differences. I can give you the three manifestoes of all the parties. There are no differences. But if you find that where you are, you are meeting strange people with strange views and very abnormal behaviour, then of course you leave, particularly when somebody who will decide your fate in a political party did it in a manner that cannot guarantee fairness, you have to leave. I can tell you that all the leaders, including our President Muhammadu Buhari, none of them has started from one party because of these reasons. President Buhari from 2003 to 2007, he was not fairly treated in the ANPP, he left to go and form his party, CPC because of unfair treatment where some state governors even though they were in ANPP had to sign agreement to work for PDP. You have a situation where the late Edwin Ume-Ezeoke, the vice-presidential candidate had to leave his boss to go and accept position in a ruling party. Therefore, it is the treatment that you receive that will inform the decision you take. We had a party that was doing well until Adams Oshiomhole came and replaced the former chairman, Odigie-Oyegun. If you can’t forgive all those that you felt supported Oyegun, it means that those people will not receive fair treatment as far as you are concerned. Since I aspired to lead my people, the first step was to go through primary. If I will not receive fair treatment because of the conduct of the primaries. Whether you like it or not, the national chairman of a political party has a role to play in who emerges. But if it is not fair, then of course that will be a problem. So, some of these are the things that inform people’s movement. Rochas himself was in AA was in ANPP, PDP, APGA and now APC. If you look at the whole thing, I am even the one that has done the least. I have done very well in terms of party movement.
Will you still remain in APGA even if you don’t win?
This is the last I will contest governorship election. Never! The only way I will contest governorship election again is when we win and then I am seeking for re-election. After this, to say I want to start afresh to do governorship, it is impossible. By the grace of God, we are doing everything we can to get it right. I can’t leave APGA for some obvious reasons. I don’t see any special advantage in being in the party at the centre. The president worked very well with the Anambra state governor now more than any other governor in the South East because he feels that the programmes of Anambra state governor who is a member of APGA fits into what he thinks of this country. Therefore, the man that does it is his friend. Rochas is APC governor but he does not look at the manifesto of the party but you have somebody in Ebonyi who runs the programme that the president is happy about in terms of agriculture, road infrastructure. Therefore, he becomes his friend. There is nothing special that says because you belong to this government at the centre, it gives you special privileges. There is no such thing. Rather, what will inform your relationship on how it is at the centre, is based on your performance. If that is the case, then the party you belong, doesn’t really matter. What I think we should do is to build a very strong APGA in the South East to ensure that by 2023, all the states of the South East will be controlled by APGA. Then we will now discuss and negotiate. If you see what happened in the Second Republic during the NPN era, Plateau state was NPP, Anambra state was NPP. NPP at that time had discussions with NPN and that was what saw to the emergence of Ume-Ezeoke as the Speaker of the House. So, it doesn’t matter the political party you belong, you can still work with the centre and hold strong what you believe in and how you want to guide your people. What is important is what is happening in the South- West where the zones are economically integrated. The economy of the South- East can be integrated very well. For instance, there is no point of the South-East one extreme to the West saying boundary with Delta to the farthest in the North to Abakaliki, our boundary with the North or our boundary with Rivers in the East. You can’t drive three hours if the roads are good. You can have a zonal or regional rail line to link the five states. The governors can come together to integrate the economy, outside the national rail line. The governors can do it as a project. So, you can come together and work despite the parties that you belong, not to talk of when you belong to one political party. I don’t intend to leave APGA because I believe that by the time I reach 60 years, it is very close to retirement age. At that age, you should be looking homewards, not coming to say you are running for one position or another.
Are you a violent person?
That question shouldn’t even arise at all. I come from the family of three. I have two sisters and I am the only son of my parents. As a Catholic and as a Christian, my father did not have any extra wife or concubine. I have an elder sister and younger sister who is in the UK with her family. We have women and women are not violent people. If you are in-between them, it is natural that sometimes, you behave like a woman because you have a woman that is naturally not violent. It’s just like when you have a girl among boys, as they jump, she will jump as a child. By the nature and Ibo culture, as the only son of the parent, I remember that as my mother grew older and I was serving in the Senate, my mother will be waiting for me at the gate. If she sees me, she will pretend as if she came to talk to the gateman. I will say, ‘Why are you worrying about me?’ She will say, ‘It is because you are just one person and if you are counting and you have only one left, then that number is finished. So, I have to make sure that nothing happens to you.’ I said, ‘No Mama, nothing will happen to me.’ At what point will the person be violent? In politics, so many things happen that people will say once you venture into politics, you better ask your mother whether your father is your real biological father because some of those questions will come up. Like the case of Barrack Obama, when Donald Trump said he was born in Kenya even though he knew and still knows that Obama was born in America. I have never been a violent person. I have no reason to be violent.
What are you doing to reconcile aggrieved aspirants?
On the issue of reconciliation and the processes of the primary, every primary has its own challenges. When I joined APGA, we had 23 aspirants who had appeared before me. It was natural that every one of them will be thinking they will win. APGA delayed their primaries till the last day of submission. I have the best structure in Imo state, well-funded. Therefore, you can’t compare them with someone who has just left the bank and has no knowledge of politics. You can’t compare me with somebody who has no knowledge of what primaries is all about. Of course, these people who voted for me, know that if you have been in government before, you will understand their problems better than somebody who has no idea of politics. So, these were the things that informed their voting for me. As they voted for me, it is natural for some people to react but the good thing is that we have been able to reconcile more than 80 percent of them. The other 20 percent, it is either they have left like Ikedi Ohakim has left for another party. There is nothing you can do about it because they have left. For those who are in APGA now, we have totally reconciled and everybody is working as one family to deliver Imo state.
On his running mate
My running mate, Barrister Steve Ibe Nwoga from Mbaise was a governorship. I picked him because in spite of the fact that he is a nice fellow with a very good background, he will be the link between the old and the new.