Amby Uneze writes dialogues with the former National Vice Chairman of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, Chief Edozie Njoku on thorny issues as the party prepares for its National Convention on May 31
May we know how you found yourself in politics?
I am one of the founding members the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) which we transited from Igboezue Cultural Organization. First of all, I was the Protem Co-ordinator in Abuja. When the party was registered, I became the Protem first Vice National Chairman and from there harmonization was done. Later on, I became the first Assistant National Secretary of the party and resigned to run for the House of Representatives for Onitsha North and South Federal Constituency of Anambra State in 2003. I was the candidate of APGA with Mr. Peter Obi as governorship candidate of the party. In 2005, I ran for National Chairman against Chief Victor Umeh and after that I went back to my business in 2007. Again in 2015, when Victor Umeh said he was leaving, I indicated interest to run for National Chairman of the party because I thought I was coming to reposition the party, but forces chose Victor Oye even though he wasn’t a member of the party as at the time. It was so unfortunate that the BoT Chairman and Anambra State Governor, Willie Obiano instructed them to print only one form for each position and he single handedly picked Oye as National Chairman.
How is preparation for the forthcoming National Convention of the party coming up?
The same scenario that played out in 2015 is what is also playing out now. It is unfortunate that at the said recent NEC meeting, they also concluded that they are going to retain the status quo. That was exactly what they did it in 2015 when they zoned, Chairman of BoT to Anambra, the leader of the party to Anambra, zoned the National Chairman to Anambra, the National Organizing Secretary as well as the National Publicity Secretary. That same order remains for this forthcoming National Convention. Anyone who understands politics will know that if you are zoning all these mentioned positions to one area, what it automatically means is that you have some ulterior motive. The motive is that where ever you want to bend, the structures of the party are bending with you. It is not fair.
APGA was conceived as a political party that touches the five states of the South-east. If as a father of five children, you decide to give all your belongings to one of your children, it means you hate the other four children. Governor Obiano should know that APGA does not belong to Anambra people alone. It is a party that touches the whole of the five states of the South-east and beyond. These are the things Igbo people have to look at. We have Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), All Progressives Congress (APC), but you must look at it that APGA is referred to as the party of Ndigbo. What that means is that whenever decision is made in APGA it should be looked at as a collective decision that was made by Ndigbo. I don’t see any harm in Obiano asking Ndigbo to support Buhari in the 2019 presidential election, but if Ndigbo are supporting Buhari or Atiku, it must be something that was discussed and agreed upon.
It is not enough for Obiano and Oye to agree that APGA should support Buhari. It ought to have been what Ndigbo agreed on. You don’t get up and make arbitary decisions. I believe that is the motive behind what is going on now in APGA. Obiano would be out of power in the next two years or so, and they want to hold on to the party to do whatever negotiation they want. That would be very unfair to us as the members of the party. That is not the way political parties are run.
In the 2919 national elections, APGA ran into a hitch, especially in Imo and Abia states where frontline politicians believed membership of APGA was like hitting a goldmine and they were deceived along the line. What do you think was the cause?
The cause of the disappointments to people is what we have been talking about. This is the first time people from the South east decided to go against APGA fully. In 2003, you would have noticed that Ebonyi and Imo states didn’t have solid governorship candidates as we had with Ugochukwu Agballa in Enugu state and Peter Obi in Anambra state. Those other three states were a bit lukewarm with virtually no candidate, but APGA did well in those states. APGA was a political party that people looked to look credibility.
There were no godfathers then as we witnessed in Imo and Abia states during the last election in APGA. I come from the same area with Emeka Ihedioha and I believe that if APGA had done well, it would have claimed Imo state. You go to Abia state you had two good candidates; Udensi and Alex Oti, if they were decisive, APGA would have won in that state. If you go to Ebonyi, the state had been a natural follower of the Igbo cause but it has not woken up because of the things that have been happening all these years in APGA. As Igbo people, we showed it in the last election that one cannot drive us to where he or she wants. You must have noticed that people voted against the directive of Obiano and Oye because they felt that we are nobody and that they can lead us to anywhere they want. Those people that negotiated with Obiano and Oye should also understand that they made a big mistake. APC said that they spent so much money in the South-east but did not get anything in return. The era of picking on one governor and then reaching a conclusion that you are on the right track is gone. The reason APGA in Imo and Abia states failed in the last election was the way they lord themselves over the people without allowing the wishes of the people to prevail.
During the last election, the governor of Anambra stated that the Igbos would vote for Buhari, was it a collective decision of the party or personal one?
The leader of the party making a declaration that, in his own political calculation, we should vote for anybody was not wrong. But you must carry your followers along. That is what democracy entails. It must be the voice of the people. I believe that Obiano is not a politician. It goes back to the issue of godfatherism in politics, where somebody foists a candidate on the people. Obiano was foisted on APGA. Peter Obi woke up and decided that all those that were playing politics in APGA had no voice. He went to his bank and brought Obiano to become the governor.
Now Obiano has everybody by force and he thinks that is the way to play politics. It doesn’t work like that. You can hold us for a while, you cannot hold us forever. You should look at what happened to some leaders. Look at different governors. At the end of the day, they are answerable to what they did in office. You may have little power today, but you may not have it forever. There is nothing as good as collective decision. Obiano has never done that and he is coming again to have a NEC meeting within the Government House, and surround it with security so that some leaders cannot come, and you tell us that the NEC had been dissolved. The tenure of the National Working Committee ends with the BoT members and that is on June 6. On that day, the tenure of Oye ends as well as the chairman and members of the Board of Trustees. Between now and June 6 when the convention is done, you want to appoint a new Board of Trustees, because you see that there are more rational people in the Board of Trustees that have a voice of their own. It is a disgrace to handpick some cronies and give them tags as members of NEC. Things are not done that way.
One would have thought that the power play that ensued during the 2019 elections and robbed APGA of many positions would have taught them a lesson?
A good leader is a good listener. Those people are not leaders. By the fact that Peter Obi foisted power on somebody does not make him a leader. Very soon he will be fighting with the people in Aguleri who want the position he wants. He wants to go to the Senate. Those people are also the power block behind Oye. They are the same people who will displace him. For things to move forward, it must be a collective interest. It cannot be an individual interest. Obiano should learn that politics is not done by fiat. We are not in a military administration. People all over say that APGA is being run like a police state. How many of all those parading themselves now as lords knew when APGA was registered? Just because you are fortunate enough to be in a position of leadership, you want to shout people down as if they are nobody.
What is the way forward for APGA in the midst of this crisis?
When we look at the South-east, there is nothing wrong with any zone trying to see whether they can get more from Nigeria. The South-east has tried to carry APGA along as their party where they can come together to better the lot of the people. But leaders of the party, at the moment – Obiano and Oye, see it as a way to achieve their own personal agenda. It is not meant to be like that. You can’t use the party that people in Ebonyi, Imo, Abia and Enugu states consider their own.
If we think it is our own then we have to drive a collective agenda and not a personal interest. When we decided to run, we felt we had meaningful things to offer. You don’t have to have a single list and print only one form for positions and zoning the entire offices to one area. It must reflect the character of Nigeria. It is a party that was formed from the South-east, but it has a federal character. We must carry every section of the country along. All the states should be well represented with positions that give them the power to express themselves.
But APGA is not doing that. Obiano does not believe in it. Those of us who are contesting the election have gone back to the drawing board to see what to about it. A lot of meetings are going on at the moment with many Igbo groups asking questions whether we are going to allow two persons rock the boat of APGA. Those people should be very careful and know that they are dealing with a race. The problem we had before APGA was registered is still there. Creating a new political interest to replace APGA has to be a collective agreement and that might come up very soon. APGA has not achieved the purpose for which it was formed. Those behind it are the ones killing the party. Oye should account his stewardship, while Obiano should do the right thing to put the party back on track.