Chief Jerry Obasi is a former Deputy National Secretary and ex-Deputy National Chairman (South) of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA). In this interview, he speaks on the lingering crisis in the party, the 2021 governorship poll in Anambra State and the 2023 presidential election, among other issues
The Anambra State governorship election will hold next year. Do you think APGA can retain the governorship seat?
Well, we pray that APGA retains Anambra State next year when the state governorship election will hold. Anambra is a very dicey terrain politically, you can see what the APC is doing, you can see what PDP is doing and you can also see what other political parties are doing and their members are politicians, who have grassroots support and also have a lot of money to throw around.
In terms of strength, finance, capacity, popularity and acceptance, almost all the politicians, who will contest the governorship election, are equal. So, it is a very difficult situation but problem with APGA is that the party is embedded in a lot of in-fighting. There is so much in-fighting in APGA, so much distrust, so much bickering within the ranks of the party and also the body language of the present governor makes it look as if he is leaving the APC as it is widely rumoured and it now makes the followership of the party to start looking deeper than the present party called APGA. APGA is today controlled by elements who are not actually aboriginal members of the party.
That is also causing problem because one who does not know where a corpse is buried will go to a wrong place if asked to exhume. Obiano only joined APGA because he wanted to be governor and that was the reason he was drafted in by Chief Victor Umeh to be a member of the party. Victor Oye became a member of APGA only the day he became the National Chairman of the party at the national convention ground.
These are very unbecoming political dispositions but in APGA you see these things. The major exponents of APGA who have given their best to the party, who have served as local government chairmen, state chairmen and in the National Working Committee (NWC) have been relegated. But somebody who works as a motor park tout will come and become deputy national
You said that Governor Obiano’s body language shows that he is leaving APGA for APC. Do you think APGA will miss him if he eventually leaves the party?
Obiano leaving APGA or completing his term as governor is just like somebody who suffers from terminal sickness and eventually and miraculously, the sickness leaves the person. That is the way I will liken Obiano leaving APGA. He has nothing for the party structurally; nobody calls for ward meetings in APGA any longer, nobody calls for local government meetings, nobody calls for state executive council meetings except the one I heard they just did recently owing to the fact that people were leaving the party in droves, joining other parties, especially APC and PDP. They had a meeting that never lasted for more than one hour.
The meeting ended in serious imbroglio and crisis. I don’t think there is anything Obiano has done for the party. The only thing he did is that he is the only person holding the baton of APGA. The party will not miss him if he leaves the party, even the party will have an air of freedom with the exit of Obiano after he completes his tenure or moves to APC because that is eventually where he is going. Umeh’s worse political mistake was bringing Obiano as governor. Dim Emeka Odimegwu Ojukwu, our internal leader will not be happy in his grave because of what is happening in APGA today.
While alive, he started complaining; the complaint even started during the time of Peter Obi because there was little difficulty in given Obi a second term ticket. At that time, Dim had preferred Emeka Etiaba before the big stick was wielded here and there and also because of the powers of a sitting governor, who had all the funds to throw around. But the fact remains that Obi remains a special breed for APGA even though he left for PDP not by his own creation, but he was emasculated to leave APGA for the PDP over activities of Umeh and co.
It was a palace coup, it was done very subtly and normally, there are limits to things you take, even myself. For instance, our plot to remove Oye was clearly because of issues like this. I didn’t lead that revolution that led to the removal of Oye as the national chairman, and that was the first major crack in APGA after a protracted political battle between Chief Victor Umeh and Chief Chekwas Okorie.
chairman of the party. It is obvious that the party no matter how these circumstances tarries, will not last long. The party that behaves like this is just like a country that fights war with borrowed soldiers, will eventually lose because there won’t commitment.
APGA has lost original patriotism, where is that cohesion that was there; where is the unity? But I am happy today that the same creator of all these problems is also a victim, all he traded in APGA is not what he is seeing. I have to be very open with this.
I am not particularly missing anything with all these things but this is a party I have gone to jail for; there’s no government in Ebonyi that has not detained me politically, that have not isolated me politically. I am still suffering persecution because of love for APGA. A lot of people who are commissioners today in Ebonyi State are those who passed through my political school in APGA. So, the forthcoming Anambra governorship election is a very pregnant election.
In Abia State, Dr. Alex Otti, who was the 2015 and 2019 governorship candidate of the party has left for the APC, apparently, because of the lingering crisis in the party. How can you describe the defection?
It is a great loss for APGA and great plus for the APC. I pray that the ambition that took him to APC should come to fruition but whether APGA has lost a personality in Otti, yes it has. Even Otti has made APC mightier than what I could think in Abia State because with the popularity of Otti and the acceptance he has enjoyed, I think his defection is a plus for APC, especially, the one he enjoyed in 2015, which was unprecedented. Because I saw the disaster coming, I made efforts to reconciled Otti and Nnanna Ukaegbu, the Abia State chairman of APGA but it was rebuffed. That move was not self-serving, all I wanted was peace.
What was the bone of contention between Otti and Ukaegbu that made you to make efforts to reconcile them?
Ukaegbu felt that Otti was not carrying him along, considering the part he has played towards Otti coming to APGA and towards Otti getting nomination. But some persons elsewhere, who never liked Ukaegbu’s activities in their usual manner and behaviour of casting people down, felt that Ukaegu was talking too much because they never wanted anyone in the party who could be assertive, but it is unfortunate. A political party needs radicals to keep it moving. So, they attacked Ukaegbu and went as far as suspending him from the party. They also went as far as expelling him from the party and it’s a bitter pill to chew, nobody can take it. Politically, I am not saying that Ukaegbu is a saint but considering the circumstances that caused the problem, he is a saint. Consider APGA under Ukaegu as a state chairman; how many votes did Otti got in 2015 and how many votes did he get in 2019? How many House of Assembly and House of Representatives seats did he win in 2015 and how many did he win in 2019? The difference is clear. If APGA is a not a party that celebrates failure, it is supposed to apologize to some individuals given what is happening to it. Today, nobody is willing any longer to spend money to build APGA because somebody will come from somewhere and pay off everybody. That was the experience we got under Oye and co. It is only in APGA that a sitting governor will be chairman of Board of Trustees (BoT) and leader of the party at the same time. Have you seen such a thing before? No party can do that except in APGA, where Umeh arm-twisted everybody and made that happen but I think he is regretting it. If someone else is the party’s BoT chairman and another person as leader, all these things happening in APGA will not happen because there will be checks.
The nation’s electoral system has been facing some challenges; what will you recommend to tackle these challenges?
There should be a radical overhaul of our entire electoral system, there should also be an overhaul of the judicial architecture because if we continue to go where we are going, the country is already heading to a break-up and it is not hiding any longer. When somebody is not a candidate of any political party and in the election as it were, the person came fourth and the person is announced as governor. What are you now telling the people? You are pushing people into anarchy. Sadly, somebody will sit in the comfort of his house and buy form, in the end will not become candidate and from nowhere, the person now becomes governor. I have never seen such a thing in my life. Even in movies, such thing will not happen. But in Nigeria, practically it is happening in a democracy and you say all is well. In Nigeria, a governor was attacked three times by terrorists. Governor Babagan Zulum of Borno State was attacked by terrorists and he said that the army is complicit of those attacks and attempt but till today, nothing came out of it. Till today, the same service chiefs are still there. Look at the abusive increment in pump price of petrol and someone is using Saudi Arabia as an example when the minimum wage of the lowest worker in Saudi Arabia is about N400,000 and in Nigeria, it is difficult to pay N30,000. It is just like somebody comparing life and death.
There have been #EndSARS protests across the country in the last two weeks. What do you make of it?
It is a stepping stone to further things that could come. A policeman will just see you because you are wearing dreadlocks and cock his gun and kill you without asking any question and nothing comes out of it. A promising professional footballer will be going to play football and a policeman will see him and kill him and nothing will come out of. Policemen will come to arrest your husband and your husband will not be at home, they will shoot your wife and the children and Nigerians will keep quiet. If you demonstrate, the same police will come and shoot at you. We are operating the most corrupt police in the world even though there are lots of my friends who are in the police, and who are innocent of all these. So, what is happening today is quite unfortunate. I learnt that the IG has formed what he called SWAT but let it not be like receiving guns from a former armed robber and giving it to a new armed robber. Because people are in their comfort places, these things are overlooked. But little by little, the implosion is gradually exploding and government should do everything it could do to avert all these things. Good governance is the solution to all these things.
What type of leaders would you like to emerge in 2023?
Considering where we are, we need to bring in fresh political players because a large chunk of the present politicians are rotten; they are corrupt. The only thing that makes you acceptable today is only if you are a thief. So, we need leaders who have good plans for the country. I thought that Muhammadu Buhari who ran for the presidency of this country up to three times before becoming the president will have blueprint for the country but there is none anywhere. So, in 2023, we should elect leaders, who have good blueprints for the country.
There have been agitations for Igbo presidency in 2023, what is you take on that?
We have tried every part of the country, so I think it is the turn of Ndigbo to produce the president of the country. Igbo presidency is now what Nigeria needs because we have tried others. The solution to Nigeria’s socio-political and economic problems lies with Igbo presidency and if you observe, those who love Nigeria more are the Igbos and they have helped to develop every part of Nigeria. Every section of the country has been president; it is only the South-East that has not produced a democratically elected president. What is stopping that? If they are sincere that they want to stop the agitation by Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) and Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), an Igbo man should be allowed to be president in 2023, so that we compare the black horse and the seemingly white horse and determine who will become the corner stone. So, first I think the solution to Nigeria’s problem is Igbo presidency followed by restructuring. It is as simple as that.