After formation, we put in a 32-man Interim Management Committee, serving like they are all working committee members. They were drawn from ACN; we were the senior partners coming with six governors. ANPP had three governors, CPC with one governor, APGA with one governor and then, DPP with one Senator and some House of Representatives members. I was the secretary at our first convention and I took all the minutes. We had an agreement that our standard-bearer was coming from the North and after North, it would come down to the South. So, those who are talking today were not there when this agreement was made. Was it written down and signed by politicians from both sides, no. But we had minutes of the meeting. They are there. It was agreed that it would be a movement between North and South.
As we were doing the convention, we narrowed down our candidates to about two or three. But among the candidates, General Buhari was ahead. All of us from the ACN caucus had agreed that he was our candidate. CPC had agreed that he would be their candidate. ANPP was split into two. So, when we went to the presidential convention, he emerged with a wide margin. That is the truth of the matter.
With the National Convention fast approaching, what are your expectations?
We expect that our national chairman this time around will come from the North and our Presidential candidate will come from the South.
Where exactly in the South?
Where it will be from the South, I cannot tell you because politics is all about interest. If we carry moral grounds to go there, one will say let the South-East take it because we are the only zone that has not tasted it among the South-East, South-South and South-West. But again, you cannot tell the man from the South-South not to vie. If you want to tell him not to vie, you have to convince him. It has to be through persuasion, negotiation and horse trading; the same for the man from the South-West.
The South-Easterner is saying on moral grounds, equity and justice, you should leave this for me or support me for us to bury all the hostilities, all the bad blood, following the civil war, all the resurgent separatist agitations, based on perceived marginalisation, since there is a thin line between perception and reality. For me, it is Southern President. This President has done his best. He didn’t get this area that South-East Igbo love appointments. But the President concentrated on giving them infrastructure and things that will help them in their business. He resuscitated the Akanu Ibiam International Airport. He did the roads. One lane of Enugu-Onitsha is now completed. Enugu-Okigwe is ongoing. Chinese contractors, RCC and others are involved. Some other roads like Aba-Owerri, Umuahia are not yet finished but you can see work is ongoing. So, these things added to the presidency, can bury ghost of the civil war and separatists’ agitation. You can then use your resources to bury security situation in the North-West and North-East. That is my interest. To cut a long story short, let us bring it to the South and let the Southerners decide where it will go.
It is being speculated that PDP is delaying their decision on zoning in anticipation that APC will go South so that they go North. What is your say?
The PDP top apparatchik think they are smart. They want to play a fast one. They are waiting for APC to say ‘South.’ Their calculation is that when that happens, they will go North. Number one, that will be an act of bad faith because it will mean that they have taken the people in the South-South and South-East that have all along supported PDP 90 percent in all the elections, for a ride.
In the 2011 election, I was the only opposition candidate in the former Eastern region that won election. I was the only one among the entire three senators per state, in the five states of the South-East and six South-South states, except Edo where we had Uzamere and Domingo Obende. Those who later became APC were those who cross-carpeted after the victory of APC, like Senator Magnus Abe and others.
For PDP to say they are waiting for APC, they are playing games. It’s going to be a costly venture for them because during election, it is like a drought game. You anticipate the opponent to see the seed he wants to play next. That seed of PDP of going North will backfire. They better align with APC and if APC comes South let them come South. So, it becomes an all South affair.
However, if they go North, I can tell them that as it is today, they will lose the presidential election, no matter the candidate they bring from the North. The South-Easterners will feel that they have been used and dumped. The South-Southerners will feel that they have been used and dumped. The South-Westerners will feel it is the turn of South as the Southern governors said.
In the North-Central, there is a minority sympathy in the Middle-belt. There is also minority sympathy in North-East. Those who are doing the calculation to go North and bring a million votes will be disappointed because even those voters, you think will be doing North for North, Muslim for Muslim, will not go with you. The voters are wiser. What has past Northern leaders done? Did they do things for the North like Ahmadu Bello did? Did they do things for them like Tafawa Balewa? Did they do things for them like Aminu Kano? The answer is no. So, if the PDP makes that mistake, they will have a severe beating more than they received from Buhari.
You said for now, you don’t know if it will go to the South-East or South-South or South-West. Already some people are declaring themselves as the best for the South-East. We have Orji Uzor Kalu. We have Pius Anyim, we don’t know if you are interested.
Orji Kalu, my APC party man has not declared for president. Pius Anyim is of PDP stock. His declaration is welcome and I will urge more of the South-Easterners in PDP to come out and declare. When it is the turn of APC to start declaring, you will see people from the South-East. I am quite sure about it. PDP has just finished its convention for officers and once you finish convention for officers, the next thing is a convention for the nomination of your presidential candidate for the next election.
We in APC have our convention fixed for February this year. And it will be precocious for anybody to start declaring that he is running for the president or Senate in APC when you have not crossed the first hurdle. Convention is a major hurdle we will cross to elect our officers. Of course, you know that we passed through a crisis that gave us this Caretaker Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee, CCEPC, and Caretaker Executive Committee for the party. It is a double barrelled committee. They are now entering the next phase of their work because they have started. They organised local government and state congresses from bottom up. The next thing is to give us members of the National Working Committee and Executive Committee and then, populate all our organs like Board of Trustees and National Caucus, so that we move ahead.
Can you bring us to speed the situation or crisis in Anambra State Chapter of APC? Is there any crisis? What is the suspension all about? Somebody was suspended and he is still laying claim to the leadership of the party.
Nobody suspended anybody. Everybody you see now in any position is on a caretaker mode. And caretaker means that it is an interim thing. You cannot even exercise all the powers of the substantive leadership. So, who are you suspending when all of you are caretaker? They have no such powers. That was why when we met as an expanded caucus in Abuja where we had the officers and the 17 local government chairmen and all the statutory members as enshrined in our party constitution, we appealed for people, asking them to sheathe their sword and even go back to their old positions while we await the congresses of the party and go to the National Convention.
However, you cannot tell people not to claim whatever they wish. Some people claim that they are leaders. I am not their leader. Leadership evolves. There is no appointment for anybody to be leader. There is nowhere in the constitution of APC that you see the word, ‘leader of APC.’ So, anybody parading himself as leader, that is his business. If you like to answer provincial leader of APC, you can do so. If you want to answer State Leader, you can do so.
If you want to answer local government leader in your locality, it is your business. If you want to answer zonal leader, nothing stops you. It is not in the APC constitution. So, when they call me leader, I feel it is a mark of respect. After all, when we formed APC in the South-East, they were calling me leader because we brought the party. So, if someone calls me leader, you don’t say no, don’t call me leader.
Leader has its own different connotations. That is the position. So, we don’t have any crisis here. We will hold our congresses to elect leaders at ward level, state level and then, elect our national leadership at our convention in Abuja.