‘PDP and APC are two sides of same coin’
The United Progressive Party (UPP) presidential candidate, Chekwas Okorie, in this interview with BRIDGET CHIEDU ONOCHIE, described the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressive Congress (APC) as two sides of the same coin and explained why “Igbos may continue to play second fiddle in Nigeria politics.” Excerpts:
Prepared to face PDP, APC
WE are prepared. As a matter of fact, our party will be the revolution of the 2015 Presidential election. New as it is, the leadership of the party cannot be said to be new in the political domain giving the fact that I founded the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) and I founded this one also. I am also one of four Nigerians that founded two political parties and I am the only one alive. The other three, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Mallam Aminu Kano and Alhaji Waziri Ibrahim are late. So, there is some degree of pedigree and political antecedents that can be traced to UPP leadership. Upon its registration UPP did something strategic when it zoned its presidential slot for 2015 to the South East geo-political zone. That was in November 2013 during our first year national executive meeting. We did that because even as at that time, we knew who the presidential candidate of PDP would be and we knew also where the candidate of APC would come from. These were the two prominent contenders at that time. So, we felt the way Nigeria is, it would make for a balance or what we used to call tripod in Nigeria’s political equation. That elicited some excitements from that area. I was not the person in focus because it was thrown open. At the end of the day, nobody had the courage to confront those who were already there. So, I emerged. We are now looking at a situation that has placed us as the only party confronting the two major reactionary parties. We said early enough that there is no difference between PDP and APC. They are the same kind of people in terms of content and character of their leadership but UPP is more of the party of the masses. We said that there is a battle line drawn between the oppressed and their oppressors; between the progressives and the reactionaries and that these reactionaries are classed as PDP and APC.
Effects of Onahaze’s endorsement of Jonathan
When it comes to politics, this kind of thing always happen. Even though what Ohaneze has done this time is a little scandalous, it has not been different from what has always happened in Nigerian politics especially the Igbo politics aspect of it. The second republic people will remember very well that almost every Igbo political leader was in NPN and they were all fighting for the number two position. It was so bad that what NPN did was to give it to any Igbo man provided that he brings N2 million at that time. It was for the highest bidder and that was how Alex Ekwueme, being a highly successful contractor and consultant, paid. He did not become running mate because Igbo people sponsored him but because he out-paid the others and that was what prompted Nnamdi Azikiwe to come out because he had already stated that he was not going to run. So, when he saw his own people clamouring for number two position, he could not reconcile it with the fact that he led the struggle for Independence. That was how he came but he came late and chose the smallest of the parties at the time, the ANPP, which was founded by Waziri Ibrahim. And when he was asked why he did not go to a big party where all his associates were waiting for him, he said it was good for his people being majority in a minority party where their voice would be heard than being the minority in a majority party where they would be assimilated. And the masses identified with their own and voted for him while others who went to majority parties lost in their domains. It is not different now because those who always go to ‘food is ready’ will not be part of building anything. I founded APGA. It was worst in the case of APGA than I am having now. It was only after we had won Anambra State through the court that the party became attractive. So, I am not surprised. As a matter of fact, I am not much disappointed by what Ohaneze is doing now but I feel sorry for my Igbo people. What has happened is that Ohaneze is simply hawking endorsement as if it is hawking pure water sachet. An endorsement should be a logical outcome of a negotiated understanding contained in a written memorandum of understanding. There are so many problems confronting the Igbo people that any patriotic pan-Igbo organization will present on the table and have it negotiated and as a result of that, endorsement will come. Look at Afenifere, they are now telling you the reason they are supporting the government which are justifiable endorsement. What did Ohaneze say? Instead, they are busy denying whether they were given a particular amount of money or not. Is it not scandalous that the umbrella organization that is supposed to speak for the interest of Igbo people has made itself so cheap? This is not the first time Ohaneze is doing this, it did it in 2011 but that time, there was no opposition and people could get away with it. Now, the situation is different. I am running and you will see what will happen. As I said, UPP will be the revolution of 2015 election.
Igbos and politics
It is something I cannot easily put my finger at. Party politics commenced in Nigeria around 1922 and it was only in 2002 that the first Igbo man founded a political party and registered it in Nigeria. So, how come we are always joining parties founded by others? It is this perspective of Igbo not appreciating the need to control the machinery of a political party that I find difficult to understand. I have been trying to look at it even before I founded APGA. That was what influenced me to break that jinx but founding APGA was not an easy thing. I tried three times. In fact, it took me seven years in three attempts to register APGA. If founding a political party is like building real estate, Igbo people will excel but because it is something that has long gestation period and sometimes, the founder is not the greatest beneficiary, it does not hold much attraction to them. But once the thing begins to yield result, the attack will be on the founder because he has to give way for others to make profit out of it. That was what killed APGA.
Opposition against Card Readers by some political parties
UPP was not part of it. That is the only thing that is closest to what our party has advocated right from its registration. Anybody who has been following us will know that we had advocated the use of electronic system of voting and we went ahead to canvas the benefit which is close to what the Card Reader is doing. We did not stop there, we ensured every legislator had a copy and we also sent to the President as well as INEC. So, we were very certain that should people’s vote count, parties like ours that have some message different from what others are selling out, will have people to look at us and people to vote for us without being unduly influenced. The only way a small party can grow to a big party is when you allow people to take their decisions but when you make it the survival of the richest or the fittest, no small party will ever grow and that is the reason a political party like the PDP could be there for 16 years. Now, they are trying to use parties that do not have candidates to say they will boycott elections. I laugh at them because those sponsoring them are not boycotting the elections but they are doing so. If they fail to win any seat in the general elections, they will be delisted. So, if they boycott elections, they boycott themselves out of existence. I do not think they know the implications of what they are saying. Why should it be the party that should be confident in showcasing what it has done in the last 16 years that is jittery and scared of popularity contest?
Prove of the PDP sponsoring other parties
There are circumstantial evidences. When you see a political party being represented by a Senior Advocate and this political party does not have an office in Abuja where it can pay rent, you will know. Parties that are not sponsoring candidates on the ground that they lack the capacity to do so are now in court to say that they do not want card readers and if you ask them their reasons, they do not have concrete reasons because if they have candidates, it is their candidates that will tell them whether the card readers will be at their advantage or disadvantage. I can tell you that UPP candidates are jumping at the opportunity of having their votes count. My joy is that using card reader, a chief returning officer can call me minutes after 1 pm on that day to tell me that on the screen, this is the number of people that are accredited to vote and this is the distribution. With that number, a winner will emerge and the number of votes will not exceed that number.
Jega and the postponed February 14 election
Professor Attahiru Jega is more ready now than that time. I would not say he was not ready then; he said he was ready and I have very little reason to doubt that he was ready but as I said, he is more ready now. I have said it repeatedly because if election had held at the time it was earlier scheduled and those who had their PVC participated in that election, we would have recorded the highest level of participation in any election in this country since Independence. I know that only 22 percent participated in the 2010 governorship election in Anambra State and INEC announced the result. Many people went to court and the tribunal announced that the election met the requirements of the Electoral Act.
We said early enough that there is no difference between PDP and APC. They are the same kind of people in terms of content and character of their leadership but UPP is more of the party of the masses. We said that there is a battle line drawn between the oppressed and their oppressors; between the progressives and the reactionaries and that these reactionaries are classed as PDP and APC.
What Nigerians should expect if UPP wins presidential election?
Nigerians should expect a revolutionary agenda. I am the only candidate that has put together his manifesto in a pamphlet form, articulating what should stand as a social contract between me and the Nigerian people should I get the mandate. Why I say it is a revolutionary agenda is because everything about revolutionary is change. In our own case, change becomes revolutionary because there are certain policy actions that are different from what we are practicing. The mildest of them is the issue of declaration of assets. You must make it compulsory that it be made public. We have a sitting President who said be has declared his assets but he was not going to make it public because the law did not say it should be made public. We also said that immunity would be limited to civil matters only, all criminal matters would be subjected to criminal prosecution and that is to say that people will be compelled to govern with caution rather than impunity. We also said that what we call security votes should be limited to security matters and be accounted for because we know that at certain state levels, there are governors that appropriate to themselves, N600 million every month and that amount may be well above the recurrent expenditure of state. And they must take that money away even when salaries are not paid. We said no, that aspect of ripping off the people must be checked. We also said we will go immediately for the State Police and autonomy of the local government and we shall query any perceived asset that is fraudulently acquired to ascertain the source of such wealth. When it cannot be ascertained, it will return to the state. We say in our own government that we shall throw stones. They say that those who live in glass house do not throw stones but we in UPP shall throw stones because we are living in concrete moral houses. There is nothing we have hidden behind us that will make us not to query certain behaviours. Any people who are funded by corrupt people, surrounded by corrupt friends and are products of a certain cabal trying to tell you that they will fight corruption, cannot be saying the truth.