2023 Presidency: APC’s stance depends on national interest, commonsense
• Unpopular Politicians Holding Party Down in Southeast, Says Ogbodo
Deacon Okey Ogbodo was Enugu State chairman of United Nigeria Democratic Party (UNDP) and currently factional state chairman of APC. In this interview with LEO SOBECHI, he explains the recent court ruling on the leadership crisis in the state, among other national issues.
Most people have described the 2020 budget recently presented by President Buhari as budget of taxation, do you think the budget, if implemented would take Nigeria to the next level of development?
No state budget is worth the paper on which it is written, unless and until it works for the governed. People elect governments at various levels to organise their affairs, protect them, secure them, and provide them the enabling environment to thrive as law-abiding citizens.
A certain government policy could be painful in practice, but desirable for survival of the state, including taxes. In reality, nobody wants to pay tax on his own volition. It becomes government’s challenge to navigate the obstacles to collect taxes. But all such policies must be in people’s interest, not to serve the avaricious interest of those wielding state power. Higher taxes must come with palliatives for the citizens, whether as private individuals or corporate entities.
The current leadership of the National Assembly appears to be too close to the President. Do you think such closeness would augur well for accountability and good governance?
I would be the last person to pray or work for conflict between the Legislature and Executive arms. They are both independent under the law, yes, but if they can work out some understanding or synergy, the better. Even in developed societies from which we borrowed our own system, like America, lack of harmony can bring about shutdown of government business. And during such stalemate, obligation of government to the people is compromised; so invariably the people suffer. We don’t want that, do you think we do?
What do you make of the gang-up by states’ chairmen in the agitation for reward and recognition, and why were you not involved?
A common position by legitimate, elected chairmen could be desirable, but I doubt whether the gang-up you speak about is properly constituted. Why is Ben Nwoye in that group, instead of me? Some of those who foisted themselves as state chairmen are pretenders, impersonators really, because the platforms under which they belonged have ceased to obtain. They are not qualified to belong, and to that extent, I query the rationale for that union that had excluded rightful members.
Why is it that most APC State Chapters in the Southeast, particularly Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo are entangled in leadership crisis?
I know the situation in my home state of Enugu better. But it would seem there is a common crisis-thread running across the APC South East states: A few unpopular, mostly amateur politicians had over the years cornered the party structures to serve personal interests in these states. The party made no political gains under their leadership, thereby making a change of guard imminent and desirable. But, those sit-tight leaders would have none of that. The prospect of progressive forces taking over frightened them, and they began to play the devil’s advocates. But it won’t last forever. There shall be light at the end of the tunnel.
Some people say the problem of authentic structure of Enugu State executive committee of APC remains unresolved, is that so?
You could say so, but the situation in my view is not as fluid or uncertain, as it was earlier. There is a clear roadmap following the judgment of the Federal High Court, which found that the erstwhile state chairman of the party, Ben Nwoye, was not qualified to stand as candidate with me at that state congress, in the first place.
To that extent, I was the only one who validly stood as candidate. Why it hasn’t become so clear to the other side is that the court, for no apparent reason, hesitated, indeed refrained, quite curiously, from declaring me winner of that party congress. And that was the reason we appealed the judgment. My position is that having made the finding as it did with regards to our opponent’s ineligibility, the natural line of reasoning, the only logical thing, was to declare me officially as the elected chairman of APC in Enugu State.
What is the position of the NWC on this matter?
It would seem the NWC of our party has not been bold enough to call a spade a spade, but I have no doubt in my mind that in the end, a Daniel shall come to judgement. There is no doubt too that a man who had viciously appropriated the party, turned it into a personal estate in Enugu over the years, would put up a fight before giving up. Acceding to my elected executive is the only way to go for APC NWC, if indeed they wish the party well.
You are from Enugu East just as your rival, Nwoye, is it true that considerations for 2023 governorship is stoking the crisis?
Year 2023 is still a bit far off. My target this moment is to strengthen our party and make it capable to compete. It had never been in position to pull its weight since inception, because APC here had never had a real, sagacious leadership! The party was viewed as ‘alien’ here (in Enugu); it needed a strong character to drive it going forward. How do you reconcile the official and personal interests of a party chairman, who is a perennial senatorial candidate of same party during general elections? That was APC’s lot under Nwoye. But party folks are ready to put a stop to this shenanigan.
How do you think Enugu people should handle the zoning of the governorship? Would godfathers or the governor have the final say?
Zoning of the governorship position in our state has served us well since this republic. It appears to have taken care of everybody’s interest, to a large extent. So, it might well remain. On the question of godfathers, it is difficult to abolish it through any form of legislation, consensus or conspiracy. Those who merit to be godfathers, would remain god-fathers to those they mentor. But in the end, an elected officer owes his position to the electorate, and respect and honour to his mentor or mentors, as the case may be. An underperforming governor cannot blame his godfather for his failure. Once elected, he has his job cut out for him, and the choice is his.
At the national level, the party does not want to make categorical statement on zoning, as a chieftain how do you think APC would survive the possible backlash of the zoning of the presidency?
I believe when we get to the bridge of zoning of the presidency at the national level, we shall cross it. Different persons are ventilating their personal views, and that is allowed. In the end, I believe common sense will prevail. National interest should, indeed shall, be the overriding consideration for APC decision on this.
In states controlled by APC, governors, are accused of being the problem, who is to blame for the crisis of leadership in states not controlled by the party?
The situations in the two scenarios are virtually the same. In states where other parties are in control of the machinery of state, the governor might want to determine who leads other parties to avoid strong opposition. He fronts a candidate of his choice, as against the choice of party loyalists. That would breed conflict. A governor who is in the same party could want a leader he would be able to control or out rightly pocket. That is the kind of person Nwoye, my rival is.
As a veteran in party politics, what should party executives do to achieve inclusive leadership, particularly transforming members to owners of the party?
It is part of the reason we are in the struggle for recognition based on the law. I am the state chairman based on the outcome of a party congress, but someone else who did not qualify to contest at all is getting questionable recognition. That is not inclusive leadership. Allow members of the party to choose those to lead them, because they are the owners of the party otherwise, you won’t have peace or development.
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