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‘Why Anambra must belong to mainstream politics’

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Ejidike

APC Chairman in Anambra State, Chief Basil Ejidike, spoke to LAWRENCE NJOKU and CHUKS COLLINS on the party’s preparation for the November 6, 2021 governorship election

How is APC preparing for the November 6, 2021 governorship election?
ALL Progressives Congress (APC) is fully prepared this time around for the election. For those living in Anambra State, they all know that since late last year, we have been doing all that we need to do to ensure nothing stands between us and victory at the governorship poll. We don’t want any stories, because in any election there is no value for second best. Anyone who comes second in an election has failed. We don’t want a repeat of what happened to us in 2017.

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However, you know that immediately after the last general election, the first thing my party did was to set up a fact-finding committee to unravel what actually went wrong. I have always said that any political party that is incapable of winning elections is not supposed to exist; rather, it should be seen as a social organisation. Ours is a political party and we must always be ready to win elections.

That committee we set up immediately after the last governorship election has turned in its report and we are committed to implementing its findings and recommendations to reshape and reposition every aspect of our party.
What are the highlights of the findings of the committee?

We discovered that the major problem of our party in Anambra State is lack of understanding and mistrust amongst key leaders. And any house divided among itself cannot progress. So we are already tackling that aspect. That was the main reason we invited and had Vice President Yemi Osinbajo in July 2020. That visit was aimed at helping us unify and bring peace among leaders of our party in the state.

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The second issue we discovered is that there is no reward system in APC. People who have been working for the party have always lost out in party patronages. The people who benefit were discovered to be only those in a position to go to Abuja. It means that after working for the party and you are unable to go to Abuja, running from one office to another, you will be forgotten. And that has not paid us off in any way. Unfortunately, it has demoralised a lot of our members. Imagine those at the ward polling units; after toiling for the party, they are forgotten. How do we expect them to work in the interest of the party next time? Such persons will not accept to work conscientiously and perform miracles for us again. That was part of the reasons most of them ended up disappearing with the money given to them to work for the party at the polling units during elections.

Another issue was the lack of funds. The party has not been funding us at all. This was also linked to the situation where those who had been getting juicy appointments are not those on ground. The Federal Government needs to help the party in the states by contacting us before giving out appointments. Those who went to Abuja to secure appointments see such appointments as coming to them through personal efforts, connection or ability. So, they have nothing to do with the party. These are veritable avenues of raising funds, but they were lost because of the mode being adopted. A situation where the party chairman has to use his own money to carry on the day-to-day running of the party does not in any way augur well.

These are the three key areas that we are working on right now. Once we recognise the need to appreciate and compensate those who have worked for the party and once the party is funded, the sky will be our limit. We are currently working to remedy the situation.

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How successful was the vice president’s visit regarding challenges facing the party?
The vice president admitted that he understood our problems and expressed readiness to assist us. I can say openly that we have not really actualised the benefits of that visit. It has not paid off the way we wished. But that does not mean we did not achieve anything.

Do you have confidence in the Independent National Election Commission (INEC) concerning the governorship election?
Well, if you are not optimistic, you cannot move further. We are optimistic even though no system is perfect. So in the coming election, we will wait until we get to the bridge before thinking of how to cross it. For now, we don’t have any issue with the INEC.

Why do you think APC deserves a place in Anambra politics?
Almost every known politician in Anambra State is of the APC stock. Name them: Sen. Ngige, Tony Nwoye, George Moghalu, Andy Ubah, Sen. Margery Okadigbo, and even the Obazes. They are the backbone of APC today. And more are still coming in. Just last month at Ubom Nibo, Okelekwe joined the party with a lot of his supporters. At last weekend’s stakeholders’ meeting, he brought more, while the entire structure of the United People’s Party (UPP) joined us.

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I am happy our people, by their recent surge into APC, have now realised the need to be where they should be, and stop playing second fiddle. The need to be in the mainstream is paramount because there is no second winner in any election. If you fail that first position, then you have lost woefully. I am quite sure that the Anambra electorate is now a lot wiser. Consider a situation where the governors are meeting and 26 of them from APC stock are holding a meeting, then PDP team is meeting in a corner, and then you find our dear lone child (APGA) idling away in one dark corner. Come to think of it, are we supposed to be alone in Nigeria?

Can one governor be said to be holding a meeting all by himself, alone? We must belong where the majority is, that is, at the centre. We cannot be made to hang by the window instead of being in the front row inside. We belong to the high table.

A situation where the governor turns to APC whenever he gets to Lokoja, but on his way back on reaching Niger Bridge, he turns to APGA, doesn’t augur well for the state and our people. That is pure deceit and we can no longer tolerate that in Anambra. It’s either you are APC or APGA. You must distinguish clearly where you belong.

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Also, it needs to be highlighted that the Federal Government has done more than expected in Anambra State. It cannot in any way be compared with the 16 locust years of the PDP. Are you talking of the construction of the road, Zik’s Mausoleum, the Second Niger Bridge, monthly school feeding of thousands of students in the state, Trader Moni, etc? These are things we were not used to, but the FG brought them down to us. Also inclusive is the Onitsha seaport, which is now functional and containers are being discharged there with ease. In view of these and others I can’t mention, there is a need for us to belong to the mainstream politics of Nigeria.

How many governorship aspirants have so far indicated interest?
They are nine so far. They are very qualified by any standard. And anyone who wins the primary carries the mandate and support of all others. Like I said earlier, this time around we are not leaving any stone unturned. We must belong to the mainstream. You can only change the system by belonging within the system and not from outside the system. If you refuse to belong inside but chose to be talking from outside, no one would even listen to you. We have been having a series of meetings aimed at sharpening our resolve to victory. Our meeting a few days ago where all the ministers and other top federal government functionaries of the party joined the Imo State governor, Hope Uzodinma, to come to mobilise our members.

What’s your greatest worry in the forthcoming governorship election?
I would have been worried if the FG failed to live up to its bidding.

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