Sunday, November 19, 2023 3:30 pm
Chief Ifeatu Ivy Obi-Okoli, a lawyer and former chairman of the People’s Democratic Party PDP in Anambra state. Today, he has taken over as the Anambra chairman of the All Progressives Grand Alliance APGA. In this interview , he talks about the crisis concerning the 2025 governorship in his party, what Governor Chukwuma Soludo is doing and of course, how President Bola Tinubu will shock Nigerians among others.
The once peaceful APGA has suddenly started experiencing crisis. What’s exactly going on? Is it because of 2025 or unperformance of the governor?
I think it’s a combination of several factors. One, is the factor the party’s permanent stay in Anambra. We’ve been here for the past 18years. I’ve always said to even party faithful, given our circumstance, the oppositions are bound to be more hostile. You don’t forget the fact that you’ve taken away a generation of politicians from the governance process. After governor Soludo must have finished his 8years, it means that a whole generation of opposition politicians must have been out of governance if this state. Generation is 25 years, when you add Soludo’s 7 more years to 18, that’s a little above 25. That’s a big threat. Like the footballer, a good coach will always tell you that you’re more vulnerable when you’re attacking. You must watch your defence, because a counter attack will lead to a goal. Now that we’ve spent over 18 years with three governors in a roll, we’re bound to have more pressure from the oppositions.
Then the second factor is the performance of Mr Governor. In less than two years, the profile has been incredible. I’ve been through the system right from Ngige regime and one can seriously say by fair comparison, the performances of previous administrations, including the last, have been credible. In all fairness, Governor Soludo, in less than two years, has done as much as what his predecessors did in 8 years. When you talk about road construction, how many kilometres of good roads that have been put on. In 16 months, the governor has been able to put on over 400 kilometres of roads. Ngige regime of three and half years, which I was part of, put up 685 kilometres within three and half years. Peter Obi’s regime, capped it all.
If you come to initiatives of the current regime, talk about human capital development, you know before now, it has always been make me SA, SSA. But Soludo came with a new brand, say all those with such portfolios come and go with a particular regime. At the end, you find people in the streets. We’ll rather ensure people were gainfully employed. Teach them trades with take off grants. With this, you have a permanent means of livelihood than depending on stipends that come from the appointments. This we demonstrated few days ago at the ICC. The first batch graduates were empowered with N2billion as take off grants. So people are going into different backgrounds, depending on the area of training, photography, animal husbandry, tailoring, etc. This to me is an innovation in the developmental process. It’s never been like this. Healthcare, for the first time we had that women can go to hospital, carry out their pro and post antinetal free of charge. This had never happened. I had that last during Jakande regime in Lagos State. Ikpeazu tried something funny but it wasn’t quite concretize. All these achievements in less than two years, come with its pressure and the oppositions are naturally bound to be threatened.
Then the last one which deals with the man in charge of APGA in Anambra State, that’s the state chairman, a very experienced politician who has come with a new brand, revolution and engagement process and the oppositions I don’t think are very comfortable with the way we’re going. They’re abound to react and step up their opposition game and try to do things that may disrupt our activities. That’s why I said it’s a combination of several factors. So what you see as Internal crisis is all about social media hype. Yesterday, all relevant structures within the state, including the executive and state working committee, all the local government chairmen were all here and passed a vote of confidence on the party leadership and signed, clearly saying there’s no crisis in our party. But when you go to social media, you think there’s division among us, certainly not. One of the things we made clear in our communique, as a party, we welcome support groups, very many people will prefer to work like kings in hell than servants in heaven. So when people find themselves as not being part of the party structure, you must find room for them. But we also insist on some level of harmony and synergy in our operations. We can’t be working at crossroads with each other. Beyond all, the principle of party supremacy must come into play. And that can only be the key to the harmony, synergy and unity we enjoy in the party.
If there’s this harmony, synergy and unity in APGA, why are some people scheming your removal, even with your experience?
Those doing that are doing that in total ignorance because the process of my impeachment and removal or impeachment must be within the context of the party constitution. It’s only properly constituted State executive committee that can remove me from me after I’ve gone through a disciplinary committee process. The report is submitted to State executive committee that can only remove me. But when someone, who is neither a member of state executive committee nor working committee, who’s not even a local government chairman or within the context of the structure is somewhere in a beer parlour plotting my removal. I can’t stop him from enjoying his peper soup. That’s why the vote of confidence was passed and those in attendance unanimously agreed they were happy working under the leadership of Chief Sir Ifeatu. Anytime I have problems with those people, then the question of my removal becomes a matter for discussion. I believe also, there are several others who appreciate what I’m doing for the party. I think with the best of intent, I’ve lifted the prospects of this party within this short time. I’ve been able to bring back quite a number of stakeholders who have lost hope and interest in the party. Everyone must be carried along, no need for segregation, whether you came in newly or you’ve been there. For me, your relevance depends on your productivity. There are many who have been in the party for over 15years and had never won their polling unit. I’ll better bring in someone who has capacity of winning his polling unit than dealing with the issue of being an old member. Again, is the other issue of discipline. Last election, the areas we lost to the opposition was because of internal issues of indiscipline, disgruntlement arising from unfair conduct of primary. People were shortchanged in the last primary and with their followers, they stayed back in the party and decided to work against the anointed candidate of the party which is more dangerous. We’ve started a reconciliation process, this is a new regime and praying such experience won’t happen again. I came from a process that gave me fairness. I came out from national youth service in 1980, two years after, I could come out to contest for primary for State Assembly. I believe I won the primary because people felt I was a good candidate. They didn’t have to rig for me to go to the Assembly in 1983. Having benefited from such a system, that is the much I could bethrow as state chairman of a party. I’ve said that in several fora, nobody will manipulate the Internal process under my watch. We’ll always go for the best candidates, which, of course, depends on several factors. It’s not about who has the highest money or education. You need to look at several factors, including religious sentiments, assuming a particular denomination is dominant up to 90% from a particular constitutency, and you come from the minority denomination. It may be difficult for us to win election. So we say, let’s field someone from the dominant denomination. You also find situations where someone comes from a large electoral constituency. You saw what happened in Ayamelum, where just two wards could beat nine wards. For me, when people show interest in primary, the party leadership needs to bring them in… for these factors, we try to see what can be given them. But it’s unfair that we should receive more from people in terms of large fees for nomination, then go on to conduct a fraudulent primary. I won’t be part of that. This is part of what I’m guaranteeing, which several others are keying into.
Can you assure your party and the public you have both the support of the governor who is the national leader of the party and that of the national chairman?
Certainty! I was also a product of Soludo if you watch the process that produced me. About 19 of us went into dialogue at some point we all agreed that the governor should anoint a particular candidate and it turned out that I was anointed by the governor and we all went in for the Congress where every other persons stepped down for me. I’m not an ungrateful person. I don’t come from the background that will so suddenly stab someone who had given me that kind of opportunity. I believe if there is any information like that, it must also be coming from the fifth columnist who think that is the only way to create disaffection for us. Sly, the national chairman calls me my boss and I say no, you’re the boss. But that tells you the kind of relationship we enjoy. I respect and appreciate him as national Chairman of the party. We dont have any issues and it’s not likely we’ll have one in nearest future. It’s just a figment of social media plot.
A certain person was governor here sometime ago and abandoned the party and moved over to another party. 2025 is almost here and that particular party is preparing someone to take over power from Soludo. Don’t you see that as a big threat, especially in view of what transpired during the Presidential election?
There’s no panic, absolutely none and I’ll tell you why. You see, the last Presidential election was not a Labour issue, it was rather an emotional issue for Ndigbo. The Igbos of different political parties, including members of APGA, became part of the Obidient movement and the philosophy and dream behind the movement had to do with the presidency of the country. A lot of us didn’t calculate the possibilities. It was an emotional electoral issues to the extent that if you spoke to the contrary, you’ll likely have a big bash. It has come and passed and will not play again in 2025, until 2027, maybe. Even then, it’s not likely the Igbos will be as emotional as they were in 2023. I’m being careful not to make the same mistake. You can’t blame Ndigbo for putting their eggs in one basket hoping that the country had come right for true democracy. I must tell you on a personal note that I was also one of those fooled by the electoral act of 2022. I thought that was going to safeguard and guarantee free and fair credible election. Quite a lot of people that became Obidient and got enthusiastic felt that with the new electoral act and all the the assurances given by INEC that there would be free and transparent election that would produce an Igbo candidate. But all of that have come and passed and won’t repeat in 2025. The other issue, which is also emotional, is the zoning issue. I come from Central. A lot of my friends come from North, and as far as we are concerned, by 2025, we’ll rather allow South finish their tenure so we can take our turn in Central. Any person coming from the South in 2025, quote me, will be making the biggest political miscalculation.
Even if you come out and assure Anambra people that you’ll be there for only four years. Haba! There are things we tell women in the other room. This matter is serious with also its strong emotional coloration for people of the North and Central. It has happened here before where the question was whether for 4 years or 8 years. That’s another factor. There’s also the third factor which has to do with the performance of the present governor. I can assure you, the way he’s going…my prayers for him is that there should not be a sudden nationwide or global economic challenge like we had in 2020. From his plans, I’m sure people of the state will stand clapping, every meaningful person. Even the opposition will find it difficult to really come out and challenge us. With these factors put together, I’m very sure the Obidient factor won’t arise here in Anambra in 2025. Even in 2027, if Peter Obi decides to run again, Igbos will be more guarded and less emotional, knowing full well that the Jagaban they could not beat as an ordinary person, is the man sitting on the saddle. So they have to think properly.
Moving towards 2025, not only these factors you reeled out is likely to play out, we’re hearing from grapevine that another factor likely to play major role is the alliance of your party with that of the ruling party at the center?
Let me tell what has always happened. Even in the last regime, I had reasons to speak about it as Special Adviser to governor. Even from Peter Obi’s regime, we had always sustained a strategic relationship with the presidency, not with the ruling party. Last regime, we sustained that relationship. You remember, at one point, when the process of removal of ADC, change of commissioners, it was the presidency who restored him. Today again, let me tell those of them who think they’re connected to the presidency, that Mr. Governor is more connected than them. Yes, life didn’t start today. People have gone through offices, portfolios, made meaningful relationships for tomorrow. As a party, we don’t have any relationship with APC. The relationship we had with the presidency from Obi till now, is for the sustenance of development of Anambra State. Those things due to us, we take advantage of such relationship to ensure we get them for the people of the state. We don’t play blind opposition. For us, after election, it’s governance and the Presidential election is long gone, and we’ve congregated Mr President, we’ve extended our hands of friendship and collaboration to the extent that we want the synergy to support the developmental plans of Mr Governor. We want to sustain the old strategy of having that good relationship with the presidency. If that sounds like a joke, ask yourself, why is River’s governor and Wike had to approach the presidency to settle their matter, when both of them are PDP. That’s a strategic move which is commendable. That’s the kind of relationship needed for development and constitutional enhancement and certainly had no party coloration. We don’t compromise that. It goes beyond personal interest.
APGA has been here for this long without spreading to other Southeast states. Why has it been difficult for the party to grab another state in addition to Anambra and what are your plans?
Let’s look back to yesteryears, we did produce Rochas Okorocha in Imo State and it was Rochas that abandoned us and killed that dream for us. In Abia, the Alex Otti won that election in 2015 but was scuttled by forces beyond us as it were, because it took a combination of Federal might, etc, even in the full glare of everyone on TV, when the returning officer, after big shots in PDP stormed the collation center, when he came down, the song changed. For us, you can’t say we’ve not tried to go beyond Anambra. We’ve done it in Imo, howbeit unsuccessfully, we did it in Abia, and was almost there before things failed us. There’s something fundamental about Anambra politics, which perhaps, the rest of the states in Southeast must catch up with. Remember a couple of years ago, when the rest of Southeast was NRC, it was only Anambra that was SDP. We have our own type of politics which stems on the Igbo sentiments, and which I will commend the rest of the Southeast to begin to look at as the basis for the factor of their enhancement and economic development. Always remember that one of the things that sustained us, including the philosophies of people like M.I. Okpara, we’re losing it. So don’t count it against us, that we’ve not been able to expand beyond Anambra, at least for now. It’s not our fault. It’s about the capacity of the rest of our brothers in the zone to sustain the kind of politics we play here. If it’s about money, that one factor. There are several multi billionaires that can challenge any government. If it’s about connection, there are a lot that can make just a call. See Imo today, just one person has quarantined the majority. That can’t happen in Anambra State. We’re still working hard. Bayelsa has shown a tendency towards APGA twice, a state with barely 11 local government areas, 11 state assembly members. We won two seats twice in the history of the state. We won house of representatives in Benue, we won in Taraba. Until the electoral process is perfect, it may be difficult to judge our performance, electorally. You work so hard and may be so popular on ground, but the returning officers will make you unpopular which will reflect on the outcome. A combination of it may determine our performance as we move forward. Without speaking out, the process of electing Rochas as a governor, involved lots of big guns from Anambra. If you can recall, in his maiden speech, he made it open that the people that made him governor were those from Anambra. So, it tells you it requires more than the ideology of bringing the party to other Southeast states. It requires lots of logistics. But the bottom line is, whether it’s one state, as long as we can carry the bill of the entire region to make any meaningful impact. We keep hoping and praying it gets better…we see lots of enthusiasm among our people. But beyond that, it requires some other profiling.
Some have attributed APGA’s inability to spread across the country to the party’s insistence that the National Chairman’s seat must remain in Anambra. How true is this opinion?
It’s a sentimental view. But like I’ll always say, when you want to rise to high position, you have to walk towards that. I want to see people who speak like that win their polling units or one local government. How will a serious political party, trust their position of its national chairman to people who have refused to win a single ward. That’s a dangerous situation. Former national secretary has been positioned to be the national chairman of this party. But suddenly, he left us and joined PDP because he was promised the governorship of Nasarawa. So you can see the danger in these things. Former national secretary is impeccable gentleman who I worked closely with. I can tell you he’s not a corrupt person. But unfortunately, he was carried away by political myopian. He didn’t see the bigger picture. We were already planning this party to move there. Even the current national chairman was not interested in becoming a candidate. He was a national legal advicer to governor. We were looking for successor because no successor was groomed. It was Maku that was in that regard, but he failed. So there is no deliberate plan to keep the national president in Anambra State. But it’s about trust. Who do you give it to. We had given it to someone in Abia and it was sold. That’s the danger. You must have a credible person that can go through all the inherent temptation. If it’s for emotional coloration, tomorrow, the person will sell the party and you can’t recover it. For now, it may be proper to start early enough to look out for credible successor who have shown capacity and enough interest in the party affairs and can be trusted. Governor Soludo was here and had been with us, that’s why it was easy for us to trust him.
Many, including members of APGA are not comfortable with Soludo’s style of governance, despite his achievements so far and have vowed he won’t return. How do you react to this?
If there’s anything the Obidient movement proved to us is that power belongs to the people. All these people you’re talking about failed in their respective polling units, with due respect. I understand the interventions and positive disruption mantra of Mr. Governor. He has touched a lot of sensitive areas because the governor believes we can’t continue this way. It’s almost impossible to think of any sensitive areas he has not busted. Talk about the agbero, these people involved are mere servants of the real agberos who drive Rose Royce in this state. When you think you’re chasing the agbero man in the street, you’re disrupting the economy of one very big man. Secondly, Anambra is another state we have quite a number of illicit industries. You may not know the extent government has punctured and destroyed those factories. You won’t even know the number of VIPs involved in criminality. See people driving big cars, yet you can’t trace what they do. So, that class, because it’s a class battle…at end of the day, the people will vote for the governor, because it’s the people he is working for. It’s the people he’s working for that should be meant to understand that he is working for their freedom. The class of people who have held the state economy may not be happy. Some big you respect will come to their communities and seize acres and acres of land for nothing. This government is challenging those issues which had never been done before. Mr Governor believes rightly he’s working for the ordinary man who will decide, not the big VIPs. Beyond this, I’m not by this saying that there’s an orchestrated attempt to challenge the big men in the state. No. I believe that the big men who have legitimate business and means of livelihood don’t have problems with this government. But I can tell you there’s lots of them who have been living on the manipulation of the system, from criminality.
The Governor in some quarters have been accused of biting more than he can chew especially in the area of demotion of illegal structures for road expansion. The view is that he would have taken the projects, say Ekwulobia flyover and UNIZIK-Mgbakwu dual carriageway, one after the other than embarking on many and suspending some half way
Yes, the Ekwulobia flyover construction is ongoing, that’s the truth. It’s we who are knowledgeable enough that should drive the discourse, not the ignorant touts in the streets. I’ve seen the blueprint, and it’s very exciting. At Ekwulobia, we’re going to have a dual carriage and I asked the Governor to give me a time frame, he told me December next year. He told me we’ll have a dual carriage that would run from Amawbia to Uga, that’s a vision which were all should be looking at, not the beer parlor talk. At Ekwulobia roundabout, that flyover will go through Usuofia, Awka-Etiti, Nnobi, Igboukwu. For Awka, there’s no native of Awka that would speak negatively of this regime because this is the first regime that’s touching the state capital in terms of infrastructure. Even what is on ground and what is in the offing, the ring road that will go round through Okpuno, up to the flyover at Regina. No other government has done such massive road construction like this administration in the last 18 years. It remains the truth. Good roads construction, for the first time with pavements. When issues like this come up, I only ask for patience and time. Let’s not forget we’re barely 17months in office. For every endeavour, there’s a dividend period, and such period can not start, until maybe about the middle of next year. That’s when we begin to really access government. Again, I don’t blame those who have begin to be critical too quickly. One of the things I told Mr Governor, even before his swearing in is that the expectations on him will be high, because no doubt, his profile remain high. People started counting for him from the first week. But let’s not forget, it was March 17 that he was sworn in, only a year and 7months. He hasn’t done two years. The best we can do for the governor is to make proactive suggestions that would help drive the process. We can only begin the criticisms, and I will join, if after two and half years, we did not impress you. But I can bet you that by next year December, you’ll see serious changes.
Do you think the Tinubu-led federal government is ready to tackle the numerous challenges facing the country?
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