By CLIFFORD NDUJHE, DEPUTY POLITICAL EDITOR
Chief Guy Ike Ikokwu, second republic chairman of the Nigerian Peoples Party (NPP) in Anambra State, was a member of the Strategy Committee that tried to hammer out a merger among four progressive opposition parties to stop the then ruling National Party of Nigeria(NPN).
Reminiscing on how the merger was scuttled, Ikokwu, a foundation member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and former chairman of the PDP in Anambra State, lamented that the late sage Chief Obafemi Awolowo would have been elected as president in the second republic if his followers, who were in the UPGA Strategy Committee, had so desired. He said current moves by some opposition parties to merge into All Progressive Congress (APC) would not yield electoral laurels at the highest level – Aso Rock.
On this score, he said leaders of the various factions of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) should jettison joining APC and join hands to prevent APGA from failing in Anambra because the party will cease to exist if it fails in the state.
You were a member of the Strategy Committee of the United Progressive Grand Alliance (UPGA) in the second republic. Why didn’t the alliance work?
The Strategy Committee of UPGA in the second republic was made up of four parties: the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), Nigeria Peoples Party (NPP), Great Nigerian Peoples Party (GNPP), and Peoples Redemption Party (PRP). These four parties had hoped to evolve a very close alliance fielding single candidates for the constituencies across the country based on their own evaluation and party primaries.
The main figures for UPGA were Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Alhaji Waziri Ibrahim, Malam Aminu Kano, Abubakar Rimi and Balarabe Musa. The main aim of the alliance was to prevent the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) then headed by Alhaji Shehu Shagari as president from sweeping the polls and ruling the country politically.
The alliance’s Strategy Committee, in its painstaking and calculating methods, had shared all the positions in the legislature and the executive and government agencies in such a way as to prevent any single party from having dominance over the other.
This was done to the satisfaction of all the parties. Over 2,000 positions were shared but then the problem of accommodating the leaders, particularly Dr. Azikiwe and Chief Obafemi Awolowo, and the other leaders of GNPP and PRP became a very thorny issue due to the historical antecedents of the political roles played by the individuals concerned.
At the last meeting of the Strategy Committee, headed by the former Governor of Lagos State, Alhaji Lateef Jakande, the basic and final problem was how to resolve the ambitions, political or otherwise of the two main leaders – Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and Chief Obafemi Awolowo both of whom had played very distinguished roles in the anti-colonial struggle and the emancipation of Nigeria into an independent country. Chief Awolowo was the leader of the UPN, which controlled five states, whereas Dr. Azikiwe was the leader of the NPP, which controlled three states.
Alhaji Lateef Jakande was the chairman of the Strategy Committee which included Senator Abraham Adesanya and Chief Ayo Adebanjo, the UPN colleagues of Chief Awolowo. Others members were Chief R.B.K. Okafor, Chief Guy Ikokwu, Dr. Omo Omoruyi and northerners representing Dr. Aminu Kano and Waziri Ibrahim.
The UPN members forgot that the difference between Zik’s NPP and Waziri’s GNPP was due to the fact that Alhaji Waziri Ibrahim wanted to assume the presidency of the country and at the same time hold the chairmanship of the political party. In the case of the UPN, the leader of the party was also the presidential candidate of the party.
We, therefore, at the meeting proposed to the UPN leaders, who had five states under their control, that they should make the first choice of either the presidency or the chairmanship of the party into which all four parties will merge. If you, the UPN, chose Chief Awolowo for the presidency, then the political party for the merger group will be NPP under the chairmanship of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe. Since Lateef Jakande’s group could not take a decision on this critical matter, the meeting adjourned for them to do consultation.
Till this day, they were unable to resolve their position for Chief Awolowo to become the presidential candidate for the merged party in order to fight Shehu Shagari’s NPN, a position Dr. Azikiwe agreed to if it was the decision of the Strategy Committee.
On the other hand, if they had chosen the leadership of the party, Chief Awolowo would have become the head of the merged and enlarged party – the UPGA- while Dr. Azikiwe will be the presidential candidate. And it had been agreed that the party would have supreme authority in its affairs. The Yoruba leaders requested that the matter be kept secret and, since they failed to take up their first choice position, all the four parties went into the elections on their own and without a single list of candidates.
All Nigerians however, knew that Awolowo had said that his ambition will be to be the president of Nigeria even if it is for one day but, this time around, it was his followers who disappointed the progressives and their leaders.
How do you see the All Progressive Congress, APC, merger. Do you think it will work given the personalities of General Buhari and Senator Tinubu vis a vis the history of failed alliances in the country?
The APC merger of three parties – the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP)- is still very much shrouded by the various distinguished personalities in the three parties, particularly former Head of State, Major General Muhammadu Buhari and Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and the governors of the three parties, who have all been exercising governance and political clout for more than 15 years during which they have made a lot of friends and a lot of enemies as well.
So far, from all the meetings they have held, they have not come up with an ideological platform on various issues facing the country which will make them to be different from the other parties like the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). This is because the constitutions of all the political parties registered by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) are very similar in all their details.
It is basically for this reason that issues like ethnicity and the historical antecedence of various individuals and groups that attempted alliances and mergers eventually fail. If, however, the APC merger breaks new grounds in ensuring within its platform ideological and differential programmes on serious issues confronting the country with a lot of discipline and patience, then it will engender large scale following which will make it a strong opposition and eventually a governing party.
Chief Annie Okonkwo said it is in the interest of South-East to back APC. Do you agree?
I do not agree with Chief Annie Okonkwo a former senator of the PDP, that it is, at this moment, in the interest of the South East to back the APC. Chief Annie Okonkwo does not even seem to have a political party of which he is a full member as he has not attended any convention of APGA and he is not a member of the National Executive of APGA or any of the APGA splinters. Therefore, he cannot be said to have the authority to speak for APGA except for himself or maybe for one or two political cronies.
We understand that he is the chairman of a group canvassing for Governor Rochas Okorocha to become the presidential candidate of the APC through a splinter group of APGA that will merge with APC. This, of course, is very unrealistic. At the moment, the South-East is heavily leaning towards the PDP the same way the South-South comprising six states is also heavily leaning towards the PDP, and not the ACN.
Why would south-easterners not join the APC merger?
South-easterners at the moment do not want to join the ACN or its new offshoot, the APC. Senator Tinubu cannot canvass in the East when in a place like Lagos with millions of easterners he has denied them fair representation even at the local government level in the party primaries in Lagos under the Alliance for Democracy, AD, or later ACN. It is even worse for Buhari who did not extend the infrastructural developments of the Abacha Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF) under his control to the South-East which remained deplorable until the recent amelioration by the federal and state governments.
Many Nigerians have forgotten that Buhari, as Head of State, desperately wanted to Islamize Nigeria through the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC). Even his then federal cabinet with General Tunde Idiagbon, a fellow Muslim and northerner, as his deputy was almost 90 per cent Moslem, forgetting that Nigeria is neither an Islamic or a Christian country, but has a non-sectarian constitution.
Buhari only corrected the gesture recently when he adopted Pastor Tunde Bakare a former Muslim now a Christian, as his vice presidential candidate. His CPC has a following in only some northern states in the whole country. He had dumped the ANPP where he had a lot of enemies to establish his own party, the CPC, in ordre to vie for the presidency. For these and other reasons, the easterners and south-southerners and middle-belters will not join the APC. In fact, only about half of the south-westerners will eventually join the APC merger.
What do you make of the crises in APGA, the role in the APC merger and its chances in the coming election in Anambra State?
It would be recalled that APGA, as a political party, was founded under the leadership of the late Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu. It won state Assembly and House of Representatives seats in the South-East and South-South states. It also had some representation in many other states in the West and the North. However, it was only in Anambra State that APGA was able to control the executive with the election of Mr. Peter Obi as the Governor of Anambra State in recent times.
Another governor of APGA was elected in Imo in the person of Chief Rochas Okorocha, a former PDP member. APGA also had the first female governor in the country, Mrs. Virginia Etiaba. It could, therefore, be said that APGA had its strongest following in Anambra State where Dim O. Ojukwu hailed from and Governor. P. Obi has been the governor for seven years.
At the moment, Governor Peter Obi is the oldest executive governor in office in the South-East and has been the chairman of the South-East Governors Forum even though his party has only two out of the five governorship seats in the South-East. Governor Peter Obi seems to realize that the South-East is predominantly PDP by virtue of the PDP membership at the local government, state legislature and national legislature positions.
It has, therefore, been realistic on his part not to unduly antagonize the PDP by trying to foist APGA positions on the PDP in order to avoid a rift which will easily lead to his being dethroned. Instead, Governor Obi has tried to use his chairmanship position to aggregate issues of common interests to the whole South-East in the areas of marginalization, infrastructure, security, health, education, environment, power generation, oil and gas and aviation to mention a few.
He has been able, over the years, to earn the trust of not only his party leader, Odumegwu-Ojukwu, but also the PDP
president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan. He was able, therefore, to lead APGA into supporting the PDP presidential candidacy in the person of Dr Jonathan in the hope that the next president of the country will emerge from the South-East zone in 2015 or thereabouts as may be decided.
It should be said, without fear or favour, that Governor Obi has been able to transform Anambra State in the last five years by his style of governance and executive intervention in the affairs of the people of Anambra State. When he found that his predecessor, Dr. Chris Ngige, was able to develop more roads in Anambra State than the former PDP Governor Chinwoke Mbadinuju, he emulated Ngige by embarking on further developments of roads across the three senatorial zones in the state, but, unlike Ngige, Governor Peter Obi has dramatically changed the educational and health facilities in Anambra State to make them nationally accredited and of very improved quality.
He has returned schools to their former owners, the Christian missionaries, and discovered that the state has less than 20 per cent of the educational institutions in Anambra State. Very importantly, he is funding the schools directly to their owners the missionary institutions rather than through the ministries and civil servants.
The missions utilize their resources cheaper and beneficially. The quality of education in Anambra State has risen beyond what it was a few years ago. Some of us, who have spoken to Governor Peter Obi directly and investigated his style of governance, agree that he is running the state in all the various sectors as a shrewd businessman who is interested in result rather than propaganda.
For instance, Governor Obi does not waste government fund in chartering planes for his travels within and outside Nigeria. Governor Peter Obi does not reside in hotels in Lagos or Abuja where the government pays on his behalf a hundred or three hundred thousand naira per night.
Governor Peter Obi has not launched a loan scheme of 10 to hundred billion naira by way of bonds or bank loans or external foreign debt which will later be paid by future Anambra State generations. However, Governor Peter Obi believes that more educated and intellectually equipped and experienced Anambraians ought to be interested in the affairs of APGA than as at the moment.
He even states that the PDP in Anambra State is similarly devoid of experience and qualitative people who would have helped immensely in the development and governance of the state. About the leadership of APGA, it can be said without controversy that Governor Peter Obi is the most experienced leader in APGA and who should in all honesty be regarded as the new leader of APGA especially as he will retire from executive governance of the state this year.
When he quits as Governor of Anambra State, he will have more time and resources and experience to lead others in the development of APGA as a veritable political institution for the development of our people in the South-East, South-South and other zones of this country.
The recent publication in the Nigerian newspapers of the international and public debt profile of Nigeria shows clearly that Anambra State ranks more than 33 other states in this country. In other to determine the sustainability or otherwise of the state’s total public debt, a recent analysis of the state solvency and liquidity position was undertaken for the periods up to June 2012.
A critical ratio in the determination of the debt sustainability of each state is the total public debt stock to total revenue ratio as this shows the solvency level of the state government and its capacity to meet the state future debt obligations.