By Vincent Ujumadu
Immediate past National Chairman of APGA, Chief Victor Umeh, is the senatorial candidate of the party for the rerun election in Anambra Central. In this interview, Umeh speaks on his mission in the Senate if he wins. Excerpts:
It’s some weeks to the Anambra Central senatorial rerun election. How prepared are you?
I am fully prepared for the election. My party, APGA, is ready and I have been going round to talk to the people and visiting them even in their private homes and reaching out to major stakeholders. I am talking to people of various groups as wells as maintaining a communication line with the voters of Anambra Central. I have also been on radio and television programmes, dishing out to the electorates the relevant issues and convincing them to continue supporting me.
Of course you are aware that this is not entirely a brand new election. We have campaigned very vigorously before the March 28, 2015 general election, which was later annulled by the Court of Appeal. One thing that pleases me now is that any place I go to, I discover that the people have made up their minds that I am the candidate they want at this time to go and represent them. So I find it very easy talking with them because even before I say anything, they take it over and start reeling my achievements and antecedents that make them properly convinced that at this time they need my services as a senator. In summary I will say that the level of enthusiasm on the part of the electorate of Anambra Central Senatorial District is quite high. So, I am just waiting for the day to come and let this elections be over so that I can settle down to task to work for them.
Do you see the forthcoming election as an easy battle for you?
In politics, if you are not humble, you can over shoot your range, but I will like to say without being immodest, that 15 of us were all part of the election in 2015, including the two others from PDP and APC and I clearly won the election. I got 86,000 recorded for me in the result sheet, and PDP, which was all over the place using Amoured Personnel Carriers, INEC and security agencies, got 93,000 recorded for it. It was me, like David in the Bible, having 86,000 votes and the big goliath, who was everywhere having 93000 recorded for it. APC got 24,000 with its super candidate, Dr Chris Ngige.
Coming to the 12 candidates that are in the race now, no one can take anyone’s fight and fight for him or her, and most of them have been calling me that they want to work for me, They are candidates of other parties, but they believe in what I can do. I have also heard that those who are disgruntled have been ganging up to support the even the least of the candidates to see how they can stop me, but I don’t see how they can achieve that. I am confident that that election, when the votes are counted, I will win.
Apart from my acceptability to the electorate, the APGA government in Anambra State is doing exceedingly well. I do not judge the success of a government, based on what armchair critics say. As a member of APGA and someone who has been in the leadership of APGA for over 13years and someone who has been championing APGA programmes, I can tell you that the government of APGA is doing very well for the people of the state. So the governor, being from my party will also act as a boost to me in the election. The governor has traditional critics who don’t like him and those who do not believe that as far as they are not the ones in charge, things are not going on well. I can say that Willie Obiano has surpassed my own expectations in less than two years.
The level of projects being executed in the state and particularly in Awka capital territory and elsewhere will show you that this government is a very serious government, and the governor is thinking about how to make Anambra State a good state. He tackled the issue of security immediately he came in. People thought it was going to be a flash in the pan which will stop after one month and criminality will start, but Anambra has been very peaceful – no kidnapping, no armed robbery and all that. So I don’t see how people will want a party that is doing all these to go down. What will be the alternative? We have everything going for us in this election, Even if PDP and APC were going to contest the election with their strong candidates, we would have defeated them. What I insisted on not allowing to happen was to go into the election with illegitimate candidates, You go into the election with them and you expose the election to further risk of nullification. That is the essence, otherwise we are not afraid of any political party, APGA is a prominent political party and we know we have the structure.
Some people say the Court of Appeal should ordinarily have declared you the winner of that election. So how do you feel going through this process again?
Well, I am still grateful to the Court of Appeal because if you remember, the election tribunal made a joke of our petition at the tribunal, but the Court of Appeal decided to go deeper into the petition and decided to nullify the election and said that the PDP did not hold any primary to select their candidates and that was what put forward this arrangement of conducting another election. For me it’s very painful, but I have to bear the pain. If they had said no at the tribunal, this opportunity would not be here.
That they were able to nullify the election and offer us a second chance is good enough. We will go through it and there is not cost that I will bear in pursuing justice that I will consider too high. If I had considered that charade of 2015 to stand, the psychology of people of Anambra Central Senatorial district would have been so greatly tortured. They were traumatized with the way PDP militarized that election. So many people were badly beaten up and result sheets were carried away brazenly. If they had gone away with that victory, it would have destroyed the interest of people in elections. For the fact that we were able to get this back, you can see the happiness in the faces of people that they stole this thing and they could not get away with it, and they have another day, and we are ready for the election to pay them back in their own bad coin.
So, for me, I ought to have been declared winner because there was no need for a repeat of this election. But for the wisdom of the judges of the Court of Appeal that the nullification should suffice, I accept it. Good enough, it is just about 19 days away, and the extra cost of going for this repeat election should be borne by lovers of genuine democracy.
Can you tell us those things that are dear to you which, when you get to the senate, you will work on?
I said it clearly that I was not averse to Buhari becoming president as a person, but we decided to vote the way we voted because of what our party considered very critical to the survival of Nigeria as a nation, and that critical thing was the promise made by Jonathan to implement the report of the National Conference, which he put together in the first place. The report of that National Conference remains a key to the survival of this country as a nation. Anyone who wishes it away is postponing the dooms day. This country cannot continue to be run in an atmosphere of tension, where there are too many grievances from various parts of the nation. Good leadership requires that a nation should be put on a pedestal of sustainable development and peace. There are too many people who have been cheated. I am known to be championing this cause all the time, the structural imbalance is skewed against the Igbo people of Nigeria because of the war.
This will not last for ever. Nations have fought wars all over the world, America fought wars, many nations in Europe fought wars, and they come out of their wars stronger and things that caused the wars were looked into at the end of the wars, and ways of maintaining sustainable peace became the order of the day, but in Nigeria they refuse to agree that the war has ended. They agree that the war has ended in principle, but the war is still on against the Igbo people of Nigeria. If I have time to state it, there are so many areas begging for attention. So outside the confab reports, the boldest efforts Nigeria has made towards preserving its desired unity where in a dialogue arrangement where there was give and take for all parts of Nigeria. The Igbo were given additional state, increasing their number of state to six, because we presently have five. The issues about local government were also addressed. Local government funds can no longer be shared to the 774 local governments. Money will be shared to the states and the states can create the number of local governments they want.
These were the things we agreed to at the National Conference. We also saw that who becomes the president of Nigeria was a major action in Nigeria anytime we are going to have an election. Everybody wants his own person or tribe’s man to become the president of Nigeria. So we said instead of killing ourselves over who becomes the president of Nigeria, let us have an arrangement where every part of Nigeria will have hope that one day they will ascend the presidency of this country and it was agreed that the presidency should rotate between the north and south and across the geo political zones, and with that type of arrangement, it won’t take time and presidency will reach to places where it had not gotten.
When I get to the senate, we want a Nigeria where there will be equal rights and opportunity for all people of Nigeria, not just for the Igbo people. We will make efforts to close the gap created against the Igbo people. We want equity and fairness. We can easily achieve that through legislation. Every aspect of Nigerian life, you can use legislation to put things in proper perspective, and it will work for everybody. So if I go to the senate, I will pay my primary responsibility to Anambra Central Senatorial district, and I will get everything they are entitled to get as a federal constituency in Nigeria in any form, be it infrastructural development, be it youth empowerment programmes, be it women empowerment programmes, be it education. Anything that it being done at the centre for federal constituencies, that of Anambra Central will come home complete and none will be found wanting. I will be alert to my responsibility. On a second stanza, I will contribute to nation- building; I want to be a part of any group in the senate or the national assembly for that matter that will be championing for a better Nigeria – a Nigeria that every citizen will be proud of. In the senate there are too many progressives from all parts of Nigeria, so the issue of people thinking that the status quo will always remain; even those who think they have the advantage today are aware that it will not be forever. Or if these pressures and agitations keep building in the land, people will be forced to let go some of the things they are holding. So that there will be peace in the land. At the senate I know there are people from the north who are progressive minded and will want Nigeria to move forward.
Nigeria of today is not like the Nigeria of 50, 60 years ago. Even in the north, education has changed things, people have gone to other climes, and have seen how things are done, particularly in the area of civic rights.
I want to help in building a more united Nigeria, a Nigeria where everybody will have confidence in. If we do not achieve that, we are wasting our time, and that is why I said we will address the various problems facing the country. That is why I also said that the only document that has addressed the problem of the country is the report of the national conference, which Jonathan handed over to President Buhari as one of the major handover documents, So we will keep our eyes on that report.
If you win the rerun, you will be the only APGA senator in the senate. How will you feel about such a situation?
Well, this is the only senatorial seat that APGA has a very bright prospect of taking now and I don’t see that to be a problem. I think the people of this zone need a very strong character in the senate. They will say that one APGA senator in Chief Sir Victor Umeh is a large slot, but there is nothing like winner takes all in this matter. If you check all that I have just said about achieving unity at the senate for the good of our people, you will understand that the issue of being from one party or the other in the senate will be drastically reduced. We will begin to see ourselves as brothers and sisters working for the interest of our people.