Notable businessman and politician, Senator Ifeanyi Araraume has been one of the more prominent personalities in Imo State and is presently the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA in the forthcoming general elections. The former senator in this interview explains his motive among other issues. Excerpts:
By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
Why the persistence to be governor of Imo State despite the situation of the state?
The attraction to govern Imo State stems from the fact that things are not working the way they should as nobody has dealt with the challenges that we’ve always had. And as long as nobody has deliberately tackled those challenges, that attraction will always be there.
Just take the issue of road infrastructure; you cannot drive on a kilometre of smooth road anywhere in Imo, including Owerri, the state capital. Maybe, that was what informed Governor Rochas Okorocha’s statement that the rain in Owerri is acidic. But, I don’t know how the rain in Imo State is different from that of other states.
Is zoning still a factor in Imo politics given the agitation for power to shift to a particular area of the state?
Some states have gotten it right as regards zoning, but in Imo State, people are still a little bit confused. But, one thing that is certain is that nobody in Imo State will look in the direction of Imo West Senatorial District because since Nigeria’s return to democratic rule in 1999, the zone has had power for almost 16 years.
So, it is unfair no matter whoever is looking at it, to elect somebody from Imo West as Okorocha’s successor. Although sometimes, people say that there is no fairness in politics, I believe that there should be fairness. Even if you overlook the political parties and focus on individuals, post-Okorocha era demands that Imo people should look at the individuals aspiring to be governor because it is not going to be like the government after Udenwa.
You know that we had four years of Ikedi Ohakim after Udenwa, which like the Okorocha administration, was not a pleasant experience in terms of development indices. When you put this together, it has been 12 years that the state has gone through trauma. Therefore, it is not going to be an easy task, governing Imo State from May 29, 2019, but we have to start from somewhere.
What edge do you have over the major gladiators especially given that some of your major contenders including Uche Nwosu, Action Alliance, AA; Hope Uzodinma of All Progressives Congress, APC, and yourself, were formerly members of the same party?
Yes, three of us were formerly in the APC, but I will tell you that all the parties have no clear-cut difference in terms of ideologies. If there are no ideological differences, what will now inform movement would be the treatment you get in any of the parties. If you find out that where you are; the treatment is not fair and that those around you are strange people, people of abnormal behaviour, people who do not share in your vision and particularly when someone, who should decide your fate in a party behaves in a manner that cannot guarantee fairness, you have to leave.
I can tell you that most of our leaders, including President Muhammadu Buhari, have changed parties because of these reasons. If you remember, the President had to leave the All Nigeria People’s Party, ANPP, after the 2007 general elections to form Congress for Progressive Change, CPC because of unfair treatment.
There was a situation that some ANPP governors then signed an agreement to work for the PDP as against their party’s presidential candidate. The then chairman of the party, the late Edwin Ume-Ezeoke, who was the vice- presidential candidate, had to abandon his principal in court to accept an appointment from the ruling party. So, it is the treatment you get from a party that informs whether you will be there or not.
We had a party that was going well under the leadership of Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, but Adams Oshiomhole came and decided that those who supported Odigie-Oyegun should be dealt with. But they supported Odigie-Oyegun at a time the party wanted him. If Oshiomhole cannot forgive them for their support for Odigie-Oyegun, it means that such members of the party will not receive fair treatment under his leadership.
And, if I am aspiring to lead my people, the first step is to go through the primary, and whether you like it or not, the national chairman of a political party plays an important role in determining who emerges as a candidate. If he is not fair, there is likely to be a problem.
So, some of these things are what informs people’s movement from one political party to another. Okorocha himself was at a time in PDP, ANPP, AA, and APGA, but his supporters are now back to AA. Among them, I have travelled the least. On a scale of one to 10, I will be on the eighth position.
Some people believe that you want to use APGA to win the governorship election and return to APC. How true is that?
This is my last attempt at the governorship; I am not going to contest for the position again after 2019. The only way I will contest again is after winning this contest; I will be seeking for re-election in 2023. I will not start afresh to run for governorship after this. I am not going to do it again, and that is why by the grace of God, we will do everything possible to ensure that we get it right this time and I don’t intend to leave APGA.
I can’t leave the party for some obvious reasons. I have not seen any special advantage to be in the ruling party at the centre. President Buhari works well with Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra State more than any other governor in the South-East, and he is not a member of the APC. That working relationship is because the President feels that the programmes of Anambra State government fit into the vision he has for the country.
Okorocha is a member of his party, but the Imo State governor does not look at the manifesto of his party. Another governor in the South-East, who is running a programme that fits into the vision of the President is Ebonyi State governor, Dave Umahi. Look at his programmes on agriculture and infrastructure.
How far have you gone in reconciling aggrieved members of your party over the fallout of the governorship primary?
Every primary election has its peculiar challenges. When I joined APGA, there were 23 aspirants who had been there before me. So, it is natural that everyone would think that he or she would win. But the fact remains that I have the best political structure in Imo State; it has been there for a long time, and its members are everywhere.
Therefore, you cannot compare me with a man who has just left the bank and has no knowledge of politics; you can’t compare me with a man who has no knowledge of what party primary is all about and you cannot compare me with a man who doesn’t understand party administration because I have been there before.
Members of the party understand that as a former party chairman, I will understand them better. Many of those in APGA were in All People’s Party, APP when I was chairman. So, they voted for me because they believe if I become the governor, I will understand the challenges facing the party.
Given the personality of candidates contesting the Imo State governorship position, what do you think will guarantee free and fair elections in the state?
The role of the electoral umpire will go a long way in guaranteeing free and fair elections in the state, but I will tell you that Imo people are determined to ensure that their votes count. So, if INEC does what it ought to do, there will be free and fair elections.
Again, I will tell you that there are four strong parties that will be contesting elections in Imo State, namely; APGA, APC, PDP, and AA. What this means is that there will be a balance of forces in every polling unit, so it will not be easy for anybody to manipulate the process.