Osita Okechukwu, DG, VON: Only those with short memoryw will say PDP is better than APC

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National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Dr. Iyorchia Ayu and other leaders of the party have been advised to stop nursing the idea that the opposition party will bounce back to power next year or in the near future.

Giving the advice in an interview with TUNDE THOMAS, an All Progressives Congress (APC) chieftain and Director-General, Voice of Nigeria (VON), Mr Osita Okechukwu said Ayu and other PDP leaders were hallucinating by boasting that the PDP would win the 2023 general elections.

PDP leaders have recently been boasting that their party will take over government from the ruling APC after the 2023 general elections. How would you react to that?

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My reaction is simple. I’m happy to hear the Chairman of the opposition political party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Dr Iyorchia Ayu, and other chieftains of the party making such declarations at Benin. I’m happy about such high flaunting statements which some may tag hallucination or threat. High flaunting statements in the sense that it gives PDP’s membership and supporters nationwide hope of returning to power at the centre in 2023.

First, I’m happy with what they are saying because I’m one of those who sincerely believe that multiparty system with two majors is best for our dear country. And in actual fact, it is the zenith of liberal democracy as evidenced in USA, UK, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Brazil and a host of other nations. I don’t subscribe to a one-party state, for one party state is dictatorship. So the PDP’s hallucination rekindles hope in our democracy and provides the much needed checks and balances to the APC Federal Government and by extension to our body politik. Secondly, the membership and supporters of PDP need the tonic of hope of victory.

But how can you call PDP leaders boasting of winning 2023 presidential election hallucination, especially when the party recently won by-elections across the nation and in Abuja Area Council?

Without being immodest, PDP leaders boasting of winning 2023 presidential election is pure hallucination. One has been in Nigeria’s politics for 44 years and can forecast victory’s tangible variables, wherever they exist. Those critical ingredients or variables which generate victory do not favour the PDP.

As President Muhammadu Buhari hinted in his speech last Saturday, one, PDP is feeble in opposition. Secondly, they are living in self denial and thirdly Nigerians have not forgotten how the planlessness and squandermania of the PDP brought us to our knees. PDP in spite of humongous oil windfall the nation made when the party was in power, their motto was, share the money, hence we had decayed infrastructure and infrastructure deficit all over the country. Even children do not forget parents who squandered their wealth in locust years. Nigerians can’t and will never forget those 16 years of the PDP which many Nigerians still continue to refer to as years of monumental waste.

But some Nigerians have been saying there is no difference between PDP and APC, with the present harsh socio-economic conditions in the country?

There is no basis for comparison between the two parties. It is like comparing light and darkness. It is only those who have short memories that will make that kind of comparison. Before APC came into office, we knew how bad the situation was in the country. PDP was there for 16 years and the situation continued from getting bad to worse until APC came on board in 2015 to salvage the situation. Since APC came into office there has been a lot of transformations which are visible. What we should realise is that APC can’t undo overnight the damage of 16 years by PDP.

You have recently been canvassing that other regions should leave 2023 Presidency to the South-East. Why are you advocating this?

My canvassing is predicated on equity, natural justice and good conscience so as to oblige Ndigbo a sense of belonging. Without sounding like a broken record, one has maintained that the 4th Republic Nigeria was midwifed by rotation of Presidency between North and South.  The arrangement took off from the South-West, later it rotated to the North, later South South and then back to the North, moderated by the demise of His Excellency Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. If you stretch your analysis down to 1960, Ndigbo had presided over Nigeria for only six months by General JTU Ironsi of blessed memory. Ndigbo politically needs a sense of belonging as one of the most patriotic group of Nigerians. We are the only ethnic group who live and invest in all the nooks and crannies of our dear country. I stand to be corrected. Even Southern governors recently said the next president must come from the South, and I’m on the same page with Southern Governors Forum. We should however let the South-East have it. But this should however be done through lobby, persuasion and understanding with our brothers and sisters from the northern belt. For in democracy the best model is negotiation and persuasion and not compulsion

There has been confusion in APC in the last two weeks, and this has put out the impression that all may not be well within the party.

The crisis in my party is over as consensus of 26 March national convention has been consummated. Everybody is now on one page that the convention must hold on that date. President Buhari has consolidated the convention date by his letter to the Chairman Progressives Governors Forum, His Excellency Atiku Bagudu. In that letter, the President said the issue of the leadership of the Caretaker Extraordinary Convention Committee should immediately return to the status quo ante.

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Not only that, he further stated that members of the Governors’ Forum and their followers should desist from any behaviour or utterance that will likely lead to disunity in the ranks of the party, and ultimately jeopardise the transition to the convention. 

He also added that the Mai Mala Buni-led Caretaker Extraordinary Convention Committee should accordingly be allowed to proceed with all necessary preparations to hold the convention as planned, unfailingly on March 26, 2022. So with the President’s directive we are all set for the convention.

How will you react to claims that outside the convention matter, that there are other issues bedevilling APC which may lead to the party’s implosion?

To me, outside this convention issue, what one could decipher is the normal noise expected in any big market. In my town Eke, there is the big Nkwo Market and the small Obodo Market, the big Nkwo market is always noisy, with vehicular traffic and hustle and bustle. The truth of the matter is that the APC’s brand calls for contestation, for anyone who becomes the national chairman has a lot of weight. Just like whoever becomes the presidential candidate is guaranteed minimum of 60-70 per cent chance to become President, unlike one who becomes the chairman of APGA or Labour Party. Even the wife of APGA’s or another party’s presidential candidates are aware that such candidates’ chances are very slim. Contrary to the wishes of naysayers, our great party, the APC will not explode or implode. Rather, we are waxing stronger by the day for whether dry or wet season we must produce a presidential candidate before June 3rd, 2022.

But with unfolding developments in the party, how optimistic are you about the future of the APC after Buhari’s government?

I’m very optimistic that APC will exist beyond 100 years just like Democratic and Republican parties in the USA, and like Conservatives and Labour Party in the UK, India and some other countries. APC will continue to wax stronger beyond 2023.The party will continue to grow from strength to strength after President Buhari. Even for the next general elections, all the indices and variables are in our favour to win the polls. One, we have spread in 22 states, with executive governors. We also have majority in National and State Assemblies. We also have majority in Kano and Lagos Municipalities and other local councils. Second to this spread is our huge investment in rails, roads and Buhari’s agrarian revolution. Buhari’s agrarian revolution is the foundation that will stabilise our economy and propel prosperity. In spite of the challenges we are having, Nigerians are aware that we have done our best in the midst of the meagre resources at our disposal. Nigerians are not ingrates and are aware that we are filling the huge pot holes left by the PDP during oil windfall years.

What’s your take on the new Electoral Act that has just been signed by President Muhammadu Buhari?

It is a good omen for our democracy. With the Act, the voter is king in Nigeria today, which in other words means that powers are back to the voters. Electoral Act 2022 is what I will like to refer to as vote-rigging vaccine. Going through Sections 47-63 of the Act, one will find out that the electoral battle has shifted to the polling units. In summary, it states that Smart Card and other relevant electronic devices shall be used for electronic accreditation and electronic transmission of results at the polling units; that any polling unit where it is not used shall be cancelled. Therefore the days of padding of the votes at the ward or local government collation centres are gone. The result is transmitted virally from the poling unit level worldwide, and the result of contested polling units can only be repeated only once within 24 hours.

How will you assess the performance of INEC in the last governorship election in Anambra State? And what is your advice to the electoral umpire on moving forward? 

Excellent is the word, in terms of transparency. However they need to upgrade and improve their electronic devices like Biomodal Voters Accreditation System. Anambra State gubernatorial result is a lesson to my great party, the APC. It’s a lesson in the sense that we bungled our primary and we were punished by the Anambra State electorate. We don’t need such punishment again, so it is a hard lesson and we must take steps to avert mistakes that can lead to our defeat in future elections.

What’s your take on the ongoing trial of Nnamdi Kanu, the Monday sit-at-home order by IPOB, and the present security situation in the South-East?

While I join our elder statesmen in pleading for his release, I will also urge IPOB which he leads to assist in stopping the Monday sit-at-home order and other activities which hinder economic development of our geopolitical zone. For the old adage admonishes that it is counterproductive to cut your nose in an attempt to cut someone’s nose.

As we are preparing for the next general elections in 2023, what’s your advice to the electorate?

For the Nigerian electorate, they’re today the kings by virtue of the 2022 Electoral Act, which is one of President Buhari’s cardinal legacies. My advice is that they should avoid vote buyers and all those who want to exploit the hunger in the land. The ballot is secret ballot system, so the electorate should maximize the secrecy of the ballot to the greatest advantage of our polity. Secondly, I urge all eligible voters to register and most importantly vote on the election date, for our voters turn-outs have been very low and worrisome. For instance, less than ten per cent turned out in the last two major elections in the country, and these are the Anambra State gubernatorial election and the Federal Capital Territory’s Area Council election. It is a paradox for one to abstain from voting and end up playing blame games when the government he did not vote into power fails. The sage says that those who fail to vote unwittingly elected bad leaders.