The newly elected National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, Chief Victor Oye, recently bared his mind on a variety of issues including the place Radio Biafra.
APGA is a small party based on its national strength. Why did you choose to hop on board?
I disagree with you on the statement that APGA is a small party. How could you have said that the party does not have national spread? Let me tell you, even PDP and APC do not have our reach… they do not by all standards. APGA is a truly national political party and the biggest opposition party in Nigeria today. APGA is a massive political movement and not even a political party because in it you have people with common interests, common vision and ideology. Suffice it to say that it is a movement for people of the same ideology to be part of.
What is your vision for APGA?
The vision is to build a very strong geo-ethnic political party from where we will launch ourselves into the national political space as a political movement. You know, if you want to build a huge project, you start small; then you grow. That is the style but you may ultimately end small. That is why when you are building anything visionary, you must lay a very strong foundation, then you build on the foundation.
For instance, people talk about a super structure… if the super structure is well done and all the pillars in place are homogenous, it would be difficult for that structure to collapse because everything is harmonised. The same thing is applicable to APGA. We have started rebuilding and re-branding the party from the scratch, taking care of all the structural defects in the party. By the time we get to the national level with our full vision, it would have turned into a massive political movement. What many people do when they want to rebrand a party is that they take it from the top, hire a media company maybe to run the campaign for 12 months or 15 months, depending on their financial strength.
What they usually do is that they take it from that top, looking at your vision and what you want to do. When they produce an executive summary for you, you will see that the executive summary will just capture the immediate needs of the party. Maybe you are running a campaign for governorship or presidential election, that is where the executive summary will centre on.
But, that is not what we are doing; we are simply running a virgin campaign called branding. I’m actually looking at APGA as a new political party that just received its registration certificate from INEC. What it means is that I will put all the square pegs in square holes to start from the scratch. By the time I get the thing out of DPC (foundation level), you would have seen the kind of structure I want to build.
Systematically, we keep building it until we get to the last floor, then the picture would be clear. It would be difficult to destroy that structure because the foundation which is the super structure has been well defined. Everything is in place ingeniously; that kind of party cannot be infiltrated by fifth columnists. Such a political party can’t be assailed by political machinations and mischief. That is the kind of party I’m building. When you are building such a structure, you make sure that there is uniformity.
It is that uniformity I was talking about when I mentioned homogeneity. We will have a shared vision, everybody will know where we are coming from and where we are heading to.
That is what is called re-orientation of members of APGA. That is the kind of party I want to build. They will no longer see the political movement as a self-serving enterprise. No more; rather they would see themselves as equal stakeholders and co-owners of the party. With that nobody will go against it any longer. If you do, you are working against yourself. If you go out of the vision, you will be seen as a saboteur. It will also be difficult for you to survive in such an environment if you don’t comply with the ideals of the party.
What do you think brought a once peaceful, easy going, well blended political party like APGA to crisis?
What brought APGA to crisis was the inability of the founders of the party to entrench the ideology of the party, inprint the ideologies of the party in the minds of the followers or the members of the party. That was where the problem started and I want to correct it. So, I want de-emphasise self and in its place, we will entrench self-giving, self sacrificing so that when you are APGA, you know you have a vision and you are a stakeholder or co-owner of the party. By so doing, we will be able to build a very strong political movement that will stand the test of time. We are basically re-orientating the members and by so doing we will eliminate all unnecessary political disputes. I have lofty aims and I am a strategist. But I can’t tell you everything on paper.
Your predecessor, Chief Victor Umeh, carried the party well on his shoulders as a national chairman. But he appears to have made many enemies during the process of selection of candidates to fly the party’s flag. There were complaints in some quarters that he selected people that were not real party faithful and for that the aggrieved members cast a protest vote which cost him his victory at the polls. What’s your take on that?
You know when you are a leader, those you don’t favour will kick against you while those touched by you will praise you. When we were doing mass media law and ethics, there is what we call consequentiality and non-consequentiality theories and then the Darwin theory.
They will tell you about the rightness and wrongness of an action. You see, what you did wrong may not be wrong. We are talking about morality in this case and from what I have told you now, was Victor a saint or a villain? So the perception depends on who is looking at Victor.
But there is a perception among some party faithful that he held on to power even when his tenure had expired.
Nothing like that. You know the first term is four years then you can go for a second term. The first year he came into office was a period of crisis so there was nothing like a term. It was more or less a transition period. When he now assumed office, he served for eight years in accordance with the constitution of APGA.
Now my term is four years. If I do well I will go for a second term. If i don’t serve well in the first term, nobody will give me a second term. No rational person will do that but I know I will deliver. In fact, in the next one year, I will be done with my four-year programme.
With the 29 members of the NWC and you as the leader, are you guaranteeing that you will work well together to make APGA have teeth to bite?
We have started biting already by delivering service and enforcing party discipline among party members. That is the most important thing in any party. If there is no party discipline, then there will be rancour and people will be free to do whatever they like. This will create a bad image for the party.
Party discipline is important because when you enforce it, you are indirectly telling the people to inculcate discipline. There are rules and regulations guiding the party and you must as a member of the party conform to those rules and regulations. That is what we have succeeded in doing in the past four weeks and this is exactly the sixth week. In 30 days we will have done what many administrations could not do in six months to one year.
Your party members are currently at the tribunals contesting their election losses. Are you positive they will all emerge victorious?
For sure, I can tell you what is happening in every state and their cases at the tribunal. We are keeping tabs on all of them and in the next three months, we will be getting back their stolen mandates. I know that at the end of the day one of the achievements I will make in the next three months will be getting back the stolen mandates of many of our members who contested the last elections.
Before the erstwhile Governor Peter Obi left APGA for PDP, he was called the face of APGA. Do you have any intentions of wooing him back?
One man cannot be the face of APGA. No, no, it’s a political organisation. That was an imposition. No one man in a party of millions of people can be the face of the party. On wooing him back, did anybody ask him to go in the first place?
But, it was alleged that he was frustrated out of the party?
Listen, if you truly believe in a political party, nothing will make you shift ground. Now, to leave APGA in the heat of Jonathan’s re-election bid was a deliberate decision. Maybe he thought that leaving APGA at the time he did was playing his trump card but unfortunately he miscalculated.
So, he is now caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. What is he doing now? He is now crying more than the bereaved and looking at any available loophole to hold unto.
That is the attitude of a drowning man. If you remember my first speech at my inauguration, I said that we will reconcile all genuinely aggrieved parties; remember, genuinely aggrieved. If Peter Obi is among the genuinely aggrieved, we will reconcile with him.
Why not? Infact, since he left the party voluntarily, if he wants to come back, he can also do so voluntarily.
If he doesn’t come for reconciliation, will you approach him?
Did he approach us before leaving? Section 39 of the Nigerian constitution is clear on freedom of association. So, he has not committed any offence by defecting from APGA to PDP. At the time he did it, it was a common norm.
Defection is normal in any political environment but I can tell you that by the judgment of the Supreme Court, it will be difficult for a serving elected officer to jump ship just like that without losing his seat.
I believe that such a provision should be made expressly in the constitution; though it’s there and also in the constitution of all the political parties, that if you defect to another political party as a serving officer, you lose all your rights and privileges because that seat belongs to the party not you as an individual. You contested on the platform of the party and now you just defected without consulting anybody as if the office was your private property.
That’s wrong. And you know, if you create it, it will help to create stability in the party and it will ensure continuity and party discipline. People will be conscious of what they do and party supremacy will become meaningful. This is because you know that if you go against the rules and regulations of the party, you will get the hammer. But if it was as free as it used to be, if I challenge you in my party, you will move to another party and call my bluff.
That was why we had crisis at the National Assembly; where the leadership of the National Assembly decided to do whatever they wanted without caring for the position of the party.
With the National Assembly as a pointer, do you think the era of godfatherism in politics is gradually fading away?
I don’t think it has to do with that. I call it laxity. When the system is lax, people capitalise on it. For instance, if the constitution should be followed strictly, Bukola Saraki emerged the Senate President, he cannot rejoin PDP otherwise he will lose his seat in the Senate automatically.
If the party says okay, he will be expelled. He would loose his seat, that’s the implication of that provision of the constitution but because the leadership at the centre played an acquiescing role and laissez-faire attitude to political issues. Otherwise, if where rules and regulations are enforced, they wouldn’t have done what they did without referring to the party.
How does it feel being called up to serve the party on this capacity?
Well, I’m happy and I thank them for their magnanimity. I advise them to come back onboard in order for us to reshape the party and make it a national political movement of envy.
Now that you have taken over the baton from Chief Umeh, are you giving the assurance that the party will win subsequent elections?
I’m not God and I will always put him first. Then, secondly, my vision is that in the next four years APGA will be in a position to control at least 10 states.
How do you hope to achieve that?
We have started already. Very soon we will get the governorship of Abia State that was stolen. We will get Nasarawa, Taraba, Imo, Enugu and Ebonyi states. Then, we will slug it out in Bayelsa. In fact, you will see what we will do. And some Northern states will be favourable to us by the time we hit Nasarawa, Taraba, Plateau, Kogi and the rest. We are coming. We even have a new anthem or you haven’t heard of it? The song says it’s a party of good people for the good of the nation.
What is your view of Governor Obiano’s administration?
Governor Willie Obiano without doubt has done pretty well with his four point agenda. The dividends are pouring in. I was in the governor’s team that went on a special inspection of the flyovers and they are massive, ambitious projects. Then, the one at Aguata junction will take care of the erosion that has threatened the lives of people living in that area and has even flushed out some houses.
The whole of that road on completion will give the city a new look and eliminate all the traffic we have always had on that road. The project will cost about N8.5bn on completion. I actually asked the governor how he has been able to get around with the huge projects he has at hand despite the economic crunch and he told me that he is shifting the payment plan or duration, Instead of paying you N5m at a stretch, he will agree with you and pay it in twofolds of two years.
You know he is a financial guru and I think he is leveraging on his expansive mileage in financial management and strategic planning. That’s why we are lucky. He has done very well and I know it’s not everybody that will be satisfied.
Generally, he has done very well. Look at security; Anambra State is the second state in Nigeria where you go to bed and sleep with your two eyes closed. This was unlike two years ago when the state was a den of robbers and kidnappers. Here, no kidnapper can kidnap anyone and go scot-free. The penalty is that your house will be demolished and you will be fighting for your life as well. This is one governor that is very pragmatic; he doesn’t pander to undue emotions. If he sees what is right, he goes for it, if he sees what is wrong, he will tell you outright.
That’s why I like him. If he were not that kind of man, I wouldn’t have had anything to do with him. He is a very intelligent rich man, very empathic and passionate about his job.
He has indescribable strength. He is somebody who can sit in Exco meeting from 9am to 6pm without getting up from his chair. I don’t advise him to continue working like that. I don’t have his kind of energy. I advise him to catch some rest. Life is about being alive to do the job you want to do. If you are dead, you can’t do anything. I pray that God will sustain him and continue to give him the strength to do the things he is doing for the state because he is passionate about the state. He loves working for the state.
You see, when people talk about this governor I just laugh. Let me tell you, this is a man who was in Houston enjoying his life. God has given him everything. Look at his house in the village, people think he knew he was going to be a governor when he built that house but he is a man who loves good things and he provided it for himself only to be made a governor. It’s just an icing on the cake.
Let me tell you what God did with him. He first blessed him with riches and then prepared him for this office; so that when he come into this office he would be making sacrifices for the people of this state. There is nothing he is enjoying there. A man that doesn’t sleep? When he was not a governor, he would go on a cruise with his wife and stay there for one week, enjoying himself and dancing makosa. But, here, all his thoughts and interests are geared towards the development of Anambra State. He is the only governor out of the 14 of them that pays salaries steadily on the 25th of every month despite the financial crunch.
Recently, four South-East governors of Enugu, Ebonyi, Abia and Imo states rose from a meeting and declared their no-recognition stance on Radio Biafria. What’s your reaction to that?
That they are South-East governors does not make them the mouthpiece of the Igbo people. That is the truth. The problem the Igbos have as a result of their mentality is that they don’t have a king, as the Igbo saying goes. That is exactly what we want to correct in APGA. We want to show people that we have a leadership structure in APGA where I know I have a national leader in the person of the governor of Anambra State. The constitution defines my role and the role of the national leader so, there shouldn’t be any conflict between the two offices.
Our people are too ambitious, I don’t want to use the word over-ambitious because I don’t want to derogate them. Everybody has ambition but if it becomes too much, that’s where a problem comes in and people begin to do things that are not proper. I don’t operate in that realm and I know our governor did not attend that meeting. He may have had a tight schedule and I also know that the governor of Ebonyi was represented by his deputy. For them to speak about Radio Biafria was going beyond their mandate. They should spoken on issues bordering on the governance of their states.
When you start talking about Radio Biafria, you are now delving into the emotions of the Igbo people and that is a no-go area. We know that Biafra on paper is no more but in the minds of people, the cause of the war and the sufferings people went through can never be erased from their sub-consciousness. I wouldn’t want people to play politics with such an issue because it is sensitive.
I want to state here, quote me, it’s high time the Igbo people spoke with one voice and avoid being divided by untoward desires for self. We should bury our differences, bury the hatchet and embrace the purposefulness in the pursuit of our common goal. It’s unfair for anybody to derogate the Igbos particularly the Igbos themselves. Igbo people demand better treatment in Nigeria. Those of us who witnessed the civil war in Nigeria will tell you that we deserve a better deal in Nigeria.
We have suffered humiliation and marginalisation; we have suffered all kinds of chastisement for no justification. People say the Igbo man is too ambitious and all that but I ask; who doesn’t like money? Tell me any person that doesn’t like money…Igbo people are enterprising in nature; they are the salt of the earth. Anywhere you go in this world, you must see an Igbo man.
Anywhere you don’t see an Igbo man, then it’s not habitable by human beings. These are people who are ready to sacrifice anything wherever they reside for the good of the people there. Go to Lagos and see the mansions they have there, I have a house also at a choice place in Ikeja, Lagos.
What if there is an altercation tomorrow, of course I will lose it but those structures contribute to the beauty and metropolitan character that Lagos is known with.
Then why are the Igbo people not thinking home especially the well to do ones?
No, they are thinking home now.
Is it not rather late?
It is not late. Look at JUHEL Pharmaceuticals on a tour of the facilities in that company. It took us over one and half hours to do that. Everybody was amazed at what we saw and it is owned by an Igbo man. That company is there and the governor is trying to give them 10 mega watts of electricity through captive electricity to encourage the man to continue in what he is doing. That’s a creative and visionary governor and he believes so much in quality work.
By the time he finishes his second term in Anambra State, the state will become a London of Africa, quote me anywhere. Forget all those people junketing and making noise all over the place now. They cannot match Obiano’s passion and commitment to work.
Source: New Telegraph