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 Chief Victor Umeh, Chairman, Chief Willie Obiano Re-election Campaign Committee
& former National Chairman, APGA

Anambra Times engaged the Chairman of the Chief Willie Obiano Re-election Campaign Organisation and former APGA National Chairman, Chief Victor Umeh in a fairly lengthy chat at his Agulu Uzigbo residence. He discussed factors that were responsible for Governor Obiano’s landslide victory, assessed INEC’s conduct of the just concluded governorship election, talked about Emeka Ojukwu’s defection to APC and his bumpy journey to the Senate. He also seized the opportunity to pay a glowing tribute to our fallen hero, Chief Alex Ifeanyichukwu Ekwueme (GCON).
Enjoy the conversation.
Q: How would you describe Governor Obiano’s victory at thelast gubernatorial polls?
A:The landslide victory recorded by the governor in the election was a reflection of the people’s deep appreciation for the great jobs he has done in the state in the past three years and seven months.It was very easy for our people to see through what he has done, comparing it with what they have seen in the past. And also looking at the monumental falsehood unleashed against the governor, our people were able to separate all those things and came to a just conclusionthat Governor Obiano has done well and that being the case there was no need to change what he is doing in meeting the needs of the people. So because of his programs that torched the lives of our people, particularly the choose-your-project initiative which he gaveN20million to every community and another N20million after the first one in the year, you could see that he was able to touch 181 communities in the state.There is no place you will go without seeing one thing you can attribute to Obiano’s achievement.That was largely responsible for the even spread of the victory in the entire 21 local government areas.
Security of lives and property remains the main key that drive’s development.If there is no security, nothing will function.So, he dealtdecisively with the issue of security within the first six months of his administration.People thought it was a fluke, thinking that things will go back to the old ways, but he sustained it for the entire period.
Another thing is that we campaigned aggressively across the entire 21 local government areas down to communities. Our robust campaign afforded us the opportunity of talking directly to the people giving them several massages.One significant advantage Obiano had over other candidate was the platform through which he contested for this election, APGA. APGA has been the reason for the progress we have experienced in Anambra State in past 11years. This is in addition to the fact that the party has a spiritual connection with the plight of Ndi Igbo in Nigeria.From the registration of this party we envisioned that the party will be used to drive the political process and fight for the rights of Igbo people and other oppressed people in Nigeria. The initial membership of the party which had Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu gave the party the leverage it has over the other parties and because the party offered progressive government to the State for 11years, it was difficult to separate the people from the party.So, over this time,our people have come to hold on tightly to APGA as their ownparty. That why they say in Igbo language that“Nkea bu nke anyi,” (this is our own).Though the concept of “Nkea bu nke anyi”deeply etched in our people the need to preserve the party,the driving impetus for this victory can be traced to Obiano’s performance.The combination of these factors cannot be beaten by anybody - good governance and good political platform.
Q: You have been around in Anambra State politics for a very long while.Has any past governor won at this scale?
A: No!Nobody has won in all the Local Government Areas in one election.The nearest to this performance was Governor Obiano’s first election in 2013.Because APGA had done well in the state and the people were happy with what APGA had done, coupled with our well co-ordinated campaign, APGA won in 20 Local Governments out of 21 Local Governments.But because Obiano lifted the bar in good governance,it was very easy to march into the remaining one Local GovernmentArea and we made it 21 over 21Local Government Areas.
The number of Local Governments in our possession would have diminished to maybe 6 and we would have been defeated in the election. But because Obiano held the government together and was able to apply visionary leadership, introducing new thing that we never had in the previous administration, it was very easy for our people to say let’s give him everything.
Q: Given the threats before the election from other parties,were you at anytime afraid that these other parties will crush APGA?
A: I have been in Anambra politics for 19years now without break and I know the political dynamics in this state. I know the institutions that play critical decisive rolls during elections. I was also aware of the parting of ways between APGA and Peter Obi, the former governor. I was also aware of the grand design of conspiracy and blackmail unleashed against Governor Obiano aimed at tarnishing his public esteem and image. Too many lies where told against him and I saw where they were heading.That was what informed my decision to lead the campaign because I was convinced that Obiano did well comparably in his first term in office.Putting his achievements side by side with what Obi did in his first term, Obiano can be said to be way ahead of GovernorObi in his first term in office.
I wasn’t spared either as the major stakeholder of the party. They also took on me to smear my reputation before the public ahead of the election.After considering all this, I decided on my own to come out and lead the campaign as the chairman of Obiano Re-election Campaign. I had to design the structure from the scratch and united the party and headed to deal with our opponents.Before then it was very dicey, I must say, because despite the great job the Governor did they tried to spin it around against him with very dangerous propaganda that bordered on misappropriation of public funds which I know was not true.So by the time we took off with the campaign, we worked very hard to turn public perception.Because I was involved, I know the critical platforms to debunk all those lies.By the time I engaged them persistently the whole perception changed.People were able to see that they were being misled by the lie that was being fed to them.
By the third week to the election, it was evidently clear to all the stakeholders in the state that the former governor was on a mission to assassinate the character of Obianounjustly. I bore him witnesses at critical fora and people were able to believe me instead of the former governor and all these helped us inrestoring public confidence in the ability of the Governor to continue to deliver the dividend of democracy to the people. The publications that were produced and distributed to the people opened there eyes.We had to involve clergy men to take guided tour of some of the projects Obiano executed and they were overwhelmed with what they saw and they went back to theircongregations with the truth because it is only the truth that can set anybody and community free.During elections people cannot make informed decision if the truth is not made available to them. So, these werethe ways we were able to win back the electorate to the extent that about one week to the polls, the former governor and his team were confronted by very angry audience across the state during their campaigns.
Q:In specific terms, what were the factors that militated against these two major parties in this election? I am talking about the PDP and APC. 
A:I spoke about the platform initially. APGA towers above PDP and APC in terms of acceptance by our people.Our people see APGA as their own party. The politics in Nigeria have been run on a tripod - North, West and East.And in the politics of the past years; sentiment had played this tripod up at every pointing time. The first republic, we had NPC in the North, Northern People’s Congress and we had the Action Group in the West, in the East we had NCNC.So, political power was shared by these three parties in the first republic.In the second republic we had NPN, National Party of Nigeria in the North, we had Unity Part of Nigeria in the West and we had Nigeria PeoplesParty in the East and political power was shared on the bases of this tripod. And later on there was Alliance for Democracy in the West, the APP, All People’s Party in the North. Ekwueme midwifed the formation of PDP which towered above the Southeast.It had Northern collaborators during the registration process.People like Solomon Lar, Mallam Adamu Ciroma and the rest of them from the G34.So in the first four years of that republic, PDP did well but the APP survived in the North, keeping the core Northern States, then AllianceforDemocracy swept the Southwest. PDP took over the Southeast because of the promise Ekwueme got that he will become the president of Nigeria through PDP.We congregated around PDP and that was why PDP was able to win in the five Southeast States in 1999.But the perfidy that played out in PDP became unacceptable to our people. After Ekwueme had firmly established the PDP and wanted to contest for presidency, there was a national conspiracy against him probably because he was Igbo. They went to the prison and brought out Obasanjo from the Southwest and foisted him on the PDP and used their strength to make him candidate of PDP. That was how Obasanjo become President. He had nothing to do with PDP.He was in the prison when the party was registered; he was also in prison when PDP went for the first national election which was the local government election on the 5th of December 1998. We were all a part of that process. So,when they short changed Alex Ekwueme, some of us left PDP as early as 2001to go and look for a party that our people can call their own party the way the Southwest had AD and the North had APP because PDP had becomeno man’s party as it were then.That was actually what led to our struggle to register All Progressive Grand Alliance. I was one of the first few persons that midwifed this idea and I resigned from the PDP to pursue that program. So, the party is wearing that garb of the party that has replaced the NPP and the NCNC for the Igbo. If Nigeria had been run with even hands, APGA wouldn’t have retained the emotional attachment of the Southeast people.But day by day it became obvious that we are being marginalized in the political processes in Nigeria, that the Igbos are not treated along the same line with the rest of the country.So, the party assumed an image of a political platform leading a struggle for the emancipation of the Igbo people who are being badly treated.In this election, PDP and APC came with a disadvantage of being two parties that have been in government, and they have not done much for our people.So, it was easy for us to use APGA to mobilize our people.And the action of the current federal government in the past two years had made our people more angry than ever before because we feel that we have not been so badly treated like the present government we have in Nigeria unless they change from tomorrow.So,when we campaigned, it was easy for our people to see our positions and to that extent APGA was way up above PDP and APC in that order before the electorate.
Looking at what APC government had done in some surrounding states like Kogi and Imo States; we lashed unto their failures to open the eyes of our people.If they are asking our people to jettison APGA that has given them quality governance in the past 11years to embrace APC, we drew their attention to what has been happening in Imo State and Kogi State, where salaries were not paid to workers, people committed suicide because their salaries were not paid and the governor of Imo State is building statues of failed leaders across Africa while he’s owing the state workers their wages.So, our people said they don’t want those kinds of government in Anambra State. Comparatively we were able to use constructively, the disappointments APC states around us have rendered to their people to tell them that it’s better for them to keep the one they have that is meeting their needs.If APGA is not a part of the central government and it has done so well for them, why should they gamble with uncertainty?The first law of nature is to keep that which is good because good things are very difficult to come by.So our people opted to cling very tenaciously to APGA and Obiano in this election.
Q:How do you see the deployment of card readers and the general performance of the INEC in this election?
A: In this election, the attitude of INEC was up to 95% positive. They had good attitude. INEC was determined to conduct credible, free and fair election from the design; and one critical thing they did that saved the election from being manipulated was their refusal to accept list of the adhoc staff from APC because most times they take adhoc staff list from the candidate of the ruling party at the centre.They have been doing it in Anambra State in the past years, leading to fraudulent elections in Anambra State.But this time they didn’t. The APC candidate has no adhoc staff working for INEC, so INEC was able to be in firm control of the election itself. The only place they failed but not in great number was the issue of card readers.Some card readers didn’t function but their technicians were around.Even in my own ward, two card readers didn’t function.It may be as a result of sabotage because these are some of the ways you can sabotage election.You can send card readers that would not work in the area where an opponent is very strong, like Agulu-Uzoigbo Ward. AGPA has won election in my ward for 11years.They have not failed any election here, so in every election my Ward is a strong place for the party and they are aware that am too serious about this election.So when two card readers didn’t work, I had to run round to get the INEC people with a backup plan. There were no alternative card readers but the technician worked on the two card readers and they started working by 1pm, one hour before the closing of voting and I got similar reports of challenges with card readers in two places across the state; but you know we have 4,608 polling units, meaning 4,608 card readers.The incidence of card reader failure was insignificant. Where card readers didn’t work may not be up to 50 in the entire state or maybe far less than that and it didn’t make any difference in the quality of the election.Where the technicians failed to rectify the faults, there were no manual accreditation. From the results that came and the reports we received at the collation centre, incidence of card reader failure was very minimal. So, it didn’t affect the outcome of the election.I would in answer to your question, commend INEC for their general attitude towards the election. What they did in Anambra State on Saturday 18th November, 2017 remains the best election ever conducted in this State by the electoral commission. Nevertheless, I need to point out that they need to ensure that now that card reader has been made lawful for use during elections they must ensure that they increase their capacity in the use of card readers for elections by ensuring that the card readers are made to function without any difficulty in the future and if it is possible for them that they can configure and deploy two card readers to every polling unit, so that in the event that one fails they could activate another one.
Q: Please tell us how you feel about Emeka Ojukwu’s defection to APC?
A: Emeka Ojukwu defection to APC was a great disservice to what his father represented in his life time.It was very unfortunate and we considered it a very grave mistake by him.But having said that, I was able to point out that the Igbos have followed Dim Odumegwu Ojukwu’s legacy and political philosophy because his father lived a life of selfless service.He was the son of a billionaire, he abandon his father’s wealth and took to struggle to emancipate his people.That was why he led the Biafra struggle as head of the state.His father’s wealth was used to fight the cause of Biafra that even today the remnant of his assets are still littering all over the country, some of them were abandoned property after the war which took long litigation to recover a few. His father was somebody who was not given to material acquisitions.There was something I said about Ojukwu when he died. I said he was head of state ofBiafra and Biafra was the entire old eastern region. Ojukwu never had a plot of land given to him by government anywhere. Even where he built his house finally at Enugu GRA, he bought the place from an individual yet he had been around since 1982.He never approached any government in South-East region for any plot of land.The one he had he bought it with his money.His father was also not materialistic. I remember in one of my discussions with him, he told me that you must separate the acquisition of wealth from leadership.If you want to provide leadership, you must think little about the material things.You live by what is available to your office. If you chose to be a billionaire, you don’t go near leadership. He is a simple man and sometimes he will stay without money but nobody will know.
When I heard the rumor that Emeka Ojukwu wanted to decamp to APC, I called him severally but he didn’t take my calls.Then I sent him a text massage where I told him that I heard he intends to decamp to APC the next day. I told him to think of what his father would have done when facedwith the same circumstance. I urged him to think through it again. I sent him that text but he didn’t reply me, and the next day he joined APC.So I can now say that our people loved Ojukwu because of what he represented and they are following his political ideals, his vision and all that.  Igbos don’t follow sons of the leaders, they follow leaders and what they stood for and what they did that stood out in the sands of time.What theyfollow is not the individual but the actions of the individual, actions of the leader are the things that attach people to him.So, Emeka Ojukwu has not replaced his father in terms of leadership qualities. That he defected to APC is of no consequence. I was asked then if his defection will have any impact in the election and I said his defection will have a zero impact on the election and when the election came and there was credible election and APGA won in Nnewi North, his local government, wining in his ward at the same time.So his defection wasn’t noticed. For him to live his father’s house will not lead to the bringing down of his father’s house, so his father’s house remains. When a man departs from his father’s legacies, his father’s legacies will remain, so we don’t count properties in leadership, what we count are the things you represent while providing leadership.
Q: If tomorrow he decides to return back to APGA, what will you advice the party?
A: Is up to him.Political party is an assotiation that you can leave and come back when you wish to come back.There is no door locking anybody out except where you are expelled by the party.It’s only when the party expels you for anti-party activity or for fraud or crime that you may not return to the party as of right.So political parties are associations and there are constitutional provisionsguaranteeing membership rights except themember commits fraud or crime and the party expels him or her.In that case the person’scriminal actions will constitute a bar to his or her return to the party except the party pardons the person.So if you leave a party without the party sending you out, you can return to the party.In this case he decamped to another party.There was no time APGA asked him to live the party.In fact, before his defection he was a member of the board of trustees of our party.We had always given him all the privileges as the son of Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, Ikemba Nnewi and Eze Igbo Gburugburu. Personally, I like him a lot because he is a son of Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu but I disagree with this action he took completely.So,if he wants to return, it’s up to him to come back and if he comes back, he is welcome.But he shouldknow that he has disappointed the people by what he did.He will need to stay for some time to win back the affection of APGA family.
Q: Just as APGA was celebrating their victory, the Court of Appeal gave judgment which many people think is in your favour, can you comment on that?
A: I went to the Court of Appeal. I was theappellant. So if my appeal succeeded, I was the one that won. I went to the Court of Appeal to challenge the fraudulent judgment Peter Obi obtained on February 29th, 2016, with which he was able to truncate the conduct of the re-run of the election in Anambra Central senatorial district schedule for March 5th, 2016.And when the order came that the INEC should not conduct the election without a candidate from the PDP, it was very bizarre for the simple reason that the re-run election has been firmly establish by the Supreme Court to be for those candidates that took part in the canceled election and those who are qualified to stand for that election.If you are a candidate in canceled election and you are the reason for the cancelation of the election for non-qualification to stand for that election, you will not take part again. The Supreme Court has decided that since 2009 in a famous case of Labour Party versus INEC. So when that judgment came it was a slap on the Supreme Court judgment and it flew in the face of that judgment. I wasn’t happy with that and the man behind it was Peter Obi who did not take part in Anambra Central senatorial election in 2015.So when I got that election nullified, the PDP candidate, Uche Ekwuneife was disqualified by the judgment of the Court of Appeal. She left and went to APC and sought to contest that re-run and failed.Then Peter Obi got his name to be sent to INEC by the PDP as a replacement to Uche Ekwunifeso that he could run the election.That was a total absurdity and knowing that it was not the law, I challenged the judgment. I sought for leave to appeal against it and I was granted the leave and I appealed against the judgment. And INEC the umpire knowing that that judgment was not in consonance with the subsisting binding law of the existing Supreme Court in a similar matter refused to obey it but rather appealed against the same judgment.So Peter Obi and his people chose to frustrate the hearing of the appeal because they know the obvious judgment based on the law. Instead of allowing the Court of Appeal to hear the matter they frustrated the appeal with frivolous interlocutory appeals to the Supreme Court and finally the Court of Appeal was able to hear the appeal on the 18th of October this year, paving the way for the judgment to be delivered on 20th November and the obvious happened.The Court of Appeal restated the law that PDP will not take part in the election having lost their chance by fielding an unqualified candidate as required by law and that being the case, time for change of candidate has since lapsed before the first election was conducted. The Court of Appeal went further to give order that the election should be conducted within 90 daysbecause the PDP has also come to argue at the Court of Appeal that the election should no longer take place because the 90 daysordered by the first judgment has lapse.So the Court ofAppeal remade the order and reinstated the 90 days to run from 20th November and excluded PDP.
That judgment came on 20th of November and declaration of Willie Obiano as the winner of that governorship election was done on 19th November; so these two events came just 24 hours apart. What this shows is that God is at work because the gang that was pursuing Obiano is the same gang pursuing me. God decided to resolve the issue at the same time and we give glory to Him.What happened in Anambra Central senatorial district has been very painful because we have remained without having a Senator for two years and the terrible thing about the whole thing is that it was Peter Obi who was behind it, frustrating his people from having a Senator in a contest he has no business with, but he used his evil influence to hold down the senatorial district without having a Senator yet he speaks about egalitariansociety, how people must be upright, how people must be saintly in their activities yet behind him you find tons of illegal activities and fraud.But God I believe hasa purpose for what has happened.One lesson one must take out from the entire episode both the senatorial election issue andgovernorship election was that God came out very stronglyto show the people that he is in charge of all the affairs of men and that no man can play God. All the things Peter Obi said openly, that Obiano will not go back to Government House, Awka, he will be there to see Obiano sworn in on 17th March, 2018 to continue in office, and Victor Umeh he said will never go to Senate, if it pleases God, very soon that will be determined and I will go there to represent our people. Somebody who thinks that he will bea spanner or a clog in the wheel of progress of his people cannot be a good leader.What he is claiming to be is not what he is and this election has exposed him.People who held him in high esteem have no regard for him anymore because what he did against Obiano was uncalled for, unjustified and cannot be a measure of nobility; something that young people could look up to and emulate.So he just showed himselfas a terrible example of how people should conduct themselves in public life.
Q:You’re probably aware that we once interviewed Dr Alex Ekwueme. Would you like to pay a tribute to him on our pages?
A: I will say that Igbo nation has lost a great son given to us by God. Dr. Alex Ekwueme came from Oko in Anambra State and he lived to climb the ladder to the top most height in Nigeria, both in public life and business particularly in professional life as an architect.He was a success in allramifications, rising to become the first vice president of Nigeria to be produced by the Igbo people.He led a life of intellectual brilliance and he brought his influence to bear on the political processes in Nigeria since joining politics in 1978.Between 1978 till the day he passed on, on 19th November, 2017, Ekwueme remained a statesman, a man with a very big stature in national discourse.Anytime he spoke, he makessense and people reasoned. It was argued, that the coupe of 1983 carried out by Buhari was orchestrated to stop Ekwueme from becoming the President of Nigeria in 1997 because of his tribe of origin.It can be argued but that was the general perception.He joined the life of political struggle thereafter, having been detained in the prison while his president is left to live in his mansion for the period under that military junta.He got a greater sense of marginalization as an Igbo man and in one of his interviews, he said that it was absurd that the person who was the president of Nigeria was not torched by the military junta but himself as a vice president who merely executed the president’s instructions was taken to prison and after long years in detention he was set free having been found not to have committed any crime.So from that time his life as an Igbo man and Nigerian got reshaped and he started navigating towards doing things that will bring his people back to relevance in Nigeria.
Ekwueme at the 1994 constitutional conference was the one that argued for rotational presidency and propose the 6 zonal geopoliticalstructures which Nigeria operates today even though it’s not enshrined in the constitution.He was the one that proposed North-East, North-West, North-Central, South-East, South-West and South-South.These were his creation and they are adopted in the things we do now, though not enshrined the constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria.He also proposed power sharing and proposed 6 vice-presidents to make sure that every part of Nigeria has a sense of belonging in power sharing.These are the noble things he did to attempt to achieve the elusive unity of Nigeria nation that has been bedeviled by agitations and complains of exclusion and marginalization of the minorities and even the Igbos that is a dominant tribe. He led that struggle. He cut for himself an image of a complete Igbo gentle man in his lifetime.He lived and died in our mist as a great son of Igbo land.On his death at the age of 85years, we will mourn him because we will miss an intellectual among us, a very quiet, reserved statesman, respected all over Nigeria.We can only wish his soul eternal rest and pray God to plant more people like Ekwueme in Igbo land. We pray that God forgives him any mistake he might have made because we are human, we can make mistakes and grant his soul eternal rest.

“I was convinced that Obiano did well comparably in his first term in office. Putting his achievements side by side with what Obi did in his first term, Obiano can be said to be way ahead of Governor Obi in his first term in office.”

Though the concept of “Nkea bu nke anyi” deeply etched in our people the need to preserve the party, the driving impetus for this victory can be traced to Obiano’s performance”

“So, these were the ways we were able to win back the electorate to the extent that about one week to the polls, the former governor and his team were confronted by very angry audience across the state during their campaigns”.

“After Ekwueme had firmly established the PDP and wanted to contest for presidency, there was a national conspiracy against him probably because he was Igbo. They went to the prison and brought out Obasanjo from the Southwest and foisted him on the PDP and used their strength to make him candidate of PDP.”
“INEC was determined to conduct credible, free and fair election from the design; and one critical thing they did that saved the election from being manipulated was their refusal to accept list of the adhoc staff from APC because most times they take adhoc staff  list from the candidate of the ruling party at the centre”.

Igbos don’t follow sons of the leaders, they follow leaders and what they stood for and what they did that stood out in the sands of time. What they follow is not the individual but the actions of the individual, actions of the leader are the things that attach people to him.”

“If he wants to come back…he is welcome”

“People who held him in high esteem have no regard for him anymore because what he did against Obiano was uncalled for, unjustified and cannot be a measure of nobility; something that young people could look up to and emulate.”

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