Mabel Benson writes that the United Progressive Party has taken bold steps in its quest to produce the next governor of Anambra State after the November 18 governorship election
“The tiger caresses its cobs with its powerful canine but tears down the enemy with the same powerful canine.” With these poetic, but impactive words, Chief Chekwas Okorie, founder and National Chairman of the United Progressive Party (UPP), handed over the three instruments with which Chief Osita Chidoka, commenced the journey to capture the number one job in Anambra State via the November 18, governorship election.
Okorie explains: “The journey he is commencing now and what we have is the journey of the tiger. He looks every inch a tiger. He will protect the assets of Anambra people. He will make Anambra develop, jobs will be created. But the enemies of Anambra, beware. The tiger is the king of the jungle.”
The instruments included the Certificate of Returns, from the party declaring him the rightful winner of the primaries that took place on August 19, in Awka, Anambra State, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), form CF-001 and the INEC nomination form.
The ceremony, which took place at the party secretariat in Abuja, was witnessed by its bigwigs amid a substantial dose of pomp and ceremonies, as would are usually expected and witnessed in any of such gathering.
Before the formal ceremony, the party boss, had appealed for a level playing field in which the people of the state would be allowed to vote in a candidate through a transparent process, devoid of any form of inducement or arm-twisting.
In this regard, two agencies, INEC and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) would have to brace up for the challenges, with the former ensuring that the situation which allowed for ballot box snatching and other crooked means of skewing the process, would be eliminated, while the latter would ensure that the influence of money would be removed.
Hear him: “I wish to appeal to the Independent National Electoral Commission, to please, comply with the promises they made to political party leaders, the promises they made to media chiefs which they assembled differently, the promises they made to pro-democracy and donor agencies and that is that the Anambra governorship election will be conducted with an upgraded card reader that will transmit results direct from the polling units to the central server.
“That was the promise that was made to all of us. And it was demonstrated before us and we all acclaimed it, acknowledged it and applauded it, because for the first time, the ordinary Nigerians, the voters, the electorate in Anambra State will be granted the opportunity to indeed choose who their governor will be.
“Once that is done, we are home and dry. Then, I wish to also recommend, if only for the Anambra election, the EFCC should be part of the monitoring team. I say this because, in 2013, we were also in that governorship election in Anambra State.
“We saw people carry sacks of money close to polling stations and were paying N5,000 they induced to vote for a particular political party. But when the attention of the police was drawn to this anomaly, the police, who had obviously been compromised, said that they were invited to maintain law and order and were not invited to chase people who were carrying money.
“Because, there is a limit to the amount of money anybody can carry at a particular point in time, and that falls within the purview of the EFCC, I therefore recommend that the EFCC should be incorporated into the monitoring agencies, so that these malfeasances and perfidy will not be allowed to repeat itself.”
Chidoka, himself, was no less upbeat at the prospect of winning the election and taking over the governorship of the state, which is seen in certain quarters as the cradle of Igboland, which he said had left the Igbo people groping in the dark, as a result of poor leadership.
The former Corp Marshal of the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) and Minister of Aviation, believes that UPP presented the most credible option towards calming the frayed nerves arising from the massive discontent in many parts of the country, giving rise to seeming uncontrollable agitations, particularly the South-east.
His take was that the grievances of the Igbo people, could find expression through a credible political party, capable of articulating all their misgivings and presenting them on the table at the national level and bringing back the right feedback that would enable the two entities strike a balance and thus eliminate or the grey areas that have allowed the mutual anger and suspicion, currently troubling the polity.
He was particularly peeved at how the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), originally formed by Okorie as the vehicle to convey this process, crashed woefully on the hard rock of personal interests and lack of commitment.
His words: “In 2003, Chief Chekwas Okorie founded the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) on the idea that all the grievances of ndi-Igbo would be channelled through a political party to engage the rest of the country. Unfortunately, that dream was betrayed. APGA became an electoral vehicle meant for the election of people whose desires and interests are the maximisation of their personal capacity and the denunciation of the people. That is why today, APGA as a party, has no position, neither does the government of Anambra State, on the agitation for the actualisation of Biafra by ndi Igbo. They have no position on the issue of restructuring of the country. They have worked with PDP and they are willing to work with APC. APGA as a party is adrift and we want to send it to its final funeral, and on this mission, we have the full backing of the Anambra people.
“And the reason why we have to do that is because we want to help Nigeria as a country to re-channel Igbo anger, to re-channel Igbo energy towards building a nation that works for everybody, towards building a country that accommodates all, towards building a country that all the constituent parts are able to join freely to build a great nation.”
To put his plan in clear perspective, Chidoka, told the audience that he would not only build the Anambra of the future, in which the people would be fully integrated into the generational terrain of knowledge economy erected on which hi-tech capacity and information technology platform, but that which recognised the major attributes that made the Igbo the driving force of Nigerian economy and a reference point internationally.
Hear him: “I want to send a message today to the people of Anambra State. Number one, Anambra State is about to start a new beginning. The journey of this tiger is the journey of a new beginning; a new beginning that will make sure that Anambra State is truly the home for all, in Nigeria and in Igboland, a journey that will make it possible for Anambra people to come back again and own their state. No more shall Anambra people be voting for people who are sponsored by forces who are not the people contesting the election. No more shall Anambra State be ruled by people whose major interest and whose efforts in the state is to line their pockets and the pockets of their party members. But more importantly, no more shall Anambra State be ruled by an ideologically vacuous bankrupt and backward party, but by the known ideology of our people, the ideology of Ndigbo, the ideology of uche, of uchu na egwu chukwu, the ideology of the restoration of our homeland, the rebuilding of our capacity as a people; the ideology of self determination and right to determine our role in Nigeria, the ideology of building a nation where no man is oppressed, the ideology of re-enacting our people’s hopes and aspirations, the desire to be part of a country where they are recognised as a free constituent of the country and where they are not relegated to being a mere 5 per cent and 95 per cent.
“Let it be known that today, the United Progressive Party has come to restore the Igbo voice in Nigeria. The United Progressive Party, has come to give hope to our people. The United Progressive Party has come to end the cries emanating from our people.
“So, the election in Anambra is not a referendum on the failed government that is existing in Anambra, it is a referendum on our future and I stand here today to say that any vote for UPP is a vote for the future of ndi Anambra, is a vote for the future of ndi Igbo.
“Of course, no more will it happen again that the maternal mortality, as it happens in Anambra as it is growing in Anambra. It is a national scandal that a state with the smallest size outside Lagos, is still talking about building 200 kilometres of roads and three flyovers. No more will happen again that out children will travel long distances to attend primary schools and secondary schools and that our public schools are in retreat, while private schools of questionable quality are in ascendency in our state.
“No more will it happen again in Anambra under my watch that our idea of security is the diversion of billions of naira in pursuit of a security system that nobody goes outside by 7p.m. If Anambra is truly secured, our night economy will begin to flourish. Our first task as governor is to make Anambra a 24-hour economy; to build a security system that will make it possible for industries to have three shifts a day, to triple the economy that is already existing in the state and to make it possible for our people to engage and to be employed fully.
“Our greatest resource is our human beings and I promise Anambra people that I will build infrastructures for the new economy; infrastructures for the IT-led development, the infrastructure that will make Anambra the home for those looking for people that will be programmers across the world, that will develop websites across the world, that will do call centres across the world. The economy of Anambra will transcend the economy of Nigeria.
“Our economy as a people is bigger than our geography. We will not be constrained by our geography. We will not be constrained by the forces that have held us down before. For, we will go out to meet the world, not with anger, not with just agitation, but with knowledge and pride in our heritage.
“I want to assure our party today, particularly the National Chairman, the National Working Committee, and the state chairman that the trust reposed on me, that I will fly party flag, I will fly the banner of service and I will hand it over without stain to those that will come after me.
“The banner that I have collected today is a banner for a new generation, is a banner for a new beginning, is a banner that will do away with all that is wrong with us and promote all that is right with us. It is a banner that will question the history that makes a people who are renowned globally as hardworking people, but who in Nigeria, are struggling to exert themselves in what we do.
“Therefore, I step away from this room today, energised by the flag that has been given to me by my party, encouraged by the support of the teeming people of Anambra State and emboldened by a generational challenge to interpret Nigeria to ndi Igbo and to interpret ndi Igbo to Nigeria.”
Indeed, the former minister, has not hidden his disdain for the incumbent governor of the state, Chief Willie Obiano, whom he accuses of not providing the needed political leadership for the people in the same manner he had failed woefully in the provision of infrastructures.
That the governor, had maintained a rather passive posture or even appears quite comfortable with the apparent poor treatment given to the Igbo people, in the current political equation in Nigeria, instead of speaking out boldly seems to have peeved him to no ends.
“Our people have had enough. Ndi Anambra cannot continue to be under a government without a conscience and a sense of responsibility towards the people; a government that has over time failed to stand up for the people when the occasion demands, yet continue with impunity. Our people are our greatest assets and deserve a government that upholds their interests and values,” Chidoka explained, recently, while inaugurating his campaign office for Orumba North and South in the state.
In fact, there seems every reason for the former minister to flaunt his bragging rights over the current issue in Nigeria. Not only has he stood up to be counted on the side of the vocal voices seeking for the Igbo man in Nigeria under the government of the All Progressives Congress, led by President Muhammadu Buhari, he has gone further to take ownership of the raison d’etat for the formation of Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), Biafran Independence Movement (BIM) and other groups, which is self-determination.
Though he seems to favour the Biafran of the Spirit, which is the late Ikemba Nnewi, Chief Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu settled for before his death, as different from the Biafra of Territory, which the separative groups are advocating, the fact that he has stood up to canvass for the major content imbedded in the two at a time when others see the issue as a no-go area, is indeed a credential he could present at the right time.
Certainly, Chidoka, it was, who practically went to Kuje Prison in Abuja, to drive home the leader of IPOB, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, after he was granted bail by Justice Binta Murtala Nyako of the Federal High Court, Abuja.
This was a time only few Igbo personalities seemed to find the courage to whisper the name of the IPOB leader, let alone identify with him in public. That the South-east governors, including Obiano, have always shown the penchant to drop the subject of Biafra like hot potatoes at a time their Ekiti State counterpart would openly attend a court session to identify with the likes of Kanu, underscores the courage of Chidoka and the few like him in Igbo land and across Nigeria this regard.
That is why for Okorie, the November 18 election is already won and lost, because it would not be fought on the basis of mere sloganeering or bogus claims of performance, but on the basis of the prevailing sentiments in the state at the moment.
Hear him: “I can tell you, as a matter of fact that UPP is contesting against UPP in the case of Anambra. We only have ourselves to beat. What that means is that we can either win or lose based on how we take advantage of what has happened. Now, APC, made itself an enemy. Nobody declared it an enemy party. It made itself an antagonist of the entire Igbo race in Nigeria. There is not a single APC leader that has had the moral courage or gumption to tell even their President to say, look, the treatment you’re giving to these people is very, very unfair.
“So, it becomes to the Igbo people like an APC policy to do them in without any scruples. So, I don’t know how any rational Igbo person, who is of voting age, will leave his house and go to the polling booth and cast his vote or her vote for a party that has made life so miserable for them. So, APC is not in contention there.
“Again, Anambra, from their political antecedents, I can tell you, is the most politically-sophisticated electorate that we have, not only in the South East, but in Nigeria. I give you instances. When every other state voted NRC, Anambra voted SDP. And the flagbearer then, who became governor, was Dr. Ezeife, a retired civil servant, who was not a money person. When every state voted PDP, Anambra voted APGA overwhelmingly. In spite of the manipulation, Anambra still recovered it through the tribunal, because the evidence was overwhelming.
“In Anambra, billionaires have contested elections and lost. In fact, there has been no billionaire that contested election in Anambra State and won. Like some people think that the Igbo is where money goes, but tell me one billionaire that has contested election in Anambra State as a governor and won. None. Andy Uba lost, Ifeanyi Uba lost, Soludo lost. None of them. Ngige didn’t win. He was rigged in even though he was not a billionaire, but he was sponsored by a billionaire family. And he lost at the tribunal.
“The APGA is coming with a very bad campaign strategy. Instead of promoting the achievement of the man, they put up the picture of the late Ikemba, Odumegwu Ojukwu as what they thought would attract votes for them. That is not an acceptable Igbo attitude or norm or tradition. We respect the dead. We do not use the dead to campaign for election. You cannot see the Yoruba using the portrait of Awolowo or the Northerners using the portrait of the Saduana. Nobody has used the portrait of Zik. It’s quite absurd to see these persons who ought to have respected the late leader, by allowing him rest in peace, evoking his portrait to portray what they say that APGA is our own.
“The PDP is already in disarray. The party is already crisis-ridden and will have to extricate itself first from the crisis of confidence amongst its leadership before it could begin to talk about giving credible fight for the governorship of Anambra State.
“So, for us, we will slice through Anambra State like a hot knife on butter in terms of winning. We can only lose if we mismanage. That’s why I said it is UPP versus UPP as far as this election is concerned. And we are managing the election with as much wisdom as God will allow us.”
No doubt, the party is basking in the euphoria of being seen as the only one possessing the right instrument that renders the melodious tunes, which strikes at the vortex of the Igbo essence at the moment.
Okorie, informs that the contest is actually against “two notorious godfathers and a Backus,” who have been rejected by the party. How true this is and far the journey of the tiger would go, remains to be seen.