Comrade Emmanuel Ezeokafor is a budding politician who contested for House of Assembly seat to represent Aguata 2 constituency in the 2019 general elections in Anambra State under the platform of Young Progressive Party, YPP. In this exclusive interview with O’STAR EZE, Comrade Ezeokafor shares his experience during the elections and his thoughts on how to make the electoral process transparent and credible while harping on the need to revive the local government system.
During the last elections, you made your first outing as a secular politician and contested for a seat. Do you think one can keep one’s integrity after vying for elective position in Nigeria?
I think it was Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida who once said that the best hardly wins elections in Nigeria. Yes, we can keep our integrity. Even though it is very difficult but it is achievable. A journey of a thousand miles starts with a footstep. If you want to change a society, it is not something you can just jump into; it takes some time and I believe that is what we are trying to achieve. I believe that if you want to keep your integrity as a politician, you should be conscious of the fact that there is a tendency that you might not win in your first trial vying for a position. The experience you gather while failing is what will guide you. A philosopher said that if you want to succeed, you have to be ready to fail. It is from your failure that you will know who are your real friends. So, with that I believe that people can still maintain their integrity if they want. And if you have to do that, you have to be ready to sacrifice a lot of things.
What inspired you to go into secular politics and are you still inspired after your experience?
The zeal to make the society a better place. That inspired us. And also for the fact that if we shy away from politics, we will leave it to those who are in politics just to enrich themselves at the expense of the people. I started to venture into politics to make a mark. To see how people of like minds can unite to change the society. I knew it was not going to be easy but at least we have made our mark. We have gone round and shared our idea with our people. It is just that that monster, vote buying truncated the process. But we are certain that when we come back with the same message during the next round of elections, people must have seen reasons why they should vote their conscience. So, I still believe that the society will be better if we continue. So, we are still trudging on.
In what ways do you think Anambra politics can be improved upon?
First of all, I would like to enjoin Mr President to continue his fight against corruption while advising that he gives it a wholistic approach and eschew being political about it. If we begin this fight holistically, I think we can get it right. If we focus our beam light on the institutions like the police, the INEC, the educational institutions, we will get it right. For instance, if a professor knows that when he involves himself in election malpractice, he may be sacked wherever he is working, he would be forced to maintain his integrity because he would not want to compromise his hard-earned position in the academic environment. Having said this, I think this is the first step we need to take; reorientation. Let the INEC have their own staff, train their own staff to know the integrity they need to protect. In a football match, you discover that the police usually back the match and face the spectators but in a situation whereby the one who is supposed to be maintaining law and order becomes the spectator as we find in our elections, then I do not know what you would expect him to do. Then the police needs to do the same, not the recent trend of giving protection to the highest bidder. Secondly, there is need to build a more confined cubicle for casting the votes. This will help people to vote their conscience. The one we are using now is a half-shielded cubicle whereby when one is casting his vote, the party agents would know when he is voting at the beginning of the ballot paper, at the middle or at the end.
How would you advise someone who is just entering into politics for the first time?
The beginners should learn from the mistakes of those who were there before them. Also, they should not make the process a do or die affair. They should remember that just as it is said that the social media does not forget, the society does not forget. What you do today can be revisited in years to come. It is good to be ambitious but do not make it do or die.
The word impossible does not exist in Nigerian politics especially at the state level. You can recall that PPA once made exploit it in Imo and Abia states, APGA also did it in Anambra and Imo states, Labour party also did it once in Ogun state. So, I believe it all boils down to the people. If YPP, a party that had no office in Anambra state, could win a senate seat in Anambra state within three months, it shows you the potential of such a party. YPP is all about the youths and I think the youths made a statement in the last elections. So, I still expect similar surprises in the forthcoming elections. If you see all the executive members of YPP, you will see that they are all youths and youths at heart. So, I believe that Anambra State is yet to see the best of YPP. 2021 is coming and YPP is going to stage another surprise in Anambra State. YPP is coming to take over because from the look of things, I think everybody is tired with what is going on in Nigeria. Even journalists know. That is why we are clamouring for investigative journalism so as to help show the people the facts of what wrongs are ongoing in the society. Our interest is to build YPP into a formidable movement where the youths can have a say.
What is the next step for you?
We have contested an election. There were winners and there were losers. After the elections, we released a statement congratulating the winners and enjoining everyone to move forward. If you were not chosen by the people today, you could be chosen tomorrow.
Your last words to young people in politics?
I will just tell my fellow youths to become more conscious of what is happening. Since 1983, young people have been told that they are the leaders of tomorrow. Yet, the same man that told them so then is still at the helm of affairs today. So, the pertinent question is, ‘when will our own time come?’ If you look at the recently released ministerial list, you will see someone who had served as house pf assembly member for years, state governor for 8 years, minister for four years and yet he is still there. If the EFCC wants to catch them, they will gather the youths, give them N1000 each and they would carry placard for them. They will send their own children abroad to get the best education preparing them to take over reins of power from them. So, it is high time we youths need to have a rethink. We youths need another kind of orientation. When Late Emeka Ojukwu and Gowon were in power, they were in their thirties. Today, if a 40 years old man wants to contest for counsellorship, people will be agitating that he is still young. If Peter Obi was not given a chance, we would not have known he is a good manager. Finally, I would like to say that it was since the local government system was pocketed by the state government that the youths stopped growing politically because I believe that if the local government system was independently operating, youths would have ample opportunity to learn the ropes of politics starting from the scratch instead of the present practice where they are forced to jump to start from House of Assembly. It is like someone who is trying to climb a tree starting from the middle instead of the bottom. So, there is a need to revive the LG system because it is from there that you groom the future politician and you know who is who.