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Anambra 2021: Money can’t influence choice of our flag-bearer — Odefa

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Hon. Ali Odefa who is the National Vice Chairman of the PDP in the South East in this exclusive interview with Orient Editor, CHARLES OTU and SUNDAY ELOM N (which is the conclusion of the earlier published part) maintains that the money-bag politics of Anambra PDP aspirants will not influence who emerges the Party’s candidate during its proposed primary election.

He also lamented the parlous state of affairs, governance and insecurity in the nation with a conclusion that whereas, Nigerians were concerned mainly with the campaign for Chibok girl’s release, today, their chorus is; BringBackNigeria. Excerpts!

All the 16 governorship aspirants in your party for the Anambra State gubernatorial election seem to be moneybags, how will you ensure equity, fairness and credibility in the primaries?

There are 16 aspirants in the party, what does that show you? People have confidence in the PDP. That is why they have so much faith because they believe in the party. That is why we have so many aspirants who want to run on our platform. If the platform was not viable, if the party was not good, if the party was not acceptable to the people or popular to the people, nobody would want to come and waste his money to become an aspirant in the party; nobody would want our nomination.

But this is a sign that will tell you that people are interested in the party and what I will tell you is that the national working committee, the zonal party and the leaders of the party have resolved that we want to get Anambra right this time. How we want to achieve that is to ensure that there is a level playing field for everybody to operate and of course, the processes will be free and fair so that the best candidate will emerge and then we will go ahead and face the other parties. I don’t think there are other parties that have the capacity to win us in this election.

 How do you manage the fallouts in the aftermath of the primaries?

You know even in a family, there are still disagreements, crisis, but what makes the difference is when there are crisis, we should be able to put mechanisms for crisis management and that, we are going to put in place. Obviously, out of the 16, only one person will emerge but we will manage the crisis or whatever that will be the aftermath of the primaries. People only get very agitated when the process is manipulated to favour an individual. But when the process is not manipulated and everybody is seeing the transparency of the process, you will see that every other person will fall in line.

It is like the 2018 presidential convention that was held in Port Harcourt. It was flawless. It was open. It was free and fair and all the other people who lost in that contest joined hands together and moved the party forward. And in any case, of course you know that PDP did very well in that election. So, we are adopting the same in Anambra. Even though human beings are naturally dynamic and of course everybody has the right to associate with whoever he wants to associate with but as a party, we will do our best, put in a lot of mechanisms to see if we can resolve internal crisis or disagreement that may occur after the primary election. But I assure you it will be minimal.

What about the role money will play? Will your party not be influenced by money?

No, no, no, the party will not be influenced by money. You see, that is why I said earlier that what causes our loss before now in Anambra State is that the processes are manipulated to favour an individual, perhaps the moneybags or whatsoever and when we do that, an unpopular person is going to emerge.

Once an unpopular person emerges, everybody will leave the battle and say the party should go ahead and do it but if as I gave you the instance of the presidential convention, Saraki lost in that election but he became the DG of the campaign. He participated actively in the campaign. A lot of people who lost participated actively in that campaign. Tambuwal lost but he participated actively in the campaign. So, we are going to adopt the same. Those people are even more moneybags than the ones we have in Anambra.

With the number of people leaving your party and those who probably will still have the intention to leave; do you think your party will bounce back to power in the 2023 presidential election?

Like I said before, human beings are dynamic in nature. Anyone who wants to leave has one reason or the other why he/she wants to leave. When you try to make people see reasons why they shouldn’t jump from party to party and they refuse, then you let them go.

Truly, people who jump from party to party are people without any integrity. These are what in the Southwest they call, “Amala politicians,” anywhere benefits. If it is not that you are looking for where you will continue to be a dictator and hold on to power, why are you jumping from party to party?

In the United States of America where we are patterning our democracy after, there are families that have been in one party for close to a decade. A generation will belong to one party because it is an ideology. People belong to a party because of ideology but here people belong because of what they are going to get from that party. The governor of Ebonyi left because he was promised a presidential ticket and now the governors of APC have said they are throwing their presidential ticket open.

So, in a local parlance, “him game don cut.” Why is Ben Ayade leaving PDP to go to APC? His simple reason was that he wants to help the president to connect Cross River with the centre. This is a confirmation of arthritis of the brain because even as a state, whether you are in the opposition or not, your statutory rights from the federal government, you must have it. What else are you going to do?

So, by 2023, PDP is now the beautiful bride that Nigerians are looking up to. From all available indications, you can see that the APC has failed Nigerians woefully. You can see the exchange rate of the dollar to naira today. It is affecting all of us, but my happiness is that both the street urchins that are praising them every day and the big man in Abuja go to the same market. There is no market for APC and there is no market for PDP. We are all suffering it. Look at the insecurity today. The bandits in the north are kidnapping APC, PDP, Christians, muslims and themselves.

So, all what they have brought upon us, luckily, we the oppositions that are ordinary Nigerians are not the only people suffering it, they too are suffering it. Our children go to the same school. If you are taking your child to school, they won’t ask you if you are PDP or APC. In the higher institutions, our children go to the same institutions. The decadence in the educational system is affecting the APC children, PDP children, APGA children. Everybody is suffering it.

So, PDP is the hope of Nigerians by 2023. Luckily they have trimmed down the numbers of the parties and it makes voting very easy. In 2023, in the ballot paper, PDP will stand out. When people go to the polling units and look at the ballot papers, they will be looking at insecurity, hunger, starvation, kidnappings, banditry and everything on that ballot paper and they will have no option but to vote where there will be safety.

Those days it used to be bring back our girls, now it is bring back our Nigeria. Bring back the entire country.

Why is PDP not ferocious in their opposition against APC like the APC when they were on the opposition?

Let me tell you, there is a problem in this country. We only need Divine mercy of God to help us in this country. In 2012 or 2013 during the oil subsidy protest, even General Buhari, Bola Ahmed Tinubu and most of these prominent people were protesting, organizing concerts on the streets of Lagos. They were protesting everywhere. Oby Ezekwesili, the then Dino Melaye, not this one, were protesting on the streets of Abuja and everywhere. It was a concert at the Freedom Square, Ojota. Wole Soyinka, the rest of them were all talking but not one of them was hurt. Not one of them was detained. Not one of them was harmed because why, we had a leader, a president with a human face.

We had a president that believes in the rule of law. These days, innocent youths of Nigeria went to Lekki Toll Gate to protest unarmed, military might descended on them; cut down innocent lives of people who could have been leaders of tomorrow, people who could have been useful to their parents, to their society and to this great nation were cut off in their prime.

You apply to the police to carry out a protest in this administration, it will never be approved. You come out on your own without police approval, you have breached the law. What people are yet to understand is that we are back to the days of the military junta.

Do you have confidence that the review of the constitution will bring remedy to the current situation in the country?

Whatever solution, whatever efforts that can be made to restore normalcy would be welcomed. It is better to make an attempt than not making an attempt. So, I support it. You cannot sit back and not make an attempt and wish for things to turn around. This attempt is good. The only attempt I cannot support is violent attempt but this is a constitutional way of making a change, so it is welcomed.

Some people think it is just the idle passing time of the National Assembly. Do you think otherwise?

You never can tell where it will lead to. First thing is, let us try available means of making things right.

Would you pass a vote of confidence on the national leadership of your party in terms of their opposition role?

Hundred percent pass mark, sound, very well satisfied. At the national level, we have done everything within the ambience of law. We are doing things and we are still going to do things within the ambience of law to register our displeasure in the way the affairs of this country is passing, 100 percent.

Your National Publicity Secretary accused the APC of being behind the insecurity because they are afraid of the 2023 general election. How would you react to that?

He has reacted. He is the publicity secretary of the party. He is the spokesperson of the party and he has reacted.

When your tenure as the PDP National Vice Chairman expires, what will you venture into?

My tenure will expire in 2025. I have a four-year tenure that just started in March. When it expires, I can then know what I will do.

How do you cope with your brother in APC and you in PDP?

It depends on which of my brothers because every Ebonyian is my brother. What I want to let you know is that I come from a family background that is very mature, very cosmopolitan, where we are very democratically tolerant in the family. We believe that any man that comes to this world has his race to run, his cross to carry, his own way to follow and his dreams to pursue. So everybody in the family is free to pursue his dreams and career the way he wants. We have medical doctors, lawyers, administrators, businessmen and everybody is following his course.

So, whichever cross one chooses to carry, it is his luck and I wish the person well in his endeavours. I have chosen mine. I have chosen to be a PDP. Every other person is free to choose where they want to be. That is the kind of family I come from.

What do you have to say about the formation of the Ebubeagu security outfit?

The formation of Ebubeagu is just a rack-tag. The question is, what is the legislation backing it? Is there uniformity among the Southeast leaders on the Ebubeagu security outfit? Do they have a toll number people can call when the need arises? Who is training them on handling firearms? Who is supplying them with arms and ammunition? Who disciplines them when they err?

So, Ebubeagu is just a militia by the Ebonyi State governor to witch-hunt and attack members of the opposition parties. 

Do you at any point feel afraid of anything in Ebonyi?

Afraid of who? Who will bring the harm? Why should I be afraid? It is only when you have a skeleton in your cupboard that you will be afraid. I am not afraid of any human. I am not scared of any human. I go to Abakaliki whenever I want to go to Abakaliki. I am not residing in Abakaliki now because my major business is not in Abakaliki. I do business because I am a private citizen. I am a businessman and I have businesses scattered all over the places, so I move around checking my businesses and at the same time combine it with my official duty as the National Vice Chairman of the party in the Southeast zone.

Any time I want to go to Ebonyi State, I will go and nobody will stop me because Ebonyi belongs to everybody; it is not anybody’s compound.  The only thing is that I won’t come to your father’s house because that is the only place where you have right to say, don’t come to my house but if it is Ebonyi, no human being born of a woman in Ebonyi State has the capacity to stop me from entering Ebonyi State. ‘They never born that person.’ For what? That the road belongs to your father or that the streets of Abakaliki belong to you?

What is your advice to your party men especially in the face of this provocation?

Like we already said, we are law abiding Nigerians. I will still advise them to be calm and go about their peaceful activities. I will also advise them, if you envisage any threat or security challenge, report to security agencies. We still have confidence in our security agencies and we will still be tasking them to discharge their duties without bias. So, that is my advice to party members. We will continue to endure and at the same time we are advising the aggressors not to push us to the wall. No man has the monopoly of violence and stupidity.   

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