We are taking governance to bedrooms, door steps of Anambra voters – ADC Dr. Harris
Chuma Odili is the Director-General of Nze Akachukwu Campaign Organization of the African Democratic Congress, ADC, for the forthcoming November 6 governorship election in Anambra state. In this exclusive interview with PRAISE NECHEREM, Dr. Odili, a renowned filmmaker and strategic communications expert restates the party’s preparedness to wrestle power from the ruling All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA.
Don’t you think your party is relatively new in Anambra state to compete with other popular parties in the November poll?
You can’t say ADC is not grounded in Anambra. In fact, the National Chairman of ADC, Chief Ralph Nwosu, is an indigene of Awka, the state capital. He’s a household name in the political terrain. If I may zero it in, when you talk about APGA and its history, you can’t talk about it without due mention of Raph Nwosu because he single-handedly funded the first ever APGA gubernatorial election. In fact, he won the primary. He spent billions to institutionalize APGA.
He wanted a party that would give the average Igbo man the needed voice. When the likes of Chekwas Okorie met with him, he was the major financier. He participated in the first ever guber election and won before his mandate was stolen and given to Peter Obi. He won clearly in a transparent and credible election but the mandate was stolen by the moneybags who formed the cabals in the party; that was the nascent period of APGA in the state. He had to move on, having been ‘APGAed.’
It’s on record that he was the first victim of this ‘APGAed’ thing which is now synonymous to injustice and disenfranchisement. He teamed up with some other great sons of Igbo land to establish ADC. So ADC is as old as APGA. It is not new, nor is it a small party. Just that it has not tested power in the state. But it has produced senators, House of Representatives members, State House of Assembly members, among others.
When you talk about structures, the fact that it is not in power, you know what it means. To fund political structure, you need money to do that. But they have done the best they could before our arrival. Our arrival is to strengthen the existing structure and develop it further to the grassroots. That is why we are confident we are going to do well at the polls.
Could it be said that most of your leaders are victims of this ‘APGAed’ thing?
Being a victim in politics is not new for an experienced politician who has spent years in the political terrain trying to deploy the instruments of politics to offer governance to his people. But when personal interests of the majority who feel they are more powerful begin to play out and your interest is defeated, you move to a safer, welcoming and friendlier platform. He moved to ADC, a peaceful and most respected platform in Nigeria.
So you could call ADC that platform that warehouses people who are determined to bring changes to the system. My principal was ‘APGAed’ before the primary, after obtaining N2million form and investing hugely in the party, strengthening its grassroots across the state. He empowered many party members. He spent over N300 million and he was not asked to stop. He was promised free and fair primary, a level playing ground for all the aspirants but along the line, someone somewhere ‘APGAed’ him.
Do you see your party winning on sympathy votes with all these injustices meted on your leaders?
We are not going to run our campaigns on sympathy or emotions. We are going to be practical. We are set to tell Ndi Anambra the truth, hence our slogan, “kwem n’aka, gwam ezi okwu” (give me a handshake and tell me the truth). We are about to tell them the truth, what they don’t know about the real story that nobody wants to talk about. The story that has been behind the underdevelopment in the state. The true story of how this state is run, of how few individuals think they know it all and have the state in their pockets.
ADC’s governorship candidate will be hitting the streets soon and will be telling them the truth and that is, every citizen of the state should be involved in the governing process of the state. We are returning power to the people. We are restoring the lost voices. We are giving them back their voices. That is why we are talking about Anambra families first.
ADC led government is going to establish the Ministry of Umunna Affairs. That is where our campaign is going to revolve. It is going to have chief officers of particular umunna in government. We are going to empower that system that has been comatose, relegated to the background, that governance that will recognize and appreciate the ‘umunnaism’ we are preaching. We are ready to tell the truth to power. If you are a commissioner and you are not doing well, we will tell you, if you are a House of Representatives member and you are siphoning funds for constituency projects, we will dig it out and unearth it with facts and figures.
What are your levels of preparedness to face other strong contenders like Soludo, Ozigbo in the race?
The election is not about big names. It is not even about big parties. Again, it is not about money. It is about what you have upstairs. Can you convince the electorate about what you are bringing on the table, your manifesto? What structures do you have on ground to reach out to the electorate to convince them that you are the right man for the job? Not the right man for a group of cabal who wants to impose you on the party members and by extension, the good people of Anambra state.
So the election is not about big names. I’m not saying my principal doesn’t have a name. He has a name, someone who has been in politics for close to 20 years. A man who worked with the former President Jonathan for 6 years without blemish records and was retained by his principal as his personal envoy. He was with him right from his days in Bayelsa as deputy governor, governor, to vice president, acting president and to president. When they left Aso Rock, he made him his personal envoy. That’s not a child’s play. We don’t really see tough contenders.
You mentioned Soludo, Val Ozigbo, you are not even talking about people like Ifeanyi Uba. These are people when you mention their names, we will tell you how we are going to handle them and not people who are not electable. Soludo and Ozigbo are not electable. Val Ozugbo is a greenhorn, he is a virgin. He is just a ‘Jonny just come.’ His presence in PDP has even destabilized the party because those people who are behind him are the real problems of the PDP. I don’t want to go there. Soludo is an intellectual and a great man but he is unelectable. Ask me why, Soludo is elitist in nature.
You need someone who can come down to the grassroots, descend to their level. Stand side by side a Vulcanizer and Akara woman on the road and speak the language they would understand and not concepts and theories. Anambra isn’t looking for a Prof. Anambra is looking for one who has connection with the people and that is where Akachukwu Nwankpo comes in too. He is a man of the people.
What impact did your principal make while in the presidency?
Talking about what my principal did while in the presidency, there is something about being an SSA (Senior Special Assistant) and being a minister or having a very lucrative office like agency or parastatal where you have the opportunity to do those things you will be remembered for. But the opportunity Nwankpo had while working with Jonathan was that of Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Program, SURE-P, where he served as Executive Secretary and thousands of Ndi Anambra were taken care of and employed within the scheme, occasioned by his relationship with the people of the state. He facilitated most of their appointments with the presidency. That is the testimony we are receiving till today.
Thousands of Ndi Anambra who were beneficiaries are testifying to it. In the past two months he won the primary and people have been coming up to give commendations and testimonies, including people he didn’t know nor can remember again. I don’t want to mention big names that have identified with him based on the fact that they have a robust relationship with him during his reign with Jonathan. Before long, we will be bringing such to public view. We are yet to start releasing our content materials. By then, you’ll know how prepared we are. We just came out from primary. Soon we hit the campaign and you will know that none of the contestants are in any way close to Akachukwu.
When are you flagging off your campaign officially and who are the personalities we are expecting?
Like I told you earlier, the November poll has nothing to do with big names. What we are interested in is the voter with his voter’s card. We are not interested in people displaying affluence, running around the streets and shouting. At our flag off, you are going to see voters with their cards. That is our interest. Those big names are not going to bring in the votes we are talking about. Who is the voter and where are they is what we are interested in. We will meet them there. We are not buying the voters, rather they would buy into our candidate.
ADC had never faced any keen competition before now. This is the first time and we are all out in the streets, not just for the voters to become our members but those who will vote for us. That day you will see someone adorn in APGA and APC regalia casting his vote for ADC. That is what will happen. This we are going to activate in the couple of weeks. The simple reason is because we are talking about umunna welfare. We are taking governance to the bedroom and door steps of the voters. The voters are the kings here, not stakeholders or big shots. Not people looking for those who will dash them money and Sienna vehicles.
Your principal had defected from PDP to APGA, now to ADC, does that not depict inconsistency?
When you find yourself in a room that is not conducive and comfortable, you wouldn’t stay in there, but find a way of getting out before you are suffocated. That is, when it comes to politics, defection, cross-carpeting is not a crime. One has ambition to contribute meaningfully and positively to the development of the state and a platform he found himself is not giving him that opportunity to realize that ambition, he will look for another platform that is promising. But if he gets in there and discovers a different ball game, he will continue to move.
Even the Israelites kept moving after leaving Egypt until they got to the Promised Land. So for today, we are in ADC and let me tell you, the mess in PDP in Anambra state suffocated Akachukwu Nwankpo that he had to leave, thinking that APGA, with its brotherhood mantra that we will always fall prey to and get us victimized when we embrace it will be better. He joined and invested heavily on it, strengthening structures.
The number of projects he bankrolled was unprecedented. The issue of let’s go South, for equity, justice and fairness, Akachukwu was the one who galvanized and got all traditional rulers and other stakeholders together to sign signatures that the next governor of the state should come from the south. It took him two years to run the advocacy. He spent money inviting monarchs across the state for town hall meetings. He released cars on the roads.
This same man went to APGA Secretariat and made a declaration. But having recorded successes, people started convincing him to declare interest for the governorship race, having worked so hard. Initially, he declined but when they insisted, stressing that he has what it takes, more so, having contested under PDP years back, you can still do it.
He bought the idea along the line and went to the Secretariat and declared. Immediately he did that, a lot of people started seeing him as a threat and one who had come to destroy their interest. They allowed him to empower the grassroots activists, including those he gave cars, motorcycles and tricycles, opened businesses for ward and local government chairmen, state exco and gave them hope that truly the party is their own.
I’m here to consolidate on what others have done before my arrival. Even while in APGA, he never criticized Governor Obiano. At a point, he became his mouth piece and image maker. Those people were somewhere watching and waiting for the right time to come in and strike. It was a well hatched and rehearsed plans to push him out of the scene and he said okay, since this man is governor’s choice, I will respect it, after all he has the right to make the choice; and walked away, and immediately he walked away, ADC came for him because they know he got what it takes.