SENATOR Uche Ekwunife recently defected from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC). In this interview in Awka, she gives reasons for her defection, why she will win the rerun election for Anambra Senatorial seat among others. Excerpts: Your move from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC) has generated debate in the state, what was the motivation?
What happened was that for the past six months I was in the Senate, I was in different courts for PDP petitions; from FCT High Court, Federal High Court, Appeal Court to Supreme Court. I spent the whole six months going from one court to another, everybody was like claiming to be the candidate of the party. When we did our primaries, the national committee that came to do the primaries did our own primaries but when I emerged as the candidate, other people started declaring themselves as candidates of the party and they went to court.
So, when the election was nullified, I thought that they would have used that opportunity to reconcile all the factions and it appeared that the problem was not abating at all. I made every effort for reconciliation to happen but it was impossible. I was the one that wrote with my letterhead; I sent letter to the party notifying them of the nullification of my election and requesting for fresh primaries to be conducted by the party.
Different people with different stories, I actually do not want to criticize the party but at the same time, I felt that with that nullification, the party should have been proactive enough to put the house in order. Because there are certain things candidates or members can do, and I believe that there are certain obligation the leadership of the party should carry. When we had stakeholders meeting in Awka with the state chairman of the party, all other members came and at least two of those that took me to court came and I saw the vehemence. One of them said, if the they didn’t nullify the election that he would have nullified it in the Supreme Court. And I said it was like King Solomon that was adjudicating between the case of two women claiming ownership of a baby. One told the king not to kill the child that when the child grows, he should know the mother and the other one said cut the child into halves. Of course, you now know who won that election.
When I took the microphone, I said they should look at our result shit from different wards and polling units and with that you know who ran the election and who has the capacity to win election again for the party. Some of them claiming to be candidates lost in their wards. After making my own contribution, they all thought that everybody should be going to the wards again to talk to them before talking with the delegates in different wards. After that meeting, I left, that was on a Monday or Tuesday I can’t remember but on Wednesday evening, one media person told me there is a publication from my party, I said what publication and she said it’s a paid publication. I sent my email, she scanned the publication for me and behold, the party sent out a publication that they are postponing indefinitely all activities relating to congresses and primaries until Olisa Metuh is released from detention. And on Thursday, the publication was in almost four national newspapers. Even when they cancelled the election, some leaders from South East called me on phone and said that since they have nullified the election and requested for fresh election, why don’t we use this opportunity to play national politics. But I was scared of what people will say, will they say that I was entering another party? So, I said let me continue with my party, but when that publication came out, I had no choice anymore than to move because this is a time bound election; if we do not do primary before Tuesday or Wednesday next week (January 19 and 20), no part will have a candidate anymore. And they said they are postponing indefinitely, giving condition that it will be until Olisa Metuh is released, and who knows when he will be released? At that point I had no choice anymore because I believe that Metuh’s detention has nothing to do with lawful activities of a political party.
And Anambra Central is the most difficult zone today and I’m sure, Bayelsa as a state has 840,000 registered voters, Anambra Central has 720,000 registered voters and is on a flat surface. It’s somewhere you can navigate within minutes.
I know what I passed through during that election. As a woman, to win such election in Anambra State is not a joke. So, that was the last stroke that broke the camel’s back.
Now that you are in APC, what are your chances?
I went through APC’s manifesto and constitution, once you are a member of APC you have the same right with old members; the only difference is that you are not executive of the party but you enjoy the same right and privileges. Remember in Benue State, Ortom ran primaries in PDP but the next day, he moved to APC and became their candidate. Remember the Gemade’s case, he was running for Senate in PDP and when it became impossible, he defected to APC and got the certificate and he ran election. What should be paramount for any political party is the capacity and capability of the candidate to deliver and the sincerity of that candidate to face the electorate. That is what should be considered. I’m very grateful and very certain; we are not foreigners irrespective of political parties or political affiliations and our religious backgrounds. We are not foreigners, they know us and our antecedents. I believe and I’m very confident that I will win the primaries because they are not going to import foreigners to come and vote.
Now you have officially joined APC and have picked the party’s nomination form. I believe that you must have consulted some stakeholders in the senatorial zone, what was the reception like?
Some initially didn’t know what was going on and were a bit skeptical but those of them who followed the trends of events in PDP were very happy and supported the movement. Some of them that didn’t know, we have started explaining to them and they now understand. That’s exactly what happened and has caused a rush movement to APC in this senatorial zone and even beyond. I’m from Anambra South, Igboukwu in Aguata Local Government, that is the biggest clan in Anambra, then I am married to Anambra Central and I bet you that because of me, many people in Anambra South are moving into APC.
I represented my constituency well for eight years and when you put my achievements together, none of my contenders will see my back, even in my place in Igboukwu; I tarred one of the best roads in that place. So, I think I have represented the people well and that is why it is always good, when you have the platform to serve people, serve them well because that is the only legacy you can leave and the only thing that can follow you behind. I serve the people well and with that service, they have trust and confidence in me that I will not lead them where they will suffer. So, the key thing is service to the people.
My worry is the major stakeholders in APC, won’t they say you are just coming into the party and you’re picking the ticket?
Nobody is dashing me ticket and I don’t want to be dashed ticket, I’m not asking for the ticket to be given to me, so nobody is giving anybody ticket and I don’t want that even suggested to me. The primary is open for everybody and I want proper primaries to be conducted. If I win, I want to be supported and if another person wins, I will support the person.
There is this argument that what the law says is that only those candidates who participated in the nullified election are qualified to contest?
Every case has its own merit, when you are confused about court judgment, the honourable thing to do is to seek interpretation in court. You don’t assume being a lawyer when you are not one. I have never seen where an estate agent or a messenger will turn into a lawyer. I’m not a lawyer, when the judgment came, because I’m not a lawyer I sent that judgment to two SANs for interpretation, because at my level, I don’t speculate. After every judgment, the only thing you can obey is what the court has ordered. Because even inside that judgment, the judgment said that I won victor Umeh, so why didn’t he pick that aspect? Court ordered four things, they upheld the petition, they said fresh election should be held within 90 days, that the appellant should pay N50,000, and what again. The order said fresh election, what’s fresh election?
The Nigerian Constitution is quite clear on how a candidate can be disqualified in section 65/66 of 1999 Constitution. You cannot disqualify a candidate because a political party didn’t do good primaries, it’s not done anywhere. You can only disqualify a candidate based on either fraud or that the person was sacked in civil service for 10 years.
It’s being said in some quarters that Umeh, your major opponent collaborated with some PDP members to cause that postponement of the primaries, what is your take on that?
I don’t know, but nothing is impossible in politics because it very surprising that a political party facing a major election will postpone indefinitely congresses and primaries. I mean it is the height of injustice. Even what they meted to me in court was height of injustice, the same primaries that produced me produced other candidate and we all appeared in the same panel and our eligibility was challenged by all the opponent, how come it was only my own that was nullified? I’m just a victim of circumstance because the state government is after my seat.
Why would the state government be after your seat?
Because Victor Umeh was their national chairman, I remind you that when Umeh contested that election, he was chairman of a political party and at the same time candidate of the same party. So, he nominated himself and gave himself ticket. After selling forms to other candidates, in some cases one seat will have up to 20 aspirants, he was chairman of the party who nominated himself, signed his nomination papers and was the candidate of his party.
So, he never thought in life that a man like himself who used to put and remove anyone he feels like will later face the electorate. So, when he was running election, he thought himself so influential and went to the electorate with that euphoria in him. Who are you to challenge me, don’t know I’m the national chairman of this party and that’s what led to his failure. He never subjected himself to any type of election, his has been endorsement of people, withdrawing whoe
ver he feels and giving ticket to whomever he likes. He never subjected himself to the level where you have to go to a mechanic, Okada riders to beg for votes. It became impossible for him to understand that a woman will win him.
That’s his major problem and because this is his state, as the state is being ruled by an All Progressives Grand Alliance, (APGA) government, so they all saw it as a slap that a woman will win. But, I’m not exaggerating, go round and do opinion poll in my senatorial zone, then you’ll understand that I’ve served my people well.
The issue you raised that APGA government is interested in your seat, that same issue is still there, if you pick APC ticket, you’ll still have to face APGA which is in charge in the state?
I will win. You see me, I will floor him, I gave him 24 strokes of the cane; before now, I’ll give him 48. I’ll win him flat and out. You see this time, his red cap will not come out from the ground. I’ll win him again. The people know us, you see him now, he’ll carry portfolio to Abuja and tell people to write any nonsense about Uche Ekwenife, he will go to Lagos and write. He came to Anambra and told some media to write nonsense about me; the same thing he did in Enugu, there is nothing they have not written and said about me, what is left again? Nothing is left, but unfortunately Anambra Central is where it is going to happen and they know us, we don’t need any introduction.
Source Sun New