Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Just In : Ekwunife should stop parading herself as a Senatorial Candidate – Victor Oye, APGA Chairman

The Chairman of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Dr. Victor Oye, has clarified the party’s position on the upcoming senatorial elections in Anambra State. In an interview with our correspondent, Bright Chidike, he X-rayed the reasons why Chief (Mrs) Uche Ekwunife is not eligible to contest and also spoke on the State of the Party, Economy, and Other issues. Below is the excerpt of the full interview.
1. Congratulations Mr Chairman, the Supreme Court last week declared you the authentic and rightful chairman of APGA, many would like to know what the Supreme court ruling was about. Can you please let us in on the ruling?
Yes. I have always been the authentic Chairman. It has never been in question. What happened is that a band of confusionists in the party, sponsored by some disgruntled elements in the country, decided to embark on an ego trip, a journey to no end. To nowhere in particular. This started some seven years ago. The people led by Mazi Okwu went to a lower court to obtain a kangaroo judgement which unseated the regime of Chief (Sir) Victor Umeh at that time. Chief Umeh went to theAppeal Court and got a judgement that discarded the so called Lower Court judgement and took back his rightful place as Chairman. The other party went to the Supreme Court to try and obtain a back yard judgement but they met a brick wall because the Supreme Court insisted on the proper thing. It asked them a simple question; ‘Where is Chief Victor Umeh, the former national chairman? Where is Shinkafi, the former Secretary as claimed in your brief?’. They replied that the two were no longer in office. The Supreme Court struck out the appeal and described it as unmeritorious. That’s the story.
2. Now that your mandate has been affirmed by the highest court in the land, what is your agenda for the party?
My agenda has always been to build a formidable political party that will compete favourably with other leading political parties. As it stands now, APGA is the third largest political party in Nigeria in terms of number of elective positions held. I can tell you that since we came into office some seven months ago, we have succeeded in entrenching the ideals and ethos of the party across the country. In fact, the party is now more visible because we have succeeded in selling the party to every nook and cranny of the country. In fact there is no state in Nigeria you don’t see APGA. We are everywhere. And our popularity has kept soaring. It is just a matter of time before we start reaping the fruits of our efforts. A lot of good things have happened to the party which I may be unable to completely recount here. There is the judgement in Anambra between Chief Victor Umeh and Chief (Mrs) Uche Ekwunife; the one between Orji Uzor Kalu and the rest in Abia North Senatorial district; the one of the Abia governorship between Ikpeazu and Alex Otti. Then there is Laraban Maku’s judgement in the Supreme Court. So many good things are happening. In fact, APGA is the party to beat in Nigeria today. While PDP is hemorrhaging, APC is asphyxiating, APGA has a clean bill of health. So I am very confident that in the foreseeable future, APGA will emerge the party to beat in Nigeria’s political life.
3. You mentioned Sentor Uche Ekwunife in your response. What is your party’s position with regards to her decision to defect to another party and contest the Senatorial elections against the Court of Appeal ruling?
What she did is within her rights. But she exercised that right unwisely. When one exercises her rights, one should be seen to be doing the proper thing. She went to the Senate unqualified. In fact, she forced her way through as established by the Court of Appeal. She got there and stayed for seven months. Chief Victor Umeh took her to the lower tribunal where she won. Chief Umeh proceeded to the Court of Appeal and won the case there. The election was annulled. If we were in a more developed environment, Senator Ekwunife would have ceased parading herself as a candidate for the re-run elections. What she is doing is very demeaning and incongruous with legality and legitimacy. Specifically, the Court of Appeak ruled that she was not qualified from the start to participate in the election because her party which was the eleventh Respondent in that case did not conduct a primary. And according to the constitution of the the Federal Republic of Nigeria, you must be sponsored by a party and must participate in the party’s primaries. If you win, you then qualify to enter into the elections proper and follow all the guidelines by INEC until you are declared a winner. But in Senator Ekwunife’s case, there was no primary. So how did the woman emerge as a candidate in the first place? It is unbelievable that such atrocities could happen in this country. That such illegalities and shameful situation could happen. There is a legal precedent to this case. In 2003, the Supreme Court presiding over the case between INEC and Labour Party ruled thus: In the event of the nullification of an election on the grounds of qualification – which is the case with Senator Ekwunife ( the court of her appeal ruled against her because of disqualification) – only those candidates that participated in the election that was nullified, excluding the candidate that was disqualified, can participate in the said re-run. And no party is allowed to conduct another primaries because the time for such an exercise has elapsed. That was the judgement.
The implication for the 2003 judgement is thus:
i. She was never a candidate in the eyes of the law
ii. She cannot stand for the elections on the PDP platform
iii. she cannot stand for elections for any other platform.
iv. In fact, no party can conduct another primary as far as that judgement is concerned because it has to do with disqualification.
I think the matter is straightforward enough.
4. What structures have you put up to attract young people and women into the party?
There is no party in Nigeria that has sympathy for the youth and women and the elderly and every stratum of a Nigeria more than APGA. We are a very humane party. And that is why we don’t believe in the crowd syndrome. We don’t believe in doing things simply because other parties are doing it. We articulate our programmes with key things in mind: 1. How it will affect the image of the party 2. How it will affect our people in the party 3. How it will affect the society and the nation.
We are very sensitive to the impact of our programmes on Nigerians. In APGA we have the women wing and the youth wings. The idea was to give them every impetus to work. Otherwise the chances that they will be neglected will increase. And because we live in a society where hierarchy and age have a part to place, if that segment of the population are not assigned constitutional roles, they may not exert authority on their own; they must always look up to their elders for direction. So APGA created constitutional roles to provide the support base for women and youths to contribute to the party. Our national youth leader and national women leader are part of our party’s National Working Committee. Their presence is to ensure that youths and women are the epicenter of whatever we do.
5. What is your party’s plan for employment creation?
I think it is more appropriate to ask what we would do if we were the party at the centre. For us as a political party, we have employment as part of our four point agenda. We plan to create employment by ensuring that all the loophole through which money disappears from our economy are plugged. To generate sufficient funds, we will go into youth development initiatives that will include job creation and empowerment. For example, in Indonesia has an economic development plan driven by its 28 islands. Every hamlet in that country has a small scale industry. They are among the best in packaging in the world. Another example is China which has overtaken America in terms of economic growth and human capacity building. When you consider its economic output, you understand why China is a world Superpower. Without the roles played by China and India in the global marketplace, the world economy would have been dominated by a few players. That situation would have been unfavorable. So it is important that India and China have sustained the balance in the global economy.
Nigeria was too focused on oil. The economy was not diversified. So if APGA was in power at the centre, by this time, we would have done a census of all unemployed people in the country to generate the data. We believe that it is impossible to plan without data. I heard that the current government plans to the give out N60Bn to youths as social welfare on a monthly basis. That won’t solve any problem. The money will simply go down the drains. We expected Buhari to show some courage as usual by abandoning that policy and explaining that it won’t work under the circumstances. Our focus would be to help young learn how to fend for themselves. We would achieve that through skill endowments and support for entrepreneurship. When I see some of the programmes on offer by the Bank of Industry, for example, I feel stupefied. Those programmes are too elitist and do not address the needs of struggling Nigerian businesses. Why is there no programme that accesses our unemployed youths in the villages and empower them? Government can channel the N60Bn into agriculture. For example, if a pilot programme is launched where government partners with existing farms to develop youths skills in agriculture, it will go a long way. If N10Bn is invested in one super farm in every geopolitical zone in a system where the person provides the land while government provide the matching grant, there will be a boost in the economy and in skills among young people. So N10Bn invested in agrobased businesses will employ the youth and provide accommodation within the farms and provide amenities for them there on the farm so they can focus on food production.
We assure you that when we come into power in 2019, we will implement those reforms for the benefit of Nigerians.
6. APGA is currently the party in power in Anambra. How do you rate the performance of your party in the state?
What we have in Anambra State is not a government but a revolution. The governor has performed excellently and the people of Anambra are very happy. Despite the financial constraints, Governor Willie Obiano is making good progress. The plan is to etch the state on the map among other successful states on the globe. Within one year and eight months, the governor has succeeded in building solid structures that will stand the test of time. He is implementing a master-plan which will make Awka, for example, one of the best cities in Nigeria.
On security, for the first time in the history of the state, there was no reported security incident during last year’s Christmas celebration. The Christmas celebrations took place at the notorious Upper Iweka Road without incident. This was unthinkable in the past. It shows that all the criminal operatives have been flushed out. The present administration is working on over 100 roads most of which were inherited from the previous regime. This is despite inheriting a debt of over N102Bn from the road projects alone.
Anambra also leads in the area of workers’ welfare. It is the only state that oats workers salaries as at when due. Last December, for example, workers got their salaries before Christmas Day. Governor Obiano ensured that banks remained open on the 24th so salary could be effect, despite that day being a public holiday. That doesn’t happen in many states. Our education system in Anambra State is the best in Nigeria. Our teachers have won awards on the global stage. We recently won an award in Singapore. Our students have also won national awards for debates, mathematics, essay competitions and the like.
There is a revolution in agriculture. There is a tomato purée packing factory in place. There are rice farms at Anaku owned by Choscharis and St. Joseph farms. St. Joseph’s farm was producing 50,000MT of rice at the inception of the Obiano administration. It produces 180,000MT. Made in Anambra rice is gaining grounds in the state. We expect to be a net exporter of rice within the next three years. So the APGA government of Obiano has shown that many of the things previous government deemed impossible are actually possible.
7. APGA won more House of Representatives seats in the last elections. To what does the party owes that success?
I think that it is because of Governor Obiano’s vision. Once the head is good, the other parts of the body will be good. The governor is a galvanizing force in the state. The result is that APGA has 29 out of the 30 members of the State House of Assembly. I think that even the lone non-APGA member arrived there out of our magnanimity. We may not be that magnanimous next time around as the party will be even more popular by the next elections.
We would have got even more members in the House of Representatives if the elections were freer and fairer than what we witnessed on the ground. Same thing happened in the Senate. Given the popularity of APGA in Anambra, it is absurd that the party did not produce any senator. We know that the elections were rigged. If the elections were free and fairer, we would have produced all three senators. As things are, we will retrieve one of the Senate seats in the elections that should be held soon following the Appeal Court ruling. That will be the first Senator APGA will be producing since the founding of the party.
8. Social Media is abuzz with the hashtag #CockCrows that contains APGA messages. Why are you coming on social media?
We are on social media because we are a 21st century party. We have many mobile, youthful people as our members and social media is a valuable platform with which to interact with them. APGA moves with the time. We are not only on social media. We are building a new top class website. Which will provide all relevant information once completed to be accessed by our members or people all over the world interested in our activities. APGA has some 35 diaspora offices around the world in Europe, Africa, North America, and Asia. The plan is to build APGA a global party. So we need the social media so that our members and supporters can interact with us instantly. That is the beauty of our social media presence. It underscores the reality that we are a modern party in touch with the times and prepared for the future.
9. Recently the Court of Appeal sitting in Owerri declared APGA candidate, Dr Alex Otti winner of the Abia governorship election. How did you party receive the verdict? Was it what you expected?
When the election was held on April 11th it was clear that Dr Alex Otti won. I was on ground in Abia. So I know what happened. Imagine, even the then governor T.A Orji lost at his polling booth with only 2 votes out of 119 votes. All over the state, APGA won massively. But because T.A Orji was desperate to close his flanks, he had to ensure that his puppet became governor. The Appeal Court judgement was very explicit. It held that there was over voting in the three Local Governments that were cancelled – Obingwa, Osisioma, and Isialangwa North. In the morning of April 12, The INEC Returning Officer announced results from 14 Local Governments excluding the results from the three cancelled Local Governments on the grounds that there were widespread irregularities in those areas reported by the security agencies, international observers, and from INEC staff. Specifically, there were reports of violence, over voting, ballot box snatching, and mutilation of results. Under constitutional provisions, the Returning Officer had no choice under such circumstance but to cancel the results of the elections in the affected areas and declare the winner of the elections based on the results from the valid votes. The returning officer therefore cancelled the results from the three affected Local Governments and punched in the valid results and electronically submitted the result to Abuja.
The Returning Officer was about declaring Otti the winner of the election when Governor T.A Orji in the company of Olisa Metuh, Enyinnaya Abaribe , and Akobondu arrived at the INEC office and took Prof. (Mrs) Okoh, the Abia State Commissioner of INEC, and the Returning Officer, Prof. Ozurumba upstairs. After they came down, they forced the INEC officials to reverse the results of the elections he had already announced. That reversal is contrary to the electoral act. The act states that the Electoral Officer does not have the powers to cancel the results of any elections announced. Only the courts may exercise such powers. That was the grounds on which the Court of Appeal predicated its judgement.
So the court set aside the Tribunal judgement and declared Dr Otti the winner of the governorship election. That judgement came in the 31st of December 2015. It was a great way to end the year.
10. But it appears APGA is appealing the ruling of the Appeal Court in the Alex Otti case. Why are you returning to the court?
We understand that the Abia State government is propagating the falsehood that Otti is criticizing the judgement of the Court of Appeal. Commonsense should tell anyone that the assertion cannot be true. What is happening is that we are filing a cross-appeal. We are filing a cross appeal to allow us submit more evidence to the court to strengthen our case even further at the Supreme Court. APGA’s lawyers are therefore driving the nail into the coffin of the PDP
10. Any words of advice for young people looking to join politics?
The advice I give to them is to not make any mistake to join any other party other than APGA. Otherwise their dreams will be cut short. We are the only healthy party. Events show that both the PDP and APC are currently not as promising as APGA. In fact I will advise people currently in the wrong parties to make haste and join APGA. That is the only advice that will help them
11. How can intending members register for membership of the party?
You go to your ward to register. We have offices in every ward of the federation. You pay N100 for the card and monthly dues of N100. If you wish to pay your dues annually, you pay N1200. Or you pay N600 for six months.

(First Published By Breakingtimes )

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