A member of All Progressives Congress Board of Trustees, Sam Nkire, shares his views with SUNDAY NWAKANMA on the crisis in Abia APC, Anambra election, the possibility of having a Nigerian President of Igbo extraction, among other issues
Why did you join the All Progressives Congress
I was the National Chairman of the Progressive Peoples Alliance. We initially had two governors in Imo and Abia states, and governors being what they are, both of them left the party within four years. After they left, the party lost many other members. We had one senator, four members of House of Representatives, and we had over 14 members of the Houses of Assembly. We had two members of Houses of Assembly in Taraba State and we had one in Bayelsa State. Within a period of four years, we lost all of them. So, when the party was not doing well again, it went defunct. After the party ceased being in existence, and APC came along, I joined the party in 2013, seeing that Muhammadu Buhari was a good candidate to pilot the affairs of the party and my permutations was proved right when he won the presidential election in 2015.
The APC in your state held parallel congresses. Why is the crisis at the state level lingering?
First, Abia APC is one. What gave a semblance of a faction emanated from a mistake by the group sent by the national headquarters of the party to come and conduct the congress. The guideline states that if the group goes to a state, it must go to the party headquarters and work with the outgoing State Executive Council. But when the group from Abuja came, they did not go to the state party secretariat; they went to a man’s house, a man called Ikechi Emenike and they took instructions from him. He was not the party chairman, and that was wrong. So, that gave the semblance of parallel congress. The party is one and the party remains one.
Which state chairman is in charge of the state secretariat and is he the authentic one?
The outgoing state chairman of APC in Abia State is Chief Donatus Nwankpa. Until Donatus Nwankpa leaves, nobody else can be the party chairman in Abia.
What about the position of Acho Obioma if you are saying Nwankpa is in charge?
Yes, there is no new chairman until after the national convention.
APC officials from the national headquarters were said to have been taken away by a member of the party in the state. How true is this?
Yes, If you recall, Senator Chris Adighije and Senator Nkechi Nworgu and I held a press conference calling on the national headquarters of our party not to send anybody to Abia State until the crisis was resolved by Governor Hope Uzodimma. This was because the national chairman asked him to look into the matter. We were not to hold the state congress in Abia, but somehow, I don’t know how it happened; some people were sent here. Meanwhile, the leader of APC in the South-East is still looking into the matter. As far as I am concerned, no congress held in Abia State on that day. As far I am concerned, those things that happened that day and even the man that Emenike produced; there was no state congress on that day.
Throughout the congress period, nobody sighted the senator representing Abia North, Orji Uzor Kalu. Why is it so?
I do not know. In fact, the last congress; the one for the state chairman, I did not attend and cannot query him for not coming.
You were the national chairman of Orji Uzor Kalu’s former political party, PPA. At what point did the two of you fall apart?
No, there is no falling apart. You see, our ship capsized, our party ended and we remain friends. We are now in one party, in APC together. I was instrumental to his joining the party. I took him to the then National Chairman, John Oyegun, and the present National Chairman. The Governor of Yobe State was then the National Secretary. I brought Orji Uzor Kalu to APC and if we were not in good terms, I wouldn’t have brought him to the party.
Did Kalu support any group within the period of the congresses?
No; it is not to my knowledge. OUK (Kalu) is not a factional person. He is part of the mainstream.
Orji Uzor Kalu is from Abia State and he has a presidential ambition. Are you and your group prepared to support him?
This OUK’s (Orji Uzor Kalu) ambition is not to my knowledge, and I can assure you that Abia will not be the state to shoot down his ambition.
You are a member of APC Board of Trustees, but the board was never inaugurated. Why has it been difficult for your party to inaugurate its BoT?
Yes, our constitution has two main organs at the national level; the Board of Trustees and the National Caucus. The national caucus by some design is the one that gets patronised. The BoT (Board of Trustees) held meetings about three times under the chairmanship of the former governor of Edo State, John Oyegun. Anybody that tells you that APC BoT never held its meetings is telling a lie. I have the minutes of the three meetings, but normally, the BoT has its own chairman or President. It was never inaugurated because the party felt that it was getting unhealthy having many organs. At a point, they felt that we should not have a BoT, but we should have Council of Elders. We are still in the process of making a change to reflect that.
Some have expressed the need for a President of Igbo extraction for the country. Do you think it is possible considering the fact that people from other regions are jostling for the same position ahead of 2023 general election?
Of course, it is not just impossible, I think it should be our turn. It should be the turn of the South-East. So far, there hasn’t been any development that will sway my belief that my party, the APC, will think in that direction. So, I believe that the Igbo will be out to produce the next president.
The governorship candidate in the Anambra election, Andy Uba, did not do well based on the results that were released. What went wrong?
You can see what happened in Anambra State. That is the reason why I think my party, the APC, must begin to think seriously about transparency and doing the right thing. You see, you can take a horse to the river, but you cannot force it to drink water. If we keep our guidelines, people and members, no matter highly placed or how connected, you must at least ensure that you obey these rules. In Anambra State, everybody heard what happened. Many aspirants claimed they won the primary and some even went up to Supreme Court, while some are still in court now. On the day of the primaries, nothing happened; no primaries were held and before 4 pm in the evening, a winner was announced. That is the kind of thing that can lead to failure and that is the kind of thing that happened in Abia State. We must begin to do the right thing. I know that Anambra State is called an APGA state. Even if APC were to lose in Anambra State, it shouldn’t have been a distant third; it should have come a close second or even win that election. If it is a candidate of a ruling party, even if the state is predominantly APGA, a ruling party shouldn’t come third. The least it can do is to come second, close second the party that won because it is a ruling party, not an opposition party like the PDP that came second.
So, you see, those aspirants that prepared to run with Andy Uba during the primary; you may think that they have forgiven, but they didn’t forget, and I am not too sure in their heart of heart, they have forgiven. They came out or spent money to ensure they become governor of Anambra State. It is always good to do things transparently and let everybody see that they have either won or lost. That way, they can forgive and forget. So, I have a personal opinion, and I say that we wouldn’t have done so abysmally if at the governorship primary, the rules of the game were obeyed. So, it is a warning sign; it is a signal that people must do the right thing. Again, you see the new technology that INEC introduced, even though it malfunctioned in many places, they will get it right before the 2023 election. If that happens; if things go well and if those machines begin to work, all these questions of rigging of primaries will come to an end people who want to be democrats, who want to run election, they cannot submit themselves to the rules, and they cannot submit themselves to election. You want to rig at all times; I think that should stop. I think we have learnt our lessons from what happened in Anambra State. It is not in our character. This is borrowed from the PDP and APC must stop it.
How would you rate INEC’s performance in Anambra election?
Well, I said that the new technology introduced by INEC; I don’t think it was properly test run. I know that they have a lot of time between now and 2023, and I believe that it will function optimally next time around. You know that the situation in Anambra State was a complex one. With orders from the IPOB, counter orders and all that, many people were still afraid and didn’t come out. So far, so good, the election was not below expectation.
With what happened in Abia APC, do think come 2023, the party will be able to take over the Government House in Umuahia?
People know who is who in Abia; people know how many of them are in the APC. They also know how many of them in the PDP. I am sure people will know that Abia APC is studded with juggernauts, big politicians and these politicians are opinion moulders. They are the vote magnets, and they attract votes. So, when you have a state that has the majority of the political bigwigs, you can predict where the pendulum is going to swing. Abia State has enough political bigwigs, but we are concerned. The elders of Abia APC are concerned and want to call on the national leadership of this party (to do the needful). I believe that the national leadership of this party knows those who are in Abia State and it won’t be nice for them to close their eyes to what they have already seen. They have seen where the pendulum is supposed to swing.
They have seen where majority of the people are and they cannot say they don’t know those who are very strong in Abia politics. We say that if it is a low-hanging fruit which we must pluck, there is no other time for APC to win in Abia (than now). Many people in leadership positions know the truth about where the majority is. They cannot pretend and cannot close their eyes to what they have already seen. They know that if they hand over the party to one man, they will be doing Abia some injustice. They cannot be riding roughshod on the interest, sensibility and the feelings of the good people of Abia State by handing over the party to one man. They can encourage (the person) if they have the interest of Abia people at heart. They can encourage peace, make peace and ensure that every ward, every member and every group are united in the interest of the party, so that we can go this journey successfully.
How would you rate the APC at the federal level?
APC’s performance at the federal level is good enough in the circumstance that we find ourselves as a nation. There is too much trouble in the world and Nigeria is one of the peaceful countries and is free from the kind of famine happening in other countries, which has nothing to compare with in Nigeria. It could be better, but Nigeria is not the worst. Nigeria’s APC is trying. Most of the problems in the land today started with the PDP government. Boko Haram started with the PDP, kidnapping started with the PDP, and so on. The naira started sliding with the PDP. That is why the APC came to power and no doubt they came to change the plight. APC is doing its best in that circumstance.
What are your expectations ahead of the 2023 general election?
I may consider quitting active politics in 2023 if APC loses Abia State for the third consecutive time. So, I have a huge stake in what happens to Abia APC from now to the governorship election in 2023. I am quite certain that Abia people won’t have anyone ride roughshod over their common interests, aspirations and feelings when it comes to the next elections.
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