Raymond Ozoji, Awka
Chief Sylvester Okonkwo, candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for Anambra-central in the 2019 general elections, in this extensive interview with RAYMOND OZOJI in Awka, recounted his ordeals, humiliation and frustrations in the hands of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in spite of 20 years of dedicated service, commitment and sacrifice to the party. He described the PDP as a gathering of political marauders and undertakers. Excerpts:
Why did you decide to jettison your technological expertise for the murkey waters of Nigerian politics?
Response: I have been in active partisan politics for the past 27 years. I was the first publicity secretary of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in Anambra state in 1991 -1992. I’m so deep in politics and it doesn’t preclude me from my professional practice. By the grace of God, I am also a teacher, lawyer and I run a technology company. I am one of the pioneers of the Nigerian private telephoning industry. I have also reasoned that we all must join hands together to build a better country. I am involved in politics because I know I will do a good job and I love humanity. I also love my country and i am eager to serve the people.
In the last general elections, you contested on the platform of the PDP and today you are in APC; at what point did you decide to dump PDP and pitch tent with APC? Secondly, people have been complaining that those who leave PDP to APC, when they win elections they return to PDP. What is your take on this notion?
Response: Unfortunately in Nigeria, politicians don’t bother about political ideaologies. They bother about grabbing power. I joined the PDP since 1998. We are the foundation members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). I was the Assistant Secretary of the PDP in the southeast. The party does not bother about equity, justice and good conscience. PDP is a party that does not reward hardwork and commitment. For 20 years, I was denied everything! I buy forms and I come to do an election. They naturally cause confusion to make sure the process doesn’t come to an end. At a point, the frustrations of my followers became apparent.
I have been member of Convention Planning Committee of the PDP on five occasions. I screened Jonathan and Atiku in 2011 general elections. I also screened Amaechi, Sylva and some others but what I got in return for the party services was that all members of my committee were made ministers, ministers of states, ambassadors and I never got even a member of board. I have never been anything since being in PDP. They don’t care and they don’t bother! I ran round Nigeria with Godswill Akpabio when the PDP was about to scatter; we struggled to salvage the party from the hands of people like Tambuwal, Atiku, Kwankwaso and some others who plotted the downfall of PDP but I didn’t get anything for my efforts yet I continued to be a member of the party .
During governorship elections in my own state Anambra, members of the PDP will go and collect money from the governor and make sure APGA candidates win elections. In the last governorship election, it was only myself, Peter Obi, Margery Okadigbo and Oseloka Obaze that were left in the carcass of a dead Anambra PDP that we used to go and contest the election while the so-called stakeholders of PDP will go to the APGA governor to collect money to foil the party’s efforts. So I did all these in the 20 years of my sojourn in the Peoples Democratic Party.
Leaving the PDP was the best thing that happened to me politically because I am a traditional progressive. After all the frustrations and humiliations of the PDP, I went back to my business but suddenly my friend Godswill Akpabio saw the shananigans that destroyed that party called PDP gathering again to destroy the president that they joined hands to produce. I called him and said I hear you are leaving the PDP and he said I’m gone. I said what is your reason for wanting to leave the PDP and he said I can’t continue to stay in the same party with the same people that destroyed PDP and brought down Jonathan and made sure that PDP lost elections.
At this juncture, let’s know your comparative advantage over other candidates jostling to represent Anambra-central senatorial district at the national assembly?
Response: Well I have absolute advantage over the likes of Victor Umeh, Uche Ekwunife and others. The reason is this: myself, Victor Umeh and Uche Ekwunife have had opportunities of serving state governors. Uche Ekwunife had the privilege of serving a government that turned out to be the most inglorious government in the history of democratic governance. For 9 months, that government did not pay teachers and children did not go to school. All aspects of Anambra State Civil Service were shut down. The governor that she served said that he felt personally pained how he disappointed the people that elected him and he regretted the day that Uche Ekwunife came in contact with him because she was one of the people that confused and destroyed his government. They were the direct beneficiaries of his foolery in government.
Then there is a second one called Victor Umeh who is known to have truncated APGA plan to be southeast political party because Chekwas Okorie registered the party with a philosophy to build a political gathering for the Igbo leaders with his mentor Odumegwu Ojukwu. Peter Obi came, got the ticket of the party, joined hands with Victor Umeh and they drove Chekwas away and turned the APGA enterprise into a private entreprise with Peter Obi as the CEO and Victor Umeh as the Chairman of the board and began to share the spoils of the war. Within the period, it is well documented that Victor Umeh was on a monthly stipend of tens of millions of Anambra state money for 8 years. Thereafter, he contrived to put another governor and continued to collect tens of millions of Anambra state tax-payers’ money. He now builds estates across Nigeria and takes chieftaincy titles everywhere in igboland. Peter Obi’s reference of Victor Umeh is that he will use all his resources to take away Victor Umeh from public trust and public service because he is a danger to an enlightened society.
The job of building a new Nigeria is not in taking numerous traditional titles. It’s not in riding big cars and building big mansions. Nigeria needs men and women that have passion to create enabling environment that would kick-start employment opportunities for the people. The wealth of Nigeria is in the human capital. It will be my joy and the joy of any Anambra-central constituents that I am in the senate to reverse the trend of ineffective representation. I will create a broad band that will re-engineer the speed of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) development and ICT penetration in Nigeria. When broad band deepens, our youngsters in the streets that engage in Yahoo Yahoo would realise that going to do one coding for 3 months as well as create their own applications, have their own shops online is a legitimate way of making E-money. I’m not going to the senate to look for things that would entice me because I have seen the best things in life. I have slept in the best hotels in the world . I have flown private jets but after enjoying all these things, I still come back to the endemic poverty that is ravaging the country. Some people are so endemically greedy so that wherever they see money they grab it with alacrity.
Don’t you think your party APC might constitute a cog in the wheel of progress judging from the stereotypes held against your party especially in Anambra state?
Response: They say APC is Boko Haram and that’s all the Igbo are ready to hear without realizing that APC is their easiest step to producing the next president. Ndigbo should be the people leading the campaign of Buhari’s re-election to enable them to produce the next president in 2023. But our people are basking in the euphoria of vice presidential candidate whereas nobody has ever paused for a moment to ask the question, is it a viability? Today APC has 23 states and PDP has only 12 states. What magic is PDP going to do to defeat another 10 states to add to their 12 states? For PDP to win the presidential election, they need to win 2/3 in 24 states of the federation. Who will tell Ndigbo that in the last general elections, they were the last in the whole country. President Mohammadu Buhari has started actual construction of the Second Niger Bridge and has given about 33 billion naira to Julius Berger Construction Company which the PDP didn’t do for 16 years. If you pass through Enugu-Onitsha Express Way you will see portions of completed roads and on-going construction works. If you pass through Port-Harcourt you see portions of aggressive road construction and completed portions of the road. The 16 years PDP so loved the Igbo, they didn’t do all that. It is also on record that president Muhammadu Buhari has gone to Zik’s place and completed it. In 16 years no president of the PDP thought it necessary that the first president of Nigeria deserves a good resting place. It is a fact that as at today, electricity supply has improved drastically. In 16 years PDP left Nigeria with only 2.8 mega watts of electricity. But today, Nigeria has 7.8 mega watts of electricity with the intent that very soon in 2019, Nigeria will be hitting 11.5 mega watts of electricity. The truth is that you can’t compare darkness and light. The fact of the hunger that came to Nigeria when Buhari took over would never have been caused by Buhari and it wasn’t caused by him. The president has won this election. The figures are not in favour of the PDP. The Northern Nigeria doesn’t like Atiku Abubakar. He has never won elections in his own state Adamawa. So why should my people still be hoping that on the 17th of February, 2019, Peter Obi will become the vice president of Nigeria? It is not possible.
So in clear terms, what is your major priority concern for the people of Anambra-central if elected into office?
Response: It will be my joy to ensure that whatever programme the federal government has on ICT development will be replicated in Anambra-central senatorial district. I will build a roburst ICT infrastructure in Anambra-central. The federal government is talking about ICT hubs and they said they are building it in zones but I will ensure that such ICT hubs are also domiciled in my constituency because human capital development is the centre point of my aspiration to represent Anambra-central at the national assembly. When I get to the Senate, I will discuss my template on ICT development with the presidency and the national assembly so that the nation can kick-start a new policy that would deepen ICT in Nigeria and Anambra-central in particular.
Finally, please can you be more explicit when you say Atiku Abubakar plotted downfall of PDP?
Response: When men who ask questions get involved, people like Atiku Abubakar will not have a space in the political landscape of the country. Are you not aware that Atiku was the heart and soul of the plot to remove Jonathan from office? The PDP made itself a dumping ground for political marauders and undertakers. It is very dangerous to bring the likes of Atiku Abubakar back to power. All of them are so indisciplined. They have no regards for anything. They recycle undertakers. Young Nigerians have no business discussing anything with a party like PDP. I have stayed there for 20 years so I can tell you that everything their leaders say are all lies. What has a man like Atiku got to offer Nigerians other than stupid liberalism. This country is in a terrible state such that we must take it away from economic liberals. What they are trying to do is to open up pipes that Buhari has closed. They will open the pipes and we will have the euphoria that the wealth is circulating. So I invite the youths of Nigeria to look at Atiku Abubakar in the face and tell him that he can not become president of Nigeria. God will not allow it come to fruition.