Hon. Chibuikem Iwu is former State Secretary of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Lagos State chapter, and the party’s State Chairman. Iwu spoke to EJIKEME OMENAZU on the state of the party after the 2019 elections among other crucial issues. Excerpt:
After the 2019 electoral loss, what is next for the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA)?
APGA, as the third largest party in Nigeria performed better in the last elections. Although we did not win in Lagos, it made some inroads in other states, especially in Taraba and Benue, where we won some seats in State and National Assembly, which has not happened before. In politics, you win some and lose some. There is also need to develop shock absorber to manage a loss when it occurs. Consistency is very important in politics. As a chapter, APGA Lagos is focused. We believe that the future is bright.
There were reports of some expulsions in the Lagos chapter of the party. What is the situation in Lagos APGA?
The party in Lagos is forging ahead. Some took the party’s leadership in Lagos and national executive to court. Based on the party’s constitution, they were expelled because they took the party to court without exhausting the internal dispute resolution mechanism. We however defeated them in court and the matter thrown out for lack of merit. The party as of today is in good shape. After the NEC meeting held in Awka on May 14, 2019, the State Chairmen were directed to return to their respective states and conduct congresses accordingly. Lagos held congresses from wards, local governments and the state levels. Officers were duly elected at different levels. The congresses were monitored by INEC and security agents and the reports were transmitted. My focus is to make APGA stronger to grow into a formidable platform for the task ahead and bigger opportunities in future.
At the national level, there are reports of crisis among the party’s leadership. What is the state of APGA at the national level?
At the national level, several interests are at play. You cannot rule out opposition. It is what makes political parties strong. What is going on in APGA today is a test of growth on the party’s leadership and management. Ozonkpu Victor Ike Oye remains the authentic National Chairman of APGA. He has demonstrated capacity in different forms. The party had its convention on May 31, 2019 and I was in attendance and I voted. Anybody that wanted to take over the party’s leadership would have come out to contest rather than holding a parallel congress as rumored. Oye has won elections for APGA in some parts of the federation, unlike in the past. He should be allowed to win more in the party’s interest. Ozonkpu Dr. Victor Ike Oye has demonstrated transparency to a certain level. I give him credit for declaring what the party realised during the general elections. Nobody is perfect, there may be areas he has not performed as expected. He has great opportunities to right whatever wrongs in the party’s interest. He has a name to protect.
Do you think there is hope for APGA in the 2023 elections?
I see APGA gathering momentum to win more positions. Under Ozonkpu Victor Oye’s leadership in the next four years, we hope to increase the positions we won in 2019 elections. We hope to make APGA more popular across the nation as we approach 2023 elections. With the experiences gathered in 2019 elections, APGA is poised to developing a good road map for future elections, the business of every political party is to win elections and remain relevant.
What are the chances of South East producing a Nigerian president in 2023?
What South East needs before talking of presidency in 2023 is total reconciliation and tolerance despite political affiliations. We need to focus our mind on the region’s development. To achieve this, we must eschew bitterness and be our brothers’ keepers. I suggest and appreciate a situation where the South East governors will come together and set a road map for the development of the region and work towards it. They should make a conscious effort so that their successes will take off from there. After this, our people will see reasons why we have to unite. Nothing stops the South East governors from embarking on joint projects. Such partnership will be of benefit to the region and enhance bonding.
What role do you think the Ohanaeze Ndigbo should play in actualising this?
I used to challenge and write against Ohanaeze because what we had before was a charade. They were a group of brothers (hoodwinks) who gathered, pretending to represent the interest of our region. But, since Chief Nnia Nwodo came on board, there has been serious transformation. I expect Ohanaeze to play a vital role towards bringing the Igbo together. They have no choice. If this is the only thing Chief Nwodo will achieve in his tenure, generations will always remember him. Ohanaeze, as the apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, can take up the task of putting together road map for South East infrastructural development and create a forum for the governors to key into. The 2023 Presidency can only be achieved if we speak in one voice. South East cannot produce a president without partnering with other regions. We must repackage ourselves, unite and more importantly, demonstrate capacity. This is when other regions will take us serious in the nation’s political affairs.
How do you see the recent request by the Miyetti Allah to set up vigilante groups in South East communities?
As a people, we cannot entrust the security of our lives and properties in the hands of strangers. It is intolerable and unacceptable. South East enjoys a certain level of security and peace. We love ourselves and we don’t kill ourselves. We have the capacity to provide security for ourselves. The Miyetti Allah’s request is out of it. They have not secured their own region and they are talking of providing security in South East. You cannot give what you don’t have. The fight against these groups causing unrest in Nigeria is political. Do not be surprise in future when the truth will surface that some Nigerians may be diverting funds meant to fight insurgency. Our soldiers are rated high outside this nation, but lack the capacity to face national security challenges. We are a republic without clear national agenda, no future and long term plans. Every discussion is tribal. Those in power seem to lack common sense. Corruption is pervasive and entrenched. Nobody seems to bother.
What is your take on the Federal Government’s suspension of the Ruga settlement project?
Suspension of RUGA is not the solution. Instead of suspension, government should cancel it entirely. RUGA is not a people-oriented project. Cattle breeding and trading is a personal business and should be treated as such. Our brothers from the north should finance their cattle business 100%. Alternatively, Federal Government should use Sambisa forest, which has enough space, to accommodate the RUGA programme if it is genuine. President Muhammadu Buhari’s government should focus on people-oriented projects and programmes and economic recovery. RUGA is a distraction. We don’t want what happened in Central African Republic to be replicated here.
As a stakeholder in Lagos, what is your impression on the activities of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu so far?
We are still watching and waiting on the current leadership led by His Excellency, Babajide Sanwo-Olu. He has not spent enough time to begin to assess him. But, from his body language, it is observed that his concentration is on revenue generation. Look at the revised traffic laws and fines. It is out of place for a civil servant whose monthly minimum wage is N30,000, which is yet to be implemented, to be fined N50,000 and above for a traffic offence. I will advise the governor to further review the traffic laws and fines, bearing in mind the income base of the average Lagosian. On the other hand, I advise Lagosians to be law abiding.
I advise okada riders to concentrate where the government gave them permit to operate considering the capacity of their motorbike and avoid violating the laws of the state. As a matter of urgency, I will request that the government to take the rehabilitation of Lagos roads seriously. The government should declare state of emergency on rehabilitation of Lagos roads. 90% of roads in Lagos are in terrible condition. This has affected the people’s movement and their vehicles have suffered a lot of damages. This will adversely tell on the state’s economy. I believe the government knows better. The truth is that we want a better and functional Lagos.