LET me start by stating the obvious. The All Progressives Congress (APC), the ruling party at the federal level, has been very difficult to sell to the people of not just Anambra State, but also the South East. For some reason, it has been defined, in the eyes of most people, as the party of Boko Haram supporters and sponsors.
While serving as the Anambra State governor and chairman of the Conference of South East Governors, Mr. Peter Obi led the campaign to demonise the APC right from inception. The perception of APC as anti-Igbo has been worsened by President Muhammadu Buhari’s obvious neglect of Ndigbo in the scheme of things.
There is a disconnect between the few Igbo political elites who have joined the party and the mass of the people, who have not changed their perception. Yet, the APC wants to contest the November 18, 2017, gubernatorial election in Anambra State with a view to winning.
The painful truth is that the party is contesting against a sitting governor who is strong on performance and understands how to make a mess of his opponents, despite the impression he gives that he is a mere technocrat rather than a politician. See the way he dealt effortlessly with Chief Martin Agbaso when the latter claimed to be the national chairman of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), following a controversial order of mandamus from Justice R. A. Ozoemene of the Enugu State High Court on May 22, 2017. Agbaso held his so-called convention on August 14, 2017, in his hometown of Owerri, Imo State, but not one person of significance was there. Not even one councillor from anywhere in the world bothered to attend. Not one official of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) made it.
Agbaso’s so-called convention looked like a dirge for the political future of a man who once contested for the governorship of Imo State. Less than 24 hours to the so-called convention, newspapers reproduced reports published in various media in October 2014, showing that Agbaso had left APGA, which he used as the platform to run for governor in 2007. They produced overwhelming evidence showing conclusively that the man had since October 24, 2014, rejoined the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Journalists like Livinus Onuoha, who covered the ceremony of his return to the PDP at the party’s secretariat on Okigwe Road in Owerri wrote in the mass media a few days ago questioning Agbaso’s personal integrity.
On November 25, 2014, THISDAY reported, in a story by its correspondent in Owerri, Amby Uneze, captioned, “Nigeria 2015: Agbaso Returns to PDP, Declares for Imo Governorship.” Other news media like TELL, The Sun and Premium Times reported the return.
Just yesterday, the Court of Appeal in Enugu quashed the controversial mandamus order from the Enugu State High Court. Agbaso has truly been messed up for life.
What is self-evident to all and sundry is that Governor Willie Obiano is an ebullient fighter. When APGA held its convention, where he was chosen to run for re-election, every person who mattered in the party was there and displayed passion and enthusiasm. All the party’s legislators in various Houses of Assembly as well as the National Assembly were present, to say nothing about national officers like Alhaji Sani Shinkafi, chairman of the APGA Electoral Panel. It was a huge crowd. The event was beamed live on television across the country.
What I find amazing is that, rather than my party, the APC, to start early enough to prepare very well to contest against Obiano and his ruling APGA in the forthcoming election, we have been doing things that cannot endear us to the public. Instead of looking for a decent man, like Chief George Muoghalu, as the standard-bearer so that we can stand any chance, many of our leaders have been rooting for candidates who, I am sorry to say, we can never, never market to Anambra people.
How can we tell our people to vote someone who spent a fortune during the last election of 2015 demonising the APC, calling it, on radio and television, a party for the spread of Islamic fanaticism? How can we choose a candidate we all know recently joined the APC for a purely opportunistic reason, that is, to enable him to have a platform to rig, in the belief that the APC is in possession of the so-called Federal Might? How can we sell to Anambra voters someone who sponsored or took part in the mayhem of November 2004, in which government institutions like the judiciary and the House of Assembly as well as the Government House and state broadcasting houses were burnt in broad daylight? Can Anambra, the state with the highest number of successful professionals and intellectuals in Nigeria, be governed in the 21st century by someone who cannot defend the educational qualifications he claims?
I have said it times without number that Governor Obiano is no pushover. He has touched lives in a way people with conscience cannot deny. A few months ago, I pointed out that he had just commissioned a 47-kilometre electricity project in a part of my own Orumba South Local Government Area. He is constructing the Ezira-Umuomaku-Enugwu Umuonyiba-Onne-Agbudu Road, linking five towns in my LGA, which have never had a tarred road. I know of many people in opposition parties like PDP, including national officers, who will join personages like former Vice President Alex Ekwueme and ex-Governor Chukwuemeka Ezeife to endorse Obiano.
Therefore, if the APC really wants to participate seriously in the impending governorship election, it has to bring out a credible candidate. Someone like Chief Muoghalu, who has been with the party from the beginning. He is not an opportunist like some other aspirants in our party. Muoghalu will help us re-mould the reputation of the APC in Anambra State, which, unfortunately, is in a mess at the moment. The entry and activity of certain characters tend to bring our party into disrepute.
•Hon. Okechi, ex-chairman of the Anambra State House of Assembly Committee on Information, is a founding APC member in Anambra State.