Fred Itua, Abuja
Charlie Agbo is a lawyer and public intellectual. He is also a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). In this interview, he fielded questions on a wide range of issues concerning Enugu State and the nation.
You recently publicly disagreed with Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi on a wide range of issues. But of late, the grapevine has it that you have reconciled your differences and are now working together. How true is this?
Well, politics is both an art and a science practiced in the public space. It is not a business conducted in the monastery and therefore it is not antiseptic.
That is why dialectics which in street sense translates to the willingness to give and take on issues is central to it.
Yes, I raised some issues and was impressed by the seriousness attached to them by the governor. I feel sufficiently convinced that he is addressing them.
Are you saying that he has addressed all the really weighty issues involved in your outrage?
Most of the issues I raised did not have direct bearing with the governor, even though some did. But I am enamored of the fact that his natural humility has assisted in addressing them in the public interest.
There are also areas where I was furnished with fresh insights which were illuminating. So it should suffice that some positive steps were taken enabling us re-enter the same boat in the interest of the people of Enugu State.
Now, talking about 2019, do you think Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi deserves a second term?
The pragmatic foundation for that question that should satisfy all perspectives, that is those in support and those in opposition is what he did with his first term.
In approaching this, it is important that you already know that I am not exactly the next praise singer.
I pride myself in my independent capacity to speak truth to power, to look whoever is in the helm of affairs in the face and tell them you are not getting it.
In this context, I feel confident in returning a verdict of ‘yes’, he deserves a second term.
The political terrain in Enugu looks interesting. It appears most of the elite belong to the rival All Progressives Congress (APC). How does the governor intend to navigate this tricky situation bearing in mind that these opinion leaders influence the voters.
Who are these elite?
Several of them:, Jim Nwobodo, Ken Nnamani, Sullivan Chime, Gbazueagu Nweke Gbazueagu, Onyemauche Nnamani, Osita Okechukwu, and now Ayogu Eze and several others.
There is this philosophy, “political ecumenism’’, associated with Governor Ugwuanyi.
It approximates to his uncanny capacity to navigate disparate political groups and tendencies, obtain their support for the development of the state and yet respect their partisan apartness.
Former president Bill Clinton of the United States had his variant known then as triangulation. Triangulation as a political philosophy involves mounting three triangular posts, call them collection centres and you will not be wrong.
One post holds his views, the Democratic position. The other holds the views of the Republican Party, while the third integrates both views, distills and synthesises them into a workable and sellable policy accepted across both parties.
It always worked like magic and left some Republicans angry with the suspicion that their policies were ’syphoned’ without credit to them. In the same token, ecumenism has worked for Ugwuanyi.
That explains his chummy relationship with almost all the elite you mentioned, with most of them extolling his humble and yet effectual approach to the governance of the state.
Do you think that this philosophy will hold out when events build up? When the opposition nominates their candidates, don’t you think that the party will be over especially with the aggressive disposition of Adams Oshiomole, intent on whipping all who claim membership of the party into line?
Even where that becomes the case, your claim of most elites in the state belonging to the opposition is not true. For your claims on Jim Nwobodo and Sullivan Chime, former Governors, the PDP has Dr Okwesilieze Nwodo, former governor, former national secretary of the PDP, and former national chairman of the PDP. Is he not an elite?
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Commodore J.N.J Aneke, former governor of Abia and Osun states is in the PDP, is he not an elite? Anthony Obi. Is he not an elite?
For Ken Nnamani, former senate president, there is Ike Ekweremadu, three-time deputy senate president.
The dramatic character of his longevity in that position is unprecedented. Is he not an elite? You make a mistake when you assume that everyone must be in the PDP.
The APC is a party known to our law, therefore it has a right to compete in the state. That, as the cliché goes, is the beauty of democracy.
Something new is in the offing in your state. A new approach to the nomination process seems to be evolving. All candidates seeking tickets seem to be on their own with the governor appearing to be favouring no one in particular. What does this portend?
One of the banes of our politics is lack of internal democracy. The seismic turmoil in the APC is an eloquent attestation to this.
So, many influential and consequential members in the APC were effectively shut out of the congresses by their governors leaving them with no option than to defect to other parties.
A situation where intending candidates keep vigil in the governor’s residence or office all with the intent of currying his favour in advancing their electoral possibilities is antithetical to established tenets of democracy.
Its logical consequence is the elevation of the governor to a demi –god who practically owns the party and determines who contests what positions and offices. In a normal setting, the party members and delegates are the people to court. They are the king makers.
Governor Ugwuanyi’s attitude to the on-going process in Enugu therefore has my endorsement. If you are popular and electable, go and prove your mettle because the PDP is expecting opposition from other parties and should therefore be able to field their best candidates.
Wouldn’t this approach create a problem for him since many contenders who fancy themselves as part of the governor’s inner conclave will feel frustrated if they lose?
You can’t be wrong while doing right. All this talk about political correctness and real politics is what has retarded the development of our politics.
There will always be a way for the right process to commence even if it does not play ultimately to the governor’s advantage.
What he is indirectly saying is that he is also ready for a challenge by anyone who sizes up to it in the gubernatorial nomination.
The Enugu scenario will look like a microcosm of what is expected at the presidential congress of the PDP with the several heavy weights jostling for the position. What’s your take?
It’s really interesting. What Nigerians are about being served is going to be unprecedented in the history of our democracy.
It will be the most positively consequential fallout from the sensational loss of power by the PDP in 2015.
If well navigated , what many see as a time bomb for the PDP will seal its emergence as a real political party worth its name that can stand the democratic crucible anywhere in the world.
Democracy is not cheap. Plurality is even more problematic. If you remember how the same process kicked off in the United States of America for the last presidential election that saw the emergence of Donald Trump, it is a stuff from which movies are made.
As emotive and ego-wrenching and sentimentally stretching as the initial chaotic process was, a candidate ultimately emerged who moved against book makers to win the presidential election.
This is the kind of possibility that the PDP presidential primaries are tantalizingly and enticingly promising in my mind’s eyes.
With Atiku, Saraki, Markarafi, Tambuwal, Kwankwaso, David Mark, Sule Lamido and more, jostling for the presidential ticket, if the PDP political vehicle is as rickety and dysfunctional as the APC makes us to believe, why is this unusual history being made?
In the past, it would have been the military colluding with the political class to foist Obasanjo as a means of compensating the Yoruba for the injustice done to them by the annulment of June 12, or Obasanjo coupling Yar’ Adua with Jonathan and everyone else taking a genuflecting queue.
This time around, it is the party left to its own devices, a make or mar. But you know what Fred, this will make and not mar.
Out of this constellation of heavy weights, only one of them will emerge and the heavens won’t fall.
You sound very positive. But there are disturbing signs. Markarfi for instance is disturbed that while they laboured to keep the party from disintegrating, some of those who were part of their problem are now being courted to contest?
Well, it would be insensitive for one not to acknowledge Markarfi’s sentiments. Parties enter elections to win.
That is the ungarnished fact. For the PDP, the stakes are so high that the leadership may be justified to widen the post to let in more candidates.
Most parties find it expedient to allow strong new comers to contest through the legitimate instrumentality of waivers. That is what is happening.
I am positive that if the delegates are not brought under undue pressure, pecuniary or otherwise, the party will weather the storm.