Former National Chairman of All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) and one-time Senator representing Anambra Central, Chief Victor Umeh, in this interview, speaks on 2023 and why the Igbo deserve to produce President. Umeh dismisses the claim that agitators for Biafra are a hindrance to Igbo President. Excerpts:
What do you see when you look at the road to 2023?
Expectedly, next year is a general election year when we are expected to elect a new President that would succeed President Muhammadu Buhari. Most states would also be going for elections to choose new governors or re-elect those who still have the opportunity to be re-elected. We shall be electing the entire membership of the National Assembly, 109 Senators and 360 House of Representatives members and the various states are also going to elect their lawmakers.
As one would expect, we would witness a beehive of political activities. Already, INEC has rolled out the timetable for the election and rescheduled primaries to produce candidates for the various elections between April 1 and June 1 which is less than three months from the window as you can see. People would be jostling for nomination before we go into the general elections proper. The political atmosphere would be charged. There would be alignments and realignments. The political atmosphere would be busy and everybody would be watching with keen interest as things unfold.
One of the things happening at this time is the level of insecurity across the country and some are attributing it to the APC government. We see a situation where it can hinder the 2023 polls
APC is running the Federal Government. It is normal that if anything is not going on well, we put it at the doorsteps of the APC. It is expected that the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces of Nigeria is President Muhammadu Buhari and if there is insecurity and it is becoming gripping and people are not safe anymore in the land, of course, the first person to blame would be the government of the day with his deputy.
But I think that the high level of insecurity across Nigeria is occasioned by various reasons across the various zones in Nigeria. We have been grappling with the insecurity pulled by Boko Haram in the North-East. Now in the North-West is banditry, kidnapping, and all sorts of crime. In the South-East, there is tension and restiveness because of the activities of various groups agitating for one thing or the other and seeking Federal Government attention. In the South-West, we are also having fractions of agitations for one thing or the other. I have thought that the Federal Government led by the APC would have been able to set up a conflict resolution mechanism that would have helped to cushion the effect of these various disturbances.
Government cannot stay idle and hope that people would go to bed and sleep in the face of rising agitation for one thing or the other. The government must not be waiting for people to give up their agitations. We must meet people and discuss and dialogue with them to be able to calm nerves and that I have not seen the government do. If you say you are not happy, they would send soldiers after you to make you happy. It is not possible. You cannot achieve this without dialogue.
If the government is not doing anything and the government is thinking that it would curb all these insurrections across Nigeria with the armed forces, it would be too much for them. They would not be able to achieve it. A simple and effective approach would have been to meet people and talk with them and give them hope and meet them halfway in their demand or even completely so that you don’t need guns to have peace in Nigeria. It is one of the failures of government to utilize the mechanism of dialogue that the problems are precipitated and insecurity is bludgeoning everywhere. It is like a wound; if you don’t treat it, it would spread and even lead to cutting off the legs.
These problems the people are challenging the government of Nigeria for, and they are not doing anything, it would not go away, it can only get worse. That is why those in the opposition would always want to see anything that is wrong in Nigeria, hit it on the party that is running the government and it is justifiable too because the essence of government is to provide leadership and then to solve problems and if that is not in place, they would take the blame.
What is APGA doing to make it to the center stage?
Well, there are three major parties in Nigeria, the APC, which is running the government at the center, then PDP is the main opposition party, and APGA, which is the third party in Nigeria that has a hold on a part of the country. Any party that runs the government in Nigeria cannot be dismissed. APGA is one of the major players in the politics of Nigeria today.
It is only in Anambra State that it is holding sway…
Yes, Anambra State is part of Nigeria and that is where it starts; from progressive elections that would allow the people of Nigeria to elect their leaders to the amended electoral bill which has been signed into law. We will continue to talk about the strength of parties till 2023. What we have been having in the past cannot be said to be credible elections. It is only now that we are hoping that with the introduction of the various measures in the Electoral Act that has just been signed into law by the President, we would begin to have credible elections. What we have been having in the past, those who took the baton first, refused to surrender the baton to anybody and they used all kinds of fraudulent elections to retain power. Sometimes, the vote of the people never matters and it took 16 years to dislodge the PDP when APC came in, it is even more desperate than PDP to retain power.
Glory be to God that the President has signed what I can call an Electoral Act that guarantees up to 80 to 90 percent of citizens’ right to choose leaders through a credible process. After 2023, we can now know who are numbers one, two, three and what the size of number three is. Looking at it the way it has been is not a true reflection of the strength of the parties.
What’s your take on rotation of presidency?
There have been rotation since 1999 at the return of democracy and it was smooth at the beginning. It started with Obasanjo from the South-West and after Obasanjo, the presidency rotated back to the North it was Alhaji Musa Yar’Adua who became President but, unfortunately, he died midway into his first term. Then-Vice President from the South-South, Goodluck Jonathan, completed his tenure and then contested the next election which he won. He was President for six years and, after him, the power went back to the North through Buhari in 2015. Buhari is completing eight years and it would now come back to the South.
If you look at it, Obasanjo from the South-West did eight years and the South-South has done six years through Jonathan. The fact remains that if Buhari is going and power returns to the South, the group that is going to take it from the equity and justice is the South-East. That is why the cry by the people of the South-East to be supported to produce the President of Nigeria in 2023 is in all considerations right. It is the onus on Nigerians to support the President to come from the South-East because the South-East has been supporting people coming from those zones since 1999. For Nigeria to be truly united and peaceful, somebody from the South-East should be supported to be the President of Nigeria. Every Nigerian must see a reason to vote for such a candidate. When people conspire against a certain group that is supposed to produce the President and they want that group to remain in Nigeria, it is an aberration.
In 2023, if we want Nigeria to remain one indivisible country, then those who have been denied the opportunity of leadership positions at the highest level should be supported now.