Osita Chidoka: APGA failed the people.
Excerpts of an interview conducted by Osita Chidoka on Premium Times
“APGA was a party founded in 2003. If you remember in 2003, the atmosphere in the country was such that ethnic tension arose – the Niger Delta people protesting; the Northerners talking about Sharia, Igbos talking about Biafra, MASSOB etc. It was at that time that APGA was born. And APGA was supposed to be a political engagement strategy of Igbos to engage the country, to organise Igbo land and divert the ethnic tensions into the election. What has happened is that in its course to rise to power, it failed in that mission. First of all, they had Ojukwu as a presidential candidate in 2003. In 2007, I believe, Ojukwu ran as a presidential candidate and then in 2011 APGA said they will not field any presidential candidate and that they were going with PDP. In 2015, they did not present a presidential candidate. So, APGA got soaked in and remained only in Anambra state and was not able to become the aggregator of the Igbo voice and Igbo tension and the channel that Igbo people have been looking for.
APGA failed to aggregate, to even have a world view, to even express a position on what has today become the agitation from Igbo land. If it had been successful, in aggregating Igbo views and expressing it and engaging the country, there would have been no agitations in the region today. So, it was the failure of APGA to aggregate this world view that led to this agitations.
Every Igbo man feels there is need for the Igbos to engage the country to open up opportunities for them. We are asking for equal opportunity, not equal outcomes. This is because once there are equal opportunities; the mission has to have a benchmark. For instance, if you have a federal government college exam, and the benchmark is that everybody must score at least 50 per cent to get an admission into the school, it won’t matter whether a state has 51 per cent as their cut off mark and another state has 90 per cent. But when the cut off mark is reduced below the pass mark to accommodate people, then that’s no more federal character. That is now enthronement of mediocrity. So, people that scored 120 in exam, for instance in Anambra, can’t get in because cut off mark is 128 and somebody that scores 90 from another state can get in.
So, these are the issues that the Igbos would have loved to see APGA represent. As we speak today, APGA has no position on the issue of Biafra, on the issue of agitation, on the issue of restructuring. They have not expressed any view to the country because when I looked at the letter that Nasir El-Rufai wrote to President Buhari telling him to expand his government, to be more inclusive, to pursue reforms and all that, I thought that letter should have been written by an Igbo governor. I thought the governors have an opportunity to sit down with the president and say “Mr. President, you are in violation of our federal character laws in your appointment. It is not a wish it is not about five per cent and 95 per cent, it is the law and you are on oath as the President not to ill-treat anybody or treat with favouritism, you swore to an oath to treat every Nigerian equally, once you become president your partisan view, your personal world view must give way to the job of president of Nigeria.” I thought it was an Igbo governor that should be reminding the President of that. So, that is why the Igbo young people feel alienated; they feel that their political elite have not spoken out for them. What I want the government of Anambra to represent is that we need to engage the country peacefully, but engage constructively, to argue about those things we think. We should engage the National Assembly in passing their laws. We should engage the judiciary in interpreting the laws on some of these issues that people consider are against a particular group or not.
Now if you go to the court you may even get a judgment that resolves some of these issues. For instance, the Supreme Court ruled on the Niger Delta issue of onshore/offshore dichotomy. Obasanjo put in a political settlement and passed a law that allows the onshore to be recognised as part of the states, hence Akwa Ibom became the state getting the highest revenue in oil industry today. The country has had history of resolving matters, politically. I remember the various lectures the then Akwa Ibom governor, Victor Attah, gave; arguing how the people will not accept offshore/onshore dichotomy. This is what we demand of government and I think that what is going on in Igbo land is the absence of governments that aggregate the Igbo world view and expresses it to Nigeria. That way, the people will feel okay.
We resolved the Niger Delta problem by an amnesty put in place by Yar’Adua. The Niger Delta agitation starting from Ken Saro-Wiwa was resolved by a 13 per cent derivation principle. The June 12 scandal was resolved by allowing two Yoruba candidates to emerge from the two political parties in 1999. The political leadership must aggregate those views and express them in political terms to government in power.
That is the failure of APGA. I think every Igbo man is tired of APGA. And I think that APGA with its vicious ideology has become a story of the past. I think the people have run out of patience.”