Anambra 2017: Chief Chekwas Okorie; For UPP, its Journey of the Tiger
UPP National Chairman, Chief Chekwas Okorie, and the party’s governorship candidate, Osita Chidoka, in this report, unveil the strategy to take over Anambra State Government House. Sam Egburonu reports
FOR the National Chairman of the United Progressive Party (UPP), Chief Chekwas Okorie, his party’s bid for Anambra State governorship seat on November 18 is “the journey of the tiger”. He says UPP’s candidate, Chief Osita Chidoka, a former Chief Executive of the Federal Road Safety Corps and former Minister of Aviation, has the personae of a full grown tiger, ready to face opponents.
As he puts it while handing over to Chidoka UPP’s three major instruments for prosecuting the forthcoming political battle at the party’s secretariat in Abuja, “the journey he is commencing now and what we have is the journey of the tiger. He looks every inch a tiger. He will protect the assets of Anambra people. He will make Anambra develop, jobs will be created. But the enemies of Anambra beware. The tiger is the king of the jungle.”
The instruments included the Certificate of Returns, which declares him the rightful winner of the party’s primaries that took place on August 19, in Awka, Anambra State; the Independent National Electoral Commission’s form CF-001 and the INEC nomination form.
Battle for transparent election
The first interest of UPP in the election is to ensure a free and fair contest. Earlier, Okorie had appealed for a level playing field in which the people of the state would be allowed to vote-in a candidate through a transparent process, devoid of any form of inducement or arm-twisting.
“I wish to appeal to the Independent National Electoral Commission, to please, comply with the promises they made to political party leaders, the promises they made to media chiefs which they assembled differently, the promises they made to pro-democracy and donor agencies and that is that the Anambra governorship election will be conducted with an upgraded card reader that will transmit results direct from the polling units to the central server.
“Once that is done, we are home and dry. Then, I wish to also recommend, if only for the Anambra election, that the EFCC should be part of the monitoring team. I say this because, in 2013, we were also in that governorship election in Anambra State.
“We saw people carry sacks of money close to polling stations and were paying N5, 000 each to electorates to vote for a particular political party. But when the attention of the police was drawn to this anomaly, the police, who had obviously been compromised, said they were invited to maintain law and order and were not invited to chase people who were carrying money.
“Because there is a limit to the amount of money anybody can carry at a particular point in time, and that falls within the purview of the EFCC, I therefore recommend that the EFCC should be incorporated into the monitoring agencies so that these malfeasances and perfidy will not be allowed to repeat itself.”
A new vision
Like Okorie, the party’s governorship candidate, Chidoka, is also no less upbeat at the prospect of winning the election.
He contends that UPP presents the most credible option towards calming the frayed nerves in the South-East zone.
Expressing disappointment with APGA, he said a credible political party, capable of articulating the misgivings of South-East and other marginalised people will help to eliminate all the grey areas that have allowed the mutual anger and suspicion, currently troubling the polity.
“In 2003, Chief Chekwas Okorie founded the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) on the idea that all the grievances of ndi-Igbo would be channelled through a political party to engage the rest of the country. Unfortunately, that dream was betrayed. APGA became an electoral vehicle meant for the election of people whose desires and interests are the maximization of their personal capacity and the denunciation of the people. That is why today, APGA, as a party, has no position; neither does the government of Anambra State, on the agitation for the actualisation of Biafra by ndi Igbo. They have no position on the issue of restructuring of the country. They have worked with PDP and they are willing to work with APC. APGA as a party is adrift and we want to send it to its final funeral and on this mission, we have the full backing of Anambra people.
“And the reason we have to do that is because we want to help Nigeria as a country to re-channel Igbo anger, to re-channel Igbo energy towards building a nation that works for everybody, towards building a country that accommodates all, towards building a country that all the constituent parts are able to join freely to build a great nation.
“The journey of this tiger is the journey of a new beginning; a new beginning that will make sure that Anambra State is truly the home for all, in Nigeria and in Igboland, a journey that will make it possible for Anambra people to come back again and own their state. No more shall Anambra people be voting for people who are sponsored by forces who are not the people contesting the election. No more shall Anambra State be ruled by people whose major interest and whose efforts in the state are to line their pockets and the pockets of their party members. But more importantly, no more shall Anambra State be ruled by an ideologically vacuous, bankrupt and backward party, but by the known ideology of our people, the ideology of Ndigbo, the ideology of uche, of uchu na egwu chukwu, the ideology of the restoration of our homeland, the rebuilding of our capacity as a people; the ideology of self-determination and right to determine our role in Nigeria, the ideology of building a nation where no man is oppressed, the ideology of re-enacting our people’s hopes and aspirations, the desire to be part of a country where they are recognised as a free constituent of the country and where they are not relegated to being a mere 5 per cent and 95 per cent.
“Let it be known that today, the UPP has come to restore the Igbo voice in Nigeria. The UPP has come to give hope to our people. The UPP has come to end the cries emanating from our people.
So, the election in Anambra is not a referendum on the failed government that is existing in Anambra, it is a referendum on our future and I stand here today to say that any vote for UPP is a vote for the future of ndi Anambra; it is a vote for the future of ndi Igbo.”
Also, Chidoka in a different encounter accused Governor Willie Obiano of not providing the needed political leadership for the people and of failing woefully in the task of providing infrastructures.
“Our people have had enough. Ndi Anambra cannot continue to be under a government without a conscience and a sense of responsibility towards the people; a government that has over time failed to stand up for the people when the occasion demands, yet continue with impunity,” he said while inaugurating his campaign office for Orumba North and South in the state.
On the issue of Biafran agitation, which has become an important campaign issue in the state, an insider source in UPP said simply, “there seems every reason for the former Minister to flaunt his bragging rights over the current issue in Nigeria. Though he seems to favour the Biafran of the Spirit, which the late Ikemba Nnewi, Chief Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, settled for before his death, as different from the Biafra of Territory, which the separatist groups are advocating, the fact that he has stood up to canvass for the major content imbedded in the two at a time when others see the issue as a no-go area, is indeed a credential he could present at the right time.
“You may not have known it, Chidoka it was, who practically went to Kuje Prison in Abuja, to drive home the leader of IPOB, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, after he was granted bail by Justice Binta Murtala Nyako of the Federal High Court, Abuja.
This was a time only few Igbo personalities seemed to find the courage to whisper the name of the IPOB leader, let alone identify with him in public.”
Considering all these, UPP National Chairman, Okorie, said the November 18 election “is already won and lost, because it would not be fought on the basis of mere sloganeering or bogus claims of performance, but on the basis of the prevailing sentiments in the state at the moment.
“I can tell you; as a matter of fact that UPP is contesting against UPP in the case of Anambra. We only have ourselves to beat. What that means is that we can either win or lose based on how we take advantage of what has happened.
“From their political antecedents, I can tell you that Anambra voters are the most politically-sophisticated electorates that we have, not only in the South-East, but in Nigeria. I give you instances. When every other state voted NRC, Anambra voted SDP. And the flagbearer then, who became governor, was Dr. Ezeife, a retired civil servant, who was not a money person. When every state voted PDP, Anambra voted APGA overwhelmingly. In spite of the manipulation, Anambra still recovered it through the tribunal, because the evidence was overwhelming.
“In Anambra, billionaires have contested elections and lost. In fact, there has been no billionaire that contested election in Anambra State and won. Like some people think that the Igbo is where money goes, but tell me one billionaire that has contested election in Anambra State as a governor and won. None! Andy Uba lost, Ifeanyi Uba lost, Soludo lost; None of them. Ngige didn’t win. He was rigged in even though he was not a billionaire, but he was sponsored by a billionaire family. And he lost at the tribunal.
“On the chances of the parties, I can tell you that APC is not in contention in the current Anambra State election.
“For APGA, it is clear that it is coming with a very bad campaign strategy. Instead of promoting the achievement of the man in power, they put up the picture of the late Ikemba, Odumegwu Ojukwu as what they thought would attract votes for them. That is not an acceptable Igbo attitude or norm or tradition. We respect the dead. We do not use the dead to campaign for election. You cannot see the Yoruba using the portrait of Awolowo or the Northerners using the portrait of the Sarduana. Nobody has used the portrait of Zik. It’s quite absurd to see these persons who ought to have respected the late leader, by allowing him to rest in peace, evoking his portrait to say ‘APGA is our own.’
“The PDP is already in disarray. The party is already crisis-ridden and will have to extricate itself first from the crisis of confidence amongst its leadership before it could begin to talk about giving credible fight for the governorship of Anambra State.
“So, for us, we will slice through Anambra State like a hot knife on butter in terms of winning. We can only lose if we mismanage. That’s why I said it is UPP versus UPP as far as this election is concerned. And we are managing the election with as much wisdom as God will allow us.”