Chief Victor Umeh is National Chairman of All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA and currently, the candidate of the party for the Anambra Central senatorial election. In this interview, he answers questions on several political issues of the moment. Excerpts:
This is the first time you are seeking elective position. Can you tell us what inspired you because you are still the national chairman of APGA?
My contesting for Anambra senatorial constituency came as a result of several calls from various groups within the senatorial districts that I should represent them because they believe that I will offer them better representation at the Senate.
Secondly, I accepted to run because after my participation as a delegate at the national conference, I discovered that there is still much to do. As a delegate of the conference, I was among the other South East delegates who championed decisions that would restore the people and bring them to an acceptable position in the Nigerian politics; particularly addressing the structural disadvantage Ndigbo have suffered over the years as a result of the war.
Conclusion of the conferences
We were able to secure a very important side into the national conference, including the creation of an additional state in the South East to increase the number of states in the South East to six.
We were able to let our voices over the funds that are meant for the local governments in the states. At the conclusion of the conference, it became obvious that if the resolutions are addressed, it will be included in the constitution of the state.
We were able to reach those resolutions because we know the disadvantages that out people have been suffering over the years.
The president has consistently promised to implement the resolutions of the national conference and so there is hope that things would change for better if Jonathan comes back as president in 2015.
Apart from that, another national chairman of APGA would emerge soon because my tenure would soon end and so I decided to go to Senate and I wish to work for my people and the good of Nigeria and contributing to national growth and also assist in making good governance for Nigeria.
Those are the reasons why I am in the race and as a result of a clarion call from my follower ship. The people are happy with the present situation in the state. APGA has restored sanity to Anambra state. The present governor is doing very well to restore security of lives and properties.
The South East has backed President Jonathan through thick and thin. Is he really the right choice for Ndigbo?
For a people that have lost so much over the years, it will be very difficult for them to really see that they are making improvement in their lives. Under Goodluck Jonathan’s presidency, the Igbos have received a new lease of life. For instance, the Enugu airport is now an international airport so much that you can fly to any part of the world from there. It wasn’t like that in the past. It will not be nice for us to take for granted remarkable improvements that we have recorded under President Jonathan’s administration.
The second Niger bridge that you spoke about, the government has taken steps. We have gone there to flag off the construction but the issue of funding requires further management assessment to give the project its full light. That project is still on. Last December, the Enugu/Onitsha expressway got approval of over 20 billion Naira. If you go there now, the construction is in its advanced stage.
If people do not get their dividends under other administrations, under Jonathan, it is different. It was a policy of the previous administration that the Igbo will never get an international airport. Under President Goodluck Jonathan, it became a thing of the past. Gradually, we will get the presidency given an opportunity of bringing the Igbos together. Can General Mohammed Buhari, the presidential candidate of APC assist Igbos?
Of course he wont. Look at the some of the challenges I have pointed out to you. The major challenge the Igbo are facing in Nigeria is the disadvantage in the political structure in Nigeria.
And Jonathan is the only visible person that saw the need to convene a national conference where issues were discussed and the solution to the structural disadvantage of the Igbo was one of the issues on the table. The APC boycotted the national conference. In other words, APC stood for the elongation of the status quo. Let our people continue to have five states and 95 local government areas.
Can a party that boycotted the national conference produce a president that would represent the resolutions of the national conference? He cannot solve the problem of the people. I cannot vouch for Gen Buhari because he cannot do anything for our people.
For the fact that APC boycotted the national conference means that it cannot bring about any positive change. The only place where the issue of Nigeria is being negotiated is the national conference and APC was opposed to it. It will be a tragedy for anyone to be talking about supporting a political party, not Buhari as a candidate, that is opposed the national conference which gives so much to reduce the pains of Nigerians.
Jonathan is the only hope we have through the resolutions of the national conference. The bulk of the problems of the Igbo lies in the structural disadvantage we acquired in the course of the civil war.
If you look at what I have told you, the South East has ninety-five local government areas, the South South has one hundred and twenty-three local government areas, South West has one hundred and thirty-five local government areas . The Igbo must fight for their right to overcome their marginalisation in Nigeria.
People should look at the structural solution that the administration of Goodluck Jonathan would bring. I want Ndigbo to know that their support for Jonathan is not on selfish ground.
The former vice president from the South East, Dr. Alex Ekwueme did say recently that the Igbo will not give Jonathan a blockvote which means there is a kind of division that he has perceived amongst the people.
My response to Ekwueme is that people are approaching this matter from various perspectives. If you read the reasons that Dr. Ekwueme read out, you will see clearly that he is not happy with the PDP.
Being a founder of the PDP, he is not happy with the way PDP has treated him and as far as I can say, Ekwueme is entitled to his opinion. On the issue of Buhari and Jonathan,the people should know that they do not have any alternative as to who to support than Jonathan. I support Jonathan based on previous achievements.
It is also a wake up call for President Jonathan. His response has been good towards the South-East but he ought to do more. It depends on his approach. Moreover, people must know that the first of his tenure must be different from the second term. His actions during a first term cannot in any measure be compared to the second term presidency. Let us give him the support and see his response to finding solutions to issues that affect the people. No matter how we look at it, it is better to have hope than to have no hope at all. From what I have explained to you, Jonathan’s second term presidency will bring more hope than Buhari’s presidency.
I don’t see APC implementing the resolutions of the national conference. To me, Jonathan and Buhari are not even comparable in any respect to the Ndigbo’s expectations. Buhari has nothing to offer us. He was part of the military junta that governed the country in which Igbo were not given any chance to shine.
The military were the people that caused the Igbo problem. There is nowhere that the Igbo will trust anybody who was associated with the successive military regime that impoverished the Igbo in Nigeria.
Ekwueme spoke with a combination of two feelings: one, as someone who was a founding father of PDP, and secondly as a Igbo man and a leader who is representing his people. So, I consider that as a wake up call. What all the previous administrations had done cannot be compared to what Jonathan’s administration has achieved especially with the South East.
You know it is the opinion of many that Jonathan did not handle the issue of Boko Haram very well which I can say also affected the Igbo more than any other thing. That is to say that on the issue of security in the country, he did not do well.
My answer is very simple. Jonathan did not create Boko Haram. And if you look at the internal insurgencies that had happened in the past, the Igbo were also drastically affected. The reason is that Igbo are always in every part of Nigeria doing business and that is why anytime things happen, they are the greater victims. The Boko Haram issue is painful to all of us. Jonathan should not take any blame for it.
I am very happy when I saw Buhari saying that if he becomes President of Nigeria on May 29, 2015 , Boko Haram would be settled within two months. What magic would he perform? If he knows the solution to Boko Haram, he may have an idea of how it was created. It is politics that brought Boko Haram to national prominence. Must they hijack Boko Haram for self ambition in order to run the government of Jonathan down?
The foreigners came and left Nigeria with no solution to Boko Haram insurgency. And Buhari is promising the solve the problem within two months. It is not that he would carry arms to stop the insurgencies, he will only make a pronouncements and they will lay down their guns which means. Could that mean he knows how they were created? And one wonders what would be their reasons for killing innocent people in this country. People should be able to see clearly that there is no magic in the large manner.
Jonathan is approaching the matter the way a president should approach it. Jonathan is a civilian president not a military man. Jonathan is a pure civilian and the only thing to do to get things right is if we do it in pragmatic ways and that is what Jonathan has been doing. And if they decided to use Boko Haram to drive Jonathan out of power, it is a failed plan.
I assure you that if Jonathan wins the presidency in February 14, 2015, Boko Haram will automatically end. There will be no point fighting him again. The whole essence is to disturb him from his second term ambition . We will understand that the Boko Haram issue is an isolated issue. We are talking about four states in the entire federation. So, Jonathan is providing security in 32 states in Nigeria.
The Boko Haram issue is spreading. It started from Borno and it has since spread to other states, Borno, Yobe, Gombe and Nassarawa, Adamawa. If they had done what they were supposed to do, it wouldn’t have spread to other states?
Like I said, the people who are offering the solution to Boko Haram are the people who created the Boko Haram problem in Nigeria. They want Jonathan to go so that they can take over the affairs of the country. We cannot allow that to happen. Boko Haram is like ulcer that has been localised in one part of the body which needs to be cut off. Government has been doing enough to restrict the menace within these four states. And I can tell you that after the general elections, this Boko Haram will disappear. If Jonathan wins the elections, they will lay down their arms. Boko Haram is being used to threaten Jonathan’s second term bid. Since, Buhari knows the solution to Boko Haram, he should proffer it now instead of waiting until he wins. It is not compulsory that he becomes president of the Nigeria before he could proffer solution as an elder statesman. Since, it is a pronouncement, let him say it now so that Boko Haram will lay down their arms.
Finally, what do you think of the peace accord signed by Jonathan and Buhari recently?
It is for Buhari to keep the peace accord if he does not win the election. Jonathan has been a peaceful man and everybody knows that. No Nigerian has accused Jonathan of violence. If not for anything, he (Buhari) feels challenged that Jonathan did not use force to address Boko Haram by killing everybody in those areas to prove that he is a strong leader.
He is a peaceful man and ahead of his election, I see Jonathan as someone who wouldn’t want to do anything that would cause problem in Nigeria. Buhari has proved that if he loses the election, he will not accept it and that is why he signed the peace accord. I watched him closely, he even narrated his participation in election in 2003, 2007 and 2011. In 2011, he said, he had no ambition in becoming the president again.
Only God knows what he would do in 2015 if he does not win the elections. Somebody who has lost confidence in the judiciary, how will he resolve his problem in 2015. The best thing is for Buhari to submit himself to the will of the Nigerian people. He has faulted all the elections that he participated in and lost.
And if the 2015 election is conducted, he will also fault it if he loses. I don’t have any hope that the peace agreement will be kept by Buhari.