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He said that the party would be returning to finish what a former governor of the state, Chief Chukwuemeka Ezeife, left unfinished following their ousting from office by the military.
He maintained that the Ezeife’s sacred mandate remained unfulfilled and that the party was ready to reclaim its mandate at the polls.
Okonkwo maintained that the capacity of the leadership of the party to move the state forward was never in doubt. According to him, that trust remained intact 30 years after.
He said that the think-home philosophy of the Ezeife administration signposted the foundation of the then new Anambra State and that today, the renewed quest for accelerated development was driven by the Akulueuno mantra. And for him, that perhaps, points to a return to the drawing board, which he said the SDP was part of. He also spoke on other issues in this interview. Excerpts:
You and other leaders of the SDP have vowed to do everything within your powers to return to Anambra Government House in Agu Awka in 2021; a place you lost about 29 years ago? Have you people first sat to find out why you’ve not been able to do that since 1999, when we returned to democratic rule and why you have not been able to win any position till today?
I want to tell you that in Nigeria no party has died and ever resurrected except the SDP. You have to know the political environment of Nigeria; that it is not easy for any party to be proscribed, to go to court and get an order of the court de-proscribing it. Only SDP has done it in Nigeria. And if you look at the legal tussle that we went through, you will understand why it is not possible for SDP to just come up like that. But I want to tell you that we are already up because we have members in the federal house. Yes! We have two members in the Rivers State House of Assembly. We have two members in the House of Assembly of Nasarawa State. We have some councillors in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). So, the party is coming up. And no other party in Nigeria has ever done that, resurrecting from death except SDP. You can check the records.
In view of the kind of politics that is being played in the country and the brand of politics in Anambra State where we have the political party, the incumbent and the one in charge in Abuja; PDP also. You said you have toured the LGAs in the state. How has the response been? Again, how do you hope to return to Government House 30 years after with the type of political parties that are holding sway at the moment?
The response we received all over the state was very wonderful. I want to tell you that the SDP is coming with a new brand of politics. We want to return power to the people and the people are very happy about that. If you look at what has been happening since 1999, a group of elite hijacked power, but they keep on telling us that power belongs to the people. But the people do not know where the power is. So, the brand of politics we want to bring in is exactly what the people want and they were so happy when we met them; that at last power is coming back to the people. If you look at our party you will see that it is not a party of moneybags. But we want to do it for the people. That is why we said that this party is focused on the people. And I want to tell you that if as a people we decide that SDP is the party for the state, nobody can stop that no matter how much money you have; no matter your power of incumbency; no matter whatever purse you think you have. Democracy is actually supposed to be for the people and by the people. So, we are transforming the political landscape by mobilizing the people; not mobilizing the elite. So, we are doing it differently this time and it is going to work.
There is this slogan in Anambra State that Willie is working. Does the SDP agree that Governor Willie Obiano is working?
We are not here to castigate the government in power. We are not here to assess their performance. We are here to project a new vision for Anambra State. And that new vision is built on the people. We want the dividends of democracy to come down. If we have the feeling that it is already down, then, we will not have any project in Anambra State. But we believe that we can do better. Whatever achievement any government has achieved in Anambra State we still can do better. That is why they will always say that there is room for improvement. So, whatever Willie has achieved is not our concern. Our concern is that we can take Anambra to greater heights.
The burning issue in Anambra State today is zoning. What position does the SDP hold on the issue of zoning for the 2021 governorship election? Are you going to zone your ticket to any of the three senatorial zones in the state?
Like I said earlier, whatever we are doing is on the people. If the people of Anambra State should come together and decide that the governorship will come from a particular part of the state, SDP will move along with them. But as it stands now the party is yet to decide on zoning officially. For now, we don’t have any arrangement on zoning.
SDP in Anambra State seems to be factionalized. We understand that two persons are laying claim to the position of chairman. You claim to be the chairman recognized by the national leadership of your party. Can you clear the air on this?
What I will tell you is the position of the SDP Anambra State. As far as the SDP here is concerned, there is nothing like faction again. We have one party right now because sometime in February a court of competent jurisdiction struck out a case challenging my chairmanship of the party. So, it is a settled matter and since then, we have reconciled all the factions. And I want to tell you now that the SDP in Anambra State is one family.
THE SUN, NiGERIA