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A governorship aspirant in Anambra State, Paul Orajiaka, speaks on his ambition, the South-East’s agitation for 2023, the All Progressives Congress’ chances and other issues in this interview with OLALEYE ALUKO
One key agitation in the minds of the South-Easterners is the fact that since the return to democracy in 1999, it’s high time the South-East produced the President. What do you think about the region producing the President in 2023?
I completely agree. Even though the rotational agreement for the Presidency is not enshrined in our constitution, a gentleman’s agreement has shown how we can make every region of the country to have a sense of belonging. There has been a lot of suspicion and agitation on how the South-Easterners will actually fair in the Presidency because of the old Biafran struggle.
But not until you give that equitable sense of feeling that such agitations would end. That is why I feel that it is long overdue that the South-East should also have a chance in 2023. It will not come on the platter of just the region, but we also have to examine competence, character and people with high moral standards for this office.
It is important that my people also understand the essence of our politics being in tandem with the centre. You cannot be playing regional politics by having the All Progressives Grand Alliance as your platform and you want to get into the presidency. This is why the agitations by us such as having Anambra governed by the APC are to bring the South-East close to the centre.
Now we have Imo. If in 2021, we have Anambra being governed by the APC, we will then have two states and this is what will bring us into the national politics.
It is not about agitating for the Presidency. Meanwhile, we are not aligning with the political actors and permutations that will enable us to get in there.
The two leading parties in Anambra State are APGA and PDP. What influenced your choice to run on the platform of the APC, especially with the dissatisfaction across the country?
I think Anambra is long overdue to align with the centre. We have been from the PDP to the APGA and now we have stayed in APGA. But how much of the federal presence have we attracted in Anambra? I mean you cannot remain in opposition politics for so long and not get the benefits of aligning with the centre. I am a nationalist and I don’t like a sectorial kind of politics. I don’t want to stay in a platform that confines me under the Igbo platform like APGA. I want something that will show me as somebody who has an eye for the greater good of the country. Our campaign slogan today is, for the greater good of Anambra, but if you take it up within that context, it is for the greater good of Nigeria. That is why we are aligning with the national party.
Today, why I have also not settled for the PDP is because they have aligned PDP as a southern party and in this country, we are all one, and not until we stop this practice of having our political party affiliated to a region, we will never get it right as a country.
Inasmuch as APC is unpopular, I believe that with an eye for the greater good of this country, we should start bringing in every fabric of this country together irrespective of party affiliations and that is why the APC is the best party for my aspirations.
In 2015 when the APC came into power at the federal level, the party had so many followers. But five years down the line, a lot has changed obviously. Insecurity and economic lives have become worsened. How do you intend to convince the South-Easterners that you are contesting on the right platform?
Your observations are well noted. However, you also need to ask yourself; what was the level of rot that had been in the economy and security situation before the APC came on board? Remember you just said five years. But before five years, we have had 16 years of PDP leadership and the question to ask is; if huge damage had been done in 16 years, you cannot expect a miracle to be done in five years.
I think President Buhari is working to tame the monster that he was bequeathed with. The Boko Haram crisis had been in the country before the APC came on board. You cannot set fire and when it becomes an inferno, you want someone to come and quench it. So, some of the issues we are dealing with today are not the making of this present government.
One of the things I usually say is that we are much younger and vibrant persons coming in at a time when the party needs fresh energy and ideas and we are to take up the mantle of addressing some of these challenges.
We cannot stay away from the fact that the expectations are enormous. For me, five years into the Presidency to fix a system that was there for 16 years is not such a good way to analyse the current situation. Perhaps in two or three years, the situation will be far much better than it is today.
If you look at the issues of corruption and the economy, you can give more years. But on insecurity, remember that the President (Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd)) promised Nigerians that in one or two years, terrorism would become a thing of the past. But five years have passed and Boko Haram fighters have continued to kill more Nigerians. Don’t you think there is something wrong somewhere?
I think what we are facing today is a challenge for everybody. You might have expectations to tackle a problem but not until you get into the field that you probably realise the level of devastation you are going to deal with. Part of my thoughts about tackling the Boko Haram menace is that there is a whole lot of faith and trust dropping even on the side of the security personnel. Their morale is low and a whole lot has to be rejigged in terms of our security architecture. We need to have a motivated workforce. If we have issues of mass resignation and the welfare of personnel is not being taken care of, this is not the best way to deal with people fighting the Boko Haram. On our own side, we need to rejig our military tactics.
I think the tactics have not been working too well and I think it is high time we brought fresh ideas and new people to come and handle the security architecture of this country. Perhaps, we will need to have a new approach to get a new result in the fight against the Boko Haram.
The primary for the governorship of Anambra will be held in the coming months, should you lose that primary, what will be your next step in politics?
In the last month, I have engaged the stakeholders in the APC in Anambra State and I told them that I, for one, am a party man. I have not come to this party because it must be me. My singular aim is that an APC government is in power in Anambra come 2021. So, it is only God who decides who He makes a king.
So, we can all be in the field to claim the ticket. However, if God decides it is not me, my singular ambition is to see an APC government and I have said this much to the APC state working committee, my ward and local government and every structure of the APC in Anambra. I have said that I am in this party to help build the party. Let who God decides to be the party’s candidate emerge, but let us help in building the party and defeating PDP and APGA in the race to the government house.
In the South-East APC, there are still some internal crises, are you confident these crises would not undermine the chances of the party?
First, this is a political party and not a social party. So, there is bound to be rancour and disagreements. However, if every aspirant or key actor in the party will adopt my philosophy of an APC government irrespective of who the primary person is, then this will be great. If we are contented with having an APC government, I am sure that the people will sheathe their sword and work for an APC government.
I wish every party member will also see this as a collective goal. We have to pursue one common goal.
If other bigwigs decide to run, will you bury your ambition?
Not possible. We are not in this because we are a pushover. I have prepared for this and I am so ready, irrespective of whoever is running. I am in this game to the last point. We are not just taking a walk in the park. I have been groomed from childhood to be very strong and fearless. I fear no man and no foe. The future cannot be dictated by a man. Anyone who says because any name is coming out for the governorship and then I should bury my ambition is not really going to happen. For me, I am very confident about this race. I know the youth population in Anambra have been supportive and they want someone with capacity and preparedness to take the state to greater heights. That is why I have this solid base of youths and I am not going to disappoint them.
People like Prof Charles Soludo, a former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria and Professor of Economics may also want to re-contest, are you prepared to contest against such persons?
He should also check me out. He had a lot of time to build himself because he is far much older but we are prepared to bring in fresher ideas. The world is going digital. People of my age are becoming president and not even governors. Go to France, Spain and Italy. These are very young men. They come into power from the late 30s and early 40s. So, it is not the name. Even as a businessman, I have had to take on a lot of big business challenges where they ordinarily said, you have no chance. I am not intimidated by names. He is on another platform and I am on another platform. So when we get our tickets, let the Anambra decide whether they want the old breed or they want the new breed.
Looking at the incumbent administration of Willie Obiano, how would you assess him?
If he had done creditably well, I would not be very passionate about this cause. I believe that we deserve better and that is why my slogan is, for the greater good of Anambra. Certainly what we are getting from the current government is not enough. We are being shortchanged and the kind of leadership that we want to give the Anambra people is a solid one. It is not all this mundane story about the state government fighting with oil magnates or sharing brand new cars to traditional rulers. There is no serious government that will only focus on all these things.
I am talking about a state governor using state resources to settle personal scores. The state roads are still in a terrible condition and the kings who don’t even have good roads to ride the brand new cars were given such as gifts.
What kind of leadership is that? Our people deserve far better. If you look at the last administration and the incumbent administration, you see the difference. Today, people speak highly of Peter Obi. When you compare the two governors, you see a lot of difference.
Today, there have been a couple of agitations in the South-East. We have the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra for example. If you become the governor, how do you intend to handle all these issues?
Like I stated, we have to give every sector of the state a sense of belonging. When you give them this, you would see less of these agitations. It is part of the challenges of youth involvement and empowerment which are very key. Ask many of these youths being called out for rallies and protests if they are gainfully employed, they would not be available. So, we are contending with youth unemployment and we are contending with challenges of not having proper youth education and values.
These things have to do with addressing the underlining issues about youth education, engagement and involvement. This would help to prevent the youth from being drawn into issues of these agitations. The same goes for the Boko Haram insurgency in the North-East region.
Looking at the centre, the APC is still contending against some issues. How do you think the APC can manage its affairs ahead of the 2023 polls?
Remember currently, we have a caretaker committee and with the committee, the idea is to hold a national convention that will bring in new national officers. And the party is doing everything possible to elect a National Working Committee that will be acceptable to every party member.
But good enough, they are acting in this capacity to address some of these issues. We have seen that most of these problems erupted even when the new committee came up. But the party is doing everything possible not to make that same mistake. Once we succeed in electing a new NWC, the crisis will be over.
There are people who believe that Adams Oshiomhole, the sacked National Chairman, can re-contest. What is your take on that?
I would not know about these opinions but to a very large extent, everyone is free to contest for offices and run for offices in the party. There is nothing in the party’s constitution that stops him from re-contesting. This is why he may consider running again in the party. At the convention, the party members and delegates have the right to decide if they want him to return or not. Let’s leave it until the convention time.
If you are to advise the APC ahead of 2023; where do you think they should zone the presidency?
I would say the South-East. Like I said to you, it would be fair and it would bring a sense of equity. We the South-Easterners need to play our own part and that is why our hope is brighter if Anambra becomes an APC state in 2021.
Politics has to do with relating with people at the grass roots. What relationship do you have with people at the grass roots in your state?
My father wanted us to see the pains of our people. This same tradition, which happened when we travelled home for festivals, has continued to be part of our engagement into adulthood, even as of now. It is something I want to pass across to my four daughters so that they would continue to mix with the grass roots, understand the people and know the pains of the people.
They will grow up knowing that someday in life, they need to address some of these challenges in life. The community gave me a title, which in English means the bright moon that gives light to everybody.
Our place is not where you buy chieftaincy titles. It is a place where you receive based on your antecedents. It is a testament that we are truly in tune with the grass roots.
What sort of relationship do you have with the APC bigwigs in the state?
These are notable party officials and not just that, they are also Igbo leaders. As it stands today, (Dr Chris) Ngige is like the leader not just in Anambra but in the entire South-East. I have met with him one-on-one because I understand that these are the kinds of people who will give you the motivation – they have been there, they have done it and you cannot equate their experience with anything.
I met with Ngige and I told him my ambition and we had a lengthy discussion and if not for anything, he loved my passion. I understand that for you to come into this office, you have to work with those who have also walked the rope; who have seen it all and who are still relevant in today’s Nigeria. So, I intend to engage all of them in this work as we progress.
THE EASTERN UPDATES