APGA is unlike other political parties –Obi-Okoye
In this interview with Cajetan Mmuta, a former National Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Mr Ifeatu Obi-Okoye, speaks on why he is aspiring to become the state chairman of the party, among other issues
Why do you want to be the Chairman of APGA in Anambra State?
A little joke. I asked my friend who is an Arsenal fan what is happening with Arsenal; great talented players, young, energetic, and full of skill but barely three weeks to go and take the cup, they lack the experience, the capacity, and the ability to go and win the cup. That’s the difference between a lot of the youths who are enthusiastic and exuberant about taking this position as state chairman. There is something we must understand given the circumstances in which we are, today, we have a National Leader of the party, His Excellency, Prof Chukwuma Soludo. For me, the incoming leadership of the party must imbibe and understand the fundamental principles of the National Leader to drive the party. We must also understand the positive endeavors of the present regime. His Excellency believes that things cannot continue the way they used to be. In the short term, it may appear unpopular, but in the long term, it’s all for the good of the people of Anambra State. We are happy he is working assiduously well to change the environment, change the social politics; change our attitudes and our beliefs. So, the incoming leadership of our party must understand that and know that it is no more business as usual. You must have the capacity to understand the national leader’s vision to be able to work. And I believe also that the party has to be re-engineered in many ways; talking about funding the party. Everything I have mentioned in my book, ‘My Political Odyssey’, is something that I have practiced before. I said that the party must not depend on stipends and subventions from the government. The party must work out ways in which it will raise revenue. There were a few things we did those days. We formed a company which we had a right to do. We had a company that did the fencing of Nsugbe, the first fencing of the College of Education, Nsugbe for a cost of about N64m. There was a variation later. The profit from there was used in running the party, and I believe that the party leadership should go into a commercial enterprise. We did things like the renovation of classrooms under the SPEB (State Primary Education Board) and others. Money made from it was used in running the party. There were also programmes we did. We had special membership which we categorised into platinum, gold, silver, and bronze. Those in the platinum category, very big people like the Innosons, the Chikasons, the Ibetos, they gave us a lot of money. We drew up a long list and I can bet you that after the first deal, we were able to raise N50m for the party. That was how we were running the party in those days. We also created tax incentives. For certain private individuals who will want to fund the party, the government should also give them tax incentives so that they can make their deduction from this. These are some of the innovations I want to bring to the party. We also think that APGA started in 2002 as an interventionist movement. APGA was never like the normal political party driven by this interventionist desire to change things the way it is being done wrong as it were in Nigeria. We must sustain that perspective that falls in line with the positive destructive endeavours of the present government. We must build around that and sustain our traditional relationship with certain institutions –the ecclesiastic, the traditional institution, and the market people. These have always been the fundamental pillars of APGA. APGA has never driven on party people. So, we seem to be weakened recently in our relationship with these fundamental people. I intend to, whenever I take over the leadership, build back and sustain communication. Party politics is all about communication. You must sustain communication between all these institutions and the government so that the people will understand the policies and drive of the government. The government may be doing the right thing, but where there is no proper communication…those days we built communication down to the ward level using even the town criers. They’re very powerful at the village level. We must reactivate, and re-enact all these things. I also think that, with all seriousness, we have had crises in APGA for quite some time and there will be a need to set up a truth and reconciliation committee to address these fundamental issues; some bordering on how we conducted our internal affairs, primaries, congress and so forth. And I believe that the committee should come out with the truth and make proper recommendations to the leader of the party. I also made suggestions concerning sustaining compensation as it were or empowerment for party followers and leaders.
What exactly did you suggest?
Everybody wants to be an employee; everybody wants to be a Special Assistant, Special Adviser, or Commissioner; the government certainly cannot do that. I recommended that we create a cooperative model whereby people will be trained. At the end of the training, you give them grants to set up personal businesses. People can also be trained in unions where they have particular skills. They could be given grants to set up their business either as a group or even in ordinary business, contract works, and so on. In a cooperative union, about seven people can be put together and say go and do this job, make some money, and take care of yourselves. I believe that will be a more permanent means of sustenance. You find out that when you’re given an appointment and the tenure ends, those groups of appointees are left jobless in the streets. So, there must be more sustainable ways.
Those that will emerge as the new leaders of the party will face fresh challenges, especially, as they concern future elections in Anambra State. These challenges may be very serious, considering the new dynamics of Nigerian politics. Did you think about this before declaring for the position?
Going forward all together, I also see the need to have a very experienced politician who will confront the issues in 2025. There will be a big battle in 2025. APGA is in government, we will win again. We will be contesting with the new ‘Obidients’. When they finish at the Supreme Court, I believe that their last ambition in politics for life will be to capture Anambra State. I also believe that the APC will be getting stronger. So, we must have a chairman who understands the battlefront and can plot and confront these issues. These are the issues that have informed my interest in the race.