Chief Ifeanyichukwu Akete, the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) Chairman in Lagos State has a big vision for the party in the state. He also believes that APGA is the only credible alternative to All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in future elections as he states in this encounter with correspondent.
Since after the 2015 general elections, what would you say is the current state of APGA in Lagos State?
The All Progressive Grand Alliance is being repositioned to be a credible alternative to the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Lagos State. The major opposition in Lagos, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), failed in the last election at the federal level and this has affected their chances in state and the federal level in the next elections. That has put PDP in a trauma not only in Lagos, but all over Nigeria. PDP is still licking its wounds and has been mourning since then. By the time it will recover, APGA would have consolidated in its restructuring programme to become a better alternative. What I am saying does not only concern APGA in Lagos, but the whole country.
Could you give the background to recent suspension of the former chairman of the party in Lagos, Barrister Kayode Alabi?
Barrister Alabi’s suspension was a decision of the State Executive Council of the party and part of the restructuring programme. The aim is to reinvigorate and re-engineer the party for better result. Barrister Alabi is still very much part of us. What happened is a family affair to put our house in order for better performance in future elections. We are looking at the issues involved for a proper resolution.
Would it be correct to say that there is a crisis in Lagos State chapter of APGA? If so, what is your executive doing to resolve it?
Actually, APGA is not in any crisis. We are one family. Normally, after a major election and due to our performance in 2015 polls, there is need to review activities of the members and officials with a view to fashioning out a way forward. We are therefore trying to pick the pieces and make amends where necessary so that the party can stand the test of time. APGA is an institution, not a personal enterprise or property of anybody. That is the way it should be for better results.
What are you doing to put APGA in a state it can compete with APC and PDP in Lagos for future elections in the state?
What we are doing now is political evangelism, to appeal to the conscience of Lagosians on the need to look for an alternative platform to support for a better result. This is not a tea party. It needs sacrifices and commitment by members of the party so that success can be achieved. We may not have the money and structure both APC and PDP have. But, we know that Lagosians are wiser.
In a free and fair election, they always vote for the candidates of their choice irrespective of party affiliation. In future elections, we intend to choose candidates who are credible and can perform in all electoral offices. This is a task that must be done.
How do you think APGA can upstage APC in Lagos in future elections when people still see it as an Igbo party?
APGA is not an Igbo party. It has made inroads into four geo-political zones in Nigeria. They won elections in Nasarawa, which is North Central. We won elections in Taraba, which is North East. We won elections in South East. We also won elections in Bayelsa, which is South South. So, APGA is not an Igbo party.
Before, Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) was concentrated in South West. Then, it was regarded as a Yoruba party. Now, APC, it is ruling Nigeria. So, it is no longer a Yoruba party. The same thing can apply to APGA. There are cracks in both APC and PDP presently. So, APGA can cash in on these to solidify and enlarge itself. It can get the like minds in both PDP and APC to solidify itself to become a major party in the country.
APC is conglomeration of strange bed fellows to grab power at the federal level. This is telling on their ability to provide dividends of democracy for Nigerians. If ACN, which was in one geo-political zone, could merge with other political parties and won the 2015 elections, APGA has a better chance to do so and succeed. That is why we are calling for the cooperation of every APGA member to ensure that the party is stronger and more united than it was before, so that we can take it to that level where it can take over the administration of the state from APC and even control the State House of Assembly as it is the only alternative to both the ruling party and the main opposition party now in the state, PDP. I believe we are equal to the task. Considering what is happening now in PDP and APC, this is possible.
How do you see APGA at the national level? Is Chief Victor Umeh still enjoying the followership of members?
APGA is intact at the national level. The National Executive Committee of which I am a member is working hard to put the party in its proper perspective. Besides, Chief Umeh is no longer our National Chairman. The National Chairman is Dr. Ike Okoye. The National Executive Council is doing its best to put APGA in its proper shape. Chief Umeh is a member of the Board of Trustees (BoT) and Senator-in-waiting for Anambra North Central. Anambra State governor, Willie Obiano, is the National Leader and Chairman of the BoT. His support is quite tremendous. All of them are working hard to make APGA a stronger and greater party.
APGA has been allying with the PDP over the years. Do you think this arrangement will not continue in 2019?
Yes, APGA has been allying with the PDP. But, this has not helped the party. Historically, it is dangerous for smaller parties to work with a party in government because it will swallow them. Look at Mahmud Waziri of APP who worked with Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. That action worked against the APP. Edwin Ume-Ezeoke was also in APP. He worked with PDP. He did not gain. The story of Peter Obi, APGA and PDP is still very fresh. So, it is very dangerous to go into alliance, except where there are equal responsibilities.That explains why we were reluctant to join APC at its formation.
But, Governor Rochas Okorocha, due to his desperation for the presidency ditched APGA which brought him to power. Now, he is in the cold in APC and in a political wilderness because the power equation in APC does not favour him. After his tenure as Imo State governor, Okorocha will leave APC because he is a nomadic politician. He moved from APP to PDP, formed Action Alliance (AA) and dumped it, thereby leaving his teeming supporters once more in the cold and returned to PDP. Then he moved to APGA. He dumped APGA and moved to APC. He will surely not end in APC, but will move to elsewhere. Well, as a prodigal son, if he returns to APGA, we will accept him back. Same goes for former Governor Peter Obi.
What would you say is the hope of APGA performing better in the 2019 general elections?
There is much hope. This is based on the party’s performance report in Anambra State, where it has ruled for 10 years so far, with a stable economy and influx of foreign direct investment and a best secured state in Nigeria. APGA offers a better alternative to Nigerians. If we are given the opportunity to replicate what APGA is doing in Anambra State all over the country, it will be better for Nigerians.
So, I believe that in 2019, APGA will perform better, especially considering the failure of the PDP government in the centre and the present economic hardship Nigerians are experiencing under the incumbent APC government of President Muhammadu Buhari.
How do you see the performance of the APC government under President Muhammadu Buhari?
President Buhari is doing well, especially in his anti-corruption war. That is where I give him kudos. But, the Nigerian problem is beyond anti-corruption war. There is need for a holistic and well articulated economic programme that is devoid of political mannerism to move the country forward. In effect, there is need to involve technocrats who have served in the former government in the present government for the purpose of rescuing the nation economically. The condition of Nigeria is beyond political propaganda. We should face the realities on the ground. We should not blame the previous government or the current government. Now is the time for action so that the country will not collapse. I will like the present government to open doors for people who have genuine concern for the progress of Nigeria.
On sectoral performance, I score the APC government of President Buhari zero. Fuel scarcity is now worse in the history of Nigeria. Even the budget the National Assembly supposedly passed lacked detail and has not been assented to by the president.
With the appointment of Modu Sheriff as the PDP National Chairman and the party’s recent apology to Nigerians over how it handled the nation in the last 16 years, would you say it is on the right track of returning to power in 2019?
The return of PDP does not depend on Modu Sheriff. The party’s apology is not enough for the huge damage they did to Nigeria as a nation. They cannot fool Nigerians the second time. I do not know what surgical operation PDP under Sheriff or anybody else can do to save the party from going into oblivion. Between now and 2019, there is enough time for restructuring and changes in all the political parties, including PDP. By then, APGA would have become a better alternative to both APC and PDP. But, as an APGA chieftain, I will not proffer solution to the problems of PDP.
How do you see the South East political leaders? Would you agree that they do not leave legacies, but are people with self-interests?
Well, this is not limited to South East alone. Presently, there is no section or geo-political zone that does not have problems, cracks and disunited structures. Students of History will remember that at a time, Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Chief S.L. Akintola held sway in the then Western Region. They had squabbles. In the North, Aminu Kano and Abubakar Rimi had issues. Now, see what is happening in Rivers State between the incumbent governor, Nyesom Wike and his predecessor, the incumbent Transport Minister, Rotimi Amaechi. You will remember that this started when Amaechi was governor and Wike was the Minister of State for Education. Before this crisis, the two were bosom friends. This is Nigerian politics for you. This scenario is not limited to South East alone. In the whole Nigeria, no section can easily boast of leaders who have complete control of the people. Even Asiwaju Tinubu in South West, he is a man I respect so much due to what he has done in Lagos and South West. But, since APC went national and is in charge of the Federal Government, Asiwaju, the Jagaban is losing control. But, I still doff my hat for him for what he has done for this country.
Now, the North has taken over APC with the control of President Buhari, the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, and the House of Representatives Speaker, Yakubu Dogara. Even the Judiciary is in the hand of the North which produced the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN).
However, I pray that South East will rise up to become more united and better coordinated before the 2019 elections. That is why people should give APGA chance as the only credible alternative to APC and PDP which have no good plan for South East.
Do you foresee any possibility of a President of South East extraction come 2019?
There is hope for a president from South East geo-political zone of this country. It is indeed possible. Whoever thought that South South would ever produce a president in the name of Goodluck Jonathan when they did? There is nothing that is impossibility. So, there is no doubt that South East will one day produce Nigeria’s president. But which platform can give South East the presidency under the current set up? Speaking realistically, it will not be through APC and PDP. But, I must stress that power is not freely given. I cannot see either APC or PDP giving presidency to South East in 2019. APC is already talking of second term for President Buhari. PDP is also talking of a Northern presidential candidate. So, where is the hope for South East under these two parties? What has APC offered South East so far in the current administration for it to allow South East to take a shot at the presidency? It cannot happen.
This leaves APGA as the only credible alternative if such will happen in 2019. That is why a lot of restructuring is going on within APGA to make it acceptable all over the country as an alternative to APC and PDP. APGA is indeed a national movement that is gradually unfolding. Nigerians will soon see it and they will surely become part of it.