Friday, December 18, 2015

Federal apologists cause collateral damage to S’East —Umeh

Chief Victor Umeh, a former national chairman of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) contested with Senator Uche Ekwunife representing Anambra Central Senatorial Zone in the last National Assembly poll. He reflects on the syndrome of godfather, federal might in Nigerian politics, as well as the role of the judiciary, among other issues during an interview with journalists. JUDE OSSAI provides some excerpts:

The Appeal Court sitting in Enugu nullified the election of your opponent, Uche Ekwunife of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), as senator representing Anambra Central senatorial district. How do you feel about this judgment?
I will first of all say that I am happy that the Court of Appeal did not sustain the electoral heist that took place in Anambra State early this year. By coming with a decision that election should be repeated, at least, is an improvement from the previous impression being bandied about that the election was good, and that Honourable Uche Ekwunife, won the election. I cried out from the onset that the election was marred with recklessness impunity. I also pointed out that the environment under which that election was conducted was skewed against other candidates in the poll, other than the PDP candidate. Its candidate submitted a list of all the ad-hoc staff employed by INEC for that exercise and during the election proper, the military were deployed to her full use and we were pushed out of the election. But, we managed to hold on to that election and of course, garnered votes that actually won that election. But, through the manipulation of the PDP and INEC-they first of all announced a scandalous figure, 101,548 for the PDP and myself, 77129. Ngige got 20,000 votes-the candidate of APC. Of course, we were very distressed by the outcome of the exercise as announced by INEC and the only thing to do, like I have always done, was to go to the Tribunal to seek redress. And at the Tribunal, we were able to show that the result announced by INEC was false, because we recalculated the figures we saw on the certified true copies of the results given to us by INEC and saw instead on addition that PDP got 93, 860 on the face value instead of 101,548 and my votes on the face value was 85,898 instead of 77,129. So, it immediately cast a total doubt in the election. And when we filed our petition, they accepted that the result announced by INEC was wrong. That instead, what we added up was the result but they accepted it, claiming they are still leading, even at that.

Were there other issues you took to the Tribunal?
Another issue we took to the tribunal was that she was not validly nominated. You are aware that the PDP in Anambra State has been factionalised in the past 12 years. And before the primaries started, internal squabbles in the PDP took a heavy toll on the party, necessitating that Uche Ekwunife and her group became candidates without going through any primaries or any process as provided by the Electoral Act. These are the issues we took to the Tribunal, because the Tribunal agreed that the election result announced by INEC was false and said nothing beyond that. If those figures were wrong, it must have obvious consequences on the election, because election is not a rule of thumb business. You must be precise and accurate in figures you allot to candidates in an election. You don't just say this man got 200,000 and tomorrow, you say he got 150 and you expect somebody who is a judge to accept that the election was conducted in substantial compliance with the Electoral Act. It cannot be. So, these were the things we brought to the Tribunal and of course, because they were there to do a hatchet job, they turned their eyes away from the matters that we brought to Court. I proceeded to the Court of Appeal.

What motivated you to go to appeal, considering the skewed judgment delivered by the Tribunal in your petition?
I am not a stranger to wrong decisions of lower courts. In Nigeria, I think I have been able to use the judicial process to show that most times, the lower courts lack the courage to dispense justice according to Law. So, when we got to the Court of Appeal, the obvious thing happened. That election was nullified. For me, I thought they should have declared me winner out right. We were able to prove that she had an invalid nomination. Even though the text of the full judgment will come out in two days time, we will look at it and see the reasons for arriving at nullification. Be that as it has happened, we are still grateful to the judiciary that they didn't allow the fraud to stand in favour of the PDP candidate. So, we are grateful to the judiciary for coming to this just decision, that at least she did not win that election, unlike what she has been telling people everywhere, prancing around that she defeated Victor Umeh silly. I think she has shut up her mouth now.

How ready are you for the repeat elections?
I am somebody who is an unrepentant believer in the use of the machinery of judiciary to pursue justice. When that happened, because I have not been used to inciting people to take to the streets to demonstrate, people thought that I had given up. But quietly, I continued doing what I know how best to do and we thank God that they have been revived now. If you go to Anambra now, particularly in my senatorial zone, Anambra Central where the election was nullified, people are still jubilating over the victory.

That senatorial zone is the strongest senatorial zone in Nigeria. Any place you go to engage the strength of the people in a senatorial zone, Anambra Central is the centre point of politics in Anambra State. So, it was keenly contested. It was hotly contested. There were people of influence in that senatorial zone and when this thing (electoral fraud) happened, the place went silent and now, they are celebrating that they now have another opportunity to express their will. So, I am ready, ever ready.
APGA has always advocated the use of ballot box to elect leaders without manipulation. You know, the party has gone through very strenuous trouble to enthrone a democratic order in Anambra State and in Nigeria, by extension.

All that we have done, we have done from the point of the underdog, to wrestle power from the super brats. We have not been used to bullying anybody. Instead, they have been bullying us. So, now that this election will be conducted under a very new template, we are very hopeful that the votes of the people will be what will be counted to declare somebody winner. There will be no godmother, there will be no godfather. There will be no presidential might, which has been the greatest source of political corruption in Nigeria; the use of presidential power to suppress the will of the people to win elections and elements. The PDP have been culprits in this habit. Every time there is an election in Igbo land, federal apologists will return home to decimate the people and leave them desolate after every election. I think PDP that has been using that process, particularly in the South-Eastern Nigeria, which has fallen from the power.

You said this is a new template, but we are aware that the rerun will include your former opponent, Chris Ngige, who is now a Minister of the Federal Republic. Do you not envisage there could still be another federal might because of the APC government at the centre?

No, I don't think so. APC came with a posturing of change in Nigeria. Before it became a consolidated party, the ACN and the other parties that merged to form the APC were in a vanguard of struggle with APGA against the ruling party in terms of muscling the opposition. And with opposition party now taking over the leadership of the country, I do not expect that no matter how they try it, that they want to muscle the electoral process. What is happening in Bayelsa now is a pointer to what is going on. Elections have taken place in seven local governments. PDP has won six local governments and those (their) victories have been declared for PDP. APC is the Federal Government. If it were to be the other way round, PDP being at the centre, they would have rigged the Bayelsa election. Without looking at anybody, you won't see result sheets and they would have announced somebody winner. So, the change we are talking about is already being experienced.

APC has a moral burden, not to repeat what PDP did to opposition parties before they were unseated. You can see developments in Bayelsa. Sylva won only one local government and he is still hoping to win with one outstanding local government when he has lost six local governments out of eight. If it were to be the PDP regime, Sylva will not see any result sheet and they will declare any of their own winner and you go to Court. That has been their style. What PDP did to Nigeria in their 16 years of rule was the greatest disservice to democracy. PDP promoted democratic banditry; electoral banditry in Nigeria. For quite some time, I have not joined the public commentary because I was in the process of pursuing my appeal and all that but when I saw PDP crying wolf in the television, I was laughing at them. There is something we say in our place.

The cup, with which you give somebody grain, will be the cup you will use to receive the grain when the table turns. The PDP that was known for no due process at all in electoral process is now crying against the APC. So, they are hypocrites and as far as I am concerned, the PDP time has just ended. It is a political party that should be dismantled. They should be dismantled because if they had any serious commitment to democracy, Nigeria would have been a very strong democratic nation. But, through the use of police, army, it is a federal operation all the time. Any place they decide, they will go there and ransack the place and then impose anybody on the people and go away.

It is no longer possible, so they are now weeping. Yet, the APC has not been brutal like they (PDP) were. It is only here in the South-East that date for election will be fixed and on the day of the election, you will not see anybody but in the evening, results will be announced. And no matter how you complain, nobody listens to you. The next thing you see is that they will be arranging people to come on solidarity visit to congratulate the winner and they will be dancing in an election that never took place. These were the sort of things we saw in Nigeria and they are now trying to say that APC did that; the party didn't do that. They are just lucky.

I am happy that the present government is taking the issue of corruption very seriously. PDP promoted corruption in Nigeria. They thought that it is going to continue that way. I mean, he who has committed no offence has no reason to be afraid of any probe. Look at the revelations coming out now, the way monies were shared; the PDP should bury its head in shame. If not for the principle that people should be allowed to express their views and opinions, PDP should be banned from speaking. Nigerians don't need to be hearing incoherent statements, coming from the PDP as an opposition party. They think they are making any impression on anybody. Nigerians hold them in great contempt for the way they desecrated this country and our democracy. So, if there is anybody that will talk to APC, it will certainly be a political party, other than the PDP. They need to go on probation.

For how long should the PDP go on probation?
PDP needs to go on probation in Nigeria for about 12 years or more, so that we see if we can repair the damage they have done to our national psyche, both the economy, the polity, our democracy and our rule of law; Everything!

So, what if Ngige decides to run?
As to whether Ngige will run the election, he is my brother; he is my friend. He is now a Minister of the Federal Republic. I don't think he needs to gamble; to leave what he is holding now to go for the unknown. You know, it is only within 90 days. If he leaves his ministerial appointment and comes to pursue a senatorial seat, it may be late for him when he is going back to go and ask for his seat back at the federal cabinet.

AbleMoJah® Nigeria.

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