Some people have said that you defected from the Peoples Democratic Party to the All Progressives Congress because you are eyeing the 2023 presidential ticket. How do you respond to that?
First, I want to clear the air that I never sought the PDP’s presidential ticket and so, whoever said I quit the PDP because I was not given the party’s ticket is being mischievous. Even if the PDP promises an individual a presidential ticket, how does it work, when even 8,000 delegates would be electing the person? Such promises cannot even happen with 10 or 20 people. So, people are just being mischievous about that. There are a lot of prominent people in the South-East and I don’t want to list them. The Ebonyi State House of Assembly members in their letter to the PDP listed a lot of more qualified personalities in the South-East who can take the presidential slot of the PDP. Why am I moving to the APC? Some people said I was promised this and that; there was no such discussion. APC never promised me any position; they never promised the South-East any position and there was no such discussion. However, I opted for this movement as a protest against the injustice being done to the South-East zone by the PDP. Since 1999, the people of the South-East have been supporting the PDP in all elections; and at a time, all the five states in the zone were all PDP. More so, one of the founding fathers of the PDP, His Excellency, the late Vice President, Alex Ekwueme, is from the South-East. As a result, it is absurd that since 1998 and going to 2023, the South-East zone has never been considered to run for the President under the PDP. It is absurd. This is my position and will continue to be my position. It has nothing to do with me. Let it be known that I am God’s project and I don’t go beyond the limits of my calling. I am satisfied being a governor by God’s grace for eight years. First and foremost, I am a businessman and then I took an adventure into politics and I have refused to be called a politician. This is because if politics is all about lying, cheating and backstabbing, that is not my family character. Therefore, I will protest and nothing will stop me from this protest. I believe that this movement will cause the PDP to understand that no man is an island and that no single person can be called a crowd. Together we are stronger and if people are shouting in this country for fairness, equity and justice and I stand in a place where such is not practised, then I have to re-examine myself. People can write all they want to write, it is not my business. In 2023, if God permits, I will quit politics and I will be satisfied; because the miracles in Ebonyi State may just be the reason I was born in the first place. And I will be very bold like Apostle Paul to say, “I have fought a good fight. I have finished the race.” I believe that a foundation has been laid for the greatness of this state, Ebonyi. Every man runs his destiny and one thing I have promised is that I will never castigate the PDP. Just like in the PDP, my only sin was that I refused to castigate Mr President. And until thy kingdom come, I will not do that because that is my family character. But those who don’t have character were very suspicious of me, that because I don’t castigate Mr President, I could be leaking the information of the PDP. What nonsense is that? I came from a very known family where there is character.
If you want to deal with a man, you have to find out about his family background. People jump into politics and cover their family character. I have got a character. Nobody, either in the APC or the PDP, would say I have leaked any discussion I had with him. To leak it for what; is it for money? Is it for fame? So that is my position. Let it be known to everyone that nobody promised me anything and that I moved to the APC because of injustice. And I have no regret about that. Someone says, “Ah, you will regret this movement.” I laugh at them. Regret for what? Have they seen God? They talk as if they are my God. I am satisfied being a businessman, I’m satisfied doing my businesses and that is all.
Lately, the Chairman of the PDP Board of Trustees, Walid Jibrin, said the South-East has not requested for the presidential ticket of the party. What is your take on this?
They should have answered that question because the PDP in Ebonyi State recently did a letter to the National Working Committee of the party, telling them the dangers of not zoning the ticket to the zone. Also, one of the NWC members had said in Bauchi that the ticket is open to every part of the country just as some people have also argued that it is too early to zone the ticket. Furthermore, the Ebonyi State House of Assembly also wrote the PDP NWC and equally told them about the dangers of not zoning the ticket to the region. But let me address the issue that it is too early (to zone the ticket). In 2015, the PDP zoned its presidential slot against 2019. Therefore, the executive’s statement that the ticket was open for all, the overtures, lobbying and the plan not to return most NWC members, were an indication that I do not have any business there in the first place. So, the PDP BoT chairman cannot say such. I don’t know how he wants us to say it or request for it. Is it for us to hold rallies to request for it? By right, the former President of this country, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, had said they should zone it to us. A lot of northerners have told the party to zone it to the South-East. So, do we even need to request for it for justice and equity sake? Do you need to make a request before fairness, justice and equity are done? I guess that is what the PDP is preaching.
It is often believed that before anyone leaves his party for another one, there should have been a crisis. Is there a crisis in the PDP that is making you quit?
You, the people, should have answered that question; that if a governor wants to leave his party to another, whether there is something the constitution or the electoral acts say about such movement.
A PDP stalwart in Abia State has said that defection may lead to the collapse of the party in the South-East and may also propel other governors in the zone to join you. Have you discussed the alleged ill-treatment of the zone by the PDP with your colleagues in the South-East?
In most difficult and trying times, it takes just one person to be a martyr and it takes only one person to lead a crusade. I offer to be sacrificed in this direction and sacrificed in the sense that whether it is good or bad I have to lead this protest. I don’t want to consult anybody neither do I want the PDP to collapse in the South-East. But the PDP can make itself to collapse in the South-East if its leaders do not heed the people’s advice on the issue of justice and equity. But if they heed to the people’s advice, my movement may not have much effect. Without justice and equity in this country, Nigeria cannot move forward in love, unity and prosperity. We have to gain the confidence of one another in this country. We have to kill the suspicion of one another in this country and we have to know that wherever you are, you are in your country, Nigeria. And that is the only way this country can move forward. It is not about leadership, it is about everybody and until everybody begins to preach the issue of patriotism, justice, fairness and equity, our greatness will continue to be a mirage. It is not about the President, the governors or the National Assembly; it is about all of us.
Some APC members in the state have said that it is not a sin for you to resign but do you think your romance with the APC will not backfire?
Asking me whether the people I am joining would continually like me? It is natural. Even in marriage, in the beginning, it is usually all about love but along the line, your wife begins to see reasons not to like certain things that you do. Don’t ever think about the people that like you or don’t like you. It is part of the job. It goes with the job and if you are looking for everybody to like you, you will not get to your destination. God allows those things, just as He allowed Judas Iscariot to be stealing money so that His word would be fulfilled. There are obstacles on the way and God allows those obstacles so that you will know that He is God. I am not looking for those who would like or not like me. I am looking for the prosperity and progress of the state. And if there is something I have achieved, I have achieved the fact that for the first time, there is a political gathering, which has never happened in the annals of this state. It is a plus and I don’t know whether it would ever happen again. The APC and the PDP supporters came together to forgive themselves, overlook their differences and forge ahead. Along the line, there will still be some differences; because here (in Nigeria), where we don’t have any other source of livelihood other than politics, it is difficult for everybody not to be vying for anything. But I will continue to preach that it is better for me to make a business person than a politician. I will continue to say that. This is because as we move into some businesses and all that, the political interests would soon be going down. I am not vying for anything. So, you will be fighting the air if you don’t like me and begin to fight me. I will be blessing everybody who wants to vie for anything in this state. That will be my role as a father. I will say it again that it is a waste of time for any governor to replace himself. You have to tell me which one ever worked. It is a terrible thing to learn from your own experience. But it is great wisdom to learn from other people’s experiences. No man will play God; so allow the destinies of men to manifest.
What would you do if APC also fails to further the interest of the Igbo?
The point is very clear. In 2023, we would have been in the PDP for about 23 or 24 years; and the people of South-East have never really supported the APC the way it has supported the PDP. By 2023, the party (APC) would have been in power for eight years. But I believe strongly that the will of God will come to play. I think the APC is more amenable to working with the South-East than the PDP, from all indications. But I also know that until justice, fairness and equity are implanted in this country, it is difficult for Nigeria to make progress. There is nobody that is in this country that will tell you he does not like justice, fairness and equity. Everybody is saying the same thing; I think it is just the courage to do it. I believe that God wants this country greater and He will make the decisions.
People are still wondering why you decided to join the APC instead of addressing the alleged injustice against the Igbo through advocacy. Don’t you think this is why many people think you are interested in the party’s presidential ticket?
I make a protest today, but if it doesn’t yield fruits today, it will be on record that a governor refuses to continue with the norm of neglecting the South-East. It will be on record. And I never left the PDP because it planned not to zone its ticket to the South-East; never. If you check, there are over 50 organisations clamouring for South-East Presidency come 2023 and you have never even heard my voice. My voice was merely internal and I had dissected the goings-on in the PDP and I found out that they are schemed against us as the people of South-East. I have met with the NWC. If the intention is otherwise, why is it that the leadership lacks the courage to say we zone this ticket to the South-East? There is an ulterior motive. If they zone it to the South-East, two things would have been achieved. I would have offered myself to be sacrificed, which is very good. But it will produce a result and the result is that they have recognised the South-East. This is very important. Don’t ever pray to be in the midst of your peers and when they are sharing, they don’t remember you; whereas when it is time to bring things together for sharing, they will remember. Pray against such. From childhood, I compete with my peers. Even if you have too much money, it doesn’t matter to me. What matters to me most is the wisdom of God. Whatever He asks me to do, I do. And as such, I will continue to say that the South-East people in the PDP have not been treated fairly and they need to be treated fairly. So, it’s up to them to say okay we call your bluff, but we zone it to the South-East. It is very important. And I will be angry if I ever wanted to fly the ticket of the PDP. I wouldn’t want to. I wouldn’t want to. I wouldn’t want it. I would be happy if I am just doing my business; I think I have a calling in business. I have not been a lone voice; maybe some people would have been talking differently but I didn’t consult you before talking. I don’t think there is anybody in the South-East that’s not in support of the PDP zoning its presidential ticket to the South-East. There is an Igbo adage that says that where one lives or stays, that he protects. You can’t bathe in Sokoto and go to Kano to look for your clothing.
Are the major stakeholders in Ebonyi State in support of you in this journey to the APC?
Everybody supports me. I don’t think there are people who don’t support me and if there are, they are not up to five (per cent) of them. But what I must tell you is that there is a mass movement. And this movement will bring us into fairness, justice, love and equity.