ABIA 2019: I’LL BEAT IKPEAZU AGAIN – OTTI, APGA CHIEFTAIN

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The governorship candidate of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), in Abia State in 2015, Dr Alex Otti, a banker-turned politician, is one of the politicians who are oiling their political machines to slug it out with incumbent Governor Okezie Ikpeazu in 2019. For Otti, Governor Ikpeazu has not delivered the goods and so should give way.

Basking on the euphoria of the large support he got in 2015, he said that his party, APGA, will surely this time again cruise to victory in the state, saying that he had learnt his lessons from the 2015 guber election in the state when he was robbed of his victory by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Unlike many who believe that politics is a dirty game, Otti said that it is the dirty people that come into politics that make it to look dirty. He spoke to Sunday Sun on a number of issues of state and national importance at his country home in Isiala Ngwa North  LGA of Abia State. Excerpts:

You got to the pinnacle of your career as a banker and suddenly you decided to go into politics, knowing very well that politics is a dirty game, as the saying goes, what actually endeared you to go into politics?

First of all, I don’t agree that politics is necessarily a dirty game, I believe it’s only dirty people that make politics look dirty. Politics is about governance, it’s about working for the people. It is about leadership. Elsewhere,  you find out that it is people who have a track record of achievements, people who have skills and experience, those  who have led people successfully and still  succeeded in doing other things that come into politics. But unfortunately, here we have a situation where politics is left in the hands of charlatans,  area boys, people who haven’t done anything to help the society  and jobless people, that is why we are where we are today. If you look at a few countries that have gotten it right by installing quality leadership, qualitative leadership that has experience and skills,  you would see that such countries  have done well.  But for those that haven’t done well you can see that it can be traced to the quality of leadership they have installed.  A country like Rwanda, for instance, that went through a fratricidal war few decades ago is the fastest growing economy in Africa, which has the best and safest city. It is traceable to one man, Paul Kigame, the president. This man knows his onions, he knows what to do and he is doing it. All we need to do is to get someone who is committed, who knows what to do in the country and state and our story would change for good.

Are you saying that the problem we have today is about leadership?

Yes, there is a saying that the fish gets rotten from the head, if you see a rotten fish, just go to the head, that’s where the rot starts, so the decision to leave banking and join politics is a decision that may be novel to a lot of people, but I think it is the kind of decision we require, it was a sacrifice because I had a few more years to spend as the CEO of the bank I was running at that time, but I thought that time had come for us to change the narrative of our people in Abia State. That was why I jumped into the fray, and I am very happy that our people understood what I did, I am very happy that they got the message and voted for me massively, though at the end of the day the mandate was stolen, but I still thank the people of Abia State for believing in me, and I know that there is still  light at the end of the tunnel.

In 2015, you enjoyed a lot of acceptability, popularity, and support, do you think that you are still going to enjoy these this time around?

 

 

Yes, I think I am enjoying a whole lot more even now, because the present government has not performed and will not perform. The only place they have performed is in propaganda, but in terms of what you can put on the table, they have not done anything. If you look at the simple things like workers salaries, somebody just left me here now,  and he said that  his wife is being owed salary for 10 months  in Abia Poly. Come to civil servants, some of them say they have not been paid in the last eight months, pensioners, their own story is very pathetic because you are talking of years and if you cannot do anything as basic as paying salaries of not more than 50,000 people, then how can you pay for other things? People believe that their mandate was stolen and that if it wasn’t stolen, things would have been different today, and I agree with them completely, and that is why even the people that supported them in 2015, will never support them again because they have not performed.

 

Can you throw a little light on your claim that you were robbed of victory in 2015 and what lessons did that experience teach you?

 

The lessons I have learnt are that people should actually carry their own destinies in their hands as Abians did in the last election.  Nobody gives you any opportunity, it’s for you to take your destiny in your hands and that is what Abia State did, but unfortunately it turned out the way it went.  The rigging of the election that happened could not happen at the polling unit because the people protected their votes, it happened at the collation centre. The returning officer cancelled the results of Obingwa, Osisioma and Ugwanagbo because they were fake results, but the former governor (T.A. Orji), with PDP leaders stormed the place, bombarded him, harassed him, intimidated him and he panicked and decided to reverse himself for his dear life. So, you find out that, the narrative of people not given the chance is changing. You also find that a lot of people who ordinarily were not going to be part of an electoral process today because of what I have done have jumped into the fray.  I know a lot of people that have called me to say if you could do it, then I would do it myself, I think that is one major lesson. One other lesson is that I have led something close to a revolution where more and more persons who would hitherto not show interest in politics, now showed interest. I see myself as having succeeded irrespective of who is occupying the governorship seat, but in terms of who won the election, even the people who stole my mandate, when they go into the inner recesses of their houses, will confess that they didn’t win that election.

 

Now that you claim to know what they did to rob you of Abians’ mandate, are you going to match them in their methods?

 

There is this saying that you don’t learn left-handedness at old age, so instead of matching them, I would stop them. I need to know what they do to stop them, so I have known it. If they are ready to steal, I am ready to stop them, and it’s important, for you to stop them, you need to understand what  they do.

 

How prepared is your party for 2019?

 

Well, if we did what we did in 2015, when we were hardly known, now that we are known I’m sure that we will improve. Yes, there have also been a lot of distractions because everybody knows that the party is the party to beat, the party that will win the election, so what we find is a situation where even the PDP itself is sponsoring people to come and cause problem in APGA, but at the end of the day, we will go to that election united. Wherever you have two or more people, there is a  tendency for disagreement to come up, but just like Obafemi Awolowo said that his joy is not in his inability to fall, but in his ability to rise anytime he falls. For me I think we have an internal process through which we resolve our differences. But as a party we are more than ready to face the election. We did it in Anambra State, and did it again on November 18 and I am sure that  the results from Anambra are still very fresh in the minds of people, so I am  sure we will do very well.

 

Are you saying that the little crisis noticed in your party is being sponsored?

 

Yes, as I said, it is being sponsored by the PDP and they are putting a lot to it, and I would advise them to face the remaining one year they have in office, use  the money to pay salaries  rather than use it to sponsor crisis in APGA, because at the end of the day, the people they are giving the money, if they love Abia State,  would eat the money and disappear.  I am not that worried about the problem, even PDP itself just emerged from a crisis, APC has its own internal contradiction here. Even in 2014/2015 we had problems, somebody took us to court, and ended up in Supreme Court and lost everywhere, and today I understand he has joined them in the PDP, so it is not news, it is not something to lose sleep about because there is a problem in the party, problem would always arise I think the issue is how they are resolved.

 

But the incumbent governor has received a lot of endorsements from right, left and centre by powerful people, groups and organizations, is your party not threatened by this development, why is your party keeping quiet?

 

No, APGA is not keeping quiet at all, but APGA is a very responsible party, and we know what the law says and if we really apply the law strictly, some of these people that are carrying out campaign will run into problems with the law because ban on campaign has not been lifted, they are actually flouting the law. When you look at those endorsements, where are they coming from, it is PDP endorsing its candidate, what do you expect. The people that gathered at Okpualangwa are virtually all PDP people. They gathered some conflicted traditional rulers,  PDP leaders,  some that they call elders, definitely  they are PDP elders, ritualists, marabouts and  native doctors to endorse you and you pay them, and you say that UkwaNgwa people have endorsed you, did  you not  pay  for the endorsement? In a place where people have shame, you don’t do that. Who is endorsing you? There are political activities that should not really happen, so for us in APGA, we are a respecter of the law, and we know that it is not yet time for campaign. When the time for campaign starts, you will see us, but we have our mobilization activities that are going on. We have our adverts at several media houses, asking people to go and get their PVCs because at the end of the day what is important is the voter, it is not how many endorsements you paid for and arranged. I can arrange one now and ask you to endorse me and it would be in the news that The Sun Correspondent has endorsed Otti, and I will pay and you go, of what use is it to the voters?  So, it just tells you the quality of the leadership that we have in Abia State.

 

So, what do you make out of these endorsements?

 

This type of endorsement shows that whosoever is being endorsed is not working, a man that is drowning requires to be saved, if you are not drowning, you don’t require somebody to save you. The endorsement is saying, this man is not doing well, we want you to help us to allow him to go for a second tenure, maybe he will do well this time around. The best message you can send to your people is deliver while you are in office, and deliver promptly because anything you did not do in your first term, chances are that you may not do them again. If you check through history, second term is worse than first term, if I have my way second term should not happen.

 

How would you like to assess the Okezie Ikpeazu’s administration?

 

I am sure that we will have time to talk about Ikpeazu’s administration because it is still on. It will be too early for now for me to begin to assess his administration, but I am sure that you have seen a lot of things that people have written and said.

 

I have thought about a few of them, people are worried about the state of infrastructure in Abia State, health care delivery system is still at a very rudimentary level, education system has failed, but the truth is that our people struggle in spite of the failures of government, that we are coming first is because of our people, in spite of the lack of support, not because of support of government. Our people are known to be very entrepreneurial in nature and hard working. So, if there was support I’m sure you will be amazed, the difference between number one and number two will be so wide. The management of our resources is very poorly handled, we have written on it before, one can write a page more on it, but I believe that there will be an opportunity for me to do a thorough assessment of it, when the time comes.

 

Visionary leaders will generate revenue,  even as a state to run their state, and that is what Lagos State is doing, at the last count, they generated N30 billion almost every month, and use it to run their economy, they don’t care about Abuja, and all you need do is to get people who have their heads properly screwed on their necks to run the system  and know that if you provide road or fly-over in Aba, it is not a favour, if you give access to a man in Ariaria market, you are not doing him a favour , you are actually doing your job. So that you can have a legitimate claim on part of the wealth you have created for him in form of tax.  But here, we carry cane, koboko, police and army chasing people to pay tax, but we forget to define tax properly that it is government’s share of the wealth it has created for its people.  Tax comes after you have created the wealth, not before, that is why a lot of people are happy to pay tax in Lagos, you don’t even need to talk to them. But here, everybody goes to collect money from Abuja and forgets that the money is here.

 

A lot of calls are going on all over the country about herdsmen killing, what should be done to solve this problem?

 

The issue of herdsmen killing is an unfortunate situation and it has also been very topical within the last one-week or few days given the intervention of General T. Y. Danjuma. A lot of people did not expect that he would speak out the way he did. But when you have a situation where people are being killed, you find out that the life of a human being is no longer valued like the life of the cattle, then you expect people to speak up and he spoke up. For me, I believe that the Federal Government has a lot of work to do. The security forces also need to do a self-introspection because if Gen. T.Y. Danjuma, at that level, it is not that he is a saint in the army, we remember some of his past roles, I also knew that he was, and I hope he is still very close to the president. I have not met him since after his 80 birthday last year, I don’t know if he has been speaking, and nobody is listening to him, for him to have come out publicly is a danger signal and I also know that it is going to be helpful because he focuses attention on this issue and I believe that the government needs to do a whole lot of work, it is not acceptable that herdsmen will enter a community and sack the community and start killing people. Where did they get those guns from? From what I hear most of those guns are sophisticated guns, I understand some of them are not even Nigerians, are they really getting protections, why is somebody protecting killers, is it that the security forces are handicapped that they can’t do anything, I think it is a wake-up call, I believe that the government will pay a whole lot of attention to that if they were not doing that.

 

What do you think about the change in the electoral sequence by the National Assembly?

 

My personal view is that it is the prerogative of the National Assembly to make laws, and the major reason they are tampering with the sequence is because of what is called bandwagon effect, once you conduct presidential election, and a particular party wins, naturally that party will have an upper hand in determining the outcome of subsequent elections, even if they are not in government. What they feel was that it is better for other elections to hold first before the presidential election will come up. Do they have a right to do that, yes, they are lawmakers; is there a sense in bandwagon effect, yes there is a sense, does the president have a right to veto, yes the president has a right to veto and that what he has done and his reason is that National Assembly’s action is like hijacking the role of INEC. And then what happens, National Assembly has the right to override the veto. The process has started, let us watch and see how it will go. They require two third majority, if they are able to gather two-third majority it becomes a law. That is the way I look at it, I don’t think this is the first time presidential election has come last, it was like that before now, we will rather watch and see how it goes.

 

Calls are also coming from all over the places to the Federal Government for restructuring; do you think restructuring is ideal at this point in time?

 

Well, I have written extensively about this and you can call it anything, restructuring, devolution of power, true federalism and what have you, we must do it, we don’t have a choice. We can only delay, we cannot run away from it because the recession that we had not to long ago showed us clearly that the system we are running is not sustainable.

 

I have thought about a few of them, people are worried about the state of infrastructure in Abia State, health care delivery system is still at a very rudimentary level, education system has failed, but the truth is that our people struggle in spite of the failures of government, that we are coming first is because of our people, in spite of the lack of support, not because of support of government. Our people are known to be very entrepreneurial in nature and hard working. So, if there was support I’m sure you will be amazed, the difference between number one and number two will be so wide. The management of our resources is very poorly handled, we have written on it before, one can write a page more on it, but I believe that there will be an opportunity for me to do a thorough assessment of it, when the time comes.

 

Visionary leaders will generate revenue,  even as a state to run their state, and that is what Lagos State is doing, at the last count, they generated N30 billion almost every month, and use it to run their economy, they don’t care about Abuja, and all you need do is to get people who have their heads properly screwed on their necks to run the system  and know that if you provide road or fly-over in Aba, it is not a favour, if you give access to a man in Ariaria market, you are not doing him a favour , you are actually doing your job. So that you can have a legitimate claim on part of the wealth you have created for him in form of tax.  But here, we carry cane, koboko, police and army chasing people to pay tax, but we forget to define tax properly that it is government’s share of the wealth it has created for its people.  Tax comes after you have created the wealth, not before, that is why a lot of people are happy to pay tax in Lagos, you don’t even need to talk to them. But here, everybody goes to collect money from Abuja and forgets that the money is here.

 

Culled from Sun Newspaper (Interview was conducted by Chuks Onuoha )

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