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Ebonyi South needs quality representation in Senate –Eleje

Chief Ifeanyi Eleje is the candidate of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) for Ebonyi South Senatorial District. He speaks in this interview with UCHENNA INYA on his party’s chances in the 2023 general election

 

What is the motivating factor for your bid to represent Ebonyi South Senatorial District in the Senate on the platform of APGA?

 

I have had political engagements prior to this time. I was an active member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), when Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was president. I was a political associate of Senator Emmanuel Agboti and we were all in the same team, including the present governor of the state, Dave Umahi.

At some time, we also had engagement with the All Progressives Congress (APC) to further political interest, when people like Ogbonnaya Onu tried to engage us. But this time around, I didn’t think I was going to do anything. I felt that the environment was so fuzzy, it wasn’t clear when you have a serving governor moving to another party at the terminal end of his administration. It was quite confusing, so, I didn’t intend to run an election.

But when I got a call from the governorship candidate of APGA, Prof. Bernard Odoh, that he wanted to see me, I was curious. But when we met, he spoke to me for about two hours on his vision.

I told him I didn’t want to hear this alone that I had to call some of my elite friends from Ebonyi South and he told me that he will be happy to speak with them and I arranged it. This was in Abuja and he met with them, faced the barrage of questions. Everybody came out of it and I said they should try Odoh because most of this people are keeping away from the politics of this state. So, it was at this point that we started to talk among ourselves.

One of them said: ‘Chief why don’t you join this thing again since this guy is there?’ And I said okay, it is something I need to think about. From there, one thing led to another, we kept in touch until we are here.

 

By the time I went for his retreat because I went for his retreat in Abuja, where you had strategic thinkers, consultants, it was for two nights. Papers were presented for the two days and I enjoyed it and after that, I felt that this was somebody who was thinking seriously who had some plans  for the state. In a nutshell, that’s why I made a decision to seek the senate seat for Ebonyi South.

A serving senator is contesting on the platform of PDP, what magic will you do to win the election and what different things are you going to do if you go to the Senate?

I don’t think Ebonyi South has had representation to be honest with you and I am not saying it to denigrate the senator. It is probably his own understanding of what a senator should do. If I speak for myself, I am a stakeholder in Ebonyi South. Since he has been in the Senate,

I have never met him and he is somebody I knew before he went to the Senate, he is an old boy of my school. So, if with my exposure I have not met him and I live in Abuja in this period he has been there, how about people who do not have that access.

 

So, if I have that impression that I can’t even make an input into legislative issues that affects me, I leave you to imagine the vacuum for the people of this area. I don’t think we have a representation.

 

So, what will you do to bridge the gap?

When I go to the Senate, I will know the things that are available in the Senate, then I will know what to do.

 

To answer your question, let me just disabuse your mind, I am not going to buy people motorcycles, I am not going to buy vulcanizer machines for people because in my view, that is not empowerment. I am going to engage the people. I am going to have town hall meetings. It is when you meet people, when you speak with people, you know their challenges.

There is a health insurance scheme going on, you know you can actually get insurance for people especially women in villages so that they can have access to medical care for one full year at just no cost.

 

I was able to secure for five women in my village. I know people in the National Assembly who get up to 50 of that. I am just mentioning one because I have come across that. I know people who have a register of who is employed in their place.

You can map graduates, you can further stratify them. It is not about going there to get more cars, acquire wealth. Some people go into these positions and the moment they go there, they are already thinking about the next election and if you think like that, all you want to do is secure the things that will get you to be voted in the next election but what about the people milling around?

I am not aware that a serving senator has had one town hall meeting, at least not in this town (Afikpo) the headquarters of Ebonyi South. I went with APGA governorship candidate to Akanu Ibiam Federal Polytechnic, Unwana.

 

The Polytechnic is the only federal institution in this place and we addressed the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP). When I had to make a vote of thanks, I asked whether any of them has seen their senator and they said no. So, a federal institution in your constituency, you don’t even impact it. I just feel that this gap needs to be filled, that’s all.

Do you think APGA has a chance in the state in the 2023 general election?

This contest is about seven months away. If the trajectory that I am seeing is sustained, I am very confident that APGA will be the party to beat. Why I am telling you this is that whenever you look at a political situation, you also try to filter off the baggage. What creates political crisis is disenfranchisement.

 

The level of disenfranchisement in both the APC and PDP is high. You find all kinds of people trying to run into APGA and Labour Party because people have stood around for a long time and they are tired of just standing behind people and sitting there.

A party that doesn’t even give you a platform to try, there is something wrong with that. So, we commit it to prayers, we work and pray and we hope that even people who are there will sometimes take a look at that.

What are you doing to mainstream the party?

I think the party is already mainstreamed, let’s face it. The other parties you claim people know, I have been in those parties too but as of today, the people know them for their confusion.

They don’t even know who their candidates are; they are marred in all kinds of controversy. I agree with you, maybe, a lot of more need to be done for people to know the logo to look out for when they go to vote and we will consciously continue to do that. We are starting visitations, we will be visiting communities and we will engage many groups. We will continue to do this to create sensitization.

What is the level of acceptability of APGA?

I will answer your question differently. I will ask you, what is the level of acceptability of Labour Party in Ni eria? It is Peter Obi that they are accepting. People are going to vote for people who they like.

Let me tell you something, if you haven’t had the opportunity to impact people, they wouldn’t even know the different. What has happened is that consistently, it is taking for granted; it has to be APGA, it has to be APC, it has to be PDP and I will quickly ask you, the candidate of APGA was somebody a PDP government invited to be Secretary to Government and he walked away from it.

Today, he is contesting, doesn’t that tell you that he wants to present himself as a different brand? You can also see how he picked his running mate, Dr. Nkata. This is brilliance and if the people cannot connect with brilliance, too bad but we are going to try to sell this team. It is when the team has governed you can begin to say what impact have you made on the people, we haven’t governed.

 

Our focus of course is quite different from the focus of the governance that is going on now. We know that the other two parties started to run before us but then they are also running into mud and dirty places.

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