…says no crisis in APGA as party complied with INEC guidelines in Anambra primary
Professor Charles Chukwuma Soludo, the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) in the forthcoming election in Anambra State believes he has all the qualities needed to serve his people for the next four years. In this interview he granted Arise Television on Friday, which was monitored by OLADIPUPO AWOJOBI, Soludo reveals why he has been consistent with his ambition to rule the South East State since 2009.
What would you say about the fact that INEC reportedly said that APGA did not meet the 21 day submission ultimatum of the name of its candidate for the forthcoming governorship election in the state, have you settled the issue with INEC; we even heard that there is a court case on the primary process, what is the situation now?
To the best of my knowledge, I believe that our party has responded to the letter from INEC and I believe that our party is in full compliance. Even the current leadership of the party has addressed that. APGA has always done its thing with full compliance. I am not sure there is a court case. You see some Lagos people that are not in tune with what is happening in the party are saying all sorts of things.
They are not even members of the executive or National Executive Council (NEC) of the party. The names of the members of NEC are there of which I am a member; 36 state chairmen of the party are members of that NEC. Not one of them was in that place. They are a bunch of criminals and I think the Inspector General of Police will do well to apprehend them.
I don’t think that can happen in a sane country. If a group of people can assemble tomorrow, and say they have sacked the senate president, when they are not even members of the senate, sacked all the officers of the National Assembly, what would you say to that? And then the media now begin to hype such news. Simple investigation would show that these are criminals and they should be arrested for imposition. These are the people that are talking about court injunctions.
It is not about INEC; they wrote a letter, but the fact remains that the same INEC wrote a letter on June 18. The same INEC sent a five-man team to monitor the primaries of APGA on June 23; you all saw it on live television programme. The same INEC clarified that there is no issue in APGA. The party has clarified the issue of 21 days with INEC. All these guys are trying to see if they can use hype to achieve their own hatchet job. I am sure INEC will clarify that under the leadership of Professor Mahmood Yakubu, he is beyond that. I am glad that they have clarified this phanthom issue of crisis.
You have been on this ambition since 2009; in 2009, you wanted to be Governor of the state on the platform of the PDP, you lost to Mr. Peter Obi, who became governor for two terms. Also in 2013, you lost the primaries to the incumbent Governor, Willie Obiano. Do you have the support of Obiano under APGA, what have you learnt from these two experiences and what are you going to do differently this time around?
I think these are points of fact. The story of what happened in 2009 is for another day. In 2013, I went to APGA to contest and once I came in and obtained the form, I was told that the party’s governorship seat had been zoned to Anambra North Senatorial District. I was actually advised to withdraw. I appreciate that, but I insisted that since I had obtained the form, I should go and cast that one vote for myself. I find that more honourable. But the party decided that they would not allow me go into the primaries. I understood later that they didn’t want me to go into the primaries as they were not sure of what would be the outcome.
In the best interest of the party, they disqualified me from even going into the primaries itself. The Chairman later said that they disqualified me for the party to be where it is today. So that is clear and I accepted that and I issued a press statement that despite what had happened I was going to remain in APGA and try to make it to be a formidable national party and I have kept my word till date.
So, APGA is home for me till today. On if I have the support of the incumbent Governor of the state, he comes from Anambra East Local Government, and during the last primaries, two days ago, the delegates from the local government were 40 in number and I scored 40 from the local government and the Governor voted from there. No other candidate got a vote from that local government.
Yes, it is without doubt that the Governor in his wisdom believes that I am the one that could consolidate the gains of his government and those of others. All the past governors did their best and the current governor has done his best and he believes that if we take over, we will consolidate on his achievements and take the state to the next level, especially in these difficult times that we found ourselves in Nigeria and in the world such as transition into postoil world, transition into post-COVID world and a world where government revenue is nose diving, there is work to be done.
This is not the time to experiment with green horns, you need someone that is tried and tested in public service, public resource development, who understands development and transformation and who has sterling records of public service and transformation, especially in difficult times. That is the kind of person that is required at this time for a state like Anambra. For a country like Nigeria at this time, I also urge everyone, who believes he has something fundamental to offer to go back to the roots; whether it is the local government or state. There is too much attention on getting Abuja to fix everything, I think it is time that one should look from bottom up and fix the communities, and fix the local governments. If the 36 states and Abuja work excellently well, then Nigeria will work. For me, this time around is different in Anambra in all ways. It is different in the sense that I think now there is a groundswell of opinion by Anambra people. There are demands on the streets by the people that are asking Soludo to come as Governor.
You have made references to APGA manifestoes, and we believe that the Governor would repeat what he did at the primaries and give you the necessary support at the polls. Tell us, what is in the APGA manifestoes?
What I was saying before was that things are now different in Anambra State and there is overwhelming demand for this to happen. Anambra people from all walks of life are saying that this is an Anambra project and that we should get things done. We have that confidence that we will have the support of the Governor, members of APGA, critical stakeholders in the state and overwhelming members of public in the state. That is the fundamental thing that is different now. All we need is free, fair and credible election and we know that we will have overwhelming victory at the polls. Talking about our manifestoes, APGA will make them clear in our campaigns and the campaigns would begin in August according to the time table of the INEC. However, our party believes in progressivism, we are All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA). Progressivism is the key word. It means in being your brother’s and sister’s keeper, leave no one behind. It is one party that cares for the little guy, which happens to be the majority of the people of Nigeria. But in terms of the programmes of APGA, they touch all facets of the community, road networks, you also look at the level of poverty in Anambra, it has gone down from 53% in 2010 to 14.78% as at last year according to recent statistics. I don’t know of any other state that has that kind of massive change comparatively. In terms of programmes, APGA has done a lot in the areas of health, education, infrastructure development, security of lives and properties, caring for the common man, and lifting people out of poverty in Anambra State. Progressivism is the key word. Now, another thing that is fundamental about the pillar of the manifestoes of APGA is that it is the only party that talks about true federalism. Everybody agrees that this structure needs to be changed fundamentally. APGA is the first party that explicitly identified the need for true fiscal federalism. I think that there is a consensus in Nigeria that everybody is moving around the manifestoes of APGA. Coincidentally, another party that talks about restructuring in its manifestoes in the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), it identified that the only way forward was to restructure Nigeria. Unfortunately that is yet to happen in concrete terms. But we believe that as a political party that conversation has to happen, where the federating units, the component states work so that the centre can work. You cannot do the same thing the same way and expect a different result. That is what we have in APGA manifestoes. That is how we are going to do things in the next four years.
You have a robust record based on the way you have served Nigeria in the past. I can understand scientific data, but one cannot understand human beings. Does Professor Charles Chukwuma Soludo understand men?
What the people see is that professor with a red cap and that is speaking big grammar. I didn’t fall from the sky. I actually started partisan politics at the age of 19. I was a pioneer member of Alex Ekwueme Movement in 1980, and in 1981, I became the President of the Student Wing of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) in the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. I can go on and on. I understand people and the terrain.
We mentioned a former governor of Anambra State, who was also a vice presidential candidate at a time, Mr. Peter Obi, have you reached out to him?
It’s quite interesting that you singled out Mr. Peter Obi, he is a friend, and he is in the PDP. For now, there are two phases to this issue, the first phase is intra-party and that is where we concentrated on. Obi is a member of the PDP, unfortunately he had to leave and he left. Interestingly, he left APGA to join the PDP. We had to get the ticket first, which is APGA governorship candidate ticket. The next phase is the wider one, Anambra electorate, which is what we will do now. You don’t put two hands in the mouth at the same time.