Chief Stanley Emegha is the chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Ebonyi State. In this interview, he speaks on the zoning committee of the party for 2023 general election and multiple governorship aspirants, among other issues. UCHENNA INYA reports
Your party has set up a committee to zone the various elective positions ahead of the 2023 general election; do you think this will engender internal party democracy?
You are all aware that the national body of the APC zoned all positions and then, there were also micro zoning of the positions zoned to states, and then what you saw on March 26 in Abuja was the most peaceful national convention ever in the history of Nigeria’s democracy. Members of APC entered into a house as a family and came out with a decision. You should not also be surprised that such might be applied in Ebinyi State.
We have leaders of the party and we have resolved that positions and contest won’t bring disunity in our party. We had already warned that whatever you are asked to do in the interest of the unity of the party and for us to move and still be in control of the state, you must to do it collectively. Like I always say as a party chairman; whatever position you occupy, you are not occupying it for yourself. You are occupying that position not because you are the most qualified but because of the unity of the party. Because of God’s grace, you came on board, so you have to make sure that others are carried along.
The party’s zoning committee is yet to announce its decision but the governor has already asked some clans in the state to nominate candidates. What is your take n that?
The governor as leader of the party has the right to call some sections of the state and to also give some words of advice. The party has set up a zoning committee to go and look into how it can zone certain positions, so that minority areas can also occupy some elective positions. When the committee comes up with its reports, the party will do a letter and send to the governor and attach the report.
The selection process for who will fly the party’s ticket for the governorship position as instituted by Governor Dave Umahi is having some challenges. What is really the true picture?
I will say that you are wrong. The governor supported the party to set up a committee for zoning and the committee has not sent him its report. We are waiting for the report to come and the terms of reference for the committee is to make sure that whatever that is due for any zone or any community, even though it is a minority, it will get, so that the zone or community will have a sense of belonging.
Do you have confidence in the zoning committee? We set up the committee and we have confidence in it. Members of the committee are credible people; they are qualified to handle such assignment. The committee is yet to come up with its report, so it will be unfair to start speaking of zoning in the state. We believe very strongly that members of the committee will do the job assigned to them without bias. I know they will be firm and are going to give the best to the party and the state at large.
Why is the APC so emphatic on the zoning arrangement?
I want to let you know that constitutionally, there is nothing like zoning. You have the right to contest but if we tell you that a particular position is zoned to an area, we have our reasons; to maintain a standard for a minority area to be able to vie for a position. That was why we came up with this idea of zoning. There are certain areas that if you throw the contest open will not win certain elective positions. But with this arrangement, it can guarantee certain areas to produce the governor of the state. It can guarantee certain areas of producing a senator as well as a member of the House of Representatives. So, if we have this standard, you will now know when it will be the turn of your area to contest for a certain position. But if you leave it open, there are certain clans that are more in population and they will continue to dominate others. But if you maintain zoning, it will help certain minority clans to also have the opportunity to produce persons for certain positions.
Democracy means effective representation of the people. Do you see zoning providing such effective representatives for contestable positions?
With the understanding of family, you know too very well that you are my strength while I am your weakness. If we understand ourselves as a family, we can work together. That is the round table conference we are creating now. Purchase of forms has not commenced, but we know very well that there is a guideline now.
Do you see your party winning the gubernatorial election, considering the multiplicity of those who are declaring for the plum job?
It is by reaching out that we can win election and the APC is reaching out very well. I have said it earlier that those aspiring for governorship can be more than 20. It was also like that at the convention. There were too many people that came out to contest for the national chairmanship of the party. But with understanding, most of them stepped down and finally, it was narrowed down to our new brand chairman. That is how it is going to be here in Ebonyi, with too many people come out for the governorship. It is an open contest but I want to assure you that we will at the end narrow it down to one person. That they are all coming out is because we have more than enough qualified people, who can handle affairs of the state. So, we are discussing and all of us are moving towards the same direction of building our party; the direction that makes sure that unity reigns.
The issue of zoning of positions has been a worrisome one in the state since there is no acceptable document to that effect. Do you see what your party is doing serving as guide in future?
We are coming out with a blueprint that will not only be for the governorship. We are coming up with a party blueprint on what we want the state to look like. It is the way we are driving the state and not your own agenda. We do not want a situation where someone will come with his own agenda. What we want is party agenda on how we will move the state from one point to the other. We have seen what the governor has done in this his six years plus in office. We wouldn’t want to go down. One particular good thing is that it is a family thing. We will resolve the issue and come up with someone we know that will represent not only the party, but the entire state. We want somebody who will sustain the giant strides of Governor Umahi; that is where we are driving to. So, do not come and say it is you that is contesting governor; it is the entire APC body that is contesting for the governorship. If you are flying our flag, it is not your project alone; it is our collective project. It is our blueprint that you are presenting. It is what will make people to know that APC is the party that is in charge and that we mean well for the entire state. So, the contest would be narrowed down. It is not like what you are seeing in PDP where they are killing themselves. When we enter into the room; we have leaders who will talk to us because what we have is a collective project and not an individual project.
Recently, some traditional rulers in Izzi land endorsed a governorship aspirant. Don’t you think that their action will cause rancour in the party?
They only expressed their opinion. You know that traditional rulers are not politicians; they only made public who they feel they should support. It was not the idea of all the traditional rulers in Ebonyi State. It is an idea of traditional rulers from a particular clan. They don’t want to keep hiding their feelings on how they feel about it. It was not wrong for them to say how they feel because they are not partisan politicians. They won’t contribute to the voting process during the primary election. They have made their opinion known to their subjects but the party will still make its interest known. If the party deems it fit and considers that he should fly our flag, the important thing is that he is flying our flag and not his flag and all of us will wear that tag and make sure that Ebonyi is better.
Are you worried about the endorsement of the speaker of the state House of Assembly for governorship position by the traditional rulers?
There is nothing wrong about somebody expressing his or her feelings but the party is the final arbiter. If you want to fly the party’s flag, the party is supreme and you must obey the party and the instruction that the party has given to you.
The speaker visited the leadership of the party after his endorsement by the traditional rulers triggered controversy. Can we know why he visited?
It is not everything that is discussed inside between couples that everybody outside will know. He visited, and that was the right thing to do. Obviously, he is supposed to visit to know how we are faring in the party. He can give us advice on how to ensure that the party remains a united family.
Are you saying that his visit was not connected to his governorship ambition?
Absolutely, there is nothing wrong about anybody having an ambition. Do you know whether I equally have an ambition?