Soft spoken Chief Dubem Obaze who was a notable player in the administration of former Governor Peter Obi is a bold new face in the political race of Anambra State. In this interview with Pamela Eboh in Awka, the former Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Matters spoke on APGA’s support for the candidature of President Goodluck Jonathan for 2015 presidential election, his reasons for not leaving APGA with his former boss and why he is seeking mandate to represent Anambra North at the senate. Excerpts…
We have heard a lot of stories of attempts to sidetrack you from this senatorial race. Are you confident that there will be a level playing ground during the primaries?
Well, I do not have any reason not to be confident. I believe my governor, Chief Willie Obiano, who has assured that there will be free and fair primaries and I don’t have any reason to doubt him. The guideline has come out and it calls for direct primaries.
That is to say, you would know the people you are voting for in all the 326 wards in Anambra State, not in Anambra North Senatorial zone alone. And if that is done, I am very confident that in a free and fair primary, I am going to emerge the candidate of APGA.
What are the major for reasons for your drive to go to the senate?
The whole idea of going to the Senate is to represent my people. And as far as I am concerned, when you know the people you are representing, you know the area, you know their needs, and you know their problems. That is the only time you can represent them.
You can’t represent the Anambra North Senatorial zone from Abuja. So, the number one reason why I want to go to that place is to provide that representation to the people of our zone and my party.
We are the ruling party in the state, but we keep presenting the wrong people as candidates and that is why we have never had a Senator.
How come we have been winning the gubernatorial election, the House of Representatives elections, the State House of Assembly and we do not win the Senate?
I am going there because our governors have never been supported before by their Senators. Dr. Chinwoke Mbadinuju was never supported; Dr. Chris Ngige was not supported by any Senator. Chief Peter Obi was not supported and Chief Willie Obiano is currently not being supported by any of our Senators.
I don’t see why my governor will go to Abuja and visit a minister and I won’t make time to follow up. That is the work of Senator, especially if it has to do with my state and my zone in particular.
Of course as a senator, you are expected to participate in law making, to make sure we have good and enabling laws, to make sure that we strengthen our nation, to strengthen democracy, to strengthen Nigeria as one unit.
So, for me, when it comes down to our zone in particular, where we produce oil but our state is not a member of NDDC, I will work for Anambra State to become a member of Niger Delta Development Commission, which is our right so that we can begin to get our benefits like the other nine states of NDDC. So, these are the major reasons why I want go and represent our people.
Again, if you come into our party in our zone, we have two sub-zones; we have the Omambala axis which is made up Oyi, Ayamelum, Anambra East and West and we have the old Onitsha Division which is made up of Onitsha North and Ogbaru.
The governorship has gone to Omambala axis and they got it based on equity. We got the governorship based on equity because Peter Obi, our former governor promised the people of the North in 2010 that the governor after him will come from Anambra North.
He called traditional rulers and party stalwarts from the zone and said support us and I will support you people to ensure that we have a Northern governor in 2013. And he fulfilled that promise.
So our governor is a product of equity and the governorship having gone that way, the next post is zoned to the Onitsha Division. Even our national chairman made that declaration in Central School, Atani, where he declared that the senatorial ticket is zoned to Ogbaru.
So, it is somehow our right and people are called upon and I made myself available. I am not one of those people that were asked to come and run. I offered myself.
Given your closeness with the former Governor, Peter Obi, one thought you would have followed him to the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, but you did not. What is it that you saw in APGA that made you hang in there?
I am an APGA man. I have never been in any other political party. I have been a member of APGA since 2002 and this is the only party I know. This is a party that has developed Anambra State.
The road you went through used to take four hours to get to my house here, from Uga junction in Onitsha, but today it is 20 minutes drive. So, there is no reason why I should dump my party. Moreover Peter Obi never consulted me. He never asked me to go with him. He didn’t.
I think he was decent in the way he handled things. But I am an APGA man, in and out. I am not going anywhere.
Are you very positive that the primary will be transparent and open, given the insinuation that your closeness with the former Governor may deny you the ticket?
Oh no. I don’t believe that. These are mere rumours. The primary would be open, free and fair. And the party members will vote for the people or the person they believe will represent them better.
My closeness to Peter Obi is because he is a friend and did well for my State, no doubt about it. But having left for another party, we are in two different divides. Anambra is an APGA state, not PDP state and I am sure even he, Peter Obi, knows that.
I don’t believe that our party or leadership of our party is trying to edge us out. Who is not close to Peter Obi? We are all his friends. Victor Umeh is his friend.
Our current governor is his friend. They have been friends and associates and colleagues or work in the same institution for 20 years. As far as we know, he brought him. So, who in Anambra State today is not Peter Obi’s friend? Are we quarrelling? We don’t agree on a platform to do things. It is nothing personal.
I don’t think our governor has any personal issues with Peter Obi. I don’t think there is anything like that. At least, he has not told me. Yes, he is no longer in our party. He is in his party.
What is your view on the recent appointment of Obiano as Chairman of BOT of APGA?
Well, he is a very experienced person. He was an executive director in a bank for nine years. And you just don’t become an E.D. Just like that. He is already a leader. He understands leadership and I am sure he has done a lot of leadership studies.
Yes, he is in a new terrain politically but, the governor as the highest ranking elected officer, I think automatically, the leadership falls upon him. And as a member of National Executive Committee of our party, he also doubles as the chairman of Board of Trustees (BOT). By the way, I am a member of the Board and without a chairman, we can really not function. So, I am sure that it is an arrangement for us to move on. He has the capacity and APGA is an institution.
How do you see the emergence of new entrants scrambling to pick the party’s Senatorial ticket? Won’t it jeopardise the chances of the party if they are given tickets?
Somebody said it is height of madness doing the same activity and expecting a different result. We have done things like that in the past where we brought in people that were not used to our ways and who didn’t have any allegiance to the party and it didn’t work.
You have to be in APGA for a while to get acclimatised to the APGA spirit. So, when you bring in people that don’t have APGA spirit, they don’t think about the party.
Most of our members are not even cards carrying members. They don’t necessarily carry APGA cards but on that voting day, they will ask where the cock, the symbol of APGA is? Where is Ojukwu? Where is Peter Obi, when he was in the party?
I am sure they will now ask where Akpokue is. So, the influx of people has not been good for us. As a member of BOT of this party, I understand one of our assignments is to guide the policy of the party.
We will have what they have in PDP, when they now amend our constitution, so that there will be a two-year wait or at least till you get a waiver, signed by enough people within your constituency. .
If you want to be a Senator, you get, 100 or 200 or 500 APGA members to sign on it and the national body can give you a waiver or the state body whatever it is because it really doesn’t make sense.
Most of them come in to use us, if they win they leave, if they lose they leave because they can’t get it the APGA way and the APGA way is a lot of patience. The APGA way is development.
APGA has adopted President Goodluck Jonathan for the 2015 presidential election, which will be held the same day as the National Assembly election. Are you comfortable with the arrangement of doing the presidential and National Assembly elections the same day, given the PDP’s open commitment to reclaim Anambra State?
Yes, we have adopted the President for good reason because I personally believe he has done well. I also believe that he is the best candidate out of the lot that have come out with all due respect. I think President Jonathan has done enough to deserve a second term. That is what I think and that is what my party, APGA thinks. Yes, the timetable is a little bit precarious for us who are running for the Senate but I would tell you, we are not in the same ballot paper. So, we are going to educate our people, wherever you see cock vote cock. Where you do not see Cock, vote PDP. It is as simple as that. We know how to get around it. We understand the business. We already know what to do.