We’re not inferior to anyone, South-East should produce Nigeria’s next President — Leader, Ebonyi House of Assembly

Victor Chukwu represents the Ezza North (West) Constituency and is the Leader of the Ebonyi State House of Assembly. In this interview with EDWARD NNACHI, talks about the South-East and the Peoples Democratic Party, saying Governor Dave Umahi does not need anybody’s endorsement to defect to another party, among other issues

Recently, members of Ebonyi State House of Assembly issued a seven-day ultimatum to the national leadership of the PDP to zone its presidential ticket to the South-East. What do you think will be the consequences if it fails to do so?

    The consequences will be enormous although I will not be able to give specifics as of now. The reason is that I am not the leader of the party in the state; there is a chain of relationship and leadership in the state. But I am certain that the losses or consequences will be severe and heavy. In the first place, the national leadership of the PDP would have established deceit, they would have established insincerity and they would have unwittingly succeeded in establishing unfairness and injustice in the zone. And so, everything you do here on earth comes back to you; nobody is a fool. If they don’t heed the call, part of the losses will be a reciprocation of dishonesty and injustice. This is because whatever they are sowing, that is what they are going to reap from the zone from now onwards.

    Why do you think leadership of the major political parties have been dilly-dallying on zoning their presidential tickets to the South-East zone since 1999?

    I don’t see any reason why they have been doing this to the South-East zone. And they have no reason to continue to do this to the region; it is just sheer wickedness. I am not talking about the leadership of other political parties; I am particular about the leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party. I won’t talk about the party that I do not belong to or where the zone has not much in, because the South-East zone has and still contributes to the growth and success of the PDP for over 20 something years now.

    The zone has invested so much in building the party; from its formation to its prosperity, the South-East has been the epicentre of the PDP. I am not bothered about the affairs of other parties; I am talking about the PDP, where we have sufficiently paid our dues. The PDP should at least be just and fair to us, because we are obviously part and parcel of the party.

    There have been speculations in the last two weeks that it appears that the structure of the PDP in the state is about to collapse into another party. In the event that there are defections and, for instance, the governor asks some of you to join him to move to another party, do you see that party wrestling power from the PDP that has controlled the state for so many years?

Ebonyi State was created in 1996 and at the point of creation, there was no PDP. We had the UNCP and the NDP, among others, and contested elections under them and won. In 1999, we contested under the PDP and won although we lost some local government areas to other parties. Recall that in 1999, the PDP had only nine local government areas out of the 13 local government areas in the state. We lost Izzi, Ikwo, Afikpo South and Ohaozara local government areas of the state.

The party didn’t fall from heaven. It is the individual units that make up a party and the whole essence of joining the PDP was for it to protect our interests. If for 21 years people have been paying their dues without a reward, then we will be the most miserable if we continue that way. Nobody will continue with a particular thing and expect a different result. If we don’t have chances of winning elections in Ebonyi, does that automatically bring to an end the state called Ebonyi? We must not only win elections, but we show our people a sense of direction. Our people must know where we are standing; it is not all about elections all the time.

If a Yoruba man was able to rule this nation and heaven didn’t fall; a Fulani was able to govern this country and heaven didn’t fall; an Ijaw man was able to rule this nation and heaven did fall; an Igbo man can do the same. We are not in any way inferior to anybody else in this country, not in numbers, not in mental capacity and not in every sense of it. Therefore, it is about elections and it is about our people knowing their stake in where they belong as a people. It’s about the property of the Igbo race. And the time is now.

Insinuations are rife that some of the members of the state House of Assembly may not be willing to move to other parties and may not give their nod to anyone wishing to move in the event that the defections eventually take place. What is your take on this?

We have 24 adults from 24 different backgrounds and ideologies in the Ebonyi State House of Assembly and these people are private, developed and mature individuals. If I have a vision, the most I can do is to let you know about that vision. And if you see or feel otherwise about my vision, then you are entitled to your opinion or decision. This is democracy we are talking about and nobody is going to lord it over anyone. The House of Assembly is an arm of government made up of different sets of people and so, if anyone does not feel what we are feeling, it does not change anything. But from the look of things, I don’t think there is any member in the Ebonyi State House of Assembly, who does not wish the best for the Igbo race.

There are fears in some quarters that one of the reasons why major political parties are not always willing to zone their presidential tickets to the South-East is the belief that the region has a smaller voting capacity. What is the implication of this?

Explain what they mean by a smaller voting capacity. I hope you know that when you talk about the Igbo, they are not just limited to the five states of Enugu, Imo, Anambra, Abia and Ebonyi. We have Igbo all over. We have Igbo in Kogi State, we have Igbos in Benue State, we have Igbo in Delta State, we have Igbo in Rivers State, we have Igbo in Cross River and Akwa Ibom states. They are Igbo, because parts of these states are Igbo people. Meanwhile, the Fulani man, who is the President, is his race the most populous? The Yoruba man who has ruled, is his race the most populous? The Ijaw man that ruled and just handed over to Buhari, is he from the majority race of this nation? Is his tribe the most populous? No.

The issue of smaller voting strength does not come to play here. We are talking about equity; we are talking about fairness; and we are talking about justice. What have we not suffered in this nation? Who among the elite of the PDP from the other regions of this country was able to stand against Abacha? Who? The late Alex Ekwueme stood against the authority, maintaining the ‘If I die, I die’, spirit of the Igbo man. The man died and did not benefit anything from this party he invested his money, energy, knowledge economy and others in. This is unfair and let’s all be sincere about it. It is about time we say the truth. The PDP reward mechanism is terrible and we need to say no to it; nobody is a fool.

There are reports that six of the House members have not endorsed the alleged move by the governor to defect to another party. Do you foresee a division among the members on this?

In the first place, the governor does not need anybody’s endorsement or nod to move from the PDP in search for better political fortunes. He is a private individual and has the holistic right to defect to any party or remain in his party. So, if a few members or all the members say no, it does not change anything. It is all dependent on the governor’s conviction; he is a governor and from the look of things, he is in the mainstream of the nation’s politics. He sees what you are not seeing and probably knows what you do not know. And in the effect of his wanting to defect to another party and somebody is not giving his or her nod, that person’s opinion does not matter and it is inconsequential. He has no consequences on the decisions of the governor.

And talking about division, the House is already divided into 24 parts. If you have your opinion and I have my opinion, it is not a war or fight. This is a conglomeration of 24 divisions and there’s no superior division or constituency. There is no division; we will only be talking about division when we have parallel leadership in the Ebonyi State House of Assembly. But here, we have one Speaker, we have one Deputy Speaker and I am the only Leader of the House.

The 2023 elections hold a lot of implications for the South-East. What position will you advise that the zone take so as not to be left out in the scheme of things?

This is our position and I want to categorically state it here. But lest I forget, somebody asked three days ago what if the PDP zones its presidential ticket to the South-East and eventually the party fails? Then I said give us the ticket and let us go and fail and that won’t be the first time somebody would have failed in a presidential election in the world’s political history. Somebody contested against Obasanjo and failed; President Buhari was a serial failure until 2015, when he contested against Goodluck Jonathan and won. And Jonathan just failed recently and our brother Abubakar Atiku failed last year.

Many great Nigerians have failed in presidential elections in the past and heaven didn’t fall. And I don’t believe that when you try something for the first time and it didn’t work, you accept it as a failure. No. This is a wrong assumption. It could be that your approach was wrong and you needed to change to a different approach. Therefore, not just the PDP, I am calling on all political parties in the country to zone their presidential tickets to the South-East and if we fail, we fail.

Remember, you cannot continue to marginalise and suppress a particular region of the country, and you still preach or claim that that same region you are so marginalising and suppressing is still part of the country. Let’s do it right now. And the Igbo have shown more patriotism and more citizenship than any other tribe in this country. What then is really our sin as a people?

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