Enugu-based lawyer and politician, Mr. Vincent Obetta has said that though a good number of prominent politicians in the South-East geo-political zone have joined the All Progressives Congress (APC), he does not see the party sweeping the polls in all the states in the region in 2019.
He, however, commended the former Abia State governor, Dr Orji Uzor Kalu and other prominent politicians in the region for taking a bold step to join the party at the centre, saying that it is the only sure way they can use to end the marginalization of the people of the zone.
Before now, Enugu has been a PDP state until recently when some of the stalwarts in the party like the former governor of old Anambra state, Chief Jim Nwobodo and the former Senate President, Chief Ken Nnamani defected to APC; do you think this defection can change the political equation of the state?
Nothing has changed and the equation cannot change on the basis of these defections. Let me tell you, the PDP in EnugusState is not just a political party, but a cult of sorts for ardent adherents. It started way back in the days of Dr. Chimaroke Nnamani. The PDP in Enugu state metamorphosed from a political party to a more close knit organization called Ebeano family. You may say that Ebeano dynasty has crumbled, but all those you know as astute politicians today are all products of the one party system entrenched in Enugu state in the last 16 years and that bias still exists.
But the APC during their last re-registration of members claimed to have registered over one million voters in the South-East, saying that it is ready to take over Anambra state, how do you look at that?
Assuming the APC has registered one million voters in the entire South-East as it claimed, does it follow that it will win Anambra state? We have five states in the South-East, when you divide one million by five states, it will be 200,000 per state. In fact, you will agree with me that APC state like Imo will certainly record more, say at an average of 400,000 registered membership, leaving the remaining four states with 600 membership, so when you divide the remaining 600 by four states, each of the states will be left with a paltry average of 150 membership. How does that translate into winning the governorship election in Anambra state, as well as taking over the entire South-East? The ‘real politik’ is that APC needs to do more than this media hype victory.
What makes you to be so sure that Enugu State will remain a PDP state?
Enugu will remain a PDP state as long as Rt. Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi holds sway as the governor, as long as he flies the gubernatorial ticket in 2019. I am very sure because to a reasonable extent I know his political strength. He has a political masterstroke to which many have neglected. He plays his joker at an odd time that his opponents will hardly make a retreat. I am also very sure because his unassuming posture, as well as seamless and qualitative transformation of the state, even in the face of biting economic recession, stands him out. Do not, also underestimate his outreach and cross border political connections. He is good to go because you don’t replace a winning team. I only replace my car part when it’s broken down. The situation may be different in Abia state where the PDP has been seriously calibrated by the Dr. Orji Kalu’s entrance into the APC. Recall that sometime last year the whole executive of the PDP alongside their supporters defected to the APC. The chances of APC winning are more in Abia state than in Enugu or Anambra. And the reason is not far-fetched, the gladiators will meet, this time, on a level playing ground and your guess will be as good as mine.
If you say that Enugu will still remain a PDP state, how would you reconcile this against the claim by Governor Rochas Okorocha that three governors of the South-East have already contacted him to join the APC?
Confidential discourse between colleagues; I can term it a ‘locker room-talk’. Assuming, but not conceding, that such discussions held and promises extracted, it is an aberration for Okorocha to release top ‘locker room’ discourse with his colleagues to the press. It’s such a huge embarrassment. On the issue of rebuttal, what does Governor Ugwuanyi stands to gain or lose? I think his approach was the best at the time – a sordid silence.
So are you foreclosing the speculation that some PDP governors in the South-East may defect to APC?
I never said that, my view is that if APC as a party is determined to win Enugu state, it must be on this ground: they have to work with Governor Ugwuanyi or they shelve the dream. If my governor decides to join the APC tomorrow, we shall all join the APC. Until that is done, APC’s dream of occupying the Lion Building in 2019 will be a pipe-dream. Governor Ugwuanyi is charismatic and grounded at the grassroots. He is the political leader of the Wawa people today. He provides the direction.
What is trending is that prominent Igbo sons are joining the APC; recently many of them in Anambra, including Senator Andy Uba joined the fray, what is your view about the increasing defection to the APC in the region?
It is a positive development. Our politicians have suddenly woken up from their political hallucination. What they are seeing today is what Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu saw at the onset when he joined the APC. At the time, all manner of banters were thrown at him; insinuations were crafted against him all in attempt to denigrate and whittle down his political space in Igbo land. I remember reading one of his interviews in response to the series of accusations – where he described an average Igbo politician ‘as trading in politics’. And I would like to add this: we should be proactive enough to identify the thin line between politics and activism – the politician and a freedom fighter. The common denominator in both is that it is about interest, but the difference is that in politics it’s about ‘no permanent friend and no permanent enemy’. If that is so, it means you can connect politically to any group, align to any political party so long as you have the platform to champion the interest of your people.
Back to Enugu state politics, from the performance of Governor Ugwuanyi in the last 18 months, do you think he has done enough that can see him through for a second term in 2019?
My take on this is that Enugu state is in the hands of God – Governor Ugwuanyi’s giant strides speak for themselves. This has been reflected in the various awards he has bagged in the last 18 months; the governor attracted the biggest development ever in the South-East tagged: ‘Operation Urbanization of Nimbo’. In collaboration with the African Nations Development Programmes, Nimbo community will benefit from a massive urbanization project of 5,000 bedroom housing estate; primary and secondary school with full boarding facilities and staff quarters; ultra-modern hospital and staff residence; sports arena; multi-purpose community hall; an inter- denominational church cathedral; a shopping mall; farm produce market; a police station with barracks; fire service station with staff residence; reticulated water scheme and power stations; and above all, a Common Wealth University for the less privileged. The Nimbo community has already donated 350 hectares of land to this respect.