Chief Basil Chukwuemeka Ejidike is the Chairman of Anambra State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC). He said that for an Igbo man to become the president of Nigeria, the South East stakeholders should dialogue with other zones of the country. He said that president Buhari has attracted more infrastructural development to the South East geopolitical zone more than his predecessors. In this interview, Ejidike said that APC has general acceptance to win 2021 governorship election in Anambra State.
How do you rate the administration of President Buhari for the past five years?
Generally, one would have said that President Muhammadu Buhari has done more than his predecessors. If the rating has anything to do with the achievements of an individual, of course, you will agree with me that the present administration has performed more than the previous administrations. And you can only start assessing somebody based on the things on ground in the immediate environment. If you are talking of South-East, off course my brother, you will agree with me that Buhari’s administration is felt even more than the period we had most of our people in government under PDP. You are aware that very soon, the Akanu Ibiam international airport which is undergoing serious rehabilitation and renovation will be re-opened. At this time around, the expectation is that bigger aircrafts can now land and take off unlike what was the situation before. And you cannot be talking about having an international airport where bigger planes cannot land, what makes it international? He promised that the Enugu international airport will be opened in the next two months. He is matching his promises with action. Coming down to Anambra State, Buhari’s presence is felt everywhere, in terms of what we have not experienced in Anambra State. I’m talking about school feeding, you know its still going on. It has never been heard of in this part of the country. Before now, we used to hear about school feeding may be somewhere around the North but the idea has come down and it has come to stay with us. Our children who are in schools now feed at the end of the day. Of course, you are aware of the introduction of ‘Tradi money and Market money’ and rest of them to assist these mini traders. In Anambra State, thousands of people have benefited from that programme. You talk of Enugu-Onitsha expressway which had been a major issue for election before now; subsequent governments had always promised to rehabilitate the road to no avail until now. Even when Dr. Goodluck Jonathan was there as the president, even when we had Deputy Senate President, Deputy Speaker of the House of Reps, minister of finance and other ministers from this part of Nigeria, nothing was done on the road but today you need to go there and see the level of work going on, not just ordinary reconstruction but quality job with the contractor working day and night. The one lane of the Enugu-Onitsha expressway will soon be completed. It helps a lot in terms of movement; before now, leaving Onitsha to Enugu, will take you about four hours but you have seen the change; when completed, one can now go to Enugu from Onitsha under one hour and this is happening under Buahri’s administration. Then you talk of the second Niger bridge that is the promise that has been on over the years by the previous administrations. They keep on saying that second Niger bridge would be constructed just to garner the votes from the South East zone. But with the coming of Buhari, some monies were made available for the project and work has been moving on steadily at the site. We were told that the project must be commissioned by 2022, that is two years away from now. So, these things were not just said, they are being earmarked. Then, Oba-Nnewi-Amichi federal road just go there to know whether what was experienced on the road before is what is on ground today and a whole lot of other projects. Some other things that interest me is that when President Jonathan came into power, he chose to bear the name Azikiwe probably to get the maximum support of the people from the South East, he only chose the name but never wanted to act like Azikiwe or even done the work the man Zik would have loved doing. Even Zik’s burial place was not attended to; is it not under Buahri that the project for Zik mausoleum was taken seriously, completed and commissioned? And Zik now have an international monument and even during the commissioning of the project, Mr. President did not just send any other minister or his vice to come but he came personally to commission the project, attaching much importance to the project and to the person, Zik. These are testimonies, things that can be seen done by the present administration. So, we have benefited so immensely from Buhari’s administration because you have to put two or three together for you to compare which is based on physical infrastructural development you are seeing on ground.
What is your advice for the insecurity in the country?
That has been a major concern for every individual because we need to have security for other things to thrive. You also agree with me that this issue of insecurity did not just start today; it has been there. One would have thought that by now insecurity would have curbed. It appears that we have not done so well in that aspect but that does not mean that nothing was done. You should remember that in the inception of this administration. the entire North East was under Boko Haram siege; you remembered that during the 2015 general election, there was argument whether the election would hold in those areas where so many local government areas were under the siege of Boko Haram; about 70 percent of North East was under insurgency, can you see the same thing today?. No. That does not mean that one can sleep with the two eyes closed. But the fact remains that the issue of security has been addressed but we still hope that more would be done. So, what I’m saying in essence is that in as much as we still have some areas to cover in terms of security, one cannot say all together that nothing has not been done. So, we still expect that more should be done because security of the individual should be paramount.
What is your take on South-East producing the next president?
There is nothing wrong for our people to demand for that but the fact remains that ‘he who goes to equity, must go with clean hands’. And again, power is never just dashed or given, you must definitely work for that. So, I expect that our people should be preemptive in their actions. Like during the last general election, nobody likes putting all his eggs in one basket. That mistake obviously has been made. And for us to achieve that, we wont sit back and begin to clamour for power shift to the South East; we must reach out to other segments making up the nation. The Igbo alone cannot single-handedly produce the president of Nigeria, neither can the Hausa nor the Yoruba; that understanding must be there. So, what I’m saying in essence is that our people must go beyond asking to be allowed to produce the next president. We can effectively achieve that by engaging other people from other sections of the country. It must be done through dialogue, it must be done through understanding, through reaching out, you don’t just sit back within the comfort of your home and expect that such position should be thrown at you; it doesn’t come out that way. So, for me, it is a worthwhile venture but it is something that must be handled with every task and should also consider the aspect of engaging the other segments of the country to be considered very serious. We should also comport ourselves, it is not something you must be holding the opinion that it is your right but equity demands that the presidency should be allowed to go round. But by and large, we need engagements and discussion with other zones.
Do you still have confidence in the judiciary based on what is happening in Imo and Bayelsa states?
Yes I do except the aspect when people shout Alleluia when the judgment of the Supreme Court appears to benefit them and at the same time shout crucify him when it appears not be on their side. Are you not a living witness when APC by the pronouncement of the Supreme Court lost the entire state of Zamfara to PDP. Have you forgotten that APC won from the governorship down to senate, House of Representatives, House of Assembly down the line. The party lost everything in just a swoop and APC being a disciplined party has not brought down heavens. Are you not aware of what happened in Rivers where our candidates in 2015 general election were completely bared from being part of the election and in some other areas. You see, APC as a party believes in the rule of law. Look at what just happened in Bayelsa, nobody was in doubt that APC won convincingly in the last election. So, that is what I’m saying; people will be shouting Alleluia when they benefit and shout crucify him when they don’t benefit. How long shall we continue to go like that? The fact is that Supreme Court has made a pronouncement in Imo State election and the highest thing anybody can do is to go for a review of the judgement which PDP has gone and APC is going for Zamfara and Baylesa; we should follow the processes of rule of law and whatever happened at the end you take it. So, there is no need discrediting what we have because if you discredit what you have, you won’t even expect foreigners to come and do things for you. I do have hope in judiciary, ours is developing democracy as a developing nation. I cannot say we have reached that level, no, we are not there but we are gradually getting there. They are human beings, they may not be completely okay but that of Imo State was a straight forward judgement based on the cancellation of 388 wards to favour the former governor.
In 2021,Anambra state will go to the poll to elect new governor, how prepared is your party?
So far, so good, of course you will agree with me that even in the last governorship election in the state that APC did not lose entirely. We instituted a kind of review committee immediately after the election to help us find out where we went wrong in that election and then report has since been submitted; we have gone through the report and by now, we are at the stage of trying to pick/fix the pieces. We have now known where we got the whole thing wrong. Primarily, the cause was disunity among the various stakeholders in APC and you are aware that the house divided against itself cannot stand. So, disunity amongst the major stakeholders in APC in the state was the main reason APC lost the last governorship election. We are now taking our time to see how we bridge that gap; we have gone into many discussions and that was one of the reasons, the Vice-President visited the state last year and since after the visit, a lot of water has been passing under the bridge. Before the end of March, we shall begin to see the effect of all the things we have been trying to put together because I’m assure there is going to be a lot of defections from other parties to APC. I don’t want to make a noise about the whole thing; seeing, they say is believing. I want to tell you that very soon, you will be a witness to things that would be coming to Anambra State because many prominent politicians from APGA and PDP would be defecting to APC. APGA and PDP cannot in any way be matched with APC in Anambra State come 2021. They need to put their houses in order. The PDP you know has court cases here and there on the issue of leadership. And the same thing applies to APGA; if not that the governor has been trying to do a lot of cover up, the entire thing will soon be blown out of proportion.
How will you surmount the power of incumbency of APGA to win the next election?
You talk of power of incumbency where the incumbent governor has done a lot. Are you talking of power of incumbency where there is nothing to show. Can you compare the present administration with what obtained during Dr. Chris Ngige within the short period he was the governor. Didn’t you witness the momentum at the period? or even when Peter Obi was the governor; he was better in terms of physical infrastructural development. During the short period of Ngige, people of the state were bombarded with series of project commissioning. There was no day one project or the other was not commissioned during Ngige. When last did you hear Anambra State government commissioning a completed project. People must be judged based on their performance. So, what I’m saying is that on the basis of performance of present administration in the state, there is no way they can lay claim to anything, there is nothing to warrant people to vote them into power again. And of course, people are already agitating, there are a lot of discontents within APGA as a party because they have come to realise that in present day Nigeria, having a mushroom or local party cannot take you anywhere. That was what Peter Obi did after staying in APGA for eight years on the saddle; he had to abandon the local party to join a more national party though not as national as APC but he had to look for something that will take him beyond the shores of the River Niger. We are talking about a national party, we are talking of being in the mainstream. You can only change the system by being within that system; you cannot change from outside. I think our people have learnt a lot and you are now asking of having a president of an Igbo extraction.
What type of candidate do you intend to produce in the forthcoming election?
We are looking at somebody who understands the terrain, somebody who is a man of the people, somebody the Anambraians can trust and also somebody Anambraians can access. You know that accessibility is very, very important and not a situation where somebody becomes governor today and becomes inaccessible. So, we are trying to bring a whole lot of things into consideration to pick who should fly the flag of the party in the state; we are talking about somebody who can win election and not highest bidder.