By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
ABUJA—AGAINST the backdrop of recent endorsement of President Goodluck Jonathan by Ohanaeze Ndigbo in the forthcoming elections, Presidential candidate of United Progressive Party, UPP, Chief Chekwas Okorie, has berated the apex Igbo socio-cultural group for hawking endorsement like pure water.
Chief Okorie, who was the founder of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, as well as UPP, which he chairs, wondered in an interview with this reporter why the Igbo nation would like to play second fiddle when UPP had given the zone the opportunity by ceding the presidential slot to the area.
He, however, said he was not disturbed as, according to him, UPP will spring some surprises in the elections, which would be the revelation in the 2015 elections.
He said: “When it comes to politics, this kind of thing has always happened. Even though what Ohaneze has done this time is a little scandalous, it has not been different from what has always happened in Nigerian politics especially the Igbo politics aspect of it.
“The second republic people will remember very well that almost every Igbo political leader was in NPN and they were all fighting for number two position.
”It was so bad that what NPN did was to decide to give it to any Igbo man provided that he brings N2million at that time. It was for the highest bidder and that was how Alex Ekwueme being a highly successful contractor and consultant paid.
“He did not become running mate because Igbo people sponsored him but because he out-paid the others and that was what prompted Nnamdi Azikiwe to come out because he had already stated that he was not going to run.
“So, when he saw his own people clamouring for number two position, he could not reconcile it with the fact that he led the struggle for Independence. That was how he came and he came late and chose the smallest of the parties at the time – NPP (Nigeria Peoples Party) which was founded by Waziri Ibrahim.
“And when he was asked why he did not go to a big party where all his associates were waiting for him, he said his people were better of being majority in a minority party where their voice would be heard than being the minority in a majority party where they would be assimilated without trace.
“And the masses identified with their own and they voted for him while others who went to majority parties lost in their domains and NPP dominated the area (South East). Not just that, Plateau State had a shoulder to lean and Solomon Lar became the emancipator and liberator of his people.
“Now is not different, those who will always go to ‘food is ready’ will not be part of building anything. I founded APGA, it was worst in the case of APGA than I am having it now. It was only after we had won Anambra State through the court that the party became attractive. So, I am not surprised.
“As a matter of fact, I am not much disappointed by what Ohaneze is doing now but I feel sorry for my Igbo people. What has happened is that Ohaneze is simply hawking endorsement as if it is hawking pure water sachet. An endorsement should be a logical outcome of a negotiated understanding contained in a written memorandum of understanding.
“There are so many problems confronting the Igbo people that any patriotic, caring Pan-Igbo organization will present on the table and have it negotiated and as a result of that, endorsement will come.
“Look at Afenifere, they are now telling you the reason they are supporting the government which are justifiable endorsement. What did Ohaneze say, instead, they are busy denying whether they were given a particular amount of money or not.
“Is it not scandalous that umbrella organization that is supposed to speak for the interest of Igbo people has made itself so cheap? This is not the first time Ohaneze is doing this, it did it in 2011 but that time, there was no opposition and people could get away with it. Now, the situation is different. I am running and you will see what will happen.
“As I said, UPP will be the revelation of 2015 election when the results start coming in. Why is it that in spite of the spate of endorsement, the beneficiaries are afraid of the popularity contest that would be tested on the basis of one man, one?”
He said that he was not worried over such development, adding, “As a matter of fact, our party will be the revelation of the 2015 Presidential election. New as it is, the leadership of the party cannot be said to be new in the political domain giving the fact that I founded the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) and I founded this one also.
“I am also one of four Nigerians that founded two political parties in our life time. Incidentally, I am the only one alive. The other three, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Mallam Aminu Kano and Alhaji Waziri Ibrahim are late. So, there is some degree of pedigree and political antecedents that can be traced to UPP leadership.
“Coming from that background, UPP again, did something very strategic, what it did was, upon its registration, to zone its Presidential slot for 2015 to the South East geo-political zone. We did that because even as at that time, we knew who the Presidential candidate of PDP would be and we knew also where the Presidential candidate of APC would come from.
“These were the two prominent contenders at that time. So, we felt the way Nigeria is composed; it would make for a balance or what we used to call tripod in Nigeria’s political equation.