From Magnus Eze, Enugu
Afam Okereke is a celebrated filmmaker and politician. The former Chairman of Nkanu West Local Government Area of Enugu State and Executive Assistant to Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, spoke on the politics of the state, ahead of next year’s general elections.
He expressed optimism that the growing popularity of Labour Party would not cut short the victory run of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state.
There is this impression that the PDP is being threatened by the presence of the Labour Party in Enugu State. How do you see the situation?
In politics, everybody is allowed to share his opinion on issues as they evolve. To me, I don’t see the Labour Party as a threat as it has to do with the Enugu State PDP because PDP over the time has proved its worth in the state. PDP Enugu State has really provided the dividends of democracy to the people and so many people, communities, individuals, private sector, in so many areas, they have benefited from the administration of PDP in Enugu State since 1999 and I don’t think PDP has ever disappointed. So, I see the issue of Labour Party in the state as an inherited presence at the national level because of the personality of Peter Obi who is vying for the Presidency. I am proud of him as an Igbo person who is making it known that, yes we the Igbo deserve a chance at the Presidency.
Let me leave that and discuss the state. At the state level, we are looking at personalities and individuals that have already emerged at the PDP level. For the governorship, we are looking at the person of Peter Mbah. I think the choice of Peter Mbah is the best thing that has happened in the history of politics in Enugu State; when you have more than 15 persons who bought the forms to contest for governorship and eventually, it was narrowed down to the best. Even those that contested among themselves knew that Peter Mbah was the best for it. We are looking up to him; trying to see the best he can offer to make Enugu State a better place when he emerges governor. The serving Governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi has really done his best and we are looking forward to somebody who will take it up from there and expand the development of Enugu State.
So, I don’t see Labour Party as a problem. All we need to do much more is also to educate our people and make them understand that that party, PDP is still standing as the party of the people in Enugu State. Even the old woman in the village coming to vote, what she knows is the umbrella. All we need to do is to give them more reason to have more trust and believe that the PDP will never fail and that the choice of PDP and Peter Mbah will still sustain the democracy we have been experiencing in the state.
Peter Mbah is seen as an Ebeano man such that if he becomes governor, it is a resurgence of Ebeano and people say they did not have a palatable experience under the Ebeano era. Do you think the people are really going to support him in this circumstance?
I don’t think it is the right point to raise. There is nothing wrong if someone who worked in the government of Chimaroke Nnamani emerges as Governor. In the government of Chimaroke, I am aware that he worked as a Commissioner for Finance and also as the Chief of Staff. He isn’t Chimaroke. He was one of the appointees that worked for Chimaroke. When you say Ebeano, almost everyone who worked or was appointed within the time Chimaroke was in power are all products of Ebeano. That he emerged does not mean that Ebeano produced him. Looking at it, other governors and key political office holders that occupied offices in Enugu State are all part of the Ebeano political family. Sullivan Chime was Ebeano, Ike Ekweremadu was Ebeano, Gburugburu was also part of Ebeano.
All of them obviously worked under Chimaroke. So, why should Peter Mba’s case be different? I don’t think that should be an issue. If there was any arrangement for Ebeano to produce him, that I do not know, but then, all I see is that he was part of the government when Chimaroke was the Governor and eventually he is emerging now. So, we should not see it as Ebeano coming back or not. Let us focus on the man Peter Mbah who is emerging. And by the grace of God, we are going to taste his own experience and see how far he is going to take Enugu. A lot of people are surprised that he is leaving his business to indicate interest in politics as governor of the state. But to him, he sees it as a time to serve and to offer to the people what he feels is best for them.
So, you are convinced that all these aggrieved chieftains leaving the PDP fold are no threat at all?
No, I don’t see that as a threat but there is still a need for reconciliation at some point. It calls for discussion and roundtable discussion. Certain persons must have been aggrieved to decide to take certain steps against the family he or she has been with all the while. When those areas are traced and identified, I think it calls for roundtable discussion. You know politics as they say is a game of interest. When your interest is not met at a certain point, it obviously will divert your attention to another angle from where you feel you will be able to express yourself. But I know it’s a family issue. Some of the PDP chieftains stepping into Labour Party, I believe is due to one or two grievances which can still be settled. And then stepping out and never intending to come back again, I don’t think it will result in failure for the PDP because PDP has come to stay in Enugu State.
Which particular areas would you want the next government in the state to pay attention to?
I would want the next government to pay more attention to developmental projects which of course I know the outgoing government did its best but then, mostly the rural areas. You know, Enugu is beautiful. People are seeing the beauty of Enugu because Sullivan as Governor focused attention on the city. So, until you begin to move into the rural areas, then you will begin to see the projects of the present administration. I suggest the coming government should focus on human empowerment, developmental projects and sustainable projects.
Things that the state will be remembered for. I remember when Peter Mbah visited Uzo-Uwani and told us that we have potential in raising oil from Uzo-Uwani. That gave us a whole lot of hope. Imagine when Enugu becomes an oil producing state. Imagine when factories are raised and people are being employed to work in factories. It will reduce criminality. If there is an opportunity for people to showcase their talents, a lot of things will happen. And again, education-wise, if you look at the system, many people are leaving the country because of this ASUU strike. Even though they don’t have anything to do with Enugu State in particular, when you come to state schools, when certain things are done, people will say, yes, they are benefitting from the government. Most importantly, let there be employment. Let there be developmental projects, let there be sustainable projects that people can live to remember.
Don’t you think that water is a problem?
Those are the necessary amenities that no one can do without. When you talk about water, I think politics this time should have gone beyond campaigning for good roads, water and shelter because that has always been the song. So, whoever that is contesting for election now should be thinking of something bigger and ahead. People see this as their basic necessities. So, whatever government that is coming in should look beyond that. It’s like a joke, a particular government will come in and use a particular road to campaign and by the time you move in, you see that government run in and out of that administration and they will still not be able to touch that road. Even when they are working on it, they will still fix it very well. When you do a sustainable project, people will always live to witness it and you will be remembered. People will always say this project was done by this person’s administration and you would have by so doing carved your name in gold.
Don’t you think that Peter Mbah has divided the home base given that the APC and APGA candidates come from the same Nkanu land constituency?
His votes from his immediate constituency are already sure. Peter Mbah will not have any problem with his votes from his constituency. Like you know, politically, everyone will have his own followers but the PDP followers, the people of Nkanu, as far as Nkanu land is concerned in consensus are going for Peter straight. We are not even seeing pressure from Nkanu despite that APC and APGA candidates are from Nkanu land. But then, when the time comes, we will still handle it very well and you will see that there is no problem.