I can tell you that most of our leaders, including President Muhammadu Buhari, have changed parties because of these reasons. If you remember, the President had to leave the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) after the 2007 general elections to form Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) because of unfair treatment. There was a situation that some ANPP governors then signed an agreement to work for the PDP as against their party’s presidential candidate. The then chairman of the party, late Edwin Ume-Ezeoke, who was the vice presidential candidate, had to abandon his principal in court to accept an appointment from the ruling party. So, it is the treatment you get from a party that informs whether you will remain there or not.
We had a party that was going well under the leadership of Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, but Adams Oshiomhole came and decided that those who supported Odigie-Oyegun should be dealt with. But they supported Odigie-Oyegun at a time the party wanted him. If Oshiomhole cannot forgive them for their support for Odigie-Oyegun, it means that such members of the party will not receive fair treatment under his leadership. And, if I am aspiring to lead my people, the first step is to go through the primary and whether you like it or not, the national chairman of a political party plays an important role in determining who emerges as a candidate. If he is not fair, there is likely to be a problem.
So, some of these things are what informs peoples’ movement from one political party to another. Okorocha himself was at a time in PDP, ANPP, AA and APGA, but his supporters are now back to AA, so if you look at it, Iam even the one who has travelled the least, on a scale of 1 to 10, I will be on the eight position.
How far have you gone in reconciling aggrieved members of your party over the fallout of the governorship primary?
Every primary election has its own peculiar challenges. When I joined APGA, there were 23 aspirants, who had been there before me. So, it is natural that everyone would be thinking that he or she will win. But the fact remains that I have the best political structure in Imo State; it has been there for a long time and its members are everywhere. Therefore, you cannot compare me with a man who has just left the bank and has no knowledge of politics; you can’t compare me with a man, who has no knowledge of what party primary is all about and you cannot compare me with a man, who doesn’t understand party administration because I have been there before. Members of the party understand that as a former party chairman, I will understand them better. Many of those in APGA were in All Peoples Party (APP) when I was chairman. So, they voted for me because they believe if I become the governor, I will understand the challenges facing the party. These were the things that informed my emergence as APGA’s candidate and naturally, some people will react the way they did. But, the good thing is that we have reconciled with more than 80 percent of those who felt aggrieved. The other 20 percent have left, like Ohakim left for Accord Party, Okey Eze left for Social Democratic Party, while Humphrey Anumudu left for another party. While these people have left, we have reconciled with all those who are in APGA now and everyone is working for the party’s success ahead of the governorship contest.
Given the personality of candidates in the contest, what do think will guarantee free and fair election in the state?
The role of the electoral umpire will go along in way in guaranteeing free and fair elections in the state. But I will tell you that Imo people are determined to ensure that their votes count. So, if INEC does what it ought to do, there will be free and fair election. Again, I will tell you that there are four strong parties that will be contesting in Imo State, namely; APGA, APC, PDP and AA. What this means is that there will be balance of forces in every polling unit, so it will not be easy for anybody to manipulate the process.