Okey Muo-Aroh is a member of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) where he represents the South East. He’s a leading candidate for the position of the national secretary of the party. He is from Anambra State and a lawyer of over 37 years. In this interview with FRED ITUA, he warned of the danger the third force may pose to the leading political parties. He also spoke on his chances, among others.
The Uche Secondus-led National Working Committee is yet to elapse, but the PDP is going ahead with a new convention to elect new leaders. Don’t you see a danger in that?
The tenure of Willie Obiano will end in March, 2022. But INEC is holding an election in November this year. The PDP National Working Committee, in its wisdom, said they will have the convention, but the NWC will be there until the 9th of December when their tenure will expire. The convention doesn’t truncate the tenure of the Secondus-led NWC. The Secondus-led NWC will be in office until then. But the position of the chairman has been zoned out of the South-South. It means he can’t offer himself for a re-election.
Despite the zoning of the chairmanship to the North, there are still agitations that the presidency should be zoned to the region. Some are insisting on zoning it to the South…
I’m a member of NEC. I was there when the decision was taken. The party has adopted the first report on zoning of the NWC positions. When we get to the bridge, we will cross it. Today, the party is talking about the national convention. Let us get the party working first. For the presidency, the politics of the day will determine how it will be zoned. The zoning isn’t cast in stone. What we want is the principle of rotation of power for an all inclusive Nigeria.
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When the PDP was formed in 1998, we wanted to build a Nigeria where everyone will have a sense of belonging. In 1999, because the party felt the South West was mortally wounded in the annulment of the 1993 presidential election, Olusegun Obasanjo was adopted. People in PDP are fair-minded. When we get there, we will do the right thing. You know that there is a section of Nigeria that is marginalised. It is not the entire South. When we get there, we will look at the parameters…
What part is being marginalised?
The South East. The people of the South East are political animals. We have some of the most sophisticated political people from the South East. When it’s time, leaders from there will come together and decide. The business of politics is power. You can’t zone just because you want to zone, then go there and lose. That zoning will be meaningless.
If the presidency is ceded to the South East by the PDP in 2023, can you be certain that the candidate will win?
Why not? Politics is the act of the impossible. If you’re able to do your negotiations right and get the right dynamics, you’ll win. The PDP has been winning their elections with votes from the South East and South-South. This is a matter of reciprocating. People from the North who have run for elections, they have all won in the South-East and South-South. If the party says that power should be ceded to the South and they settle for the East, those who have enjoyed support from us will get their people to support us. When we get to that bridge, we will cross it.
If power is ceded to the South and the South-East is left out, will that cause some form of disaffection in the zone?
Definitely! I don’t know what will happen. I’m not a prophet. But based on the realities on ground, there will be some resentment. The resentment will have consequences. But I can’t predict them. People can decide not to vote or support. But I don’t see the South-East doing something funny.
The PDP has been hit by a gale of defections. Top shots, including governors, are defecting. Would that affect the chances of the party?
I pity Nigerians when they see it as a PDP problem. It is a Nigerian problem. Have you bothered to ask why they’re defecting and what their problems are? You listened to Oshiomhole when he was the national chairman of APC. Same for Buni. They said no matter your level of corruption, when you come to the APC, your sins are forgiven. Nobody wants to go to jail. Nigerians ought to censor APC. Those going into the party and their sins are forgiven, should be questioned. What message are they passing to Nigerians?
Prior to 2015, APC and ACN played the role of the opposition well. It appears the PDP wasn’t ready for that when it lost power in 2015?
The PDP isn’t a propaganda machine. APC isn’t a political party; it is a propaganda machine. The only unfortunate thing that happened in PDP is that, our members decided to go and join this propaganda machine and formed the government. If those governors and others had not left the PDP, we would have won. They’ve seen their mistakes. They’ve returned. All those characters who went to join them are back. The undercurrent of APC failures will determine the outcome of 2023 elections. The issue of needed opposition needs to be understood. Our style in the PDP isn’t the same with that of the APC. The PDP is like the judgement of Solomon in the Bible. The PDP doesn’t want Nigeria to die. So, we are mindful. APC members are political merchants who don’t think good about Nigeria. It doesn’t matter to them if they’ll destroy Nigeria. When you’re in power, you must strive and ensure that the country survives. It is not so for the APC.
There are claims that a third force is gearing up to take power from the PDP and the APC. What implications would this have?
If the PDP doesn’t act quickly and rebuild the bridges and the cracks, our party will give life to this third force. The PDP has a political culture. APC is a party of janjaweed. They have no political culture. They’ll overrun the third force. They use state structures to fight the opposition. The EFCC has invited Peter Obi. When did he leave office as governor? Is it now they will wake up from their slumber? Criminals are moving around freely. This is not fair.
If you emerge as national secretary of the PDP, how will you bridge this growing divide?
I’m a natural bridge builder. I understand the dynamics of the PDP and I know the people. The way you present a matter will determine the results. I’m a trained lawyer of over 37 years. My training as a lawyer has equipped me to confront the issues when they arise. It is a matter of understanding and we will ensure that everyone is carried along. What we need in this country is to put a structure in place that ensures fairness and growth.
There are claims that PDP leaders from the South East, have settled for a candidate already for the position of the national secretary of the party. Why are you still contesting if this claim is true?
That’s not true. Some individuals in the party decided to do what I call the tyranny of office holders. Look at what happened in the North. Offices were zoned and the entire political leadership in the zone met and came up with a common position. That was how Iyorcha Ayu was adopted and you could hear the deafening ovation that followed that decision. What happened in the South East? The position of the national secretary, auditor and deputy legal adviser, were all zoned to the zone. The PDP at the zonal level has a structure recognised by the constitution. There is also a caucus. These bodies ought to have met and looked at what was zoned to the South East. Zonal working committee can’t even take that decision. It is for the zonal caucus. The zonal caucus never met. They called it a zonal caucus meeting of less than 30 people. There was no agenda. Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi called his colleague, Okezie Ikpeazu in Abia to read what they got from the PDP Governors’ Forum. They read a list. There was no discussion. The leaders present at the meeting revolted. Achike Udenwa challenged them.
Does that mean there is a crack in the South East caucus of the PDP?
Yes, there is a big crack. Udenwa as leader of Imo caucus spoke and condemned it. Peter Obi who is the leader of Anambra caucus condemned it. Emeka Ihedioha condemned it. Olisa Metu did the same thing. Enyinnaya Abaribe did the same thing. Adolphus Wabara condemned it too. It was at this stage that Pius Anyim urged the governors to call Anambra and Imo caucus to go and agree. He reminded him that it was earlier agreed that any position that comes to the South East will go to Anambra and Imo States. We went into a meeting and Udenwa came out and told the public that Imo caucus will concede the right to Anambra as their elder brother and that we will have the right of first refusal. He said the rest of the South East should share the other positions. All the leaders told Governor Ugwuanyi that this was their stand. Anambra was told to go and purchase the form for the position of national secretary. We left, only for us to see the chairman of South East PDP of what he called a consensus. Is that how it is done? These people are alive. You can ask them and confirm. In obedience to that zoning of the position to the South East, I’ve purchased my form. I’m a party man and I’ll obey the position of the party.
What experience differentiates you from the rest candidates?
I’ve been there. I’ve been a ward chairman of NRC in old Anambra State. I was state chairman of NRC and was a foundation member of the PDP. I was a special adviser in a PDP government. I have been a known face as a moderator from 1998 till date. I know the party and the party knows me. As a national secretary of the PDP, I’ll be in a position to advice my party on how to counter the APC. We don’t have to fight anybody.