Jude Mbachu is Chieftain of the All Progressives, APC, from Isiala Mbano council area of Imo State. In this interview with Damian Duruiheoma, the Port Harcourt-based business man gives reason for the recent ‘coup’ in the National Assembly, which brought up Senators Bukola Saraki and Ike Ekweremadu as the President and Deputy Senate President. He calls on the party leadership and President Buhari to recognize Rochas Okorocha faction of the All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA in the sharing of the federal positions by giving them the slot for the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, among other issues. Excerpts:
As one of the chieftains of the APC in Imo State, what is your impression about the recent election of the National Assembly leadership, particularly as it came out against the party’s interest?
I am quite impressed with the way the election went. The reason I say this is because as an Igbo man, I granted interviews before and told our party that it is going to spell doom for the party in south east if the Igbo race is not recognized for any position in the new government at the centre. When I was saying this, it looked to some people that I was not making sense, but at the end of the day I was so glad because even if it looked to me that the APC was in disarray as what they instructed never happened. I am glad because the Igbo man was not excluded at the centre as Ike Ekweremadu emerged as the deputy speaker, even if I know that he is not of the same party with me, but my interest is who is there to protect the interest of my region as other regions have got one position or the other.
From the look of things, the Igbo would not have got any position if not the way the PDP caucus struck a deal to get deputy senate president slot. Now, there is speculation that the only position—SGF— reserved for the South East is being considered for South- South. What is your reaction to this?
I told you earlier that during an interview I granted early this month, I warned the APC before the national assembly leadership elections that the party will disintegrate if the failed to give the South East their due in the nation’s protocol list. I do know that when we are talking about those that will rule Nigeria, those that were to take over from Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, Owelle Rochas Okorocha presented himself and when Buhari emerged as the APC’s flag bearer, he rallied everybody together to support Buhari to win the election. As far as I’m concerned, there are four important components that make up the party— ACN, CPC, ANPP and the Rochas Okorocha’s faction of APGA. There is also the new PDP and they all agreed to carry every component along when the victory is achieved. So far, the CPC has produced the president, the CAN has produced vice president and deputy speaker. The ANPP produced chairman of the party while the new PDP produced the senate president the speaker of the House of Representatives because Dogara was a member of the PDP last time before defecting to the APC. Now the only component of the APC that had not benefited is the Rochas APGA and most of us that moved with him are going to ask Rochas questions if we do not have anything to show for it. And the only position that is remaining now is the Secretary to the Government of the Federation which we think is the only position APGA will benefit. I’ll like to warn that the leadership of the APC shouldn’t undermine Rochas capability. He played a significant role in the emergence of Buhari as the president of the country almost single-handedly.
Now that Ekweremadu, an Igbo has got the deputy senate president position through the PDP, do you think he will work with the APC to protect the interest of the South East?
For me, Ekweremadu has been the deputy senate president for eight years and for that eight years that he was the senate president, I really cannot see what he gave for the south east. I think these people that call themselves leaders of this country except few people, see the positions that come to them as their personal property or at best the constituency property. I heard the much Ekweremadu has done in Enugu using the position of the deputy senate president. He forgot that that office of the deputy senate president, which he occupied, is not that of Enugu state alone, but that of the southeast. So the question I keep asking myself is what are the Igbo people doing to ask Ekweremadu questions regarding what he had used his position to bring to the south east. I’ve heard some speculations that with Ekweremadu’s new position, the Igbo have lost the position of the SGF to south south. But I am saying no to it because during the PDP time, we the south east got the position of the deputy senate president, deputy speaker and the SGF. So if we have two over three now, it won’t be too bad. That’s why I am saying that the Rochas faction of APGA should be given the SGF position. However, Ekweremadu has no choice but to cooperate with the APC to redeem his image in the eyes of the Igbo because in the past eight he had done nothing for the rest of the four states of the south east with his position.
Some members of the national assembly are of the opinion that there is no longer opposition, especially in the senate. Do you agree with this?
As far as I’m concerned there is no way anybody can say there is no longer opposition. In the House of Representatives, there is significant number of opposition. In the senate, we have 60 APC members and one died before inauguration to make it 59 while PDP got 49 members. So there is no way the other 49 cannot constitute opposition. This number I’ve mentioned to you now from the PDP in addition to the about 12 governors want to see the slip of APC and capitalize on those slips to return back to power by 2019 because of the feeling that President Buhari will only go for one term. I can tell you that for any bold and right step APC makes forward, it threatens the opposition the more. APC is made up of the intelligentsia. Whether you like it or not, Tinubu is one of the greatest brains we have in this country. Owelle Rochas Okorocha is one of the greatest living Igbo men. Buhari is enigma and you talk about Fashola and Kayode, they are one the country’s best. You talk about Amaechi, he is one everybody knows his pedigree in Rivers State. These people will always come together no matter what has happened in terms of the election. One thing I must say is that APC leaders must know that there are people who are looking at them, they should not direct us to the path of destruction because we toiled to defend this party with our blood in the south east and south south. That is why we are telling them not to tinker with what God has put together. Anybody that is at the helm of affairs is put by God. It is God who put Buhari; it is also God who put Saraki. It is the same God who put Ekweremadu.
I want to bring you back to the infraction in the APC. Recently, we learnt that the party leader, Tinubu worked against Okorocha during the supplementary election so that there would not be APC presence in the South East to enable him share the national positions and excluding the Igbo, What is your impression about this?
This is the second time I’m hearing that Tinubu worked against Rochas during the election. One thing I’m telling everybody is that I fail to believe that. Each time I see Tinubu speak, I tell myself that this man and Rochas are the men I want to emulate. The kind of strength Tinubu pulls in the West is the same strength Rochas pulls in the south east and there is no way Tinubu, as intelligent as I think he is, would want to say Rochas cannot be the Governor of Imo State. This is because being the governor of Imo State is the simplest thing for Rochas. With all the opposition at his disposal in the state, Rochas still had a landslide victory at the election winning in 24 out of 27 local government areas in the state. For us, it was very easy to market Rochas. So, some people never knew the next person running against Rochas. So, how can Tinubu who is not from Imo State come to work against Rochas. These stories are told by people who are not intelligent. On the other hand, I equally feel so sad that somebody as high as Tinubu would be making permutations and exclude Ndigbo. I know that in the formation of the party, the national chairman, Oyegun was a creation of Tinubuu, Lai Muammed was also a creation of Tinubu and these two men are the mouth piece of the APC. When you are talking about sharing of the National Assembly positions, I made it clear that we have first timers in the House of Representatives from the South East in the persons of Chike Okafor from Okigwe South and Austin Chukukere from Ideato. What they would have done is to introduce the doctrine of necessity and forget about the ranking member issue because it was a creation of the PDP. Again, it is not a constitutional provision. They would have brought one of the APC members from the South East and made him the speaker. Even if they had attempted to do that without it working, what happened in the senate would not have taken place. I think the Igbo in the senate who voted for Saraki and Ekweremadu got angry that Tinubu wanted Lawan and Akume as Senate president and deputy and wanted Gbajabiamila and Monguno as the House of Representatives speaker and deputy without considering any Igbo member of the APC. What this means is that Igbo had the deputy senate president, deputy speaker and the SGF have been excluded completely. This made me think that these leaders never had the Igbo at heart. We began to ask: where is Rochas in this whole thing. What is he going to tell the Igbo who followed him to the APC? So, I wasn’t surprised when I got a hint that Saraki and Ekweremadu had been elected as the senate president and deputy
What is your advice to the APC national leadership and Mr. President in this whole thing?
For now, there has not been any policy statement from the president. But I think our president that we love so much is in the right direction. If you look at where Buhari comes from—Katsina— Yar’adua our late president left a credit balance of N6billion for Dr. Ibrahim Shema. When Shema was leaving last month, he left a credit balance of N3.6 billion for the incumbent governor, Masari. What I’m trying to say is that it looks like the people from that area are good in management and administration. If you look at the way Buhari is going, he thinks before he talks and he is not a man that takes a hasty decision. I am of the view that Buhari should continue the way he is going today, there is peace in the land and people no longer beat others because they belong to different political group. Before now, if I was moving from Owerri to Port Harcourt where I reside, I would remove my APC insignia when I get to Igwuruta so that I would not be killed. That was the situation. But now you can wear APC or PDP shirt to any part of the country and nobody would molest you for that. That is the way a country should be.