There are insinuations that you have refused to vacate office even when your tenure has elapsed?
Any family does not own PDP and besides we have a constitution. When you come into office for instance as chairman of the party, you have term limits of two terms. My first term as chairman of PDP Abia state ended sometime in October last year and then the party saw fit to ask me to continue until there is a congress. The national office also asked me to hold on until there is Congress. You do not just get up and leave a party rudderless. It is based on the letter from our national office asking me to stay on that I am still here but let it be known that I am eligible to run for a second term. Whether I want to do so is a different matter all together and I know that no person in Abia PDP would say that I have overstayed because they know the state of the party when I came in and for the party to ask me to continue even after my first term had ended will tell you that I have some value to add. In fact, when my term ended, the party saw fit to make me the director general of the 2015 campaign for the election in our state and you can see where it brought us. I do not know of any other party chairman that has won the governorship seat of the state back to back and then you see the kind of peace we have in Abia PDP. The structures are intact. For instance a week ago, I held the state stakeholders meeting at the Women Development Center here in Umuahia , every body who is prominent in PDP came there and it ended on a cheerful note. Our party is not in trouble at all.
Would it be right to believe that there are forces in the state working against holding congresses in the state as soon as possible?
I do not think that is true, there are no such forces. Just like me seated here, what is my own? When I made my opening remarks at the stakeholders meeting that day I said that very soon there would be a Congress and even my own office will be up for grabs too.
So how soon will it be?
I do not know because I am not at the national office. They will determine that although in consultation with us.
Since your party lost the election at the center, there has been crisis here and there , and we have seen people defecting into APC which is now ruling . Do you think your party will be able to surmount APC in 2019 with what is happening now?
Like I will often say, membership of a party is like belonging to a church, a member of the Roman Catholic fold can tomorrow say he or she belongs to the Methodist denomination or whichever one that catches the fancy. You are free to move but I know that a man should be principled and should stand for something. Just because a party came into power, you suddenly discover that is where you are meant to be, that means you are a bread and butter politician. For instance, when I was not happy with the way Abia was being run way back in 2006, I resigned my office and went back to my private practice. I am a legal practitioner and as I sit here, my law office is in Abuja, functioning so I do not belong to the category of politicians who will say it is either this or nothing. Or if I leave this place, how do I put food on the table for my family? I do not belong to that category of people at all.
Penultimate week, some of your party’s stalwarts defected to APC where they said they would get the desired change, do you think PDP is really doing well here?
If I know those who left, then I will be able to say something. They include former Information Commissioner in the state, Eze Chikamnayo, Max Adindu and the pioneer Chairman of PDP in the state, Chief Tony Ukasanya……….
(Cuts in) I am someone who tries to be very fair, Chief Tony ukasanya is a very stable politician, he is not the type that jumps from pillar to post but what I must let you know is that if Ukasanya is in APC now , it is not a loss to PDP but rather a loss to APGA because in the 2015 general elections , he worked with Dr Alex Otti and it therefore means that he has abandoned Otti and not us because we know he is no longer with us. What about the other people? If you look into their history you will see that they are people who jump from one party to another. They are guns for hire and where ever they think their bread would be buttered is where they go to but if you check, you will discover that they do not gather moss. They are not the kind of people who will invite you to a meeting and you see people of timber and caliber assembling there . We know they are looking for how to butter their bread. So if Labour Party suddenly becomes prominent tomorrow, you will see them jumping to it . Ukasanya moving is not a loss to PDP, he left us long ago and we won the governorship seat of Abia State without him . So the person who should be crying is Otti and not us.
You said those who left are those who do not carry any weight. How many of such personalities do you envisage leaving your party?
I do not speculate. How can I speculate? Like I said, any person can walk in and out one day but you must always bear in mind that people are watching. If you leave me today and go outside to say crucify him and the next day, you leave where ever you are and say crucify them, people will know that you have no character and is of no value to the party you seek to join so they should watch it if they really want to grow in politics.
Are you optimistic that your Party will emerge victorious in the ongoing governorship election petition tribunal?
Why not? We won the election and they complained. After the election, they complained about rigging in some polling units, INEC obliged them and there was a rerun there but they lost again so how can they win? In fact, I am surprised that this matter is still in court. We brought some very powerful motions that would have terminated the life of this action but we know we will carry the day at the end of the day.
Some of your aggrieved party faithful allege that the major reason your party performed woefully in the general election, which saw the APGA having an 11 member legislator seat in the house out of 24 was because of the PDP primaries that was not free and fair. What is your take on that?
If you recall, before the former governor left office, he set up a committee to appraise the reason for our not too wonderful performance in the 2015 elections. The party is looking into it and then there is no doubt in our minds what so ever. In fact, there is no other party in Abia than PDP and it is just like PDP fighting themselves. Those who were aggrieved with the way the primaries were handled left and if they were not good, they wouldn’t have emerged victorious in the places they contested. We want to ensure that going forward we will make sure that we bring back internal democracy so that who ever wins in the primaries will get the ticket. A situation where I am in Umuahia as party chairman but somebody in Abuja now dictates that some person else must be given the ticket is the result we are seeing today which is why we are sort of struggling. I am sure that 2019 will be very tough and any party that doesn’t practise internal democracy will have a lot to lose.
Shortly before the 2015 election, a lot of people out there thought that you were not in charge and that you were getting directives from somewhere else. What really happened?
If you are talking about being in charge you must know that I am a team player and do not forget that what we are practicing is democracy so we do not have a situation where I come to lord it over people who work with me. If you notice, all the necessary committees that were supposed to handle the primaries and the rest of it during the electioneering period were set up and I played the role I was supposed to play. Do they expect me to be autocratic? Do they expect me to say no when the majority is saying they want to go a particular way? Mine is to guide them generally and the end of the day accepts the consensus they have held. The important thing actually for a chairman is to win an election, I do not think we did badly under my leadership, for the two terms I have being here, 2011 and 2015.
We heard reports from a local station down here that you have left PDP?
There is no way I can leave the PDP where I am the chairman of the party. When a general leaves his army, how can they stand? What do you expect the followers to do? Even when I got angry about the system back then, I still remained in the party. I was there doing my thing until they invited me to come and help stabilise the party which I did. I have no reason to leave. Just because APC won the election at the national level, APC is in disarray? If you say that PDP has problem, the bigger problem is in APC so how can I go there? Is like jumping from fry pan to fire. And I have given you the letter from the national to show that I have been endorsed to carry on with the administration of the party here until there is a Congress and even at that, I am eligible to stand for election. I still have a choice to decide whether to run or not.
-Senator Emma Nwaka is the Chairman of Abia State Peoples Democratic Party, ( PDP) In this interview with select journalists in Umuahia, the state capital, he refutes reports that he has defected from his party and expresses optimism that his party would emerge victorious at the election petition tribunal, among other issues. Emenike Ubani brings the excerpts.