Chief Chekwas Okorie is the National Chairman of the United Progressive Congress and the party’s Presidential candidate in the 2015 general elections. In this interview with Vanguard , Okorie who also founded the All Progressive Grand Alliance said that the UPP will not accommodate politicians that jump from one party to the other. He also denies the report that he was quizzed by the DSS. Okorie says his party does not support secession but it believes in self determination and referendum among others.
IT was recently reported that you were quizzed for allegedly supporting the IPOB agitation,
what is the situation?
There was nothing like DSS quizzing me on account of what United Progressive Party represents. We have never been invited, we have never been visited and there has never been any inquiry from the State Security Services.
As for the support for Biafra the party had a convention recently and one of the aspects of our updated manifesto is self determination and referendum as well as other very progressive ideological thrusts. So there is no way a political party registered in Nigeria to seek power in Nigeria, for the welfare of Nigerians can at the same time be supporting secession.
But if you are looking at the Biafra that Ikemba talked about before he died, or Biafra as an ideology, count me in because the Biafran ideology ought to be the Nigerian ideology, a true Nigerian ideology. We have had a situation here where a book was written entitled, “We are all Biafrans” and that book was presented by Atiku Abubakar. Not long ago, in May actually, the Yaradua foundation convened a seminar to mark 50years of Biafra.
The Acting President was there as a special guest and he spoke. Former President Obasanjo was there and so many top Nigerian leaders including my humble self. So the issue of Biafra is something that would remain topical and it depends from the angle you see it. If you see it from the angle that what led to that war should be avoided, then that is positive.
But if you are looking at it from the point of view of breaking away from the country that is the negative side for which no political party that is national in nature would be part of. I have always talked about restructuring, self determination and giving Nigerians the opportunity to decide their fate through referendum.
Is the UPP ready for the forthcoming governorship election in Anambra State?
I want to say this without being boastful or being presumptuous about it. The Anambra 2017 election is UPP versus UPP. That is what it is and I will explain it. The incumbent party in government is APGA. APGA has been torn into shreds by litigation. As we speak today, the authentic Chairman of APGA, by order of court is Martin Agbaso and that means he is the one to sign the nomination of APGA candidate for that election. The preferred Chairman of APGA is Victor Oye. He is preferred by the governor; and the governor and government of Anambra State have thrown in everything they know in the books including hiring high profile lawyers to represent the Police interest because they are not party to the suit. A very odd arrangement and still they have not been able to make any headway which means APGA is not available to Obiano to run for election because Chief Martin Agbaso and his own followers have their own agenda for which Governor Obiano will not be a beneficiary.
As for APC, I can tell you APC made their own members whether they are running for office or not personae non grata. And what that simply means is that the people distanced from both their party and themselves for the simple reason that the party was the first to distance itself from the people by its act of nepotism, by its act of exclusion in important appointments including non presence of any federal project, not just in Anambra but in the entire South East and the kind of comments that emanate from leaders of the party especially the President who is now on health vacation. So, it would be a bad dream for APC to imagine that during the election that a rational person from the South East especially Anambra will leave his house and go to the polling station to cast his vote for APC.
So APC is out of the contest by its own doing.
Whatever is left of PDP would be so lean, so emaciated that it would not stand for anything. In addition to that, PDP was in government for 16 years and both in the South East except for Anambra, they dominated government of the South East, they dominated National Assembly, they have the federal government even the President was given an Igbo nickname Ebele Azikiwe all in attempt to make him feel he is Igbo and still that did not persuade him to do anything for which he would be remembered for. Yes he made appointments but appointments all over the world benefit principally the individuals and their families. If he builds road poor man, big man would ride on it. If he provides infrastructure, it would benefit everybody. But when you give appointments, the children of the average person will now become children of wealthy people and perhaps start embarking on vacations all over the world and that is not something you can say has been done for the people.
So that leaves UPP on its own not having any serious contender.
Do you think the National Assembly has sufficiently protected all sections of the country?
The National Assembly is not talking about federal character. The National Assembly is not concerned that we have a national security council in which no Igbo man is sitting.
The national assembly is not bothered that there is a law that says that if the PENCOM DG is removed, another one would come from the same zone, they are not bothered about what the law say. They are only concerned about the office of SGF, the office of EFCC and all that. I am not impressed.
Nigeria would have been a better place if they had queried the appointments made by President Muhammadu Buhari in terms of lopsidedness, in terms of equity, and in terms of fairness. That would have made the National Assembly to be seen as protecting the people of Nigeria that voted them in.
Some allege that the UPP is only seen on television, how true is this?
We are not far away from when the results would be out which is 10th of November, God keep us alive Nigerians would see it and know who is right and who is wrong. I have been involved in Igbo right crusade for 41 years and I have founded two political parties. I used the first one and we won election even when PDP was dominating the election in the politics of the South East. We won it, it was rigged, we went back to the Tribunal and recovered it. And we are going to do it again. In Anambra state, anybody who has followed the political antecedents of Anambra state will know that money has never influenced who wins and who loses.
Who are the big shots from other parties that have joined the UPP?
UPP is a grassroots party just like APGA. When I founded APGA, the only person we could call big shot was Ikemba, no other, still we won election. UPP is a grassroots party. The people we have in UPP are young people. In fact, I am one of the oldest people in UPP because of my consistency in trying to have something left for the younger ones. I will be 65 years by March next year but I am one of the oldest persons in UPP. If you go to UPP, you see them in their forties, thirties, and in their twenties. These are the people to whom the future belongs and in our new constitutional amendment, we made our delegates to state congress to be statutory and we provided for youth leader and women leader that they must be delegates. So all these things we are doing to empower the youths and the women and no other party can ever boast of those kind of provisions.Vanguard