In this interview with PREMIUM TIMES, Campbell Umeh-Nzekwe, the leader of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, in Lagos State and its gubernatorial candidate in 2003 talks about the need to forge an alliance with the Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP, and the chance of a ‘non-indigene’ emerging as the next Governor of Lagos State.
You forecast that the All Progressives Congress, APC, will win 50 per cent of total Lagos votes in 2015, APGA 30 per cent, and PDP 20 per cent. How did you arrive at the statistics?
I am the pioneer Organising Secretary of PDP in Lagos State, 1998, and the Deputy Co-ordinator, Alex Ekwueme Presidential Campaign Organisation (ALEPCO). Moreover, a son of the soil, I was born and brought up in Lagos here, precisely in Railway compound, Ebute Meta, in 1958. So you should know that I am grounded in Lagos social well-being and political setting, especially in this current political dispensation.
You might care to listen to know what the meaning of Lagos is. It’s a Portuguese name. It’s not an Igbo, Yoruba, English, or Hausa name. It is Portuguese, a land of promise. It was the foreigners who founded Lagos and gave it the name Lagos and nobody can change it.
My statistics of Lagos politics is very simple. Lagos is combined between Igbos and Yorubas, that’s the main metropolitan set up of Lagos. Though some people might claim indigene, non-indigene, those who migrated from Ogbomosho, Ilesha, or others claiming they are indigenes and those who come from different settings. Lagos is a metropolitan city by nature. This is knowledge-wise, it is not sentiment or assumption. In actual sense, Lagos politics revolves around the Igbos and Yorubas. Igbos, you might call them non-indigenes, you might tag them any other name, you might call Yorubas indigenes, but we are insiders we know how it revolves.
PDP in Lagos around 1998-99 was known as Igbo party. That was how I came in. Alliance for Democracy was known as Yoruba party. And they have been dominating due to Igbos lack of political understanding, they believe in their business.
But the Yoruba’s have hijacked Lagos PDP now due to their federal might and the Igbos are left behind. So it’s becoming a Yoruba-Yoruba affair; and one Yoruba setting has taken over the fish pond, the other Yorubas, that is PDP which the Yorubas have hijacked, are now struggling to be the main fish inside the pond. And there’s no way the main fish can give gap to the incoming fish. That’s the position they are today. So Yoruba cannot defeat Yoruba in the same river.
But we APGA are purely, call it non-indigenes, call it outsiders, are the only ones who can push in, with our people, with our votes, with our population. Lagos has got 5 – 6 million votes but we haven’t gotten up to 2 million votes since the election started; which shows that non-indigenes are not voting, it’s the same Yorubas. And they are voting one direction. So forget the PDP you are seeing, you are only seeing people who are struggling for political position at the national level. They know that they will not win (governorship election) but let them get the ticket so that they can negotiate minister at the federal level. They know that they cannot push away themselves inside the same river. The main Yorubas are there so those who are outsiders know they don’t have the capacity to take over. Except they combine with outsiders which they are not keen on.
Today, in the PDP (Lagos) state executive, there is no Igbo man there, Hausa man they just gave them few minor role to balance issue. Ordinarily non-indigenes and outsiders should be the brain driving PDP if it must make a case in Lagos State.
I still want to know how you arrived at your figures…
(Cuts in) The figure is very simple. In 2011, ACN got about 1.5 million votes, PDP got only 300,000 under (Ade) Dosunmu. Is it up to 15 per cent? APGA did not have a candidate as such because we preferred to support Jonathan at national level, though one Yoruba man who disguised himself as candidate, one Dr. Dominic, went there though he got almost 17,000 votes. So PDP got 300,000 votes in 2011 and Fashola got 1.5 million, do you see the gap? Is it up to 15 per cent? It’s not up to 15 per cent. That is almost 2 per cent. So if I give them 20 (per cent) now, I’m even over-generous. Do you see them campaigning? Do you see their local government offices? Show me where you see PDP local government office today now. Apart from the free house they are using at GRA Ikeja there, do you see PDP local government secretariat today? And they want to defeat the incumbent. This is public fight, it’s not a…
But I also don’t see APGA secretariats everywhere…
(Cuts in) APGA is a missionary. Just like when we defeated PDP in Imo State, do we have a secretariat? Do we have ward chairmen? Do we have local government chairmen? We don’t have anything. We are like a religion. In Lagos here, Anambra indigenes alone have 177 towns union, so we can easily go and meet their presidents, their leaders, go to the markets, meet them, individual towns. I can show you… although you are from Anambra you should be able to know, you must be attending your town’s meeting, if you are not attending your town’s meeting then you don’t come from anywhere. So every Igbo man belongs to a town union. We don’t need to be moving up and down looking for people, once you invite them, they will move with you. We have a standard structure.
But you can argue that in the Imo State example, aggrieved members of the incumbent party worked against their candidate. That’s not the same scenario in Lagos.
APGA was registered in 2002. No any councillor, no any aggrieved, no any in-fighting, we won landslide. They manipulate all of them. It’s only Anambra who insist and recover after three years in court. Is there any aggrieved person in 2003? Do we have a councillor? Do we have ward? Do we have local government? We mobilised and win election in Anambra State. Till today, as I talk to you now, we are still in control. Is there any aggrieved there again?
No, I’m talking about Lagos…
(Cuts in) Why we are so slow here in Lagos is because APGA in-fighting at national level dragged us down. Court here, there, no focus. And nobody is supporting outsider now apart from that Anambra governor. They are in court dragging leadership tussle. It is difficult to concentrate. It was last June we now settled.
Today in Lagos, we are working. Now you have seen an office, well positioned. Before do you see an office? So we are navigating. That’s why we are warning PDP, advising them that since we have an understanding with them at the national level to support President Jonathan for second term. We even have J.J.J, Joint Jonathan Journey, which Governor (Willie) Obiano launched sometime in August. On that premise we are advising PDP, they shouldn’t play around, they should face reality, they shouldn’t chase shadow. Now they are chasing shadow.
Have you actually made a formal approach?
No. They are still fighting. When they are fighting battle for who will be the candidate, they are blindfolded. Because their target is to be ministers.
Is there any miracle? I’ve given you past example. And you are a journalist, go round, go and see where you will see PDP structure. Can a rag-tag army defeat organised army? Before you can think of winning a war, you must be superior, you must be tactical, you must be well equipped. To defeat a sitting government, you must go beyond story.
Are you saying that APGA is not equipped to do it alone?
The issue is that APGA is just recovering, though we show them our stuff…
But do you think APGA can win Lagos?
Do you have the wherewithal to win Lagos?
We have people. It’s about population. I’ll give you one example. Lagos has a registered voter of over 6 million. But no year have we gotten up to 2 million votes, so 4 million is hanging, un-mobilised.
How do you intend to harness those 4 million votes?
That’s why we are now talking to PDP to come nearer, let us put heads together and reach out to our people. That’s what we are saying. If Lagos cannot get up to 2 million votes at any election, and you have registered 6.5 million, so 4.5 million are hanging, untapped, unused. So only 2 million are voting. Let’s go to the drawing board and go and invite them to vote. But what are they doing? They are leaving the substance, they are chasing shadows. Their campaign is only based on the pages of newspaper. You can’t see them in anywhere creating awareness, you can’t see them anywhere going to people calling them for a meeting. You only saw them on the TV and pages of newspaper “I’m this I’m that.” Bode George, their leader, never won his ward since 1999. I stand to be corrected. Bode George, the leader of PDP, though he just came back from prison yard, but we are telling you he never won his ward. He’s their leader and he’s still holding the same party as the king. I always read him in newspaper, that Tinubu is emperor, that they will drive him away, they will do this they will do that, but what are you putting in place to do it? Your own is that every day you journey go to Aso Rock to go and say one story or the other, collect hand pack and come back home. If Obasanjo in his wisdom, as a Yoruba man, an Egba man, a General, could not succeed to retrieve Lagos from Tinubu, despite the whole machinery, is it an Ijaw man, Jonathan, that will retrieve Lagos from Tinubu and his group?
You clamour for APGA and PDP to replicate their partnership at the federal level in Lagos State. How many candidates have declared interest in your party?
We have two. But some are coming to us, we can’t put them because they are still in their shadow-chasing. Now APC has almost 16 candidates as aspirants, and you know that they’ll still pick one. Others are running…because they know they are dealing with somebody who has a private business entrepreneur. So he’ll just gather them, use them, appoint his stooge there under one disguise. But we have told them, those who are serious they should come and join APGA. Those that are serious in PDP, they are almost 11 before, making noise, now they are only five or four who actually bought the nomination form. From 11, now the time to buy form, only four. You can now see that they are just gambling…. They are not organised team. Koro (Obanikoro) just left his ministerial job, Agbaje is coming in as a new member, tell me the structure they have.
Who are APGA’s aspirants?
You saw one now, Bob Okoroji. There’s another man but he’s still hanging somewhere, I want to keep it secret. A Yoruba man. He’s from APC, he’s still hanging, like one leg here one leg there. I don’t want to be putting him until we close our gate, the gate is still open until December ending.
So APGA is not fielding only Igbo candidates?
No. We are inviting anybody. APGA is a national party, it’s not an Igbo candidate we are looking for. Yoruba is there for us, Hausa is there for us. The platform is for everybody. But every party has its own cultural command. If Yoruba man came here today, he will win landslide because he will carry his people along and the cultural feelings of non-indigenes will be there for him.
Do you have other ethnic groups in your state executive?
Yes. In fact the acting chairman today is a Yoruba man, which we just appointed for the purpose of this election. We are trying to….because the first one, Adeshina, followed (Rochas) Okorocha and ran to APC. Our convention is coming up by February, from ward to local government to state. The National Chairman will finish his term by February 10, we must replace them from the ward to the national level.
Are you going to have primaries in Lagos State?
If we have enough candidates, if we call them to agree on consensus and we use the money for the main election, better. But if they refuse you go for primaries for them. Whoever wins…. like what we had in Anambra in 2013. There are 13 who paid the N13 million (each), including Professor Soludo, but we disqualified six for one reason or the other, including Soludo was disqualified. Some people cried foul, that Soludo is governor material, but we said “no,” APGA is APGA, we have a focus, we have an agenda. At the end of the day we chose Obiano and we won the thing, cleared more that 70 per cent of total votes cast.
If APGA fields an Igbo candidate in the 2015 governorship election in Lagos, do you realistically think you have a chance of winning?
When you say APGA candidate, you are still living under ethnicism. It should not be so. Anybody can be APGA candidate, either an Igbo man or a Hausa man. If an Igbo man goes there, the chances are more clean. The Igbos control almost 45 per cent population of Lagos State. But the question is this, do we have the funds to mobilise them to go and vote? Because in Nigeria today, sorry to say this, nobody goes today and vote without getting money. I’m telling you point blank. Today in Nigeria they have made election a franchise, and nobody should pretend about it. People are looking at the state purse, looking at what they will spend to get that purse. It’s no more social affair like in those days, people go and look at it from social angle. People borrow money to run for election, targeting what they will hold.
In Lagos here, the only problem we have is money to fund our campaign. Because these people are in government; the sources for us to use is what we are struggling for. That is why we are asking PDP, instead of dissipating your energy unjustly making noise, sit down properly and think within the box and make a difference. There is still time. What I’m saying is that PDP should stop chasing shadow. It’s too late in the day to continue chasing shadow. You contested in 1999, you lost, in 2003 you lost, in 2007 you lost. And the more you are going the more you are losing more. In 2011, in fact, it’s last to the worst. This is the fifth time and I can assure you they will get the worst result again. Because there is nothing to show.
As an engineer, there must be some technicality. If you are building a good house, from the setting of the structure you will know where the house is going. You don’t build on the air. To get a solid building, the foundation will show where you are going. So I’ve not seen anything the PDP is putting in Lagos today that suggests there will be a difference from what they have been doing, apart from their noise making, their frivolous stories, talking, boasting without any concrete action in place. It’s just to entice those who are outside that they are working. We know that there is nothing they are doing, they are just staying in their bedroom, inviting press, talking to them, so you will think they are making any serious meaning. But you are a journalist, look for one of their local government chairman, and ask him what are they doing, because that is where the vote will come from. Forget all these people that are living in Ikoyi, making noise. Ask any of their ward chairmen. What is their programme? They are aloof. They don’t know anything. They are sleeping. That’s the truth. I stand to be corrected and I want Jonathan not to take them serious except there is proof.
If Jonathan wants to win in Lagos today it’s APGA that can give him the votes. So Jonathan should not be carried away with these people’s abracadabra, APGA is the way. Because that is where you get people. The Yorubas will go one way with their votes, which is normal. It’s only the non-indigene and APGA that will mobilise votes for Jonathan. I’m using this opportunity to inform Jonathan and the Presidency that it is only APGA and non-indigenes alike that will go his way. The so called PDP are just jamborizing, waiting for presidential anointment and benefits, that’s all. The earlier the better. As a winning soldier, you don’t need to be told this is a winning soldier. This is just to pretend they are working, to obtain necessary incentives. When the war sets, you will see them run away.