By Dickson Okafor
A former governorship aspirant in Anambra State in 2017 and Chairman/CEO of Tetrazzini Foods Plc, Donatus Okonkwo has predicted mass defection of key members of the main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Anambra State before the November 6 governorship election in the state.
The business mogul and chieftain of the APC gave reasons he opted out of the November contest, saying that he will support any candidate that emerges as the party’s standard bearer.
He also spoke about the actualization of president of Igbo extraction in 2023 and airport project embarked on by the Governor Willie Obiano administration. Excerpts:
From the look of things it seems you are not interested again in the governorship race of Anambra State, if yes, why?
Remember I ran for the office of the governor of Anambra State in 2017 and this year 2021 would have been another opportunity for me to actualize my ambition, but I may not run this time and the reasons are best known to me. However, the November 6 governorship election in Anambra State will be keenly contested and that is not the reason I may not contest. Like I said, it is best known to me why I’m not in the race.
Do you have anybody you intend to support with your political structure and who is the person?
My answer is yes and no. Yes, it will happen in few months after the primaries and no because there is no primary yet. As you already know, my party is the All Progressives Congress and this implies that definitely I will support any candidate that emerges as flag bearer of APC in the November governorship election.
Even when APC is not popular in the Southeast?
I wonder what you mean by APC is not popular in the Southeast geo-political zone. APC is in power in Imo and Ebonyi states and you are saying that the ruling party is not popular in Igbo land. That is not true because APC has gained root in the Southeast. Don’t forget that my elder brother Senator Annie Okonkwo pioneered the birth of APC in the Southeast. And as I speak with you before the November 6 governorship election more key members of the other political parties, especially those in the main opposition party, the PDP, will join the APC because the ruling party is a moving train and by the grace of God APC will win the election come November 6.
Going by the economic situation in the country, many Nigerians are of the view that the APC-led administration has failed, what is your response to this insinuation?
The reason Nigerians voted massively for the APC in 2015 and 2019 was because our economy was at the verge of collapse, though the then Minister of Finance and the Coordinating Minister of the Economy who is the current President of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Dr Ngozi Okonjo Iweala warned the ruling party then, PDP, in 2014 that the economy was sliding into recession, but the Goodluck Jonathan-led administration did not listen to her. Corruption was at its peak as those in charge of governance lost control and Nigerians were in dire situation and wanted a change and they embraced the team that would bring about that needed positive change led by President Muhammadu Buhari. We must bear in mind that it is difficult to repair or fix a damaged economy within a short time and that is the challenge faced by the present administration led by President Buhari. Yes, the economic situation may not be looking good because immediately APC took over power the price of crude oil dropped globally resulting to global economic downturn which has affected the present administration’s economic plan. Not only that, the world witnessed and still witnessing a natural disaster call Coronavirus pandemic, which is ravaging not only Nigeria, but the entire world. No doubt, there are things APC is doing right and there are things they doing wrong hence we are working hard to correct them. No government is perfect, but the ability to make correction and forge ahead towards improving the welfare and living standard of citizens is what matters because security and welfare of the people is the primary responsibility of any government. This is what the Buhari administration is working tirelessly to deliver to Nigerians. APC must get its ass together and right the wrongs.
There is speculation that the Federal Government may increase price of fuel to N230 per litre isn’t this a sign that this administration is not sensitive to the plight of the ordinary Nigerians?
Even though I’m not the spokesperson for the Ministry of Petroleum, but as a member of the ruling party I know that it is not the wish of the Federal Government to increase the pump price of fuel, rather the Ministry of Petroleum and the government only came out to inform Nigerians that government can longer subsidise fuel.
Away from national issues, Governor Willie Obiano is embarking on an airport project in Anambra State now that most state governments cannot pay salaries, many say the airport project is not necessary at this time, what is
The governor or his spokesperson should be in a better position to answer this question if the airport project the state government is embarking on is timely and viable when most state governments in the country are facing economic challenge to the extent they cannot pay salaries. So, the governor is in the position to tell Anambraians if the project is viable and sustainable because it will be inherited by the incoming administration. Notwithstanding, Anambra State deserves an airport no doubt about that considering its economic importance not only in the Southeast, but in the country. Governor Obiano must have done his home work properly before embarking on the airport project. To me, Anambra needs an airport, but the question is whether this is the right time to embark on such project? Like I said, only the governor has an answer to this question because it is financial intensive and can only be achieved at a humongous cost.
You just mentioned the economic importance of Anambra State in the Southeast and the nation with so many millionaires and billionaires; don’t you think that the state government can partner with these wealthy individuals to ensure the airport is completed on time through Public-Private Partnership (PPP)?
You are right to say Anambra State has a lot of wealthy persons, but we have not been able to pull these resources together to achieve our common and collective objectives. We are too individualistic in our dealings and not only in commerce, both in politics. It will be ideal if we can partner the state government to deliver the airport to the people of the state on time through PPP. Mind you that having wealthy is not meaningful if it does not impact on the positive or transform economic wellbeing of such state. But the ability to put their resources and energy together and invest in the state that is the only way the state and the people can benefit from such wealthy individuals.
What is your assessment of Governor Obiano’s eight years reign?
So far, he has done his best and it is left for who will succeed him to continue from where Obiano stopped.
What kind of person do you expect to succeed Governor Obiano?
I expect a humane, successful person in private enterprise and someone that will see the entire state as his constituency irrespective of political affiliation to succeed Obiano. As it stands, we have the good, the bad and the ugly among the contestants, but I trust the people of Anambra, we will at the point of voting make an informed choice on who will govern us come November 6 by the grace of God. I assure you that the good and best will emerge far above the rest as our governor.
As a chieftain of the ruling party, is president of Igbo extraction achievable in 2023?
President of Igbo extraction is achievable, but not in 2023. It can happen in the future.
Ndigbo must first unite politically, shun sentiment and come up with a common interest that will be beneficiary not only to Ndigbo, but to the entire country. I’m not saying that the Igbo are not united, rather all I’m saying that we are yet to speak with one voice politically since the demise of our first generation politicians. As I speak with you, Igbo have no political rallying point not even a strong political party that can enable us negotiate power with the other geo-political zones in the country. That is why the other regions are not taking us seriously because they have not seen a strong platform that can unruffled their feathers. In fact, Igbo is not a political threat to the other geo-political zones and until we come under one umbrella, the presidency will continue to elude us.
Many will disagree with you because to them Igbo is marginalized by the present administration, especially in the area of federal appointments; do you share the same view?
The best global practice when it comes to distribution of positions is lobbying. Every tribe and ethnic group is interested in any juicy position even if they have got more than the rest. Therefore, that is why forming a political strong force become paramount. In our kind of politics and democracy, it is the winner takes all and for you to partake in the sharing of political booty, you must make contributions or lobby because it is not given on a platter. After all, the constitution says that every state must be given one ministerial slot and positions must reflect the Federal Character policy, but even at that, the president may think or act otherwise. I agree with you that we are marginalized and that is why we must come together and demand our right because unity is strength.