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Okwudili Nwa-Anyajike: Nigeria Tired of PDP, APC; 2023 is for Green Horns Like Me

todayJuly 30, 2022

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Mazi Okwudili Nwa-Anyajike, stalwart and former presidential aspirant under the APC, surprised many when he quit the party in the run-up to the presidential nomination contests and joined the National Rescue Movement (NRM). On June 2, 2022, he emerged as the party’s presidential flagbearer for the 2023 election. In this interview with THISDAY, the Imo State-born politician with business interests in over five countries, speaks on his chances in the contest and how the NRM is resolving its crises

Most people who know you, associate you with the ruling APC. Why did you leave the party for the National Rescue Movement?

As you said, I am a founding member of the APC and many people know me and have followed my activities since the party was formed. I founded the APC Grassroots and co-founded the APC Fan Club Worldwide. I believe I contributed in giving the party the strength it enjoys today. I was the DG for Nyerere Anyim during his governorship campaign in Abia State and was a leading member of Hope Uzodinma governorship campaign in Imo State in 2019.

Why did you leave the APC and what informs the choice of your present party, the NRM?

I decided to leave the APC because it became obvious to me that in practice, the ideals on which it is founded are not being implemented. I left the party based on principle. All what should define a truly progressive party are lacking in the APC and the government it heads and I could no longer identify with it. So, I decided to pursue my political interests in the NRM mainly because the APC has derailed on its founding philosophy and also because the NRM is founded on a lofty ideology.

 Some say you left because as a presidential aspirant, you didn’t have the chance of making an impact in the APC?

That’s not true. Like I said, I left the APC on principle. And the fact that the party has derailed from its ideals manifested fully during its presidential primaries in Abuja this year.

Does NRM have the political strength to seriously challenge for the contest against the bigger parties?

If you read the manifesto of the NRM, it is focused on the citizens. Our philosophy puts the Nigerian citizen in the central focus, and this appeals to the larger population, especially the youths and women. Our manifesto will inspire national cohesion, patriotism and growth and our message has mass appeal. We have no doubt that it will propel us to victory.

There’s a controversy surrounding your emergence as the NRM presidential candidate?

There is no controversy whatsoever in my emergence and in my candidature. The NRM primaries which produced me as presidential candidate on June 2, 2022 was one of the most transparent. It was conducted in Abuja; it was monitored by the Independent National Electoral Commission and the security agencies and televised. 

 There was a rumour at a time that you have withdrawn from the race and may be replaced by another candidate?

This is just a rumour, totally unfounded.  I did not withdraw and I do not intend to withdraw. What has happened is that national Chairmen of the NRM, Mr. Isaac Ude and the National Organizing Secretary, Alhaji Danbuba, were the ones that started circulating the rumour and were indeed fingered in the nefarious act of trying to illegally substitute me and trade off my presidential ticket. They said they want the ticket to go to someone who has a stronger financial muscle but the party leaders insisted that politics should be about character and pedigree, not always about the highest bidder. Definitely not when someone has clearly emerged and handed the flag of the party. So far, it has led to their indefinite suspension by the National Executive Committee of the party and the police are investigating the alleged act of forgery of my signature. Beyond that callous act, we are moving forward, planning our campaign across the country from September. 

What has INEC done on this matter if indeed your purported letter of withdrawal was forged?

I have written a counter letter to INEC, even the chairman of the party’s BOT, Senator Saidu Dansadau has also written affirming my candidature and to be fair to INEC, it has not implemented the forged letter of substitution. We have also written to the police Inspector-General and the Department of State Security. Someone copied or forged my signature and put a letter to INEC saying I have withdrawn. It was mere forgery. We are still looking at all options including going to court to ensure the illegality does not stand.

Is there any reason why the party may be having a rethink whether or not you are good enough to fly their presidential flag?

No. When the suspended National officers who are suspected to have perpetrated the illegal acts were arrested by the police, their claim was that I was owing the party, but there is nowhere in our constitution where it is so provided. We were nine in number that indicated interest for the Presidential ticket and only about three persons put money down for the nomination form. We all contested based on a negotiated understanding which brought the nomination fee down from N17.5 million to N7.5 million for the form and N1 million as expression of interest form, which I paid in full. It does not form a basis for trading off the ticket I duly won, definitely not to someone who does not even belong to the party.

The NRM appears to be in a constant state of crisis?

Well, when I joined the party and emerged as one of its leaders, I inherited several of the lingering problems and we are dealing with them one by one. After emerging as the Presidential candidate, I appealed to NRM members to come together in the interest of the party and Nigerians who have placed their hopes in good governance to be provided by our party.

Considering the stature of candidates in the PDP, APC and Labour Party, how do you rate your chances in the Presidential contest?

The people you call political giants actually belong to the past. The Nigerian of today knows that the candidates of the PDP, the APC and even Peter Obi of the Labour Party all come with old baggage. Don’t forget that Obi has moved from APGA to the PDP and only recently crossed over to Labour. The 2023 election is for the new breeds like me not for old wines that are being packaged in new wineskins. I have no doubt that my candidature enjoys the support of Nigerians across regional boundaries in Nigeria so we are confident. The crises in those big parties, rather than getting resolved, will get even worse and people will prefer Mazi Okwudili Nwa-Anyajike who is not one of the recycled candidates.

 The down side is that most Nigerians will consider a candidate like you inexperienced?

It is not true. They want a break from the ugly past. Nigerians prefer politicians like me who are accessible, untainted and without the stain of malfeasance and corruption. In the 2023 election, it will be NRM versus the rest. Nigerian are tired of recycled political leaders, tired old men dripping with scandals and controversies.

Is the performance of the party in the recent Osun State governorship elections a yardstick for measuring its strength?

We actually did better in Osun than we did in Ekiti and increasingly the popularity of the party is spreading across the country. However, there are so many factors which will not lend the Osun election to be used as a yardstick for measuring our strength.

Recently, the Deputy National Chairman of the party, Abubakar Jikamshi resigned. What efforts are being made to get the party together before the campaign takes off?

We have been working hard on that. We have sent the National Chairman and the National Organizing Secretary on indefinite suspension not only because of the issues raised by Abubakar Usman Jikamshi but also because of actions of theirs that do not portray the party in positive light. We will replace them in due course in the interest of the party. Jikamshi shouldn’t have resigned because the party’s National Working Committee members do not support the actions of those two men. We will have our quarterly exco meeting early in August and we will address all the controversies at the meeting. Thereafter, we will inaugurate all our zonal campaign structures before the campaigns start.

President Muhammadu Buhari has been criticized for poor leadership, for instance in handling the recent attack on members of the Brigade of Guards. What is your take on this?

I sympathize with the families of those members of the Presidential Guard killed and I want to say that many of us are not aware of what actions the president may have taken in that regard.  While I am totally disappointed about some of the actions of this government, I will not condemn the decision of the President to travel for a scheduled visit to Liberia as some people have done.

Do you think the Federal Government has been decisive in handling the crisis foisted on the country by the lingering ASUU crisis?

In my opinion, the ASUU crisis should have been better handled. On my watch as President, an issue like this will not last beyond one week, maximum, but having said that, I must also say that ASUU has not conducted its disagreements with the government well. While I agree that government has a duty to honour its agreements, ASUU should also factor the effects of their actions on students whenever they decide on industrial actions. It does no good to their image that so much of their personal interests are subsumed into their official demands.

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