In this interview with Amby Uneze, the chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party contact and mobilisation committee in Imo State, Chief Jerry Chukwueke, speaks on the efforts of the committee to ensure electoral success for President Goodluck Jonathan in 2015. Excerpts:
How would you assess the recent PDP rally in Imo state?
I was Chairman of the committee on mobilisation for Mr. President’s visit to Imo State on Saturday, February 22, 2014. I was also the Chairman, Contact and Mobilisation of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Imo State. We were not surprised at the crowd because we had planned well for it for nine months. The committee was set up nearly nine months ago and we became the engine house of preparation for 2015. In fact, I had to make the necessary commitment; essentially left my business to really focus on it in Imo State and invested nearly N200 million in the project (personal funds) and ran the risk of the threats that we faced every day having to challenge the sitting governor on policies and his lack of vision. It was said that PDP was dead in Imo State. We had to move from local government to local government, preaching the message of reconciliation, etc, people began to appreciate us.
What we saw on Saturday was clearly the success we dreamt of and the vision we threw out there and focus on achieving it, and I must say that was splendid. When we went to sensitise the people our message was clear; we brought inspiration back to PDP, people responded because they were looking for a new and inspiring leadership to come out in PDP. Having said that I think clearly Imo is a PDP state by DNA.
How did you make that happen?
We had an accident in 2011, it was now a matter of getting the right message across as a matter of fact and very importantly, as we ran the message of mobilisation across Imo, we devoted almost half of the time to selling the Jonathan transformation agenda. I wasn’t surprised to see so much support for President Jonathan because we had done our home work well.
We devoted so much efforts on agricultural transformation, privatised power sector, the improvement of the economy, provision of jobs, the SURE-P, the inclusion of the Igbos in the system, the infrastructural development including the roads and healthcare, the second Niger Bridge; all of those big issues that President Jonathan has focused on became a major part of our sensitisation deliveries. Quite frankly, when you look at the programme booklet, we hammered on President Jonathan’s transformation agenda.
People have made up their mind to support him in 2015. We want him to declare for President in 2015 so that he can complete baking the cake that he had started for Nigeria. All of that was the culmination of nine months of hard work that had actually made that event a success. Are you aware that there were over 100,000 people that attended the rally? The capacity of Dan Anyiam stadium is about 25,000; standing about 35,000. Outside you can count another 60,000 people. It was a carnival; Imo people showed that they love PDP. I’m sure when the helicopter was about to land, the president must have been stunned by the crowd that was all over the place.
And very importantly, while we were mobilising, we went for reconciliation to help bring people back to PDP. We went everywhere and see the result. Former governor Achike Udenwa is back in the party, Senator Ifeanyi Araraume is back, Senator Chris Anyanwu, Chief Mike Ahamba (SAN) are back to the party, and the Iwus also. Everybody is back to PDP because we worked hard to show that the party is strong again and we are in the position to win in 2015. Imo produced 1.3 million votes for President Jonathan in 2011; our target is 2 million votes in 2015. We will deliver and regain the Government House in Owerri.
What went wrong before?
Clearly, there was disillusionment in Imo PDP as a consequence of the 2011 election. The election was ours to lose and we lost it because so many mistakes were made. Former governor, Ohakim called it miscalculation of votes. Whatever it was, we had some problems and issues and Imo people were disillusioned and people started to lose faith and hope.
The present government is a deceit, a complete chaotic government that has 70 percent unemployment, 91 percent youth unemployment, a government that is living on 98.5 percent dependency on allocation from federal government, borrowed up to its N100 billion limit. Now allocation has been declining since last year by about 40 percent. So if your allocation is declined by 40 percent and you are 98.5 percent dependent on it and you have borrowed up to your limit, you’ll get the economy in trouble.
Our people are in trouble in Imo because the economy is in a mess; we have a manager in Government House who doesn’t know how to manage scarce resources. He only understands allocations and sharing. Imo State University today ranked 111 out of 112 universities in the country. We have lost 12 programmes accreditation in the last three years, including law and medicine. Our Polytechnics now are totally out of it because they have lost their accreditations. They can’t even go for youth service. We have an endangered youth and an unemployment rate that would continue to rise, and so we have a mess in our hands. About the mismanagement of the Imo economy, people woke up and those who had left the party began to come back because they realised that we are focused.
We are talking about the future of our people and how the new PDP government will take on these critical issues and bring quality government to our state and how our people will break the back of poverty. The job of government is to create an enabling environment for our people to gain economic empowerment, jobs and more jobs. That is the issue. It is not about sharing, there is not much to share in Imo anymore, it is about what we can leverage from the viewpoint of Imo assets and Imo assets mapping to create an enabling environment to attract new businesses, attract investments, be part and connect to the opportunities in the centre.
Now, Imo realised that we can’t get ahead economically without being connected to the centre and the whole Jonathan transformation agenda hasn’t benefited Imo in a significant way because we have not been connected to it and because we have the wrong government in power. Yes, we have got benefits in SURE-P, infrastructure, roads like the Owerri-Aba road, Owerri-Portharcout road, almost done by the NDDC, Owerri-Onitsha road is less than 40 minutes now, the second Niger bridge, the refurbished Owerri Airport, the Enugu International Airport, there is so much to talk about and yet so much opportunities for Imo people if we have the right government.
I think PDP government will do it. What is clear to me is that we don’t want a ruler in 2015, but a leader who understands governance particularly from a private sector background with enough political sagacity. Leadership that will focus on rebuilding and revitalising the economy so our people will have job opportunities and earn a decent living and be proud that they are Imolites.
Governor Rochas Okorocha in his reaction on the rally described the crowd as a rented crowd imported from the neighbouring states?
It is complete falsehood. He is only expressing his style of deceit. We don’t run on deceit, we ran mobilisation. We took logistics to every ward in the 27 local government areas of the state. And we made sure that PDP people attended. What you saw was a culmination of the investment we made in rebuilding the PDP within nine months. We planned this project; we focused on it and we made the necessary commitment. We took the risks. One of the things that excited Imo people was that we exposed the government of Imo and many people abandoned him because they had realised that he was misleading our people and that his governance was very poor.
I ask you, why did Achike Udenwa abandon APC and come back to PDP with his supporters? Are they rented crowd? What of Senators Ifeanyi Araraume and Chris Anyanwu with their supporters? Are they rented crowd? They abandoned him because they know that his government has failed woefully and stands no chance in 2015. We still have some work to do in the grassroots; we are going back there- to the mechanics village, market women and men, Keke operators- that segments of our people we need back.
What people are worried about now is how to manage our success. We must create a level playing field for all aspirants- no imposition of candidates, focus on quality people who have integrity and track record, those who have shown that they have done things in the past, succeeded in making things work. We will do all we can to run a transparent government that can deliver economic dividends that our people can smell, feel and touch. As long as we do that, we would have managed the success we enjoyed on Saturday. We hope we have learnt from our mistakes. (Source)