Oseloka H. Obaze is a diplomat, writer, public policy and governance expert and politician. He is the MD/CEO of Selonnes Consult, a policy, governance and management consulting firm. He was the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) candidate in the Anambra State governorship election in 2017. A former United Nations official, he served as Secretary to the Anambra State Government under Governor Peter Obi and Governor Willie Obiano from 2012 to 2015. In this interview, Obaze responds to questions on the Anambra 2021 governorship elections and national politics.
As a former governorship candidate of PDP in Anambra in 2017, could you identify factors that led to the party’s unsuccessful outing in that election?
First, we campaigned vigorously to win. The outcome belong to a different narrative and I believe the process was manipulated. For PDP to come in third and APC second in Anambra was nothing but contrived. There were multiplicity of factors responsible for PDP’s loss. Integrity of elections in Nigeria has never been guaranteed. Hardly any election can be said to be credible and sufficiently free and fair. We have come to accept that there are various shades of credible elections. These are traceable to institutional weaknesses. That INEC is continuously dragged into electoral litigation speaks to its institutional weakness and less than sufficient confidence in the commission. If rigorously interrogated, the result pronounced by INEC in 2017 was off the mark. APGA lost that election, and insofar as it claimed to have won 21 of the 21 local governments, it was not a landslide as it was a contrived fluke. Second, PDP housekeeping was extremely messy. Most egregiously, selling out occurred at all levels – even some major PDP stakeholders sold out to APGA. Then, the Federal might was deployed against PDP. I make no excuses, but several untoward events orchestrated the outcome the ruling party sought.
In fairness, do you think APGA under Obiano deserved the 21/21 victory that gave him the 2nd tenure ticket in 2017?
APGA claiming to have won 21 over 21 was a flight into fantasy. Pure fiction. Neither Chris Ngige nor Peter Obi could pull off such victory, talk less of Obiano. APGA did not score 21 over 21 in Peter Obi’s re-election and during Obiano’s election in 2014. When people lie long enough to themselves, they begin to believe that their lies and invincibility represent reality. If you need validation of my contention go and check; Peter Obi never lost an election in Anaocha and Chris Ngige in Idemmili. Suddenly APGA defeated their respective parties in their respective Local Government Areas in a single election. That’s bogus and contrived.
As part of the team driving the 2021 governorship election of your party, how do you think the party could win the November 6, 2021 election in Anambra?
Of all the parties running, I believe PDP has the best governorship candidate in Valentine Chineto Ozigbo. He has no political baggage and he is well exposed and has enterprise governance experience, which is what we need now in Anambra. APGA’s governance record and Governor Obiano’s on the job performance are glaringly dismal. Ask any honest man on the streets. APC which is in opposition with my party PDP in the state, does not have a large following in Anambra. It enjoys no sentimental or emotional tie to the population. Moreover, they never held credible primaries as we did in PDP. So barring anything untoward, PDP is well positioned to win this election. Yet one cannot discount attempts of the kind of jiggery-pokerry and judicial rascality that led to the hijack of government house in Imo State.
There is this insinuation that a particular political party wants to hijack the Anambra governorship election. How do you think this could be checked?
Anambra has affinity to Imo, but Anambra is not Imo. The Supreme Court needs to self-correct and self-censure. It is ultimately defeatist for the judiciary to engage in conducts that result in dubious outcomes. Imo state egregious judicially foisted electoral outcome is one too many. There can be no part two. PDP will not be inattentive to possibilities or efforts to hijack the election.
If you were PDP’s Director-General for the Ozigbo governorship campaign organization, what would you tell Anambra electorate as reasons they should vote Ozigbo and PDP against others in the race?
The Igbo have a saying that when an old lady trips twice, the public will count the contents of her wicker basket. Anambra population understand fully, that the APGA government in the past seven years failed them dismally. Why should they invest in another round of bad governance or submit to another bout of disservice, disenfranchisement and Prebendalism? Of the three major parties, APGA, APC and PDP, the latter represents the best hope for Anambra to return to the good governance trajectory. APC has failed at the centre and APGA at the state and local government levels. You don’t reward poor leadership, profligacy and official malfeasance.
Do you think that the campaign for Igbo presidency 2023 is worthwhile?
Perhaps, I should not dignify that question with an answer. Of course, it is more than worthwhile. We are either in a federation or we are not. Blatant imbalances in power and resource sharing continue to drive the clamour for restructuring. It rankles the mind, when some elements and political tendencies in the North, think and indeed claim that the leadership of Nigeria is their exclusive reserve and so, by some divine imprimatur. That is balderdash. The Igbo must continue their quest for a Nigerian President of Igbo extraction. The process, however, must be grounded on efficacious strategizing. The march is on, and there should be no looking back and no going back.
How do you think is the best way to address herdsmen problems in the southeast and other parts of Nigeria?
Animal husbandry, of which cattle rearing is a key component, is as old as our 100 years history as a political entity and 61 years as an independent nation. We never had extreme challenges over cattle rearing as we do now. So what changed? If cattle rearing is for some a means of wealth creation, their associated rights end where that of others not involved in the industry begins. Governmental complicity and failure to enforce the rule of law has compounded the festering situation. Admittedly, for herders and farmers the conflict has become existential in nature, but the law is the law. No civilian no matter his occupation should be allowed to carry automatic weapons, talk less of using them against their fellow citizens. Where that happens it must be treated as banditry and criminality. The extant anti-open grazing laws nationwide must be enforced, period.