Chief Longers Anyanwu is a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Imo State. Prior to the last national convention of the ruling party, Anyanwu vied for the post of National Organising Secretary, which was zoned to the South East geo-political zone. However, he withdrew from the contest at the last-minute. In this interview with JULIANA AGBO, he shares his thoughts on the outcome of the party’s convention and how the party can win the South-East in the 2019 general elections.
How would you describe the outcome of the just concluded APC convention?
I had said I was going to run for the office of the National Organising Secretary of our party, the APC. I did that because I thought it was going to be an internal struggle that didn’t need too much over heating of the polity. It has come and gone and I congratulate the party for surviving that convention, despite all the speculations, the fear and cynicism before the convention. I want to say equally that it is a lesson we have learnt; and I believe the party will build on the lesson they have learnt and manage it.I believe in the capacity of Adams Oshiomhole in handling and quenching the fire that might come out of the convention. It is not unprecedented. There is always post convention crisis and relying on what we know about the capacity and experience of the national chairman in the person of Adams Oshiomole. I know that he will bring a level of understanding, some level of sanity. And his crisis management expertise will ensure that the post convention crisis is tamed and arrested.
It is an opportunity to appeal to well meaning party leaders to key in because there’s no time for bitterness. We must all ensure peace and give opportunity to the new party leadership to steer the party to victory in the 2019 election. That is my stand.
What are your expectations from the new APC leadership?
It is clear. I believe that there has to be an internal cohesion in the party. There has to be proper bonding of the leaders; proper bonding of the members. I believe that as a party, we must be like one family. Like I stated during the screening exercise that preceded the convention, I told the leaders of the party, that if I was elected as the national organising secretary of the party, as a natural peace maker, I will have furthered the intergovernmental relationship between the all the arms of government. I will take the heat out of Mr President. I will take the heat off from the people they have given the mantle to represent us. I will absorb that heat and make sure we work as a party.
I don’t want to continue to see a party where we have the most respected African leader as a president and most of the other leaders are not giving him support, not because they don’t believe in his leadership; but because the people surrounding the Mr President are not experienced enough to know that he is the president for all.
I want to equally appeal to all to believe in the party decision at all times. I believe that the party is supreme. I believe that those that have been given mandate must be allowed to exercise it and it is incumbent upon the members and the party leaders to support the government. The first support naturally expected is the support that comes from the members of your party, which has been lacking, and has been the major cause of my decision to enter into the race of the national organising secretary.
I believe that with the experience and the leadership quality of Adams Oshiomhole , he will be a father to all. He must live above board and he will bring back all the warring party members -those who lost out at the convention like me must accept his leadership. But we must be accepted into the scheme of things because two good head they say is better than one and all of us have been in the business from the inception of this democracy. You cannot remove experience from the entire process. I want to commend some of the leaders of this party that have consistently continued to make sacrifices to ensure that this party survives. I want to put it on record that I have absolute respect for Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu. He has made effort to ensure that internal differences are minimized and that the party achieves a high level of cohesion.
We must accept that everybody does not have equal talent, equal skill, equal experience and sagacity in handling situations. I believe that for them to have been able to navigate the party to victory in 2015, they should be given the opportunity to do it again; to do what they know how to do best and people must learn to give out leadership. Nobody should bring this attitude of bring him down as somebody is thinking . It is better we win than when we are fighting and lose. That is my advice.
The party has come out stronger. The opposition are now scared because they know that the combination is going to deliver. They thought that the party is going to tear apart just like what happened to PDP the last time.
There are very strong speculations that the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, and others might leave the APC..
For the past two years the problem we are having are Speculators. You see a man holding the mantle of the party, some people will be speculating that he is leaving the party. He has gone to PDP, r-APCand so on, but they still remain in the party. Let us leave those assumptions that are bringing bad blood to the party. Some people feel aggrieved and they have gone as far as addressing a press conference. I am aware that the new chairman has swung into action. He has been meeting with the leadership of the National Assembly. They are talking. This man (Adams Oshiomole), mind you, is a labour leader. He is used to crisis management. Watch out, he is going to navigate the party out of crisis.
Is this not apointer that the party is derailing?
That is why he has come to fix it. It is a response to the fear that the party was derailing. And I have absolute confidence that he will fix it. He has the energy. He has the skill. But if people deliberately want to be mischievous in sabotaging him then, it is left for him to cut out those people. But as for me, I don’t have any doubt in his ability. He has the skills to put things aright. And what do we want to achieve? It is to put the party on one page and win victory in the 2019 election and after.
Did you actually run for the post of national Organising secretary to win or just for the mere fun of it?
Yes, I was running to win. You know this insinuation and speculation. Right there on the convention ground, we had an understanding. Recall that when the South-East leadership of the party met at Sheraton Hotel here in Abuja, they agreed that they were going to return the then national organization secretary (Senator Osita Izunaso). But as we progressed, we found out that the opposition against the incumbent was quite alarming. A lot of information was flying in and I offered myself as a man coming from the same block of the same South-East and I received an unprecedented support and solidarity. I became a credible alternative to that office. I want to thank every Nigerian, particularly those in government and at the apex of the party, who knew that I have what it takes to give alternative leadership as the national organising secretary of the party. But you know this politics and the intrigues that come with it. At a point there was this insinuation that I was foisted by another person rather than the South-East. This is a position zoned to our people. It was wrong to say somebody-Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu was sponsoring me. But of course, you know that charity begins at home. Some leaders approached me. Labor minister, Senator Chris Ngige, His Excellency, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu, Senator Ifeanyi Ararume and Transport minister, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi. They said I must stand by the decision of the South-East APC. I said they allow me to make some consultation. I was not fighting a personal fight against anybody. The pressure became unbearable and I was adviced.
I wouldn’t want a situation where tomorrow, I will be accused of rocking the boat. Uptil now, some people are still angry with me. People are asking me why I stepped down. But I stepped down for the interest of the party and its a lesson for me. It is a huge difficult lesson for me. But I want to advice that leaders should rise above odds and be courageous. We must always know that there is options and equally agree to read the body language of the country. I am advicing that the Igbo leaders moving forward in the 2019-2023, should not play into the hands of their enemies by being dogmatic or being selfish most times in fostering their own individual position. If you want to talk about interest, it should be the one that will mobilize the people, the one that must be inclusive and forgiven; it must also be the one that stretches to other part of the world. If we go into antagonizing the other parts of the zones, it will do us no good. We will continue to be the weeping child. Leadership must be courageous and fearless. It must say the truth when it matters most. Leadership must say, Longers step down and Longers will listen. You don’t say Longers step down because he is not your friend or brother. You must rise above board and stand for the interest of your people. If we say we want Buhari to be our president and want to give him five million vote as a party, the time is now. We must start to mobilize our people towards that project. We must make personnal sacrifices to push our people to see what the man is doing. Is the Niger grading progressing, are the roads doing well. We pull evidence from what the man is trying to do. Therefore, I am advicing that we give people their due. We should allow people who have the capacity and what it takes to do their best. I have political party experience. I have started a party (Accord Party) in this country that have won election and is still winning election. I was in the committee for the formation of PDP. I was a member of all the conventions in the past. So why can’t they know that I can do a job that will project the igbos properly. Even if the North say they like me and the West say they like me, why can’t they take advantage of it instead of saying that is another person that brought me. It is God that brought me and it is for my people to support me instead of throwing away the opportunity of receiving good things. Look at the scenario that is playing out now. The convention has come and gone. Everybody is jubilating. Yet we don’t have peace in the South-East APC. Before you know it, we will begin to struggle and fight and we will not even be factored in in the unfolding realities because of the unfolding bitterness.
What are the chances of APC in the South-East?
The first strategy is for the party to be strengthened in the South East by everyone dropping his gun and working together to deliver the party. There is no one single leader that can deliver the party. I feel that it is urgent for the new National Working Committee to give the South-East opportunity to actualise their dream to work for Mr president. What I expect them to do is to have an urgent meeting of all the leaders of the party in the South East to iron out the differences amongst them.
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