How did you emerge as UPP presidential candidate?There was a consensus among members of the National Working Committee of the party that I should be the candidate of the party for the 2015 presidential election. This was on the eve of our national convention which took place at Aba, Abia State, on December 11, 2014. So, at the National Executive Council meeting, that motion was moved and adopted by NEC, especially in the light of the fact that the party had zoned the presidential slot to the South-east zone where I come from and for the fact that nobody else came forward to contest. On the day of the convention, there was a proper election as required by the Electoral Act, which was supervised by INEC officials and being the sole candidate, I garnered all the votes. I requested NEC to approve my nomination of Barrister Bello Umar as my running mate, because according to our constitution, the candidate makes a choice, but the party will approve or vice-versa, and he was approved.Some Nigerians have expressed fears that the re-scheduled elections may not hold. What is your view?I expressed my great reservation and suspicion when the postponement was done. I made it very clear at a press conference I addressed that by that postponement, the credibility of INEC has been put to serious question and the independence of the commission has been eroded based on the fact that the decision to postpone was orchestrated by people in the executive arm of government. My fear is that having considered the reason given for the postponement as not convincing, I fear that what happened might be a prelude to other sinister motives. It appears my fears are not misplaced in the sense that shortly after Nigerians accepted the postponement for the sake of it, other things started coming out, especially from the PDP. Some of their campaign officers started querying the proposed use of PVCs by INEC. They also began to suggest the use of TVCs and queried the use of card readers and all the measures to be put in place, that will help to bring about credible and transparent elections that will be acceptable by the Nigerian people. We saw the PDP attacking these things one after the other. In other words, trying to throw us back to the dark days where anything went as elections and results were announced and people were asked to go to court and resolve their differences. However, I believe that Nigerians have collectively risen to the occasion, the international community has not been quiet either, so the PDP trouble makers are beginning to be beating to their game and I believe that at the end of the day, we might have the election. The argument in some quarters is that President Jonathan may invoke Section 135 of the constitution to extend his tenure by six months in the first instance. That could be part of the grand design to buy time and be able to come up with this type of ploy. But political parties, civil society organisations, foreign nations- Britain, America, Canada, Germany- all of them without exception, condemned the postponement and the president assured the nation times without number that the May 29 handover date is sacrosanct. That is to say that on his own part, he won’t do anything that will make the May 29 hand over date not work. So, I don’t think he will be the same person to put a request to the National Assembly to extend his tenure. He will be shooting himself in the foot and become a major agent of destabilisation of the country, which I doubt. The law says if the nation is at war he can do that, but the nation is not at war now. In recent times, about 14 local government areas were under very serious security threat and even captured, but as at today, it has reduced to about 5 local government areas based on the successes recorded by the military. So the law says if such situation arises, elections will hold but not in areas where the security situation is not conducive for holding elections and INEC will set a new date to conduct elections in that area. What do you have in stock differently from what President Jonathan has done so far? If elected, my government will pursue the initiative for the amendment of the relevant laws of the land to remove immunity from our laws on criminal matters for president, vice president, governors and their deputies. This will make people in such executive positions to act more with circumspection than impunity. Public declaration of assets of public office holders, whether elected or appointed, will be made compulsory. It will be updated and made public annually for as long as the tenure of such holders of public offices subsist. Security votes must be tied strictly to security matters and accounted for. This will be applicable to all those occupying offices of which security votes are appropriated. Tax evasion by taxable Nigerians and institutions and fraudulent tax assessment by tax officials will be regarded as a grievous act of sabotage against the Nigerian people and its economy, which will attract very severe sanctions. My government will also initiate bills to make our local governments truly autonomous and independent from the stranglehold of state governments. The EFCC and ICPC will be strengthened and made to run efficiently and without fear or favour. The laws establishing these anti-corruption agencies will be reviewed to make their service delivery prompt and effective. We will tackle the energy sector with uncommon zeal. Our target is also to ensure that all eligible Nigerians living in the Diaspora will exercise their inalienable right to vote in subsequent elections, beginning from 2019. We will provide state-of-the art equipment for our military men and device very serious strategies of guaranteeing the safety of lives and property of Nigerians, freeing them from terrorists and insurgency and re-building the lives of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). We will also explore many other areas for the benefit of Nigerians. How have you been campaigning and how many geo-political zones are you confident of getting votes from?Our campaigns have been very effective and successful to a large extent. Everybody must not do everything the same way. The parties with large funds can afford the luxury of jamborees, but for us, UPP is just two years old. I am the only presidential candidate that has articulated a manifesto in writing and is going round. So we are campaigning seriously. In terms of my strong base, UPP zoned its presidential ticket to the South-east, because we already knew how and from where the presidential candidate of the PDP would emerge and we also knew that the APC presidential candidate would come from the North. So I believe we are going to derive a lot of support from the South-east region and the entire Igbo people of Nigeria who are scattered all over the country. We have already occupied the position of a beautiful bride, what is left for us is to now work hard enough to become the bridegroom.What are your chances in the race, considering your opponents in PDP and APC?We have in place something that will give us more credible elections than we had in the past and hopefully, votes will count than they counted in the past. I have not seen the difference between PDP and APC. Their faces and names may be different, but in terms of content and character, they are the same. You can’t turn around and begin to bite the finger that feeds you. That is why corruption, which is the bane of Nigeria’s development, becomes something that PDP and APC are not ready to pursue. So there is a clear battle line between the oppressor and the oppressed. So my chances are very bright.How would you describe the impact of former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s recent actions on the polity?It is impacting very negatively because I followed Ikemba closely for 22 years, from 1982 when he came back from exile to 2004 when we parted ways politically. There was an occasion years before he died where General Obasanjo as president made an uncomplimentary remark about Ikemba and Ikemba replied. They had known each other right from when they were in the military. Sometimes you see Obasanjo as a committed leader who is prepared to step on powerful toes to get it right. The next time you will see him as someone who is too self-opinionated, a know-it-all kind of person and it’s not good. There is no humility. This style of leaving a party and making it in a manner of drama, tearing a paper before journalists, is a very bad example to the younger ones.
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