Before recently defecting to the Labour Party, Mr. Victor Afam Ogene, a journalist, served as the representative for Anambra State’s Ogbaru Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives. Ogene discusses his reasons for defecting in an interview with a variety of journalists in Abuja. He also offered his knowledge of the party’s presidential candidate, Peter Obi.
You were chosen to represent the Ogbaru federal constituency in the House of Representatives on the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) platform. You later joined the APC and are currently a Labour Party member. You dumped APC, why?
We initially believed that when President Muhammadu Buhari mentioned 95 percent and 5 percent after his election in 2015, he was only venting his aggravation over what appeared to be the South East’s lack of support for the APC. But as time went on, rather than this mindset changing for the better, it evolved into something like to an unofficial governmental policy, to exclude the South East’s population from the power equation. How, for instance, would anyone explain a circumstance in which one of the main tripods upon which this nation stood in 2022 would not have a single member in the country’s nearly 17-member security council?
What justifications do you have for the numerous appointments that have been made during this administration without including the South East? That can be simple showmanship to other individuals. The country’s power rotation convention, which is even spelled out in the charters of several political organizations, was flagrantly destroyed in both the APC and the PDP. This may be the final straw.
Now that the North has held power for almost eight years, it makes sense that the South is taking the reins. However, the Southwest has been in power in the South during this Fourth Republic for eight years thanks to General Olusegun Obasanjo. The vice presidential position is now held by the same Southwest. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan has been the president of the South for more than five years. Therefore, if authority is to return to the South, it should go to the South East, according to natural justice and fairness.
However, those in charge had a different opinion and once more did not include the South East in the balance of power. I was so incensed by the decision that I wrote an article somewhere in May 2022, before Peter Obi joined the Labour Party, advising my leaders in the South East to gather together and create a new political road for the area. After saying that, everyone who knows me at that point realized that my mind, body, and soul were no longer with the (APC).
But given that the public claims the party lacks structures and is unable to win national elections, how sustainable is the Labour Party as a platform?
Every political party, when it comes to viability, begins as a small group of individuals, grows, gains more and more supporters, and eventually spreads throughout the nation. The Labour Party is not a new platform. It has what’s known as structures. In fact, physical offices spread out across the nation are required for a political party to register in Nigeria. Physical structures are thus already present on the ground.
Beyond that, though, it’s possible that people are making reference to the fact that it has never won a national election. But APC does as well. APC only came to power in 2015. In addition to having candidates for the National Assembly elected on its platform, the Labour Party formerly controlled Ondo State. I, therefore, question what presumptions individuals are basing their assertion that it is not viable on. Indeed, if a large number of Nigerian teenagers decide to march through important towns throughout the nation; If angry parents, their kids, and wards who have been barred from college campuses for seven months and counting, as well as helpless Nigerians who have been slaughtered by rising insecurity and dismal economic indicators, do not constitute voting structures for the Labour Party, then perhaps we need to redefine what “structure” means in political jargon.
Peter Obi, the Labour Party’s front-runner for president, is its motivating force. Why do you believe he is gaining traction so quickly?
You are aware that all revolutions start off in peculiar ways. Consider the Cuban Revolution as an example. Although it was an armed uprising that lasted for approximately six years, from 1953 to 1959, no one believed that those who were pushing for a change in the status quo could wait even one year. We also witnessed the Arab Spring, which, based on my memory, started on December 17, 2010, when a Tunisian grocery vendor lit himself on fire in a show of defiance against economic stagnation and corruption. In that case, the 23-year rule of then-President Ben Ali came to an abrupt end in just 10 days. His rule disintegrated after he left the nation.
Fast forward to 2022 Nigeria and the emergence of the Peter Obi candidature. While we are not talking about a civil rebellion or an armed insurrection…one that will lead to the overthrow of the government, we are, however, confronted by a developing movement for people’s emancipation. Additionally, it is evident that the process belongs to the people. Peter Obi does not just represent the presidential candidacy of the Labour Party, he has, rather, become the symbol of frustrations of the Nigerian youths; of the Nigerian people against a system that has refused to reform itself. To ensure that the people regain control of their nation, everyone who feels oppressed, who rejects the current rent system that our political elites are skilled at, and everyone who is fed up with the system is joining the revolution despite great personal discomfort. His mandate is for the Young people to reclaim their nation. Now, it’s not as if the governing class is made up entirely of foreigners.
No, but they have viewed society as a whole as a commodity. How would you explain a situation where pupils are out of school for more than seven months during an election year and the transactional leaders in charge seem unconcerned? There are long lines for fuel everywhere, and the cost of gasoline, kerosene, and diesel has reached previously unheard-of heights. Yet they consistently claim that subsidies have been eliminated while still paying out what seems like absurd amounts of money in subsidies. The same President also claimed that there was no such thing as a subsidy before he was elected, calling the subsidy regime a fraud. Is he now complicit in the fraud? On the basis of this government’s assurance that they would end the insecurity, many Nigerians, including myself, backed his entry. However, banditry, abduction, and other forms of insecurity have also been elevated to lofty pedestals in addition to Boko Haram. Nigeria is already on high alert right now.
Due to the high prices, neither convenient air travel nor even road trips are an option due to the risk of kidnapping. In Nigeria, even trekking has become problematic since you never know who is following you. Nigerians are therefore not safe on land, in the air, or at sea. Fear permeates the nation. Many Nigerians will tell you that the PDP and the APC are the same of the same if we are being honest with ourselves and the people, who are frustrated. There hasn’t been any change. Depending on how their individual political fortunes are impacted, people switch from PDP to APC and vice versa. Therefore, you shouldn’t be shocked that the Peter Obi campaign has become a movement. The PDP clearly laid out the prerequisites for that when it was in power, and the APC, which is currently in office, has emphasized them.
But before his defection to the Labour Party, Obi also belonged to the PDP?
In the two examples of revolutions I gave you, Fidel Castro was a Cuban and continued to be a Cuban, but when he became disenchanted with the system, he started a revolution. People that participated in the Arab Spring were also a part of the various nations; they either were affected negatively or took part. Someone once claimed that for evil to flourish, good men must stand by and do nothing. Therefore, the populace is equally complicit in the fact that that individual had power in Tunisia, for example, if someone controlled there for 23 years without receiving a single call for protest.
Peter Obi, a PDP member, must therefore respond in some way after realizing that the PDP may be heading in the wrong direction. If you want to see a change, you should look for another platform to try to make that change happen. There’s nothing wrong with that in my opinion. For him to stay and become complicit in the ongoing injustice that was roiling the PDP would have been worse.
What about the worry that even if Peter Obi loses, he might assist the APC to maintain control by stealing votes from regions thought to be the PDP’s main bastions of support?
Since Atiku Abubakar of the PDP is of Northern descent, I find that amusing. Do we mean to say that he won’t win there? Are we asserting that Kwankwaso of the NNPP won’t win support in the North? Are we claiming that Asiwaju Bola Tinubu of the APC would win with a landslide even in the Southwest? Even if Asiwaju Tinubu wins the Southwest with a landslide, candidates like Kwankwaso and Atiku would cut into his support there. Therefore, it is fair game. Allow everyone to compete. And I believe that those who worry that the Labour Party lacks structures are now discussing “cutting votes.”
Do we mean to imply that parents who have children at home do not live in the North or the West and will not support candidates who have kept their kids at home? Are we implying that workers, who in an ideal world would support the Labour Party, won’t support their party in hopes of getting a better deal? Therefore, no one is removing anyone’s vote. They are all canvassing voters out in the open. No campaigns have yet begun. They should sell their manifestos before the elections, and then let’s see what the APC and the PDP would propose to the Nigerian people.
There is an allegation that Peter Obi’s supporters are very pushy while promoting their candidate, especially on social media.
Well, a quick content study of the social media conversation flow will demonstrate that Labour Party supporters are not the aggressors. They prefer to respond to aggressiveness, particularly those motivated by the APC. Who will accept the statement that a person is now an “obituary” as opposed to being “Obi-dient”? And you characterize them as violent when they react by coming out. But what has happened to the individual who started the foul language by referring to an entire group of people as “Obituaries,” undoubtedly hoping they were all dead? An old saying in my part of the country goes, “It is only a tree that you would inform that you are going to cut it and it will remain rooted.”Any human being you threaten would at least act if only to defend themselves. You cannot characterize youthful, active, and focused people as zombies because they support a particular cause and you assume they won’t respond. Verify whether any of Peter Obi’s supporters have used derogatory language towards any of the other candidates on social media.
The order has always been reversed. People grumble when they defend themselves. Who, for example, threatened that there wouldn’t be a Labour Party march in Kaduna? Who also issued a directive prohibiting the construction of any Labour Party billboards in Lagos State? That is the prospective First Lady who has threatened to kick out Igbo people from Lagos? My brethren, we are all aware of our enemies. Let’s face it; several of these parties have a history of promoting divisive rhetoric and speech. In some of these items, we can also see the influence of the fifth columnists. And I should know because I work in the media.
And why should Peter Obi be held accountable for the sentiments expressed by a fan? How can you be certain that they are indeed a supporter? Did he make his membership card visible? These are some of the gimmicks they are deploying, as far as we are aware. But we are pleased that the young people are determined, they are clear about what they want, and Peter Obi’s candidacy excites them. You could see this during the voter registration drive, and even if it continues today, more young people will come out to register because they want to have a say in how their country is run going forward.
When Peter Obi was governor under the APGA, you served in the House of Representatives and are familiar with him. If he is elected president in 2023, how would you characterize him, and do you believe he will be able to carry out his promise to transform the nation?
If a man offers you a shirt, my father used to advise me to first check out the one he is currently wearing. You should be curious about the type of shirt he will give you if the one he is wearing is completely destroyed. As Mr. Peter Obi’s partner and fellow Anambra State governor, I have had the honor and good fortune of working together. And you are aware of what Anambra was prior to Mr. Peter Obi’s arrival. Elections in Anambra resembled a jungle rumble in many ways. People were reluctant to participate in politics. Peter Obi, however, arrived and brought decorum, telling the populace that their money could work for them. Yes, Chris Ngige, his predecessor, tried to make some progress because, of course, he had a falling out with his then-godfather, so instead of providing for them, he used the money to carry out a few good deeds, particularly on road development.
However, Peter Obi arrived and established the Anambra Integrated Development Strategy, or ANIDS, whereby he simultaneously worked on all sectors while using the then-MDGs targets as a springboard. As a result, Anambra had eight years of peace and order under Obi, as well as advancements in infrastructure, care for the aged, good roads, and more. Anambra established a reputation for effective leadership, earning the title of “Governor of the Decade” from ThisDay Publications.
Every journalist who has interacted with him is aware that the Labour Party’s catchphrase, “We no dey give shishi,” is not new. Peter Obi did not waste the resources provided by the government. By all accounts, he was a billionaire before he was elected governor. He could certainly take care of some of your side needs. However, Obi didn’t violate any of the government’s rules in that regard. He pushed for perfection. In Anambra, every school has at least one transport and one laptop for each pupil. He promoted regional production. He was the one who truly got Innoson Motors off the ground by getting them to make cars for officials, traditional leaders, schools, neighborhood watchmen, etc. But we all know where Anambra stood following Peter. Except, of course, for the arrival of Prof. Charles Soludo, who is doing his best to restore order, Anambra was frequently in the headlines for the wrong reasons.
Obi was not a carefree leader in this sense. Throughout his tenure as governor, I don’t recall attending any night parties or other gatherings at the Governor’s Lodge. For him, it was all about doing good deeds and having compassion for the young and the elderly. Peter Obi could be reached by any secondary school head boy or girl who possessed his phone number. We are referring to accessibility here. As a result, the head boy or head girl might inform the state’s most important citizens if the teachers were even acting improperly. And when Mr. Peter Obi becomes president of Nigeria in May 2023, we intend to replicate this at the federal level.
On the Labor Party platform, you are attempting to run for re-election to the House of Representatives to represent the Ogbaru Federal Constituency of Anambra State. What degree of certainty do you have about your election victory?
I was a member of the APC until a few months ago, and when a movement like the Peter Obi movement got going, some people who shared my views started talking to me. I didn’t simply enter the conflict.
Additionally, you required the human structures that are discussed on social media. Unbeknownst to them, Peter has connections to some of the Labour Party election candidates from today. Because Peter Obi cannot simply be President without having representatives in the House of Representatives, the Senate, or even state assemblies, many of us were naturally drawn to the Peter Obi personae and the desire to effect change in the lead-up to that movement. Ogbaru must also be considered in the equation.
My Ogbaru leaders then began to encourage me to come and join the movement. Given the significant resources required for electioneering in Nigeria and the fact that I have been out of power for eight years, I initially declared that there was no way I was going to undertake it. No, they countered, it’s not about the money.
These exchanges in the conversation are what ultimately led to “we no dey give shishi.” They then began warning us not to give anyone shishi. Come, the people will be your pillar of support—we the voters. All that will be needed are our voter cards. And because of this, they took steps to either move their voter registration card, register new voters, or just prepare their existing cards for use in the upcoming election in February 2023. So, a call to join the expanding Peter Obi movement prompted me to want to stand up for my people. In conclusion, I am totally Obi-dient and I am confident that the residents of Ogbaru are already Obidient, and their numbers are increasing daily.
Are you certain that Nigerians in general would be able to speak Obi-dient by 2023?
Yes, more Nigerians should vote for Obi-dient in 2023 if we want to make a constructive change and transition our nation from a consumption-based to a productive economy.