Barrister Udeze Kenneth Obidiche emerged the National Chairman of Action Alliance (AA) during the party’s recent National Convention. In this interview, he narrates how the party overcame the exit of one of its major founders, the Imo State governor, Rochas Okorocha, to emerge a national platform to be trusted for leadership and unfolds plans for the 2019 general elections. He spoke with EJIKEME OMENAZU. Excerpts:
How do you feel emerging the National Chairman of Action Alliance (AA)?
I return all praise and honour to God Almighty who gives power to whom He alone pleases, hence, my election as the youngest National Chairman of a political party in Nigeria as at today.
The compelling need to give the masses of Nigeria the alternative opportunity to live is the driving desire for my aspiration to run for the position of National Chairman of our great party, the Action Alliance (AA). We believe this opportunity could be achieved by advancing a leadership that is youthful, vibrant, progressive, pragmatic and strategic enough to identify the basic needs of majority of our population and the need for everyone to be given the opportunity of involvement in the decision making process that borders on their everyday life.
My election as the National Chairman of AA has breathed a new life into that opportunity. It is therefore my singular honour to express appreciation to the party leadership from the wards, local government areas, states and at the national level delegates for believing in this aspiration, by making sacrifices and contributing materially, financially and logistically towards making this aspiration a reality. I also appreciate my campaign team (ROCO20#), star2star initiative of Imo State University Alumni Association and my political allies across the Niger. I am challenged for the show of love and support from everyone. The success of the convention could not have been achieved without the heavy security presence of the Nigerian Police, DSS, and NSCDC. Let me use this opportunity to extend my warm appreciation for their professionalism and the monitoring team from INEC headquarters.
Since the exit of the party’s founder, Owelle Rochas Okorocha and now, how would you describe the state of Action Alliance?
Action Alliance as a party has gone through a chequered history like most great parties, which have gone through period of internal crises, but came out stronger after the issue of the authentic leadership of the party was brought to rest by a Federal High Court and Bayelsa State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, both sitting in Abuja.
The exit of the party’s founder sometime in 2006 seriously attempted to affect the existence of AA, as over 40% of the party membership followed him to Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) under the then administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo. Thanks to the doggedness of the pioneer National Chairman of Action Alliance, our hero and legend, the late Senator Suleiman Salawu, and some of us who strongly believe that a political party as a body cooperate, is not a personal property of any individual. In political party administration, an individual do not own party structure. Rather, it becomes a collectively owned by members who have subscribed to membership by registration, and agree to be bounded by the party constitution. The exit of one of the founding members of Action Alliance, Owelle Rochas Okorocha had its disadvantage and advantage.
Disadvantage in the sense that his presence then assisted the party to have formidable structures across the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and these structures could not have been built without funding. Lack of funding and goodwill from members with financial muscles is affecting our image media wise.
However, Owelle Okorocha’s exit became a great advantage as the party became more focused to look inwards by devising means to build on the already existing structures with members who remain passionate and faithful to defend the vision and mission of which AA was known for. It also made it possible for AA to be run by seasoned politicians, instead of the cheap ones who depend and take instruction from godfathers who sit somewhere to dictate the management of some political parties.
So far, so good, systematic participation in the body polity of Nigeria political waters have continue to sustain the party and the good will of die-hard members and the Nigerian masses majority of who are card carrying and non-card carrying members of AA. As of today, Action Alliance remains a party without leadership crisis, focused and ready to win elections.
Why would you think that Nigerians will not continue to see the party as fronting for Owelle Okorocha and will not hesitate to back him and whatever platform he is during elections if it becomes necessary?
No one person has ever been bigger than a political party in historiography of party politics. This is because a political party is not made up of one person. Rather, it is an association of individuals with a common interest, most important of which is to win elections and control the machinery of government. Having said that, it is not proper to say that Action Alliance is a front for Owelle Rochas Okorocha. With due respect to him, he could have had an interest in AA before now, but he is not a member of the party. He is the governor of Imo State under the platform of All Progressives Congress (APC). Action Alliance and APC are not in any form of alliance. So, there is no way AA can be a front for an APC governor.
It has been a baseless opinion by some people who still feel and see Action Alliance as a party fronting for Okorocha. Okorocha used to be one of the major founding members of the party. But, he lost his membership when he got into his political journey from another platform, which you already know. Today, he is in the ruling party, APC, and even the Chairman of the APC Governors Forum.
He has nothing to do with AA, as our party constitution frowns seriously to anti-party activities which remain one of the core causes of internal party crisis in today’s Nigeria political system.
Again, the battle to Alagbaka Ondo Government House in the just concluded governorship election can also justify our stand that Action Alliance of today is not fronting for Owelle Okorocha. He led the campaign that saw the emergence of Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN) with support of few other parties. Action Alliance was in alliance with Chief Olusola Oke, the AD candidate. Such could not have happened if Action Alliance is under the control of anybody or godfather.
A cross section of Nigerians sees Action Alliance as not having popular support in every geo-political zone of the country. What efforts are you making to ensure that the party is accepted all over the nation?
Action Alliance is a very known and popular party since its registration by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in August 2005.
Ours is one of the parties that have structures across the six geopolitical zones, but have been treated with disdain by the media, as most of our activities are poorly reported. We have decided to wake up the consciousness of Nigeria youth from the perspective of shunning money bag politics and face the present reality with their future in mind. We have blueprint for aggressive grassroots campaign, seminars and workshops at various levels of the party structures to educate the youth, literate and illiterates alike, on the need to rally round the party to project and present trusted candidates for future elections.
As a party, we are sending message across to all Nigerian youth, men and woman alike, to take advantage of the new youthful leadership of Action Alliance to present themselves for elective offices in order to get things right. Any youth under the age of 40 years shall get automatic ticket from our party as long as he or she gets security clearance. We are of the strong opinion that politicians who are up to 75 years should retire from politics and play advisory and statesmen’s role.
My administration, in trying to reach out to the masses, has consulted ICT partners to help to project the party’s image on social media, while more facts concerning Action Alliance vision, mission, structures, constitution, etc, can be accessed on our party official website; www.actionallaince.ng. We also want to make sure that processes leading to emergence of candidates from our party remain transparent, with opportunities for young Nigerians who wish to test their political popularity through Action Alliance platform.
We shall concentrate our efforts too in fielding candidates at the wards and local government level to contest for Councillors and Chairmanship positions; to enable us become grassroots base, State Assembly and National Assembly are also our priority, while Governorship and Presidency can be realised by alliance with other progressive forces.
What would you say are the strength of the party as 2019 general elections draw nearer?
Our strength as 2019 general elections draw near depends on God. Action Alliance offers the most credible and practical alternative platform for majority of our citizens to aspire to government positions and contribute to the administration and management of their affairs. We are set and good to run open and inclusive party machinery that will support the masses to participate actively in electoral processes.
Would the party consider going into an alliance with another party or parties to win positions in the future elections? If so, what criteria would you use to determine which party and parties it can go into alliance?
Yes. Alliances are part of the beauty of democracy. Political parties forge alliances in order to have an obnoxious and high handed ruling political party voted out of power. AA will consider parties which have interest of the masses at heart for alliance. The masses are the major reason of democracy. So, any party which principles and manifesto align with that of AA will be considered.
What is your impression on the President Muhammadu Buhari’s All Progressives Congress (APC) administration? Do you think President Buhari deserves a second term?
Honestly, the APC is not a political party in the real sense of the word. It is still a loose conglomeration of political ejusden genere put together for the purpose of grabbing power. Now that the power has been grabbed, you can now see that the centre cannot hold. Yes, President Buhari has the right to seek for a second term in office, because he is constitutionally entitled to it. But, I will advise he considers his personal health condition first and then, the interest of the country before taking such decision. If truth must be told, anybody advising President Buhari to consider re-contesting in 2019, does not love Mr. President, who on return from medical trip, had once admitted that age was no longer on his side. By and large, it is his personal decision, but as a party, we don’t advise people over the age of 70 years to be involved in practical politics, but to serve as elder statesmen.
Do you see the Peoples Demo0cratic Party (PDP) recovering from its festering crisis to make serious impact in the 2019 general elections?
The success of any political party lies in the ability to foster internal democracy in the conduct of its activities. It also lies in the ability to adhere strictly to the rule of law by accepting judicial pronouncements of court of competent jurisdiction. Unfortunately, PDP has not adhered to either or any of the aforementioned. Therefore, as a political party, it is still a far cry from recovery. Impunity held sway in the PDP for the number of years the party was in power. The chicken has come home to roost. It is not entirely good for our democracy when the so-called main opposition party is not able to find its bearing owing to the individual idiosyncrasies and personal aggrandisement of members. This goes to show that if a political party does not have the interest of the masses as its foundational principle, it is bound to collapse when the chips are down. I wish the PDP well in its struggle for rediscovery and rejuvenation. AA offers a credible alternative for national discourse on what opposition party politics is all about.
Action Alliance offers the most credible and practical alternative platform for majority of our citizens to aspire to government positions and contribute to the administration and management of their affairs. We are going to run open and inclusive party machinery that will support the masses to participate actively. Action Alliance needs everyone’s support