Pastor Alphonsus Eberendu is the Imo State Secretary of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA).
He is a Pastor with the Winners Chapel Owerri. He was recently re-elected after a leadership crisis that saw the ouster of all the principal officers. He trained as Management Consultant and is also a Media Relations and Political Consultant. Eberendu is a capacity builder and thinks for corporate organizations. In this interview with our Afam Echi, he insists that Ihedioha did not meet the requirement to become Imo governor. He flays Christians for their ignorance in shunning politics while he also blames Nigerians for the bad governance experience.
How long have you been in politics?
It is more than twenty years. You will be surprised that I said so. I want to believe that it is the Holy Ghost that propelled you to ask me this question. I began recently to work on how to organize credible elections way back into the 90’s. In 1993 I almost clinched the responsibility of running Nelson Mandela’s Campaign Organization. I reached out to the African National Congress in South Africa and offered my company to be their political consultant so that they can win that election.
Were you there then or elsewhere?
I was in Lagos then. In the course of the discussion I was asked to put a proposal on the cost implication. At that point I felt that coming out of apartheid ANC as a party may not be able to meet up my expectations. But a British firm called Satchi and Satchi, a Public Relations outfit, a bigger organisation than my Frigate ltd, in their wisdom offered to work for ANC and Mandela free of charge. At that point I was knocked out.
So that was the beginning of your foray into politics?
But before that time I was already carrying out research into solid democracies around the world, the way they are and what makes them thick. Thereafter I began to consult for other individual politicians in Nigeria. I was even the Director of Publicity of CNC. That was about 22 years ago.
You are part of the old executives of the State APGA that were ousted from power recently and you also got elected into the new executive committee retaining your position of Secretary. What is the secret you could survive it all?
I want to say very sincerely and those who know me can attest to the fact that what I am going to say is the truth. I am committed to anything that I do. I give in my best. Two, I am a party person and what that means in itself is that I give my 100% loyalty to the party; I mean the party leadership and hierarchy.
What would one see as the vision of the new State Exco of APGA?
I want to take a cue from what my Chairman, Dr Henry Okafor has said already. What we are doing is to make sure that APGA is repositioned and made strong.
How is that going to be achieved?
It is going to be achieved through series of collective efforts of the party members and the leadership style of the executives.
Before the new State Exco emerged APGA has contended with some issues leading to many people pooling out and joining other parties in protest. What has the party specifically done to assuage the feelings of the aggrieved?
You will understand that in this part of the world politics is dynamic. People move in and out of political parties but for us here in an effort to reposition the party we are reaching out to everybody that is aggrieved. Political contest is like sports. You win sometimes another person wins. But you see some people are not comfortable when they lose. What we are trying to do is to be magnanimous to see that we have reached out to many and in one way or another still be accommodated within the party.
What do you think actually accounted for the loss of APGA in the last Imo guber election?
I would not want to say that we lost.
But Ihedioha of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) is the governor and not your party’s candidate?
But you are also aware that the election was inconclusive. The rule is that for you to be able to become the governor of Imo State you have to have a simple majority and you have to 25% of the total votes cast in 2/3 of the local governments in the state.
Are you saying that Governor Ihedioha did not meet this requirement?
No he did not meet that requirement.
So why was he declared the governor in your own thinking?
You would agree with me that the system or nature abhors a vacuum. In the light of that and in the wisdom of those that were responsible or have powers to determine what to do at that time, they have to declare him winner.
So is APGA hoping to secure their victory from the Court drawing from what you said?
Oh yes, no doubt, that is why we are in the Court.
There is this allegation from the rank and file that the state leadership of APGA has been hijacked by strangers who has come to reap where they did not sow-an obvious reference to Senator Araraume, now BOT Chairman and Dr. Henry Okafor, State Chairmen all of who defected from other parties with less than a year membership. What do you say to that?
Well I want to ask what is it that determines who becomes a member of a party? By the way what do they mean by hijacking of the party?
This is the case of new members less than one year in the party taking over leadership when other people so qualified as well are there?
Is it that the party did not follow the natural and right processes that we are all part of? The party went constitutionally through the Ward to the Local Government congress and progressed from the State to the National Convention during which period the various levels of leadership emerged.
Are you trying to say that there is nothing to complain about the emergence of the APGA leadership?
Well we must admit in life that there is no perfect system and in every situation of life you will always see people crying of foul play or people not comfortable with the outcome of whatever they had anticipated.
Why the administration of Rochas Okorocha lasted there is the opinion among many Imolites that APGA did not live up to the expectations playing its role as an opposition party and that is believed to be part of the reason Okorocha had a field day with bad governance. How true is that?
I don’t think so. I think that to the best of our ability we did our best. Remember that we are not the only party involved in the opposition at the time. There were other parties as well. We did our best but it depends on the view of the persons making such assertion. As far I am concerned we played the role of opposition party to the best of our ability.
How would you access over all APGA’s performance in the last general election bearing in mind that in Anambra State which is its strong hold it lost all its National Assembly seats?
APGA did very well. I am sure you will be surprised if I say that before we have never won one House of Representative seat in Benue State but right now as I speak with you we have three from Benue State, we have one from Taraba, we have two House of Assembly members from Taraba, and over all we have ten HoR members. This has never happened in APGA before and it is quite unfortunate that the election in Imo State is inconclusive and when things are properly sorted out as we anticipate, we could possibly be smiling home with the second governorship seat by now.
Are you not worried that APGA is losing its stronghold in Anambra State?
No. That is not true. We could possibly have lost the Senatorial seats in the state but we still have people streaming into APGA every day in both Anambra and Imo
What do you think is the reason that APGA failed to conduct its delegates’ election before the primary election that eventually turned controversial?
No. Your assertion is not correct. Who told you that APGA did not conduct primary election? We conducted the primary
I am talking about the delegates’ election that usually threw up persons who are qualified to participate in the Primaries
If you acknowledge that the Primaries were held then who voted. There were delegates and that is to tell you that it held.
What then led to the agitations, the fights and the feuds that led to people pulling away to form the N-APGA?
The people that lost have to protest and they went to Court and lost out.
Did you say that the New APGA that went to court lost?
There is no new APGA but the people that lost who felt that they should not have lost in that primary.
APGA is touted as an Igbo party and it is widely believed that by 2023 the Presidency will be coming down to the South East. Is APGA so well positioned to play the role of a medium or vehicle through which that aspiration could be realized for the Igbos given the myriads of issues in APGA?
It may not be right to regard APGA as an Igbo party. I have told you what is happening in Taraba and Benue. I want it to be placed on record that APGA is a national party. Our consideration is to be able to position APGA to be able to produce right candidates in the elections and ultimately win in the elections.
You denied that APGA is not an Igbo party but judging by its root and we usually hear you talk about ‘’Nkeabunkeanyi, onyeaghalanwanneya’’, that is this is our own and be your brother’s keeper.
This is because we tried to create a cliché that will help in marketing of the party here in the East. If I ask you now what it is that they say in the West, or in the North you may not know? It is a marketing mix, a cliché we use to sell the party right here and it is also said that you should be your brother’s and sister’s keeper.
How would you assess our democratic practices in the last twenty years? Do you think that we are making progress?
If some school of thought can say to you that looking at where we are coming from that we are making progress that is that person’s opinion. But if we are to evaluate where we should be in the light of time, I don’t think that we have done so much. I feel that for you to be a good leader you must be visionary, visionary in the sense that you just must have to know the characteristics of your environment, properly evaluating your environment and knowing what to do to take it to the next level and being determined in taking it to that level. That is a lot of work and effort in itself. But unfortunately in our world, people can just wake up from their sleep and just want to become leaders because they have the money to drive whatever desire that they have. But leadership is a big and onerous responsibility because as a leader you must be in the forefront leading the people to the desired point. You must have a knowing of where you are taking them to politically, educationally, culturally etc. You must have the road map not acting by your hunches.
In other words are you identifying leadership as part of the problem?
Yes, it is a major problem for us.
Politicians are the ones at the driving seat of leadership and everything it seems are not working. Can we say with correctness that politicians are the problems that we have in this country?
I am a politician. I cannot label all the politicians. Nigerians are their own problems.
But politicians are part of the Nigerian society?
I agree with you on that. Let me give you an example. I don’t know what local government you hail from. If someone is going to run an election from your place right now and as a politician he doesn’t have money but he has strong leadership skills and excellent qualities, you can see that your own people will reject him because he may not be able to provide all the moneys they may require from him. And when they take money from him and he gets there and begins to misbehave because he wants to recoup his expense. Again we deliberately put the person there and he begins to give what he does not have. The problem is not just politicians but Nigerians as a whole. We should develop the courage to say No to inducements.
At the last election the issue of vote buying featured prominently in the election and virtually all of the parties ate guilty of this. But after then we have not heard of the prosecution of anyone. Does that say anything about our politics?
For me I would say that it is quite unfortunate. It is the society that we all live in. It is scary when you look at the future in the light of your analysis. If you take time to picture what happens to our nations in the next five to ten twenty years it is a very scary scenario.
You are a Pastor of a Pentecostal extraction, how are you able to manage the image problem that politicians are bad people and your pastoral duty of winning Souls. This is in the light of the position you hold bearing in mind the manipulations that go on out there?
Yes I am Pastor but before being a Pastor I am a Christian. And as a Christian I am expected to play by the rules. What that means is that first you must be a person of integrity. I see it and do it the way it is. However, it goes you will be held accountable for all your actions, if not by man then by God someday. Yes, I am a politician but beyond that I am a Management Consultant. But the truth of the matter is that I have my own personal convictions of the way things should be and for me that is what I am doing. That is why I said to you in the beginning that I am a systems person. I owe loyalty to my party and party leadership 100%. You will never get to find me in political party activities as a rebel because that is not encouraged.
The kind of politics we play in this country is one that challenges strongly your integrity. We come across situations you may be forced to bend the rules, compromise, play balls, manipulate issues etc. What do you do when you are confronted by that situation?
I have been the Secretary of the party in the last four years and those who have related with me or worked with me should be able to answer that question. No compromise at all because I am aware and operate with the understanding that I am answerable for all my actions. I can’t live in the denial of it that everything that I do right now I am going to answer for it someday. Whatever I am going to do right now to offend God, the highest thing it can do for me is to give me financial gratification. And again the risk that I am facing is very minimal because I am not running for a political office. I will not run for a political office until God says so.
Why do you think Christians show apathy in partisan politics?
It is simply put, I stand to be corrected, Ignorance. It doesn’t matter how good you clean up a pig, it is a matter of time it goes back to dirt. If Christians know that all it takes to help society is to get out there and act out our convictions they will not be doing what they are doing. I am conscious of whatever I do as the Secretary of APGA because people know that I am of the Winners Chapel. And within the system I have church members no matter how small and I am conscious of my conduct before them. I do not need to do things that will misrepresent God or man in any manner.
What advice do you have for APGA faithful and Imo people?
For me I would like to tell Imolites like they have always done to keep hope with APGA. Very soon a true genuine APGA governor will emerge and when that happens the party can now be judged in the light of what they have achieved. We mean somebody that will win like in the Anambra of Peter Obi, working with the manifestoes of the party. Then it will be easier to give the verdict of whether the party is a good one or not. I will want Imolites to stay with APGA. All the aggrieved members should see politics as a sporting event where you win or lose and if you lose out we should realize that there is a limit to what we can do as individuals. God is the only sovereign entity.
Thanks for your time