Chief Victor Umeh, a former Chairman of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, represented Anambra Central Senatorial District during the 8th National Assembly. He speaks with FRIDAY OLOKOR on why he left APGA for the Labour Party and why he is running for the Senate in the 2023 elections
What prompted your decision to leave APGA, the party you have worked with over the years for the Labour party?
Well, looking at Nigeria today, you will see that everybody ought to be desperate to get a proper person elected the president of Nigeria come 2023.
I have been working hard with a lot of people to see that we have a president that will take care of the needs of Nigerians and looking around the political parties as they are presently constituted, Mr Peter Obi’s emergence as the presidential candidate of Labour party has created a new movement in Nigeria.
Remember that Peter Obi’s coming into politics started with me; we started it together in 2001 and we led a very revolutionary struggle in Anambra State before he emerged as the governor of the state and he worked very hard to reposition the state.
So now that Nigeria is in great need of a president that can manage our resources; Nigeria is a country that has been blessed by God with plenty but with a sad story of the mismanagement of those resources which has left the citizens in abject poverty and anxiety. Peter Obi is that person who gave his wealth of experience in husbanding resources. If he becomes the president of Nigeria, most of those things that are holding us back will be taken care of. So he has a lot of visionary ideas in education, the economy, and social responsibility.
Kindly unravel the incidents that led to your removal from the Senate. Was it because you didn’t get more support again from APGA?
I was not removed from the Senate. The term I had was eating deeply into by senseless litigation but I was there for just 17months before the end of the 8th senate and within those months, I made a great imprint in the senate. Then I tried to come back in 2019 but I couldn’t because I’m from the same senatorial district as Mr Peter Obi, and he was the vice-presidential candidate of the PDP, so our people voted for PDP, whose candidate got a default victory.
What do you expect in 2023 since you are now with Obi, whose name is a movement like you said?
Yes, ever since that unfortunate incident in 2019, our people regretted what happened because Obi could not win the presidential election with Atiku and me that they preferred to be in the Senate could not return, so the gap or the vacuum remained and my people have been yearning for my return to the Senate.
Now that God has designed my reunion with Peter Obi, our people have been celebrating and your guess is good as mine. It was Mr Peter Obi who invited me to join him in the Labour party.
Everybody knows that you worked for and endorsed your friend and brother, the incumbent governor, Charles Soludo, with whom you cemented APGA in Anambra State, talk about the relationship you share now
What I do in my life is that wherever I find myself, I do the best I can to improve the fortunes of that place. While in APGA, I gave APGA my life, I did everything, it didn’t matter who was the candidate. Yes, I supported Soludo as you attested to and I am happy that they won the election and he is governing the state which is the beat now and I have moved on.
Did Soludo make any effort to make you stay or mount any pressure?
The decision to leave was mine. Nobody would have put pressure on me not to do what I had chosen to do. Whether he put pressure or not didn’t matter. But the point I made is that in Nigeria, Peter Obi is good to go as the president of Nigeria in 2023 and that is more important than any other consideration for me.
Does the Labour party have a formidable membership in the north?
The Labour Party was registered by the Nigerian Labour Congress, so the workers of Nigeria are the owners of the party. There are workers in all parts of Nigeria, so the party is not in want of somebody they can take up from any part of Nigeria to serve Nigeria. So, I am sure they will be able to make a very good inroad because this party is a party of the masses. The masses have the voter cards and the masses are the people that elected the President.
The NLC has said that the LP is theirs, asked members to register and get their PVC for a new dawn in Nigeria, a medium to usher in Mr Obi’s presidency.
Talk about the Labour Party’s influence in the South-West and relatively about other zones?
That is the shock that will come to Nigerians in 2023, this election is no longer about the divisions we have had in Nigeria in the past. This election is going to enthrone a new order in Nigeria.
The youth of this country have taken up the challenge to remake and rebuild Nigeria along the line of competence and modernity, which is in vogue globally. They want a 21st-century compliant president, an innovative president that will be elected solely on merit and competency.
The Labour Party movement is like the #EndSARS movement when the youth rebelled against the authorities, now they want a change which will be anchored on the versatility of a younger person that is in a position to provide purposeful leadership.
In essence, Obi is going to strike a shocker in 2023, is that it?
Obi is going to win the presidential election. The truth is Peter Obi represents the hope for a new Nigeria.
Youths listen to him speak, he didn’t go to anybody’s house to ask him or her for support but he has been on the mainstream media selling what an ideal society should be, the things to expect in a country that wants to succeed and those things he has been saying have connected with the younger generation. The things he has been saying are the things that will turn this country around; he said he is going to turn Nigeria into a production economy and not a consumption economy. If you don’t produce and you consume, one day you will finish everything.
Obi has condemned the level of borrowing to finance the nation’s programmes and he thinks that excessive borrowing has a day that will take its toll. So every time we hear about trillions of dollars we are borrowing as if it will not be paid someday, we must pay it back. So somebody who has that fiscal discipline is the type of person that will manage Nigeria.
Nigeria is haemorrhaging heavily, financially, and we need somebody who will block the leakages from where the country loses so much money and plough back the money into developing the economy.
The Labour Party appears to be divided; is this not going to be a threat to Obi’s presidency in 2023?
The Labour Party is not divided. You know the Nigerian public is always more interested in hearing that there is a problem that can be discussed, when there is peace they don’t discuss it. There is no faction in the Labour Party.
The Nigerian Labour Congress and the TUC that registered the Labour Party spoke yesterday through the National Chairman of NLC, Ayuba Waba. They registered the party and the leader of the party in terms of the chairman is Julius Abure. INEC says there is no faction in the Labour Party and that the chairman they know is Julius Abure; so anybody who is saying otherwise is operating outside the party.
Is there any genuine information about the Labour Party’s alliance with the NNPP, through Kwankwaso, to get hold of the north?
Well, I am not in the position to formulate policies for the Labour Party; I am a new member here. I will just key in with the visions of the party. The leadership of the party will decide on steps to take to secure votes for the victory in 2023 and once that pathway is given I will follow it.
Is it on the agenda of Obi to restructure Nigeria, if elected?
Peter Obi has his manifesto, I will advise you to get a copy of his manifesto. As for me, I am interested in Nigeria being restructured. Part of the reasons I chose to run for the Senate is to help to be present when a lot of knotty issues will be discussed on the way to chart a new way for Nigeria.
You are going to the Senate to among other things push for restructuring?
This is a common agenda in Nigeria. We want to see a democratic way of rearranging ourselves to make the country more functional, more cohesive and more peaceful so that development can follow.
If the country continues to be in strife, with various agitations across the country, and many security challenges on their way, we cannot pretend that things are good. Things are not good, we have to remove those sources of aggression against the Nigerian state and the only thing that can cure it will be looking at those things that are breeding these problems and deal with them and the country will move smoothly.