The crisis about the rightful governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Anambra State appears to be getting to its climax following the litigations at the Appeal Court. In an interview with OKEY MADUFORO, its candidate, Mr. Valentine Ozigbo, narrates the journey so far and his prospects of winning the governorship election
Since your emergence as the party’s candidate, there have been unending legal battles. Could you tell us how it has been so far?
We thank the Almighty God for how far we have come and a lot of people have said that our mandate is divine and that the hand of God is on it. I think that is correct.
Some of you must have followed the goings-on before the primary election. For me, I was greatly disturbed when the decision was taken to dissolve the current executive of the party in the state, the reason being that I felt that I have laboured more than any other person in the race.
I started early enough in 2019 and I just have to embark on this campaign journey and I was the most consistent because I never lacked the opportunity to meet with the people but for one or two days I was not at home but I have always been back to Anambra State.
I visited the 21 local government areas and in some of the cases, up to seven times and about six times and some of the people who I was running with only tried once, at most three, four times and so when we conducted an opinion poll and we saw that we were actually high and above any other aspirant.
We had a score of 50 and we got a score higher than any other aspirants put together for a race where you have up to 16 aspirants. For you to get up to 20 or 30 per cent was a big feat and so, I was far more comfortable but not a guarantee that I would have won but coincidentally and it happened.
But because Chris Uba had gone to court through the case of Sam Anyakora of PDP and got that judgment the PDP was left in a quagmire and the only option to be safe was to dissolve the executive.
I know that up till today, we are still explaining to the statutory delegates who did not vote. This is because all of a sudden, the effort of one man changed everything. But we are now trying to remind them that it is the same way salvation can come through one man and by the grace of God, possibly the person talking to you today.
What option were you left with?
So, we were left with one option and the option was to go with the automatic delegates, who have now been nicknamed supper delegates. The automatic delegates have always been in the constitution of the PDP for those who go out there to say it is unconstitutional.
It was the safest thing to do. If you follow through the constitution of PDP, you will see that there are categories of people that are eligible to vote. What that judgment did was to disenfranchise a good number of them and so that now became my fears.
The fears are more because we are dealing with people, who have been former this and former that, who were at some point elected members of National Assembly, Governors, local government chairmen and councillors and former executive members of the party, and so these were not my colleagues before.
Rather, they were colleagues of some of the people I was running the election with who had had interactions with them and for me I was almost going to be considered a disaster but we were strong in faith.
But principally, I had my trust in God and before the primaries, we had taken a poll on the leadership of the party and what we found was that most of them were not with me, from the Bound of Trustees, to National Executive Committee and down to governors of PDP extraction.
So, I went into Dora Akunyili Women Development Centre for the primary election, almost like an orphan. When I looked around, I saw the situation and what came to me was that there was danger but it is said that one with God is majority.
The forces started contending with one another and the bottom line is that at the end of the day, the PDP organised its primary election and thanks to the Deputy Governor of Edo State, who I was meeting for the first time in my life, who did his best and after the primary election and we got to meet for the first time. We can clearly say that the unexpected happened and there was no manipulation.
A lot of governors that I met one, two, three, four, all could not believe it and what shocked me was that on attending the governor’s forum meeting and I ran into some of them; the kind of comment that I was getting was ‘Oh!
You are one that defeated my candidate.’ And so, it could only have been God, who stopped them from coming to Anambra State.
It was the hand of God that the Deputy Governor came to Anambra because he had declined to come but the wife at 6:30am woke him up and told him that he must go and he did. And so, this is a great opportunity for Anambra people to rejoice and also PDP because we are close to victory, in Jesus name!
You were accused of not reaching out to your fellow aspirants after the primary election. How true is this?
The primary election ended that night and by the time I got to the hotel where I was, there was a huge crowd that gathered. They were expecting that we will start popping drinks but we quickly spoke to them and entered the vehicle and off we went.
We headed to Onitsha to pay homage to the leader of PDP, His Excellency, Mr. Peter Obi, and by the time we were done in Onitsha between 3am and 4am, we started heading back to Awka and we were able to grab about one hour of sleep. We proceeded to see Chris Uba.
This is because he had assured us that if anybody emerges from the South, he will abandon all the court cases. So, we went to pay homage to him. We had some discussions but we were surprised at what happened the day after. But we continued on our journey from one aspirant to the other.
The first person I met with was Senator Uche Ekwunife and we pleaded with her to come on board and I was very delighted to see that she had already written her congratulatory message.
That was fascinating. I remember that the very moment I was declared the winner, every aspirant came to congratulate me but for those who did their primary election elsewhere, even though after we had left, we started seeing things in the contrary. But we did not take anything for granted and I moved from Obiora Okonkwo to Maduka to Wilson Udeh and Chris Azubogu.
The next thing was the appeal. We moved to Abuja and the appeal had only one petition by Genevieve Ekwochi. She filed the appeal after the time allowed but they accepted the appeal. I was privileged to be the first candidate among other parties to receive a certificate of return and the first name that was identified by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) but before you knew it, we had one litigation after another and you know what that means and we did not want to take anything for granted.
How did you see this?
I saw that as a distraction, I must say because several allegations, orders and motions were cooked up but we took them as they came. However, we continued to reach out to the stakeholders, top party chieftains and those people, who for whatever reason chose to take a stand against us but to God be the glory, more of the people are with us till date.
So far with the recent Appeal Court ruling I believe things are fast returning to normal and I can assure you that we are going into the election as candidates. I am certain that we will emerge stronger and PDP will be better than it was. People must have wondered how my name was not published. There are two reasons for that.
One of the aspirants, who prayed the court that my name should not be published based on frivolous reasons and requesting for another primary election to be conducted and it appears that the litigant must have been working for another party.
They talked about the missing 17 votes. But I can tell you that no vote was missing. It could be that some people got accredited and left and did not vote. But to say that votes were missing was not correct.
There has been controversy over your choice of running mate. Did Peter Obi have a hand in it as alleged?
For those of you that have worked with me in the past, you can agree with me that I am independent minded and nobody gave me money or any kind of sponsorship. I have no godfather and I do not believe in godfatherism and I cannot be influenced.
Quite alright, we have stakeholders in the party and in politics, you need to make some consultations and I need to be convinced why it must be this way through sound reasoning and plausible arguments.
The leadership of PDP can make suggestions to me about issues but these suggestions must be anchored on merit. Before now, I already knew what I wanted in my running mate and it was between a youth and a woman and from Anambra North Senatorial District.
Also, I chose an Anglican because I am a Catholic to ensure that balance. I decided to run along with Mrs. Azuka Ezemuo because of her huge integrity and large support base.
Nobody imposed her on me. The fact that I ran in an election for two years in the state should have given me an idea of who my deputy would be. I am not one of the people who go to politicians to make empty promises. In fact, I was aboard an aircraft coincidently with Mr. Peter Obi and I told him how I would engage the leadership of Anglican Communion to get my deputy.
I turned down the first list of people they sent to me not because the individuals were not good but there are certain criteria, I insisted must be met. Again, not even Mr. Peter Obi, Tony Elumelu or any other individuals is sponsoring my election. I am sponsoring my election with my money.
People go about talking about what they would do when they get there but all I can tell you is wait, let us get there first and you will see for yourself. I believe in the Anambra project and I believe in the wishes and aspirants of Anambra people for a greater tomorrow.