Prince Benjamin Apugo, is a member of Board of Trustees (BoT) of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), as well as national caucus member of the party. In this interview with select journalists, Prince Apugo argues that the main opposition party PDP, lacks the capacity to unseat President Buhari. He says the success of the APC presidential candidate in the 2019 election, will pave the way for an Igbo to become the country’s president in 2023. MIKE UBANI was there for The AUTHORITY.
What is the possibility that President Muhammadu Buhari, will win the February 16, 2019 presidential election?
President Buhari will definitely win the February 16, 2019 presidential election. As far as I am concerned, he has no rival.
Don’t you think that the PDP presidential candidate Atiku Abubakar, will pose a big challenge to Buhari’s candidature?
I told you that President Buhari has no rival. Atiku is an individual while PDP is a political party. The Nigerian people have rejected PDP, and so every candidate presented by PDP for the next general elections will stand rejected by the electorate.
Are you not worried that Mr. Peter Obi’s nomination as Atiku’s running-mate, would make PDP overrun the South-East in 2019?
Well, you see Obi is only one man, and you know that in Igbo land we have a proverb which says that a ‘tree cannot make a forest.” Obi alone does not make up Igbo land. The Igbo is the second largest ethnic group in Nigeria, and if you pick Obi as your running mate, it does not mean you’ve picked the entire Igbo race. So, picking Obi as running mate to Atiku will not constitute a threat to President Buhari in the South-East.
Do you also think that the reported endorsement of Atiku by Ohaneze, will not affect the chances of APC in Igbo land?
How many Igbos are members of Ohaneze? I’m not a member of Ohaneze and so do many people in Igbo land. In fact 95 percent of the Igbo are not members of Ohaneze, and they don’t even know whether such organization exists. You only hear of Ohanaeze during electioneering period, because some people want to use the platform to make money for themselves at the detriment of the Igbo people. Can anybody in Ohanaeze tell you the strength of that organization? So, let’s forget about Ohaneze.
You are an advocate of a president of Nigeria from Igbo extraction. Now that Atiku has picked Obi as running mate, is the South-East going to go the way of PDP or remain with APC to achieve that dream?
Look, we don’t need to think twice about that. APC is the shortest route for the Igbo man to be president of Nigeria. We are waiting for only four years for an Igbo man to be president of this country. Do we need to be told? So, APC is where we have the chance of producing a Nigerian president from Igbo extraction. And therefore, every Igbo man and woman should support the second term bid of President Buhari. His success in the 2019 presidential election will pave the way for the Igbo to produce a president in 2023.
What is your reaction to the rumour that President Buhari will hand over power in 2023 to Senator Bola Tinubu, and not to any Igbo man.
Buhari cannot hand over power to anybody. He doesn’t have that power to do so. It is the people that will hand over power to somebody. So, Buhari won’t do that and there is nothing like that in the APC constitution.
Do you think there is adequate awareness in the South-East concerning what Mr. President has been doing in the zone in terms of empowerment etc? It seems that many people are not aware of the federal government’s programme in the zone.
That is quite correct. This is a very pathetic story. The social empowerment programme of Mr. President have been hijacked by the governors particularly that of Abia who just sat down in his office, write lists and collect the funds including the school feeding programme, whereas he is not feeding anybody.
What’s your reaction on the crisis between some APC governors and the national chairman of the party?
Well, that is an internal issue and I am not going to tell you how we are going to solve it.
In 2015, change got to many states but it didn’t get to Abia, are we sure that come 2019, that change will come to the state?
From what I have heard and seen, the people of Abia state love APC totally, and I know APC will win in Abia. Abia need a change in 2019 because we want to run out from this horrible bondage that we had entered into since 1999. You can see that for 20 years, we don’t have social amenities In Abia state; no empowerment programme, and those things that will make life meaningful are lacking in this state. A Yoruba man whom I met at the airport the other day, and who didn’t know where I came from, asked to know where Abia state is located when some passengers told him their final destination was Abia state. The man said he only sees Abia state on the map of Nigeria. This is laughable, but the truth remains that nothing is happening in Abia state. How many times have you seen players coming here to play football in our stadium? Or have you seen any European in Abia since Okezie Ikpeazu became governor. Europeans have never visited Abia from the administration of T.A Orji, What are they coming here to do? UNICEF is not here; nothing is happening here. The present government of Abia state is in total coma.
What are the APC leaders in the state doing to resolve the crisis rocking the state chapter of the party, instead of going to court?
The court cases are being financed by PDP. Ikechi Emenike, is being financed by PDP. I registered Emenike, in APC. I made one man called Ndukwe whom Emenike claims to be the state chairman of AP, secretary of APC in Abia state. This is not the first time Emenike has gone to court. He went to court in ANPP; he went to court in PDP; he is a chronic litigator. But he should know that the party is supreme. Emenike did not contest the APC governorship primary in Abia. Even if he had contested, did he win? How many votes did he score when he contested the governorship here on the platform of ANPP? To be frank with you, the state leadership of the party did not act well; They didn’t do what they were supposed to do when Emenike started causing problem to the party. He should have long been suspended from the party. The PDP gave him money to destabilize the APC in the state. The PDP did the same thing in APGA.
What’s your reaction to the position of some governors who said they would not be able to pay the N30, 000 minimum wage demanded by labour?
You see, why I cannot answer you generally is because there are some governors who have opted to pay. But in the case of Abia state where workers are being owed for more than one year in some cases when the minimum wage is N18, 000, then how can one be talking about N30, 000 when people are dying here of hunger for not being paid their salaries for months.
Going by the level of their performance, do you think some NASS members from Abia state deserve to be re-elected?
This question is laughable in the sense that if we have representative in the National Assembly, we do not know. I am telling you that nobody is representing Abia at the National Assembly. If anybody is representing Abia, let him come out and tell us what he has achieved all these years. None of them has sunk even a borehole in his constituency. I heard the other day that T.A Orji was boasting of what he has attracted to his constituency, but the question is: If he was governor for 8 years, and chief of staff to Orji Uzor Kalu, for 8 years, and didn’t do anything, is it now that he is at the National Assembly, that he will do something for his people?
It was reported last week that EFCC quizzed the former governor of the state, Chief T.A. Orji. But this was denied in some quarters. As a concerned Abian, can you tell us what actually happened?
Anybody can deny this, but the EFCC spokesman confirmed it. He confirmed that the former governor was in their office following a petition against him. We have looked at it and it’s real. That is the first petition. Even we understand that some people are calling for his wife and son to be picked, and so, what are we talking about? Can you cover what T.A Orji did in this state? Not when he is boasting that EFCC is in his pocket, we will find out where that his pocket is since he owns EFCC. If he owns the EFCC of today, he will not own the EFCC of tomorrow.
Do you see the action of the EFCC as meaning that past leaders should account for their stewardship?
Any government that is serious about fighting corruption should be able to call the past leaders to account for their stewardship.
The group that wrote a petition to EFCC alleged that TA embezzled about N747b, but EFCC was said to have quizzed him over N27b. Do you think the anti-graft agency knows what it is doing?
I believe the N27b issue marks the beginning of more inquisitions against the former governor, though I learnt that he claimed that his reported quizzing by the EFCC was fake news. But he made a statement to EFCC operatives, and was allowed to go on bail. We’ll not know the true position of things until he is arraigned in court over this latest allegation. But you know that there are several cases against in the court, including the one at the Federal High Court, Lagos, which was instituted against him before he became governor in 2007.