Former National Chairman of the deregistered United Progressives Party (UPP) Chekwas Okorie, recently took his party to merge into the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) In this interview, with MAURICE OKOAFOR in Enugu, Okorie renewed his call for the introduction of electronic voting by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), as Post COVID-19 measures to ensure transparency. He also looked at the economy, praying that our economy will not degenerate into depression. He asserted that post COVID-19 economy will curtail social life among the people and will ginger technology in every mode of life.
Okorie also emphasized that APC remains the party to beat, even as he maintained his call for Igbo president, as well as how APC will take over the South East Zone in 2023.
What are the hopes that our economy will survive after COVID- 19 pandemic?
Well the economy is already in a very terrible stage. The economy worldwide is under recession. We are just praying that it won’t degenerate into depression. Nigeria has been compelled to review it’s 2020 budget. The income of private companies and those of government are on decline. There is no hope that when COVID-19 pandemic will go that things and economy will stabilize easily. But be that as it may, there is no doubt in my mind that the economy will not be the same again.
In your view, what would you see as the effects of COVID-19 pandemic in the nation’s politics. Do you feel it is likely to affect already scheduled INEC election time table.
The idea of staging political rallies and expect large crowd to converge will become less popular. One of the lessons that would be learnt is that we wont need mass rallies for parties and for you to be heard. People will no longer organize rallies to accumulate bills they cannot settle. The use of social media platforms, fliers, handbills, to put across messages will begin to assume relevance. The system of electronic voting which some of us have been clamouring for will now begin to get attention than our present methods which have become outdated among civilized countries.
The present lock down won’t affect elections in Nigeria. Nigerians will adapt to the situation. The elections in Edo and Ondo can be rescheduled. INEC can adjust it timetable, like shifting Edo election to December 2020 and Ondo election to January 2021.The two elections can be held without clustering voters to the polling units.
I don’t think that the Anambra state governorship election in 2021 will suffer any setback. Like I said, technology will take over future conduct of elections. The conduct may not be one hundred percent in the start, but will gradually improve. Other countries are adjusting, Nigeria won’t be an exception.
What are the hopes that the ruling party, APC will concede it’s presidential ticket to South East zone in 2023?.
The prospect of producing Nigerian president of Igbo extraction in 2023 also applies to Igbo in PDP. We joined APC because our party United Progressives Part ([UPP] was de registered by INEC. Having been in the opposition ever since my political carrier, it became pertinent for my party, UPP to move into the ruling party, APC, and continue seeking Igbo relevance in the nation. I have also noticed the enormous challenge in pursuing the project of producing Nigerian president of Igbo extraction on the platform of APC. I will join forces with other Igbo stakeholders in APC in reaching out to other zones of the country to see if God Almighty will answer our prayers in producing Nigerian president of Igbo extraction in 2023, to take over from President Muhammadu Buhari. Even when UPP have not joined APC, we took a decision to support President Buhari to preside for the next four years, after which we expect him to support any Igbo man to become the president of Nigeria in 2023. But you know that nobody gives power. So we need to put our axes together. For me in particular, I don’t wish to be the candidate but my prayer is to be alive to see an Igbo man sworn in as president of Nigeria. I saw Dandy Jackson, Oprah Winnifred and Andrew Young shed tears of joy, to see Obama go to the White house. If our people can develop that kind of attitude, it will help us better. It is true that God gives power,but you have to work for it.This is what we are working on.
The South East APC is already planning a grand reception to welcome us into APC fold. After this, they will lead us to make our presentation to the APC NWC. After that the next presentation will be at presidential level. I have received calls from every top person from South East in APC. They are comfortable with me. I have no doubt that we will work together. I just wish the Igbo in PDP have such collaborative attitude as brothers and sisters I hope those in PDP are doing the same. If they are not doing the same they will account to Ndigbo what they have done with Jonathan and PDP for 16 years, there was no project started and completed across the whole of Igbo land. They must apologize to our people because Igbo people did all their political investment in PDP.
How do you wish to conquer the South East zone?
As soon as the COVID- 19 pandemic is over, the grand reception for us from UPP will hold. I chief Chekwas Okorie will work with other stakeholders to ensure peace is enthroned in every state in the South East zone where there is rancour. The APC Anambra state chapter is also planning a reception for UPP in the state that collapsed it’s structure into APC. I have promised to be there. I have already committed , myself to participate actively in the 2021 Anambra state governorship election. APC is already in control of Imo state. God’s wiling after winning Anambra state governorship election in 2021, then the 2023 election will be more realistic. There is no way APC will not take over the South East zone in 2023..