Not many people believe that candidates running under new political parties stand a chance in the 2019 General Election. But in this interview with Ebonyi News Network, Hon. Okey Cletus, the Maja Party contestant for the Afikpo North-West seat in the State House of Assembly explains how his victory will challenge this narrative.
Let’s start from the basics. Why have you decided to run for a seat in the State House of Assembly now?
As you said, I will start from the basics. My name is Hon. Okey Cletus Orji. I am from Amaozara Amata Akpogha, Akpoha development centre, Afikpo North Local Government Area of Ebonyi State. My decision to run at this time is based on the ideal of equity. From inception, there has been a conventional agreement where political offices are rotated among the wards making up Afikpo North-West Constituency. In the light of this, the first person that represented us, that is Abel Oka, came from Ibi -Oziza. The second person, Collins Uche, came from Amasiri while the third person came from Akpoha. Akpoha had to take two more tenures before it returned to Amasiri and Ibi -Oziza because each of them already held other prominent political positions at the time. Since Ibi-Oziza are rounding off their third term now, it was supposed to return to Amasiri to bring the ratio to 3:3:2. But since the current chairman of the Local Government from which the constituency was carved is from Amasiri, the mantle is to fall back to Akpoha. Now in Akpoha, it is the turn of Amata and by the special grace of God, I am from Amata. Moreso, to narrow it down, I have assessed myself politically because I am not the only one from Amata. I am convinced that if given the opportunity, I can deliver credibly. To drive the point home, I have had a brief political litmus test that has served to convince me that if given the opportunity, I will not disappoint my people. That test was my appointment as the ward Coordinator of my area. That appointment lasted for just four months but I left very indelible mark during the period. With the meager resources available, I was able to construct a 3km road and grade some already existing roads. Time did not permit us then to carry out what we had for our people and the same time is what I am looking for now to serve my people well.
Let’s say you win, will it be a political disadvantage if a different party controls the Executive Arm of Government and majority in the State House of Assembly?
Not at all. I think it will give our people political advantage. I will be in the minority and serve as checks and balances. Although in the minority, I will be able to do this effectively. I refer you to Mbakwe, the then Governor of old Imo State who was branded the weeping governor because he would always use tears to influence the Federal Government in favour of his people. Shaghari, the then president would usually ask them, off-handedly, to give the weeping Governor his due.
Will you defect to another political party after winning the election?
Well, no defection ever happens without a good reason. So if there is a good reason for that, I will. If I discover that my defection will serve the interest of my people, I will defect to the ruling party. After all, I am going there to represent my people not myself.
Now let’s talk about projects. Are there specific projects you would tackle if elected into office?
Most of the projects I did while a Coordinator was done from my pocket. My people would say that a project is funded with the available resources. If the state government will make enough resources available for constituency project fund, we will do a lot. If not, we will device other means such as sponsoring bills that will draw the attention of the Executive to my constituency. I know I can do this very well. I have looked into the political situation in this country and discovered a major problem. Leaders give people what they want not what the people want. They use the top-bottom approach. For me, the reverse will be the case, I will prioritise what the people prioritise. I will give the people what they want and not what I want.
Campaign can be capital intensive. Do you have a godfather?
Of Course my godfather is god. Except if you’re talking about a political godfather. Our people would say that any yam tendril that has no tree to hold will not climb. It depends on what one wants the godfather to do. I have godfathers in terms of advisers not sponsors because I do not want to mortgage the future of my people. In fact, this is why I am running under a fresh political party.
Maja party is new. Do you think your party will win this election?
I weighed this question before I took the bold step of running. I give an instance of when chief Hon. Egwu won Afikpo North under the platform of Zero Party. If someone could do that, then I think I can win under Maja Party. It is a matter of constitution. If the law had permitted it, I would have run as an individual candidate. A party is just a vehicle. My people know me and I know them. They believe in me. And I know they will vote for me come 2nd March.
Beyond party lines, what is your general assessment of the current government?
All of us are from Ebonyi State. We know when the State was created. We know how it was at the time. We know how the State was after the last two administrations. We all are witnesses to the inherent growth in the State and we are fully aware that this is due to the current government. So I think the incumbent government has served up to our collective expectation.