Sunday, April 14, 2024

Labour Party is the party to beat in Imo governorship polls – Basil Maduka

Chief Basil Maduka is a technocrat, oil business magnate and a chieftain of the Labour Party in Imo State. Maduka contested the controversial governorship primary of the LP in Imo State and dragged the matter to the Supreme Court. In this interview with BENEDICT NWACHUKWU, he speaks on why he took the party to court, his realignment with the LP, support for the party’s flag bearer, Athan Achonu and while Governor Hope Uzodimma will lose the forthcoming election to Achonu, among others. Excerpts:

Three primaries were held in Imo State for the governorship election, which of the factions conducted your primary?

There was no exco in Imo State. Because of the situation and what happened in the presidential election, the party by its wisdom, led by Barrister Julius Abure dissolved the state exco because of the confusion that came on board during the presidential election; where they saw that the existing exco then had overstayed their tenure.

They needed to conduct the primaries. The leadership of Abure dissolved the current exco as at that time and set up another interim state working committee. So the last exco did handover of the party, they took off. But two weeks after that, there was a court injunction.

The party office was sealed. Behold, we were told that some four Hilux buses came from the government house to seal off the party.

The court injunction said the status quo should remain. But there was an exco sworn in already, their names were in INEC. That was part of the genesis of the problem. It was Abure who signed the appointment letter for them.

Because of that court injunction, the party by its wisdom asked stakeholders in Abuja, what is the way forward? So along the line, the party by its wisdom set up a committee to handle the primary election.

Their mandate was to revalidate the party’s register, conduct primaries and hold congress within those three months. The already existing exco said they have to conduct the primaries since their tenure has not expired. The committee set up by Abure was also there, that was how we had two parallel primaries.

These people who already existed as exco had to now produce me as the authentic candidate because the matter was still in court.

The committee set up by Abure produced another candidate. So we then said let the court interpret who is the authentic candidate. It was much later we began to hear there is someone called Lamidi Apapa. It was in the process of court we heard there was another person who claimed that he did primaries, we then asked him how come, on which structure, who did the primary?

That was how we started hearing about Apapa. So, since the matter was in court, let the court interpret. One group was the state working committee set up by Abure, the other one, was a committee set up by him also to supervise the primaries as a result of that court injunction because the party is always supreme.

Any primary of that nature, the national leadership of the party must come to supervise, it was in this process we now heard there was somebody else who came and did his own on a Sunday, which we all know that INEC does not work on Sunday. That was how we began to hear about Apapa, it was on social media I first heard about him.

You took the party to court and the Supreme Court has already decided. And the party is saying that you are no longer a member of the party. What is your position now in the Labour Party?

Who are the people saying that I’m not known in the party? Nobody can say that in Imo State. You know when some people want to be relevant through social media or wherever they will say what they cannot substantiate.

Somebody who formed the party, financed the party till after the presidential election. Now, somebody is telling you that you’re not known in the party, that is to tell you that something is happening somewhere. As a result of those two primaries, because these people now produced me as a candidate and the committee also had a candidate which is Senator Achonu. Those are the two known candidates. This one was a committee; this one was the people already in court. So we had to go to court so that the court could interpret who the authentic candidate was.

At the end of the day, the Supreme Court in its wisdom decided that this is the candidate. You can’t challenge the law and when a matter has gone to the Supreme Court, you have to accept it because there’s a law. And today, we will make sure that our party wins, because I’ve invested a lot. I’m the highest investor, so my party in Imo State has to win. Nobody from Imo State can tell you that Basil Maduka is not known.

Let me show you the structure I set up in Imo State as regards the Labour party. I set up the party and I am also the major financier of what we called The Big Tent.

The Big Tent has structures in 305 wards funded by me. The Obi/Datti movement has so many support groups, as I said today, 55 support groups (Obi/Datti). I merged them together and funded them. Each of them has a structure in 305 wards. There is the Basil Maduka Movement, there is the Restoration Agenda. All these people have structures in 305 wards. So you can imagine who owns the party in Imo State.

Yes, the Supreme Court has taken its decision. It is these crowds that will determine who wins the governorship of Imo State.

What was the role of Peter Obi in this crisis and categorically tell us, are you working for a Labour Party in Imo State in this election?

As we speak, the Supreme Court matter just ended and I have addressed all my supporters on Saturday. I called all the unit heads, the 55 support groups, Basil Maduka Movements and the state exco, I addressed them on Saturday. That was my first outing because the election is three weeks away. Again as you said, our principal, Mr. Peter Obi, our presidential candidate, I followed him during his campaign and in his own wisdom, when the matter was in court; he said anyhow the party goes he’s going to support whoever.

But as at that time, Senator Achonu’s name was already with INEC, it was not yet removed. So he came and flagged off the campaign because a party must produce a candidate.

Since the Supreme Court has ended it, we have a candidate, definitely our candidate will fly.

Will you support the candidate?

Yes. As on Friday and Saturday, we had our meetings, when I called everybody that the case was over with the Supreme Court judgment, I had to tell them this is the way everything played out.

I told them that everyone should remain steadfast and our party, LP, is the party to beat in Imo. That I’m going to call them again to give all of them directives.

I will now ask our candidate, how far are you doing, what kind of support? Is it financial support or the entire crowd because our party must win, our party in Imo State must win because I have invested a lot. Where will I go? Which other party? Our party, the Labour Party, must win.

“Imo State is not an APC state and they know the person they follow, Mr. Basil Maduka. Gentleman, with all the entire structure, this party must win. That’s the only thing they need from me”

Going by the legal battle that has threatened to rattle your party in Imo State, what are the chances of your party winning this election?

I think I had the major followers because when I left the People’s Democratic Party, I collapsed almost 60% of the PDP into the Labour Party. They are trying to hear from me. I’ve shown you the number of followers I have. The party doesn’t matter again. We are no more in court; the party is no more in court. So we have a candidate today, Senator Athan Achonu.

Are you not threatened by the leadership of Governor Hope Uzodimma?

Imo State is not an APC state and they know the person they follow, Mr. Basil Maduka. Gentleman, with all the entire structure, this party must win. That’s the only thing they need from me.

The first outing I had was that of Saturday telling them how everything went. Yes, the incumbent is there, but what has the incumbent done?

Moreover, his (Uzodimma) zone has been in power for over 20 years. The Orlu zone has been in power for 20 years. Owerri zone and Okigwe are being marginalized. Okigwe did one tenure, during the time of Ikedi Ohakim. That is where Senator Achonu comes from. They had only one chance. Owerri zone did only seven months when Emeka Ihedioha had only seven months. So the Imolites today are asking for power from the Owerri Zone or Okigwe and our candidate who is from Okigwe stands a better chance. Giving the incumbent another opportunity, 24 years, that’s the biggest cheat.

Sir, because of insecurity in Imo State, don’t you think the forthcoming election might witness voters’ apathy?

We will rally our supporters against voters’ apathy during the election. The insecurity you talked about in Imo State is human made. I said this because in governance what is most important is how your people feel you as a governor, what is their problem? You need to know their problem and agitation.

When thousands of youths are roaming the streets without jobs for them, they are jobless, doing nothing, there must be agitation. So, if the incumbent governor will now look inward and say why this, I think Uzodimma should be in a better position to explain why the sudden insecurity ravaging the state.

So, what is your party doing to mobilise voters to come out to cast their votes?

Well, at least we are back to base now and we will do everything possible to make sure that our party wins this election because all this while we were in court but the court has settled the disaffection between us.

The Supreme Court has taken a decision, therefore we have to reclaim our mandate and that’s what we are going to do in this election. So, I will advise our people to make sure that they come out en masse and vote for the Labour Party.

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