By Ndubuisi Orji
Anthony Odey Ochicha, chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Cross River State and former governorship candidate in 2015 is not the typical run-off-the mill politician. He believes that politics is nothing if it cannot promote the welfare and wellbeing of the populace. A self-acclaimed progressive democrat, he voluntarily retired from his lucrative job at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) five years before his due date to serve. In 2015, he ran on the ticket of the All Progressives Congress but lost to incumbent Governor Ben Ayade.
With his eyes on the senate, Ochicha speaks on challenges confronting the APC, the anti-graft war, insecurity across the land, the 2023 general elections and sundry issues.
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In 2015, you contested for governorship of Cross River State on the ticket of APC and lost. What has been your lot since then?
It is sad indeed that I was abandoned and forsaken. There is no reward system in our party. Those who just jumped into the party from nowhere, who didn’t sacrifice like I sacrificed, were offered juicy appointments. I made a huge sacrifice for our party. The party leadership, for me, was responsible for the neglect. I hold the party and the president responsible, not the people that came and grabbed these positions. I do not blame those who came and grabbed it. It is our party and the president, our leader, who allowed it. So, I hold the president and our party responsible for the treatment I received.
The party has been unjust and unfair to me. I left my lucrative and juicy job at NNPC, five years to retirement, to come and run for governorship. By God’s grace I won my primary landslide, took the party to all the 196 wards, to all the palaces, and interest groups. I lost to Governor Ben Ayade, only for me to be treated in such an unfair manner. it should never have happened that way.
I have been told several times that this sort of thing does not happen in PDP. The party ought to have recognised the enormous sacrifice I made, and ought to have done for me what was done for my counterparts in Rivers State. Dakuku Peterside was rewarded with a DG NIMASA, Umana Umana of Akwa Ibom State was also rewarded with an MD of a parastatal. He is still an MD till today. So, why should my case be different? Was it because I was from Cross River or what? It was the party and the leadership that I held responsible, I still cannot blame those who came in and took what should have come to me.
But you were alleged to have been compromised following the manner you quickly congratulated your opponent, Governor Ben Ayade of the then PDP.
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They said that out of sheer ignorance. The truth is that they do not know who Odey Ochicha is. Everybody has his own style of politics. Politics is not aggression, it is not confrontation, they should try and do an assessment of some of the chieftains of the party at both national and the state levels with aggressive tendencies and how they ended. So, politics is about persuasion, just like leadership. Leadership according to John C. Maxwell is simply influence. I am a professional leadership expert. I know what leadership entails. It is about persuasion, it is all about networking, it is about influence, it is about convincing you in a superior argument. It is about lobbying. it is not fighting. We call that “politricks” not politics. Unknown to those critics, I studied political science as a first degree and I have a master’s in Labour Science. So, I know how politics is played. It is not about instigating a crisis. Of course, that was the method people wanted me to adopt. They should ask themselves where is Donald Trump today? He was confrontational, aggressive, talking down on people but where is he now? He could not win a second term. So, again, leadership is all about lobbying, and I’ve been doing that. Lobby is a veritable tool in democracy. You lobby, you network, you apply what I call the three Cs, what are the three Cs? communication, consultation, connection with the powers that be, the leadership of the party, to get what you want. And I have been doing that. You think politics is only by coming out to fight? No! That is not politics at all. You network, you persuade, you lobby to get what you want. That is what I call refined politics, and Ochicha plays refined politics not crooked politics that has taken Nigeria nowhere. That has always resulted in violence and deaths. Do you think leadership is about violence, to kill people? No. It is to lead, to serve. And they do not know that I am a lover of cooperative society. And I like the motto of the cooperative society so much, which is “improving the welfare of the people.” And that is what leadership should be about. To improve the welfare of the people you lead; creating a better society to make people happy.
What next for Ochicha?
Though I have not declared, I intend to run for the Senate. We had a meeting with our state chairman of our party in Calabar, with a view to coming up with a consensus candidate. So that is what I have in mind if I am given the opportunity to serve as a senator. In line with our zoning arrangement, it will not be fair for anybody to aspire from the Northern Senatorial District to run for the governorship of the state in 2023.
What is your assessment of the APC seven years down the line?
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I would not say APC has earned the trust and confidence of Nigerians. However, I can say that there have been a few highs. The few highs could be seen in the area of infrastructure. President Muhammadu Buhari has recorded significant milestones on road infrastructure. One of such milestones is the soon to be completed second Niger Bridge. You know the PDP started the project and so far, we have been able to take it to a near completion level. No doubt, by October this year, it is likely to be commissioned.
Apart from the Second Niger Bridge, APC has done remarkably well on road infrastructure.
Basically speaking, there are some areas our party has done well, and there are also areas it has not done well.
The APC came on the back of three cardinal agenda – rebuilding the economy, fighting corruption and tackling insecurity. While I could say the government has done the best it could, but it is yet to meet the expectations of Nigeria based on the three mantra of improving the economy, fighting corruption and tackling insecurity. The economy is not in a good shape yet, the security of the country is still facing a big challenge arising from Boko Haram, armed banditry, killer herdsmen, kidnappings. The government has done its best to contain them but it is still work in progress. Corruption is still a big challenge, however, the government is doing its best to curb it. I would like Nigerians to know that a country that is corrupt cannot develop. So, seven years later, I will say that it is not yet Uhuru.
One major criticism of the APC administration is that of its inability or outright failure, if you like, to manage the country’s diversity. Do you agree with this?
I agree completely. One sore point that I have observed for seven years now is the lack of inclusiveness. One of the mistakes that is often made is the exclusion of some regions from governance. For me, there should be total inclusion not exclusion. Good governance is about inclusion, carrying everybody along.
For instance, the South East, when it comes to appointment, the region has been aggrieved. The resultant or cumulative effect of this is the separatist movement we are witnessing. If they have been carried along, I do not think there would even be a separatist movement. So in that area, I do not think we have done well as a party.
And this should be a wake up call for leadership in the future that they should carry everybody along, involve everybody in order to achieve the three Ps of leadership which is peace, progress and prosperity. And you can call it the three Ps of leadership, because without peace there can be no progress, without progress there can be no prosperity.
What is your position on the N100 million APC is charging for its nomination form?
It is outrageous. That is the truth. It is outrageous. It is too much. We are a progressive party, and so, our nomination fee ought to be lower than that of the PDP. So, for me, there is no justification at all. I’m a progressive democrat. I’m not just a democrat but a progressive democrat. I do not subscribe to the huge nomination fee. It is outrageous, and it should not have been so. It is not encouraging at all. And we are a party promoting the ‘”not too young to run” which is about carrying the youths along. So where do you expect the youths to cough out N50 million if they are to run for the governorship? As a progressive party, we should also be progressive-minded.