Nseobong Okon-Ekong, Onyebuchi Ezigbo and David-Chyddy Eleke write that the All Progressives Grand Alliance may have returned to the familiar terrain of being bogged down with a case of musical chairs
Typically, it has been a fool’s errand to attempt to write about the series of unending skirmishes and intermittent wars in the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA). The domineering personality of the late Biafran warlord, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu who became the presidential candidate of the party at its formation in 2003 tamed real belligerent tendencies until his demise in November 2011. With the exit of one with such towering influence, all the contending forces in APGA unsheathed their daggers and charged at each other in an unceasing battle.
From the barrage of self-inflicted battering that it has suffered over the years, APGA has awfully come close to extinction, but it keeps bouncing back with an amazing resilience. Arguably, its only saving grace is the self-preservation instinct of a merry band of provocateurs who have mastered the craft of firing the ambition of ethnic jingoists. APGA’s theatre of the absurd is exclusively set in the South-east, where it holds Anambra State as its last-ditch effort at survival. Though, there is imminent possibility of APGA spreading its business to other states in the region, its biggest opportunity was lost when former Anambra State governor, Mr. Peter Obi kicked the party in the butt and sort to snuff life out of it by joining the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) immediately he left office of governor. Instead of joining forces to strengthen the arm of APGA, he became presidential campaign director in the region for former President Goodluck Jonathan.
Frequently advertised as the Third Force in Nigeria’s seeming two-party reality, APGA has itself to blame for upstaging its own effort to spin the vaunted position — by promoting actions that almost certainly end in a fiasco. For almost one decade, APGA leadership has been bogged down with a case of musical chairs. While the public and the media are trying to become familiar with the story of an emerging APGA leadership, that particular episode comes to an unfortunate end; giving way to the beginning of another in the series.
A couple of weeks ago, there was a parallel NEC election in Owerri, Imo State and Awka, Anambra State. Chief Edozie Njoku, a founding member and former National Vice Chairman of the party also claims to have removed Chief Victor Oye from the saddle as National Chairman. While Njoku may not have yet caused maximum damage to APGA, but there is no denying the fact that he has created a crack that can be widened if he Oye stops short of embarking on a needful reconciliation.
The story of the evolution of political parties in Nigeria, especially in the Fourth Republic will definitely not be complete without a good mention of the formation and strides made by APGA. The party has no doubt been able to withstand the highly turbulent political atmosphere in the country. As a result of the turbulence, most of the political parties formed along with APGA have either had their names mutilated or their structure decimated. But APGA has survived a prolonged leadership tussle and maintained its political relevance.
The party was hit by serious leadership crisis shortly after 2003 general election when its pioneer national chairman, Chief Chekwas Okorie, lost grip of the party to the then National Treasurer, Chief Victor Umeh. The resultant power tussle led APGA into one of the longest legal battles ever in the country’s political history. Though the party survived after Umeh won at the Supreme Court, it no doubt had its foundation shaken. Okorie and his supporters left the party. An embittered Okorie said his exit left only the carcass of APGA. But APGA has remained standing after nearly two decades of its existence. Instead of being dismembered or disappear from the political space on account of intra-party feud, the party has become toughened.
APGA’s unique philosophy is almost tied to its slogan – “Be Your Brothers’ and Sister’s Keeper” in the sense that the party seeks to project the bond of fraternity that exists among Nigerians. The party fielded a candidate for the presidential election in 2003 in the person of the late Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu. It only repeated the feat at the last general election when it fielded Gen. John Gbor (rtd.). In four years, the party under the chairmanship of Victor Oye, has recorded milestones by expanding its scope and winning more laurels.
For the first time, APGA won governorship election in a resounding manner, posting victory in all the local government areas in Anambra State. It also scored a first by winning the executive chairmanship of Gwagwalada Area Council in the Federal Capital Teritory (FCT). Gwagwalada being the second highest populated Area Council in Federal Capital Territory (FCT), that victory signposted APGA as a party to watch in the coming elections. Another uniqueness recorded by the party in this season include a successful venture outside its traditional domain in the South-east, to win councillorship positions in the Niger State council election.
Again, the last general election has seen APGA winning more seats in the Bayelsa State House of Assembly elections. It also won the House of Representatives seat in Oturkpo/Ohimini Federal Constituency, Benue State.
APGA repeated the feat of winning most of the House of Representatives seats in Anambra State. On the whole, the party got 10 of its members in various states elected into the Green Chamber. Judging from the number of candidates fielded, the 2019 national elections is one in which APGA has been rewarded with its highest harvest of elected members across Nigeria.
Another positive outcome of the current APGA leadership led by Oye can be seen from the huge financial return it posted after the last general election. Recently, while speaking on the financial status of the party, Oye said APGA realised a total of N1.3 billion from the sale of forms during party primary and funds generated during the last general election. Out of this amount, he said the party spent about N360 million leaving a balance of N940 million. From all indications, the financial status of APGA is a very healthy one when compared along side other political parties of its size. To further show that APGA has come to stay, the party is said to be making arrangements to purchase an edifice in a strategic location in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja which will serve as its national headquarters. This will make APGA the first political party in Nigeria to own a national office in Abuja.
An elated Oye who has been reelected for a second term said that “APGA for the first time is financially stable and can comfortably meet its financial and other related commitments.”
However, this seeming basket of achievements has been dismissed by the former national chairman of APGA and immediate past senator that represented Anambra Central Zone, Senator Victor Umeh. In a leaked e-mail to the Anambra State governor, Chief Willie Obiano, Senator Umeh stated that he had been approached by some of the party’s governorship aspirants in Imo State, with evidence that the incumbent national chairman of the party, Oye was involved in some underhand dealing dealings with the promise to deliver to them the governorship ticket of the party, for the just concluded 2019 governorship election in the state.
The statement read in part, “I am constrained by circumstances to write this mail to you on the activities of Chief Victor Ike Oye which I have a responsibility to bring to your attention. For about two weeks now, I have been approached by some persons from Imo State with complaints of monetary extortion by Chief Victor Oye during the last primaries in Imo State with a request that I pass them to you, to direct Oye to return their monies to them over unkept (sic) transaction. I requested them to furnish me with details of the transactions. I shall forward to you their narratives and documents for your perusal.”
In the letter, Umeh listed Mr. Okey Ezeh, Mr. Stanley Amuchie, Chief Ikedi Ohakim and Chief Humphrey Anumudu as some of those who were extorted by Oye. He went further to allege that the quartet have an axe to grind with Oye and another ranking member of the party, Hon. Chinedu Obidigwe who is now a member of the House of Representatives, representing Anambra East and West federal constituency.
Regrettably, Chief Oye told Mr. Eze that I, Chief Victor Umeh and Archbishop Valerian Okeke were responsible for his inability to honour their agreement. I will forward his written petition to EFCC and some of the bank transactions with Oye and also bring it to the attention of His Grace (Bishop Valerian Okeke).”
The leaked e-mail also showed that Mr. Amuchie a former Chief Operating Officer of Zenith Bank and an aspirant to the ticket of the party in Imo is also holding the duo accountable for failed promises regarding the primaries. Chief Ohakim, a former governor of Imo State is said to have a similar accusation, while Anumudu purported that Oye got a car gift from him, aside from other things which he said he was ready to forgo.
Umeh added that, “I see these as very serious moral issues. I consider these revelations as serious embarrassment to the party and a gross abuse of office by Chief Oye. One unfortunate thing was that they engaged these fellows by dropping your name as supporting their action. These were part of the reasons I told you on the 28th of April, 2019 that Oye is unfit to continue in office as National Chairman of APGA. I believe that it will be futile and damaging to APGA if you continue to support him.”
Meanwhile, the party has been polarized, with some members siding the national chairman, Oye, while others are of the view that his handling of the party, especially his conduct with reference to the governorship primary in Imo state was unacceptable.
Members of the national working committee (NWC) of the party have all aligned with Oye, condemning Umeh’s letter to Governor Obiano, but other stakeholders of the party are backing Umeh for revealing ills in the party, and attempt to cause crisis in the party by bringing the actions of the national chairman before Obiano who is the leader and chairman Board of Trustees of the party.
A statement by the party’s national publicity secretary, Tex Okechukwu after a an emergency meeting of the national working committee read in part, “The NWC condemns in its entirety the leaking of a purported email between Senator Victor Umeh and the Executive Governor of Anambra State as an act of gross indiscretion propelled by delusion.
“The phantom allegations in the email were excerpts from the same hoary fairytales which the NWC has since dismissed as frivolous. To the NWC, it is despicable and invidious that such allegations will continue to be peddled and re-peddled by third parties, instead of the complainants. The general public are urged to disregard the contents of the purported email as a last gasp orchestra of macabre dancers aimed at sabotaging APGA’s successful National Convention of May 31,2019.”
Big wig politicians in the party under the aegis of National Stakeholders Forum and the elected congress chairmen of APGA, rising from a meeting in Abuja stated, “Without fear or favour, Senator Victor Umeh’s letter the Gov. Willie Obiano, who doubles as National leader, and Chairman BoT, was very much in order, and in line with Articles 12(14)(a,b,c & h) of APGA constitution 2019 (as amended), in his capacity as a most senior BoT member, a statutory member as such, and a Senator of the FRN of Nigeria, whose oath of office is to defend the extant Laws of the FRN, which frowns at corrupt practices.”
The group also condemned Obiano for not acting on Umeh’s letter saying, “By not acting on this grave and gross allegation of this magnitude, the National leader ( Gov. Willie Obiano) failed in his capacity to fulfill the trust and enormous responsibility entrusted in Articles 10(1)(2)(3) & (4) of APGA constitution 2014(as amended). We resolve that the action of Senator Victor Umeh, OFR, was in order, and the ignominy attached to the weight of such gross allegation was in bad faith on the part of the National leader, Gov. Willie Obiano.”
While the fight continues between the two men, a source within the party who begged not to be named told THISDAY that Oye has already perfected plans to sack Umeh from the party. He said, “Oye has already reached out to other leaders of the party, and I am afraid that they may sack Umeh who has worked so very hard from the beginning to sustain the party. The only thing that can help Umeh is the court which he is a guru in, because Oye is a man who never relents when he sets out to achieve something, and he is ready to go miles.”
From all indications, the ball now lies squarely in the court of the Anambra State governor, Chief Obiano who is the leader of the party as his inability to call both men to a negotiating table may lead to the loss of the party in the 2021 Anambra governorship election, especially as the PDP is gearing up to take over from APGA in the state.
Before the last general election, the party was almost torn apart by leadership tussle which ended at the Supreme Court. Some stakeholders of the party led by its then National Vice Chairman, the late Ozo Nwabueze Okafor took Oye to court, challenging his position as the national chairman of APGA. Although Okafor, one of the key actors in the face-off later died another supposed member, Martin Agbaso, took up the case and pursued it relentlessly until it crashed at the Supreme Court on July 13, 2018. The apex court ruled in favour of Oye-led NWC.
The end of the legal tussle and its favourable outcome further strengthened the party and perhaps brought more stability which helped it to attract more prominent politicians to its fold. APGA got so many leading politicians, especially from Igbo extraction looking its way as a platform that held many promises in winning elections. This explained the rush for its ticket in the build-up to the 2019 general election. The party came alive with many politicians aspiring to run election on its platform.
This growing confidence in the party could explain why the contest for APGA tickets became very hot and almost cantankerous. The aspirants tried to put in everything they had into winning the primary, and in the end those that lost became highly agitated and disillusioned. Some were able to pick up courage and join other parties to contest on their tickets, while others that were aggrieved over alleged shortcomings in the primary preferred to pursue the legal option. Some of these aggrieved APGA aspirants alleged that they faced extortion during the party primary. They pointed accusing fingers at the Oye-led APGA national leadership. But Oye has since dismissed the allegation of extortion and complaints over the handling of party primary, insisting that all the aspirants were given a fair chance to contest for the party’s ticket under a transparent atmosphere. Oye further said that APGA’s primary was so transparently organised that those who lost were satisfied and could not go to court.
Nonetheless, there are some party stakeholders who are still bent on pushing for Oye’s exit as the national chairman. More so, they said they wanted the position of the national chairman of APGA to be rotated out of Anambra State where it has been in the last 14 years. This group saw it as an auspicious time to launch an attack to oust Oye when his first term in office expired early in June.
The drama started after Oye-led NWC had written the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), to give it notice of the party’s national convention fixed for May 31, 2019.
The aggrieved members went to court to stop the convention from holding, but could not achieve that as it held in Awka, Anambra State capital. Oye was reelected for a new four-year tenure, including some members of the former NWC. Just the same way the APGA national convention was taking place in Anambra State, the rebellious group also staged what they claimed to be a parallel convention to elect officers. The Spokesman of the aggrieved group, Mr. Mic Adams addressed a press conference in Abuja rejecting the reelection of the Oye-led NWC. He also objected to the adoption of a new constitution by the party on the grounds that the National Convention that produced it excluded many stakeholders.
Adams said, “You cannot have a new constitution from a convention where the National Executive Committee meeting that approved it was stopped by a court order. What we are saying is that all decisions taken at that NEC is null and void. As far as we are concerned that constitution is a product of an illegal convention and stands rejected. If you look at the new constitution, you will see impunity. NEC has 16 functions, while the NWC has six functions but they swapped it. They took the entire 16 functions of NEC and gave it to the NWC, not minding that NWC is a standing committee of NEC. NWC is not the owner of the party. NEC owns the party and then the convention.”
From the tone of the statements by these aggrieved APGA members, it appears that they have the backing of the former national chairman and immediate past senator representing Anambra Central, Senator Victor Umeh. The group had quoted copiously from a confidential letter it said the former chairman wrote to the Anambra state governor, complaining of alleged misdeeds of the incumbent national chairman.
Nevertheless, it seems Adams’ group didn’t take cognizance of the fact that there was a judgement by an Ibadan High Court directing the party in unmistakable terms to conduct its national convention not later than June 5, 2019, which was expressly complied with.
But Oye who spoke at the presentation of the party’s new constitution to journalists in Abuja recently insisted that his accusers were merely seeking to take control of the party to position it 2021 governorship election in Anambra State.
He said the sponsors of the current crisis are actually seeking to control the politics of Anambra State as they are afraid their governorship ambition would not fly with him, in view of the announcement by the party that it had zoned the position to Anambra South. According to Oye, “They had wanted to remove the national executive and install a stooge as the new national chairman, someone they would continue to manipulate and control, someone who would just be a figurehead, while they stay by the side dictating to him.” Regarding the new constitution of APGA, Oye said the document was the product of a successful national convention of the party held on May 31, 2019 in Awka, the Anambra State capital. Oye described the dissenting views as that of opportunists. He said there was no distraction in his party, adding, “The party is calm and maintaining high level of tranquility.”
* APGA was formed in 2003 with Chief Chekwas Okorie as its first National Chairman and the late Biafran warlord, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu as its presidential candidate
*For close to one decade, APGA has suffered from a barrage of self-inflicted battering, bringing it close to extinction, but it keeps bouncing back with an amazing resilience, albeit with a leadership bogged down with a case of musical chairs
*The influence of APGA is concentrated in the South-east, particularly in Anambra State
*APGA is frequently advertised as the Third Force in Nigeria’s seeming two-party reality
**The party was hit by serious leadership crisis shortly after 2003 general election when its pioneer national chairman, Chief Chekwas Okorie, lost grip of the party to the then National Treasurer, Chief Victor Umeh. The resultant power tussle led APGA into one of the longest legal battles ever in the country’s political history
*Though the party survived after Umeh won at the Supreme Court, its foundation was shaken. Okorie and his supporters left the party
*APGA won governorship election in a resounding manner, posting victory in all the local government areas in Anambra State
*The party scored a first by winning the executive chairmanship of Gwagwalada Area Council in the Federal Capital Teritory (FCT). Gwagwalada is the second highest populated Area Council in Federal Capital Territory (FCT). Another uniqueness recorded by the party in this season include a successful venture outside its traditional domain in the South-east, to win councillorship positions in the Niger State council election. Again, the last general election has seen APGA winning more seats in the Bayelsa State House of Assembly elections. It also won the House of Representatives seat in Oturkpo/Ohimini Federal Constituency, Benue State
*APGA repeated the feat of winning most of the House of Representatives seats in Anambra State. On the whole, the party got 10 of its members in various states elected into the Green Chamber. The 2019 national elections is one in which APGA has been rewarded with its highest harvest of elected members across Nigeria
*APGA realised a total of N1.3 billion from the sale of forms during party primary and funds generated during the last general election. The party spent about N360 million leaving a balance of N940 million
* Mr. Okey Ezeh, Mr. Stanley Amuchie, Chief Ikedi Ohakim and Chief Humphrey Anumudu; 2019 governorship aspirants in Imo State on the platform of APGA have made grave allegations against Oye
* A couple of weeks ago, there was a parallel NEC election in Owerri, Imo State and Awka, Anambra State. Chief Edozie Njoku, a founding member and former National Vice Chairman of the party also claims to have removed Chief Victor Oye from the saddle as National Chairman