So far, the recent pronouncement by the party that it will field a presidential candidate has further buoyed its chances in 2019.
■ As party bounces back to reckoning
Magnus Eze (Enugu), Okey Sampson (Aba), Jeff Amaechi Agbodo, Aloysius Attah, (Onitsha), George Onyejiuwa, Stanley Uzoaru (Owerri)
The All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) is seen by many as a regional party that is largely dominated by the Igbo even when the party has continued to win seats in elections in other states of the federation outside Igbo land.
However, in major elections such as gubernatorial and National Assembly, the party has not really taken roots beyond Anambra State, its traditional home. In years past, APGA had made wonderful showing in Imo State, when Rochas Okorocha emerged governor on its platform. Unfortunately, it did not take long before he abandoned the party and joined the All Progressives Congress (APC).
In 2015, APGA was a major contender for the governorship of Abia State, with former Managing Director of Diamond Bank, Chief Alex Otti as its standard bearer giving the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state a good run for their money. The party also won one of the House of Representatives in Abia North and some seats in the state’s House of Assembly.
Today, things appear to be looking up for the party ahead of the 2019 general elections as it has become a beautiful bride again in Anambra, Imo and Abia states. However, it is yet to show any promise in Enugu and Ebonyi states.
It is also expected that the party would make good impacts in Nasarawa; home state of its National Secretary and former Minister of Information, Labaran Maku, as well as in Plateau State.
So far, the recent pronouncement by the party that it will field a presidential candidate has further buoyed its chances in 2019. In fact, as if to confirm the potency of the party, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar was alleged to have concluded arrangement to be its standard bearer with ex-Central Bank of Nigeria Governor, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo as his running mate. The rumour has since been debunked by Atiku’s media team.
This came on the heels of the collapse of alleged deal between APGA’s national leader and Governor of Anambra State, Chief Willie Obiano and President Muhammadu Buhari, that the party would support the president’s re-election bid if he allowed a free and fair election at last year’s gubernatorial poll in the state.
Two prominent leaders of the party; the National Chairman, Chief Victor Oye and a member of the Board of Trustees, Chief Rommy Ezeonwuka, in separate interviews told Sunday Sun that the purported pact with Buhari was a fluke. Oye and Ezeonwuka described it as mere rumour.
But Sunday Sun gathered that beyond the denial by APGA of not entering into any agreement with President Buhari, its new resolve to field a presidential candidate may be another subtle way to give the president leverage as APGA’s presidential candidate will now divide the votes of the PDP in the South-East.
According to a source, the South-East did not support President Buhari in 2015 as most of the votes from the zone then went to the PDP, which made the president to say that the people gave him only five per cent votes. The source said that it is, therefore, better for the APGA to field a presidential candidate that the people of the zone would prefer to the PDP thereby reducing the votes the PDP would garner, and thereby boosting the overall chances of Buhari from his stronghold zones.
There are strong feelings that with what is happening in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party, APGA would be one major beneficiary of the fallout in the country and South-East in particular.
Also the party’s showing in last year’s governorship election in Anambra State where it won all the local government areas now described as 21/21 has been a big boost.
Added to that was the eventual emergence of Chief Victor Umeh, erstwhile National Chairman of the party as a Senator and the defection of Senator Stella Oduah, who is representing Anambra North in the Senate.
At the moment, APGA seems to be the only party parading an array of aspirants for different political positions for the state House of Assembly and the National Assembly in Anambra State while in Imo at the last count those aspiring to fly its gubernatorial flag have hit 24.
With just three weeks to the primary elections of the major political parties, aspirants of the APC and PDP in Anambra State are yet to begin to bring out their posters unlike those of APGA aspirants that are now everywhere.
BoT member, Ezeonwuka gave insight into the goings on in APGA, particularly the alleged pact between Buhari and Obiano: “It was a political rumour. I don’t think Obiano had such agreement with the president or he might have said that out of his own person that was not the decision of the party; where we are going now is the decision of the party, that we shall field a presidential candidate. So, if one person told the president that he will support him for second tenure, it is not for the party, is he supporting him by how? We must keep our house in order; he that goes to equity must keep his hands clean; so we are coming up with our presidential candidate so that we can talk one on one in the field”.
On why the party will field a presidential candidate, he said: “APGA then had no leadership, but now we have good and strong leadership under the person of Chief Willie Obiano. He has shown what it takes to be a good leader as the chairman of board of trustees of the party. The inability of APGA to field a presidential candidate all these while has been a problem to us and had been our predicament in not arriving or getting to where we supposed to be.
“But today, you have discovered that APGA is a beautiful bride and pride of Igbo nation. This is the right time to put the square peg in square hole and round peg in round hole. It is a perfect decision taken at the meeting of Board of Trustees of the party that this time around we shall have a presidential candidate.
“You must know that it is only when you have a presidential candidate that you can negotiate with every other presidential candidate for what is called accord, our great Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Zik of Africa, did it with NPN of Shagari and that was the time Igbo people had the best infrastructural development, for instance, Enugu-Port Harcourt road, Enugu-Onitsha, Enugu-Nsukka, Onitsha-Owerri roads were fixed within four years, just because Zik was able to reach what was called ‘accord concordal’ with NPN.
“So, all along we cannot tell you that we have benefited from the Federal Government because they believed that we are ‘woman wrapper’, we are always in the other room, but this time around we are in the same room now; we are fielding a presidential candidate, we are no more in the other room. So, that’s the beauty of the decision taken by APGA now”.
Imo State Chairman of the party, Peter Ezeobi ruled out possible collaboration with the APC in 2019, saying that “APGA can stand on its own; it’s a national party and not a regional party, we are about the third largest party in the country if you must know”.
Nonetheless, there are fears that managing the current boom of fortunes in the party may be a different ball game during the primary elections, especially as fresh defectors to the party are angling for automatic tickets while other party faithful believe they should be given special consideration having been loyal party members.
An aspirant for the Oyi/Ayamelum Federal Constituency, Chukwurah Abunye- Udo expressed confidence that the party would manage the situation well.
“It is not a do-or-die affair and I also believe that there would not be favourite candidates rather everybody would be given equal opportunity to test his/her popularity during the contest.
“What should also guide our delegates is the personal integrity and acceptability of the aspirant and not one who can share the highest amount of money. In all, I believe that the party would be stronger after the primary elections and not the other way round. The leaders of the party also know the implication of not doing the right things and I believe they will resist any temptation to the contrary,” he said.
Also the former PDP chairman in Imo State and now a chieftain of APGA, Dr. Alex Obi said he was not bothered about the horde of defectors to the party, saying that “those defecting to APGA are welcomed, but when they arrive, they will meet a new order”.
Harping more on the ideology of APGA, which he said has made it party of the moment, Obi stated: “On course of primaries of APGA, nobody seems to control the structure unlike in PDP where party structures that are supposed to be democratically elected are being hijacked by people with ambition to contest in the future, they scuttle the democratic process and hijack the primary process”.
…Array of governorship aspirants in Imo
In 2011, the All Progressives Grand Alliance recorded its major victory in Imo State when Rochas Okorocha won the governorship under the party’s platform after defeating the then incumbent governor, Ikedi Ohakim in what appeared to be a deserving victory for the former.
But the governor was later to dump the party that took him to the echelon of his political career for the All Progressives Congress in controversial circumstances, and contested under the platform in 2015 to retain his seat.
After his exit from APGA, politicians who saw him attain the height in the party started moving in droves to the party to actualise their dreams. Even, Ohakim whom Okorocha defeated in 2011 has recently moved over to APGA to reclaim his seat.
The former governor knows the acceptance level of APGA in Imo and believes that it is solid vehicle that he could use to launch himself back to power, but this will depend if he will be able to get the ticket which is being contested by over 24 aspirants.
Another gubernatorial aspirant of APGA, Dr. Sam Amadi said he joined APGA to redeem the lost glory of the party and inject sanity. He described the party as a spiritual movement and vehicle for Ndigbo to reclaim the integrity and excellence divinely programmed for the people of the zone.
However, fielding a presidential candidate is not the ultimate for Amadi, instead he feels what is important at the moment was for the party to capture the South-East, winning the governorship seats and having a comfortable majority at the National Assembly and state assemblies as well.
But the state chairman of the party, Peter Ezeobi said that the current rush to APGA was because South easterners were fed up with those he called the regular parties in the state.
He said that they were hungry to deviate from the old ways of doing things; hence there are a large number of aspirants there more than any other party in the state.
Aside Ohakim and Amadi, some of the frontline aspirants are the Chief Executive Officer of ABC Transport; Mr. Frank Nneji, Chief Okey Eze, Senator Bright Nwanne, Hon. Uche Onyeagocha, Chief Humphrey Anumudu, Chief Steve Nwoga, Mr. Nick Oparandudu, Comrade Joe Ajaero, Okey Okey , Prof Philip Njemanze and Chief Ike Ibe.
Others are Dr. Ziggy Azike, Chief Charles Onyeagbako, Daniel Kanu and Sir Stanley Amuchie; ex-Executive Director of the Zenith Bank.
Dr Alex Obi described APGA as an organised party with a different philosophy; indicating that aspirants throng to the party because they were aware that APGA would form common coalition to scuttle Okorocha’s plot to foist his Chief of Staff and son-in-law on Imo people.
Interestingly, the majority of the gubernatorial aspirants are from the Owerri senatorial zone who are seriously laying claim that it is now the turn of the zone to produce the next governor of the state having only occupied the exalted seat for a brief period of just 18 months while Okigwe zone had ruled the state for eight years and three months between the late Chief Sam Mbakwe, governor of old Imo State and Ohakim who was at the helm of affairs of the state between 2007 and 2011.
Similarly, Chief Achike Udenwa from Orlu zone governed the state from 1999 to 2007 and with the completion of the second tenure of Okorocha in May 2019, the zone would have ruled the state for 16 years.
Despite the perception by the majority of the people that Okorocha has performed poorly given the high level of poverty, unemployment and collapse of economy in the state, since the inception of his administration, many believe that the restoration of the Imo charter of equity premised on the rotation of the governorship among the three senatorial zones of the state may be a major boost for APGA.
Also the party’s state Publicity Secretary, Dr. George Nkwoji, said that APGA has always won elections in the state, adding that 2019 would not be different as there would not be any power of incumbency, pointing out that “Okorocha is already on his way out after destroying the state. I can assure you that the level of resentment against Okorocha and the APC even if they field Archbishop Obinna as their candidate they will not win and that is why you see the influx of people from both the APC and PDP into the party.”
…Party still hopeful in Abia in 2019
In Abia State, prior to 2014 when Dr. Alex Otti joined the party, APGA merely existed through the undying sacrifice of its immediate past state chairman, Prince Nnanna Ukaegbu who did everything to ensure that the party at least remained afloat in the state.
However, the coming of Otti changed the narrative; APGA from a behind-the-scene actor became a moving train, a political force to be reckoned with. In the 2015 governorship election, its gubernatorial candidate, Otti whom many then described as a political neophyte, bestrode the state’s political landscape like a colossus which earned him the toga of ‘game changer.’
With Otti at the saddle, APGA gave the ruling party, PDP, the scare of its life; in fact, having won 12 out of the 17 local government councils in the state in that election, many believed that APGA won that election, but the final declaration by INEC did not favour the party.
Having performed far above the expectations of many political pundits in 2015, can APGA replicate that feat or has it fizzled out like a morning flower? For the state’s party chairman, Rev Augustine Ehiemere, instead of sizzling, the party in the state is as fit as fiddle and was poised to recover its mandate allegedly stolen by the PDP in 2015, in 2019.
As far as he was concerned, no champion has ever emerged in any competition without preparation and so, “in 2019, we are not going to take chanc- es, APGA is prepared to match force with force, money with money and for security, we are also going to match security with security to make sure we recover our mandate and better the lots of Abians.
“There has always been propaganda by our opponents and political buccaneers purchased within APGA by our opponents that we have no capacity to protect our votes. I want to say that that’s a blatant lie. As far as we are concerned, our votes in the 2015 election were protected and we also know at the point our mandate was stolen, it was not at the polling unit, it was not at the collection centres, we knew where our mandate was stolen. If you talk about security, we secured our votes.
“PDP was in power both in Abia and at the federal level and they controlled the judiciary and they say the judiciary is the last hope of the common man and we knew in that election, at the tribunal and at the Supreme Court, that the mandate of Abians to Dr. Alex Otti was stolen, it wasn’t at the state. So, when you are talking about security of votes of APGA, whenever they say APGA did not secure her votes it’s a blatant lie.”
Ehiemere said no amount of intimidation and harassment of its members by the PDP-led government in the state will stop APGA from grabbing the state come 2019. “What happened in Obingwa recently where APGA was not allowed to hold its rally by thugs hired by the PDP government is a pointer to what I’m saying. It is unfortunate that the PDP sees election in the state as a do-or-die affair and are neck deep in the ‘winner takes all syndrome.’”
For Otti, it is yet morning on creation day as he said that APGA’s exploits in 2015 would be child’s play compared to what would happen in 2019.
His media aide, Ferdinand Ekeoma, said: “We are certainly in a good stead to replicate what we did in 2015, because we are actually more prepared now than we were in 2015, reason being that we have more time now than we had in 2015 to prepare ourselves. Also we have understood the character make-up of our opponents more than we did in 2015, just as we know better the personalities that are part of our project. So, we still have the zeal and energy to do it again, but this time around in a way our victory would be comprehensively secured.