Magnus Eze, Enugu
The All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) had a very bright future; an opportunity to reinvent itself, especially in the last general election, but that opportunity was wasted.
At the moment, the party’s future is beclouded by uncertainty, and stakeholders agree that the signs are indeed ominous.
The current crisis rocking the party began with the way and manner its last primaries were conducted across the states, especially in the South East where many termed APGA a ‘Ponzi scheme’.
Nigeria’s former Ambassador to Spain and wife of defunct Biafra leader, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, Mrs. Bianca Ojukwu, alleged that “There were cases where multiple certificates of return were issued to party candidates in the same constituencies. In several instances, no primaries actually took place, and since so much money had been collected from so many aspirants, there was a dilemma as to who to deliver. APGA aspirants in Imo State were worst hit by this situation, which they were later to label a ‘ponzi scheme’.
“This resulted in a mass exodus of our party members and APGA in Imo State today lies in ruins. Sadly, we lost another golden opportunity of expanding our frontiers beyond Anambra State.”
Some leading Imo State Governorship aspirants in the APGA primaries held last year had cried out that they were swindled of whopping sums in their bid to fly the party’s flag in the state by the leadership of the party led by Chief Victor Oye.
Those of them who spoke following a memo written by the former National Chairman of the party, Senator Victor Umeh to Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra State, as the party’s Board of Trustees (BOT) chairman, said that the party leadership had assured them individually of the party’s ticket without any of them knowing and collected huge sums of money, both in local and foreign currencies, from them.
The Umeh memo, which trended widely on the social media, had claimed that four governorship aspirants: Mr Okey Ezeh, Mr Stanley Amuchie, Chief Ikedi Ohakim, and Chief Humphrey Anumudu paid over N761 million to the party’s leadership.
The governorship hopefuls were said to have paid the money as follows: Mr Ezeh, a total sum of N273,250,000; Mr Amuchie, 280,000,000; Chief Ohakim, $300,000 and N100 million while Chief Anumudu parted with a 2018 Toyota Land Cruiser Black Sports Utility Vehicle worth N50 million.
Anumudu dragged Oye and his wife to a Lagos State High Court over the N50 million SUV, which Oye allegedly claimed was a birthday gift from Anumudu.
Umeh’s memo dated May 30, 2019 and sent to Governor Obiano via his official email address had expressed worry over the grave allegations by the Imo aspirants.
It read in part: “I see these as very serious moral issues particularly as Oye has consistently insisted that he did not take money from anybody during the 2018 primaries.
“I consider these revelations as serious embarrassment to the party and gross abuse of office.
“One unfortunate thing was that they engaged these fellows by dropping your name (Obiano) as supporting their actions”.
Chief Oye had immediately dismissed them as desperate attempts to blackmail him, saying nothing was true, but spurious and baseless.
According to him, the plot was to stop him from going for a second term in office, but that when the intrigue failed, they resorted to cheap blackmail.
Oye said: “This is election that took place in October last year and the people involved never shouted and he (Umeh) wants to shout on their behalf. Who is Umeh to speak on behalf of the party? You are a journalist, you should do your deductions and know that what is going on is blackmail.
It was then gathered that some of the aspirants had petitioned the EFCC on the matter.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Ojukwu had twice this year, raised the alarm that many legacies of her husband were under threat of extinction.
Speaking at the second memorial lecture in honour of the late Igbo leader at the Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University (COOU) Igbariam, Anambra State, on November 4, 2019, she specifically mentioned APGA as one of such legacies at the brink of extinction and charged Governor Obiano to ensure they were sustained.
“Ezeigbo’s political machinery is fast eroding under the watch of Governor Obiano,” Bianca Ojukwu said.
Before this period, Ojukwu’s widow had in her treatise published on back page of Daily Sun May this year, cried out that APGA, was “dancing daintily into the twilight” and also implored Obiano as the leader of the party, not to allow the legacy of the Ezeigbo Gburugburu which he spent his last years on earth nurturing, to crumble in his hands.
She urged the governor to “kindly do not avail history of the opportunity to record you as Overseer in Chief of the last APGA administration in Anambra State. The time to act is now, because APGA is dancing daintily into the twilight”.
Indications are that recent events may prove Mrs. Ojukwu right, regarding the future of APGA as the party has for over a year been embroiled in leadership crises with multiple court cases. Although Chief Oye sits at the Wuse II, Abuja, National Secretariat of the party as National Chairman, several persons still lay claim to his seat.
A group led by former Deputy National Secretary of the party, Chief Jerry Obasi, which has a pending suit in court, calls itself the authentic APGA.
Recall that the party had on May 31, 2019, conducted two parallel conventions in Awka, Anambra State and Owerri, Imo State.
A segment of the party loyal to the Anambra governor, re-elected Chief Oye, as the National Chairman of the party for another four years, while in Owerri, the former first National Vice Chairman (South); Chief Edozie Njoku emerged Chairman in his own group.
A court of competent jurisdiction had nullified the outcome of the meeting of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party held on April 14 in Awka, Anambra, which approved the Awka convention.
The High court at Kwale, Delta State, in a suit filed by Alhaji Tayo Sowumi, Mic Adams and another, against APGA and INEC, granted an interim order stopping the execution of all decisions reached at the NEC meeting and restrained INEC from observing any activity of APGA emanating from the NEC meeting.
In another breathe, the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, presided over by Justice O. A. Musa which stopped the party’s National Convention then scheduled for May 31, 2019, had also nullified the ward, LGA and state congresses of the party held recently.
Ruling in an application brought by Nze Kennedy Anunobi and 12 others against APGA and two others, the court granted the orders as prayed by the claimants /applicants.
The judge warned all parties to maintain the status quo pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice.
However, Oye told our correspondent that a high-powered delegation from INEC led by a National Commissioner, Prof. Anthonio Simbile and three other Directors monitored the Awka convention; hence, his re-election was in order.
Since then, the battle had shifted to the courts while the party remained in quandary. In Abia, two factions of the party emerged even as there were court rulings.
A chieftain of the party in Abia State, Chief Nnanna Ukaegbu also accused Oye of turning the last party primaries to a bazaar, and handing over party tickets to the highest bidders and non-party members.
According to him, “In 2015 under Chief Victor Umeh as chairman, I cautioned against this practice, but he ignored my advice. This is why APGA lost in her strongholds. From the situation in APGA, the party risks not fielding candidates for the 2021 Anambra governorship and the 2023 general elections.
“Everyone has seen what happened in Zamfara State, the courts no longer allow impunity in parties. It is time for Oye and his leprous team to go away. He is a stranger to APGA,” Ukaegbu said.
He further indicated that all major stakeholders and founders of the party have resolved not to allow the party die as a result of Oye’s alleged visionless administration.
“We will ensure that the party returns to the era of respecting its constitution. APGA must be returned to the path of law and constitutionalism. No one is bigger than the party. If APGA is to survive, the national chairmanship of the party must move away from Anambra State to make APGA stronger,” the party chieftain declared with finality.
Chief Jerry Obasi in expressing fears about the future of the party argued that in reinventing itself, that the National Chairman of APGA must leave Anambra. He also counselled that the party should desist from bringing those he called outsiders to either lead the party or run elections on its platform.
“I have two major arguments. One, on the National Chairmanship consistently remaining in Anambra as if there will no longer be other persons elsewhere to man the party. Secondly, the way and manner political nomads are brought in from everywhere to come and hold affairs in APGA,” Obasi said.
Regardless, the 2021 governorship election of Anambra State is seen as the last chance for APGA to possibly stage a comeback and make remarkable impact in the 2023 general elections.
Not a few watchers of political events said that it might be a herculean task as the many issues bedevilling the party were far from being resolved.
Obasi’s opinion is that a floodgate of litigations might follow unless conscious effort was made to redress the contending issues.
“The party is actually facing extreme challenge because the governorship election that will take place in Anambra, I don’t pray that APGA will lose that election but with the way its leadership under Governor Obiano’s watch is conducting itself, I have my fears. It is sad and quite unfortunate because further litigations will spring up except the right things are done. Unless the right things are not done, there will consistently be complaints and arguments within the groups in APGA,” Obasi warned.
In the same manner, one of the party’s governorship aspirants in Imo in the last election, Dr. Sam Amadi said the party had serially witnessed betrayal of its ideals.
According to him, of all the parties in Nigeria, APGA had the greatest potential to be a real political movement and an ideologically oriented party. But it is no more like that. “All through APGA history, it has suffered so much crisis arising from the mercantilist orientation of its leadership right from even Chekwas Okorie and right to the worst-Victor Oye. Victor Oye and Governor Obiano were mindless in destroying APGA. Today, the party has little hope of making any electoral impact in the South East, not to talk about Nigeria,” he lamented.
Describing APGA as “Anambra trading franchise”, Amadi warned those dreaming that the party could be veritable platform for Ndigbo to better have a rethink.
“I think it’s better not to reckon with APGA in planning Igbo future. That hope should die. The Igbo don’t need heartbreak. We can remain as members of APGA but from its internal contradictions, it’s doubtful if APGA can rise up to the challenge of Igbo redemption and showing a new direction to Nigeria,” he said.
The former Executive Chairman, Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) who said that he had joined APGA in 2018 because he saw the potential for transformative politics based on its grassroots politics and the potential for organic community development, the sort of thing Peter Obi showed in small measure.
Even though he said the party would survive its current travails, Amadi was doubtful if it will hold such potential again, “except we see the same events that happened in Imo before 2019 that made APGA the hope of Imo people and the people of South East before Victor Oye destroyed everything.”
A member of the party’s Board of Trustees, Chief Rommy Ezeonwuka lamented the recent loss of House of Representatives seats of Idemili North and South, and Oju/Obi Federal Constituencies of Anambra and Benue states, respectively at the Court of Appeal.
“How many do we have that we are losing the few ones we got? It is a sad development. It is a negative turnaround for our party. APGA is depreciating and it is unfortunate”, he stated.
Like Amadi, Ezeonwuka was upbeat that APGA will survive the forthcoming governorship election in Anambra State, if it goes back to the drawing board.
According to the BOT member, “We need to re-strategize and see how to pull through. APGA is our party and we must continue to build it”.
But many of those who share Ezeonwuka’s view do so with guided optimism because of the obvious internal contradictions in APGA coupled with the determined moves by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to take over Anambra, the only South East state that is currently outside its kitty. Already, the PDP is in firm control of two of the three senatorial seats and majority of the House of Representatives seats in the state.