Obinna Odogwu, Awka
Former Deputy National Secretary of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Chief Jerry Obasi, has said that only radical change in the national leadership structure of the party will save it from imminent collapse.
In this interview with Sunday Sun, the ex-deputy national scribe alleged that the present crop of leaders of the party were non-members of the party who only joined it to reap from where they did not sow. Excerpts:
The National Publicity Secretary of your party, APGA, Tex Okechukwu, in a recent interview described some persons advocating for change in the national leadership of your party as propagandists who were hired by opposition parties to destabilise APGA. You happen to be one of these persons seeking for that change. How would you react to this?
It’s unfortunate that Tex has not been a member of APGA. He is one of those who only came to APGA to come and reap where they did not sow. He is one of those who came to APGA by virtue of happenstance in the sense that their so-called mentor, Governor Obiano and to that extent, Victor Oye, were not members of APGA. Victor Oye only became a member of APGA the day he became national chairman and that is where I found myself and my opinion. And that is where I bemoan roles played by Chief Victor Umeh because having a lot of us in the party as party chairmen and certain persons at that time as members of National Working Committee (NWC), it was quite unfortunate that none of us was qualified to hold the office of the National Chairman. And also in the party, you can find people like Idigo, you can find people like the former Secretary to the State Government (SSG) under Peter Obi, Oseloka Obaze. You can also see a lot of them who were in the party. None of them was good enough to become governor. None of us was qualified to become national chairman. Chief (Sir) Victor Umeh chose to go and create moles who are never members of APGA. But I am happy today not minding his hobnobbing with Obiano, I know that one way or the other we are all victims because if you watched, sometime last year or so, immediately after the election which so to say he lost, there was a very touching and disturbing memo which he sent privately to the governor, which he made public or which was leaked to the public. And there were a lot of revelations in that memo. I would have been forced to sympathize or empathize with him, but the fact is that most of these things are Umeh’s creation and that’s where we are. But I don’t intend to join issues with Tex who is a National Pub-Sec because what actually does he know to say in APGA. He is only saying the things he was told to say by his paymasters or by his co-travellers in their project of APGA. So, the type who does not know how his father’s corpse was buried will only go to exhume his father’s corpse from the legs. That is where I find the likes of Tex. So, I may not wish to join issues with him. But the truth remains that APGA today, under Oye’s watch, is a badly battered party in an avoidable fight or struggle. My issue has been very clear. From the day one, when we suspended and further removed Oye as national chairman, his stay has been under pressure. Part of the N72 billion that Obiano inherited from former Governor Peter Obi was voraciously and recklessly expended on litigations and on senior advocates, hitherto, just to protect Victor Oye as national chairman. That is why when the story of the fact that he made, I don’t know the billions that they said he made. But if you talk about what Oye made from the sales of forms and other means, then they should also tell us how much that was expended to keep his office as national chairman. Over N40 billion was expended on litigations to keep Oye as national chairman. So, their leadership has been on a serious spending spree that has led APGA to where it is today. The fate of APGA as a political party in Nigeria is that of a sick patient that has been left for a very long time in the intensive care unit of a political hospital that is yearning for urgent attention. And that is quite unfortunate that such person is who we have today as a national chairman. There was a story or an episode I narrated of the Deputy Chairman (South), Uchenna Okogbuo, who was begging Prince Nnanna Ukaegbu, the former chairman of APGA in Abia State to make him a local government (party) chairman from where he also begged him on his knees to make him ward chairman. And all these requests were vehemently turned down by Prince Ukaegbu. But in a show of shame, our erstwhile National Chairman, Chief Victor Umeh, found it very comfortable to make such person the Deputy National Chairman (South) and today where did it lead all of us. I also know even when I am not holding brief for Chief Umeh that that disposition of making Okogbuo the Deputy National Chairman (South) is one that has been regretted because I know that he might have betrayed him so many times. And you see the kind of team that Umeh assembled around us as state chairmen was the type that sacrificed everything to make sure that the centre held. I remember a scenario where all the members of the National Working Committee abandoned Chief Umeh except one Ogbonetus who I think was the National Legal Adviser under Umeh’s leadership, but the state chairmen vehemently stood by him. I remember that without sponsorship from anywhere, out of solidarity, I held meeting twice with APGA state chairmen at Ebonyi Hotels in Abakaliki. Most of the state chairmen at that time, they will read this interview and they will confirm this. But all these things were not rewarded. Strangers are those today who are running APGA; those who know little or nothing about APGA.
Could these also have led to certain events that played out during the 2019 general election that in some ways contributed to the misfortune of your party?
It is only in APGA that persons will be in APGA and will be running election in other political parties for office. For instance, Alhaji Furo Haman Joda who is today, a member of the National Working Committee, contested election in his constituency in the 2019 election primaries in the All Progressives Congress (APC) to be given ticket to run for the state Assembly which he eventually lost. And the campaign pictures of Furo were everywhere in his state and in the Internet. It was everywhere in the social media and he never denied it. But today, they are the people who are leaders of APGA. Such things should only be imagined. But in APGA those things are real. It is only in APGA where there will be candidates who are running for office in APGA and the governor and the wife will be sponsoring another candidate against their own candidate. For instance, on Chief Victor Umeh’s election, the governor at the instance of the wife through the support of Victor Oye, the former National Chairman of APGA, sponsored an opponent of Chief Umeh who was running in the PDP for his own senatorial district and in the end, Chief Umeh lost that election. In fact, that was the first election that was announced by INEC and APGA lost in that election. But why these things are not bemoaned by me so much is because these things were created by Chief Umeh. And even when we are thinking that it is yet Uhuru, I want to let all of us, including Chief Umeh, to know that it is not yet Uhuru. There are more dangerous days ahead for APGA because these litigations will not be over. There are a lot of them in the courts.
Do you see this crisis in your party affecting its chances in the 2021 governorship election in Anambra State?
Even beyond the 2021 election in Anambra, APGA will still be riddled with litigations except the leaders of APGA are called upon. For instance, the wife of our leader both in life and death, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, in the person of Iyom Bianca Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, and the host of others, including ourselves and our structures come to the table to address issues. But if not, I have my fears that it may end up that APGA will not have a candidate for the Anambra 2021 election or that APGA will suffer a defeat that will threaten its existence as a political party. But I don’t think we will want this to happen because we are part of APGA and its formation. I joined APGA under Chief Chekwas Okorie as earlier as it could be. But today, some persons are saying that they are the oldest members of APGA, which is not true. Most of us were in APGA before most of these persons came. In the 2019 presidential election, it is silly enough that Obiano and his NEC under Oye’s watch as National Chairman at that time brought out General Gbor as presidential candidate and also on another stanza said that they were going to support President Muhammadu Buhari as their presidential candidate. Is there any betrayal as bad as that? Are they supposed to remain in APGA? The answer remains no. They are not supposed to remain in APGA. He that must come to equity must do so with clean hands. But where lies the equity? Which equity behoves them to remain in APGA? It is as dangerous as that. But today, they are saying that they are the leaders of APGA even though we know that most of them are going to join other parties as soon as their tenure expires or go back to America where they were on leave of absence or eternal retirement before they were drafted into APGA. It is very sad and unfortunate.