As the good people of Imo State are watching with horror the role Chief Martin Agbaso has assigned himself in the drama in the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) as the November 18 gubernatorial election in Anambra State approaches, we cannot but continue to thank the Almighty that this fellow did not become the Imo State governor in 2007. Indeed, God does work in mysterious ways. Can we imagine for a moment if Agbaso had been our governor even for a week? Imo would now have been history.
Many of us rooted for him when he ran for the Imo governorship 10 years ago for two major reasons. The first was that he belonged to the right party, that is, APGA. We believed—and still do—that it is the only party which would bring about rapid economic development in the South East. After all, the APGA government in neighbouring Anambra State has been exemplary for several years, whereas Imo State under other parties has not been lucky. The second reason we supported Agbaso was that we trusted him because of his supposed association with certain personages. Agbaso used to tell us that one of his greatest supporters was the highly respected Archbishop of Owerri, an outstanding intellectual and man of the people. With the benefit of hindsight, it is doubtful that the Archbishop supported Agbaso. In other words, Agbaso may have been dropping the archbishop’s name in critical circles. In fact, on one occasion at Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja, Agbaso, whom we fondly call Ochudo, informed a renown female magazine publisher (names withheld by this writer) and my humble self that it was the same Archbishop who asked him to contest for the governorship and actually chose APGA for him as the right party. If the archbishop did persuade Agbaso, chances are that he must have long regretted his decision. The Archbishop must have been misled by the politician’s external attributes like oratorical skills.
Agbaso was looking set to win the APGA primaries in 2011 and subsequently the gubernatorial election. All of us had begun to address him as “His Excellency”. Then, all of a sudden, magic happened. Agbaso stepped down for Owelle Rochas Okorocha. Before we could recover from the shock, news began to spread in all nooks and crannies of the state that Rochas, a very wealthy man who does not know how to spare any amount of money when it comes to politics, had “settled” with Agbaso. Before he could explain to supporters why he stepped down for Rochas, who later became the governor by defeating the incumbent, Agbaso publicly endorsed Rochas. And before we could say “Jack Robinson”, Rochas announced that he had picked Agbaso’s younger brother, Jude Agbaso, as his running mate.
This was despite several petitions and warnings that the younger Agbaso still had a few legal issues to sort out in the United States. Jude Agbaso became very powerful under Governor Okorocha, perhaps the most powerful deputy governor in Nigeria’s history. The public began to refer to the administration in the state as the Okorocha/Agbaso government. And then a flurry of petitions of massive bribery against Deputy Governor Jude Agbaso followed. Okorocha tried to turn a blind eye to the petitions, but the public would not take that. Consequently, the Imo State House of Assembly was forced to set up a committee to investigate the allegations. Jude Agbaso was indicted for gross misconduct. The rest is history.
We expected the Agbasos to take far-reaching steps to restore their reputations in the eyes of millions of Imo people. But Martin Agbaso returned to his original party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). He contested for the Imo State governorship by participating in the PDP primaries in 2015. Despite claims that he had abandoned his former boss, ex Vice President Atiku Abubakar who made him Special Assistant on Ecology, to support Dr. Goodluck Jonathan who, according to him, had now endorsed him, Agbaso lost woefully. After Jonathan and the PDP were defeated in the 2015 general elections, there were reports that he had joined the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). Therefore, it came as a shock to every Imolite that on May 22, 2017, Mr. Justice R. A. Ozoemene of the Enugu State High Court had given an order of mandamus directing both the police and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to recognise Agbaso as the APGA National Chairman. Of course, neither the police nor INEC were joined in the suit believed to have been instituted by only three members of the APGA National Executive Committee who have since last December 21 been dismissed from the party. All the other 26 members of the APGA NEC are still very loyal to the party led by Dr. Ike Victor Oye.
Agbaso is, for all practical purposes, a member of the PDP or APC, and not APGA which he left after losing out to Rochas Okorocha in 2007. He has never been in the succession line to the post of the National Chairman of APGA. After all, there are Deputy National Chairmen, National Secretary and Zonal Vice Chairmen (National) of the party. How someone can come from nowhere and overnight be pronounced National Chairman of an important party almost on the eve of an election is a riddle which only Justice Ozoemene of the Enugu State High Court and Martin Agbaso can resolve. Whereas politicians like Agbaso may be allowed a bit of political rascality, the same thing should not be said about judicial officers. The Nigerian Judicial Council (NJC) may want to ask questions as to how Mr. Justice Ozoemena’s verdict on this partisan political matter came about.
It has become customary for politicians in Anambra State to use the judiciary outside the state to torpedo democracy in Anambra. As the 2013 governorship race was fast approaching, some elements in APGA went to Justice Innocent Umezurike of Enugu State to recognise Chief Maxi Okwu, and not Chief Victor Umeh, as the APGA National Chairman. Umezurike granted the prayer which was to be vacated by appellate courts. Chief Okwu has since repented and returned to APGA while Justice Umezurike is right now standing trial for corruption; he was one of the judges arrested by the State Security service last October for suspected irresponsible conduct. In 2004, some political rascals in Anambra State went to Justice Stanley Nnaji of the Enugu High Court to order Dr. Chris Ngige to vacate his office as Anambra governor. The judge acquiesced in the iniquity, only to be dismissed by the NJC. They had earlier tried to use Justice Wilson Egbo-Egbo of the Federal Capital Territory High Court to carry out similar sacrilege, only for the judge to be later thrown out of the judiciary by the NJC.
Considering Agbaso’s barefaced role to be used to destabilise APGA in view of the November 18 governorship election in Anambra State because it has been proved that Governor Willie Obiano of APGA is going to win the polls by a wide margin, Imo people can never thank God enough for preventing this man from becoming our governor in 2007 at the last minute. Otherwise, our state would have long gone. Anambra people know that Agbaso is on his own, as the Imo people will never support him in the mission to wreck a sister Southeastern state. We pray that Martin Agbaso will not someday become synonymous with Judas Iscariot.
• Dr. Njoku is a medical practitioner in Owerri, Imo State.