Never since the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) was registered in 2002 has it been in a lethargic state as now. If care is not taken, the party will become history any moment from now. It will be very sad for the Nigerian people, especially the Igbo who have, right from inception, been very emotional about the party. Yet, like a Phoenix, the mythical bird in classical Greek mythology, which rises from its ashes every 500 years and even emerges stronger, APGA can redeem itself, but not when the current chairman is returned in office.
All its leaders need do is just the right thing. The forthcoming national convention presents an excellent opportunity. The outgoing administration led by Victor Oye should have long gone into self-liquidation. The idea that it is planning to stage a comeback is as revolting as it is sacrilegious.
The Oye-led executive had an opportunity to expand the party from Anambra State, where it has been in control since 2006, to neighbouring Imo and Abia states, but it chose to make a mess of a boiled egg in the processes leading to the recent 2019 general election. Take Imo. The state was a low-hanging fruit. APGA did not have to campaign there. It just needed to have a credible primary election and a credible gubernatorial candidate out of the 22 aspirants. It did neither.
The primary was worse than a scam. Its leaders opted for blood money in the most disgraceful and unconscionable manner. The leaders chose a candidate that the most gifted public relations consultant in the whole world could not have possibly marketed to Imolites. Our party not only lost to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate, Chief Emeka Ihedioha, in the election, but also came not even second but a distant third.
Ironically, APGA won Imo State in the 2011 election, defeating the incumbent government of Chief Ikedi Ohakim of the PDP in a mass movement, which saw the likes of Archbishop Anthony Obinna of the Owerri Archdiocese in action. Given Owelle Rochas Okorocha’s embarrassing performance in the last few years, APGA would have easily thrown out the incumbent All Progressives Congress (APC) government.
APGA’s leaders damaged the party’s brand with the primaries so badly that Dr. Alex Otti, the brilliant economist and former Diamond Bank chief executive, who won the Abia governorship in 2015 but lost at the Court of Appeal due to undeniable shenanigans, could not come even come second this time. He managed to get a distant third position in Abia State.
The iniquitous way the APGA primaries were conducted was such that it damaged the party’s brand even in Anambra State, where it looked for some years like the only viable party. The damaged brand cost the party its only senator, Chief Victor Umeh, the ebullient, hardworking, fearless and brilliant erstwhile national chairman, whose only one year tenure in the Senate has made a world of difference. The damaged brand cost APGA all three senatorial seats in Anambra State and a majority of its seats in the House of Representatives. Need we state here that Chief Victor Oye, the outgoing APGA national chairman, lost his ward and perhaps his polling booth to the PDP in this election?
The PDP was going to sweep the polls in the House of Assembly elections held two weeks later, but then some people frantically appealed to the emotions of Anambra State leaders. Like the rest of the Igbo race, APGA holds a special place in the hearts of the people because of its links to such people as Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, Prof. Benedict Obumselu, Chief Chekwas Okorie, Engr. Chris Okoye, Senator Sam Egwu, Senator Chimaroke Nnamani, Senator Chris Ngige, etc. APGA was thus assisted to retain the House of Assembly. As expected, during the subterranean negotiations with such powerful people as bishops, which led to the APGA victory, Oye was nowhere to be found. His face represents the unpleasant part of APGA’s history, which had come to define the party during the national elections, leading to its resounding defeat. Therefore, the negotiators kept him away.
The goodwill Governor Willie Obiano still enjoys among the people helped APGA win the majority votes in the Anambra State House of Assembly election. The governor himself came out like a General and practically took over the leadership of the party, reducing Oye to a zero entity. This time round, the opposite is going to happen if Oye emerges the national chairman of the party.
Of course, Oye did not act alone in de-marketing APGA in the people’s imagination. All of us know the handful of people who worked in cahoots with him. These unsavory characters are encouraging him to seek another term, promising to use their enormous influence on the powers-that-be to railroad him back to office. They are working for their selfish benefit. Since Oye is the party’s national chairman, he is the first person to be held accountable for the terrible misdeeds, which have brought the party to its lowest ebb ever.
Oye should have thrown in the towel the moment APGA lost the Imo and Abia gubernatorial elections. He should have resigned the moment the party was shellacked in Anambra State in the national elections. He should have done so with an apology. When David Cameron unsuccessfully tried to get the British to vote in favour of remaining in the European Union in 2016, he resigned. Throughout history Generals have resigned or even committed suicide for losing wars.
In the case of our party chairman, however, he wants to stay put. He is even against aspirants like Owelle Mbaso who want to succeed him. He was behind the purported suspension of Owelle Mbaso, the founding APGA chairman in the United Kingdom. Oye is paradoxically claiming credit for the insignificant gains, which APGA has made in places like Benue State. Let it be said for the umpteenth time that these gains were made not because of Oye but in spite of him. A good chairman would have seen APGA in control of more states after the general election, and not lose its otherwise safe seats like the Anambra Central Senatorial zone.
It is disheartening that APGA has not gone beyond Anambra State effectively. The Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) was at a point in control of only Lagos State. Through Asiwaju Bola Tinubu’s strategic leadership, it took control of the South West. When it joined forces with other parties to form the APC, it took control of the Federal Government and many states in Nigeria. APGA is unable to follow in the footsteps of farsighted leaders like Tinubu because of the terrible leadership, which the likes of Oye provide.
APGA must use the opportunity of the impending national convention to throw Oye out of its leadership and then reinvent itself. This is the only way to go, otherwise the party will die. APGA must save itself. Let us project what will definitely happen if APGA does not save itself now.
The powerful religious institutions comprising the laity and clergy will support any candidate that Peter Obi nominates in the 2022 gubernatorial election, if Oye remains the party’s chairman. We will have handed Anambra State back to the PDP.
•Chidozie is an APGA activist in Imo State