BY CHARLES ADINGUPU
Political horse trading, brickbat and retaliatory aggression are the tripods on which APGA currently stands on as it faces extinction threat
NO doubt the protracted leadership tussle raging like wild fire in the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) seems to be unabated despite the Federal High Court Abuja’s ruling in favour of the embattled factional leader of the party, Chief Victor Umeh.
It appears the warring parties have gone to the trenches again on how best to out do each other. The August 7 ruling which restrained Sadique Massalla and Ifedi Okwenna from parading themselves as the acting national chairman and acting vice national secretary of APGA can better be described as a bark of freight.
Already, Massalla declared in an interview with Vanguard that the party at the moment has leadership problem due to the lingering crises which like festering sore threatens the fragile unity of the party.
The factional leader posited that Chief Umeh’s victory at the temple of justice was predicated on the fact that he was not properly served.
“Hence, my lawyers advised me against going to the court until I’m properly served. Besides, the court has equally restrained him as well,” he said.
From all indications, it seems that since the death of Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, the Eze Igbo Gburugburu managing the affairs of the party has become a herculean task as each district head of the party lay conflicting claims to the centre. And in a battle of wit, each camp hurled tantrums at each other in a perceived war of attrition. This infighting and allegations of broken promises have tremendously helped to polarise the party along factional divide.
One-time chairman of Governor Peter Obi Campaign Organisation, Chief Sylvester Nwobu Alor in a message circulated to party stakeholders captured the gradual disintegration of the party thus:
“Everyone knows that our party, APGA has been in subtle retrogression over the years and would have gone into extinction but for the presence of Mr. Peter Obi as governor of Anambra State. We do not in reality have APGA in any other state in Nigeria.” A situation collaborated by Sadique Massalla who lamented that the party lacks national colouration.
His words: “The former national chairman, Chief Chekwas Okorie attempted to establish offices of APGA nationwide but Chief Umeh only concentrated in Anambra State alone. Hence, we lost 34 out of 37 offices we had throughout Nigeria.”
According to him, this ugly picture of APGA explains the very reason behind their need to reposition the party by changing the baton of leadership in order to adopt a comprehensive national approach.
All these no doubt speak volume of the dismal performance of the party at both national and state elections. It’s indeed shameful to observe that only one of APGA’s member swas able to make it to the lower House.
Again, Chief Nwobu-Alor summarised APGA’s unending woes in this way: “We are facing a problem of leadership that is characterised by politics of exclusion, intimidation, arrogance and dictatorship. This impacted negatively on the psyche of the followers resulting in disillusionment, loss of faith and retaliatory aggression by members.” Massalla also traced the genesis of APGA’s crisis to unbriddled high-headedness and lack of accountability by the current acting national chairman.
He accused Umeh of running a one-man show and his alleged inability to give account of his stewardship provoked agitations from different quarters all seeking his removal from office.
Massalla who lamented that APGA’s national secretariat is still being occupied by Chief Victor Umeh and his cohorts, disclosed that his men could not push him out of office because, they eventually discovered that the office of APGA’s national secretariat was rented in Umeh’s name.
“We could not ask Umeh’s men to vacate the national secretariat because, we later discovered to our surprise that the office was hired in Victor Umeh’s name. You can see how he has personalised the party’s property,” he said.
But in a swift reaction, Chief Umeh’s supporters however contended that the leadership of the party was not instrumental to its moribund state, saying that Umeh’s political dexterity saved the party from colossal disintegration.
They further accused Nwobu-Alor and his group of hob-nobbing with former APGA national chairman, Chief Chekwas Okorie who they said is being cajoled to return as national chairman in replacement of Umeh.
Though, it may not be accurate to guesstimate that the demise of Dim Ojukwu precipitated the crisis in APGA because even while the Biafra warlord was still kicking skirmishes of disaffection still stared the party on its face. But never before has the situation degenerated to this abysmal height.
However, it was held in certain circle that the Igbos perceived mythology of who is he syndrome remains the key that tears members of the party asunder. Again, it’s not out of context to conclude that since the enthronement of democracy in the geographical space call Nigeria, political parties have been formed along ethnic divide. A panoramic view into the political literature of Nigeria’s democracy tells the story better.
Even today, apart from the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), other political parties thrive on ethnic chauvinism.
In the South West, the Action Congress Nigeria holds sway. Already, members of the party are trying effortlessly to extend a hand of fellowship to the North.
APGA which would have serve similar purpose in the East is currently embroiled in series of unending crisis. With 2015 just around the corner and the Igbos equally angling to take a shot at the presidency, APGA would have been a plank for them to realise their tall ambition.
Though, it might be too early to postulate that their long aged dream of occupying the presidency come 2015 may be elusive. Already, APGA’s only stronghold remains Anambra and Imo states. For the APGA’s flocks, Governor sPeter Obi, Rochas Okorocha and Victor Umeh are the major gladiators behind who they are queuing.
For political observers, the colossal disintegration of APGA may be the shame of the Igbos.
Although, for the likes of Sadique Massalla, the year 2015 appears like a long way to go. The factional chairman who expressed optimism that before the next general election, “We will be able to position the party in a broader perspectives to face the giant party of PDP,” he told Saturday Vanguard.
Incidentally, the unholy alliance with the PDP in last general election (2010) has not yielded any appreciable results as some of APGA’s members cry fowl of the process that gave birth to the adoption of President Goodluck Jonathan as their presidential flag-bearer.
Marriage of convenience
Said Massalla: “What happened in 2010 general election was that they asked us to adopt President Jonathan which we did. But unfortunately, other members of the party were not informed. For example, people from the north and South West have not benefited apart from the Anambra people who had benefitted in our marriage of convenience with the PDP.”
Against this backdrop, there is every indication that truce with the ruling party may be aborted leaving the Igbos to begin afresh the search for a veritable platform to launch their aspirations.
The way forward:The Igbos must realise early enough that partners in progress must not put obstacles on their ways. The popular aphorism that a house divided among itself can never and will never stand. Therefore, they must first sheathe their swords to allow peace to reign.
The transformation and or subsequent elevation of Chief Victor Umeh from national treasurer to national chairman is immaterial.
However, these critical issues in perspective must be resolved if the leadership tussle in the party will make any meaningful headway.
First, the issue of the letter from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), dated June 28, 2005 which conferred the leadership of APGA on acting capacity on Chief Victor Umeh. Also, the directive from INEC that urged APGA to organise the December 2006 National Convention of the party where Chief Chekwas Okorie was said to have been expelled from the party and Umeh confirmed as the national chairman.
However, in being dispassionate in this matter, it may not be out of place to evaluate the constitutional powers of INEC in relation to political parties as well as the constitution of APGA as it affects the removal of its national chairman. The outcome of such appraisal may perhaps bring a near solution to the raging war in APGA.