By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
Two powerful moneyed men are in the forefront in championing the merger of APGA into the opposition APC. Both men who interestingly are new to the party claim to be putting the nation first.
Billionaire businessman and politician is a phrase that easily describes either man. Critics claim that their latest action is simply business, but the men and their supporters say that the men have simply put the nation and their party first.
Governor Rochas Okorocha and Senator Annie Okonkwo were definitely not in the loop in the formation of the All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA the party that flaunts the Igbo identity in the country’s political configuration. Both men who can easily be described as new members to APGA, having joined the party only recently, are now at the centre of allegations of trying to sell the party into the mega opposition alliance, All Progressive Congress, APC.
The APC is the political vehicle floated by the country’s major opposition parties to dislodge the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP from power.
Okorocha was reputedly one of the founders and early financiers of the PDP but fell out after internal intrigues in his native Imo State. After the PDP he cast lot with other parties including the All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP, the Action Alliance before making a celebrated return to the PDP before his present affair with APGA.
APGA was the vehicle he used to come to power as governor of Imo State having combined forces with Senator Chris Anyanwu to fight the former governor of the State, Ikedi Ohakim to a standstill in the 2011 gubernatorial election.
When ten opposition governors met in Lagos last Tuesday, Okorocha was present giving the face of APGA to the union. The following day when the APC was unveiled, Senator Okonkwo came as the representative of APGA. The duo seemed to give the APGA colour to the celebrated merger of the country’s leading political parties.
The actions of the duo immediately elicited blistering criticisms from sections of the party at variance with the merger.
Remarkably, the news of the merger came at a low point in the life time of the party given the multifarious crises that have enveloped the party. APGA as at press time is clearly lacking a defined leadership with different factions of the party at war with one another.
It was as such not surprising that the chairman of the board of trustees of the party, Dr. Tim Menakaya came out to distance the party from the actions of Okorocha and Okonkwo.
“We wish to make it clear that All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA, has never participated in any merger talk with any political party and is therefore not in the merger. We were never consulted by anybody before such statement of our involvement was issued,” Menakaya said.
Remarkably, Chief Victor Umeh who was until last week the national chairman of the party before he was sacked by the courts has been uncharacteristically mute on the issue.
Another faction of the party aligned to Governor Peter Obi and led by Mseilla Massalla remarkably lampooned Okorocha and Okonkwo for their actions saying they did not represent the party.
Besides, the leader of the APGA caucus in the House of Representatives Mrs. Uche Ekwunife also came out to disown the merger into the APC. Ekwunife like Okonkwo was once in the PDP before crossing over to the Peoples Progressive Alliance, PPA and finally settling down in APGA.
Mr. Chinedu Ofor, the Imo State commissioner for information robustly rebuffed insinuations that Okorocha wrongly took the party into the APC describing such insinuations as the handiwork of anti-progressive elements.
“That is not true. You know that there is APGA authentic and there is APGA-PDP. comprising anybody who is not progressive, anybody who does not want the nation to move ahead, anyone who does not want Nigeria to have an alternative, anyone who does not think of the future of the young people and Nigeria, anyone who does not want Nigeria to take a step up for its responsibilities. APGA’s motto is Be your brother’s keeper and that is exactly what happened,” he said.
The last time APGA came to this kind of crossroads, was in 2009 when the different factions struggled over who would present the official candidate of the party for the 2010 gubernatorial election.
It took the wisdom of the then chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Prof. Maurice Iwu to resolve the dilemma. Iwu’s prescription was to hand over the ticket to Dim Emeka Ojukwu, the undisputed leader of Ndigbo at that time who in turn gave the ticket to Peter Obi.
With Ojukwu dead the dogs of war are barking nosily to the discomfort of his political legacy.