Acting National Chairman of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, Ozo Nwabueze Okafor, in this interview dissected the intrigues that brought about the present crisis in the party, the future of the party and how he will take APGA to the grassroots as former chairman of ALGON. He also gave reasons why APGA will contest the 2019 presidential poll after missing out in 2011 and 2015.
By Dennis Agbo
How many factions do you have in APGA now?
There is no faction in APGA. We have only one APGA and I am the acting national chairman.
What were Victor Ike-Oye’s sins that he had to be replaced as national chairman?
The issues that led to the suspension of Ike-Oye have been well documented. From June last year before the present National Working Committee members were inaugurated, APGA had been drifting and we lost presence in the national political space.
The party lost its voice, direction, vibrancy and was moving to the precipice. So, on October 5, 2016, after about 16 months of rudderless and directionless leadership under Victor Ike-Oye, at a well convened NWC meeting in which 24 members attended, a vote of no confidence was passed on Chief Ike-Oye as a national chairman and a motion for his suspension was moved, seconded and carried. 18 members voted and he was thus suspended according to Section 22 of the party’s constitution.
We were hoping that he won’t do anything that will affect the fortunes of the party and save the party from needles rancour.
But instead of that, we were amazed that he went ahead to cause confusion for the party. His desperation and chain of actions culminated to a suit at the High Court in Abuja.
Some leaders of the party tried to intervene but Ike-Oye instead chose to cast aspersions on members that suspended him and so the problem deepened and that is where we are.
What is the suit in the court all about?
The suit was at the instance of the party, the NWC, which decided to seek the intervention of the court because of Ike-Oye’s continuous misrepresentations before the public, which were causing the party embarrassment. The court is to put a stop to the embarrassment because if it is not nipped in the bud, it will affect the electoral fortunes of the party.
Is it true that fifth columnists interested in next year’s governorship election in Anambra State are causing the crisis?
There is no fifth columnist and the election is in Awka whereas his suspension is in Abuja. We are trying to make the party a true national party. On the Anambra election, given that our party has done well in Anambra State in the past 11 years, Chief Willie Obiano deserves to be re-elected governor in Anambra State. That has been given and it has no connection to the suspension of Ike-Oye.
We are talking about a situation where APGA will be made a true national party, to position the party for the 2019 elections, make inroads in the rest of South-East states and in other geopolitical zones.
It has no attachment to the Anambra election. As a party we have severally endorsed and supported Governor Willy Obiano and I can tell you that the suspension of Ike-Oye will make it easier for APGA to win election in Anambra State because he has become a political burden and liability, an albatross on our neck because the party has not been moving forward; rather the electoral fortunes of the party have dwindled in recent times, getting to where we scored less than 1000 votes in a governorship election where we had rallies.
That is not good for our party and we were so concerned that we didn’t want what happened in Edo to happen in any other state. With Ike-Oye out of the way, the party has been reinvigorated and is now in a better position to put up better performance in other elections between now and 2019 including areas where we have rerun elections like in Anambra Central Senatorial district where our former national chairman (Victor Umeh) is running to claim his mandate for the Senate.
What measures are you putting in place to increase the electoral fortunes of the party?
One of the things that affected the party was that when Ike-Oye was the national chairman of the party, the provisions of the constitution were not observed. Our constitution is a very strong document that made several positions to strengthen the party.
The process leading to nomination of candidates for different positions in the country is robust as enshrined in the constitution of the party but the provisions were observed in breach. We have guidelines for screening of candidates and orientation of the candidates so as to understand the very rich progressive manifesto of the party.
But where you don’t follow such provisions, you find candidates, who are not prepared to even campaign and effectively contest elections. The APGA message is a very strong progressive message where even the issue of economic diversification and agriculture is well enunciated.
So under my watch, we will ensure that we observe all the provisions made in the constitution of the party and I will make the party stronger and ensure that all intending nominees of the party will read and internalise our manifesto so that they will have a very strong message for the electorate unlike what happened in the past that made us lose elections.
What are your plans to market APGA beyond the South-East ahead of 2019?
The reason we have not had the kind of followership or membership we would have had in APGA is because we have not been able to let Nigerians understand the APGA message.
The APGA message is on building the best economy and we have the potential of being the biggest political party. We will ensure that APGA spreads to all parts of this country. As a former national chairman of Association of Local Governments in Nigeria, ALGON, we will leverage on that to ensure that the contacts we have in all the 774 local government areas of the country are exploited. We are equally embarking on membership drive to move from the centre to the periphery.
If you had your way, will you join the mega party?
I don’t know about the mega party. I don’t make speculations, APGA is already a mega party, it’s just that bad leadership had kept it down and by the time the NWC rolls out all its plans for the party, you will find everybody scrambling to join the party.
What is your take on comments that the defection to the UPP by some APGA members affected your party?
Not by any means at all. You will understand there is always inter-party mobility; some people may not find sufficient space to realise their different aspirations and they look for somewhere else to ventilate their aspiration. The truth is that more people are now joining the party than before.
Is APGA now ready to field a presidential candidate since it has not done so in the past two presidential elections?
Yes, it is a way of moving forward because, like I told you, we are going to spread the party to all nooks and crannies of the country and ensure that we provide an alternative platform for Nigerians to see what an APGA government will look like.
What is the party doing on the stalled Anambra central senatorial election?
We have some cases in court and we believe that very soon all the matters in the court would be discharged so we can go into that election. The party is doing everything it can to make sure that the legal issues are resolved.
What is your impression about the present APC-led government?
I am more concerned now about rebuilding our party to a level where Nigerians would know our programmes so they can compare it with what we have in the arena now. We are not part of the present government and some of the facts are not available to us but we are quite confident as a party that even though we are not in government, programmes in our manifesto will give Nigerians a better lease of life.
APGA, in brief
The All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA was formed at the beginning of the last decade with the deceased Biafran leader, Chief Emeka Ojukwu as national leader. The arrow head was Chief Chekwas Okorie.
The party’s first significant electoral foray was in Anambra State where the party fielded the entrepreneur, Mr. Peter Obi in the Anambra State governorship election of 2003.
Mr. Obi’s victory was not acknowledged until 2005 when the Court of Appeal upheld his victory and gave the party a foothold in the state.
The party has since then, with the exception of a 17 day interregnum – when the Peoples Democratic Party’s Dr. Andy Uba held sway – maintained its foothold in Anambra State.
Adventures in Imo and other neighbouring states have, however, been less successful.
The party has had four national chairmen and is presently factionalised with loyalties to Dr. Victor Oye and Ozo Nwabueze Okafor.
Past Chairmen of APGA
Chief Chekwas Okorie
Chief Victor Umeh
Dr. Victor Ike Oye