THISDAY feature story of Sunday, February 26, 2012 entitled “APGA’s Future without Ojukwu”, raised doubts about APGA’s prospects with the exit of Dim Chukwuemeka Ojukwu.
The author, Emmanuel Ugwu posed the question: “Will APGA find a Tinubu among the crop of Igbo politicians to propel it to greatness after Ojukwu?” More specifically, the writer echoes the mistaken view that “(Governor) Obi did not give APGA the necessary push to leverage on its control of Anambra to make inroad into other states in the zone”.
The essay may not have swung to the extreme of conspiracy alarmists who since 2008 had trumpeted the lie that Mr Peter Obi was set to dump APGA the next minute. Yet, it fails to offer us a window to gauge Obi’s role in the party nor does the article do justice to the comparative limitations of APGA as a regional-based political party.
The writer seemed ill-equipped to undertake these twin tasks vital to a balanced review of APGA’s fortunes. His handicap is indicated by the error of twice describing Chief Chekwas Okorie as the “founder of APGA”. This is a disservice to the historical circumstances and collective spirit which led to the registration of APGA in June 2002. APGA had founders, not a founder.
The Igbo had been shut out of the presidential contest in 1999. The PDP which initially offered the promise of a platform was soon appropriated by the (North dominated) military establishment to serve a game plan of temporarily yielding power to the South West.
For obvious reasons, the two other parties which existed at the time were unviable for prosecuting the presidential project. The ensuing political marginalisation of the Igbo which the Obasanjo presidency sharpened with relish was all too glaring to bother every Igbo with self-esteem. It was this nationalistic fervour for a balanced polity that crystalized into the formation of APGA and this explains why some of the founders of APGA till this day are not card-carrying members of the party.
Some of the founders of APGA include the late Dim Emeka Ojukwu, Chekwas Okorie, Professor Ben Obumselu (who wrote the manifesto), Victor Umeh, Professor M.S.O. Olisah (who drafted the Constitution) and Maxi Okwu. Others were Professor Ben Nwabueze, Ugochukwu Agballa, Hon Okey Umeano and Chris Okoye. Among the co-founders who operated from behind the scene were Mr Peter Obi, the late Dr Chuba Okadigbo, Major-General Ike Nwachukwu(rtd) and Dr Chukwuemeka Ezeife. Obi, I should add, was a major financier of this party at its embryo.
It is also pertinent to point out at this stage that it took a Supreme Court pronouncement to overturn the ruling party’s opposition to the emergence of new parties for APGA to secure registration. For obvious reasons, the Obasanjo presidency through the dependent INEC had blocked the aspiration of new parties until the Supreme Court intervention.
Barely three years after it received INEC’s recognition, APGA was subjected to a crisis that shook it to its very foundation. The struggle to restore Peter Obi’s stolen mandate in the 2003 Anambra governorship election was proceeding slowly but steadily. Chekwas Okorie, then Chairman of the party, along the line became pessimistic about the final outcome of the campaign, perhaps, against the backdrop of the Nigerian system. At a well publicized event in Awka in 2005, Okorie recognised Ngige’s governorship and renounced APGA’s election petition at the tribunal. This was a grave act of sabotage against the party.
With Okorie’s subsequent expulsion from APGA, the establishment found an auspicious way of checkmating APGA. Eager to do its master’s bidding, the Maurice Iwu leadership of INEC stepped up to the task of disabling the mass movement that APGA was poised to achieve.
In contempt of the unanimous party resolutions on the sanction of Okorie, the Iwu-led INEC chose to accord Okorie recognition as the authentic chairman of APGA! There could be no better mockery of reason.
And INEC soon graduated from mockery of reason to mockery of the law. It persisted in relating with the disclaimed even after a Federal High Court had validated the purge. It insisted on the recognition of Okorie even after the Court of Appeal had upheld his expulsion. INEC’s jungle behaviour continued until the Supreme Court’s concurring verdict which left the Commision no more room to play hide and seek.
The battles for affirming the authentic voice and values of APGA lasted some six years. Those were six grueling years of hardship, intimidation, denials and long run of impunity. It took more than average commitment to vision and principles to overcome the forces arrayed against APGA. It was the duo of Peter Obi and Victor Umeh who stood up to the onslaught against APGA.
Mr. IFEANYI AFUBA, a public affairs commentator, wrote from Nimo, Anambra State.