BY VINCENT UJUMADU
THE crisis rocking the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, has taken another dimension with two top members of the party, the national chairman, Chief Victor Umeh and a founding member of the party, Chief Sylvester Nwobu-Alor trading blames on the situation in the party and governance in Anambra State.
It would ordinarily have been dismissed as a storm in a tea cup for Umeh who had until recently led the party with a firm grip, if not in the opinion of some, as a dictator.
But this time he is pitched in battle with a master politician who is reportedly a relative of the party’s first elected governor, Mr. Peter Obi, the governor of Anambra State to whom he also serves as special adviser on parks and markets.
For the past two years, Umeh and Nwobu-Alor have tried to get at each other by seeking the intervention of Governor Peter Obi. However, Obi appeared to have ignored the two men and concentrated on the governance of the state. Well, that is until now.
It is not clear how the face off between the two men began, but Nwobu Alor, who was a member of the Second Republic Anambra State House of Asembly, had not hidden his dislike for the leadership of Umeh. To him, Umeh was not doing enough to sell APGA to other parts of the country, a statement many APGA faithful have faulted.
For instance, many members of APGA recall that until the April 2011 election, Governor Obi was the only elected member of the party throughout the country and that it was due to the hardwork of Umeh that the party presently boasts of two governors, a senator, many members of the House of Representatives and Houses of Assembly.
Despite these achievements, Nwobu Alor recently began what he termed the restructuring of the party in which he said that Umeh must give way for another person, alleging that the national chairman of APGA was the greatest problem militating against the growth of the party.
Last week, some members of APGA gathered in Awka and declared that they had formed a parallel state committee that would report to Nwobu Alor. This was what stirred the current crisis in the party and observers believe that if not handled carefully, APGA, as a political party would be the worse for it.
Chief Umeh, who was disturbed by the activities of those behind the latest crisis in the party, described as irresponsible the action of Nwobu Alor, insisting that APGA would discipline him and other members who, he said, had been undermining the progress of the party.
He said: “Our party will no longer tolerate indiscipline. APGA is in my firm control. Along with my colleagues in APGA leadership, we have been navigating the party to safety. But while we are labouring to keep APGA afloat in Anambra and Nigeria , this group led by Nwobu Alor has continued to create the wrong impression that APGA is in crisis.
He has no power to restructure the party. And for the fact that he is doing this and the governor has not called him to order makes me to believe that the governor is sponsoring him.
“In October last year, I asked the governor to call him to order, but he has continued with the anti –party activities. We cannot continue to keep silent even as we will continue to make APGA to grow from strength to strength.
“Nwobu Alor said I am incompetent, yet I got his nephew elected as governor two times. My incompetence started during the second tenure because I asked them to conduct local government election in the state so that APGA members will be empowered and for the party to be made stronger at the grass roots. The governor should stop using him to create crisis in the party because APGA is very solidly together.
“Before 2011 elections, Governor Obi was the only person elected on the platform of APGA and after we worked hard to have elected members in the state and national assemblies and elected another governor, they began to say that I am incompetent. I was the pivot for bringing Obi to run for governor under APGA in 2003. I was the pillar for making him win a second time in 2010. Without me, they won’t be where they are.
“What I can assure them is that nobody can disintegrate the party. Members of the party are behind me from the grassroots to the national level. This party is in my firm grip because I have not let the members down. I know what is happening in his state and if they annoy me, I will open the can of worms.”
Empowering the party
But reacting to Umeh’s stand on the situation in APGA, Nwobu Alor said that rather than tell the whole world how he manages the N20 million made available to him every month for the management of the party, the national chairman was busy going around and telling people that Obi did not empower the party and blaming the governor for the party’s failings.
He said that it was not surprising that those of them who did not like the way Umeh was running APGA and had the guts to call for a restructuring, had become objects of attack from him on daily basis.
He said: “Today, he (Umeh) is not in good terms with the governor because he wanted him (governor) to conduct the local government elections the Nigerian way, and get all those he had handpicked into positions, even if it amounts to offending the law.
“He has gone ahead at public functions to castigate the governor and those in charge of award of contracts because of the governor’s insistence that merit must guide every process, rather than people bringing names of incompetent, rate-paying contractors.”
Nwobu-Alor said that apart from Umeh fighting him, the APGA national chairman was at daggers-drawn with virtually everyone serving in Obi’s government that Umeh perceived as being as stringent and thorough as the governor, adding that it was particularly painful for Umeh to claim that he made Obi the governor, when, he alleged, the APGA national chairman never wanted Obi to become governor.
Annoyed by what he sees as lack of respect by Umeh for the governor, he said that the young man, Obi, was busy attracting so many things for the state, only for ingrates to feign ignorance.
Many are presently waiting to see how Governor Obi would fully respond to the crisis. How he does could prove decisive not just for the party, but on his political legacy in Anambra.