THE Independent National Electoral Commission of Nigeria, INEC, as an election management body, must show consistent leadership vision, transparency and due process not only in its management of Nigeria’s “electoral matters but also both in the registration of new political parties and in the establishment of internal party democracy within Nigeria” political parties.
The recent charade that is the PDP national convention that threw up key party ‘selects’ as elected party officers cannot pass the standards of due party democratic elections since ‘godfatherism’ and imposition of candidates by the party’s ultimate presidential power managing from Aso Rock diminishes the voice of party stakeholders from the grassroots.
The embarrassing cacophony of protests from the zonal and state aspirants, who felt shortchanged by the party’s unjust process, shocked the Nigerian media and civil society became a dangerous prelude to the convention proper. Genuine democratic voices of the party’s grassroots are yet to be given political voice to elect who they want.
The national spread and political power of the party is yet to demonstrate a genuine leadership and programme of democratic dividends that will benefit Nigerians.
It is under this disturbing background and national context that one must analyse INEC’s umpire role and appreciate the increasing grassroots democratic leadership played by other political parties in Nigeria such as the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, achieved under Chief Victor Umeh, leading to giant-democratic gains and development benefits to the Igbo nation despite the imprecations of political buccaneers like Chekwas Okorie, its sacked founding Chairman.
One can currently, for the purpose of analysis, use a comparative framework in positing two historical eras in this emerging leadership challenge-the era of avante garde individualism under Chekwas Okorie who saw himself as the Lord fiefdom of the party, he who must be obeyed, often for selfish reasons, and the Victor Umeh era that saw APGA as a party of law, rules, and rights of participation, leading to its being nationally and regionally redefined as grassroots tool for development.
This comparative analysis is beyond ordinary paradigmatic shift since this fundamental leadership change from Okorie to Umeh saw the party releasing its democratic soul from bondage and throwing the party open for membership to civil society and the people, to belong, interact and own which aligns very well with the fundamental vision for the party as defined by the great Ikemba and other chieftains in Igboland.
The point of this shift lies in the democractic verity that one man cannot own, start or sustain a political party which is Okorie’s vision of internal party structure and democracy, the point of disagreement and departure between him and Ojukwu and other party chieftains; the point of the sack by the party hierarchy represented by Chief Ojukwu and Chief Umeh.
It is very disheartening and disappointing when Chekwas and his foot soldiers tend to narrow down the historical and dialectical analysis down to a mere disagreement either between him and Ojukwu or Umeh or Governor Obi or Rochas.
Even though Chekwas attempted to amputate this great democractic vision and party structure through wiles and guile of his planted minions in the Iwu-led INEC through legal gerrymandering that threatened the party leadership, vision and programmes for the masses in Igbo land, Chief Victor Umeh stood unshaken, resolute and committed in translating Chief Odumegwu Ojukwu’s vision for political and democratic liberation of Igbos and Igbo land into establishing APGA as a credible grassroots party in Nigeria.
From one Igbo state to two— Anambra and Imo states, Chief Umeh has shown that he is a better party leader, manager and lover of Igbo land which is what the great Ikemba wanted and defined as APGA’s eternal mandate.
It is not true that the party tussle was just between Chekwas Okorie and Ojukwu; it is not true that the conflict was between two APGA chieftains, Okorie and Umeh, as portrayed by some biased sections of the the Nigerian press while the tussle lasted. The fact of the matter lies in the struggle by Ojukwu, Umeh and others to stabilise and achieve APGA’s eternal vision and search for internal party democracy that will establish it as a mass movement in Nigeria.
This vision and search was represented by the great Ikemba and Chief Umeh, with stakeholders like Governors Peter Obi, Rochas Okorocha and others. This vision runs against the mills of party selfish fiefdom and dictatorship which Okorie opposed and led to a fallout with Ojukwu, Chief Umeh and other party stakeholders.
This contest between the vision and values of internal party democracy and authoritarianism cannot be wished away as pedestrian struggle for party leadership. This patent disagreement between Okorie’s personal party democracy and Igbo grassroots party democracy led to his sack in the party because he became a threat to the best ideals that Ojukwu wanted to achieve in Nigeria and Igbo land for Igbos through the agency of APGA.
Having used all avenues, legal and illegal, to truncate the great Ikemba’s APGA vision and programmes, and failed with distinction, the Supreme Court directed him to return APGA’s certificate to Chief Umeh since his initial sack was through a genuine party disciplinary process sanctioned and backed by the party rules and regulations.
We must also evaluate his recent efforts to register a new political party cloned after the logo, name and acronym of APGA which he calls UPGA(that is if Professor Jega allows that illegality and perfidy of confusion and chaos). We will come to that later in the article.
In the context of the national and worldwide mourning of Chief Ojukwu’s transition and the national liberating effect which his death brought upon Nigeria’s political and social mood we must,once more, re-examine the great ideals that defined the party, what APGA stands for and seek to understand the newest efforts by the man Okorie to once more, attempt to destroy the party in Igbo land and decimate Ojukwu’s national marching mandate of the APGA.
Mr. By CHUKWUNONYELUM ANUWEZE, a political analyst, wrote from Abuja.