All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA, chieftain, Prince Nnanna Ukaegbu, speaks on the crisis rocking the party and the call for election in Abia North among other issues. Excerpts:
BY UGOCHUKWU ALARIBE
Your party, APGA, has been torn apart by crisis. What is the way forward?
APGA has no elected official across the federation. There was an attempt albeit illegally to organize congresses to elect national, state, local government and ward officers of the party which was apposite to the APGA Constitution.
The tenure of the last executive expired on the 15th of May 2019. A High Court in Ibadan, Oyo State ordered then-national executive of the party to hold a national convention and other congresses on or before 15th of May, 2019 which was their last day in office. Under the APGA Constitution, only the sitting executive committee can conduct elective congresses.
The APGA Constitution also envisages a situation whereby the executive may not be able to conduct elective congresses within its tenure. In such instance, the Constitution provides for convocation of a national convention solely for the purpose of extending the tenure of the executive committee by not more than 90 days. In this instance, this was not done, the party waited for the expiration of their tenure.
But rather than seek for extension after their tenure, they proceeded to organize congresses after a court had found that their tenure had expired. Another court in Kwale , Delta State, struck out the congresses they held. And as of today, APGA has no valid ward, local government, state, zonal and national officers. Anybody parading himself as such is fake and deceiving the public. Conversely, owing to the order of court in Abia State, I remain in office pending the determination of the substantive suit we filed. The order of the court pronouncing me Chairman is now subject to a suit at the Court of Appeal. Until this order is set aside, I remain in office.
Therefore, I’m the only remaining officer of APGA across the federation. Other offices have expired by effluxion of time. I am technically the Acting National Chairman of APGA and I have written to INEC informing them about the state of affairs in the party as well as my desire to proceed to convene the relevant congresses and convention to elect new officers of the party.
Way forward for APGA
The way forward is to return to the APGA Constitution and the visions of the founding fathers of the party. I’m in touch with most of the founding fathers of APGA, they are not happy with the sordid state of affairs in the party. Some of them have left, but I have a special covenant with APGA, and without risk of contradiction, I hold the sacred ‘ofo’ of the party given to me on the 17th of January, 2004 by Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu at Ikot Ekpene, Akwa Ibom State and witnessed by the founding chairman of APGA, Chief Chekwas Okorie and Chief Onwuka Ukwa. That ‘ofo’ resides with me till date. I can’t abandon it for anything; this is why I remain in APGA. And this is why I am committed to putting the party back on track on the vision of its founding fathers.
On Board of Trustees’ Chairman, Gov. Willie Obiano
I leave him to be judged by history. If he is doing well, it is up to him. If he is paying Ojukwu in good coin, it is also up to him.
Why has APGA not won any state beside Anambra?
This is not true. APGA won Imo State in 2011. In 2015, we were on the verge of winning Abia before the forces of darkness truncated that victory. It is still the same forces of darkness that had kept the party in limbo. The struggle for the soul of APGA and to reposition the party started after the 2019 elections .I know before the 2021 polls in Anambra, we will get our acts together. APGA will show why it is a mass oriented party. We are sure of not only retaining Anambra, but also overriding the South-East.
Abia North no longer has representation in the Senate following the imprisonment of Chief Orji Uzor Kalu. What is your take on the matter?
There is nothing strange in Abia North not having a representative at the Senate. I rely on the pronouncement of the Federal High Court, Lagos Division while ruling on Kalu’s application for bail. One of the grounds Kalu relied for bail was that he ought to be allowed to go and represent his senatorial district who voted for him. And the judge reminded him that his senatorial district knew he was under trial and they also knew the likelihood of his conviction and voted him. So, the senatorial district knew the risk they were taking by voting and this can no longer be used as an excuse for bail. The senatorial zone took the risk and now they are suffering it.
The only unique thing in the case of Kalu and Abia North is the reluctance of the Senate to apply the basic laws under Sections 66 and 68 of the Constitution which talk about the issue of eligibility for membership of legislative houses in Nigeria. From December 5th when he was convicted, Kalu ceased to be a member of the Senate.
This is the law of the land. Under which law are people saying he should be allowed to exhaust his right to appeal? Those canvassing such views are relying on the provisions of the Electoral Act, but they forgot that the Constitution supersedes the Act. The provision of the law that an elected member will remain in office until he exhausts his right of appeal only relate sto the challenge to the seat which he occupies, not when it rests on his qualification to assume office.
The Nigerian Constitution provides qualification for a person to be a member of the Senate or the House of Representatives. One of the qualifications is that you must not be under a sentence from any court in Nigeria bordering on fraud or financial misappropriation. Therefore, with his imprisonment by the court, Kalu has lost the qualification to continue to sit in the Senate or receive allowances. This is the position of the law. It was not made to victimize Kalu, it was stated clearly in our law books.
Are you not worried that the matter took more than eight years before conclusion?
I am not worried; the issue is that in Nigeria we are yet to determine if we really want to fight corruption or condone it. And the APC led Federal Government is guilty of double standard in the anti graft war. If government is really committed to fight corruption, the Senate won’t have said they will continue to pay Kalu’s salaries and allowances until he exhausts his right of appeal. In America, would a convicted senator remain in his position receiving salaries? There are cases on the matter, but in Nigeria, look at what the Senate said, trying to circumvent the law.
It is a dangerous precedent; I pray they understand the implication of their action on the matter. We have already written the INEC asking them to come and conduct another election in the zone. We have given them seven-day ultimatum to activate the process of conducting fresh election in the zone. We have also written to the Senate President Ahmed Lawan to respect his oath of office to uphold the laws of the land. How can the Senate make a statement that the Abia North seat is not vacant and that Kalu will be receiving salaries? It is an embarrassing to read such statement confirming illegality from a majestic body like the Senate. Even if Kalu gets bail, his conviction by the court stands. A conviction by a court of competent jurisdiction is not subject to stay of execution. The wording of the Constitution on conviction has nothing to do with bail or being free to move about. The operative word is under a sentence from a court. Therefore, Kalu has been sentenced by a court of competent jurisdiction and no longer fit to sit in the hallowed chambers of the Senate. This is the law.
Marginalization of Ndigbo
It is the turn of Ndigbo to produce the President of Nigeria. Until we do, the civil war still rages. Until Jimmy Carter who hails from the South of America became the President of the US, the country never really saw their civil war come to an end. Until an Igbo becomes President, the civil war has not ended.