THERE SEEMS TO BE NO END IN SIGHT to THE LEADERSHIP TUSSLE THAT HAS ENGULFED THE ALLPROGRESSIVE GRAND ALLIANCE (APGA). BOTH SIDES in THE CONFLICT HAVE AT ONE POINT WON A TEMPORAry VICTORY BUT THE CRISIS STILL PERSISTS. ONE OF THE ACTORS IN THE BITTER CONFLICT, CHAIRMAN OF THE PARTY, CHIEF VICTOR UMEH SPOKE TO ONYEBUCHI EZIGBO IN ABUJA ON THE CRISIS OF CONFIDENCE BETWEEN HIS LEADERSHIP AND A KEY FINANCIER OF THE PARTY, THE ANAMBRA STATE GOVERNOR, MR. PETER OBI
You have severally bemoaned the over-bearing activities of some elected office holders who are undermining the authority of the party. What are the issues and your fears? â€¨â€¨
Executive recklessness that has to do with destruction of the leadership of a party is not common to APGA alone, you find even in the PDP. Through the review of our constitution, we will be able to put a provision where if somebody is elected on the platform of APGA and he does anything that is inimical to the interest of the party publicly without clearing with the party, such a person will be expelled.
This will ensure that if you win an election on the party’s platform, you become more responsible to that party and not when you win a election, you run away or because you have become and you have money you start dealing with everybody the way you like. This will no longer happen, everyone will have to be under the party. If people begin to act out the party’s constitution, what it means is that they are above the party. But the party should be above everybody.
The party has made people successful, people had stood on the platform of APGA to become governors, National Assembly members and state Assembly members. They cannot therefore because of the opportunities they have by their elevation through the party now want to put themselves above the party. It is an aberration. So much may have happened but I still believe that the best approach is by setting up this committee, anybody who still has anything to ventilate as a grievance can approach the committee.
I have also asked the committee to reach out to the people so that everybody would be clear that it is not this leadership that is the problem of the party. Once they don’t take this opportunity, which the party has provided, we will have the opportunity of rebuilding the party. It is this leadership of APGA that has made the party what it is in Nigeria today and through some misconceptions, people have been told that the leadership has stayed too long. We have not stayed too long. We were elected first on December 2, 2010 for a four-year term, just like somebody who’s running for the office of governor, you stay first term four years and go for re-election that is a total of eight years. Like I said, we are on our second term that would last till February 2015. There is no point blackmailing us that we are sit-tight leaders.
Those people blackmailing us are still in office that they assumed before us. Our governor in Anambra State was sworn-in on March 17, 2006, while I became Chairman of APGA, February 2, 2010, almost nine months after he had become governor. And he will leave office on March 17, 2014, how can my own expire before his own. So these are things we do not want to continue. We have laboured so much and what gives us encouragement is the support, which we have continued to receive from party members. The people causing problems in APGA are very few but they have taken advantage of their exalted offices to cause this problem and we are pleading with them to have a re-think.
There seem to be an issue of very strong interest amongst you the combatants in APGA. For instance those opposed to you are seeking to reposition the party by effecting a change in its leadership. Any hope for reconciliation? â€¨â€¨â€¨
Well, there is no conflict of interest that cannot be resolve. The party is still there for everybody, if somebody begins to act in a manner that the authority of the party will be undermined, it will not augur well for democracy. If I may tell you, the person sponsoring this crisis is no longer hidden. It is the governor of Anambra State. This leadership stood by him. If he is afraid of primaries and things like that, it is the same leadership that stood behind him and if he enjoyed our leadership all through, he cannot begin to castigate our leadership at the twilight of his tenure because he wants somebody to succeed him.
He should subject that person who will succeed him to the authority of the party and party members will choose the person, so this crisis was avoidable. There are things you can achieve through dialogue and explanations and you convince the party and you have your way. If you are seeking to maintain a position and your party members are resisting that position, it goes to show that you are not doing the right thing. Because it had to do with somebody who is in executive authority, he has money to dispense, you can see my members, those who you here are the ones who refused to collect four million Naira and that shows you that money is not everything and we have been able to resist it and kept this party till this point.
Nothing is difficult to resolve that was why we decided to bring in other party leaders into this matter, let them look at the issue dispassionately to find out what the problems and the issues are. If the major issue is that of succession, which will succeed Governor Obi in Anambra state, if that is his worry, then it is the fear he created for himself. It was not supposed to be there at all. And if the committee goes to see him and he says that is the problem, I do not think they would agree with him that he would impose his successor on the party because the party has a constitution.
Of course, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) will insist that there must be an election. When that time comes, we should prepare ourselves, you cannot shut out people, just because you are not comfortable with that individual. And to believe that the only thing to do is to destroy the party and therefore make sure that the person does not contest. It is undemocratic, no matter how you see that person, you must allow the person to go to the people and they would decide whether he is acceptable or not. So if governors begin to appoint candidates for the party and elect governor for their states that is too much job for them. â€¨â€¨
You said that a committee would be set up to review APGA’s constitution, what are some of the areas that may require amendment?
If there are places where some checks and balances needed to be put in place to promote and encourage more inclusiveness in the decision-making process, we should do that. If my leadership that brought in National Vice Chairmen of APGA to be members of the National Working Committee at our convention in Enugu in 2010. I had proposed that the National Vice Chairman ought to be members of the NWC.
Under my predecessor, National Vice Chairmen were not members of the NWC, so we just had a chairman and Deputy National Chairman, North and South. I felt it was wrong and we effected the change that brought them in, but we need to reflect these things in the constitution. â€¨â€¨â€¨
How do you, as one of the political leaders view the current insecurity in the country, and especially the decision of the President to declare state of emergency on three states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa? â€¨â€¨
The present orchestrated attacks in parts of the country, especially in the north, which led to loss of several lives and properties is not a good omen. The President has been responding to the insecurity situation and recently he declared a state of emergency in three states in the northeast of the country. From the measures announced by Mr. President, all the political office holders will retain their positions, all the governors and elected members of the state Assembly will continue in their offices and continue discharging their duties in those states.
What this portends is that President has merely provided additional security to the affected states. We as a party believe that security is a collective responsibility, but for the President as the Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria and also the governors who administer these states. You are aware that sometime last year, a Boko Haram suspect was arrested at the Governor’s Lodge of the Borno State, here in Abuja. Well that speaks volume about the levity with which the governors treat the issue of security.
We know that if governors have been asked to step aside for six months so that the Federal Government will normalise the security situation in their states, they will become more desperate in the future to ensure that these things do not appear in the news, that their states are under bombardments and massive killing of people.
Because the governors are asked to continue with their jobs, the other governors may relent in providing security in their areas. When people are being killed in those states, Federal Government will then shift emphasis to them, it is important to underscore the point that all the governors are also guilty of negligence to this security challenge facing the nation. That is why we are saying that should the insecurity persists, the President should not shy away from taking hasher measures that will make other governors to sit-up.
How can you assess Nigeria’s 100 years as a nation. Do you think there is a good reason to roll out the drums to celebrate the centenary?
â€¨â€¨With the current events in the country, we have actually taken so many steps backwards. Hundred years of nationhood, from the amalgamation in 1914, Nigeria ought to have improved on its democracy where people will begin to know that some utterances are undemocratic and that such utterance does not promote peaceful coexistence within any nation.
As we are preparing for the hundred years centenary celebration, Nigeria is under threat of survival and that showed that we have failed. We were blaming the military for so much interruption in the past, but now we have had civilian democracy for nearly 14 years in Nigeria and people are still acting as if we are in a banana republic when somebody will wake up and say that a serving President will not seek re-election for second term in this country.
The President has the right of seeking re-election but it is left for the Nigerian people to re-elect him or not. If you begin to say that he should not be re-elected and that if the President contests you will run Nigeria down, that is terrible. These are the serious issues we are worried about. And nobody can also say that the President must win a second term.
What he is entitled to is to seek re-election under our constitution and the Nigerian people will be given an opportunity to assess him and re-elect him if he has satisfied them or elect another person. The two extremes that he must be re-elected or Nigerian will cease to exist and that he must not stand for re-election are not acceptable under a genuine democratic setting. These are the things we need to watch and until we eliminate this tendency in our democracy we will not be building an enduring democracy.