Chief Victor Umeh
* Ojukwu would not support merger Anambra Government Replies Obi’s Critics
By Onyebuchi Ezigbo and Charles Onyekamuo
As the battle for the soul of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) rages on, two rival leaderships of the party led by Chief Victor Umeh and Alhaji Sadeeq Massalla, Monday disowned the interim leadership appointed at the weekend under the auspices of the party’s national caucus.
The fight-back by the factions in the APGA crisis came just as Umeh clarified the party’s stand over the issue of merger with other opposition political parties, saying that the party was respecting the wishes of its late leader, Chief Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu that APGA retains its identity.
Both Umeh and Massalla at separate press conferences, denounced the appointment of Mr. Maxi Okwu as the interim National Chairman, describing the caucus meeting that elected him as illegal and outside the provisions of the party’s constitution.
Also, the sacked National Secretary of APGA, Alhaji Sanni Shinkafi, who accompanied Umeh at the briefing in Abuja rejected his appointment as interim National Secretary, saying he will not submit myself to illegality.
“I will not submit myself to illegality. I remain the National Secretary of APGA until the final determination of the appeal filed by Umeh. There is no way I will accept to become an acting National Secretary of the party when I am the substantive Secretary. I will continue to align myself with Umeh as far as the leadership of the party tussle in the party is concerned,” said Shinkafi.
Last weekend, the Governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi, and 43 other leaders of APGA met under the umbrella of the National Caucus of the party to appoint Mr. Maxi Okwu and Alhaji Sanni Shinkafi as Acting National Chairman and Acting National Secretary of APGA respectively.
Both men were mandated to oversee the affairs of the party pending the convening of a national convention.
However, the embattled Umeh told reporters Monday that the move to install the new interim leadership ran foul of the party’s constitution and therefore is condemnable.
He said not only was the composition of the national caucus faulty but that the function of the caucus under APGA constitution does preclude election of national leadership of the party.
“There is one only APGA that is legally recognised by INEC and that leadership is the one leader by Umeh and Shinkafi. It is true that the leadership was ousted by the court but that court judgement has been appealed against.
“We will continue to pursue our appeal against the Enugu High Court, and as long the appeal subsists, no move to foist a new leadership on the party will succeed.
“We are going to take appropriate action to protect our party from further denigration of the party,” he said.
Umeh challenged the new interim chairman, Mr. Maxi Okwu, to openly denounce the appointment as a legal practitioner who knows the implications of his present action.
“None of those who met in Abuja last weekend under the auspices of national caucus were member of the party’s caucus and are not recognised by the constitution of the party. What they have done is an exhibition of desperation and has no place before the law,” he said.
He went ahead to reel out the composition of those qualified to be in the national caucus of the party of which he said none of those that partook in the weekend’s meeting including Governor Obi are cacus members.
He also said that the functions of the national caucus does not include electing leadership of the party whether interim or otherwise.
Umeh lamented that though Obi had been one of the greatest beneficiaries of the law, his actions since the party crisis started has not reflected that much.
Speaking on the Enugu High Court judgment that voided the composition of NWC including himself as the National Chairman of the party, Umeh said he had contested the neutrality of the judge through his counsel even before the ruling.
For instance, he said though he was the sole defendant in the suit, the judge still went ahead to join APGA and voided the positions of the entire NWC and NEC elected through the convention of 2010.
“On the September 20, 2012, I had filed a formal motion asking the judge to disqualify himself from further adjudicating on the case. I had also petitioned the National Judicial Commission (NJC), complaining about the unfair attitude of the judge,” he said.
Umeh said the implication of the court judgment was that the entire APGA leadership were sacked and that the party will have no leadership if he had not immediately filed an appeal to stay execution of the judgment.
While opposing the interim leadership, the factional chairman of APGA NEC, Massalla, argued that the composition of last weekend’s national caucus was not in the spirit and letters of Article 10 (11) and 11 (11) of the constitution of APGA.
He said the forum has no power to elect and give to APGA interim National Working Committee (NWC) and National Executive (NEC) members.
“We accept the judgment of the Enugu High Court in good faith and will call on all affected members to equally take it as a sacrifice for the growth of the party. However, the meeting February 16 by the respected elders and members of our party by composition is not a national caucus of the party in the spirit and letters of Article 10 (11) and 11 (11) of the constitution of APGA, and therefore have no power to elect and give to APGA interim National Working Committee (NWC) and National Executive (NEC) members,” he said.
He explained that based on the directives of the Enugu High Court on how a new interim leadership can emerge, it is clear that only the Massalla-led NEC has the legal status.
Apart from faulting the composition of last weekend’s meeting, Massalla said the national caucus has no constitutional right to elect officers to run the affairs of the party.
He further said the national caucus should not be an ad hoc assemblage of members but a body with statutory memberships, functions and duties.
Meanwhile, the Anambra State Government has made a spirited effort to defend Obi over his role in the APGA crisis.
His Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Mike Udah, at a media briefing in Awka Monday, noted that his principal had in recent times been subjected to all forms of attacks in the media by Umeh and his cohorts who he said included a Special Assistant to Imo State Governor, Chief Rochas Okorocha.
The allegation against Obi he said included that he masterminded the recent sack of Umeh by the Chief Judge of Enugu State, Justice Innocent Umezurike, and was destroying APGA because he had joined the PDP,
Udah said all the allegations are spurious and a rehash of old stories, adding that rather than Obi benefiting from Umeh, it was the other way round as Umeh benefited from Obi’s stature in the party and support when he was elevated from being its Treasurer to National Chairman when its founding National Chairman, Chief Chekwas Okorie was removed.
He said that Obi had no plans to dump APGA even as he worked for a PDP administration at the centre as Adviser to the President on Economic Matters, arguing that it was Obi’s tenacity, support for APGA and resilience in the court of Law that made him a recover his mandate in 2007.