Chief Maxi Okwu
* Court reinstates Umeh
By Christopher Isiguzo, Emeka Osondu and Charles Onyekamuo
Chief Maxi Okwu was Monday elected the National Chairman of National Chairman of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), at the party’s national convention held at the Women Development Centre, Awka, the Anambra State capital.
The is came as the Enugu Division of the Court of Appeal Monday ordered the reinstatement of the embattled National Chairman of the party, Chief Victor Umeh.
At the convention, though delegates started arriving at about 11.am, it started with the accreditation of delegates at 1.am and ended with the election of new party officials and their being sworn in at 8:30am.
Except the positions of the National Vice-Chairman (South–west), Deputy National Financial Secretary and National Woman Leader, other 24 national officers of the party out of the party’s 28 were elected at the convention, which was attended by about 875 delegates.
A six-man delegate from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) led by the Deputy Director, Public Affairs at the commission’s national headquarters, Abuja, Mr. Victor Agbonwaneten monitored the APGA convention. The Resident Electoral Commissioner, Anambra State, Professor Chukwuemeka Onubuogu, also monitored.
Oath of allegiance and oath of office were administered on all the newly elected APGA national officers at about 8.30am by Chief Ozoemena Onyali, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN).
Okwu polled a total of 764 to defeat his sole challenger, Chief Joe-Martins Uzodike, Commissioner of Information and Culture, Anambra State who scored a total of 91 votes according to the results announced by the Convention Electoral Returning Officer, Mr. Larry Nwosu at about 8.05am. Former Deputy Governors of Anambra State, Prince Chinedu Emeka and Dr. Okey Udeh, respectively were the results collation officers.
Other national officers of the party elected at the convention included, Chief Chris Ejike Uche (Deputy National Chairman, South); Alhaji Sadeeq Massala (Deputy National Chairman, North); Alhaji Sagir Maidoya (National Secretary); Mr. Bernard Akoma (National Publicity Secretary); Mr. Alex Ejesieme (National Legal Adviser and Mr. Ferguson Okpara National Youth Leader).
National Protem Chairman of the party, Dr. Isa Arzuka Jega presided over the convention, just as the APGA National Deputy Leader and Governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi commended the party members for the orderly manner they conducted themselves during the convention and charged the new party leadership and the entire followership to embrace peace and reconciliation with all aggrieved members.
He urged them not to visit the past but to work for the future growth of the party and assured that the party would retain the Government House, Awka in the forthcoming governorship election.
In his acceptance speech, Okwu thanked delegates and other APGA faithful for the confidence reposed in him and pledged that his priority would be to reconcile all aggrieved party members and to build APGA as the core political party in Nigeria.
He particularly extended a hand of fellowship to Umeh, to see reason to make peace with his leadership and assured him, “I believe that somewhere down the line Victor (Umeh) will find peace with us, I am extending a hand of comradeship to him and I believe he will bury the hatchet and come back. I will give him soft landing.”
Delegates at the APGA convention come from the various states of the federation. Also in attendance were many elected state and national Assembly members who are members of the party as well appointed political office holders.
The roll-call included: Governor Peter Obi; his Deputy, Mr. Emeka Sibeudu; APGA National Protem Chairman, Dr Isa Arzuka Jega; former Health Minister and member of the party’s Board of Trustees, Dr. Tim Menakaya; former Information Minister, Professor Dora Akunyili; Reps members from Ogbaru Federal Constituency, Awka Federal Constuency, Nnewi South, Nnewi North and Ekwusigo Federal Constituency, Hon.Amba. Frank Ogbuewu; Victor Ogene, Emeka Mogbo and Chris Azubuogu respectively, Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Princess Chinwe Nwaebili, former Reps member for Ihiala federal constituency, Mr. Chuma Nzeribe and former deputy governors Chinedu Emeka and Dr, Okey Udeh, former gubernatorial candidate of the party in Abia State, Mr. Reagan Ofomba among others.
The Enugu State High Court presided over by the state Chief Judge, Justice Innocent Umezurike, had on February 10 this year restrained Umeh from parading himself as APGA’s national chairman, insisting that the 2010 convention that produced him, along with members of the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) did not follow due process and as such was illegal.
But in a unanimous ruling on Umeh’s application for a stay of execution of the said order by a three-man panel of justices including Justices Paul Galinje, F. A. Kwasami and Tom Yakubu, the appellate court held that since the appellant (Umeh) duly appealed against the decision of the lower court challenging his jurisdiction and accusing him of bias, the status quo as at the time the said order was made should be maintained pending the determination of the appeal.
The presiding judge of the court who delivered the lead ruling that was endorsed by other justices of the court, said the court agreed with the submissions made by the appellant’s counsel, Patrick Ikweto (SAN) and Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), that the injunctive order made against Umeh by the lower court was capable of causing him and APGA irreparable damages if the status quo was not maintained while the matter was still pending at the court.
According to the judge, the respondent, Jude Okuli, failed to file a counter-affidavit, adding that when the bailiff made an attempt to serve him the appellant’s motion and other processes, he refused to accept them including the application for stay of execution.
Umeh Monday stormed the tomb of the late leader of the party, Chief Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu to dedicate his victory at the court.
Umeh, who drove straight from the court in company of the party’s National Secretary, Alhaji Shehu Shinkafi, the party’s National Deputy Chairman, South-west, Tayo Shorenmi as well as a crowd of party supporters, virtually shed tears at Ojukwu’s grave yard while invoking his spirit.
He said: “Ezeigbo gburugburu. We are here to call on you and invoke your spirit once more. My colleagues and I have come to assure you that the party you left in our hands will never die.
“Today remains a great day in the life of APGA. When you departed, some of the impostors among us wanted to turn this party into a lawless one including those who never believed in you and never wore your mourning cloth.”