Chief Victor Umeh
Embattled National Chairman of All Progressives Grand Alliance, Chief Victor Umeh, spoke to Journalists on the crisis in the party and other matters. Charles Onyekamuo presents the excerpts
APGA now has an acting national chairman now, but is there a provision for such in the party’s constitution and what are the prayers in your appeal?
Well, when people are not playing by the rules, they dig trenches for themselves. When they fall into the trenches, they will be looking for a way to come up. When I was dragged to court on a challenge of my tenure of office, the people who sponsored the suit against me did not have a long view of the dangers and implications their actions portend for the party. In desperate pursuit of Chief Victor Umeh to be removed as the national chairman of APGA, they, without knowing, sewed a seed of fire that will burn the party.
While they are waiting for the Chief Judge of Enugu State to announce my removal, they were not expecting that other officers of the party elected with me in one convention would also be affected. There was no way the Judge will determine my tenure without also determining the tenure of people elected along with me in one convention. When that happened, they were thrown into confusion.
If you recall my immediate reaction on that judgment, I did say that even Mr. Peter Obi who sponsored the suit will not benefit from the suit because he has a very short political view. He did not know that such a far reaching decision will come out of that suit. They were desperately pursuing me, I knew that was going to be the outcome and when it happened, they were caught napping, and they didn’t know what to do again.
By that implication, the Judge has announced that he didn’t have the jurisdiction to hear the matter. So, on the issue of adopting somebody into being national chairman of APGA in the person of Maxi Okwu, it is one of such confused approaches to, trying to create a leadership for APGA having shot themselves from the sides. They were targeting only me but in one failed stroke, they lost 29 members of national working committee. So, speaking strictly, nobody has been appointed interim or acting national chairman of APGA. It is unconstitutional and INEC will not accept such action.
On the second issue of judgment of Enugu High Court and my prayers, well, I filed 12 grounds of an appeal, we are emphasizing that the court has no jurisdiction to hear the matter. From the outcome of the judgment, every child in Nigeria now knows the court has no jurisdiction. One is that the court nullified election of national officers of APGA in a convention conducted by APGA. APGA was not a party in the suit. Secondly, the INEC report of that convention which okayed its outcome was also nullified by the court. INEC made that report, so, there was no way you can nullify its report of the convention without joining INEC in the suit.
Thirdly, for the fact that 28 people who were elected with me at that convention were also removed from the office and they were not sued. They were not also joined in the suit, if you want to do that you have to sue all of us. They were not joined in the suit, in other words you had shaved their heads in their absence; you didn’t hear from them. Our tenures were joined together because we are products of one convention. It will be very easy for court of appeal to see that from day one, the Judge and his court did not have jurisdiction to entertain the matter.
There were too many contradictions in the judgment which my learned counsel, Patrick .I.Ikwueto, SAN, has formulated and put an appeal for the Court of Appeal to determine. If you read the judgment, it is completely perverse. In one hand, the judge was saying that the plaintiff was not asking the court to cancel a convention, cancel a primary or anything of that sort but in the process, he cancelled an action taken in the convention in the body of judgment. There was one contradiction in the judgment where the plaintiff admitted that I was elected at the convention in 2006 in Enugu, and my tenure ended December 2, 2010 for four years certain. The report of that convention 2006 was an exhibit produced by INEC, it was an exhibit during trial. The report of the INEC convention of 2011 at Awka was also an exhibit during trial. In those reports, the process of voting was the same, voice vote. We voted with voice vote at Nike Lake Resort hotel Enugu in December 2, 2006. Then the plaintiff accepted that it was a good convention.
Now, in the 2011 convention, they are saying we used voice vote. It is wrong because you cannot approbate and reprobate. So, there were too many things wrong with the judgment. Apart from lack of fair hearing which the Judge handed down to me; lack of fair hearing is a sufficient ground to set aside the judgment and there were too many things he did to prove misconduct of the matter that will show I wasn’t given fair hearing. So, all these things put together, the weight of evidence of what he did will be against them at the court of appeal.
You claimed Governor Obi sponsored the crisis. But Obi and his aides had denied any such thing?
You see, I don’t make careless statements. I make circumstantial statements with facts. There is no way Obi can deny that he is not behind this action. One was that why a lot of people tried to intervene in order to resolve this matter, Governor Obi rebuffed all those efforts, including clergymen, traditional rulers and people from our local government- we are from the same local government. He said that only court decision will resolve the matter. Based on the utterances of the adviser, legal, one Barrister Ejesieme, who is too mouthy, in fact, he told people that between Tuesday and Friday, which was February 5 and 8 of this year, that they would have finished with me.
On February 5, I was served hearing notice for the judgment for Friday. How did he know that these things will be like that and I said this about ten days before February 5. All the things he told the public and all the claims Nwobualor has been making on the pages of newspaper, all of them tend to happen on the day of judgment. To now tell you that Obi is behind it, when the hearing notice came up on February 8, Obi circulated text messages, calling for a meeting on the 9th. The meeting they had on February 16 in Abuja was to take place on the 9th, a day after the judgment, so that everybody will come together and you will say the court has removed me, let us find somebody to steer the ship of the party.
For the fact that I appealed against that judgment, filed a motion for stay of execution, Obi did not wait, he convened that meeting where in the first item in the communiqué was that they have accepted the outcome of that judgment. None of them has right of appeal, they are not party in the suit. I was the sole defendant in the suit, I appealed and they were aware that I had appealed. Their lawyer was served and he ignored that and continued to take a vain action.
One of Obi’s aides said that you are biting the finger that fed you. How true is that?
I read Mike Udah’s utterances and one is that it wouldn’t be proper for me to be joining issues with governor Obi’s personal aide. But for the fact that he has written it and a lot of people read it, it is important that I make clarification. One is that I share the same birthday with governor Obi, by July 19. This year, he will be 52 years while I will be 51 years old. Both of us went to university of Nigeria, I was at Enugu campus where I read Estate Management; Obi was at Nsukka where he read Philosophy. Both of us graduated in June 1984 at the same time.
I did not know him until 2001 because I was at Enugu campus of University of Nigeria, he was at Nssukka campus. I had been very active as a professional Estate Surveyor, I had consulted for so many financial institutions, First Bank, Orient Bank, Co-operative and Commerce Bank even successful companies like Innoson Group of Companies, UTC Nigeria PLC.
Politically, in 1998 I was a founding member of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and about November 1998 I was the chairman of PDP panel that conducted the primaries for the first local government election that took place in this country in Imo state. In 1999, I was elected state treasurer of PDP in Anambra State and based on my contributions to the growth of PDP; I was appointed the member of Board of Directors of Nigeria Film Co-operation Jos by former President Olusegun Obasanjo. I hadn’t known Peter Obi in all these years.
It was in 2001 that by a referral from Prof. ABC Nwosu that Obi came to look for me in Enugu, I didn’t know him. Prof. Nwosu who I had worked with when he contested for governor, had a chance discussion with Obi for him to run for governor in Anambra State, but he told Obi only one thing he would recommend. If you will run for this election, there is somebody I will recommend for you, he is in Enugu, his name is Victor Umeh. Go and see him, if say he will support you and stand by you, you will go very far.
That’s how Obi came to Enugu to look for me, and he met me on the 24th of March 2001. From there we heard discussions; I expressed surprise that such a person existed from the good things he told me. And coming from a nearby community to mine, I felt the background he portrayed of himself, I was taken in and I took him on. I cannot join issues with Mike Udah to state what I have contributed to his rise to fame, politically. There is nobody in Anambra state who does not know that I was the brain box for APGA and Peter Obi himself. All the strategies we have used- starting from the election- I was the one who took Obi to virtually everybody in Anambra state at that time.
What is the place of APGA in the merger of opposition parties?
I am not somebody who can play hide and seek. I don’t have two colours. The issue of merger has become a blackmail issue by Obi and his group. You can recall that in June 2012 when he sponsored Masalla and his group to remove me as the national chairman of APGA, one of the accusations they made against me was that I was hobnobbing with ACN and CPC for merger. We had a national working committee meeting on June 21, 2012; we produced a communiqué from that meeting, and it was advertised in the newspapers. In that communiqué, paragraph 14 said attention of the National working committee was drawn to newspaper publications where our national secretary was misquoted and saying that APGA will merge with CPC and ACN if invited for a merger.
The national secretary of the party severally refuted this statement credited to him. The NWC made it clear that APGA will not merge with any political party; instead APGA is ready for alliance talk with other political parties for the purpose of presidential election in 2015 wherein APGA will field a presidential candidate. At the appropriate time, the national caucus of the party will be mandated to pursue such discussion as they become necessary.