All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA)
The crisis of confidence rocking the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) got to a head last week when the court restrained Sadiq Massalla and Ikenna Okwenna from parading themselves as the Acting National Chairman and National Secretary of the party respectively. Emeka Osondu and Charles Onyekamuo provide an update on the crisis
The leadership crisis rocking the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) is yet to abate as the gladiators are still devising ways to gain the upper hand. The crisis had pitted the National Chairman of APGA, Chief Victor Umeh, and his group against another camp calling for his removal from office. The latter group is said to be enjoying the support of Anambra State Governor, Mr. Peter Obi, whom Umeh recently accused of fuelling the crisis in order to oust him from office.
There have been mixed feelings on the crisis, which seems to be taking a new dimension every time. While an Enugu High Court earlier restrained Umeh from acting in his capacity as the national chairman of the party, an Abuja High Court last Tuesday issued an order restraining Sadiq Massalla and Ikenna Okwenna from parading themselves as the acting national chairman and national secretary of the party respectively.
Justice H.Y. Baba issued the restraining order after hearing an ex-parte application moved by counsel to the party, Patrick Ikwueto. Besides, the court restrained Massalla and Okwenna from convening, calling or organising or holding any meeting of any organ of APGA and or otherwise interfering in any manner whatsoever, in the affairs of APGA at any level, pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice which has been fixed for August 16, 2012.
Both Umeh and the party’s National Secretary, Alhaji Sani Shinkafi, had in an ex-parte motion, asked the court to restrain the duo from interfering in affairs of the party having been suspended from the party since June 19, 2012. In a 37-paragraph affidavit deposed to by Shinkafi, he averred that the first, third and fourth defendants were members of the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party until June 19 when they began a dissident campaign against the national leadership of the party. He further remarked that "as required by the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and the Electoral Act (as amended), the first plaintiff, APGA, held a national convention on February 10, 2010. Prior to the February 10, 2010 convention, we held a national convention on December 2, 2006.
"The national conventions of our party, APGA, held on December 2, 2006 and February 10, 2010 were duly monitored by the Independent National Electoral Commission (lNEC) who thereafter published reports of the convention. As the National Secretary of APGA, I am aware that the party has 29 NWC members. I am also aware that under the constitution of the party, only the national chairman (or I on the directive of the national chairman) can validly convene or summon the meeting of the NWC of APGA.
"I am also aware that under the constitution of APGA, the defendants have no authority to convene any legitimate meeting of the NWC of National Executive Committee of APGA. I am aware that a simple majority of votes of members of a national convention or national congress is required to remove any other officer of APGA.
"I am aware that the national chairman of APGA cannot validly be removed from office, except by at least two-thirds majority of votes at a national convention convened solely for that purpose. That on July 3rd, 2012, all the 36 states and FCT chairmen of APGA met in Abuja with the leadership of the party to consider, amongst other issues, the dissident activities of the defendants herein. After the said meeting, all the 36 states and FCT chairmen of APGA, endorsed the disciplinary and legal proceedings the party resolved to take against the defendants herein.
"Issues however, came to a head recently when one of the stalwarts from Anambra State, Chief Sylvester Nwobu-Alor, openly fired the first salvo, alluding to the sack of the National Chairman, Umeh, for alleged incompetence.”
THISDAY learnt that Nwobu-Alor, who is the Special Adviser to Anambra State Governor on Parks and Markets, alongside his co-travellers, had convened a meeting of some stakeholders in Awka, the state capital, where they hurriedly passed a vote of no confidence on Umeh and hence, endorsed his removal from office.
Nwobu-Alor was said to have told the special party congress that purportedly sacked Umeh that the national chairman whom he described as an opportunist, was actually the greatest problem threatening the growth of the party and therefore should be thrown out to give room for the emergence of a new and more effective leadership for the party.
But in a swift reaction to the development, Umeh dismissed his purported removal as “an untenable imagination induced by senility.” Umeh further expressed surprise that Obi in his golden age was still relying on the advice of an 88-year-old man, whom he described as being close to his grave “and wants to drag others along to the grave with him.”
The embattled national chairman of APGA insisted that Nwobu-Alor was only acting a script by Obi, assuring party faithful that there was no cause for alarm as he remained the party chairman. The embattled Umeh became national chairman of APGA in 2003 soon after the party came into existence.
Umeh, who was then the former national treasurer of the party, took over from the founding National Chairman of APGA, Chief Chekwas Okorie, in a controversial circumstance. The situation of his emergence factionalised the party, prompting Okorie to head for court, seeking to be re-instated to his position. But the court threw his petition away and recognised Umeh as the substantive chairman.
In the crisis that ensued, Okorie was finally expelled and Umeh’s position consolidated. Apparently realising the futility of his effort to regain the control of the party after many failed legal battles, Okorie recently returned the party’s registration certificate to the party hierarchy and moved to form his own party, United Progressives Grand Alliance (UPGA). But it was another setback for Okorie as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) denied him the desired registration.
However, in a statement made available to newsmen in Awka recently, Nwobu-Alor insisted that over 88 per cent of the party membership had expressed their resolve that Umeh should leave office. He also alleged that rather than tell the whole world how he spent the N20 million given to him every month for the management of the party, he was busy going around, telling people that Obi did not empower the party and blaming the governor for the party’s failings.
Nwobu-Alor remarked that those who did not like the way Umeh was running APGA, had the right to call for a restructuring of the party, which he said had become the reason for te frequent attacks on him by Umeh.
“Today, he is not in good terms with the governor because he, Umeh, wanted him to conduct the local government election the Nigerian way and get all those he had handpicked into positions for his selfish ends, even if it amounts to offending the law,” he alleged.
Continuing, Nwobu-Alor said not only was Umeh fighting him, the APGA national chairman was also at daggers-drawn with virtually everyone serving in Obi’s government, which Umeh perceived as being stringent and thorough as the governor himself. “He has gone ahead at public fora to castigate the governor and those in charge of awards of contracts because of the governor’s insistence that merit must guide every process, rather than people bringing names of incompetent, rate-paying contractors,” he said.
Nwobu-Alor said it was particularly ridiculous that Umeh claimed to have made Obi the governor, pointing out that he never wanted Obi to become governor. According to him, the same man claiming to have made Obi governor, told those who went to meet him during the impeachment move against Obi that “Peter should forget about being a governor again.” He alleged part of the problem Nigeria had today was the overwhelming presence of opportunists, like Umeh in politics.
Angered by what he perceived as lack of respect by Umeh for the governor, he said Obi who has been busy attracting so many things to the state, is now being abused by those he called ingrates because of their alleged greed and quest to line their pockets.
At a recent public forum in Agulu, Anaocha Local Government Area of Anambra State, Umeh wondered where Nwobu-Alor and his co-travellers were when he (Umeh), returned Obi for the second time as governor and where he was when he was fighting to save APGA from the grips of its perceived enemies led by Okorie. “Was I incompetent then? Why is it that after I have secured the party for them and returned Obi for a second term that they now say I’m incompetent?” Umeh queried and asserted that no one was capable of removing him as he enjoyed the support of a vast number of APGA faithful.
He condemned government’s refusal to conduct local government election in Anambra, saying it had affected democracy in the grassroots. He also carpeted Obi for not empowering his party supporters, adding that this was responsible for the poor performance of the party in recent elections. He alleged that party members, because of hunger, collected money from opponents to work against the party.
He accused Obi of killing APGA by his style of governance but assured that he and his loyalists would not be deterred. “I can assure you that APGA will retain Anambra State in 2014. Nobody can stop us. We will make sure nobody anoints anyone to succeed him but the people. We will bring out a popular person to give us what we want,” Umeh assured.
He said it was because of his opposition to the governor’s refusal to conduct council polls that he was being fought because of what they gained from council funds. But many political observers see the unfolding scenario in APGA as a denouement. Therefore, Hon. George Okoye, a former lawmaker in the state and stalwart of PDP, assessed the situation and predicted a gloomy day ahead for the APGA.
In Anambra for instance, the party worked hard to return Obi in the February 10, 2010 governorship election and thus broke the jinx of no governor getting a second term in the state since the Second Republic. Obi had overcome stiff opposition from former Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Prof Chukwuma Soludo, who flew the PDP flag. Other candidates were Prince Nicholas Ukachukwu (Hope Democratic Party) Dr. Andy Uba (Labour Party) and Dr. Chris Ngige (Action Congress of Nigeria), among others.
It must, however, be said that no sooner had the euphoria of the party’s victory subsided than cracks began to emerge in the party over the desirability or otherwise of retaining some commissioners who worked with Obi during his first tenure. There was also a disagreement over the need to conduct council polls in the drive to strengthen the party’s hold on the grassroots.
It was such that the party’s late national leader, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, had to exploit the occasion in spite of his failing health then, to traverse the length and breadth of the state during electioneering, appealing to the Anambra electorate to return Obi for a second term as the mark of last honour for him. He was obliged of that request and indeed, Obi won.
After Obi’s victory, some party leaders had opposed the retention of cabinet members who worked with him during his first tenure. They had pushed for their replacement with other party members who contributed to the party’s electoral victory.
The party leaders also fell apart over the need to conduct local government polls immediately as a way of strengthening the party at the grassroots. The proponents had argued that doing so would ensure that APGA would be in control, more so that Obi’s failure to conduct local government election in his first term almost made it difficult for the party to get to the people during the elections and simultaneously made campaigning cumbersome despite the fact that the government had embarked on massive road construction across the communities.
But the governor didn’t heed the advice and both Obi and Umeh began to avoid each other as it was public knowledge that they both had misunderstanding. However, the flame suddenly died down after the late Ojukwu mediated.
The bid to unseat Umeh in fact was not the first time that APGA would be in crisis. At the governorship primary of the party in Awka in 2002 ahead of the 2003 general election, Chief Ralphs Okey Nwosu (Ikolo Awka) beat other contestants to emerge the party’s candidate. But within 24 hours after the primary, the party substituted Nwosu’s name with Obi.
Supporters of the party in the state took went on the rampage, burning down the state secretariat and destroying property. It was learnt that the late Ojukwu had urged Okorie to allow him to nominate the governorship candidate for his home state after the primary had taken place and he was obliged. It took the same Ojukwu to calm frayed nerves then before he began to traverse the state, campaigning for Obi and the party.
It would however appear that the peace achieved on both occasions was that of the graveyard. This is because barely two months after Ojukwu was buried in his Nnewi country home, a group which described itself as APGA Stakeholders’ Forum with one Dr. Godson Emebo, a protégé of Nwobu-Alor, as its leader, said it had sacked the Anambra State Executive Committee of the party because it is illegal.
But in a reaction, 24 hours later, the state chairman of the party, Chief Mike Kwentoh, accused Nwobu-Alor of political rascality.
But the crisis got to a head when Obi dissolved his cabinet and re-appointed six of the former commissioners, dropping Umeh’s nominees. Again in what looked like a determined political move aimed at crippling Umeh’s strength, the governor appointed some of the party officials in the state who were seen to be sympathetic to Umeh as commissioners in his new cabinet and members of transition committees in the local government.
Even Dr. Ifedi Okweuna who resigned as Commissioner for Environment during Obi’s first tenure as the fallout of differences over Federal Government’s contract on waste management in the state has now aligned with the governor to unseat Umeh. Okwenna is the secretary of the recently restrained purported Massalla-led national executive of the party.
But the embattled Umeh still believes that all these notwithstanding, the fortune of the party would not be affected. “One thing I will tell our supporters and those who love APGA is that APGA will never die. Nothing will make APGA die, we have the support of the people,” he said.
As the power tussle rages on, one Jude Okoli, said not to be a member of the party, went to Enugu High Court, asking that Umeh be restrained from functioning in his capacity as the national chairman of the party.
THISDAY gathered that the suit in which the Enugu State Chief Judge, Justice Innocent Umezurike, granted the reliefs sought by Okoli on July 26, only sought to forestall the convening of the National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the party scheduled for August 1, where Obi would have been sacked.
Before this, Umeh’s Special Adviser on Inter-party Relations, Chief Austin Ndigwe, had on June 1 blamed the governor for the crisis, describing it as his grand plan to use Nwobu-Alor to destabilise the leadership structure of the party to enable him to anoint a successor.
But Ndigwe said a disciplinary committee would be set up soon to investigate Dr. Menakaya, a member of the Board of Trustees (BoT) of the party for alleged anti-party activities by calling a purported stakeholders’ meeting in Enugu, where Ojukwu’s widow, Bianca, was dragged into it.
But the Chief Press Secretary to Obi, Mr. Mike Udah, made spirited efforts to distance the governor from the crisis rocking the foundation of APGA. Udah dismissed the allegation that the move to destabilise APGA by some of its members had the support of his boss, adding that insinuations that Obi wanted to break the ranks of the party’s NWC were baseless, false and malicious.
Nwobu-Alor, told newsmen in Awka recently that he had nothing against the personality of Umeh, saying he only wanted to ensure that the party gathers some momentum required to meet the trend of a modern political organisation which he said only a restructuring of its leadership could achieve.
At any rate, the situation in the party seems to be getting messier now and nothing seems to give any hope of redemption even as the tenure of Obi gradually runs to an end while the opposition PDP lurks in the corner, hoping to reap from APGA crisis come 2014.