Umeh: An Honour Well Deserved

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Clement Danhutor highlights Chief Victor Umeh’s achievements and political credentials

Recently, Tansian University at Umumya, Anambra State, conferred an honorary doctorate degree in Political Science on former national chairman of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, Chief Victor Umeh. The honour is coming at a time Umeh, who is a Board of Trustees member of APGA, is on a ride to the Senate, despite some legal distractions. It is one of the several honours received so far by Umeh, a real estate surveyor, politician, philanthropist, and a cultural force.

Umeh was honoured alongside business mogul, Chief ABC Orjiakor, whose contributions to the socio-economic development of Anambrarians, Ndi Igbo and Nigerians, at large, in the last three decades has never been in doubt.
For the APGA chieftain, too, it was an honour well deserved for associating himself with the masses as well as eggheads.

Umeh, a devout Catholic and Knight of Saint John, was born on July 19, 1962 to the late Sir Innocent Ofojekwu Umeh (KSM) and Lady Elizabeth Umeh (LSM) of Ifite village, Aguluzigbo in Anaocha Local Government Area of Anambra State. He had primary education at St. Bridget’s Primary School, Aguluzigbo, from where he proceeded to Bubendorff Memorial Grammar School, Adazi-Nnukwu, coming on top of his class in 1980.

The 1984 graduate of Estate Management from the University of Nigeria (with Second Class Honours, Upper Division), is a registered estate surveyor and valuer by the Estate Surveyors and Valuers Registration Board of Nigeria. Today, he is the Principal Consultant, V. C. Umeh & Co, a firm of estate surveyors and valuers, and a fellow of many national and international professional institutes.
He is a fellow of the Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers. He is also an associate member of the Rating and Valuation Association of Great Britain as well as a Senior Certified Valuer of the International Real Estate Institute, Scottsdale, Arizona USA, among others.

A director of so many companies, Umeh was a director of the federal government-owned Nigerian Film Corporation in Jos between 2001 and 2003. He began his career as a university teacher, which explains his penchant for precision and enunciation of facts. In 1985, during his National Youth Service Corps, he served as Graduate Assistant at the Rivers State University of Science and Technology, Port Harcourt. Subsequently, Umeh engaged in the practice of his profession, and has been named as pivotal to the sale of UTC properties in several parts of the country, especially in Lagos, Enugu and Port Harcourt.

Umeh’s scholarly nature was manifest when he coordinated Peter Obi’s legal cases, recovering Obi’s mandate as governor of Anambra State through the courts, vitiating a subsequent unlawful impeachment of Obi and ensuring that Obi served his full tenure. Is it not paradoxical that the same Obi has made it a priority to stop Umeh from getting to the Senate?
APGA won at the election petition tribunal in August 2005 and at the Court of Appeal in March 2006, against the then Governor Chris Ngige and the Peoples Democratic Party, which paved the way for the swearing in of Obi as the party’s first governor on March 17, 2006. Shortly after Obi assumed duty, he was impeached by the PDP-dominated House of Assembly on November 2, 2006.

Then Deputy Governor Virgy Etiaba assumed duty as governor, while Obi and Umeh approached the court to nullify the purported impeachment. The Court of Appeal, Enugu Division, reversed the impeachment on February 9, 2007. Obi returned as governor.
As the 2007 general elections approached, Obi, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-> Ojukwu and Umeh considered it appropriate to seek constitutional interpretation of Obi’s tenure, having been sworn in on March 17, 2006, while Ngige governed from May 26, 2003 to March 16, 2006.

Thus, began the famous tenure interpretation suit, which Obi won at the Supreme Court on June 14, 2007, in a judgement delivered by Justice Aloysius Katsina-Alu that led to staggered elections in Nigeria.
Dr. Andy Uba, who was sworn in on May 29, 2007, was also removed from office after governing for 17 days. Again, Obi returned to office the third time. Obi was overwhelmed with joy and called Umeh “a worthy chairman.”
Umeh marched on in APGA’s electoral conquest and garnered landmark judgements that enriched Nigeria’s jurisprudence, despite over 20 lawsuits instituted by the former party leader, Chief Chekwas Okorie, which Umeh won up to Supreme Court, that upheld Okorie’s expulsion from the party on March 25, 2011. It was in a judgement delivered by Justice Dahiru Musdapher.

Okorie returned the APGA certificate of registration in his custody to the Independent National Electoral Commission on March 7, 2012, and he formed his own party. Thus, Umeh made sure that the will of APGA leaders prevailed.
In time, Umeh’s leadership of APGA scaled another hurdle, when Obi was re-elected for a second term in office, the first in Anambra State politics. A jubilant Odumegwu-Ojukwu hailed Umeh as the best chairman in the federation. In a congratulatory message in the Daily Sun, Wednesday, March 17, 2010 Odumegwu-Ojukwu praised Umeh’s dynamic leadership, stating: “The might of a warrior is tested only in battle. On this historic occasion of the inauguration of Governor Peter Obi for a record second term of office, I salute your tenacity, your courage and resilience, APGA has always known what has now become widely acknowledged… kudos.”

If there is anyone who learnt on Odumegwu-Ojukwu’s feet, especially when the sage was at the zenith of partisan politics – contesting twice as APGA presidential flag bearer – and is likely to step into Odumegwu-Ojukwu’s large shoes in national politics, he is Umeh. The man has gone through the APGA ranks. He has been national assistant secretary, national treasurer, national chairman, and now a BoT member, all within APGA’s 15 years of existence.
Before the formation of APGA, Umeh was the Anambra State treasurer of PDP. That was during the tenure of former Governor Chinwoke Mbadinuju.

“If there is any Igbo man who God has raised to defend the Igbo cause, it is Umeh. The young man is very useful to Igbo land,” said Chief Martins Agbaso, a former special adviser on environment to ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo. Agbaso was once an APGA chieftain in Imo State. He was referring to the various injustices perpetuated in the South-east, which Umeh showed commitment in fighting against.

Among those who gave Agbaso the support he needed in his legal battles with former Governor Ikedi Ohakim of Imo State and the PDP-led federal government was Umeh. There were others, like Paschal Dozie and his Emekuku (Owerri North Local Government Area) kinsman, Navy Captain Emmanuel Iheanacho (rtd). That propelled Agbaso to make the above comment to some members of his legal team led by Patrick Ikwueto (SAN).

Umeh was seriously instrumental to the emergence of Rochas Okorocha as governor of Imo State. At a time when the quest for the party ticket caused a clash of interest between Okorocha and Agbaso, Umeh intervened and mediated peace. He, allegedly, helped Jude Agbaso (Martin’s brother) to become Deputy Governor of Imo State. It was a realignment of political interests between Okorocha, who was eager to use the APGA platform to achieve his ambition of governing Imo State, and the Agbasos, who held the party structure in the state. That year, in the supplementary election that took place after INEC declared the main election inconclusive, Umeh was APGA’s agent and, by implication, Okorocha’s agent in Mbaitoli Local Government Area.

Running a political party wasn’t easy at all. Umeh had a lot of broken pots. He had to contend with governors elected on the APGA platform who were interested in merging the party with bigger platforms. For instance, Okorocha failed to merge the entire APGA with the other political parties that formed the All Progressives Congress only because he was denied access to the party’s certificate of registration. What he led into APC was a faction, may be the main faction of Imo State chapter of APGA.

Similarly, Obi in his last days as Anambra State governor wanted to move the entire APGA structure wholesale into PDP in the name of supporting the re-election of former President Goodluck Jonathan. Both Umeh and the governor-elect at the time, Chief Willie Obiano, resisted the move. But for the wisdom displayed by Obiano and Umeh, Obi’s adventurism would have caused a serious conflagration in APGA. Obi’s treachery has been blamed for the defection of the likes of Mrs. Uche Ekwunife and APGA’s loss of many House of Representatives seats. Umeh’s stance has always been that Odumegwu-Ojukwu told them in his last days that the party should not cease to exist and shouldn’t merge with any supposedly superior platforms.

Given his consistency and loyalty, it is not surprising, therefore, that a tertiary institution that identifies with the legendary Reverend Father Cyprian IweneTansi thought it fit to honour Umeh.
Umeh’s comment on that occasion is instructive. “I didn’t come into politics to make money. I am into politics to sanitise the system,” he said.

Umeh is a recipient of several traditional titles from across Anambra and Igbo land, at large. The most profound of these titles is the one he is most popularly associated with, Ohamadike Ndigbo. Some of his admirers prefer to call him Ohamadike Uwanine. He is also the Ikemba of his home town, Aguluzigbo, in the same way Ojukwu was the Ikemba of Nnewi.

There are many more chieftaincy titles to his name, the most recent being the Ikenga of Oba.
Umeh spoke in an interview at Oba in Idemili North Local Government Area of Anambra State after receiving the title of Ikenga Oba conferred on him by the traditional ruler of the town, Igwe Peter Ezenwa. The former APGA chairman said he hoped that soon the Court of Appeal would give its final judgement on the eligibility of candidates who would participate in the rerun election.

Umeh insisted that it had been decided in a plethora of cases by the Supreme Court that no fresh candidate “shall participate in an election after it was cancelled and a re-run ordered by a court of competent jurisdiction.”
He wondered why Obi, who had severally benefitted from the rule of law, would want to arm-twist the law now.
Umeh said: “INEC is still following what the law says that those who ran in the first election are the only eligible people to.