Ozo Nwabueze Mario Okafor, a former President of ALGON says he is the acting National Chairman of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, although the national leadership of the party has dismissed the fact of his story even as the substantive National Chairman of the party, Chief Victor Oye was at his office at the time of filing this report, where he was running the affairs of the party. But Okafor, in this interview with Shola Oyeyipo, spoke on why his own faction of the party’s executive allegedly suspended Oye, among other party issues. Excerpts:
The APGA crisis has been on for some time now and there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight. Recently, the National Working Committee led by you and the Chief Victor Oye faction were supposed to have met the Anambra State Governor, Chief Willy Obiano, who is also the Board of Trustees Chairman, did it hold and what was the outcome of the meeting?
Well, that meeting was at the instance of the governor to find a lasting solution to the crisis in the party, everybody understood that there is a need for the party to be peaceful in view of the challenges that lie ahead and the governor and other stakeholders implored and appealed to all the parties involved in the leadership crisis to sheath their sword and embrace peace in the interest of the party. It is pertinent to note that the suspended National Chairman had no answers to all the constitutional breaches raised against him by the NWC that suspended him.
Can you point out some of the constitutional breaches?
There were so many that he breached. The constitutional breaches include that he has been running the party as a personal property, behaving like an overlord and acting as if the party is a personal enterprise. He runs the finances alone without the treasurer. The NWC is supposed to take charge of the running of the party, but it has not been involved in the running of the party. He does everything himself. This has been going on for some time.
This action has been going on since we were inaugurated. Oye did not involve the NWC in making the electoral regulations, which governs the nomination of candidates in contravention of Article 12(3)(c) of the party’s constitution. He does not involve the NWC in the day-to-day running of the party contrary to Article 12(3)(a) of the party’s constitution.
The National Working Committee and the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party did not ratify the candidates for the Kogi, Edo, Bayelsa governorship elections; candidates for the Borno Central and Abia North elections including Niger elections were solely selected by Oye, which contravenes Articles 24(3)(4)(5)(6) and (7) of the party’s constitution.
There was no orientation for all the aspirants and candidates to educate them on party supremacy, which is a breach of Article 21(2)(e). He has been given APGA tickets to non-members of the party without recourse to the constitutional provisions on applying for waiver to non-APGA members; he has been going around describing APGA as an Igbo party thereby discriminating against other ethnic groups, which is a violation of Article 21(1)(e).
There are so many breaches of the party’s constitution against Oye. How can he suspend the Edo Executive Committee arbitrarily without recourse to the NWC? He blocked the National Financial Secretary and National Auditor from carrying out their constitutional duties
Why did it take you this long to act?
We were hoping he would change. We sent representations to him, met him personally on several occasions that the action he is taking could weaken the party. Overtime, it seemed that our action was like pouring water on a stone. It yielded no effort. We have no option but to save the party. This is what led to his suspension. It is pertinent to note that in all his interviews with the media, he has not put a lie to any of the allegations against him. He made guidelines personally for primary elections in Kogi, Edo, Bayelsa and Ondo elections as against what is in the constitution in article 12 (3)(c), which says that the NWC shall be responsible for getting guidelines for elections.
The way he is handling funds – dissolving state excos like Edo without the approval of the NWC; the way he is dispensing funds and running APGA without an approved budget – how many states have party offices? These are issues he has failed to address. He has not called NEC meeting for the past 16 months, if he had, where and when?
Why are you bent on suspending him in spite of the intervention of the governor as your national leader?
We have made it very clear, the party cannot move forward with Oye as the national chairman. Even when the governor appealed to the NWC that suspended him, they were calm only for him after 24hours to go to the media describing us as rebels, charlatans who do not understand the workings of the party.
Do you understand the procedure for suspending a national officer in the category of national chairman?
According to our constitution, Article 22(2)(1) is very clear that any national officer found guilty of misconduct shall be suspended by the NWC – any national officer, including the chairman. Once there is a quorum and majority of members vote, the officer shall be suspended.
Twenty-four attended, 13 voted in favor of his suspension – the national treasurer, who was not around sent in a letter that he was in support of our action, making it 14.
Don’t you think it is a dangerous precedent for the party, which is just coming out from the power tussle between Chief Victor Umeh and Maxi Okwu? Isn’t this going to affect your chances in the governorship election next year?
Most of us that have worked with him know that he doesn’t have what it takes to lead a party. All the primaries he has conducted have been bungled. You can’t conduct primaries without following the constitution, which says that the NWC shall meet to set guidelines for the primaries. We have a national chairman, who would have endangered our chances if we won in Anambra. Any other party would have gone to court to say we did not follow the election guidelines. Our action is in the interest of the party.
Don’t you think that he has support from some quarters for him to have ignored you even after his alleged suspension?
He is an arrogant man. The main insult is to the governor, who has made efforts to settle the issue. He is used to bad language – arrogant – and doesn’t mind his word in spite of the fact that he doesn’t have the experience to run the party.
What is position of other national officers on this?
What we are discussing now is in the domain of these people. The only organ that can have a say is the NEC. Both privately and publicly, he continues to make utterances that undermine the party. Perhaps, he is out to cause crisis in the party. When you consider how he is making inflaming comments even with the intervention of some prominent members of the party, I know he is a mole planted to destabilise the party.
In the event that the current peace efforts fail, how long can the suspension last? He has accused you people of sheer ignorance, greedy and ambitious. What do you think?
From your own opinion, I don’t know if you will consider us as being ignorant of the constitution of the party, when we have specifically told him the sections of the constitution he has breached. I think he is the one that is ignorant by believing he can’t be suspended. We don’t need to have a national convention before we suspend him. He is so removed from every member of the NWC that he sees himself as a very special officer of the party. He is a national officer of the party and the constitution stipulates that any member of the party can be suspended.
The disciplinary committee we set up has sent invitations to him, I don’t know if he has made himself available to the committee. I know given the enormity of the things he has committed and the fact that he has no answer and given his interactions and with the media, he is unable to refute the allegations against him. What we have done is not driven by any personal ambition. Severally, we have called Oye to advise him. He is the one that has displayed complete ignorance by not following the constitution of the party.
What is the way forward?
One, the suspension of Oye, if we hadn’t done that the party was heading for crisis. With Oye out of the way, the party can now breathe again. I see a lot of promises in the party, not only to win the Anambra elections, but in other states of the federation. The only way his suspension can be reversed is if he is able to refute that the allegations against him are false. The only way out is for Oye to leave.
Is he running the party’s finances alone?
He has been running it alone and that is why the National Secretary supported his suspension. Everyone was sidelined. The primaries in Ondo were won by someone, who did not pay the necessary fees. How did the person contest? The person was not a member of the party. The situation we had there would have destroyed the party. We did not say Obiano should forget his ambition. It was an attempt to force the governor to support him. No amount of arm-twisting will stop us in the course we have undertaken. It was an attempt to blackmail the governor.
So, who is in control of the national secretariat?
He is trespassing. The last time we learnt, he still paraded himself as the national chairman. But we have written to the relevant authorities, the police, the SSS and the INEC informing them of his suspension. We expect the law enforcement agencies to take actions. Any member of the party at all levels who fails to discharge his or her functions as and when due and whose utterances or activities run counter to the spirit and letter of this constitution shall be suspended from office indefinitely pending the determination of his or her case by the relevant organ of the party at all levels – national, state and local governments. The man is just displaying ignorance of the constitution of the party.
We have written to the relevant authorities, the police, the SSS and the INEC informing them of his suspension. We expect the law enforcement agencies to take actions. Any member of the party at all levels who fails to discharge his or her functions as and when due and whose utterances or activities run counter to the spirit and letter of this constitution shall be suspended from office indefinitely