Chidiebere Nduka recalls how a former Chairman of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, Chief Victor Umeh, turned a relatively unknown party to a regional powerhouse
On Wednesday July 19th, a former chairman of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Chief Victor Umeh, clocked 55.
Born on 19th July 1962, to the late Sir Innocent Ofojekwu Umeh (KSM) and Lady Elizabeth Umeh (LSM) of Ifite village Aguluezigbo in Aniocha Local Government Area of Anambra State, Umeh excelled in his studies at St. Bridget’s Primary School Agulueziegbo, Bubendorff Memorial Grammar School, Adazi-Nnukwu both in Anambra State and the University of Nigeria Nsukka, where he studied Estate Management and graduated in June 1984.
A man of destiny, Umeh is the Principal Consultant, V.C Umeh & Co. a firm of estate surveyors and valuers. He is a fellow of the Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers. He is also a senior certified valuer of the International Real Estate Institute Scottsdale, Arizona, USA as well as an associate of the Rating and Valuation Association of Great Britain.
He had held several business and political positions and had received numerous awards and chieftaincy titles including Ohamadike of Agulu, Ikemba of Aguluzigbo,, Ibobo of Aguleri among others.
With a burning desire to improve the lives of fellow Nigerians , Umeh joined politics in 1998 when he became a founding member of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and was elected Anambra State treasurer of the party in 1999. In 2001 he joined other progressives to form the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) which was registered by the Independent National Electoral Commission on the 22nd June 2002. Umeh became the first National Vice Chairman, South-east of the party and was elected National Treasurer on 10th January 2003, at the party’s first national convention held at the Old Parade Ground, Abuja. On 15th December 2004, he was appointed the Acting National Chairman by the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) which was ratified by the National Executive Committee (NEC) on 11th January 2005. He was elected National Chairman at the party’s second national convention in Enugu in December 2006.
Umeh’s tenure as APGA chairman was the golden era of the party as he led the party from victory to victory in various national, state and local government elections. APGA became the beautiful bride of Nigerian politics and the third leg in the nation’s political tripod after the then ruling PDP and the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The victory of Mr. Peter Obi at the Anambra State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal in August 2005 and at the Court of Appeal in Enugu on 15th March, 2006 energised APGA in its electoral conquest in the South-east and beyond.
Umeh was the pillar of that struggle. It was a triumph of courage. Ndigbo adopted APGA as their own party while progressives in other parts of the country identified with it. With the late Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu’s support of Umeh’s leadership, prominent Nigerians trooped into APGA. Umeh provided the necessary leadership and rebranded the party. APGA became a key player in the national politics despite distractions from party dissidents and opposition PDP in Anambra state.
Shortly after Obi assumed office as governor, he was illegally impeached on 2nd November 2006 by the PDP-dominated house of assembly. It was challenged in court, Obi won a resounding victory at the Court of Appeal, Enugu on 9th February 2007. This victory stabilised his government and entrenched APGA in the hearts of Ndi Anambra.
Umeh again spearheaded Obi’s reinstatement. To ensure Obi complete his four-year tenure which PDP’s Dr. Chris Ngige illegally occupied from 29th May 2003 to 16th March 2006, Umeh flew the kite of APGA’s intention to seek judicial interpretation of section 180(2) of the 1999 constitution as amended. The rest is history.
In 2015 general election, APGA won five seats in the House of Representatives and 41 seats in houses of assembly in Anambra, Abia, Bayelsa and Taraba States. Dr. Willie Obiano also became the second governor of Anambra to be elected on APGA platform. The party also swept the local government election in the state among other council seats across the country. Umeh is a firm believer in the rule of law and a quintessential democrat. He participated in the 2014 national conference. Impressed by the exceptional patriotism, former President Goodluck Jonathan conferred on him the Officer of the Order of the Federal Republic (OFR). Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra State praised Umeh saying, “The national award (OFR) conferred on you represents a public recognition of all the hard work that you have put into the growth of the party (APGA) and the nation at large. The Government of Anambra State is extremely proud of your accomplishments. Kudos!!!”
In a rare tribute, on Peter Obi’s re-election in February and swearing-in on 17th March 2010, the late Odumegwu-Ojukwu applauded Umeh’s political savvy and visionary leadership stating, “The might of a warrior is tested only in battle… I salute your tenacity, your courage and resilience, APGA has always known what has now become widely acknowledged…OHAMADIKE… Kudos”.
Indeed, Umeh has won many battles and has been in courts over the Anambra Central Senatorial seat he contested on 28th March 2015. His opponents have laid legal mines to further slow the wheel of justice and frustrate his emergence as a senator.
Umeh is a shining star in the east of the Niger. A political colossus, his sagacity and tenacity of purpose endeared to millions of Nigerians.
Nduka, a public affairs analyst wrote in from Enugu.