The leadership tussle in the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) has been resolved by the Supreme Court of Nigeria. Segundo James wonders if it will bring peace to a political party torn by perennial conflict
The All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) may appear to be chaotic, fractious and bafflingly inconsistent, but one issue that many politicians and watchers of the polity agree on is that the political party has the capacity to become the Third Force that the nation urgently needs, if it can keep its house in order.
With the recent formation of an alliance by 36 political parties and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), politics in Nigeria maybe moving towards the largely desired goal of a two-party state.
However, there may be a need for a third political party option. That is where APGA comes in. It is the only other party outside the All Progressives Congress (APC) and PDP which has consistent visibility on the political landscape, even if marginally.
In 2013, APGA resisted the move to collapse into what is now called the APC despite severe pressures. Recently, it refused to be part of the 37 political party alliance which reached an understanding with the PDP. However, APGA has been enmeshed in a fratricidal leadership tussle between Chief Victor Oye and Chief Martin Agbaso that has stunted the growth of the party.
Bedevilled by greed, inordinate ambition and hunger for power, the partyâ€™s progress appeared to be tied to a particular person or group. This has been largely responsible for the crisis that threatened to bury APGA. For years, For many years, while Senator Victor Umeh was the chairman of the party; it stumbled from one crisis to another until he finally gave up the position.
For APGA, the road to becoming the third force opened when the Supreme Court in an unanimous judgment dismissed an appeal that was lodged by a faction of the party led by Chief Martin Agbaso over who the authentic national chairman of the party.
In a lead judgment that was delivered by Justice Sidi Bage, the Supreme Court, upheld the August 16, 2017, verdict of the Court of Appeal in Enugu, which vacated the order of mandamus that directed the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to relate with and to recognise Agbaso as the authentic National Chairman of APGA.
â€œIn the final analysis, the two issues in the appeal are resolved in favour of the 1st Respondent. The appeal lacks merit and it is accordingly dismissed. The judgment of the lower court is affirmed. I make no order as to costâ€, Justice Bage held.
Other members of the panel that concurred with the lead verdict were Justices Rhodes Bode-Vigour, Mary Odili, Inyang Okoro and Amiru Sanusi.
Similarly, the apex court panel dismissed a second leg of the appeal filed by the Deputy Chairman of APGA in Enugu State, Mr. Mike Alioke saying its decision to affirm two appellate court judgments that were delivered on August 15 and 16, 2017, with respect to Aliokeâ€™s appeal was based â€œon need to do substantial justice without delving into technicalitiesâ€.
Justice Bage said the court was duty bound to look beyond â€œsome technical blundersâ€ and determine the case on its merit. â€œThe issues are resolved in favour of the 1st Respondentâ€, he held.
The battle for control of the APGA political machinery was triggered after an Enugu State High Court, on May 22, 2017, gave an order of mandamus compelling INEC, Police and other authorities, to recognise Chief Agbaso as the National Chairman of the party.
The order followed a motion that was filed by Alioke, who asked the court to direct INEC and Police to recognise a resolution by stakeholders of the party to appoint Agbaso as Acting National Chairman in the face of what was claimed as vacancies in the office.
Some members of the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party had in October 2016, announced the suspension of Oye from the party for alleged gross misconduct. Oye was suspended alongside the Deputy National Chairman (North), Alhaji Abubakar Adamu and the Deputy National Chairman (South), Chief Uche Okogbuo, while Mr. Nwabueze Okafor (now late), was appointed as interim National Chairman.
The late Okafor was the Vice Chairman of APGA in the South East, before he was chosen to replace Oye, a resolution that factionalised the party. In the wake of the crisis that erupted upon Okaforâ€™s death, Alioke, in the motion he filed before the Enugu High Court, insisted that an order was necessary on the police to avoid a breakdown of law and order in the party.
Following the Supreme Courtâ€™s ruling, Oye has extended a hand of fellowship to all aggrieved members of the party, urging them to close ranks and cooperate with him so as to move APGA forward.
That Oye was able to pursue the case to its logical conclusion was because he had the support of Governor Willie Obiano. The Anambra State governor is the national leader of the party and the only governor produced by any other political party in the country outside of the APC and the PDP.
With the resolution of the leadership tussle, when the final whistle for campaigns and selection of candidates in the polity is blown, will APGA be on the starting block nationwide? Not too long ago, it was safe to conclude that the party controlled the politics in the South-east region. It was considered an alternative to the PDP and the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN).
This was the situation in the lifetime of the late Ikemba Nnewi, Chief Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu. His towering personality and political stature ensured that APGA rattled the PDP and wrested some states in the South-east from the then ruling party. Today, APGA only controls Anambra state.
The moment Ojukwu died, the party began to shrink and stumbled from one crisis to the other. In fact, the immediate past governor of Anambra state, Mr. Peter Obi was forced to decamp to the PDP from where he launched an opposition to Obiano during last yearâ€™s governorship election. Obiano survived and was able to stabilise the party. In the middle of his re-building efforts, the chairmanship tussle errupted again.
One of the clear signs of recovery in APGA is the peace moves coming from Oye, who has extended a hand of fellowship to his opponents.
The APGA national chairman, in a statement posted on his official Facebook wall commended the judiciary for its courage and steadfastness in ensuring that Nigeria was not thrown into anarchy through what it described as â€œmiscarriage of justiceâ€.
â€œIt is with a joyous heart that we thank God Almighty for his banner over us and for guiding and guarding us throughout the duration of the trial that culminated in the momentous victory at the Supreme Court,â€ he wrote. He called for a rebirth in the party and concerted effort among members to ensure that the party has a good showing in the coming general elections.
The resolution of the leadership crisis may have started, in the days ahead, political pundits are watching to see the ultimate beneficiary of the rebirth in APGA, even as the party struggles to find its soul and rise beyond the level of regional and ethnic politics.
As the race towards the 2019 election hots up, APGA must retain, if not increase the number of political positions it holds in the various states in the country to remain relevant. The stark reality is that given the onslaught of the APC and the PDP, it may be difficult for apga to hold on to what it currently has unless.