By Nze Duru Kizito
I have read with utmost disappointment and dissatisfaction a piece from my friend Amby Uneze, who corresponds for THISDAY Newspapers in Imo State. Uneze accused the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) of being tatters.
I am disappointed that Uneze jettisoned the sacred rule of journalism, which is balancing of reports, in dissecting the issue that surrounded the party’s primary election in Imo State. It was clear from the first paragraph of his article that Amby was set to rubbish not just the party but also its National Chairman. It is either the outcome of the primary ‘election’ didn’t favour the interest of Uneze or that he has personal problem with the APGA in Imo State.
Uneze claimed that the problem of Imo APGA started when the party admitted some names into her fold. In his exact words, “The problem started when the party admitted all manner of people including those rejected by their previous parties into her fold and granted waiver to run for various elective positions through the party. At the last count, the party had over 30 governorship aspirants in Imo State alone. Most of these aspirants were the best in terms of integrity, marketability, professionalism, and acceptability. In spite of greed which made the party leaders at the national level jacked up the Expression of Interest and Nomination fees, the aspirants went ahead to purchase the forms.”
I don’t know when it became a crime or a cause of problems for a political party, especially, one that is in the opposition, to admit members. Has Uneze forgotten that politics is a game of numbers? Every political party in Nigeria grants waiver to those they think that would add glamour to their aspirations. That APGA has close to 30 governorship aspirant in a state like Imo dominated by the APC and PDP, is a credit on its own to Chief Victor Oye. He made the party look attractive for aspirants. He positioned the party to a height that aspirants preferred it to the APC and the PDP, especially in the South East states. Some guber aspirants who would have contested under the platform of Imo PDP knew that there was no way they could defeat Rt. Hon Emeka Ihedioha, as the Mbaise born former lawmaker made himself a larger than life figure in Imo PDP. Of course in APC, the battle between Okorocha and the coalition is not one any governorship aspirant would want to involve himself with. This made APGA the beautiful bride as none of the aspirants could comfortably and confidently say if they primary election had taken place, he could have won. The ambience of competition in APGA was healthy, courtesy of Chief Victor Oye.
I don’t think that the decision of APGA’s National Working Committee to jack the prize of nomination forms was informed by greed. Uneze should understand that APGA is not the ruling party, nor would she measure up with the financial strength of the PDP. Election in Nigeria is a capital intensive and money sapping project. Since there are no Atikus, Sarakis, Tinubus, and Obasanjos in APGA, the monies realised from the sales of nomination forms will go a long way to financing the campaigns of the party nationwide.
Uneze continued, “The four-man adhoc delegates in each of the positions from each ward making it 12 adhoc delegates from every ward in the stated were also meant to pay for their forms at N10,000 each for a position. It then means that those who bought forms for the four positions – House of Assembly, House of Representatives, Senate and Governorship spent N40,000 each adhoc delegate which was paid to the party coffers. From a random calculation, Imo State aspirants under the platform of APGA in a whole must have paid a whooping sum of over N4 billion into the coffers of the party at the national level.”
I was aware when party faithful started purchasing ad-hoc delegate forms for the primary election in Imo. As much as eyebrows were raised over the amount the form went for, people cared less. In fact, some aspirants, notably the governorship aspirants, bought as many forms as possible and gave it out to those who they think if they make the delegate list, will vote for them. There is no sacrifice that is too big for a course one believes in. APGA may have demanded more than the PDP and APC as regards the amount for the adhoc delegate form, but the truth is people bought it without much grudges. Uneze I know is a journalist and has little knowledge of Mathematics, hence, we will forgive him for making an audacious, unverifiable, untruthful statement of the aspirants contributing a whooping sum of N4 billion to the coffers of the party. That is far from reality.
Uneze only condemned the decision of the party to pick senator Araraume, without telling his reading audience that the NWC of the party sent an electoral committee to Imo from Abuja. He didn’t tell the world that for three days, this electoral committee tried to conduct the primary, and for three days, thugs allegedly loyal to some gubernatorial aspirants threatened them. He didn’t write how some aspirants boycotted what would have been primary election.
Amby lamented, “By hand picking a candidate and presenting same to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for the governorship of the state and other positions only reduced the integrity of the party in the state and ignited public outcry leading the other aspirants to demand that the right thing should be done or their money returned back to them. The name of APGA in Imo state today reverberates violence, cheating, recklessness. “
Uneze needs to know that the party leadership ab-initio didn’t plan for the governorship primary in Imo State to go the way it did , but having seen that all efforts to have a peaceful primary election failed to materialise, the National Working Committee together with the members of the party’s Board of Trustees, the State Working Committee and indeed major stakeholders of the party, took a decision to go ahead with the primary, so as to meet up with the deadline for the submission of candidate’s name by the Independent National Electoral Committee (INEC).
After all the politicking, Senator Ifeanyi Araraume emerged as the party’s governorship candidate. Expectedly, other aspirants didn’t welcome the development. Most supporters of the party in Imo called for the head of the National Chairman of APGA, Chief Victor Oye. It appeared the existence of APGA as a party was about to come to an end. But some aggrieved supporters of the party who had threatened to leave the party, after some days gave in to superior argument and saw reasons to not only stay back but to support Senator Ifeanyi Araraume’s candidacy. Today Araraume is making waves across Imo to the extent that many are keying into his campaign.
That Chief Ohakim and other 13 aspirants sued the party to court is not enough reason to say APGA is in tatters. Senator Samuel Anyanwu sued his party, the PDP. Okorocha and Uche Nwosu both sued APC. These things are normal if a person(s) feel(s) aggrieved. Even Ikedi Ohakim, Okey Ezeh, Ike C. Ibe, Humphrey Anumudu have all been linked to other parties. Infact, Okey Ezeh went to Social Democratic Party (SDP) and dislodged Mr. Casmir Anyanwu as the guber candidate. Information reaching showed that Okey Eze had been financing SDP and paying for their offices and at the same time pretending to be working for APGA. What Eze did was not only anti party but a show of greed and desperation. What moral justification does he have to accuse APGA leadership of shortchanging him when it runs in his blood to undercut other people.
Contrary to the revelation of Uneze, recent political developments in Imo do not in any way favour the Imo PDP and its candidate, Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha. That Uche Onyeagucha drummed support for him is not enough reason for anyone to assert that the pendulum swings in the PDP’s direction. If Onyeagucha felt aggrieved with what transpired within the party and faulted the process, yet decided to support Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha who had to rely on manipulation of the adhoc delegate list and over voting to win the PDP primary election (as contained in the suit of Senator Samuel Anyanwu), then Onyeagucha should not be taken seriously.
Onyeagucha who was reported to have brokered the deal between Senator Araraume and Gov. Okorocha some days before 2015 knows that the former or the governor of Imo State, Chief Ohakim, are the only aspirants that are most likely to secure victory for APGA in the 2019 elections. Uche Onyeagucha was wrong to claim that Araraume would be worse than Rochas. Of course, we know Senator Araraume and his unquenchable taste for quality. Araraume is one of those few persons Okorocha wouldn’t like to have as a successor, because he (Araraume) will recover everything Okorocha has stolen from the state.
Onyeagucha should not be taken seriously at all. He was alleged to be amongst the guber aspirants who had tried to hijack the process but failed. He made many futile attempts to bribe the leadership of the party but was rebuffed. Where are the so-called N-APGA today? Where are Humphrey Anumudu, Ike C. Ibe, Okey Eze? Did they endorse Ihedioha only to run away and become the governorship candidates of other parties? These N- APGA guber candidates have all found shelters in political parties they were reportedly funding secretly. What wickedness.
Onyeagucha and my friend, Amby Uneze, should know that this is a battle they cannot win. Ndi Imo will decide who will be their next governor, and the issue of primary election will not be considered at the polling units. Voters will only concentrate on the strength of character of the candidates, their antecedents and willingness and ability to deliver dividends of democracy as a governor, and Senator Ifeanyi Araraume won’t be found wanting.
The national leadership of our party may have made some mistakes. The National Chairman has, however, taken responsibility for the actions and shortcomings of party executives across the country. It’s no longer news that aspirants, notably guber aspirants had liaised with Zonal Chairmen of the party in Imo and Abia to hijack the ad hoc delegate forms. We have it on record that the National Chairman was bent on ensuring that there was indeed an ad hoc delegate primary election, but members of the SWC of the party in Imo, in accordance with other guber aspirants, opted out of the ad hoc delegate primary as against the wish of the national body and further demanded for an harmonised delegates list from the 305 INEC electoral wards in Imo State.
By opting out of the ad hoc delegate primary, the gubernatorial aspirants, as well as other aspirants who were in support of this motion, decided to forgo the amounts paid, the time wasted and the sacrifices made in acquiring the ad hoc delegate forms.
The decision of the party to sell delegate forms for each political office was to ensure a transparent process and also to ensure that as against what is obtained in other political parties, APGA would be able to produce different delegates for different electoral offices. In other words, those who emerge as delegates for guber primary would be different from the delegates for Senate, House of Reps and House of Assembly. But the guber aspirants in their bid to deliver their federal and house of assembly aspirants decided to hijack the process by purchasing four forms per delegate. Let it be known that all monies paid for delegate forms were paid to APGA’s account with Fidelity Bank whose account like other political parties is periodically audited by INEC.
Calling for the head/resignation of the National Chairman is not what the party needs now. The general election is drawing closer, all aggrieved members should sheathe their swords. Victory for APGA at the polls is victory for all. The decision to have Araraume as APGA’s governorship candidate may not go down well with some persons, but can the Isiebu-born former Senator wrestle gallantly with the APC and the PDP in Imo and emerge victorious? The answer is yes! He has the capacity to win squarely. Let us support him and work together to move APGA forward. As for what had happened, all of us have sinned and come short of the glory of God.