The fight for the soul of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) has entered yet another phase even as the protracting legal battle over which group will emerge as the authentic leadership of the party challanages its potency ahead of the 2019 general elections. ANDREW ESSIEN writes.
As the next round of general elections draw increasingly closer, there will be displays and flexing of muscles from persons within all the political parties which will ultimately, either make or mar its chances to properly field candidates that will appeal to the people and represent their interest.
Recently, APGA leaders returned to battle trenches in the law Court, when the National Working Committee (NWC) rose to impeach its national chairman, Victor Ike Oye, on October 5, 2015, following allegations of financial impropriety.
The NWC, after impeaching Oye and his two deputies, announced former vice chairman, South east, late Ozo Nwabueze Okafor (Okpche Ngene), as the acting chairman. It also set up a committee to investigate the suspended national chairman.
This is a move which was however rejected by Oye and his team, who in return, staged a factional NWC meeting at Awka, later in June 2015, where they sacked both late Okafor and his group from the party, and the rest is the series of litigations that have trailed the soul of APGA in the country.
In 2003, APGA was bitterly involved in a leadership battle that no doubt affected its performance in elections, especially in the South east, when its founding national chairman,, Chief Chekwa Okorie, battled Chief Victor Umeh and former governor Peter Obi up to the Supreme Court, before the later was declared the authentic national chairman of the party, leaving Okorie and his group to float the United Progressives Party (UPP), which has no doubt depleted the APGA membership strength.
Upon inquiry, National Youth leader of APGA, Chuks Nwoga, explained that the suspension and eventual sacking of Oye was taken in the interest of the APGA, in line with the members desire to rid the party of people of questionable character, adding that the NWC was convinced that Oye, who he noted was imposed on the party by Anambra state governor, Chief Willie Obiano, was not the type of leader the party needs to have a national outlook, claiming that he lacked political foresight.
Nwoga said: “ Oye’s impeachment became very necessary for the party to move on and be transformed into a truly national party. He was committing impunity with the name of APGA, after he collected nomination fees in cash for the Kogi, Bayelsa and Ondo state governorship elections, instead of through bank draft. Such singular act means he was acts against the party, since the money collected would not be fully accounted for. When you collect money in draft, it is lodged into the party’s account, so it is recorded, but when you collect it in cash, there is another thing to it.
“So the NWC members suspended him in a meeting that he convened on October 5, 2016, after he could not give reasonable answer to series of allegation against him. Also a committee was set up to investigate the allegations, and they confirmed all the allegations, as well as recommended his sack, which was affirmed at a convention of the party. With his sack, the highest officer from the zone where he comes from, the national vice chairman, South east, took over from him.
“It was here that we looked at ourselves, in our desire to rebrand our great party, that we looked towards Ochiudo Martin Agbaso, as one party man, a founding member, who has both national and international appeal and clout to come and take over the leadership of APGA along with the then acting national chairman, late Ozo Nwabueze Okafor (Okpoche Ngene). This decision was taken because it became very obvious that Victor Oye lacked the clout to make APGA the truly national party we desired, after Victor Umeh. He has no political and business experience. The highest political experience was when he served as the Personal assistant to the mother of former Abia state governor, Orji Uzor Kalu”, Nwoga noted.
“That was why we kept coming to woo Ochiudo Martin Agbaso to come out and save the soul of APGA, and we are happy that he listened to us and accepted to work with the late Okpoche Ngene, to actualize our desire of a new national APGA. Unfortunately Okpoche Ngene fell sick and eventually died, and the mantle of leadership of the party fell on Ochiudo Martin Agbaso, who was formerly the deputy national chairman. It was during the APGA national convention in Enugu that Chief Agbaso ascended the position of acting national chairman of the party as stipulated by the constitution. Documents to that effect were submitted to INEC with records and dates. When INEC appeared to be failing in their responsibility as an unbiased public office to carry out the simple request, the deputy state chairman of APGA in Enugu, Comrade Mike Alioke, went to Court (Where the national convention was held) to seek interpretation of the decisions at the party’s convention, which ratified Chief Agbaso as the acting national chairman. The Court therefore issued an Order of Mandamus to INEC on 26th of May, to recognize and deal with him as the party’s national chairman.
“When the Order of Mandamus was given by the Federal High Court in Enugu, the Nigeria Police appealed, but they had to withdraw their appeal, when the APGA leadership complained that the matter has no business with them, but is rather an internal party issue”, Nwoga stated.
But Oye in his defence has maintained that Chief Agbaso remains a stranger to APGA, claiming that he resigned his party membership in 2014, to join the Peoples Democratic Party. Oye insists that Agbaso has no mandate of the party to issue any individual or group on the name of APGA.
Oye also maintained that the group has no right to convene any meeting without his approval, hence he siughtbto be joined in the matter as the party’s national chairman.
Dismissing Oye’s claim, the National Youth leader presented a copy of Chief Agbaso’s letter of intent to return to APGA, written to the chairman of APGA in his Emekuku Ward 1, in Owerri North Local Government of Imo state, Comrade ANC Opara, dated May 19, 2015. He also presented a reply to the letter in the affirmative, with a May 22 date. Nwoga also presented an APGA membership card in the name of Ochiudo Martin Agbaso, with membership number, IM/No 034642, signed by Chief (Dr) Victor Ike Oye and Labaran Maku as national chairman and national secretary respectively.
Corroborating the Youth leader, acting national secretary of the Agbaso led APGA, Alhaji Adamu Musa, explained that since his over 10 years as a member of APGA, he saw Oye for the first time on the day of the national convention in 2015, in Awka, where he was made the national chairman.
“They have continued to use Anambra state money to buy judgement in Awka, Nnewi, Ogbomosho, Oyo etc, as well as their continued campaign of calumny against Chief Agbaso, which we know will definitely fail at last. These guys should be charged for using public fund to fight individuals.
“Oye has continued to claim in his campaign of calumny against the APGA acting national chairman, that Chief Agbaso is not a member of APGA, but here are documents (Letter of intent to return to APGA and reply from APGA, as well as party’s membership card), which were issued to Chief Agbaso by the same Oye and his former secretary, Labaran Maku in 2015.
“While Oye joined APGA two and half years ago and was automatically made the national chairman by governor Willie Obiano, Labaran Maku joined APGA also two and half years ago, after he sought the party’s ticket to contest the governorship election in Nasarawa state, after he lost the bid in PDP. But Ochiudo Martin Agbaso has been a founding member of APGA, who single headedly won election for the party in 2007, He has funded the party in Imo and some South east states.
“It was Agbaso who was instrumental to APGA getting a second governor in Nigeria, when he backed Rochas Okorocha to win in Imo state in 2011, he has won Senators, House of Representatives members, States Assembly members for the party, the records are boldly there, he was also the returning officer in the APGA primary that returned Chief Willie Obiano as the winner of the governorship primary for Anambra state in 2011. But today, those who get crashed into the party to ruin its fortune are claiming erroneously that he is not a member of the party. But we are sure that justice will come our way at last, it may be delayed but will definitely not be denied”, he noted.
Analysts aver that should APGA be interested in being a force to be reckoned with especially as 2019 draws closer, it must quickly resolve all contending issues especially bedeviling the party’s leadership and put measures in place to check any reoccurrence of what the party has faced in recent times. after all, what the country needs at the moment is a robust political space full of competent options.
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