Saturday, 30 August 2014

REPORT: Is APGA going into extinction?

 (VANGUARD) THESE are really not good times for the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA.
Though the leadership tussle between its National Chairman, Chief Victor Umeh and Chief Maxi Okwu, is still at the Supreme Court, members heaved a sigh of relief when the Court of Appeal resolved the tango in favour of Umeh.

However, as Umeh settled down to put the party in a right shape in readiness for the 2015 general elections, there was another internal squabble. This time, four members of the party in the House of Representatives led by Mrs. Uche Ekwunife defected to the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.

Gov Peter Obi, Late Odumegwu Ojukwu and Victor Umeh
Before the defection, there had been concerns about Ekwunife’s future in APGA since she lost the party’s governorship ticket to Chief Willie Obiano, who eventually won the election last year, with speculations that she might return to PDP, the party on which platform she won her first election to the House of Representatives in 2007.
Why we left APGA –Ekwunife
Ekwunife, who was the leader of the Anambra caucus in the House of Representatives and chairman of the House Committee on Environment, said that they left APGA because of unfair treatment.
While handing over her resignation letter to her Nri Ward APGA chairman, Ekwunife told her supporters: “Political party is only a vehicle towards achieving a political purpose and I am happy I passed through APGA and this is the time for me to change the baton… I want to be in a party where I will have the opportunity to express myself. I had a passion for APGA but something happened that made me to change my mind. I cannot continue to be frustrated because I am in APGA. I am not going to abandon my supporters and I want those who have been associating with me to continue to do so. Everything about politics is local and it is the people at the grassroots that determine how a politician succeeds.
Obi’s surprise move
A few days after the defection of the four lawmakers, immediate past governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi, in a surprise move, resigned as the leader and chairman of the party’s Board of Trustees, BoT.
Though Obi agreed that he ought to have intervened more aggressively to stop the defecting members, he said he did not actually know on what platform he would have done so, since, according to him, his position as the chairman of BOT and leader of APGA were yet to be ratified. The former governor was made the BoT chairman and party leader at an impressive ceremony in Awka early this year.
Describing the defection of the lawmakers as worrisome, Obi said the development called for a serious reflection, especially with the 2015 general elections drawing near. The former governor said he remains a member of the party and urged APGA members across the country to reflect on the way forward for the party.
Shortly after the defection and Obi’s resignation, APGA, alleged that two prominent members of PDP in Anambra State, who have interests in oil and gas enticed the decamping  federal lawmakers  and promised them automatic tickets for the 2015 election to destabilize APGA in the state.
President of Initiative for Good Governance, Chief Jude Emecheta, a Governor Willie Obiano support group, warned that any attempt to destabilize APGA in Anambra would not be in the interest of PDP during the 2015 presidential election.
He expressed happiness that Governor Obiano and the party hierarchy were intervening on the issue with a view to resolving the APGA matter amicably. He also said the fact that Obi refused to join PDP to become a minister was because he has integrity and should not be a reason to destabilize APGA.
Did Obi influence the lawmakers’ move?
Obi’s reasons for resigning did not draw more suspicion than his comments that the defecting legislators had the right to personal decisions about their political future or any other endeavour for that matter.
For instance, Umeh alleged that the defection plot was hatched by Obi and his associates, adding that part of the group’s game plan was to go to the presidency to say that APGA was not supporting Jonathan, which he said was not true.
He described those who decamped from APGA as election ticket hunters, noting that whenever they don’t get what they want from a party, they begin to curse that party.
He also said that the reason given by Obi for resigning as the APGA BOT chairman was his new appointment as the South East coordinator of Transformation Ambassadors of Nigeria, TAN.
Umeh said APGA had wanted to inaugurate Obi as a BoT chairman before he left office last March as governor and the party asked him to provide a budget for the special convention to that effect, regretting that the former governor dilly-dallied, apparently because he had made up his mind not to accept the role.
“With all our hearts, we wanted to make him the APGA BoT chairman and leader of our party, but the issue was that because of the leadership crisis being experienced in the party then, he thought that my leadership had come to an end and there was therefore no need to deal with us.  However, when we won at the Court of Appeal, he found out that his game plan had failed and he began another move to destabilize the party by engineering our members in the House of Representatives to defect to PDP. Now, after pursuing other things and when he did not succeed, he resigned from the position of BoT chairman which is most unfortunate.The resignation letter he sent to our office was dated August 1, 2014, but he had already been appointed the South East coordinator of TAN and that was why he backdated the resignation letter,” he said.
Umeh said that with Obi’s resignation, all issues will be reserved till the party’s national convention slated for next year to elect new leaders of the party, adding that at that convention, all the outstanding matters in the party would be handled.
Attacks on Obi unwarranted –Obienyem
Obi’s media aide, Mr. Valentinee Obienyem, however, wondered why the former governor’s resignation as APGA BoT chairman and leader should elicit unfair reaction from some people, even when he is still a member of the party.
He said: “Resignation could mean that he is not comfortable being associated with posts yet to be confirmed. It could be that he wants to allow the leaders of APGA to choose a person better than him. It could be that he needed more time for other engagements. In such decisions, what gentlemen do is to respect the person that has done so, recognizing that he acted within his rights. He also said that Obi is not coordinator of TAN as being suggested.
Ogene, Nwogbo insist on APGA
As APGA members were still expressing concern over the defections, two members in the House of Representatives – Afam Ogene  (Ogbaru federal constituency) and Emeka Nwogbo (Awka North and South) – said they remain members of APGA. Their statement came after their meeting with Governor Obiano in Awka.
Ogene, at a meeting with his constituents at Atani, the headquarters of Ogbaru Local Council of the state said he has not left the party and debunked rumours that Obi influenced the other legislators to leave APGA for PDP.
He told the people that what happened was that there was a meeting on whether it would be better for all the elected federal lawmakers to contest on the same political party with President Goodluck Jonathan since all the elections for 2015 would be contested on the same day.
According to him, after the meeting, the affected lawmakers also discussed with Governor Obiano. He said because of the issues involved, he has been meeting stakeholders in the constituency, including traditional rulers and the clergy, explaining that it has been decided that they should remain in APGA.
Ogene said he could not have left the party that sent him to the National Assembly without informing them, explaining that he never resigned from APGA in his ward which ought to be the starting point if he was to leave the party.
He said: “I have not left APGA and I remain a committed member of the party. It is the people that sent me to Abuja and there was no way I could have left APGA without informing you. As a representative of the people, there is need for me to explain to those who elected me when an issue of this nature arises. It is you, the party members that will decide if I will go for a second term. What happened was that there was argument that support for President Jonathan will be maximized if we all belong to one political party, but that is not the case now.”
Officials of APGA in the constituency said they were shocked when they read in the media that Ogene was among those who defected, adding that if he had done so his integrity as a politician would have been questioned.
Chairman of Ogene’s Akili Ogidi/Obeagwe ward, Mr. Emeka Odogwu, said it was unfortunate that some people wanted to use Ogene’s name to destabilize APGA in the area.
Also, the member representing Awka North and South, Emeke Nwogbo described the recent defection of four APGA Reps to the PDP as a voyage of convenience.
Describing the defection as unfortunate, the lawmaker regretted that it came at a time the federal lawmakers were expected to join hands with the leadership of the party and the state governor, Obiano to build a united and viable political party with Igbo identity preparatory to the 2015 general elections.
He also urged members of the party to shelve their personal interests and place APGA above all considerations to salvage it from those he described as jobbers, noting that the bickering and personality conflicts could only cause more divisions in the party. The recent happenings have led to observers to speculate on the future of APGA. Will the developments affect the party’s fortunes at forthcoming polls? Only time will tell. For now, the leadership of the party is sounding very optimistic that it would perform better in 2015 than it had done in the previous elections. As Chief Umeh put it, APGA will win in most states in the South East and even beyond in 2015.

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