APGA, Obiano and the road to Anambra State governorship election

Anambra State Governor, Willie Obiano

The All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) is not new to litigations and courts. In fact, its immediate past National Chairman, Chief Victor Umeh would proudly tell anyone that cares to listen that the party literally lives in court. He would however add that desperation among certain members had been responsible.

It is on record that the party, which was formed in 2003, has so far recorded the highest number of litigations when compared to other existing political parties in the country. Umeh, who led the party for over 10 years, after the founding chairman, Chief Chekwas Okorie was forcefully removed “lived” in courts throughout his tenure, following various suits that trailed his emergence.

While the litigations lasted, a once boisterous party with Igbo appeal continued to shrink to the extent that its only noticeable presence is now in Anambra State where it controls the government.

Thus, on June 6th, 2015, when the National Convention of the party that held in Awka, Anambra State capital produced the Chief Victor Oye-led executive for a four-year term in office, political watchers felt a new beginning had started in the party. But they were wrong. The centre refused to hold again on October 5th, last year, when members of the National Working Committee (NWC) in a meeting allegedly called by Oye, moved a vote of no confidence against him.

They had expelled Oye from the party for alleged financial misappropriation amongst others and appointed the then National Vice Chairman, Southeast, late Ozo Nwabueze Okafor as the Acting National Chairman. They also extended their sanction to Deputy Chairmen of the party in the North and South, Alhaji Abubakar Adamu and Mr Uchenna Okogbuo, respectively.

Two days after the exercise was carried out, those behind it went to court to legitimize their action and to compel relevant stakeholders including the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), to stop further dealing with Oye and accord recognition to Okafor.

While the matter, which was filed at Enugu High Court, was yet to be adjudicated upon, Okafor died, paving the way for the appointment of Chief Martin Agbaso to continue in that capacity.

Last month, the court gave an order approving the expulsion of Oye and reaffirmed the leadership of Agbaso as the authentic chairman. It is this order that is now unsettling the APGA and raising fresh fears on what awaits the party; especially as the November 18 governorship election approaches.

The development is disturbing because parallel executives now exist within the party – one led by Chief Martin Agbaso and the other by Chief Victor Oye with each laying claims to authenticity.

The Agbaso group claimed it went further to the Court of Appeal, Enugu Division where it secured an order of mandamus to compel the INEC and law enforcement agents to stop relating with Oye as well as reaffirming the decision of the lower court.

Upon the order, the Agbaso faction last week in company of security officials, took over the National Secretariat of the party in Abuja, where he restated his desire to entrench the vibes needed to move the party forward.

Oye’s group on the other hand, is not resting. In fact, it has so far secured over four court orders, injunctions and restrictions against the Agbaso group. One was the interlocutory injunction granted by the Nnewi High Court on July 28 restraining Agbaso from parading himself as National Chairman and from taking any steps whatsoever to perform the functions of a National Chairman including nomination of the party’s governorship candidate in the election.

Same day, another court, Awka High Court, nullified the purported suspension of Oye as the party’s National Chairman and granted a perpetual injunction restraining Agbaso from parading himself as Chairman of the party.

In Ebonyi on July 31, the high court sitting there had confirmed Oye as the National Chairman of the party, likewise a High Court in Ibadan, Oyo state, which granted a perpetual injunction restraining “every member of APGA whatsoever from summoning or convening any meeting of the party for purpose of electing a candidate of the party for any general election to be conducted by the INEC except where such a meeting was convened at the instance of Dr Ike Oye in his capacity as National Chairman of APGA.”

As it is, both factions have fixed separate dates for the primary of the party. While the Agbaso faction fixed August 14 in Awka, the Oye faction fixed its own the next day, August 15.

Responding to the development, the party’s National Vice chairman, Southeast, Chief Okechukwu Nkoloagu told The Guardian that the Agbaso group remains the authentic APGA, stressing that the Court of Appeal ruling which reaffirmed the Enugu High Court order, had not been challenged or set aside.

He said, “Whatever Oye and others are doing now is out of desperation. What they did in Nnewi and Awka has no bearing in law because section 10 of the Electoral Act said no court shall stop any political party from conducting party primaries and since we are poised to produce a candidate for the election, we are not barred by the order. We are selling forms and we expect anybody that wants to run the election to buy the form from the Agbaso executive.”

Oye however dismissed the claims of Agbaso group as “wishful thinking”, stressing that there was no order of Court of Appeal against him. The 36 states and Federal Capital Territory (FTC) chairmen and members of the NWC loyal to Oye, who met in Abuja on Monday, had pledged loyalty to the leadership of Oye, drawing their strength from the court injunctions and orders barring the Agbaso group.

They also reaffirmed their faith in the decision of the NWC taken in December 21, last year, where the likes of late Okafor, Jerry Obasi, Chuks Nwoga, Okechukwu Nkoloagu, Campbell Umenzekwe, Terry Godffery and Ezinne Amaka Agbiogwu were allegedly expelled.

But Nkoloagu stated that the purported expulsion was an afterthought as, according to him, “We had earlier expelled Oye and two others from the party on October 5th and proceeded to the court to enforce our action. When a matter is in court do you do anything until that matter is resolved? How could they turn back to say they have expelled us in a meeting presided over by an expelled member whose matter is in court? That shows their level of desperation and rascality and we are prepared to fight it.”

Dilemma of a governor
Where then should Willie Obiano, the party’s only governor who is also desirous of securing a second term on the platform of the party, pitch his tent? His actions in the entire imbroglio so far, do not show that he is worried about the developments in the party. Although many fear that his second term ambition hangs on the surface should he take the decision to join the wrong faction, the governor appears to be unperturbed and looking towards the election.

Last week, he inaugurated an 87-man campaign committee headed by Chief Victor Umeh and charged them with the responsibility of ensuring victory for the party at the polls. On Tuesday, he moved further to purchase the nomination form from the party, where he was said to have dismissed the uprisings in the party as “fake”. The National Organizing Secretary, Mike Kneto, said to be working on the side of Oye, issued the forms to him.

Nkologu said of the forms purchased by Obiano, “The forms which he collected are not APGA forms and it is part of that rascality going in APGA. If there is anybody who should issue forms to Obiano, it is Agbaso. Agbaso remains the authentic chairman of the party and come August 14, we will tell the world that what Oye and his co-travelers are doing is mere waste of time. What they are doing is absolutely illegal and no illegality can stand the test of law. Kento sold the forms to him and that shows you that Oye cannot be there because he knows that he is no longer in the party. We will see how this will play out.”

Nkoloagu stated that a convention of the party would hold in Owerri, Imo state on Friday, August 11 to ratify the position of the party ahead of the governorship primary in Awka on August 14, warning that it would be disastrous for any person to continue to deal with “strange bed fellows masquerading in the party.”

A member of the party in the state, Chief Ikechukwu Obele, told The Guardian that the current imbroglio should not be ignored as it points towards “destroying what remains of the party and could thwart the second term ambition of Obiano.”

He also accused those he described as “fifth columnists” of waging war against the party, knowing that it would be difficult to wrest power from the governor due to his performance so far in office.

According to him, “What is going on is not about the national chairmanship of APGA, but a ploy to wrest power from Obiano in the November 18, 2017 governorship election. Because his election is around the corner, there is a gang up of different kinds against him. I believe that it is only the National Convention of the party that can throw up the National Chairman, who must do so after possessing the forms. Oye was elected after our convention in Awka, the likes of Agbaso were not there. That is not to say he has not been in the party, but having left at a time and returned, he should have allowed the peace to reign until the election is over. The whole development makes it very fragile for APGA and it is my hope that a truce will be reached before the election.”

Another member, Chief Jerry Uwakwe however said that though the development was a “disturbing one”, he added, “What is at stake is not Obiano’s position.
“That is our luck. I believe the two gladiators are disposed to having Obiano continue as governor and they will be ready to work with him. I am also looking forward to the parallel primaries, each of them will adopt him as candidate of the party in the election; but anything to the contrary will spell doom for the APGA because as it is, our situation is not the best at the moment.”

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