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APGA crises: A party on self-destruct?
Christian Okeke writes on the many crises and current waves of suspension of party-men rocking the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and what the development portends for the future of the already crisis-torn party.
Recently, when the founding national chairman of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Chief Chekwas Okorie, said that the spirit of the party had left it while what remained was a mere ghost, many of his opponents dismissed his claim as ranting of a drowning man. However, less that three months after the statement, it was becoming clearer to pundits who monitor goings-on in the party that Okorie’s statement was not just a prophesy, but the gospel truth. This is because the implosions in APGA have, indeed, demonstrated the capacity to consume it except gladiators retrace their steps fast in the interest of the party.
There is no doubt that the many conflicts in APGA have been a subject of interest, even to the ruling the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and their governors. The interest was borne out of the plan by PDP to dislodge APGA in future polls in Anambra and Imo states.
Perhaps, Enugu State Governor, Sullivan Chime, passed as the first governor in the South-East zone to have shown open interest in the spate of crises rocking APGA when he publicly stated that the party was dead and no longer in existence. While playing host to the South-East Zonal Working Committee members of his party led by the National Vice- Chairman (South-East), Colonel Augustine Akobundu (retd), Chime reportedly boasted that APGA stands no chance at the 2014 Anambra State governorship election and future elections in the country as, according to him, APGA no longer has a system and a succession plan.
The governor was quoted as having said that, “I don’t see why APGA should be a problem for us in Anambra State because, as far as I’m concerned, I don’t think APGA still exists. In fact, APGA is a dead party. If we present a popular candidate, there won’t be any problem in Anambra State.”
Despite the statement by Governor Chime, it was apparent that APGA, as a political party, was sitting on a keg of gunpowder. Only recently, a faction of the party announced that it has suspended Chief Victor Umeh as its national chairman. The act was not, on its own, entirely new in the power-play going on in the party as its founding chairman, Chief Chekwas Okorie, was suspended and subsequently expelled in a manner that did not go down well with the man who believed he laboured hard to build the party.
In the recent tussle, Alhaji Sadiq Massala was announced to have taken over from Chief Umeh as national chairman while Dr Ifedi Okwenna, a former commissioner in Anambra State replaced Alhaji Umaru Shinkafi as national secretary. A four-page communiqué issued on the suspension exercise accused both Umeh and Shinkafi of several constitutional breaches in the running of the affairs of the party. The communiqué was read by the faction at the main conference hall of the party’s national secretariat in Abuja.
The faction hinted that it took the decision to suspend Umeh and Shinkafi at the end of the National Working Committee (NWC) meeting of the party, with allegations that Umeh ran the party like a family affair and had blocked proper accounting of the party’s finances. “Following a thorough analysis and in consideration of the relevant articles of the constitution of our great party, we unanimously suspended them indefinitely for actions which run counter to the spirit and letters of the constitution of our great party”, the communiqué read.
The group set up a seven-man disciplinary committee to look into all the allegations made against the suspended officers in line with Article 21 (3) of the party’s constitution. The committee was mandated to make appropriate recommendations within two weeks.
However, Umeh, who later arrived the national secretariat after the faction had left, stated that NWC of the party never met and said he remains the only authorised person to convene such a meeting. Umeh described the faction that ‘purportedly’ removed him from office as disgruntled members of the party which, according to him, constituted only five out of 29 NWC members of the party.
He said, “The people who broke into our party secretariat were only five out of 29 members of the NWC. You and I know that in a democracy, for you to do anything successfully, you must have the required number. They were sponsored to disrupt the party.
“These five people have been under watch and they have not succeeded in wooing the other NWC members. Ordinarily, their actions would not require any response, but we want to inform the party members who might be deceived by their actions that all what they did were illegal, null, void and have no effect whatsoever. As you can see, I am still in my office.
“APGA has a constitution and the procedure must be followed. The people who did what they did were sponsored.
But we have stood firm and we will protect the constitution of our party. What they purported to have done, they lacked the capacity, not having been backed by the constitution and they did not form the needed quorum to do so,” he said.
Umeh and his 18 NWC members announced the suspension of Masalla and his group over an alleged Five Million Naira bribe offered to each of them by unnamed highly-placed persons, an act he described as anti-party activities. The NWC equally suspended indefinitely six national officers believed to be loyal to Anambra State Governor, Mr Peter Obi. They are Deputy National Chairman (North), Alhaji Sadeeq Massalla; National Vice-Chairman (Southeast), Morgan Anyalechi; Deputy National Organising Secretary, Sunday Obasohan; Deputy National Legal Adviser, Bala Bako; National Youth Leader, Ferguson Okpara and National Women’s Leader, Mrs.
Umeh, in announcing the suspension, stated that the officers were to face a seven-man disciplinary committee raised by the NWC. With the development, Umeh, together with his Secretary, Alhaji Sani Shinkafi, shunned the disciplinary committee set up by the Alhaji Sadiq Masalla faction to investigate allegations against them.
Speaking to journalists on the failure of the summoned party-men to appear before the committee, chairman of the Masalla-factional disciplinary committee, Mr Bala Bako and secretary, Morgan Anyalechi (who are both lawyers) stated that the committee resolved to give them another date on which to appear before it to purge themselves of the allegations made against them. He noted that the essence of the committee was to give the suspended officers fair hearing and ensure that it followed the provisions of the party’s constitution and natural justice.
“We are to show that the new APGA, under the leadership of the acting national chairman, Alhaji Sadiq Massalla, particularly demonstrate a clear departure from unilateral actions of maladministration and brazenly taking far-reaching constitutional decision by one person. This is in order to give the suspended chairman of APGA, Chief Victor Umeh and Alhaji Shinkafi further opportunities to appear before the committee in their own interest and in the interest of justice. However, the committee states unequivocally that should they further fail to attend, it will have no option left than to conclude its assignment and submit its report”, he said.
Beside the national leadership crisis, many state chapters of APGA are currently sick. Among them are the Ebonyi and Edo state chapters. Only recently, the chairman of Ebonyi State chapter, Mr Jerry Obasi, was reportedly impeached over alleged gross violation of the party’s constitution and his alleged failure to render proper financial account of monies collected and spent on behalf of the party.
The impeachment was reported to have taken place at a stakeholders meeting comprising chairmen, secretaries and women leaders of the party at both state and local government levels. Subsequently, the embattled chairman described his purported impeachment as the handiwork of dissidents. He further described them as individuals bent on destabilising the party ahead of the 2015 elections in the state.
Also, the Edo State chapter of APGA recently passed a vote of no confidence on its state chairman and deputy chairman, Major Joseph Osagie (retd) and Chief Anthony Nwanzor, respectively as they were purportedly expelled by the executive members of the party during an emergency meeting in Benin. Their expulsion was alongside two other party leaders, the Assistant Secretary, Ambrose Obiesie and Woman Leader, Mrs Stella Oga. At the end of the exercise, Elder Godfrey Ehimhen emerged as the new state chairman. He was reported to have said that talks with other political parties by APGA had reached an advanced stage for the adoption of a governorship candidate for the governorship poll coming up in the state next week.
Even in Anambra State where the party is a ruling party, all is not well with APGA as the transition committee chairmen of the 21 local government areas in the state were said to have resorted to joining issues, publicly, with Chief Umeh, over his alleged blackmailing of the state government. The transition chairmen also dismissed the suspension of the six members of the party’s NWC in Abuja. In fact, they said that the NWC which carried out the act was not properly constituted and did not speak for the party.
The local government caretaker chairmen issued a communiqué where they alleged that the NWC did not satisfy the requirement of the party’s constitution in terms of quorum and composition. They alleged that most organs and offices of the national executive were either non-existent or non-functional. In fact, they accused Umeh of playing politics with the issue of non conduct of local government election in the state.
The resultant effect of the many crises of APGA, despite efforts to save its soul, has remained that the party is eventually losing its vision to make inroads into the heart of the national political terrain. Instead of the party harnessing opportunities and making impacts in other regions apart from the South-East, it is engulfed in unending leadership crises that politicians who would have identified with it got discouraged and embraced other parties. As it stands, it does not have formidable governorship candidates for the Edo and Ondo states’ elections.
Apart from that, the party is not known to pursue aggressive membership drive as resources, skills and manpower are wasted prosecuting court cases. In fact, according to pundits, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) may soon get tired of the party and take negative action.
Be that as it may, feelers were that the governorship candidates of the party in last year’s general election have already met in Abuja with a view to finding an amicable resolution to the party’s many crises. In a communiqué read by the spokesman of the group and former Abia State governorship candidate, Chief Reagan Ufomba, they resolved to mend all intra-party crises and broken fences. They said, “We will assert our leadership positions, roles and influence in our various states where we emerged candidates and by implication, leaders of the party.”
In all the crises, pundits believe that the onus is on Umeh to prove his statement to critics that, “People who insinuate that APGA is dead will be swallowed by their words, because APGA will be the party to beat in next general elections” and that “APGA would not only consolidate on its victory in Anambra and Imo, but would make a foray into Enugu, Abia and Ebonyi.” He is also expected to prove his claim that “The seeming crisis in the party would soon be resolved.”
On his part, Anambra State Governor elected on APGA platform has to prove that, “APGA was a mass movement that would not die by mere pronouncement” and that, “Just as the Mosaic Law was engraved in the hearts of the Jews, APGA is engraved in the hearts of our people.” Pundits would equally want him to prove that, “What we are witnessing is a minor misunderstanding which we will get over. People and organizations come out of such stronger and more promising and such will be APGA.”
The answers are expected as questions have started coming as to whether APGA will prove, this time, to be a cat with nine lives. There are fears already that the party may not survive its long and unnecessary intra-party squabbles which have threatened to tear it apart and drown its objectives this time.
Whether faithfuls of the party registered on June 24, 2002 will practise its motto: be your brother’s keeper and dust up its manifesto, adjudged the best among the nation’s political parties at a time is a matter of time to tell. Shall the party survive its current squabbles, many pundits, will, indeed, see that as a miracle.Share