BY CHRIS OCHAYI
The Victor Umeh leadership of the All Progressive Grand Alliance which only recently prevailed in its protracted battle with the party’s original founder, Chekwas Okorie is now fighting dissidents within its ranks
SINCE the burial of the late Biafran leader and Ikemba Nnewi, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu in March 2012, peace has departed the soul of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA.
Ojukwu until his death had been the pillar behind the political success of APGA in the South East geo-political zone. With Ojukwu, APGA made history when it broke into Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, stronghold in the South eastern states in the 2003 election using the late Igbo leader’s personality and the love the people had for him.
But shortly after Odumegwu-Ojukwu’s demise, political observers are worried over what would become of the party in future, especially, in the South-East where it enjoys a commendable level of popularity. This has been especially highlighted by the increasing degree of acrimony within the top leadership of the party.
APGA began to experience uneasy calm shortly after the burial of Ojukwu, its former Chairman, Board of Trustees, BOT. Uneasy calm especially reigned in the party between April and May, 2012.
Remarkably, this was also the period when the leadership of National Chairman, Chief Victor and National Secretary, Alhaji Sani Shinkafi successfully won the decisive leadership battle for recognition against the party’s former leader and founder Chief Chekwas Okorie.
The last judgement, which sent Chief Okorie packing from the party was that delivered by the Supreme Court, which confirmed Umeh as the authentic national chairman of APGA.
Chief Okorie, acting in accordance withthe ruling, returned the APGA certificate of registration to the Independent National Electoral Commission,INEC.
Crack in APGA
However, almost immediately after, the discord which had been simmering within the Umeh camp broke to the fore just after INEC handed over the certificate of registration to Umeh in April 2012.
What should have been a source of joy and admiration turned sour as the party was engulfed in leadership crisis precipitated by what some described as greed and ambition of some party officials.
On June 19, 2012, a section of the party struck at the national secretariat located at Libreville Street in Wuse II district in the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, to hold an unauthorised meeting.
The officials including six members of the National Working Committee, NWC were led by Alhaji Sadiq Massalla, the Deputy National Chairman, North who was subsequently proclaimed the faction’s Acting Chairman. They announced a 13-point allegation of misconduct against Umeh and the National Secretary, Alhaji Sani Shinkafi.
The allegations include “romance and nocturnal meetings of Chief Victor Umjeh and Alhaji Sani Shinkafi with the leaderships of Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, and Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, with intention to merge with the parties, systematic and retrogressive shrinking of the party through the misadministration of Umeh and Shinkafi and failure of the leadership to convene annual national convention as well as flagrant spending of the party’s funds.
embattled APGA Chairman, Chief Victor Umeh and Gov. Peter Obi of Anambra State
The faction subsequently suspended Umeh and Shinkafi over the alleged offences. The action of Massalla group irked Umeh, who reacted by announcing the immediate suspension of the six members of the NWC of the party including Massalla who had earlier announced Umeh’s suspension and replacement.
Umeh said: “Their nefarious activities culminated in the unfortunate event of June 19, 2012. After a thorough deliberation, the NWC unanimously resolved to suspend them from the party indefinitely. Their indefinite suspension is in accordance with Article 21.2(d) of the APGA Constitution”.
According to Umeh, the efforts of the group in changing the leadership of the party lacked constitutional merit and is bereft of any logical reasoning “because it grossly fell short of the requirements of the constitution of the party as they did not even form quorum before carrying out their action”.
The suspended members apart from Alhaji Massalla are: Barr. Morgan Anyalechi (National Vice-Chairman, South-East); Sunday Obasohan (Deputy National Organising Secretary); Barr. Bala Bako (National Legal Adviser); Mr. Ferguson Okpara (National Youth Leader) and Mrs. Ella Nwabueze Ezeanya (National Woman Leader).
He further announced the setting up of a seven-man disciplinary committee headed by the National Vice Chairman (South-West), Alhaji Tayo Sowumi to “investigate the flagrant and brazen display of disobedience to the party constitution by the suspended NWC members and to make appropriate recommendations to the NEC” scheduled to hold on July 27.
Umeh, who read a 16-point communiqué, which was adopted at the end of the emergency meeting of his NWC, noted their action was not tenable under APGA’s constitution.
Umeh described the attempt of the other faction of APGA led by Massalla to suspend him and National Secretary of the party, Alhaji Shinkafi as “a failed attempt by dissidents whose actions could not be condoned by the party”.
Apart from disparaging the Massalla faction, Chief Umeh also lampooned the convener of the APGA stakeholders meeting, held at the Enugu home of Chief Odumegwu Ojukwu, noting there was no place under the party’s constitution which empowers the party’s Deputy Chairman, Board of Trustees, Chief Tim Menakaya to call for such a meeting of stakeholders.
Umeh also claimed that he had the other 19 NWC members, 36 State Chairmen as well as elected members of the National Assembly under his APGA.
As if fingering Governor Peter Obi for sponsoring the party’s crisis, Umeh told the governor to immediately conduct local government elections in Anambra State as there was no justifiable reason for continuing to deny people in the third tier of government in the state their rights to choose their leaders democratically.
The Massalla group further tackled Umeh when it convened a meeting of the NEC of the party. The NEC meeting said to be observed by officials from the INEC was also attended by representatives of Governor Obi in the person of Chief Obinna Okafo, where Obi gave credence to the faction.
But Umeh’s faction almost immediately rubbished the import of Massalla’s NEC meeting following a petitioned to the Commissioner of Police, Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Command, alleging forgery of the signature of 11 NWC members by the Massalla group.
Umeh said it was on the strength of the forged signatures of the 11 NWC members that the Massalla group obtained INEC’s nod to conduct the NEC meeting.
Though, the FCT Police Command had started investigations into the matter they are yet to make open their findings.
Just as the report is being awaited, APGA was rendered an orphan following injunctions and counter-injunction granted by the Judges of Enugu High Court and Abuja High Courts, restraining both Umeh and Massalla from performing certain functions in APGA.
However, Chief Umeh’s moves to vacate the order at the Enugu High Court suffered a set back as the Enugu Chief Judge, Justice Innocent Umezulike fixed the hearing on the mater for September 17, 2012 . This development has forced Chief Umeh to postpone indefinitely, the NEC meeting of the party scheduled for August 1, 2012.
Although, Chief Umeh has since appealed the verdict of Justice Innocent Umezulike who had fixed the hearing on the mater for September 17, 2012, until the Appeal Court vacates the lower Court’s position, the injunction will still remain an albatross for Umeh to carry on with the activities of the party.
However, the rebellion against Umeh received a serious blow when INEC at the end of last month conferred legitmacy on the Umeh leadership.
The commission conveyed its recognition vide a letter by its Secretary Abdulahi Kaugama with reference number INEC/LEG/APGA/222/11/313, deposed that the processes taken by the opposing group to sack Umeh were faulty.
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