Anambra 2021: Anxiety over APGA’s deepening crisis

JUNE 11, 2021

The multiple leadership crises rocking the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) may cost the party victory during the November 6 governorship election in Anambra state, reports Assistant Editor, ‘Dare Odufowokan.

The All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) is currently bedeviled by multiple leadership crises. The party controls only Anambra State where it has been in government for almost sixteen years now.  The state would hold its gubernatorial election in November this year. But as the date of the election draws nearer, observers of the politics of the state are worried that the festering leadership tussle, coupled with the stiff opposition from other political parties in the state, may deny APGA continued control of the state.

The gravity of the festering internal crisis within APGA dawned on more people, within and outside the party last week, when the member representating Aguata Federal constituency in the national assembly, Hon. Chukwuma Umeoji, emerged as the third governorship candidate of the party ahead of the November 6 election. Umeoji emerged candidate at a primary election organized by Chief Jude Okeke-led National Working Committee (NWC) of the party at Awka Wonderland in Awka, the state capital.

His surprised emergence came few days after two other factions of the party elected factional candidates for the same gubernatorial election. Chief Edozie Njoku, a factional national chairman of APGA, emerged as the governorship candidate of his own faction of the party at a primary poll held at Finotel Hotel, Awka. Hours earlier, former Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, had been elected as candidate for the same election by a faction of the party led by Chief Victor Oye.

Worried by the development, party chieftains have been expressing fear over the November election. The Nation also gathered that several efforts to make the factions sheath their swords and present a united front towards the election have failed, with each sticking to its resolve to pursue the gubernatorial race with its own candidate. “It is not true we are not talking. We have been talking before the primaries. We continued talking after the primaries. It is just that all efforts appear to be failing with the resolve of the gladiators not to give peace a chance,” a former national Vice chairman of the party from the southwest said on Thursday.

Claiming anonymity because the party recently ordered members to stop speaking to the press on the matter, our source said the current fear is that APGA may suffer the same fate that befell the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in Zamfara and Rivers state during the last general election if care is not taken. “Our party risks what happened in Zamfara and Rivers, where the APC was barred from participating in that election due to unresolved litigations and disregard for the electoral act. It will be a very painful way to lose control of a state that is no doubt ours for the taking,” he lamented.

Another chieftain of the party, Mazi Dozie Orji, a former national ex-officio member of the party, has warned that if not resolved, Obiano may be the last governor the party will produce in Anambra. According to the octogenarian politician who joined APGA from the PDP in 2005, the Anambra state governor and other leaders of the party must end the crisis and reunite ahead of the governorship election. “I am worried. Not only me, but most elders of the party are bothered. This is the eve of a crucial election and we are at war.

“The needless leadership crisis and litany of litigations must be halted immediately otherwise, Obiano should know he will be the last governor of APGA in Anambra state. I don’t think he will like that. So, all well-meaning members and lovers of the party must join hands together to end the crisis and prepare well for the November election. There is really no problem with our party. It is just that some people are too ambitious to be team players. They want to have their ways at all cost. That will not help the party. In fact, it will hurt the party,” Orji said.

Similarly, a former member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Ifeanyi Ibezi says after about 16 years in office, APGA may lose Anambra State, except its members unite to win the forthcoming governorship election in the state. Ibezi, represented the Idemili North and South federal constituency. “We must unite to be able to keep winning Anambra. Party faithful and stakeholders of All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) in Idemili must close ranks and prepare for the important task of electing the next governor of Anambra State.

“Members, stakeholders and leaders of the party at the wards and local government levels must unite and strengthen the party structures at their various council areas and wards ahead of the November governorship election in the state.

“Having been in power for almost 16 years, APGA is the party to beat in the forthcoming election. I appreciate the party stakeholders and LGA leaders for your relentless efforts in holding forth, in maintaining the structures and unity of the party at their various wards and LGAs, but more need to be done. APGA remains a political movement whose strength lies in the unity of its members,” he warned.

 

An old feud

For over 5 years APGA has been in crisis at the national level. In 2016, a group within the National Working Committee of the party passed a vote of no confidence on Victor Oye as the national chairman and appointed Nwabueze Okafor to replace him as the interim Chairman. Oye refused to step down as chairman of the party, backed by Obiano and a good number of the National Executive Council (NEC) of the party. Soon after, Okafor died. Subsequently, Martin Agbaso was appointed by the Okafor faction as national chairman.

The crisis became more complex in May 2017 when an Enugu High Court presided over by Justice A.R Ozoemena ordered the removal of Oye and replaced him with Agbaso as national chairman of APGA. The judge ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to stop further dealings with Oye. The action of the court followed a suit by the Secretary of the party in Enugu State, Comrade Mike Alioke, who challenged the continued occupation of Oye in office after the NWC of the party affirmed his suspension on October 5, 2016.

He had asked for the order of Mandamus compelling the INEC to stop further recognition of Oye and the decision of the NWC should be upheld to grant Chief Martin Agbaso who was recognized by the NWC authority to function as the National Chairman of the party. But the NEC continued to back Oye despite the court pronouncements. Few months later, respite came the way of Obiano and Oye as the Enugu Division of the Court of Appeal gave its judgement in favour of his faction of APGA.

Oye had gone to the Appeal Court, where he contended through his counsel, Emeka Etiaba, (SAN) that Agbaso was not the rightful claimant to the APGA chair. Those joined in the appeal were Anioke, APGA, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, the IG of Police and the Enugu State Commissioner of Police. In a unanimous judgement, the three-man Appeal Court judges sacked Agbaso and restated Oye. The judgement was read by Justice Abdul Aboki.  But the court victory didn’t end the crisis in the party.

In May, 2019, a new faction of the party elected former First National Vice Chairman (South) of APGA, Chief Edozie Njoku, as new national chairman while rejecting Oye’s leadership. He was elected at a convention in Owerri which organisers claimed was attended by 35 delegates from each of the 36 states of the federation and Abuja. Party leaders at the convention announced that Njoku who hails from Ibeku, in the Aboh Mbaise council area of Imo state, is expected to lead the party for four years.

 

New twists

Last month, then crisis within the troubled party was further compounded with the naming of Chief Jude Okeke as acting chairman of APGA by yet another faction. The development came as the NEC sacked the two factional chairmen of the party at a meeting in Abuja. The emergence of Okeke was contained in a resolution drawn from the party’s National Executive Committee, held on June 15, 2021, at its National Secretariat, Abuja. “The NEC considered and adopted the 7- man Disciplinary Committee report and recommendation that the National Chairman Chief Edozie Njoku be suspended from office pending National Convention.

“The NEC appointed the Deputy National Chairman South, Chief Jude Okeke as the Acting Chairman of APGA in accordance with the party’s constitution pending national convention. That the only legally recognised APGA leadership is the one led by the Acting National Chairman Chief Jude Okeke and that any party member or person dealing with any other purported leadership other than the leadership of Chief Jude Okeke does so at his own peril.

“That the following persons; Chief Victor Ike Oye, Chief Edozie Njoku, Hon. Chinedu Obidigwe, Barr Hamman Buba Ghide, Barr. Sylvester Ezeokenwa, Adamu Danjuma Musa, Chief Uchenna Okogbuo, Barr Ifeanyi Mbaeri are hereby suspended indefinitely from the party for anti-party activities, gross misconduct, and conduct capable of bringing the party’s image to disrepute among others,” the resolution read to newsmen by Okeke, and acting National Secretary, Alhaji Kabiru Yusuf,” said.

This latest development set the ball rolling for the current scenario where APGA now parades three governorship candidates in Anambra state following the conduct of three different gubernatorial primary elections by the troubled party ahead of the November governorship election in the state. First to emerge was Soludo. He scored a total of 740 votes out of 792 valid votes cast by delegates. Declaring the results of the exercise, Samson Olalere, the Returning Officer said Soludo fulfilled the provisions of Electoral Act and APGA guidelines. He said a total of 812 delegates were registered out of which 795 accredited and 792 voted.

But days after his victory, a faction of the party at a press conference, announced that Soludo was already suspended for ‘anti-party activities. The Okeke faction also announced that it will conduct its own primary on the 1st of July, to elect its own candidate for the November 6th election. Ikechukwu Chukwunyere, the acting National Publicity Secretary of the Okeke faction made this known in Abuja.

In the midst of all these, Njoku, a factional National Chairman of APGA, was nominated as the candidate of the party for the November 6 Anambra governorship election by his faction of the party. Njoku, who hailed from Imo State, said he is qualified to contest the governorship in Anambra State having contested for the House of Representatives election for Onitsha federal constituency in 2003 and 2007. He emerged as the consensus candidate at the primary held in Awka and explained that the decision to hold the primary followed the expiration of the court order that described his faction as illegal.

And by the time the Okeke faction held their promised primary election, Hon. Umeoji became the third guber candidate of APGA in Anambra. He defeated Nweke Chinyere Elizabeth to secure the victory. At the end of the exercise, the chairman electoral committee of Anambra State Primary election for APGA Okoli Christopher, disclosed that Honorable Umeoji had 904 votes, while Nweke Chinyere Elizabeth got 73 votes. According to party officials, delegates were drawn from each of the 326 wards for the primary election.

 

More confusion

While party chieftains and members are hoping the crises will be resolved soon as the November 6 election draws nearer, more twists are daily being introduced into the matter, bringing about more confusion. Observers say the penchant for litigations by the gladiators will make resolving the crisis very difficult. “The way they are now procuring judments and injunctions like snacks will not help anybody. APGA will be the worse for it unless we find a way of securing a political solution to this matter,” Orji warned.

The Nation recalls that a High Court sitting in Delta state has given the go-ahead for Jude Okeke faction to conduct its primary. This elicited jubilation in the venue of faction’s primary in Awka. The Court, where Oye had days earlier, secured an exparte injunction against Okeke, vacated the order stopping APGA primary. The Judge in transferring the matter to the Chief Judge for personal reasons, ruled that the by virtue of Order 39(7)(3) of the Delta State High Court Rules, the earlier Exparte Order he granted had lapsed.

In another twist to the matter, a Federal High Court sitting in Awka and presided over by Justice Hyeladzira Nganjiwa, declined to stop Soludo from parading himself as the candidate of the party for the November 6 poll in the state. The court dismissed an application of an order of mandamus by Njoku to be recognised as the National Chairman of APGA so as to authorise his faction to conduct the governorship primary election which would produce the party’s candidate in the poll. Njoku had through his lawyer, Sopulu Ezeonwuka, approached the court vide Suit No. FHC/AWK/CS/35/2021, praying the court to, inter alia, recognise him (Chief Edozie Njoku) as the National Chairman of APGA and to compel him to conduct primary election on behalf of APGA. The court ruled that granting such application would prejudice the hearing of the substantive suit before the court.

During the week, Okeke launched a legal battle at the Federal High Court, Abuja, to get the court to uphold and affirm him as the authentic chairman. Okeke also want the court to issue perpetual injunction against Oye and Njoku from parading themselves as APGA chairmen. Okeke is seeking judicial backing to declare that only he and not Oye or Njoku has the power to forward the name of the governorship candidate of APGA for the November 6 gubernatorial election, having conducted the primary on July 1, 2021.

The current situation is compounded by a recent communications from INEC to the party, warning it to put its house in order. In one of the letters, obtained by our correspondent, the commission addressed his position to the principal counsel of a law firm, Omas and Partners, who had earlier written and asked for the information while relying on the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act. The letter dated June 18, 2021 and signed by the Secretary to the Commission, Rose Oriaran-Anthony, read, “This is to inform you that the commission did not receive the statutory 21 days’ notice for the nomination of APGA Anambra State governorship candidate from Victor Oye led APGA. Accordingly, the commission did not monitor the said ward congress and as such, there is no monitoring report of the Commission.”

The second letter, also signed by Oriaran-Anthony, and addressed to the National Chairman of APGA also read, “Please refer to your letter dated June 16, 2021 forwarding the list of delegates for the nomination of APGA’s Governorship Candidate in the forthcoming Anambra State Governorship Election. This is to notify you that the records of the Commission indicate that APGA did not duly notify the Commission of the date of the Congress where the ad hoc delegates were elected as required by Section 85 of the Electoral Act 2010 (As Amended). Accordingly the Commission is unable to confirm if the Ad hoc Delegates list submitted by your party is the outcome of a democratic process as required by Section 87(7) of the Electoral Act 2010 (As Amended). The Commission wishes to emphasize the need for full compliance with all legal requirements for the conduct of Party Primaries as earlier communicated in the Commissions letter to your Party dated 37 June 2021 (REF: INEC/DEPM/UPPM/119/1/37).”

The Publicity Secretary of the Okeke-led faction of the party, Ikechukwu Chukwunyere, recently expressed fears that INEC might exclude the party from the Anambra governorship election slated for November 6. Chukwunyere specifically said the Oye faction did not duly notify INEC on the plan to hold ward congresses ahead of the governorship poll within the 21 days recommended by its regulations and Section 85 of the Electoral Act. He alleged that the two letters by INEC have therefore rendered APGA’s governorship primary held on June 23 as an exercise in futility because “the use of invalid delegate list will exclude the party from the election.”

Chukwunyere however allayed fears as the Okeke faction dully submitted all the notices. “We are aware of the position of INEC on this matter. As disheartening as it is, there is still hope for the party. Although the Oye faction had missed the issuance of statutory notice, all hope is not lost if the party backs the Okeke faction. This is because the Okeke faction has served all valid notices for the APGA primary in Anambra. It is important to join hands with the faction now if the party must take part in the election,” he added.

SOURCE: THE NATION

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