There are strong indications that the Governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha, who dumped the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) for the All Progressives Congress (APC) last year, is seriously contemplating a return to the party fold.
THE UNION exclusively gathered that Okorocha, who has concluded to dump APC, where he is currently chairman of the party's governors caucus. The flamboyant politician is taking advantage of the Abuja Federal High Court verdict that sacked Victor Umeh as APGA National Chairman, and restore the chairmanship of the party to Chief Maxi Okwu.
A sources that pleaded for anonymity said that Okorocha is behind Maxi Okwu.
According to very reliable sources, Okorocha may have made up his mind to dump APC following clear signals that he may not have a future in the party, and his political future would not be helped especially after the Anambra State governorship election, where the APC candidate, Senator Chris Ngige was heavily defeated, indicating a dislike of APC by voters in southeast.
According to the source, the Imo State governor who is a founding member of APC may have come to the conclusion that the party, which is the product of major opposition parties, cannot make an impact in the southeast.
Already, in Imo State, several of the key figures who powered the governor to victory in 2011 have jumped ship, among them is former governor Achike Udenwa. Also APC chieftain, Senator Ifeanyi Ararume has defected to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The governor has also fallen out with Chief Martin Agbaso, who had control of APGA in the state before Okorocha joined the party for the 2011 governorship election.
In the APC, Governor Okorocha is said to have been tipped as a possible vice presidential candidate but even that now appears a far-fetched dream; the political calculation in the party, especially after Ngige's loss at the Anambra poll, does not anticipate a foothold in the southeast.
The source said: "If you recall, Owelle literally relocated to Anambra State during the governorship election. He supported Onwa (Senator Chris Ngige) morally and financially with the hope that Ngige's popularly in Anambra will get APC the state.
"But it became clear not just to Owelle alone, but to every APC element in the southeast, that the party cannot fly in Igboland because our people in the southeast see APC as a Yourba and Hausa party with so much Islamic ideology and correlation. It was obvious to Owelle that Anambra rejected Ngige because of APC.
"If you recall, Owelle become governor in 2011 because of the Igbo sentiment for APGA. He is a politician, he would not want to gamble with 2015, he must return to the people the gave him mandate in 2011 on the APGA platform, with what happened in Anambra against Ngige, it will be difficult for Owelle to convince Igbo voters in Imo State to support APC.
"So no matter what happend, you cannot take it away that Igbo people have sentimental attachment to APGA. I don't know how Chief Chekwas Okorie and who founded the party with did that, I don't know how they managed to get Igbo people believe so much in APGA. Even those in PDP in southeast, in their heart, they're APGA.
"The verdict that returned Barrister Maxi Okwu as chairman of APGA, marks a new beginning for the party. Everything possible effort will be done to get original members of APGA back to the party. Those who invoked Igbo spirit in APGA will be called back. A total reconciliation will be initiated in APGA.
"As for Chief Umeh, he knows that he has no case in APGA leadership again, I understand he has filed noticed of appeal, that will be a waste of time because he has completed his two terms of fours years each as APGA chairman. That is what the constitution of APGA says. He is still a member of the party, but certainly not the chairman of APGA." The source said.
THE UNION also gathered that as part of effort to reconcile APGA founders and members, okwu has planned a courtesy visit to the founding chairman of APGA, Okorie in Enugu.
Okwu, who said that there is winner or loser between him and Umeh, also said that he will return the party to Enugu where it was founded.
In press statement tilted: "NO VICTOR, NO VANGUISH", Okwu said that he is extending a hand of fellowship to Chief Victor Umeh and all other members to come on board and assist in rebuilding the party.
The statement signed by his Hon Eneh Victor Chigozie, Okwu's Senior Media Assistant reads: "Chief Okwu has also extended a hand of fellowship to Chief Victor Umeh and all other members to come on board and assist in rebuilding the party. The National Chairman equally appealed to all members members to remain calm and loyal as we move to consolidate on the victory of the party in the just concluded Anambra governorship election.
"The party stakeholders will soon meet as genuine reconciliation of all grieved members and mobilization of new members will commence immediately.
"Our great party has suffered so much litigations since its inception and we must find a way to put a permanent stop to it and make the party all inclusive in the spirit of Onye Aghana Nwanne ya.
"The National Chairman assured all members that APGA under his Leadrship will be the 3rd leg in the nation's polity. He solicited for support and prayers of members.
"It is our collective duty to see the party succeed especially as we approach 2015 general election and every member is needed in this project."
It will be recalled that shortly after he emerged as APGA chairman last year, okwu lead a delegation of the party to pay a courtesy visit to Okorie in Enugu, where he (okwu) begged Okorie to forgive them over all the wrongs done to him in APGA which lead to formation of United Progressives Party (UPP) in 2012.
When THE UNION contacted Okorie for a reaction, he said that he has forgiven okwu and those who wronged him in APGA. He also said that he is not in politics for personal gains, but stressed that he is in politics for service to humanity.
His words: "I have no problem with Maxi Okwu. If you recalled he lead a delegation of APGA to my house here in Enugu last year to apologize to me, I accepted their apology and forgave them. If APGA is planning another visit to him, my doors are open. APGA as a party is my brainchild. Nobody can take it away that I founded the party, nurtured it until became an attractive platform. Even our Lord Jesus Christ forgave those that killed him, and He taught us to always forgive, I am a christian, so I am bound to do what Jesus did. I am not in politics for my personal gains, but am in politics to serve my people.
Okorie however described the sacking of Umeh by the court as a vindication of his earlier declaration that he (Umeh) was never, at any time, elected as chairman of APGA.
He also said he was delighted that the duo of Umeh and Shinkafi were removed by a competent court. The APGA founder insisted that the duo were “impostors who assumed those positions by subterfuge”.
Okorie said though he had forgiven Umeh, Shinkafi and all other APGA chieftains who allegedly conspired against him and frustrated him in 2005 out of APGA as pioneer chairman of the party, truth will always prevail no matter how long it took.
He praised the decision of the court and the courage exhibited by Justice Kafarati “in dispensing justice and discouraging injustice, crass opportunism and manipulation of the system”.
Justice Abdul Kafarati, who delivered judgment sacked Umeh in a suit brought before him by Okwu, praying the court to sack Umeh and Sani Shinkafi as APGA chairman and secretary respectively on the grounds that their continued stay in office was illegal, in line with the party’s constitution.
In the suit filed on August 19, 2013, Okwu argued that Shinkafi should vacate his office as national secretary, having been elected into office on January 10, 2003, and re-elected for a second tenure which expired on January 9, 2010.
Okwu maintained that Umeh and Shinkafi were not elected in accordance with Article 18(4) of the party’s constitution, which stipulated that election into the national executive. offices shall be by secret ballot.
Delivering judgment in the matter on matter last Wednesday, Justice Kafarati held that Umeh and Shinkafi’s stay in office contravened Article 18(2) of the party’s constitution which provides that any official of the party could only stay in office for a maximum of two terms of four years.
The judge held that Umeh and Shinkafi were voted into office by voice votes rather than through a secret ballot, as stipulated by Article 18(3) of the APGA constitution, and as a result, were not validly elected.
Justice Kafarati therefore ordered Umeh and Shinkafi to vacate their offices.
Speaking exclusively to THE UNION as his reaction, Umeh who spoke in a telephone interview from Enugu said: “the judgment of Justice kafarati did not come to us as a surprise because the judgment was supposed to have been delivered on February 7, so the sudden change of date was obviously to ambush the programmes of APGA and enable the other side pursue their case at the election tribunal at Awka.
“But clearly the judgment was delivered without jurisdiction.
“The judgment is an attempt to execute the judgment of the Chief Judge of Enugu State, Justice Innicent Umezulike, so it was that convention that was purportedly conducted that the judge relied on to deliver the judgment in favour of Okwu; Justice Kafarati was gravely in error, so there is nothing to worry about, the convention has no foundation, and the said convention relied on by the court has been set aside by the Court of Appeal.
“We have an application for a stay, notice of appeal, including an application for an order of injunction restraining them from interfering with the affairs of the party.
“We are unruffled by the judgment because we know that the court of appeal will at all times protect its judgment,” he said.
“You will recall that it is the same Justice Kafarati that nullified (Olagunsoye) Oyinlola’s election as the National Secretary of the PDP, which was later set aside by the Court of Appeal, the judgment which is a hatchet job arrived late as APGA has successfully prosecuted the Anambra governorship and winning with a landslide at the just concluded local government election.
“I enjoin our party men to disregard the judgment as this is clearly a judicial rascality.” Umeh said.