In this interview with Ojo M. Maduekwe, a leader of the All Progressives Grand Alliance in Lagos State, Chief Campbell Umeh Nzekwe, who also doubles as the Senior Special Adviser on Contact and Mobilisation to APGA’s National Chairman, Chief Victor Umeh, spoke on the crisis in the party and President Goodluck Jonathan’s 2015 re-election bid. Excerpts:
There is constant crisis in your party APGA. Who orchestrated it and what is the leadership doing to stem the tide?
People always think that APGA has crises; no we don’t. The issue is that there are people who are causing confusion due to their personal interest. When such people want something, then they will instigate a crisis. The problem we are having now in court with Mazi Okwu, it was purely former governor Peter Obi who created it. Reason was that he wanted to appropriate the nomination of his successor in office. He felt that Victor Umeh would not have agreed to his idea of a successor.
Because of this, Obi then instigated a crisis to remove Umeh as APGA National Chairman. Obi went and instigated a certain party member from Enugu State, Chief Okorie to file a suit against Umeh as an individual and not as a party because APGA is not in the summons. In doing that, without knowing what the outcome would be, the Enugu High Court now dismissed the entire executive instead of removing one person. The court ruled that the election that brought in the executive was not properly conducted.
Umeh refused the judgement and went to Appeal Court. While the case was in Appeal Court, both stay of execution and the main appeal, Peter Obi went and invited Mazi Okwu, who is the Chairman of Citizen Popular Party (CPP) in February 2013 to come and head APGA as interim National Chairman, while the case was pending in the Appeal Court. Then on February 8, 2013, the Court of Appeal ordered a stay of execution on the Enugu High Court judgment pending when it would hear the appeal.
While this was on, Obi and Okwu purportedly went to Awka and conducted what they tagged a convention the same day the judgment was given and produced Mazi Okwu as the National Chairman of APGA. This is the confusion. The question now is: that what platform did Mazi Okwu come in? This is a man that the Supreme Court has upheld his expulsion on March 25, 2011, with that of Chekwas Okorie and their group.
In all this time, has Obi done anything to quell the situation?
The day the Appeal Court in Enugu dismissed that case, Obi came to make peace and asked that the party forget. This is a man who refused all entreaties, even from the Bishop, saying that the court would decide. When the Court of Appeal decided on our side, he called a meeting with everyone and we agreed to make peace so as to be able to sustain the Anambra government. Obi called for peace because he saw Chief Ifeanyi Ubah of Capital Oil coming to Umeh to run for governorship under APGA.
When we agreed to peace, we also settled Mazi Okwu. Okwu’s demand is that he wants to run for the governor of Enugu State under APGA. The party agreed but Okwu is saying that Obi must agree in writing to finance his election. Mazi Okwu is now using the court as a bargaining chip. The problem now is between Okwu and Obi and not Umeh. One thing you should know is that Umeh has never filed a case against anyone, neither has he been a plaintiff in all of the suits filed to contest the chairmanship of the party. Also, APGA under the Umeh leadership has not gone to court to sue any of its members.
While we are awaiting for the court to give us the go ahead to continue with our party activities, APGA remains one big united family. In fact we are the most stable and grounded party in Nigeria. It is like a movement. APGA is known to be synonymous with the Igbo people; it is an Igbo identity. Any Igboman who is in another party, went there for greener pastures. Someone like Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha who is in the APC, has an unstable political career; he is a political wanderer, almajiri and nomad.
But there are those who believe that APGA is an extension of the PDP?
People are misinterpreting the whole thing. Take it from this angle: PDP was registered in 1998 and they were controlling the whole of the South-east. APGA was registered in 2002 and I can tell you that during the preceding election in 2003, we won all the states but, Obasanjo in his way rewrote the result in Abuja and announced his version of the winners. APGA won other states but it was only Peter Obi who challenged that action, spending three years to recover the stolen mandate from PDP.
What I am saying in essence is that, just like any Yoruba man who doesn’t respect the late Awolowo is a bastard, any Igbo man knows that we don’t have any other political leader than the late Chief Odumegwu Ojukwu, who remains our father. And so, any Igbo man who doesn’t respect him is a bastard. There are those who because of what they will eat do not mind joining another party but if one believes in the transformation of his people, then he must go to his people’s root and for the Igbo man, it is Ojukwu. There is no political structure for the Igbo man to negotiate with at the centre except APGA.
Are you aware that APGA’s tendency to recede to the PDP is the reason people think it is an annex of PDP?
It is due to this crisis that APGA is having but in 2015, it is going to be different. Our stand now in APGA, as a movement and regarding the Igbo race is that we are telling PDP and President Jonathan to forego vying for the governorship, senate and House of Representative positions in the South-east and in exchange, the South-east will support the PDP and President Jonathan for the presidential election. Any person in PDP from the South-east should sacrifice his ambition in other to save President Jonathan.
We want what happened in 1979 between the NPP and NPN Accord to repeat itself. That year, NPP won the whole South-east and Plateau State. Both parties then went to the national level to form an accord where NPP produced Chief Umeh Ozoke as the Speaker of the House of Representatives while Joseph Waya was Senate President under NPN. What we are saying is that PDP should subsume all their interest in the South-east in APGA in order for them to have 100 per cent vote from the South-east for the president.
We do not want what happened to South-west in 2003 where the Afenifere AD supported Obasanjo and he (Obasanjo) now asked them to vote for PDP forgetting that the bandwagon would also affect the governors. It was the support they gave Obasanjo that now flushed out the AD governors except then governor of Lagos State, Bola Tinubu. APGA is trying to avoid such a scenario.
With the Okwu faction unwilling to renege, wouldn’t this affect APGA’s political fortunes in 2015?
The Appeal Court is expected to give judgment soon and we are hoping it would be in our favour because Umeh remains the authentic APGA chairman. We are trying to respect the court because, ordinarily, Okwu has not taken over from us. The stay of execution is a mere declaration; there is no order for Okwu to take over the party. What he (Okwu) is doing now is just parading himself as chairman and INEC cannot do anything because of the stay of execution from the court. So this won’t affect APGA.
Also, the 2015 election would be about negotiation. If the PDP refuses to negotiate with APGA, like I earlier said, the APC would come and negotiate with APGA because they are watching how things unfold. If APC sees that negotiating with APGA would increase their chances and votes, they will do it. It is about what one can get to achieve their ambition. Most elections all over the world are won on agreement; it is give and take.