By Cosmas Edremoda
The crisis in the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and the need to unite for the great challenges ahead bring to mind the following popular Nigerian proverb. It is because each snake walks solo that makes it fall prey to the farmer’s machete. Which farmer or hunter will be bold enough to approach a band of rattle snakes, viper, adder and cobra, led by the giant python or majestic mamba or the Anaconda or the big boar constrictor? To our African griots, such farmer or hunter is bound to vote with his feet! Moreover, Jesus of Nazareth said about 2,000 years ago that a house divided against itself cannot stand.
As things stand now, APGA is a house that is divided against its own chairman, Victor Oye. Put differently, at a time when all hands should be on deck to position the party for success even beyond Anambra State, now that the 2019 presidential election is inching closer, its leaders are not matching in lock step with the chairman, an unfortunate situation that seems to prepare ground for the victory of the opposition parties. May that never happen.
Trouble started from the October primary elections that threw up Ifeanyi Araraume as Imo State governorship candidate but which failed to give Bianca Odumegwu Ojukwu, wife of the late Eze Ndigbo Gburugburu, the Senatorial ticket in Anambra.
One of those firing broadsides at Oye, therefore, was Bianca, saying Oye would not be allowed to destroy the party, following alleged scandalous primaries conducted by the party. For this, she called for Oye’s immediate resignation as national chairman. Bianca expressed her anger recently in Owerri, Imo State capital, while speaking during the 7th commemoration of her husband’s death, organised by the founder and leader of the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) and the Biafra Independent Movement (BIM).
She said what Oye and his men did to her during the senatorial primaries was akin to children who killed the widow of their father in the same house built by their late father. “Will children who killed their mother inside the house built by the late father be praised? As if that was not enough, they came to Imo and did the worst; and, after duping them of their money, they foisted stranger on them as their candidate. Can a people who committed such act of perfidy be commended? So, Oye must resign as the national leader of the party, immediately, because remaining as the chairman is a slap on the faces Ndigbo.
“Chief Victor Oye cannot desecrate the legacies of Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu and still remain the chairman. If he refuses to resign, then, the Almighty God will remove him, because the Egyptians you see today, you will see no more. He must refund all the money he illegally collected from all the aspirants for various positions before selling their tickets to the highest bidder.”
There is a pincer attack against Oye. First was his decision to have delegate forms for each political office sold differently to different potential delegates. Another area where Oye’s critics are attacking him is the N10,000 price tag slammed on the delegate form.
It may not be right to completely exonerate Oye because as a leader he takes the credit when things go right or blame when situation under him goes awry. What happened could be as a result of his lack of adequate supervision of his men or inability to completely have a grasp of the intricacies of party administration and the primordial undercurrents that give direction to political behavior in APGA.
However, an objective look at the issues raised by Oye’s traducers shows that it will not be in the best interest of APGA to send the chairman to Golgotha just like that. On Oye’s decision to have delegate forms for each political office sold differently to different potential delegates, a political analyst, Obiaku Lancelot, argued: “The implication of the sales of delegate forms would have been that different delegates would have emerged for the Governorship, Senatorial, House of Representatives and House of Assembly primaries. This was in a bid to foster transparency in the entire process. However, it was particularly the gubernatorial aspirants in their quest to have national assembly and state assembly aspirants in their lineup emerge as candidates, opted to hijack the process by purchasing four forms per delegate.”
He argued further that the Chairman could not have made it a unilateral decision all by himself. Before such decision was taken, he maintained that the National Working Committee of the party must have agreed to and approved of it. Lancelot added: “Yet, even when such price was agreed on, it was not forced on party members. The delegate forms were available and open to everyone who wished to be a delegate and could afford the form. The forms were well patronized and party members bought same freely. It is also on record that monies received for delegate forms were paid to the official APGA Fidelity bank account. This account like every other political party account is periodically audited by INEC.”
Should Oye be blamed alone for the Imo primary election alone just because he is the chairman? It will not be fair to do that. Facts on ground show that it was the governorship aspirants mainly who shattered plans by the National Working Committee of the party to conduct free and credible primaries in that state. “Virtually all the 30 aspirants wanted to cut corners to clinch the ticket. This created an unfavorable atmosphere within the party. The aggrieved Imo APGA guber aspirants crying foul today are the same people who were reported to have attempted to entice the Chairman for an automatic ticket with huge sums of money,” argued an analyst, adding that with their recalcitrant disposition, they stood in the way of every attempt by the Chairman to give a level play ground for all. “For days, the electoral committee tried to conduct the governorship primary, but what did we see? Some gubernatorial aspirants disrupted every move. Imo APGA became a fertile ground for thugs patronized by APGA aspirants.”
It was in the process that some aspirants boycotted the entire process after which they declared themselves New Imo APGA. From the forgoing, it is clear that the problems with the governorship candidate nomination in Imo lies to a large extent with the desperation of the governorship aspirants and not with Oye.
For Bianca, the automatic ticket she wanted would have put a huge question mark on the democratic ideals that the forefathers of the party, including her husband, and of the Igbo nation stood for. Not a few party members can swear by their grandfathers’ coffins that she “does not enjoy massive goodwill of her constituents and is bereft of the required political clout to confront formidable opponents which PDP and APC put forward.” All attempts to make her see reason and drop her ambition failed. Given her nose thumping insistence to contest, party members revealed that many stakeholders of APGA in Anambra gave her their support, financially and otherwise. Those who supported her could not go beyond the bridge; she had to cross the river by trying her chances in the primary election. She, unfortunately, failed to clinch the ticket.
Thus, Lancelot submits: “I am yet to fathom if Victor Oye’s critics did not also consider that giving an automatic ticket is not democratic, especially where there are strong interest parties. Would they have clapped and sung praise of the Chairman instead if he hadn’t allowed a primary election to determine who flies the party’s flag in Mrs. Ojukwu’s Senatorial District? This is a question they must answer.”
Oye also reacted: “Bianca is my personal friend and there is no way I could have done any wrong against her. I must tell you that I was surprised when she started attacking me in the media. I think that was a very serious mistake on her part, because she is fighting the wrong person. I did not do any wrong against Bianca. People were sent to conduct the primary election and they returned the result to me and that was all I cared for. APGA gave her support, I would not want to announce it openly, but we gave her all the support she needed to win but she did not win. She calls herself Mother General of APGA, but as a mother she should not be castigating the party like that. Her action is anti party, but we don’t want to go into all that, because I know that very soon she will know the truth as truth is immutable,” he said.
Oye said the report available to the party showed that primary election for Anambra South Senatorial District ticket “went well and that a winner emerged. The report said she was there, she participated and the votes were counted and result declared, including her own and the man won. They said we gave Senator Victor Umeh ticket unopposed yes, because he indicated interest early enough and he deserved it too. If Bianca had shown interest much earlier, I would have announced that she should not be opposed. But she joined the fray after Nicholas Ukachukwu and Ifeanyi Ubah had declared and was already running. That she is a widow does not confer on her a special status. It is not in APGA constitution that once you are a widow we give you ticket. I don’t think it is in the constitution of any party in Nigeria that once you are a widow you get automatic ticket. Remember we said that it was going to be contested openly, and it was contested. I hold her in high esteem; I respect her as the wife of Ojukwu. But she has been castigating me in the media, she owes me an apology, a serious apology, because I have done nothing against her,” he added.
Notwithstanding these criticisms, Oye’s support base is widening by the day. A political group, United Anambra Youth Assembly (U-AYA) unanimously passed a vote of confidence on him for his outstanding performance during the just concluded party primaries across the 36 states of Nigeria. The President/General Overseer of the group, Hon Chinedu Obidigwe who is the party flag bearer for Anambra east/west Federal Constituency for 2019 election said, “The entire organs, leadership and other stakeholders of the United Anambra Youths Assembly (U-AYA), on Monday been the 31th of October, 2018 at a symposium in Tourists Garden Hotel, Aguleri, Anambra state to mark the celebration of the U-AYA and Ebelechukwu Obiano Ladies Movement Day, unanimously passed a ‘Vote of Confidence’ on the party, the All Progressive Grand Alliance APGA, under the Chairmanship of Chief Victor Oye, for meeting up INEC deadline for parties primaries and the peaceful, fair and credible manner he conducting the process.” The group called on all Party members nationwide, supporters, and friends of the Party, and the general public to continue supporting the NWC of the party in their concerted effort towards strengthening APGA to attain international best practices.
True. The process of making the party strong and influential has started. The race has begun for APGA and it has works to do. Now it has a presidential candidate, Major General John W.T Gbor (rtd) from Benue State for the 2019 general election. His running mate is Jerry Chukuweke who hails from Imo State. With that, the party, according to its members, will be seeking to extend its victory beyond Anambra.
To show everyone that it is ready to fire on all cylinders, the party, commenced its national campaigns on 6 December 2018 at the Alex Ekwueme Square in Awka, Anambra State capital.
Oye, at the rally, said the party would bring Nigeria back to God after recording success in the 2019 elections. In his words: “APGA is presenting a formidable duo. Two men that have the capacity, physically and mentally to transform this country. APGA is serving you a beautiful buffet. Buffet of integrity, a buffet of dexterity, buffet of performance. What we are going to do at the national level is a replica of what Governor Willie Obiano has done in Anambra State. We are going to focus on Agriculture, security, human empowerment and above all, we are going to bring back Nigeria to God. Without God, there is nothing we can do. God is the foundation of APGA,” he said.
Others at the event include Anambra State governor, Willie Obiano; presidential candidate of the party, John Gbor and other party faithful from across the 36 states of the federation.
Gbor, according to a Premium Times report, said that his administration would raise Nigeria’s education budget from seven to 26 per cent if elected in the 2019 general election. Raising the education budget would, according to him, fast-track the quest for all-round development of the country and open doors for various segments of the nation to fully develop. “We will liberate Nigeria, rescue the youth and women from sufferings and set the country on the path of prosperity,’’ he said.
He had a subtle advice for those fighting the party leadership; he advised them to form a united front to enable the party attain victory during the general election, saying “as Biblical David with little stone, I am leading APGA to Aso Rock in 2019.”
In agreement with him was Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra who urged APGA faithful to support all the party’s candidates across the nation, noting that it was possible to replicate the victory recorded during the state 2017 governorship election across the country in 2019. Victor Oye said if Mr Gbor and his vice, Jerry Chukwueke, were elected, the duo had all it takes to transform the country into a great nation as well as return it to God.
Victor Umeh, the senator representing Anambra Central, said supporting APGA would enable the country to achieve total restructuring. Mr Umeh appealed to APGA leadership to reach out to aggrieve members especially the wife of late Dim Ojukwu, whom he described as one that had contributed greatly to the growth of the party.
As things stand now, Oye and the entire party leadership needs all the helps they can get because the journey is tough.