‘Only new leadership can bring APGA from the brink’
Reagan Ufomba, a chieftain of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) who is in court to challenge why he was dropped for Alex Otti as the party’s gubernatorial candidate in Abia told KODLINYE OBIAGWU why the party lost the election in the state. Excerpts:
Your view about the election in Abia State
APGA lost this election for several reasons. We lost as a result of societal decadence. Stretched further, it is the same thing many people have complained about, which is electoral irregularities, massive rigging, non-availability of result sheets and other actions and inactions of INEC especially their ad-hoc staff who colluded and teamed up with the PDP to rig the elections.
We lost due to the insensitivity of our party’s leadership under Chief Victor Umeh, which totally ignored the finer details of the zoning pattern in Abia. APGA was running against the tide of events and zoning in Abia; the party suffered ethnic bias because the governorship seat was zoned to Ngwa land. Throughout the campaigns, for example, Otti’s place of origin was actually in contention and this was a drawback and a big minus for the party.
Also, I had expected that the party would have run the election on established structures put down by me since 2010. Rather, a month to the election, an entirely new person, without a political structure was handed over the party flag after defecting from PDP. How can any serious party survive that?
We lost by failing to recognize that Abia has its peculiarities. Politics in Abia is played on several folds. There are the ethnic considerations and religious sentiments. In this election, there was the yearning for an Ngwa man to be governor amidst the anxiety that a Catholic has never ruled the state, despite its over 60 per cent majority of the voting population. Otti and Ikpeazu are members of the Seventh Day Adventist (SDA) in a contest where there was no Catholic, and Ikpeazu was the only feasible Ngwa man. APGA didn’t reason well. If the party leadership had introduced the right mix in the contest, definitely the party would have won this election.
Option for rebuilding the party
The party might have lost an election but it is not dead or about to die. Some of us in Abia have displayed unprecedented and indisputable loyalty to the party. I have remained in the party to build it after using the platform to run elections. I am the first governorship candidate to run an election under APGA and I have been rebuilding this party since 2010. I was the governorship candidate in 2011 and have rebuilt the party to this enviable position and to the extent that every aspirant who lost in the primaries in PDP found APGA very attractive. And so, APGA loyalists will remain to hold the philosophy of building the APGA brand, which is a political symbol of the Igbo man. We will remain and look at what INEC has done and assess areas that suffered flaws. The law has provided that those areas are challenged. We will challenge what was churned out in Obingwa, Osisioma and Isiala Ngwa councils and the confusion that was thrown up where Obingwa, the council in contention, and Isiala Ngwa were missing in the rerun. INEC has not done well, and we will ask questions.
With every sense of respect and modesty, I believe that if APGA had done the right thing, we would have won. The structures are already there, and APGA has become a brand in Abia. All we needed to do in 2015 was to pay attention to details, but we decided to ignore our tested structure for selfish reasons and today we have defeat. This will not repeat itself in 2019 if APGA survives this.
APGA’s losses in the Southeast
I admit that this is worrisome but in the last couple of contests, it is not just an incident that has continued to happen, because there has been a face behind all this. We are faced with serious and disturbing leadership problems in the party. Until APGA removes or kills the mercantilist instinct or disease within the party, then we will continue to suffer this fate. We must reward loyalty to the party and eschew vendetta. APGA has the habit of picking the people whose loyalty are neither to the party nor the people; people who are political neophytes but are able to meet some financial demands.
There is a popular saying that “you cannot do the same thing over and over again and expect a different result.” We are saying that Umeh has tried as National Chairman and it is time for him to go for this party to have peace and make progress. We are not saying that he should leave the party; he can become the chairman of the Board of Trustees (BoT), or a member of the BoT. He has to step aside to allow other people run the party equitably, so that things could be done well. Until we are able to get things right internally, defeat will always stare us in the face.
APGA’s inability to resolve internal crises
Maybe it was because the crisis revolves around the same person. Initially, it was Chekwas Okorie versus Umeh; then it became Peter Obi versus Umeh; Nwobu-Alor versus Umeh; Maxi-Okwu versus Ume, Chris Uche versus Umeh. And now it is APGA versus Umeh.
He pretends to have the interest of the party at heart. But evidence shows otherwise. For example, is it not a show of insensitivity to the party’s survival that a week or two before the elections in Abia, and quite aware of the divisions in Abia, he came to town and made no efforts at reaching out to the major forces in the party to ensure that there is victory for the party in Abia? He doesn’t want victory for the party; and that is why we are where we are today.
Would APGA ever grow to be a national party?
Definitely it would. The party has determined and loyal members but it takes luck and determination for things to thrive. APGA will come out more successful because the facts are there. If today we are talking about elections that were rigged, we have the facts and the facts will speak for itself. It can only take astute politicians to accomplish what Tinubu did with APC. Ahmed Tinubu is a very persuasive politician, a former Senator and governor, erudite activist. That was why he was able to achieve the monumental feat of making the APC a national party. Obi came in from the banking sector, just like Willy Obiano, the incumbent governor. These are people who are not well grounded in politics. It takes knowledge, local street experience, and of course determination for you to manage resources, conquer not just states, but visions, surmount obstacles, and win wars. With a change of leadership and vision, APGA will grow.
The moment we install a politician who understands the operating environment in any of the Southeast States, APGA will begin to grow in the zone. And for every staunch members of APGA, it is their ambition to move APGA around and take over the Southeast. But the people we have there today, as leaders of APGA, cannot do that. Who would believe that the person we thought as the leader, the person who should know what APGA means, has not reached out to any of the leadership in the states, so how do you propagate the vision of APGA? It is painful because APGA has every thing to succeed. We have loyal members, the resources, and a compelling vision. But it will take someone who understands the operating environment in the Southeast to lead and do what Tinubu has done in the Southwest. Until that is done, victory will continue to elude us in APGA.