Ahead 2019, APGA contends with two splinter groups
Since the inception of the party in 2002, it probably has recorded more litigations than those before it, even with electoral impacts that have not gone beyond Anambra state.
As elections beckon, APGA does not appear tired of crisis, as there are pointers that things have fallen apart once again.
A source said the “third force” that arose since Victor Oye assumed leadership has not rested and seems determined to rock the boat.
Investigations by The Guardian revealed that at the centre of the latest crisis is the outcome of the recently held primaries of the party that produced candidates for the 2019 elections.
Some of the members believed that the outcomes of the primaries were manipulated to favour those wanted by the party’s national leadership after they were assured of equal playing field after being made to pay huge sums of money.
The other is the allegation that the Governor of Anambra State and the party’s Board of Trustees (BOT) chairman Willie Obiano is enmeshed in anti-party politics.
He is said to be entrenched in the project for the return of President Muhammadu Buhari next year, against the desire of the party to produce the president for the first time through its candidate, Major General John Gbor (rtd).
To give further credence on the culpability of the governor, reports flew out within the week that he had made substantial donation to the Buhari re-election campaign project, an allegation that the governor and his aides have vehemently denied.
And while the governor is struggling to convince members of his support for APGA’s presidential candidates and has gone ahead to host the flag off of the campaign in Awka, other members of the party are putting the heat on the National Chairman, Oye over his role in the primaries, especially in the five states of the Southeast, regarded as the strong hold of the party.
The agitations have produced two factional groups in the party that go by the name New-All Progressives Grand Alliance (N-APGA) led by governorship aspirants in Imo State and authentic – All Progressives Grand Alliance (A-APGA) led by Chief Jerry Obasi.
Some of the party’s governorship aspirants in Imo State are asking questions about how Ifeanyi Ararume emerged and how they were ripped off in the primary; those of Abia State have broken into two factions between Rev Augustine Ehiemere and Chief Nnanna Ukaegbu after an Umuahia High Court granted an order setting aside the executives at the ward, local government and state levels of the party.
While the members have kept their quarrels within their domains, those of Anambra State have taken it upon the national leadership of the party whom they have accused of seriously compromising in their responsibilities during the primaries in the state.
To underscore the seriousness in their allegations, the aggrieved members said to be numbering over 500, after a crucial meeting in Awka demanded the expulsion of Oye from the party, as well as the refund of over N1 billion allegedly collected by the party for various positions.
Onyeka Mbanaso, who participated in the primary, while addressing newsmen after their meeting, had accused Oye of failing to fulfil his own part of the agreement to provide a level playing ground for all the aspirants.
He alleged that the national chairman and his henchmen filled all positions with ‘foreigners’ who knew nothing about APGA, insisting that there was no primary held anywhere in the state.
He said: “We have come to tell the world what happened three months ago during the purported APGA primary in Anambra State. APGA was invaded by foreigners.”
“The executive, led by Oye, turned the party into a business venture where aspirants paid huge sums of money but were denied positions. What we are asking for is refund of our money spent for purchase of delegate forms, expression of interest forms for the state and National Assembly seats because Oye failed to meet up with his own side of the agreement.
“Because of the fact that there was no primary, we want all our money refunded and Oye must resign as national chairman. We spent money to campaign in the primary.”
Dr. Charles Egbulie, from Nnewi said that those excluded from the process could not stay to watch while the progressive ideologies put together by late Chief Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu and other elders were allowed to be desecrated by some members.
Egbulie, a member of the party’s reconciliation committee, urged stiff sanction against those who played what he termed ignoble roles to disorganise APGA, adding that time had come for democracy to be entrenched.
On the other hand, the APGA chapter in Imo State, which was the first to implode when its governorship aspirants kicked against the process that produced Ifeanyi Ararume, had taken the fight a bit further with the formation of New- All Progressives Grand Alliance (N-APGA)
The members led by aggrieved aspirants in the 2019 governorship election had earlier taken to the streets of Owerri in protest over the manner the party handled the primary, declaring that Ararume was imposed on them by the party leadership after they were made to pay heavily for the expression of interest and nomination forms.
Some of the aspirants had left the APGA to other political parties after the National Executive of the party failed to reconcile their worries, even as some that stayed behind to continue to demand for justice from the party.
Chief Jerry Obasi, who leads a faction of the party that claims to be authentic –APGA, said the only way out of the present crisis was for Obiano and Oye to resign their positions in the party.
Obasi insisted that the genesis of the problem of the party was in allowing people he described to as “foreigners” to dominate its leadership.
“When there was need to get a candidate for governorship election in Anambra, they went for somebody who was not a member of the party. It is the same person that they have made the national leader of the party, even when he knows next to nothing about why and how the party was formed. They wanted to elect a national chairman; they went for someone who was never in the party. That is why there won’t be peace because these people don’t know where to begin,” he said.
He stated that while the party has a presidential candidate, the only governor produced by it was hobnobbing and throwing support for the APC’s presidential candidate, Buhari, stressing that the attitude was contrary to article 22 of the party’s constitution deposited with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)
“The way out is that Obiano should resign as board chairman. He cannot be blowing hot and cold at the same time. He cannot be talking about APGA in the morning and APC in the night. His aides are presently forming alliance to work for APC in the elections,” he added.
He lamented that APGA has continued to deteriorate since Oye emerged national chairman and called on all lovers of the party to rescue it from destruction. “It’s shameful that APGA under the watch of Obiano and Victor Oye has deteriorated to the extent that the third largest party in Nigeria wasn’t able to feature in the vice-presidential debate? Does anyone still doubt that the APGA presidential candidate, General John Gbor and his deputy, Chief Jerry Chukwueke are mere fronts in the political game by Obiano and Oye to continue to deceive APGA members? It is clear that General Gbor is playing out a role scripted by Obiano and Oye.”
Obasi insisted that the party’s only Senator Victor Umeh should “open up and speak on the problems in the party,” stressing that, “he cannot be sitting on the fence while things continue to get wrong.
A founding father of party, Chief Onwuka Ukwa, told the Guardian that the problem of APGA was structural and until the structural defects were corrected, the party would continue to throttle in disintegration.
“I have been saying for many years that the problem in the party is that all strategic positions are allocated to one state. What we formed was a national party but they kept turning it into a trading organisation for scammers.
“It is not healthy that all positions in the party – national leader, national chairman, governor and what have you is allocated to a particular state. The last time two ambassadorial positions were allocated to the party, Anambra took them all. The party should be restructured. We formed APGA as a national party to serve our people but some people have turned it into a trading organisation to scam people. It is a dangerous thing and until we pull out these people, APGA will not make a headway as a political party,” Onwuka Ukwa said.
Onwuka Ukwa insisted that the reconciliation committee set by the party headed by the Vice Presidential candidate Jerry Chukwueke was a “mere window dressing and waste of time,” as according to him, “it has nothing to offer the party.”
The National Publicity Secretary of the Party, Chief Ifeatu Obi-Okoye however, defended the party’s leadership, insisting that the grievances being expressed are being looked into and called on members to focus on the coming elections.
He said: “The leadership of the party set up a 10-man reconciliation committee after the primary, which was given 14 days to submit their report. On the same day the committee submitted their report, the governor, who is the leader of the party set up an implementation committee.
“Now when the issue of removal of the national chairman or any member of the NWC came up, we said we have received the report but we believe that election is in February and will not be in the interest of the party to start looking at this due to time constraints. We told the aggrieved members that the matter will be taken in due course. The governor also held meetings with some of them and assured that it will be handled after the elections. Now why some are still protesting is what I know nothing about. We are beginning to look at the characters of those involved to ask whether they are working for the party or against the party. APGA will definitely address the ill-feelings,” he assured.
On allegations that Willie Obiano is supporting Buhari, he said: “ I am not aware of this spurious claim. We have done the flag off of the party’s presidential election in Awka, fully supported and funded by the Anambra State government and Obiano was there. I have not heard him say he is supporting Buhari. All that is in the realm of speculation.
He travelled some weeks with Buhari and that raised suspicion. But we think that people should learn to draw the difference between the governor’s official position and his membership of the party. There is no evidence that the governor is supporting Buhari against the choice of APGA. We are committed to the growth of the party.”