Anambra: Trouble in APGA’s lonely state
Although normalcy has since been restored with the intervention of the state government, there are strong indications that the continued stay and loyalty of the affected members in the APGA is seriously in doubt, even as the Assembly gets set to wound down activities to pave way for the next dispensation.
A signal to this emerged recently, when one of the arrowheads in foiled impeachment, Ikem Uzoezie dumped the APGA for the All Progressives Congress (APC). Uzoezie was elected factional Speaker, after the members removed the substantive Speaker, Mrs. Rita Maduagwu, but for a brief spell.
He told The Guardian on phone that his movement into the APC was a “personal choice,” stressing that he had found “comfort in my new political party, than I had with the APGA.”
Pressed to comment further on his new found political party, he had said: “It is like someone who is not comfortable with his church and the preaching and practices that go on within the members; since there are many churches looking for members; he decided to attend the one that will give him comfort. That is what I have done.”
He continued: “Everybody will not belong to the APGA. We are practicing democracy and there is plethora of political parties in the country. The APC is one and that is where my choice lies. It is not about now but the future.”
Uzoezie, who represents Aguata 1 constituency, was among the three members of the party suspended by the State working Committee (SWC) of the party led by Norbert Obi. The two others include Victor Okoye (Anambra West), Majority leader and Harford Osekke (Awka south 2) Deputy Speaker.
Obi had defended the action of the SWC on the three members, saying as members of the party, they failed to carry it (APGA) along in their activities and actions in the Assembly.
He stated that the decision to lead the impeachment against the Speaker amounted to anti-party activity, insisting that a committee would be set up to investigate the conduct of the affected members.
Although, no reports had emanated since then concerning the members, Obi however, confided in The Guardian that; “we have readmitted them. We have pardoned them. That is all I can tell you.”
But when he spoke on the floor of the Assembly during his defection to the APC, Uzoezie, a two-term member of the House said he left the party to enjoy greater peace of mind, alleging that the APGA had refused to reverse his suspension of over five months.
He stated that APGA had been bedeviled by crisis and unjust alienation of core party men and he could not continue under such hostile environment.
“I have been on suspension, which they notified me in writing and they have not reversed it, at least, in writing, so I have to continue my life in a more peaceful environment.
“I want to thank my colleagues in the House for their prayers and support while I was away for medical reasons. I want to also announce to you that I have left my former party APGA to a new party, the APC for reasons best known to me,” he had said.
Unfortunately however, Uzoezie is on his way out of active politics, as he neither secured the ticket of the APGA to run in the last election nor that of his new party.
The eruption of the State Assembly last year has a bearing on the 2019 election in which majority of the serving members from the party craved for a ticket to return to their seats.
The Guardian gathered that a deal was brokered between the serving members and Governor Willie Obiano, such that should they help him (governor) win his reelection, he would in turn ensure that they got the tickets of the party to continue in office. Obiano, the source said “promised a blanket ticket to the members”
Although the validity of the claim could not be confirmed, a source revealed that “it was not only lawmakers that were made the offer; Chief Ifeanyi Uba of Capital Oil was promised the party’s ticket for Anambra South senatorial zone.
That was why he supported Obiano’s reelection in 2017. If you have followed the sequence of events and crisis that followed the primaries of the APGA in the state, you will discover that so much was said. When Uba saw that he has been used and dumped, he defected to YPP and secured their ticket and eventually a seat in the Senate seat.”
The lawmakers however, were alleged to have gone to sleep after the reelection of the Governor. They also felt their own return was guaranteed.
But when they (lawmakers) woke from their sleep and realised that the promise of “blanket ticket” may no longer be kept, with the way the tickets of the party were priced, they reportedly made overtures to the leadership of the party at the national and state levels.
It was gathered that some of them visited the party’s leadership with gift items that included cow and undisclosed sums of money in their bid to appeal to their consciences and settlement for automatic tickets, but the efforts yielded nothing.
Worst still, even when normal primaries were not held in some places, some of them who broached the situation to participate and force their ways into winning were stripped of their wins for those said to be favoured candidates.
The development had at first created ripples with Maduagwu (Speaker) attempting to placate the members to bear with the party, assuring that “all hopes were not lost”
Members became restive, however, when they learnt that the Speaker who had all the while played a mediator had secured a ticket for herself, even when she did not win the primary in her constituency. They felt they had been used and therefore, hatched the plot to impeach her.
Maduagwu was not originally in APGA. She had come into the State Assembly on the strength of the Action Congress of Nigeria (A CN), after she recovered her mandate through the court. Her moving into APGA was said to be on the basis of the type of politics the former governor, Peter Obi played, where he was allegedly disposed to those members of his party than others.
Maduagwu confirmed that the primary was the source of the disagreement in the state Assembly, which led to her failed impeachment. She said that she was fought “because of the sins of some people outside the House”
“It is the outcome of the primaries that they are crying about. They wasted a lot of money and it is paining them, but instead of them to go to the right persons that denied them ticket, they are looking for my head.
“There is an idiom that when you want to catch the chicken and you can’t get it, you catch the chic so that the chicken will come out,” she had explained.
Unfortunately, despite her attempts to become the heroine in the Assembly saga, she did not win her constituency in the election and as such would not be returning to the House with several other members of the APGA folk.
Now with Uzoezie quitting the party, there are strong suspicions that other aggrieved members will follow suit, in spite of the shortness of time left in their service as members of the House.
One of the members told The Guardian on anonymity condition last Thursday that: “We were made to look like fools with the promises not kept. I am not saying that I should remain in the House of Assembly forever, but since it was out of privilege and luck that we were promised, it should have been more honourable to fulfill it.
It is not compulsory that we should return, but the worry is, why use the blanket ticket option to deceive us? Now most of us who felt that we have worked to ensure that APGA maintains its dominance were abandoned. The party also made efforts to ensure that we did not survive even in our constituencies.”
Will APGA witness mass exodus in the state? Can the incoming lawmakers sustain the tempo of dominance of the party in the state? A chieftain of the party, Chijioke Okafor explained: “I don’t see what the party has done wrong other than asking some persons to step down and allow others come on board. That to me is fair enough. If anybody is complaining about money he or she spent, then ask the person whether it was the party that asked him to go for the contest. I think what we should be looking at is the way forward, not reeling on the past. Let them support the party to live.”
He said he believes in the ability of the newly elected members of the party to continue to show strong footings that will elevate the party beyond the state.
Another source indicated that, “what is more disheartening is that there is no effort to placate all those that were shut out one way or the other,” adding that the leadership had “carried on as if nothing is amiss.”
He said: “I know that in any political arrangement, there is bound to be those who will be favoured and those who will not. But beyond this, there should an attempt for a level playing ground. That is what I am saying. The more we do it, the better for the party going forward.”
It was gathered however, that while the lawmakers and others who did not find the last exercise funny, still reel in their losses, a move is being hatched to return party officials in the congress of the party billed to happen soon. Those who reacted to this felt there was need to look inwards, so as not to pull the party down to its roots.
“If this is true, then it is like saying goodbye to the party because there is nothing that the leadership has achieved to earn another term in office. I can say that the last general election was the worst so far. It brought a lot of disenchantment in the party across board. That is why none of our candidates won elections outside Anambra State and even at that, so many in the state could not make it,” a source said.
He suggested the need for the leaders to bring every member back on board, especially “those who are aggrieved by refunding the money they invested in the primaries that were denied them. This will create a sense of belonging going forward. It is not yet time for anybody to start competing for positions in the party.”
The source stated that the situation of the party could have been worse but for the last minute effort of the Governor.
APGA had lost the three senatorial seats to the PDP and YPP and secured only two seats out of the eleven seats in the federal House of Representatives. Many had thought that the state Assembly seats were going to be lost until Obiano’s intervention.
Several meetings were held and in the end, 24 seats were returned to APGA with six seats going to the PDP. Sources said that while Obiano was busy canvassing support for President Buhari, the party’s major opponent, the PDP was busy harvesting votes.
The source indicated that the leadership of the party abdicated its responsibility, thus creating loopholes whose ghosts may live with the party for some time.
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