Sunday, 3rd December 2023

Saving APGA from recurring leadership crises

By Lawrence Njoku, Enugu
10 July 2022   |   4:03 am
Last Wednesday, a pro-Biafra group, the Movement for the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) described the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) as a disappointment to Ndigbo.

National Chairman of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Chief Victor Oye

Last Wednesday, a pro-Biafra group, the Movement for the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) described the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) as a disappointment to Ndigbo. It stated that the 20-year-old political party was a “hypocritical entity” that had failed to meet the yearnings and aspirations of Ndigbo.

While noting that what was happening in APGA should worry no one that has the interest of Ndigbo, the group condemned the internal crisis, loss of trust and confidence rocking the APGA, a political party that was believed and adjudged as an Igbo regional party.

MASSOB, which claims to be a “stakeholder in the affairs of Ndigbo”, submitted that given the leadership crisis APGA had been involved in repeatedly, it was a waste of effort for the Ndigbo to have had hope in the party when it sought a political platform for the political emancipation of Ndigbo several years ago.

A chieftain of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Tony Obumene further lamented the turn of events in APGA, describing the party leaders as “a congregation of confused people who from time to time milk the gullible in the name of party ticket.” He stated that the struggle over “personal aggrandisement will never allow the APGA to make deepened political inroads in the country’s politics.”

These statements by MASSOB and Obumene were reactions to the current leadership crisis rocking the party. Two members of the party, Chief Edozien Njoku and Chief Victor Ike Oye are struggling over its leadership seat. The duo, apart from dividing the party membership, had gone further to produce two different presidential candidates for the 2023 general elections.

While the faction loyal to Njoku has produced the founding National Chairman and returnee to the party, Chief Chekwas Okorie as its presidential flag bearer, the faction loyal to Oye produced the former Chief Judge of Anambra State, Justice Peter Umeadi (rtd) as its presidential candidate.

As it is, both factions are before the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) struggling to convince the commission on why it should not listen to the other party. The bone of contention was the factional national conventions held in Owerri and Awka on May 31, 2019. That of Awka produced Oye while that of Owerri produced Njoku. Both men had been in court since then.

However, last year, in the wake of the governorship processes in Anambra state, Chief Jude Okeke had emerged with the claim that he had sacked both factions and their executive committee members and nominated Chukwuma Umeoji as the party’s governorship flag bearer for the November, 2021 election.

He had gone to a Federal High Court in Jigawa state and obtained an order on June 30, 2021 to mandate the commission to enlist Umeoji as a contestant in the governorship race for the APGA.

This did not go down well with Oye, who also went to a High Court in Kano and quashed the decision of the Jigawa court recognising the actions of Okeke. The court in the judgment of August 10, 2021, further dismissed Okeke as non-member of the party.

Okeke, who apparently was angered by the development, had approached the Supreme Court where he instituted an action in suit no. SC. CV/687/2021 against the APGA, Chief Victor Oye, Alhaji Rabiu Garba Aliyu and the INEC over the decision of the Kano court, as well as urged the court to determine the rightful chairman of the party.

On October 14, 2021, the Supreme Court had dismissed the appeal as an abuse of court process. Curiously, however, there are two different versions of page 13 of the Supreme Court’s judgment over the matter now in circulation. One of the versions of the judgment in line three of page 13, had said… “and whether the chairman, Chief Edozie Njoku was validly replaced are within the confines of the internal affairs of the 1st respondent which is not justiciable.” Another version of the page 13 of the same line three had stated… “and whether the chairman, Chief Victor Oye was validly replaced are within the confines of the internal affairs of the 1st respondent which is not justiciable.”

Edozie Njoku

This is the nucleus of the present leadership crisis in the party that is now raising posers about who forged what, when and how?

While one of the contentious copies of the judgment of the apex court obtained by The Guardian bore “certified true copy” stamp of the court registry from pages 1 to 14; the other judgment copy bore the court registry’s “Certified True Copy” stamp on pages 1, 3, 7, 10, and 14 only. The signatures on the last page also vary.

It was gathered that Njoku on receiving the judgment had run to the Supreme Court with an application, seeking correction of the imputation that it was Oye instead of himself that was reportedly suspended and that it was the action that created room for the court case in Jigawa state. National Vice Chairman of the party in the southeast, Tony Uche Ezekwelu had told The Guardian that the Supreme Court had on May 9, 2022 corrected the error and recognised Njoku as the authentic chairman of the party, stressing that the development had ended the rancor in the party.

“The matter has been settled by the Supreme Court. It is just that some people in INEC have been delaying the process of issuing letter to the Edozie Njoku as the authentic chairman of APGA. The Njoku group is the only APGA, there is nothing like faction again. Victor Oye is now the former National Chairman.

“The judgment given on May 9 is final and if anybody is in doubt, he should go and check at the Supreme Court. INEC was party to the suit where the judgment was delivered. Nobody in INEC has come up to query what the Supreme Court did; they have no right to do so. And there is no going back. We are on the right track and we will see its end,” he said.

Factional Presidential candidate of the party, Chief Chekwas Okorie lent credence to the position of Ezekwelu, when he told The Guardian that, the party was waiting on INEC to issue the needed letter recognising Njoku as the chairman of the party.

“INEC are party to the suit and they have collected copies of their own letter but why they are reluctant in issuing the letter is what is baffling everybody and we are trying to point out the implication of dealing with a faction of the party that has no recognition and approval of the court, especially the Supreme Court. The implication is that whatever you do with them, you have excluded the party because they are not the party. The law is clear on the implication of exclusion. It means you bring the whole election down.

“However, we believe that when they are done with their meeting, they may be able to come with strong position. We don’t want to return to court but if they take a position that is hostile, we will return to court. We are hopeful that they will do the needful. Practically all the Commissioners have received their own copies unlike before when we report only to the chairman’s office. There is no commissioner of INEC that is not conversant with the issues at stake,” he said.

Okorie had on June 1 returned to the APGA, about 10 years after he dumped the party to form the defunct United Progressives Party (UPP). He had told dignitaries that gathered at the ceremony that his return followed the visit by the Njoku-led leadership of the party, which also apologised for the injustices meted on him in the party.

Few days after he was received in the party, however, he was nominated as the Presidential flag bearer of the Njoku-led faction of the party.

Unfortunately, it was on the same day he was returning to the party that the Enugu State chapter held a peaceful protest to denounce his membership. They had insisted after their meeting that the party was one and united under the headship of Oye, adding that he was the only one that has right to admit anyone into their fold.

Dismissing claims that the Supreme Court recognised Njoku as the chairman of the party, political adviser to former Governor Willie Obiano, Chief Ifeatu Obi Okoye, said there was no evidence that the court had sat on AGPA since it issued the October 14th, 2021 judgment.

He said: “Note that the authentic judgment of the Supreme Court was delivered on 14th October 2021. Note that Victor Oye is the 2nd respondent. Also note that the body of the judgment refers to Oye as 2nd respondent. Edozie Njoku claims that following a letter written to the Supreme Court, the court on 9th of May 2022 altered the judgment above and corrected same to now read Edozie Njoku as 2nd respondent instead of Victor Oye. Up to date, no order of the Supreme Court has been provided showing it sat on 9th May 2022 to make a fresh order altering its earlier judgment of 14/10/21. Hence Edozie Njoku and cohorts relied on a fake, forged and falsified judgment of the Supreme Court.”

The earliest time Oye had spoken on the issue in contention was during the presidential primary that led to the emergence of Justice Peter Umeadi (rtd) as its presidential flag bearer. He accused Njoku of plotting to distract his leadership of the party.

According to him, “APGA is the real party; our last convention was held on 31st May, 2019. Since 2019, we have not had factions in APGA. All the people parading themselves as leaders of APGA are meddlesome interlopers; they are fraudsters. After our 2019 convention, Edozie Njoku went to Owerri to elect himself chairman. This country must be a country of law and order.

“There is only one leadership in APGA. I want the Independent National Electoral Commission, to be fair in their judgment. The man called Edozie Njoku does not exist.”

While, both factions await INEC’s say on the matter, parallel candidates for various elective positions have been produced for the 2023 general elections. The worry at the moment is the fate of those that might eventually lose out should the INEC make its position known in the crisis.

A lecturer in the Political Science department of the Abia State University, Sam Obidiegwu, stated that an injury must be created anyhow it is looked at, stressing that the crisis in the party would take time to heal.

“Both factions have shown capacity to continue to do things differently. I see them returning to the courts when INEC makes its position known. The only thing that could bring succour in the entire saga is sacrifice on the part of those claiming leadership. APGA has suffered since its creation in 2002 and has continued to suffer. It is high time they sheath their swords in the interest of Igbo, especially for those who wanted a regional political party for the Igbo,” he said.