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Wednesday, 25 July 2012

APGA: WILL INEC ACT FAST? By Emmanuel Onwubiko

This ordinarily would have been a time to comprehensively assess the roles that political parties play in the development process or otherwise going on in the different federating units of the country. Any practical assessment of the roles of political parties in the institutionalization or stifling of good governance all across the country would have been informed by the fact that no one ever gets elected into political offices in the federation without riding on the flag of one of the many registered political parties in compliance with extant provisions in the constitution of the federal Republic of 1999 (as amended).
But rather than dwell on the aforementioned critical issue, the ongoing renewed crisis of leadership in one of the few vibrant registered political parties-All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) has attracted the attention of this columnist.
The All Progressives Grand Alliance emerged from the ashes of nothingness soon after the emergence of democracy in 1999 to capture the seat of governor of Anambra State through a judicial pronouncement after the then holder of the office produced in the 2003 poll Dr. Chris Ngige was dethroned after a long drawn legal challenge in which Chief Victor Umeh played pivotal role.
In the 2011 general elections, APGA also defeated the incumbent Peoples Democratic Party Governor of Imo State Mr. Ohakim when it featured Chief Rochas Okorocha as its candidate.        
From early 2004 up until very recently when another factional infighting commenced, Chief Victor Umeh was the National Chairman after the premier National Chairman Chief Chekwas Okorie was removed in what was seen then by some observers as the handiwork of the Anambra State Governor Mr. Peter Obi who felt that Chief Chekwas Okorie nearly undermined his judicial victory against the Peoples Democratic Party.
Chief Chekwas Okorie waged relentless legal challenge up to the Supreme Court of Nigeria which eventually declared Chief Victor Umeh as the National Chairman.
Soon after the Supreme Court Victory and the hard won electoral victory of the party, some members of the party’s hierarchy launched ferocious factional infighting to unseat Chief Umeh who is rumored to have fallen out of favour with the Anambra State Governor Mr. Peter Obi who is his kinsman from Nnewi. Speculation is rife that the reason why Governor Peter Obi allegedly decided to fund a rebellion against the Chief Umeh’s national leadership of APGA is the contest for who emerges as the party’s governorship flag bearer in the 2014 Governorship election in Anambra State.
Supporters of the Victor Umeh’s national leadership accused Governor Peter Obi of manifesting a dictatorial tendency in trying to foist his handpicked successor on the party. They also accused Governor Peter Obi of lacking in democratic credentials for his abysmal failure to conduct local government elections since eight years that he has presided over as Governor of Anambra State.
Supporters of Chief Umeh have credited him with achieving so much for the party within a short period of time. As someone who has covered APGA as practicing journalist I can attest to the fact that APGA has indeed achieved revolutionary landmarks from a small party to a political party to beat in a section of Nigeria. Both Peter Obi and Victor Umeh are credited with achieving these feats.
According to Chief Umeh’s supporters, “It was during Chief Victor Umeh’s leadership of the party that Mr. Peter Obi regained his stolen mandate from Dr. Chris Ngige of the Peoples Democratic Party who was wrongly sworn-in as governor of Anambra State on 29th May 2003. Peter Obi assumed duty on 17th March 2006 and was re-elected for a record second term in office in February 2010. Today, the party’s fortunes have increased to two governors, eight National Assembly members, over 36 State Houses of Assembly members, several Local Government chairman and councilors. Three members of the party were recently appointed Ambassadors by President Goodluck Jonathan, aside of other Federal and States Public office holders of APGA extraction”.
My concern basically is why the Independent National Electoral Commission has always kept quiet to watch different contending factions emerged in APGA even when the constitution recognizes it as the custodian of the authentic register of leadership of all the political parties in Nigeria.
In my book titled “Politics and litigation in contemporary Nigeria” published in 2005, I had similarly questioned INEC’s conspiratorial silence when leadership infighting starts in political parties.
In that book I had stated in chapter 45 thus; “…INEC is the single most troubling cause of the crises in the political parties because it has refused to play its role in stabilizing the parties. Apart from the fact that it has not defended the funding of the political parties as indicated in the 1999 constitution, the electoral body has consistently maintained studied but conspiratorial silence whenever factional infighting commences in the registered political parties”.
INEC must speak up now.

* Emmanuel Onwubiko, Head, HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS’ ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA, writes from    


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