APGA and the Obi/Umeh reconciliation
Benjamin D'Israeli (December 21, 1804 – April 19, 1881), a British politician, novelist, essayist and one time Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (UK) had said sagaciously of politicians that, “We have no permanent friends. We have no permanent enemies. We just have permanent interests.”
The common dictum today that in politics there is no permanent friends or enemies, but only permanent interests was derived from the assertion of this great political figure, D'Isreali, who was elected twice as British Prime Minister between 1868 and 1880.
The perception of the erstwhile UK Prime Minister of blessed memory about the game of politics and its players was what played out on Monday, July 29, 2013, between two political heavyweights in the country – Peter Obi and Victor Umeh. While Obi is the Governor of Anambra State on the platform of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), Umeh is the party's national chairman.
The duo had been very good friends, who until about two years ago, when their relationship went sour, were working assiduously together for the growth and development of APGA with the total support of its late leader, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu. Their misunderstanding reportedly started, when Umeh out of his desire for the full entrenchment of democracy at the local level to pave way for meaningful grassroots development, insisted on the conduct of local government election in Anambra State.
The hard stand of the APGA helmsman seemed not have gone down well with Obi, hence, the sharp disagreement that led to further factionalization of the party that has suffered serious setback due to protracted leadership crisis. Like I noted in my recent piece
captioned: “APGA and Umeh's latest legal victory”, APGA would have taken over the entire south-eastern region and even spread its tentacles to other parts of the country, but for the prolonged leadership tussle, where for over six years Chekwas Okorie and Umeh slugged it out for the soul of APGA. The Supreme Court eventually ruled in March 2011 in favour of Umeh as the authentic national chairman of the party.
While the battle lasted between Okorie and Umeh, the Anambra state governor had stood staunchly behind Umeh, who also had shown total commitment to the three-year struggle that led to the regaining of Obi's stolen mandate in 2006 and worked tirelessly on all cylinders for the actualization his second term bid in 2010, before the bubble burst in 2011. And another round of trouble started in the party with Obi pitching tent with his loyalists to push Umeh out of the scene.
This led to the emergence of Barrister Maxi Okwu as a factional national chairman of the party from the Obi camp through a purported convention, after an Enugu High court erroneously sacked Umeh in February this year.
However, precisely two weeks after the Court of Appeal on July 15, 2013, upturned the ruling of the lower court and held that Umeh remains the authentic APGA boss, it was a happy moment for members of the party as the feuding leaders decided to bury the hatchet and continue in their collective efforts to build the party and lift it to greater heights. Political observers believe that this development will go a long way in brightening the chances of APGA to emerge triumphant and retain power in Anambra State at the end of the November 16 governorship poll, notwithstanding the position of Okwu that his faction is not part of the peace talks and that it cannot stand.
After the closed-door meeting between the duet at the Government House, Awka, Obi who openly embraced Umeh before newsmen said: “The crisis would never come up again. Anambra State is an APGA state and it would remain so, we will defend it with everything, we would go out with everything during the coming election and win.”
The governor gave assurance to party stalwarts that the end of the crisis signaled greater things and victories for APGA, stressing that everything possible would be done to reconcile everybody and make sure that all were brought back on track.
On his part, while addressing journalists and the bigwigs of his party, Umeh said: “I have come to crystallise the various meetings we have had in the recent time and to declare to the whole world that the APGA crisis has come to an end.”
Declaring that he would continue to work harmoniously with the governor to reposition the party, the obviously elated APGA national chairman, who described the resolution of the crisis as a new dawn and lauded Obi for his developmental programmes, added: “Like brothers, we would continue to resolve all outstanding differences, I am sure that Ojukwu will be very happy today, he is in heaven, and I know that what he had left in our hands will remain safe and strong. We have conquered the devil.”
In his reaction to the peace parley that appeared to have ended the rift between Obi and Umeh, former Deputy Majority Leader of Anambra State House of Assembly, Hon. Anthony Nwabuwanne noted that the two leaders have demonstrated the fact that they both have the interest of the party at heart.
Nwabuwanne, Special Adviser to Governor Obi on special duties said that the development calls for celebration among the entire people of Anambra state, who are very much appreciative of the sterling leadership style of APGA's government, which they would not want to lose to the crisis that has for long rocked the party.
On the rejection of the current move by the Okwu-led faction, the erstwhile lawmaker said: “What I want to say is that we have started the reconciliation process. The crisis was an internal disagreement which is a common phenomenon in all political parties. Initially, people thought that it was about Obi. But it is very clear to everybody now that it is a party thing. We thank God that the most important aspect of the reconciliation has taken place and everybody will be made to key into it, all in the interest of our great party, which remains the party to beat in the coming gubernatorial poll . Our party, APGA has made significant impact in the lives of Anambrarians, and as such, we must not allow the party to die in line with the legacy of our highly respected leader, the late Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu.”
The International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law, in a statement signed by the Chairman of its Board, Emeka Umeagbalasi, indicated that the group received the news of reconciliation of differences between Obi and Umeh with great joy.
The statement reads in part: “We thank the duo of Mr. Peter Obi and Mr. Victor Umeh for coming together again. We also thank Their Lordships and other concerned Igbo sons and daughters including Mr.
Raphael Uwazuruike of MASSOB and Mrs. Bianca Onoh-Ojukwu for their historic roles in settling the differences. It is our call that all the group-members of the Ojukwu fathered party including Barrister Maxi Okwu and his NWC members should be fully integrated and carried along at all times.”
Michael Jegede, a media expert and public affairs commentator writes in from Lagos