APGA suspends Imo governor, Okorocha

By Joe Nwankwo, Assistant Editor, Abuja

The All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) has suspended the governor of Imo State, Owele Rochas Okoroacha from the party over anti-party activities.

Rising from an emergency National Executive Council (NEC) meeting, Saturday, in Abuja, the party leadership also unanimously decided to dissolve the Imo State chapter of APGA, and resolved to appoint a 21-man Committee to oversee the party's activities until a congress is held.

Also on Saturday, the National Chairman of APGA, Chief Victor Umeh debunked insinuations that he received N8billion from the Anambra State Governor Peter Obi to reconcile with him over the crisis in the party.

Umeh said rather money insinuation, the July 15, 2013 judgment of the Enugu Court of Appeal which had upheld his appeal and affirmed him as the National Chairman of APGA, was the catalyst that brokered the peace.

He spoke when he visited the Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Environment and APGA governorship aspirant, Uche Ekwunife, to commiserate with her on the auto accident in which she and Afam Ogene were involved recently.

According to a communique read by the National Vice Chairman of APGA ( South-West), Alhaji Tayo Sowunmi, “The NEC unanimously resolved to suspend with immediate effect the governor of Imo State, Owelle Rochas Okorocha from the party, for gross anti-party activities, bordering on his involvement with the newly registered All Progressives Congress (APC) contrary to the clear provisions of the APGA constitution.

“The NEC also unanimously resolved to dissolve the Imo State executive committee of APGA with immediate effect. Twenty-one man caretaker committee shall be appointed to run the affairs of the party in Imo pending the conduct of state congress.”

Umeh noted that: “We have been seeing a lot of test messages flying around that I was negotiating money with Governor Peter Obi, that I demanded N8 billion and that Obi offered me N3 billion, if you read such messages you will laugh. I don't know why people should be involved in such vain exercise as everybody who knows Governor Obi will tell you that if it is money you want from Obi that you will not get it, so how can I demand for money, N8 billion? Let me use this opportunity to say categorically that there was no negotiation of that sort between me and my brother, there was nothing like money and people know me right from time that I am not somebody you can offer money to do the wrong thing, so money was not part of our discussion. Our discussion was principally centered on the need to close ranks for the good of our people, for the good of our party, and we had to concede to each other the mistakes that we made and peace had to return, so it has nothing to do with money or any attachments.

“I am very happy that I and my brother, Governor Obi, have reconciled and I want to assure you that this reconciliation is for real and not superficial, we did it for the sake of the state, the people, the party and we believe that there is the need to move the party forward. When I told a woman that you had an accident she collapsed which goes to show that you live for people.”

On statements credited to Maxi Okwu that he will not accept the peace Umeh said: “Well I did not expect anything less from Maxi Okwu and his cohorts. Maxi Okwu is not a member of the party, we had maintained that he was expelled from the party since 2005. Like I said, some people wanted to exploit the division between me and my brother to make money and this reconciliation will bring that business to an end. So those who were feeding on this crisis will have to look for something else to do to make money, so you will expect them to shout and say that they don't accept the peace process. Nigerians know that Governor Obi was the one funding their activities and if Governor Obi has made peace with his brother and they say that they don't accept, it how can they continue? They will just be like ox-bow lakes.”

Ekwunife thanked Umeh and the National Secretary, Dr. Sani Abdulahi Shinkafi for visiting her and expressed happiness that peace has returned to the party.

Her words: “On behalf on my husband and my children I want to warmly thank you, my party Chairman and the Chairman of the greatest party in Africa, our National Secretary, the Youth Leader and other members of the party here present. I want to thank you immensely for finding time to visit me, you have really shown the spirit and slogan of APGA which is be your brother's keeper. I want to say thank you very much for finding time to be here and I also want to thank God for sparing my life and the lives of the other occupants of the vehicle, it was really a miracle that we came out alive without a scratch, apart from the trauma, God has once again shown us that He is God and the author and finisher of our faith, the giver of life and for us to have survived that accident has shown God's favour and grace in our lives.

“I want to also use this opportunity to congratulate you on the peace pact between you and our governor, Mr. Peter Obi. I thank God for the relationship between the two of you now as you cannot have any sustainable development without peace and for the fact that peace has returned to our party, it is one of the greatest milestones of your tenure, and I hope that the peace that God has brought will obviously grow the party from strength to strength and give you the impetus to do those things that will unite us the more. I am particularly happy at this development that peace has returned to the party and may I on behalf of other members of the House of Representatives who are members of APGA congratulate you and let you know that we will always be there for you because we know that you always fight for justice, you fight for the growth of the party and you are the symbol of APGA, as the party cannot move forward without the people like you. We are also very happy that our governor has come back to the party that brought him to limelight and on that note we hope that the peace that is prevailing in the party now will propel it to one of the greatest parties in Nigeria, not only in Anambra State but in other states of the Federation.

The APGA NEC also Saturday approved the party's electoral guidelines for the Anambra State governorship primary election for 2013 and afterwards adjoined its next sitting August 31.

Sowunmi said the party leaders discussed preparations for the Anambra gubernatorial election and approved guidelines for the exercise.

He said barely three days after the party invited aspirants to declare interest in the race, 14 persons have already collected the expression of interest form, paying N10 million for men and N5 million for women.

“We have opened the sale of the expression of interest forms from July 29 and August 2 and by the close of work on August 2, 14 people have taken the expression of interest forms.

“The people who have taken the expression of interest forms will be expected to pick the nomination forms and will be screened and face the primaries, the forms for the males is N10 million and to encourage women to actively participate, the women will pay N5 million.”

Sowumi said the NEC again, restated, that it is not part of APC as some of their governors have mischievously made it a point of duty to include the APGA logo in their advertorials.

“We had demanded an apology from Fashola and the payment of N20 billion, and Tanko Almakura repeated the same thing in a national daily and we will be demanding the sum if N5 billion from him.

“We call on all the parties that are involved in the Anambra State government to stick to the code of conduct signed with the Independent National Electoral Commission and shun all acts capable of causing confusion during the elections.”

Speaking shortly after the NEC meeting, Umeh said the meeting was summoned to prove that the party's crisis has come to an end.

He said with return of peace amongst the key stakeholders, APGA will definitely regain the governorship seat come November 16 election.

“APGA is set to retain the governorship of Anambra State come November 16. We welcome all other parties to engage us in the context but we advise that they avoid acts that will cause problems during the elections,” he said.

Umeh also called on the INEC to ensure level playing ground for all parties.

“We are calling for level playing ground and fair-play. It is therefore important that all political parties that are participating in the context should keep to the code of conduct and avoid anything that will mar the exercise. People should shun brigandage,” he said

At the NEC meeting Saturday, the Commissioner for Works in Anambra State, Architect Callistus Ilozumba represented Governor Obi.