UMEH MUST QUIT NOW, OR BE REMOVED -NWOBU-ALOR
Sylvester Nwobu-Alor, is the uncle to Governor Peter Obi of Anambra State and also the Special Adviser on Parks and Markets. He has been leading the onslaught against the National Chairman of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Victor Umeh. In this interview, he bares his mind on the rift within the party and other issues. CHINELO OBOGO brings the excerpts.
The war of words between you and Victor Umeh has become an issue that can't just be ignored. What is the bone of contention?
APGA is facing total extinction because of incompetence and bad management under the dictatorial leadership of Victor Umeh. He is incompetent and incapable of managing a political party.
Why is it that six years after we have taken over Anambra State and with the massive support Governor Peter Obi gave the party, we could not win 100 per cent in Anambra and Imo States, except that the governor there had to fight his way into the Government House on the platform of APGA. We could not win in Abia despite the obvious low performance of government in that state; we could not win in Ebonyi and Enugu States. These are states that ordinarily should be considered APGA states.
If APGA has had the right leadership, states like Delta, Rivers, Lagos should have also been under the control of the party. But the structure that should have made these winnings possible was left untouched and unattended to despite the resources that were made available to Umeh. These are the reasons we say that the party needs restructuring and repositioning. Restructuring the party is not an issue of quarreling with any individual; it has nothing to do with Victor Umeh as a person. We want him to vacate the seat so that we can reposition and form a formidable party that has the right cohesion that can win elections.
When did you come to realize that Umeh's leadership is supposedly dictatorial and incompetent like you say?
When the party was formed in 2002, we had fantastic support but after a period of time the popularity of the party started dwindling. It came to a point that everybody started talking about the dwindling fortunes of APGA. In the realization of the problems of the party, people were only murmuring and nobody wanted to speak out because they were all afraid that once you oppose him, the next day, he will say you have been sacked from the party. We have an office in Abuja, but he does not go there.
Meanwhile the government of Anambra State gives him funds every month to run the party. I don't fear anybody; I have been in politics for 32 years, which is why I laugh when people say that Peter Obi is sponsoring me. Obi was a very young man when I joined politics. I don't need anybody to tell me what to do in politics. Peter did not, and is not telling me what to do. So the issue of getting him involved in this matter is entirely the business of Victor Umeh.
This is not the first time you have said openly that Umeh should leave.
The last time you said it, he didn't leave and nothing happened. Do you really think that people will take you serious in the talk about Umeh leaving as national chairman?
People are already taking me seriously because everybody has joined in the campaign that he must leave. In fact some actually went to EFCC to talk about embezzlement of party funds and all that, and I told them that I am not interested in the money; I am interested in his moving out. His incompetence is glaring? He does not allow the party function as a political party should function.
The money that is released to him is not channeled down to the party. He does nothing to grow the party. These may have been done out of carelessness, but it all amounts to incompetence. He claims that he was elected, but I am saying that he is not even qualified to be national chairman now. His tenure is four years and since 2005, there has never been any convention of the party as provided by both the constitution of Nigeria and our party's constitution. What he did was to pass a resolution last two years and gave himself another four years.
That is not how to elect yourself. There are processes in electing the national chairman or any other national officer of a party. There has to be ward, local government and state congresses where delegates will emerge for the national convention. But he never did all these and that puts a question mark on how hebecame the national chairman.
During the crisis between him and Chekwas Okorie, Umeh enjoyed the support of the governor, the late Ojukwu, and chieftains of the party like you. Why are you now saying that he is not supposed to be chairman?
It is true that the governor and everyone supported him because we believed we should have a chairman. But it came to a point where it became absolutely necessary to practice total democracy and that was the time we started telling him to dissolve the executive. At a stage the two governors wrote him, asking him to dissolve all the formations of the party and let us convene a convention. They all agreed, but along the line he pulled out and boasted that he cannot be removed.
What if he fails to vacate office?
The national executive council will hold a meeting and remove him as provided by the constitution of the party.
Do you not think that the failure of the party to conduct council elections is a major reason the party is going into extinction?
Presently, members of the party are running local government councils. What is the difference, elected or not elected? The transition leaders at the local governments are members of the party and they are doing the same function as the elected, and they are the same people who might be elected.
Umeh said that one of the reasons you are calling for his removal is because he asked the government to conduct council polls. He also said that the reason the government has refused to conduct council polls is because some persons are benefitting from the council funds. The council's fund is very definite and clear. Whether the council is being run by dogs, beasts or human beings, the funds are the same and are also distributed accordingly. So it is not true that some persons are benefitting from the council's funds. The people working at the councils are paid from the funds and they are getting all the benefits that the elected officers will get.
There was an advertorial where Umeh published a letter which showed your sanction for anti-party activities in 2008. Was there any time you were sanctioned or expelled from the party?
Never! The governor told me about it then, but he didn't show me the letter. But the governor said that until I have done something that warrants my removal, but so far, I was doing very good. This office was not getting a kobo before we came in, but today this office generates up to N28 million to N30 million every month.
Why would the governor or anybody think of removing somebody that generates such amount of money? I am very beneficial to the government and the party. I have been funding a lot of party meetings and so on. It does not make sense to me why he should publish that letter? As chairman of a political party, why should he interfere in the activities of a State government and for him to publish this, he has incurred the wrath of the people of Anambra State because people didn't know about this letter and I never told anybody about it.
He has called for your arrest, over the killing of some persons by a government task force in Nnewi, what's your reaction?
We had difficulties in recovering money from parks, and we decided to constitute a task force whose responsibility will be to take over the parks and we appointed agents to collect money and pay to the government. I don't collect money, but I devised a means where the operators of the parks collect money and pay same to government account and bring the electronic receipt to me, and I issue a letter of appointment that is renewable every month. This method has been very effective.
The incidence that happened took place in Nnewi. Somebody operating a park was not paying, and I asked the task force to go and takeover the park which they did. After some days, the park operator came to my office and said I should give him some time. I said no there is no negotiation and I insisted he must pay before I ask the task force to leave. When he paid, the following morning I asked the task force to leave the place.
As they were preparing to leave, some armed boys came and started shooting them, in the process one man was killed on the spot, and later they said another man died also, and a lot of them had bullet wounds and they are still in the hospital as I speak. And the people killed are my workers, members of the task force. For Victor Umeh or anybody to say that I should be prosecuted as they killed my workers and the people who killed my workers should go free, is madness. It does not make sense. It is just like asking Mr. President to arrest the Inspector General because his police men were shot at Onitsha.
Why do you think this acrimony and bitterness now is coming up now? Is he no longer close to the government as before?
I don't want to say certain things. But I want to tell you that this man has amassed wealth and that is what is responsible for his arrogance. He feels he can put everybody in the pocket and nobody should criticize him. The grudge he has against me is that I said he is not doing well, and our party is failing; let us rescue it, and I ask him to please do me a favour and vacate office, we are not sacking him, but he has to vacate office as the national chairman of the party.