Mercenaries Masquerading as Human Rights Crusaders
PETER OBI, INTERSOCIETY AND EMEKA UMEAGBALASI'S ANTI-NGIGE FIXATION: THE TRUTH BEHIND THE SUBTERFUGE.
I have followed Emeka Umeagbalasi's several public statements issued under various platforms and fronts from Onitsha, Anambra State. Essentially, he postures as a rights activist promoting human rights, good governance and public good.
I have known Emeka Umeagbalasi since my days in the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO). Emeka and I became closer when I was transferred from the national headquarters of CLO in Lagos to Enugu as Director, Southeast Zone from 2001 to 2005. I was specifically tasked to go and revive the CLO's zonal structure and its advocacy in the southeast. Emeka was then the Chairman of Anambra State Chapter. I saw in him a resourceful ally and an upcoming activist full of enthusiasm and energy. He recently founded his personal platform- the Intersociety after he held sway for more than two terms (of two years per term) as Chairman of CLO Anambra State Chapter. Despite founding and now running his own NGO in Onitsha, he has continued till date to control and influence the activities of the CLO in Anambra State planting and using his protégés as surrogate leaders and hit men in succession.
I have noted and am aware of the reason behind Emeka Umeagbalasi's fixation with Ngige-bashing. What clearly exposes his hypocrisy is that while relentlessly pouring vitriolic invectives on Ngige, he so passionately and brazenly defends and speaks for Peter Obi and APGA while still attempting to defend and pass off his clearly partisan disposition as professional.
By virtue of my contact with, and knowledge of, Emeka Umeagbalasi, I am very clear and cocksure about the fact that his incessant attacks on Ngige is not based on any principle or selfless intension- no matter how much he pretends to colour it as being inspired by principles or founded on law. It's sheer subterfuge! His activities are rather fired and constantly fuelled by pecuniary motivations and benefits. In fact, donning the garb of a human rights crusader and attacking Ngige while speaking and acting for Peter Obi has been for him, a major source of livelihood. He works in cahoots with many other charlatans in Anambra State, including his mentor, an Anambra based lawyer who introduced him to Peter Obi and made Obi's phone number available to him. That one is another study in opportunism, dishonesty and treachery.
Emeka Umeagbalasi's attacks on Ngige date back to Ngige's days as the Governor of Anambra State before his election was judicially nullified and Peter Obi enthroned as the Governor. Umeagbalasi's attack on Ngige has not seized ever since but rather intensified since Ngige was elected into the Senate and assumed an alarming frequency with his emergence as the APC Governorship candidate for Anambra State.
Both the national leadership of the CLO and I had at various times made the point clearly and personally to Emeka Umeagbalasi that he lacks the basic qualities and temperament of a human rights activist which he purports himself to be. His approach is devoid of the principles of neutrality, impartiality, objectivity and therefore fairness and integrity. He is at best a young man possessed of passion and energy, but lacking the appropriate education, training and finesse to pursue non partisan objectives. He appears to me to have a fair sense of public good, but tainted by his own prejudices, fixations and self-interest.
His problem is compounded by his own self conceit and euphoria. He is deluded into seeing himself as having eventually arrived with his newly acquired university degree after he was inspired to go to the University - while still engaging in his trade at Onitsha market. I sincerely commend him for his self-realisation and the initiative he took to 'brush up' himself and fill in his obvious intellectual lapse.
But this achievement has come with its own problem. He behaves more like the proverbial character in Igbo native wisdom who never believed he could ever wear the revered and prestigious Ozo title. But when he eventually got conferred with the title, and when he was to wear the title band, he wore it beyond the ankle- up to the knee. It is rendered thus in my vernacular dialect: 'onye n'amaghi na oga echi Ozo, ya mechaa chie ozo, Oga igbanye eriri ozo, ya agbarue ya n''ikpere. The late Odumegwu Ojukwu described a similar scenario as one being 'fixated with his only moment of glory'.
Ironically, Emeka Umeh actually took an Ozo title in his native community in Ezinifitte, Anambra State a few years back during Peter Obi's first term. He took the traditional title on the same day of his wedding. On that same day he also officially opened his newly completed house in his family compound. It was an elaborate ceremony of multiple events graced personally by Governor Peter Obi and Mr. Victor Umeh, among other key APGA dignitaries.
Emeka Umeagbalasi has increasingly acquired an arrogant conception of himself with an exaggerated sense of his own intellectual ability. He assumes a know-it-all posture and flaunts himself as a human rights scholar and an 'expert on security issues'. He now places himself above everyone else as he grandstands in his pedestrian postulations. This is also manifested in his uncouth use of language. Let me illustrate with a message he posted in response to my ever first public criticism of one of his recent public statements.
On October 19, 2013 he and Justus Ijeomah posted on my facebook wall, a 'joint statement' with the following comment 'WORKING TOWARDS ENSURING CREDIBLE ELECTION IN ANAMBRA- G8 Rights Group, a coalition of eight CSOs writes INEC REC in Anambra, prof. C Onukogu.'
The statement itself was titled: 'Anambra Voters' Register & Related Issues: Where INEC Failed & Why Obiano Is Electoral Law Compliant: (A Joint Statement, Onitsha-Nigeria, 19th of October, 2013)'.
This statement was essentially a hatchet job and, as usual, a hardly veiled effort to promote the APGA candidate, Willie Obianor while castigating the APC candidate, Ngige. Let me point out that Emeka Umeagbalasi and Justus Ijeomah, the chief promoters of APGA/Peter Obi agenda, gave the impression that the 'joint statement' was signed by a certain 'G8 Rights Group, a coalition of eight CSOs'. The purported signatories included the Executive Director of the CLO, Ibuchukwu Ezike and at the same time, the Chairman of the CLO, Anambra State Chapter, among others.
Two things struck me. The first was that Emeka Umeh was the number one signatory, followed by the Executive Director of CLO. I wondered why Emeka Umeh and his Intersociety should come top in hierarchy above CLO a national organisation from where he moved to form his own State based organisation. I also wondered why it was necessary for the Executive Director of CLO to co-sign with the Chairman of the State Chapter of the same organisation in the same document.
The second thing that struck me was why the Executive Director of CLO could drag the CLO into such clearly partisan campaign.
I later took up the Executive Director of CLO, Ibuchukwu Ezike on the above concerns, and I was utterly shocked when he expressed surprise and told me he knew nothing about the purported public statement. I showed him the statement from my blackberry and he was livid with rage. He immediately got in touch with Emeka Umeagbalasi whom he later told me apologised to him and promised to remove his name in a document that had already gone public.
Now, nothing can be more criminal, mischievous and demonstrative of desperation than anyone issuing a public statement and inserting someone else's name as a signatory without that person's knowledge and consent.
Prior to my raising the issues with the CLO Executive Director, I had posted a comment in response to the public statement on facebook. I said the statement was a good source of public enlightenment on electoral issues in Anambra State, but that, as usual, a greater chunk of it was devoted to defending the APGA/Peter Obi's candidate Willie Obianor on the allegation of double voter registration. I said that as usual, it betrayed the partisanship of the authors.
Emeka Umeh fired a pedantic reply in the following post which I reproduce fully hereunder.
'Reaction Okechukwu Nwanguma's Comment G8 Rights Coalition's Joint Statement
Thank you Mr. Nwanguma for your comment on our joint statement of 19th of October, 2013. But I totally disagree with you on your description of part of it that trashed legal confusions with respect to Obiano's alleged double registration as “partisanship”. “Allowing politicians to sort themselves out of murky waters of politics”, as you advised us is also roundly rejected. One major contributor to free poll is creation of enabling environment for both the voters and political parties and their candidates. Our pre election advocacy also includes ensuring that candidates are not over harassed by their opponents using “konja” media and unfounded allegations. We intervened in Obiano's matter because it became a public issue and caused a public uproar, capable of creating tension that could lead to violence. It is also capable of robbing the Anambra voters of opportunity to engage the contestants so as to know what they intend to do for them if elected including how their lives and properties could be protected. This explains why we struck. The best reaction expected from you would have been to fault our findings on the point of law as clearly stated in the Electoral Act or to find out if Obiano ever effected his voters' card transfer with Anambra INEC or not.
Many nowadays CSO leaders in Nigeria are still living in the past. Your importation of “partisanship” into our joint statement is a case in point. Your perception of “partisanship” is rested on wrong premise. In the Imo State supplementary poll of 2011, we, including you, gathered to oust Ikedi Ohakim and his PDP from power based on popular voting. What do you call it? Obama's election of 2008 drew global support from rights movements including HRW and AI. Also do you call it partisanship? Mr. Vaclar Havel of the Czechs Republic paid a visit to the headquarters of the HRW in USA weeks after his historic election as his country's president. What do you call it? Is receiving funds from government owned agencies like USAID, OSIWA, DFID, etc partisan or not?
The roles of CSOs in popular poll and good governance advocacy connote “egalitarian partisanship” as opposed to “libertarian partisanship”. In Anambra governorship poll, we want a non-crook as next governor. We want one man one vote powered by non violence environment and high voter turnout. The major role of CSOs is to stop politics from wearing a toga of “murky waters” and not to run away from “murky waters of politics”. CSO rights advocacy in Nigeria must move from “dollarized” and theoretical concept to constructive, transformative and proactive concept.
This explains why out of hundreds of CSOs in Lagos, for instance, none has asked questions as per why Lagos State, despite its over N350billion annual block revenues, is the most indebted State in Nigeria to the tune of over N260billion (official) or over N500billion(unofficial) as against Anambra's $26million or N4.1billion. This is more so when Anambra has more landmass than Lagos with 4,611 square kilometers as against Lagos' 3,777. Anambra's block statutory annual allocation is less than N100billion. It is among the three States that just received $350million or N56billion grants from the World Bank for educational development. Two other States are Bauchi and Ekiti.
Now, let me do a superficial analysis of Emeka's grandiloquent and presumptuous pedagogy.
The duties of human rights organisations and activists and other civil society organisations in relation to elections will include monitoring the electoral process during the pre election-, actual election- and post election periods. The duties may also include voter and electoral education, mass mobilisation and creating public awareness; engagement with electoral bodies and law enforcement agencies. NGOs like CLEEN Foundation, for example, carry out training for law enforcement officials on election duties, and security threat assessments to assist law enforcement agencies deploy security resources effectively and proportionately. CLEEN and others also monitor the conduct of law enforcement agents on election duties and issue reports with recommendations for improvement in future elections, etc.
In contrast, acting as or undertaking the duty of spokesperson or mouthpiece of any political party or candidate- under any subterfuge is not part of the duties of any credible human rights or civil society organisation anywhere in the world.
Now Emeka's argument is that his group's 'intervention' in Obianor's issue was based on points of law and that the best way to counter their argument was to fault their legal submission or debunk the facts. This is not true. The truth is that such 'legal analysis', if necessary at all, must not be selective. Obianor is not the only one among the candidates or parties that have issues. The Anambra PDP crisis possesses a greater potential- than the allegation of double registration against Obianor- of disrupting peaceful elections in Anambra. The Anambra APGA Primaries election shenanigan which saw to the undemocratic and unjustifiable disqualification of Soludo was also deserving of Intersociety's legal opinion. Ngige's allegation that Peter Obi's goons have been pulling down his campaign bill boards is also as serious- if not more serous- as the Obianor issue. Whey then will Emeka Umeagbalasi and his intersociety and his other fronts not also make legal arguments on these other parties' and candidates' issues, if there is no ulterior motive? By singling out and promoting Obianor and constantly maligning Ngige, Emeka and his cohort undermine the basic principles expected to guide the conducts of any credible NGO. It is an abdication of the sacred duty to facilitate a level playing ground for all parties and candidates without fear or favour. It is not a question of how legally correct- if ever- your arguments are or how true the facts are, but the implication of the clearly partisan disposition of the NGO in question.
On Emeka Umeagbalasi's claim that 'Our pre election advocacy also includes ensuring that candidates are not over harassed by their opponents using “konja” media and unfounded allegations', I note that Intersociety has also assumed the duty of a protector against 'over harassment' of candidates. But the question is: who is harassing who in Anambra? Peter Obi is deploying his power of incumbency and access to state resources and media to the undue advantage of his party and candidate over other parties and their candidates. Why did Intersociety not 'intervene' with their legal analysis of the manner the APGA conducted its primaries, and in a brazenly undemocratic manner, excluded a political aspirant, Prof. Soludo? Is it not deceitful that Emeka and his fellow hired hitmen would hide under the guise of human rights and acting under corrupt influence, seek to manipulate facts and public opinion on the Anambra election?
Emeka also accused 'many nowadays CSO leaders in Nigeria' of 'still living in the past', and attempted to redefine “partisanship”. He pontificated: 'Your perception of “partisanship” is rested on wrong premise.'
He cited the role of CSOs 'in the Imo State supplementary poll of 2011' which 'we, including you, gathered to oust Ikedi Ohakim and his PDP from power based on popular voting.' He called this 'partisanship'. Now, let me correct Emeka right away on the Imo State Supplementary election issue. CSO groups from across Nigeria, as part of their nationwide election monitoring strategies, set up 'Situation Rooms' in many states. Our agenda and objective was not to support any political party or candidate, but to ensure free, fair, peaceful and credible elections everywhere. In the case of Imo State, our objective was not to 'oust Ohakim', as Emeka erroneously understood, but to ensure that the people's votes counted and that the popularly preferred candidate emerged. This is different from supporting a particular candidate and casting aspersions on another, as Emeka and his ilk are doing in Anambra. Even in the report of the election observation, there was no claim to comparing the candidates with a view to influencing public opinion in favour of one against another.
Emeka also went international and informed us that 'Obama's election of 2008 drew global support from rights movements including HRW and AI.' But he did not tell us what specific role any of these internationally acclaimed human rights advocacy groups played that could be compared with what Intersociety and Emeka's allies are doing in Anambra. If, as Emeka also 'enlightened' us 'Mr. Vaclar Havel of the Czechs Republic paid a visit to the headquarters of the HRW in USA weeks after his historic election as his country's president,' how does that translate to HRW being partisan?
Now Emeka delved into a dicey area: He asked 'Is receiving funds from government owned agencies like USAID, OSIWA, DFID, etc partisan or not?'
This question, more than any other, exposes Emeka's ignorance, mischief and hypocricy. Now as an NGO, when you receive a grant from any of the grant making agencies or donor groups- say for election monitoring, does that in itself 'connote' partisanship? As long as the grantee does not use the grant to promote partisan objectives, but uses the grant to carry out any of the approved activities to promote free and credible elections that will not amount to 'partisanship'.
Now, I'm at a loss why Emeka is worried about NGOs receiving grants from foreign donor groups. He talked about 'dollarized theoretical concept…'I am aware of the unsuccessful efforts he has made recently to receive foreign grants. Is it that he is expressing his frustration with not being able to access foreign grants, or he is simply making a convenient argument consistent with his mercenary job?
Now, let me challenge Emeka to tell the world how he has been sustaining his 'human rights campaign' in Anambra, in the absence of any foreign grant! Is it just for 'personal friendship' that Peter Obi attended his wedding and elaborate title-taking ceremony in his hometown? There are privileged information I would not want to divulge here. I do not want to betray trust. And am sure Emeka knows what I am talking about. But my word for him is: 'he who comes to equity must come with clean hands' and 'he who lives in a glass house…'
The most amusing in Emeka's post was his attempt to theorise in the fashion of an intellectual by introducing 'concepts' apparently to hoodwink I know not who. He said, 'The roles of CSOs in popular poll and good governance advocacy connote “egalitarian partisanship” as opposed to “libertarian partisanship”. He continued: 'In Anambra governorship poll, we want a non-crook as next governor. We want one man one vote powered by non violence environment and high voter turnout. The major role of CSOs is to stop politics from wearing a toga of “murky waters” and not to run away from “murky waters of politics”. CSO rights advocacy in Nigeria must move from “dollarized” and theoretical concept to constructive, transformative and proactive concept…'
Now I am not impressed with all these high sounding sophistry. As a student in my secondary school days, I was taught topics in Government. I also studied a social science at the University of Nigeria. I came across basic concepts and adjectives such as 'egalitarian', 'libertarian', 'partisan', etc. As a human rights advocate and activist of nearly two decades, and with more experience than Emeka Umeagbalasi, I am very familiar with these concepts. Now I wonder why Emeka thinks he can bamboozle anyone with adjectives, coinages and play with words and phrases.
At the last check of the different etymologies of the words 'egalitarian', 'libertarian' and 'partisan', I found that they haven't fundamentally assumed different meanings. For the avoidance of doubt, the All Reference Books still explains the words thus:
Egalitarian: (Synonyms) democratic, free, classless, equal, open, unrestricted, uncensored, (antonym) repressive.
It further describes egalitarian as an adjective meaning 'believing in equality', 'maintaining, relating to, or based on a belief that all people are, in principle, equal and should enjoy equal social, political, and economic rights and opportunities (equal opportunity)'. Its antonym is 'inequality'.
Libertarian: (Synonyms) liberal, tolerant, permissive, open-minded, broad-minded, democratic. Its antonym is 'oppressive'.
It further defines 'libertarian' as (1) an advocate of individual responsibility- somebody who believes in the doctrine of free will, and (2) an advocate of individual freedom; somebody who believes in the principle that people should have complete freedom of thought and action.
Partisan: synonyms are follower, supporter, adherent, fan, member, enthusiast, devotee, sponsor. Its antonym is 'opponent'. Please, see 'All Reference Books'.
I have not- as Emeka Umeagbalasi does, seen where belonging to the 'egalitarian' or 'libertarian' school of thought justifies patent and shameless partisanship.
Talking about who is whose political godfather and who is sponsoring which political party candidate in the Anambra governorship election: if Emeka Umeagbalasi and his Intersociety find it convenient to reiterate at every opportunity that Ngige is being sponsored by Tinubu and APC, then why is he shying away from also telling us who is Obiano's own godfather and sponsor, and whom Peter Obi is fronting for. Whose interest is Peter Obi championing? Anambra people? Igbo people?
I am aware that Emeka has been, and is still working and acting for peter Obi and APGA. Otherwise, let him also issue a public statement on who influenced Soludo's disqualification to contest in APGA's primaries? Why didn't he and his Intersociety also find these issues important enough to pontificate and issue legal opinions on?
Finally, I have allowed this distraction and taken the trouble to openly respond to Emeka Umeagbalasi and his cohort - and for the very first time in my relationship with him. I did this because it became inevitable that I make the foregoing clarifications, to expose Emeka Umeh for whom he is- a non-starter, an impostor, a liar and a mercenary, and to call him to order and guide him in the right path of human rights activism. But he may choose to continue wallowing in his delusion and ignorance and pursuing self-aggrandisement.
But before I go, I am hereunder, reproducing verbatim, excerpts from the report by a CLO national team that visited Awka to seek a resolution of the complaint filed by Ngige's lawyers to Olisa Agbakoba, former president of CLO concerning Emeka Umeagbalasi's reckless and unprofessional statements attacking Governor Ngige and members of the Anambra State Elections Petitions Tribunal in 2005. The report was entitled: 'REPORT OF SOUTH EAST VISIT ON THE HIJACK OF CLO ANAMBRA STATE BRANCH BY POLITICIANS.'
In 2005, a CLO national team comprising officials from the headquarters and the southeast zonal secretariat visited Awka during which the team 'met with the counsel representing the State Governor (Ngige), the Election Petitions Tribunal members, the Anambra State Attorney-General, the State Governor and CLO South East Zonal Branch Chairs to amicably resolve the impending law suit against the organisation and also to debrief the state chairs.'
The Acting Executive Director told the branch chairmen of the five State branches in the southeast zone during the meeting with the national team that the meeting had to do with the various write-ups by the Anambra state branch concerning the Governor of the State. He said the attention of the headquarters was drawn to some of the write-ups following the complaint brought to Olisa Agbakoba, SAN by the counsel representing the state governor. This led to the investigative trip embarked upon by the South East Zonal Director to Anambra State.
The visit of the team was '…following (a) complaint on the hijack of CLO Anambra State branch by Politicians made to Olisa Agbakoba, SAN by Emeka Ngige, SAN representing the Anambra State Governor, which was made available to the (National) Secretariat. The Acting Executive Director immediately sent a copy to the South East Zonal Director on February 4th, 2005 to investigate the allegation and make a report on it to the President, Vice-President and Ag. ED.
'While we were still awaiting the report of the South East Zonal Director, the President and Vice President suggested that a visit should be made to Anambra State to meet with the key and relevant officials of the government to seek a peaceful settlement of the issues.
'The delegation of CLO led by the Vice President, the Ag. Executive Director and the South East Zonal Director arrived Awka on Friday 20th, 2005 to accomplish the above stated objective. We immediately called Emeka Ngige, SAN to intimate him on our meeting with him which was fixed for 9 am of the next day (21/02/05) at the venue of the Election Petition Tribunal. Emeka Ngige, SAN came into the Tribunal venue about 10.15 and we immediately communicated to him our intention to meet with the members of the Electoral Tribunal concerning the write-ups on the tribunal by CLO (Anambra) state branch. He agreed and took the CLO Vice President to the Tribunal Secretary and she conveyed this message to the tribunal members. She was told that Emeka Ngige, SAN actually contributed to their sitting late and that they will meet with us from 4.00 pm but the counsel should raised (sic) it at the floor of the court. We objected to raising the matter on the floor of the court…. The Tribunal resume (sic) sitting and we observed the morning session while still hoping to meet with them during the break period. During the break period, we met with the counsel representing the Governor to send in message to the tribunal members the possibility of meeting with them shortly which he did…... It was when they resume (sic) sitting for afternoon session that we decided to visit the Attorney General of the State….'
'At the end of it all, the team held a MEETING WITH SOUTH EAST ZONAL BRANCH CHAIRMEN on 22/02/05. Those in attendance were:
1 Uche Wisdom Durueke - Vice President
2 Samuel Enetaro – Ag. Executive Director
3 Okechukwu Nwanguma – South East Zonal Director
4 Onyebuchi Madubuike – Chairman, Imo State Branch
5 Nze Onwumere Ifeanyi – Chairman, Aba State Branch
6 Emeka Umeagbalasi – Chairman, Anambra State Branch
'The meeting started at about 1.05pm. The Acting Executive Director welcome (sic) the members present and thank (sic) them for honouring the invitation with that short notice given. He said that the meeting was just another way to know them and also strengthen our faith in course of the work of the organisation. CLO being a membership organisation relies so much on the branch Executives to raise its membership and also for its activities to be better appreciated through their actions that is, in consonance with the organisation's mandate. He said that this Action must be exercised with utmost care so that the organisation is not in any way embarrassed. He reminded the branch chairs present that there are some core values that the organisation holds so dearly and they include the following.
1 Non Partisanship. Our actions both at the branch level to the National level should reflect this and must be seen to be so by people. Members should be careful not to use the organisation machinery to support any political party. That we remain neutral as an organisation but members could have sympathy with any political party but this must be surrendered to the organisation position. Political matters should be left for politicians to handle but we can only comment on those that infringes (sic) on the rights of the people
2 No Ethnic Sentiment. The Organisation must not be used to support any ethnic views to the detriment of the other. The organisation position should be seen to accommodate all ethnic views.
3 Respect for all Religions. The organisation supports the right of freedom of worship by any individual. We must not use our position to show that the organisation favours any religious group than the other.
4 Gender Equality. The organisation believes in fair representation by sexes and frowns at any gender discrimination whatsoever.
5 Democracy, Accountability and Transparency. The organisation believes firmly on democracy and all the institutions that can be used to entrench it. Democracy if well practice can give voice to the voiceless and the society will be better for it. The organisation also believes in making the leaders to be accountable to the people and that their activities should be transparent in nature. '