Chekwas Okorie (pictured), Founder of All Progressives Grand Alliance
BY AMBROSE EHIRIM
In what had started from one man's thoughts and shopping around enclaves of his stock for a political party platform on behalf of Nd'Igbo since the ideological focus on national interest waned, generating nothing much, but a continuation of initiatives to keep marginalizing them in the nation's political landscape, Chekwas Okorie, nobody ever could have imagined, surfaced, and, led in the founding of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), with the sole purpose of establishing a uniform Igbo political party. It was a very bold move on his part and ironic as the party developed, coupled by those responsible for the party's day-to-day affairs and its bookkeeping which apparently turned out chaotic in the long run.
What Okorie had begun with the intent to finding solutions to Igbo lack of a political base, and as it did kick off on the basis of a party to be identified with Nd'Igbo, that quest never arrived following a situation that would not be the same again.
As it had happened, Okorie brought the campaign to the shores of the United States, to seek the opinion and reactions of Igbo Diaspora toward the proposals and possible launching of a Diaspora area branch offices to serve the political needs of Igbo Diaspora.
Igbo Diaspora had no clue and was not actually prepared at the time of Okorie's gestures, and had not been typically into it, especially, the Los Angeles area bunch, save for few who gave it a thought and decided to take a shot at it, assuming where Okorie was coming from with the point of call -- Nwachukwu Anakwenze, the late Ugo Anakwenze, Jimmy Asiegbu, Kingsley Uba, others and I -- having come to terms with a case of sad reality regarding what had been going on culturally and politically in the Igbo nation since the post-Civil war era, met in numerous occasions to figure the whole Igbo mess out upon Okorie's initiatives.
I had thought a sense of purpose and belonging had been obtained, upon inception of the whole idea that, finally, like the Yoruba nation tribally based Obafemi Awolowo principles and, the culturally in-tuned political party gone through stages of metamorphosis on the course of the nation's crumbling political years, that Nd'Igbo, too, had eventually, realized the dream of an outright Igbo party, and also, to be in-tuned by Igbo cultural ideals and tribally based power politics in the manner of its counterpart
And, as it had also happened, the expectations reached levels not even imagined; but a look at the standards considering we who had met here, in Los Angeles, with Okorie and his political entourage to sort out what he (Okorie) had begun for Igbo national interest, and the impact that would create in transforming the ways and means from around which Nd'Igbo engage the rest of the nation, politically; like its rival of the Awoists and descendants of Oduduwa had brilliantly done with its party affiliations from the moment it found out the nation was fabricated, it became obvious and necessarily so that Igbo must put its acts together in order to get a headway to a sound political footing if it was actually serious about what had been at stake, and really wanted to be relevant in the political arena of the nation's democratic fabric.
During meetings and situations of that nature as few of us Angelenos would meet -- most times -- at Asiegbu's office on the La Cienega Corridor in West Los Angeles, on a whole lot of issues, and, not only on Okories political projects for Nd'Igbo, but also factors to facilitate Greater Los Angeles Igbo Diaspora the necessary tools required to recognize its presence as an independent community and locations where they could be identified in Southern California, and elsewhere in the United States.
All that in place and aggressive moves to seek dialogue with councilmembers of the respective districts since there were no Igbo concentrations anywhere in the Southland, Asiegbu, Amugo McWilliams and I, scheduled to meet with Councilmember Bernard Parks at his 8th District office in Los Angeles, on a variety of our concerns to eke out problems grand and small, and, needed measures to start developing a concentrated Igbo community in Greater Los Angeles, as part of the city's cultural mandate when a people, tribal nations and culture satisfies the recommendations for recognition and the formalities in said pursuits assigned to villages, communities and cities, including areas urbanely incorporated. Our meetings with Councilmember Parks and other related town hall events was baseless; there were no groundings for recognition and nobody talked about it again.
In one of my visits to Okorie at his Raddison Hotel room in Culver City, California, I had made it clear among many other things following our conversations on the fate of Nd'Igbo all around the globe, citing Los Angeles and the state of California in particular, the reason Igbo had failed collectively as a people, like a failed state, the causes and effects of its demise and what follows, ending up as a state of empire and anarchy.
I had also highlighted the importance to form a political party if it had to reach its targets and the medium in which the anticipated goals could be attained. First, for any political party or organization to fully exist beyond exaggerated fanfare, it must keep a viable propaganda tool to send its messages across. Nd'Igbo, in all its political venture and with other tribal rivals, have yet to adapt to the effects of a vibrant press, the tool of propaganda to propel its purpose to the forefront.
Of all the national presses including the privately owned and community-based news outlets, where could Igbo journalists be found in their domains of publication and how to face the challenges of the rival presses?
Take for instance, during the Chinua Achebe's release of his last entry "There Was A Country: A Personal History Of Biafra," in which he had mentioned Awolowo, questioning why Awolowo stood by, having executive privileges to have stopped the deliberate and systematic killings of the Igbos and did nothing, including Awolowo's orchestration of the "economic blockade" which desperately starved Igbo women, their infants and children to death, bringing to question Awolowo's defenders in what they had called "Achebe's rhetoric" on the man they all serve as father of the modern Yoruba nation, drawing the powerful tool of collaborative journalism, twisting their stories and denied the fact that Achebe was only stating the obvious; the simple truth, the way it unfolded during the pogrom and Yakubu Gowon's-led genocidal campaign against the Igbo nation.
The Yoruba, however, deserves commendation for having the links, sources, the means and a properly used medium by way of the "Lagos-Ibadan" axis press, where it all began to reach every nook and cranny of its political base, effecting its presses, strengthening its regional democratic experiments and validating its local politics.
The Igbo, in what the architect of Nigerian nationalism, Nnamdi Azikiwe, had begun as a model to strong press equaling strong democracy, establishing papers and outlets of that nature, as normal procedure for a fourth arm of government and the watchdog that keeps surveillance on the government and its behavior toward the people, had been reduced to errand boys for the axis presses, and in some cases, puppets dragged to write doctored reports.
Where does Obi Nwakanma and other acclaimed Igbo writers show their work on Igbo-related issues? Who reads their commentaries/lamentations for sympathy when Igbo had become victims of unprovoked attacks by their enemies in quests to wipe a people out from the face of the planet?
Why are these folks not writing for Igbo chartered news organizations (if there is any), focusing on its ideals, addressing the plight and histories of its kit and kins?
What purpose are they serving igbo interests when their submitted essays are doctored for the needs of their enemies, the very mischief makers who in an about face would be telling a different story, twisted and patently clear they never meant well and if "we got their drift?"
On the contrary, would their counterparts' commentaries be doctored and presented fractured if they (Igbo Press) manages and edits their (Yoruba) paper?
Would they not be complaining about a shackled press if an Igbo press declines or adulterates the contents of their articles?
Would they not be calling names of a backpedaled Igbo Press whenever a report is not in their favor and how they had wanted it to appear?
Would they not lie rather than stating the obvious when their own kin had been investigated and indicted on a case of "national" interest when the truth would set the priorities right and into perspective?
And on joint effort for national interest and gains, would they not because of having no ranks on the affairs of state, throw in their monkey wrench in order to disrupt what would have been progressive in its take to move the country forward?
Would they not take an isolationist stance on grounds of not being relevant to their objectives?
These and other related hiccups surrounding the Igbo nation and the inability to have established authentic newspapers as backups to stand by its ideals and, the medium through which it could further its propaganda, had been Igbo major problem since the days of the Igbo Union, while the leadership on the national arena continues to elude them, with the machinery to propel such agenda not inspired by folks supposedly to have generated and funded the drives, to encourage Igbo writers and related news folks with the desire to set the needed applications in motion.
Over the years, and, especially, the new era youngish set of writers and journalists emerging, and a new kind of politics being played, when Olusegun Obasanjo had vowed "there will be no sacred cows," which had been desperately looked up to, after ordeals in the despot Sani Abacha's hands and, coming close to death upon release by the Abdulsalami Abubakar-led military juntas, Igbos, at that time of national revival had been confused and had been collectively compelled to give away its presidential mandate designated to Alex Ekwueme who had designed the structure of the Fourth Republic, in an overnight twist, endorsing the just released Obasanjo as a flag-bearer in what would be a national nightmare for fourteen years and still counting by the Peoples Democratic Party's (PDP) hijack of the polity.
The nightmare continues apace, and all that party alliances to dislodge the PDP from its dominance and rape of the peoples due political process has become a mirage as the alliances keeps falling apart each time it attempts to draw on a strategy to neutralize PDP's firepower, to at least, reduce the number of its electoral zones by gradually bridging the gap.
It's yet to happen. In the last few months, APGA seemed to have measured up in that regard, even though the squabbles within the party's leadership was still stuck, full of uncertainties and unresolved internal party administrative issues and how to move the party's ideals forward, followed by court orders and rulings which appeared the party had problems that's getting tacky by the day.
When Okorie came up with the idea of an Igbo political party for Nd'Igbo political base, the least he expected was the Shakespearean drama that would unfold not too long after the party emerged and, recognized by the electoral commission. What had been adequately measured and well-tailored by Okorie's-led initiatives was worn out from recklessness, tearing its fabrics to factions; factions that would never be resolved through the passing of Chukwuemeka Odimegwu Ojukwu, from around which the confusion generated. Okorie, whose idea flushed out APGA to Nigeria's political landscape in the Fourth Republic, was isolated, liquidated, savagely axed and left in the cold by his own people he had thought would reason with him in bringing about a profound Igbo national state with the agenda of Igbo ideals and interests. The whole process would never be the same again, and, Okorie, would never forget what had been done to him.
But nevertheless, after Okorie's misfortune and a fractured APGA, there was still hope that the party would rise again from the limitations it had imposed on itself; as the story had long been told of a political party that was falling apart, losing touch with reality on issues that had dragged on and reduced the party to ridicule, help came on its way to save the party from total collapse.
In a relationship gone bad all along the years in what had begun with the Victor Umeh faction which erupted chaos, and often politically suicidal coupled by the abandonment of Okorie, and, the all sorts of gamble in attempts to fix what had been broken, Maxi Okwu, in a showmanship of leadership popped up with promising plans -- to set the party back to its footing and regain its dignity.
Okwu, whose lead in addition to unsettled cases of APGA, led the motion and pressure to the disappearance of Enugu State Governor, Sullivan Chime, from the state's political and administrative activities, demanding to know what had been going on with the governor since his alleged sabbatical which could not be explained by his staff and the legislative organ of the state. The pressure group "Save Enugu Group" (SEG) Okwu had founded in its "Doctrine Of Necessity," lodged series of complaints, including newspaper advertorials and columns to back up its pursuit to answers on Governor Chime's whereabouts. With speculations of the governor's death and tabloids of being located somewhere in a London clinic, and, a photo-op with the Governor's Forum lead team, and stories upon stories of inexplicable events, Governor Chime, eventually, surfaced; back in his home state of Enugu where he had lived all his life before all the mysterious circumstances, and the tales he prepared for a selected press.
Okwu, focusing on APGA's reinvention, wrote memos, posted through related social media networks and organized the party's platforms for meetings, workshops and seminars in attempts to unify a party nobody ever got along. A party that had shown its true color that Igbo cannot be governed.
However, like any struggle, there was still hope. Okwu did what he had to do, even if he was pursuing his own interest along party lines. It should also be pointed out that Okwu must be commended by all accounts in his display of leadership during the questioning and whereabouts of governor Chime whose sudden travel and speculations regarding his health could not be properly explained, and his consistency in efforts to make APGA a one unified party, drawing close when the commemoration of Ojukwu's one year anniversary was held in Awka; never-minding the absentees in the persons of Umeh and Rochas Okorocha, which, however, suggested the crack in APGA still needs a lot of patching to realize a one united APGA for Igbo common good.
As events unfold, the possibilities of a unified APGA remains a mirage. It's still far-fetched. With a court order that suspended Umeh's claim of APGA chairmanship, and Okwu elected APGA's chairman, hope was kept alive with a sigh of euphoria for the moment which opened up the path to reconciliation and forgiveness.
On April 8, 2013, the Punch Newspapers published a story regarding Okwu who had gone to Okorie for forgiveness in order for the party and its agenda toward the off year gubernatorial election in Anambra, come 2014 and the strategies for the 2015 presidential elections.
As it would happen, the Court of Appeal in Enugu threw in another confusion within APGA's leadership when it rendered verdict on the reinstatement of Umeh as APGA chairman. Now, with all the vageries and uncertainties seemed to have overwhelmingly foreshadowed APGA activities, tearing the leadership apart, one thing must be borne in mind with regards to APGA's unification and the path to reconciliation between the jumbled and bellicose Umeh-Okwu factions.
Okwu's faction had made some brilliant, political moves with the gathering during commemorations of Ojukwu's one-year anniversary in Awka, and the rendering of sincere apology to Okorie, which I applauded and a bold step toward the party's unification. Umeh is yet to accept any wrongdoing and had been bent on situations between him and the Peter Obi camp which probably should be resolved on what he thought begun the healing process of the party when his politically-led committee worked on Obi's favor in that regard which catapulted Obi to Government House, Awka, and concretely established after routs with the electoral process. On Rochas Okorocha of Imo State, I'm not sure if his was a "carrot and stick" game with Nd'Igbo or he's heading a new political agenda negating under which political platform he ascended the throne of governor as the presidential elections approaches. There's more to it, one would imagine.
Above all else, there should be cause to keep moving on until it is done right, perhaps. APGA has sustained its platform, and have not disintegrated over the years of its recognition by INEC as a registered political party. On the other hand, and for the sake of all arguments, assuming APGA has its acts together and now left with one of two choices in its overall leadership, or one throws in the towel for the interest of the party and Nd'Igbo, what guarantees that no commotion would erupt again before the upcoming Anambra gubernatorial elections which in its entirety is now full of uncertainties and the hotbed of what is up and about?
The 2014 Anambra State gubernatorial election may be set as the time bomb on the horizons of the Igbo landscape by the same engineered factors we all witnessed in the past that would determine the nature by which Igbo conducts its political process as a people and the understanding, if it does, that much could be done by way of local politics and mobilization of comrades in order to achieve the results required to smash all gridlocks and unite for the interest of the Igbo Nation.