Chief Victor Umeh, a key subject in the sustained drama in APGA, who, on the day a National Convention of the party in Awka, declared Maxi Okwu Chairman, the Court of Appeal, reaffirmed his own chairmanship status , dismisses Okwu with a wave of hand in this interview by JUDE OSSAI. Excerpts:
WHAT is your reaction to the reconciliation move by the Okwu-led APGA to the founding father of the party, Chief Chekwas Okorie
I have read the newspaper reports with pictures where it was reported that Okwu went to Chekwas Okorie to apologise to him for the injustice done to him by the APGA. One must admit that this is a season of comedy in the APGA. The Nigerian public is being treated to all sorts of comedy by some characters masquerading as either members of the APGA or its leaders. The visit by Okwu to Okorie does not come to me as a shock or a surprise for the simple reason that Okorie and Okwu were birds of the feather in the APGA. They were both expelled by the party in 2005 for attempting to cede away Governor Peter Obi’s mandate in Anambra State to the PDP’s candidate, Dr. Chris Ngige. It was Obi who accused Okorie of negotiating away his mandate with a view to sabotaging the defence of that mandate at the Election Tribunal in Awka in 2005. Okwu was of course Okorie’s co-traveller in that alleged act.
It is, therefore, not unexpected that Okwu, having been illegally brought back to the APGA by Governor Obi to become the Interim National Chairman of APGA that his first mission will be to go and bring back his former boss, Chekwas Okorie who suffered the same expulsion with him for the same offence. The only tragedy in the unfolding comedy is the role of Governor Obi who accused the duo of sabotaging his mandate which we fought stoutly to defend at the Election Petitions Tribunal at Awka and up to the Court of Appeal in Enugu. For him now to be sponsoring the same people and also according to Okwu, approving that apologies should be tendered to Okorie for the injustice done to him, that is the irony of the whole situation. One should have expected Obi to accompany Okwu to Okorie’s house to tender that apology. It was Governor Obi who accused both of them of selling his mandate to Dr. Ngige and those of us who fought very hard to defend that mandate through the courts are being fought by the same governor. The leadership that sustained him through all the courts to establish him as a two-term governor in APGA is now being fought by Governor Obi.
What are the lessons from the entire drama?
The only lesson that would be learnt from this unfortunate comedy is that Governor Obi is exposing himself to Nigerians as a man who does not believe in the APGA character. If not for the recent development he would have escaped without notice but we thank God that He has exposed him fully now. Since he has sponsored Okwu to go and apologise to Okorie for injustices done to Chekwas Okorie, we expect him (Obi) to go and apologise to Ngige that he stole his mandate. Dr Ngige who was declared governor-elect by INEC, we had to fight Dr Ngige all through the courts to retrieve the mandate for Obi. By what happened, Obi is saying in effect that he didn’t win the election. So all the efforts we made to get Ngige out of the way for Obi to take over was also wrong. So, we are expecting Obi to lead his kinsmen to go and apologise to Ngige at Alor that he was wrong to have challenged his declaration as the winner of the April 19, 2003 Governorship election in Anambra State.
On the call by Okorie that I should repent and ask for forgiveness, I want to state categorically that I have no regret for championing the cause of justice that saw Okorie out of the way as APGA chairman for betraying the mandate APGA received in the gubernatorial election of 2003. The truth will always remain constant. Despite the attitude of Governor Obi, I will not begin to recant from a just struggle that I led the party through that produced the first governor for APGA in Nigeria and subsequently the second governor in Imo State. There was no injustice done to Okorie at all. He betrayed the party and the party came together to the relish of Governor Obi who participated in all the processes that led to Okorie and Okwu’s expulsion from the party. There is nothing to be regretful about even though Obi has stabbed APGA leadership who stood behind him in the back. The Nigerian public appreciate that we did the right thing. On the present unholy relationship between Governor Obi, Okwu and Okorie, we leave posterity to judge them. Our leadership of APGA remains convinced that the actions we took were not only morally right, but legally right. It was that action that we took that gave APGA the life that it has and enjoyed, but being taking away by Governor Obi through his against the party.
I expect that Okwu would have invited Okorie to come back to APGA as the national chairman of APGA. But from the report, that was not the case. Since he knew that Okorie was wrongfully removed as chairman, the restitution he needed to do was to bring him back to APGA to continue from where he stopped. No such offer was made from the report we read. So, it shows you that they are just doing propaganda and what they are doing will not be accepted by any reasonable person. So on this note, I want to assure you that the APGA leadership in Nigeria can never apologise to Okorie because APGA leadership never did anything wrong to Okorie. Okorie was punished for his breach of APGA constitution by working against the party.
How do you mean?
Everything being pushed out in the media by Okwu has been issues of propaganda. He was appointed Interim National Chairman of APGA according to his claim by an illegal national caucus of APGA whereby they also accepted the judgment of the Enugu State High Court delivered on the 8th of February, 2013 but the Nigerian public has not been made to understand that Okwu has never written a letter to INEC informing INEC of any programme of APGA. Okwu has never written any letter signed by him informing INEC of his activities in APGA from beginning till date.
It was governor Obi who wrote INEC telling INEC, that APGA had no leadership anymore and therefore, he was the only person left; that he can call for congresses and convention as an elected Governor of APGA. INEC replied him that he had no constitutional powers to do that. At the time Obi wrote the letter on the 16th of March 2013, Okwu has emerged as the interim national chairman of APGA giving INEC notice of congresses and convention of APGA. And I can tell you this authoritatively, we have made inquiries in INEC and INEC has told me that they are not aware of the existence of Okwu as an official of APGA since he has not written INEC to say that he has become the interim national chairman of APGA. Secondly, nobody has written INEC to inform that there are interim national officers of APGA now led by Okwu. No such correspondence exists with INEC. So all these things are gimmicks with which the gullible public may not know. I challenge Okwu to bring out one letter he has written to INEC, signed by him as interim national chairman of APGA. I also challenge Okwu to bring any letter that has been written to INEC informing INEC that there are interim national officers or interim leadership. On that note, I want to tell the people of Nigeria that there is no national convention taking place any time soon. It is not going to happen. We will appeal against the judgment of the Enugu State High Court, we are already in progress at the Court of Appeal Enugu Division and there is no way anybody can take any action that will outreach outcome of that appeal. It is pure law.
What is your take on the election of Chief Okwu as the APGA national chairman in a convention supervised by the INEC in Awka, the Anambra State capital?
We went through all the courts in Nigeria to establish Governor Obi as APGA governor in but unfortunately, he has forgotten the processes we went through to establish him as the governor of Anambra State. All the things that the powers that-be did against Governor Obi from 2003 to 2007 and continuously were the things they decided to do against me but he forgot that this court will also protect me. The Nigerian judiciary that protected Governor Obi has also protected me and protected APGA. We thank them; justice is something that is delivered with courage. Obi would have known that if it were might of those who were out to annihilate him from 2003 when he emerged through his impeachment, through his tenure interpretation case, he wouldn’t have been governor today. If it would be decided through the powers- that-be, the high and mighty, he would have been out of power but the courts in Nigeria delivered justice to Obi and our party.
The same courts are at work again. All the things we have argued before which they rubbished, the court has accepted those arguments. The issue that bothered on jurisdiction, they left it and descended on lawlessness. With this judgment today, we get an enrolled order and we will serve INEC and INEC will ask them not to come to him again. That is how it is going to be; because his matter was pending in the court of Appeal here and declared Andy Uba winner, but the court said there shouldn’t have been an election in the first place when the appeal was pending. In this case, an appeal was pending and he went and conducted a convention. I am sorry for them.
I thank our party members, this is the APGA in action and from this court, we are moving to Nnewi at Ojukwu’s house and pay respect to his grave. I will tell him that the party he handed over to me and my colleagues is still alive. Nobody can destroy APGA, it is a spirit that is indestructible. Ojukwu’s spirit will continue to defend us.
Tribune Nigeria Interview April 17, 2013