Chief Austin Ndigwe, a founding member of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA is disturbed by the protracted and recurring crises in his party. In this interview, he recalls how the party was formed and offers suggestions on how to resolve the crises including stopping Maxi Okwu as acting national chairman.
ON the lingering crises in APGA?
It is obvious that Governor Peter Obi is the one fueling APGA’s crises. He wants to produce his successor at all costs and is fighting Chief Victor Umeh because the National Chairman asked him to conduct local government election. The governor has finished his first term and is about completing his second term without conducting local government election and he is not carrying his political party along.
Governor Peter Obi is claiming to be the national leader and sole financier of APGA, it is not true. We are the founding members of the party. APGA was formed by Prince Arthur Eze, it was to be called UPGA, for the logo, the rising sun was to be adopted but the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC refused to register it. That was the beginning of the party and it was Prince Arthur Eze, who made it possible. He financed and registered the party, rented an office for us.
When Peter Obi came to Arthur Eze’s house in London begging for nomination with Chekwas Okorie, Onwuka Ukwa, he was then in the All Peoples Party, APP. Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu- Ojukwu was in APP. We brought Ojukwu into APGA to give it Igbo identity. These are the basic facts and truth about the formation of APGA and it was done in Prince Arthur Eze’s house in Enugu and executed by Chekwas and I. But today, people are claiming the glory of what they did not do. Governor Obi came into APGA with Mike Kwentor who was the chairman of APP. Then, Arthur gave us instruction to give Peter the nomination ticket.
It is unfortunate that the governor has not learnt lessons from past governors that left office before him. It is not only that Peter is part of the crises; he is financing the removal of Victor Umeh because he said ‘conduct local government election, give account of your stewardship.’ That was the beginning of the crises. Today, he has brought in Tim Menakaya, Dora Akunyili and many people into the party.
Menakaya was the minister for Health under PDP, he attended PDP conventions; it was when he was removed that he joined the opposition to fight Obasanjo. Today, he is claiming to be the Acting chairman of the Board of Trustees of the party. He attended the 2003 PDP convention as a Minister and a delegate. If he was not removed as a minister would he be talking about APGA? The same thing with Akunyili, she was a serving Minister under PDP and was an accredited delegate of PDP in various conventions in the past. She has nothing to do with the caucus that removed Umeh.
It is unconstitutional and I am taking all of them to court in Abuja. Everything they did in Abuja was a kangaroo, there is nothing like national caucus in our constitution, we have APGA caucus which comprises of NEC and NWC, Governors, Senators, House of Representatives members and House of Assembly members; they constitute a caucus and are not meant to take decisions for the party.
On the origins of caucus in APGA
Immediately the High Court in Enugu gave judgment against Umeh, Governor Obi quickly conveyed a meeting in Abuja saying that we cannot fold our hands and watch our party be without leaders. He nominated an acting Interim National Chairman for the party. On which platform or authority are you conveying the meeting? Is it the same NEC that was said to have been sacked by the court? Is it the NEC that was not party to the suit?
Umeh was sued on personal cognizance. That was the preliminary objection we raised immediately that Umeh was sued on personal cognizance, not as a national chairman. That is why we called it kangaroo judgment. Umeh has right of appeal even to the Supreme Court. As a governor, he is supposed to be in sober reflection that court sacked his national chairman but in less than 48 hours, he had to convey a meeting and appointed acting national chairman and the person he appointed was Maxi Okwu, the same person whose expulsion was ratified by Supreme Court. Maxi Okwu and Chekwas Okorie have not been re-admitted into the party. Maxi Okwu is a chairman of another political party.
So we will challenge Obi on the nomination of Okwu. It is illegal and unconstitutional and Okwu is not a member of our party. When Supreme Court ratified the expulsion of Maxi Okwu and Chekwas Okorie, Chekwas went and founded his own party, UPP and Maxi went and formed his own party CPP and he is the national chairman of the party. So how can you conduct convention for a party that you are not a member of?
On the role of Menakaya
Dr. Tim Menakaya was like an assistant to late Ojukwu and when a leader of our party asked for anything we must give it to him. Even at that, his tenure as a member of the BOT expired in January and the letter was conveyed to him even before the court judgment.
Let Peter Obi deny that he was not given nomination by Arthur Eze. I will defend it anywhere that without Arthur Eze, Peter Obi would not have become governor; there would not be APGA because prominent Igbo men and women were in PDP.
On rumour of Peter Obi joining PDP
I don’t believe he wants to go back to PDP, but he wants to kill APGA and go. Yes he is very close to President Goodluck Jonathan but he is not the only opposition governor that is very close to Jonathan. Jonathan is a president and there are other people who are even closer to him and they are not governors. APGA is not against Jonathan, if 2015 comes and Jonathan wants to negotiate with Ndigbo, he is free and we shall negotiate with him and ask what will be our gain.
APGA and merger
There is nothing wrong with merger but APGA is not fully in the merger. Rochas Okorocha went to the merger believing that it is in Igbo interest believing that Igbos cannot be President with only two states.