There is nothing completely off the table in politics. ―Ebuka Onyekwelu
The decision by INEC based on a certain Jigawa federal court judgment, to recognize the candidacy of Hon. Chukwuma Umeoji and not Prof. Chukwuma Soludo is a sort of climax in the long-standing controversy trailing APGA’s general conduct so far in the 2021 governorship election in Anambra state. For the first time in a very long while, party members and keen observers were caught up in substance with many not knowing how to react appropriately, since the hullabaloo regards APGA primary. Some are jubilating and phrases like “APGA first”, “Party is supreme”, filled media spaces, especially from supporters of Hon. Umeoji, in an attempt to react in kind, accordingly, as they have been responded to, when Umeoji was disqualified from participating in the primary election.
Meanwhile, supporters of Soludo are generally defensive, preaching patience and perseverance. Give or take, it is all part of politics of bitterness and winner take all which has become more or less a defining character of APGA politics in recent times. However, a major problem that one encounters in politics of bullying and impunity is that the same method can be applied in a reverse manner by the victim, to upturn the previous victor’s vantage position. In a way, that summarizes the heat between Prof. Soludo and Hon. Umeoji. But generally, this is a pointer that when there is no systematized method of conducting party affairs, in a fair and credible style, then, there are consequences and these consequences could be far-reaching. If party leadership is about the deployment of capabilities and corollary, without recourse to harmonizing various interests in the party, well, same can be used to undo just anybody in the party, including the party leadership. Hence, any institution, organization of any kind, that eschews fair play, level playing field, and respect for the stake of others, as major ingredients in its dealings, particularly internally, it is safe to say that such entity is simply setting itself up for a big fall. That APGA leaders think or wish to think that the party can go ahead and make its members part with such a huge amount spent on nomination and expression of interest and then, surreptitiously dismissed from taking part in the election process, then, they set up a committee which has been referred to, by some, as “APGA funeral committee”; is something that is utterly preposterous.
The question many people are now asking is why must Sen. Umeh accept to be so used?
With the emergence of Umeoji as the INEC recognized candidate, can the reconciliation committee just be disbanded to save some public resources, already? Although it is not like the committee had something significant to offer before now. A look at the membership and the timing says it all. For the avoidance of doubt, Sen. Umeh the chairman of the committee is clearly unhappy with the leadership of APGA and with the highhandedness of the “Aguleri cabal”. Matter of fact, since the 2019 general election, Sen. Umeh has not been relevant in the scheme of things till recently. In a leaked email that he sent to Governor Obiano, Umeh asked Obiano to sack Oye, the National Chairman of the party. To date, Oye and Umeh are still in a cold war. Both are likely interested in becoming APGA candidates for Anambra Central senatorial election in 2023. So it is safe to say that Umeh was brought back to help with the party campaigns because he has proven competence in electioneering campaigns.
The question many people are now asking is why must Sen. Umeh accept to be so used? More so, considering that Sen. Umeh does not appear to have confidence in the current APGA leadership. The secretary of the committee, His Excellency Emeka Sibeudu, a former Deputy Governor of Anambra state under Governor Peter Obi is a man who, at least is conversant with how politics works. I do not have anything different from what others are saying about his membership in the committee. We have witnessed in Anambra state, how a former Deputy Governor accepted to serve as a commissioner in this state. The question should be, is there no point to which one can say, “I have served, let others try”? While the secretary of a party reconciliation committee is more honourable in contrast, yet, His Excellency Sibeudu should have put his goodwill to better use. This is the general assessment by members of the public.
Other members of the committee like Dr. Uju Okeke, a former commissioner who also served as chairman of APGA reconciliation committee during the 2019 outrageous primary election in APGA. Madam Uju Okeke is a very successful woman by any standard. The worry is why her committee’s recommendation in 2019 has still not been implemented or even discussed, she accepted to become a member of another peace committee. Does she really believe that this time around, the committee’s recommendation will be implemented? It has altogether become important, or even unavoidable to point some of these things out essentially because, many people who have served or serving, have made it appear as if integrity, self-dignity, or even self-respect does not matter in politics and public service. Now, when we look further at the other members of the committee, Igwe Rowland Odegbo, is the only Igwe in the list. The question is, why him? If the committee requires royal blessing or covering, is he the best, most influential, and powerful Igwe to do just that? Now, look at Hon. Anayo Nnebe. What exactly will he bring to the table; can he influence any of the people that are distraught in APGA?
For Hon. Uche Okafor, the Speaker of Anambra State House of Assembly, arguably, has a thing or two, to offer. At least two of his colleagues; Hon. Nonso Okafor and Hon. Carter Umeh was disqualified from the party primary and they are friends. Even as many people still feel that he should not be in that committee. But then, let’s look at Hon. Ifeatu Obiokoye was once so disenchanted that he joined Labour Party. He returned to APGA hoping that the wrongs of the past shall be made right. Even now, Hon. Ifeatu is not at home with the party’s decisions so far, towards November gubernatorial poll, but he is still hoping. Maybe there is nothing wrong with being hopeful that what is wrong shall be right someday. But how is his membership of the committee justified, seeing that he does not appear to have confidence in the party leadership and decisions?
Chief Odili’s membership of the committee is at best contemptible to those they seek to reconcile.
The Anambra State Chairman of APGA, Sir. Norbert Obi, a gentleman to the core, is apparently the most derided party state chairman in Nigeria. His powers are openly usurped. In fact, some people feel they are doing him a favour by allowing him to remain as APGA state chairman. He is conversant with all these, yet, he is a member of the committee. Also, Barr. Tony Ifeanya who is the Anambra State secretary of APGA is of course, not satisfied. Although he maintains a professional approach to his displeasures, even as they remain undeniable. Chief Rommy Ezeonwuka is a known controversial figure in APGA. Never steady. Getting angry today and happy the next day. Then, he repeats the ritual. Many people are wondering who takes him seriously, anyway. The question however remains, what is he bringing to the table? Then we have the Secretary to the State Government, Prof. Solo Chuwkulobelu. The SSG has an imposing personality and he does not, that is, he is unable to relate with people below his social status. He can hardly influence anybody even as the SSG. This also applies to the last member of the committee, Primus Odili, whose case is made worse by the fact that he is suspected to be a member of the Aguleri cabal, in which instance for the aggrieved, it is like beating a baby and trying to prevent the child from crying. Chief Odili’s membership of the committee is at best contemptible to those they seek to reconcile.
Looking at these persons who constitute the committee, one is inclined to say that sometimes, the best way to serve the public is to not serve them. For some members of the committee, they would have simply said no to this “opportunity to serve”, it could have done more for the public and their image, than their decision to actually serve. In public service, some level of forthrightness and credibility has to be restored. People should serve when they have confidence in the process and are convinced that there is something they are coming to offer, not to take.
When we access even more critically the recognition of Hon. Umeoji by INEC side by side the actions of APGA leadership that have landed everyone here, then, not only has the committee been rendered redundant and I say this knowing that another court decision can upturn the Jigawa judgment, but until then. However, the original intent of APGA leadership is put to question. With all the clear wrong choices and deliberate failures, is it not possible that the party leadership has been working against the interest of APGA in favour of another party? There is nothing completely off the table in politics.
But then, if APGA’s interest is the single focus of the peace committee, can they move to mobilize APGA members to support INEC recognized candidates of the party? If at the end of the day, Umeoji remains the candidate of APGA, what becomes of the committee in view of how Umeoji has been isolated and ostracized by the party hierarchy under Oye?
♦ Ebuka Onyekwelu, strategic governance exponent, is a columnist with the WAP