APGA, Most Maltreated Party in Nigeria – Senator Umeh
Former national chairman of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Senator Victor Umeh, who was recently sworn-in as Senator representing Anambra Central Senatorial district, in this interview with Ateko Usman-Ejima, says APGA s the most cheated party.
You have been active in the political system for long before becoming a Senator barely a month ago. Reflecting on your experiences, how would you describe the Nigerian political terrain?
For me, life is a struggle and anything you must do, expect challenges. My journey to the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria was a thorny route, given my past experiences as a politician. I led a very strong opposition as the national chairman of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) in Nigeria for 10 years. While leading APGA as its national chairman, I took the party to many battles and in Anambra where the party has been in place since 2002, it has been a combined effort of my humble self and the late Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu and other great party members in championing a resistance to electoral brigandage and banditry in Nigeria, where the people of Anambra State voted for APGA in Anambra in 2003, and in deed, in the entire South East States, and brazenly, their victories were changed in favour of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The electoral hate foisted on APGA in 2003 became a route for us to engage authorities through judicial processes to see what we could recover of that election. As God will have it and with the help of the people of Anambra, I anchored the struggle of the party through the Tribunal, Court of Appeal and up to the Supreme Court and nearly after three years, we were able to bring Mr. Peter Obi to office. The PDP that was the ruling party in Nigeria then got annoyed that it was the first time a serving governor was removed through a judicial process. I was the PW1 of the party at the time. All efforts to sway me from the fight at that time failed. I rebuffed all of them and eventually, the person who did not win the election but was declared winner was asked to go. I naturally became an enemy to him. They tried to compromise me and I said no. Because of the mission of APGA in Nigeria, I had to provide tacit support to the administration of Peter Obi with the father figure cover of the late Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu. Then, we had to start battles all over again because Peter Obi was not allowed to take up his office as a governor. When he was eventually sworn in, they described him as a youth corp governor who would spend one year and go. I had to personally go through the 1999 Constitution because I was sad to see a governor spend a year and go because general election was to take place in 2007. I picked the Constitution and checked section180(2) where it was stated that the tenure of a governor shall run for four years, starting from the day he took the oath of office. So, I came to the conclusion that the three years spent by the person who did not win the election cannot be added to those of Peter Obi. That judicial pronouncement was the victory of his election, that when he gets sworn in, he will start his four years term to end in August, 2010. That got the attention of the opposition party, the PDP in Anambra, because APGA had become a ruling party. They threw up all sorts of things against us and the first thing they did was to impeach Governor Peter Obi unconstitutionally and we had to go back to court to quash the impeachment. We contended that the processes that led to the impeachment were not known to the Constitution. As the national chairman, I was virtually speaking against the audacious unconstitutional actions of the PDP against APGA. As God will have it, we fought strongly that on 9th February, 2007, we quashed the proceedings in December of that year. The Court of Appeal in a swift move by me and late Ojukwu, who was Chairman, Board of Trustees, changed the election which was fixed for April 14th, 2007. We went for tenure interpretation because we told them that the election should not take place. They defied it and we lost at the Federal High Court and the Court of Appeal. We went to Supreme Court and we got judgement in our favour. The High Court and Court of Appeal earlier returned Senator Andy Uba as a winner of that election, but the Supreme Court assumed jurisdiction and after two weeks, they delivered a landmark judgement declaring that Peter Obi’s tenure will end in 2010 while Andy Uba was asked to vacate office. Again, I led APGA to re-election in the same 2010 and we won and ruled till 2014. After Peter Obi, Mr. Willy Obiano contested in 2014 and he won. I was the Chairman of Willy Obiano campign and he won historically. Before then, my tenure had elapsed as chairman of APGA in 2015, and I contested for Anambra Central Senatorial district election and I won. They rigged me out and my mandate was stolen and I went to Election Tribunal, Court of Appeal, yet they put up frivolous litigations to delay the re-run election which I finally won and here am I today. So, it’s been my strong resistance to impunity and fraud that opposition used. Since I was able to sustain APGA for 12 years now and running for another four years, it will be 17 years in March this year when Willy Obiano will be sworn in for another four years.
So, all the elements in Anambra and their collaborators including those that defected to the APC, the likes of Dr. Chris Ngige and Senator Uche Ekwunife, I became their common enemy, but I am happy that I was able to lead the fight for justice.
Having suffered this much, you never defected as is common among Nigerian politicians. What really endeared you to APGA?
If you look behind me, you will see the flag of my party, APGA. Those who do not hold onto any ideal are always vulnerable on how they flow with the tide. I believed very strongly from the founding days of APGA that it is a party that will give the masses the opportunity to express their electoral will in the ballot box and give them the opportunity to contest any elections. During the days of PDP, they were muzzling every opposition party and the the people of the South East didn’t get any good deals from PDP. In 2003 when we started contesting elections, APGA won everywhere and they started taking our victories away. Like in a military fashion, it was a case of suppression of the will of the people and it was wrong for us to jump ship and move to those wielding powers at the time. Fighting for social justice is not something you jump ship and move on, sometimes, work the wrong majority. This Party has been in Anambra State for 12 years and now, it has transformed the state. It has changed the story line of the state into a frontline position in Nigeria that despite the little resources, we have in the state from when we started producing governors from the time of Mr. Peter Obi and now, my very good friend, Willy Obiano, the state has seen unexpected rejuvenation because of the attitude of the people who have governed the state before. Mr. Willy Obiano is on a mission of surpassing any expectation where in three years and some months, he has put Anambra on a frontline security map in Nigeria. He is embarking on massive infrastructural development in three and half years even as he prepares to be sworn in for the second term in office. The agricultural revolution he has brought to Anambra State has led to self-sufficiency in rice production. When he came, we were producing 80,000 metric tons of rice but as at last year, we were producing 375,000 metric tons. We now have net output for export to other places. If you look at development, you begin to imagine the multiplier effect of job opportunities and other things. In the industrial sector, he is encouraging investors to come in because security drives all other sectors. Wherever there is no security, nobody comes there to do anything. The indigenous people are also coming with their capital to invest. We are on a steady growth in the state and that is what APGA has done.
APGA has not been able to make much impact beyond the Southeast states, what is responsible for this?
Have you forgotten that in 2011, I fought very hard to get Rochas Okorocha elected as governor of Imo State? Then I relocated to Imo to fight against all odds of Armada of PDP. I held them by the jugular by standing against the soldiers and APGA won. We got him elected but unfortunately, in 2013, he defected to APC. If he had stayed in APGA, since 2011, Anambra and Imo would have been APGA states. Again, in 2015, I got through my leadership, Dr. Alex Otti elected as governor of Abia State, but in brazen electoral stealing, his mandate was taken away. Dr. Otti won in 14 out of 17 local governments, but PDP went to local governments to doctor results which prevented him from becoming governor of Abia State. In one local government, they call Obingwa, they wrote 82,000 votes out of 86,000 registered voters in that local government. Can you say that such a thing is possible in Nigeria? We went through litigation from Tribunal to Court of Appeal and he was declared winner. They went to Supreme Court and used technicalities to deny him victory. So we would have had three governors under my watch as national Chairman of APGA. I have done everything humanly possible to move the party forward. In Nasarawa State, Mr. Labaran Maku won elections in 2015 under my chairmanship before his mandate was stolen and of course, it was considered an aberration for APGA to win elections in Nasarawa, North Central Nigeria. As it turned out, the judiciary could not help him. APGA has gone beyond Anambra State. In 2015, we had a federal lawmaker from Taraba State and he is still a member of APGA. We also have a member in the House of Representatives from Abia State. In the National Assembly, we have six House of Representatives members with myself as the only Senator. So, the party has the goodwill to win any election in Nigeria. What has been the bane of the party has been the attitude of the people in authority so that when APGA wins elections, they are denied. You could see last year that the current leadership of INEC conducted governorship election and APGA won in the entire 21 local governments. In my own Senatorial district, on 13th January, 2018, I won in the seven local governments having scored 67,879 votes while the person who came second got 975 votes. If the current leadership of INEC sustains this decency, I I assure you that in 2019, APGA will win so many places in Nigeria.
Many see Anambra as one of the most controversial states in terms of politics. Do you agree with that assertion?
I agree with you to an extent that we have more political buccaneers in Anambra State than anywhere else who will run to the ruling party to use federal might to rig elections. The people will vote for their choice, they will use federal might to change results and run away with people’s victories. It has brought about breach of trust for such a long time and APGA has been leading resistance the against that. Anambra is controversial, yes, this is because we have people who think they can get to power through any means.
What has been your experience since you were sworn in as Senator and what are your plans for your constituents?
Finally, I am here as a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria having been sworn in. I am the choice of my people and it has been so. Since my assumption, they have started seeing my contributions on the floor of the Senate. I am also eagerly waiting for things that concern my constituents in the plenary and I will stand for them. I am doing all I can for them to get all their entitlements like Constituency projects and all of that.