ACHILLEUS-CHUD UCHEGBU e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
After the last general elections, the position of All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), on Nigeria’s political space, became clearer. APGA is dead. That was what the 2015 general elections turned in as verdict for the party. In its place, Chekwas Okorie’s UPP got a mention. It scored 18,220 votes in the presidential election. APGA was not listed. Right or wrong, it the final election table showed that UPP was a bit more serious than APGA.
However, the fact is that APGA had maintained a superior presence in Southeast politics before UPP was registered. But APGA’s brand of mercantilist politics is killing it. This is simply because the leadership of APGA revolves around one man –Victor Umeh, who neither sees reason for the growth of the party or the need for its re-creation as a popular movement capable of galvanising followership and support.
For the conscious, Peter Obi’s exit from APGA ought to have signalled a disturbing trend. Rather than sit back and ask questions, Umeh and his troop engaged in a messy tirade of attempting to brand Obi in negatives. But what it ought to have done was to see that Obi’s exist was in itself a statement of disgust and non-acceptance of the way APGA had been managed over time by the Umeh leadership.
For a party which traded on Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, and saw it as its only unique selling point, it was only a matter of time before its demise became classic. In his vision for APGA, the leadership saw only the opportunity to trade tickets but not account for income.
The APGA leadership, which revolved around Umeh and his brand of loyalists, operated on the principle of the highest bidder. That was why the national executive resisted every effort, by well meaning and non-well meaning people, to reposition and redirect the party towards deeper relevance in the nation’s politics. That sadly showed that with Ojukwu dead, Umeh and his team could not go beyond the trade-post in managing APGA.
In the 2011 and 2015 elections, the APGA leadership firmly sat in office to sale forms and even without actually working to deepen the party and makes its structure firm, sat back to appoint who flew the party’s flag at the election. While most politicians pointed accusing finger at PDP and APC for not allowing the growth of internal democracy, APGA worked to ensure that no such phrase was used in its operations.
The outcome was that the leadership chased out those who could have made impact for it, and brought on those who had no electoral value. The height of it all was Umeh’s decision to contest for the senate while still holding tight to his crown as APGA national chairman. In deciding to run for elective office, Umeh came down from his heights. He refused to let APGA become the mouthpiece of a people. He also failed to lead properly. That meant death for the party as it is now obvious. As it is, the only persons that gives APGA some life, is Gov. Willie Obiano of Anambra state. Take him away from the party, then, the nunc dimitis is sung.
As it is, APGA has no elected members in any other state except Anambra state. That is an obvious fail statement for a party that once had three state governors, with prospects of taking over the five southeast states. There is therefore the need to sit back and take a deeper look at why, and how, APGA became such a colossal failure. For s start, Umeh played a very narcissistic role in the development of APGA. It was about him as an individual or nothing else. He has held tight as chairman of the party for more than 10 years.
Within this period, he has not been able to improve on the fortunes of the party neither has he been able to endear it to the people. He has also worked to ensure that no other person comes close to entering that office. That is exactly where the clean up ought to begin. Despite the southeast voting massively for PDP in the last election, and creating a new impression that PDP is it’s to lose, PDP remains a pan Nigeria project.
This indicates that southeast must move to create a political voice that would champion its course even when it becomes necessary to align with PDP. A strong regional voice will align with whichever party that controls power at the centre but from a position of strength. That position makes bargain for the region much more serious. APGA could not do that because of the problem of shortsightedness.
Moving forward therefore, leadership of APGA ought to resign. Umeh’s executive ought to bid the party farewell and watch while serious minded persons work to rebuild it. For a start, APGA national secretariat ought to relocate to Enugu. It is symbolic because Enugu is regional headquarters of the south east. After that, there must be concerted effort to bring in selfless persons who are versed in party organisation to rework APGA and market it. In doing so, southeast leaders must not lose focus of the need for a media organ. It is equally important.
I said selfless here because what we have seen expressed as leadership in APGA is all but trading for personal benefits. That cannot lead a people to making any meaningful political statement. I am sure that southeast can rebuild APGA having already been attracted to the people. As it is, like it or not, southeast needs a stronger and a purpose driven political voice in the form of a political party. APGA, as presently constituted, cannot fill that gap.