By Jude Atupulazi
It is a difficult thing to achieve success. It is even more difficult to sustain it. This is exactly the problem bedeviling the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, a party touted as an Igbo party, and which Igboness is anchored on the person of the late Biafran warlord, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu. Formed as a response to the marginalization of the Igbo Nation in the politics of the country in 2002, the party wasted no time in announcing the late Ikemba as its presidential standard bearer. It was a choice that elicited wide support from Ndigbo across Nigeria and beyond. Indeed, many had felt that it was overdue for Ndigbo to have a party they could call their own, just as was the case in the Second Republic when Ndigbo had the Nigeria People’s Party, NPP.
Then, it had chosen another Igbo icon, the late Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, as its presidential candidate. What followed is now history, but suffice it to say that Ndigbo were able to win in the Igbo states then comprising Anambra and Imo States.
Fast track to 2002. The Igbos yet again picked another icon in Ojukwu. He contested and lost in his bid to be president. But it did not matter. It also did not dampen people’s spirits, for very few actually expected him to win. What mattered was that Ndigbo had a party they could call their own and use as a bargaining chip in the political power play.
But despite the popularity of Ikemba, APGA could only capture one state and that was Anambra, in the 2003 general elections.
But even that victory could not have been achieved if not for the tenacity of a certain Peter Obi who stood his ground and insisted on justice being done. By his side was Victor Umeh, giving moral and every other support.
Eventually, APGA regained its mandate after almost three years from the People’s Democratic Party, PDP. That set the state on a course of rapid development.
In the early days of APGA, it was a big problem to find people willing to contest election on the party’s platform. Coming at a time when some political jobbers in the then PDP held the state hostage, it would have taken extreme courage for anyone to attempt to fight the behemoth called PDP. Then PDP was controlled by some heartless godfathers who called all the shots and determined who got what.
But somehow APGA conquered and took over the reins of power which it has been enjoying for the past 12 years. With such success, however, come challenges. The average Nigerian politician behaves like the proverbial goat which follows the person carrying the palm frond. And so as the years passed and APGA continued to dominate the political space of the state, more and more politicians from other parties flocked to APGA to the extent that today, the state looks like a one party state; at least before the recent turn of events.
Like the PDP which in the height of its glory boasted that it would virtually rule Nigeria forever, APGA seemed to have felt that nothing could ever shake it as long as it held power. But it did not reckon with the factor of implosion. An implosion is a kind of explosion which bursts inward, rather than outward. In politics, it happens when, as in this case, a party is filled to the point of bursting by its own making. Thus when it bursts, it sweeps or sucks away everybody that is inside.
The things happening in APGA today are akin to an implosion. After the last guber election in Anambra State in which APGA swept all the local governments of the state in what has come to be known as 21/21, the party must have begun to see itself as the alpha and omega of the state, a party which people have little choice but to join and a party which can do anything and get away with it.
It is this latter assumption that is setting the state on fire currently. That fire was lit during the primaries of the party in Anambra and Imo States in which allegations of bribery rent the air. It was believed that tickets of the party became hot commodities and went to the highest bidders and powerful interest groups. A lot of money was believed to have exchanged hands and landed in the pockets of those who are said to have hijacked the party.
Thus, even Bianca, the wife of the great Ikemba, Dim Emeka Ojukwu, was sacrificed on the altar of money. She has been left crying her eyes out after the senatorial primaries and calling for justice. But hers has been like a lone voice in the wilderness.
Indeed, many have been pointing accusing fingers at some big people in the party, accusing them of either aiding and abetting the big electoral heist, or turning a blind eye. In Imo State, many guber aspirants were duped in their anxiety to get the party tickets. And the amounts collected were mind blowing. Yet after that, they gave the ticket to the one they wanted. Imo people cried foul and quickly formed what they called n-APGA to clearly show their disenchantment.
In Anambra, the party had kept promising aspirants free and fair primaries. The aspirants kept spending money and campaigning. But in the end, many were shortchanged in favour of those the party hierarchy already had in mind. Down the drain went all the money spent by the aspirants and they are today fuming and calling for the heads of those who ”duped” them.
To make matters worse, the party set up a reconciliation committee with a view to calming down the losers but the people to be reconciled shunned the meetings called by the committee, telling them that all they wanted was to get their money back. To them, no money, no reconciliation. The party seemed to have stood its ground and that has led to the present chaotic situation in the state.
That situation is the ongoing attempt to impeach the speaker of the House, Mrs Rita Maduagwu, who seems to be unpopular in many quarters, including her home town and local government.
On Tuesday, a group of legislators led by Ikem Uzoezie, moved against the leadership of the House and impeached the speaker. Uzoezie was elected the new speaker. Since then, things had been moving with supersonic speed.
The impeached speaker said she remained the speaker and that nothing was happening as her purported impeachment lacked legality. She was backed by the state government and the party. The party on Thursday announced the suspension of three of the leaders of the impeachment namely, Ikem Uzoezie, Harford Oseke and Victor Okoye for failing to consult the party before taking their action.
But many had been asking if the members of the House cannot remove any of their members if they feel so and if the House is no more independent.
But it is believed that the state government and the party may not be comfortable with the motive of the Uzoezie group, probably believing that they were targeting the governor for impeachment too.
But speaking to newsmen shortly after their meeting last Wednesday, Uzoezie assured the people of the state that they remained solidly in support of the governor, save that they were against the former speaker remaining because of her inability to lead them, as well as financial impropriety. He said the new leadership had come to stay and that there was no going back on the impeachment of the former speaker.
Last Thursday too both sides to the conflict stormed the House amid tight security and while they were inside, a group of young men stormed the place but were stopped by the police and other security agents who shot into the air and released tear gas. This led to one of the lawmakers, Hon Beverly Ikpeazu, collapsing and later being led out to safety.
The Uzoezie group, rather than be depleted in their number owing to the opposition mounted by the state government and the party, rather continued to grow. After sitting on Thursday in the House of Assembly, they addressed the press again to reiterate their stance and announced that a total of 25 out of the 30 members were with them.
Many believe that both the state government and the party are not handling the matter well as their actions amount to undue interference in the affairs of the House, a development that may worsen the ongoing saga.
Whatever the case, however, it is clear that what is happening in APGA today is not what the founding fathers of the party envisaged. The party is now doing all those things the old PDP was known for and it appears no one is truly in control now. This lack of a central control led to a certain individual calling the shots during the controversial primaries, while those who should call him to order kept mum. And now that the bubble has burst, everybody in the party is feeling the heat.
From the look of things, matters may further escalate in the coming days unless the state government and the party sacrifice the deposed speaker for the good of the state and party, especially given the perceived unpopularity of the former speaker.
The party also has to move against the ”foreigners’ that have seemingly hijacked the party and restore power to the people. Failure to do so may lead to a requiem Mass for the party that is gradually moving from ”nkea bu nke anyi” to ”nkea bu nke fa”.
With no base in any other state, the fall of APGA in Anambra will certainly be its end. But it can be averted if all the Jonahs are thrown off the boat so that the real owners of the party, which are the people, will reclaim what belongs to them. This is no time to be sentimental; it is a time to do the needful, even if it is difficult.