With the emergence, Tuesday, of Ike C. Ibe, a former acting speaker of the Imo State House of Assembly, as the consensus governorship candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), the party now has a fresh window to correct the mistakes it made during the recent primary elections and reposition itself to take over the state in the 2019 general elections.
Ibe was elected during a meeting which had in attendance 12 of the aggrieved governorship aspirants in the party who have been operating under a new platform known as New APGA.
The aggrieved aspirants also reached a consensus that the national leadership of APGA, if it wants to right its wrongs, should promptly forward Ibe’s name to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as the duly elected governorship candidate of the party for next year’s elections.
Sam Amadi, a former chairman of National Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) and one of the governorship aspirants, told journalists in Owerri, the Imo State capital, that APGA’s National Working Committee (NWC) now has a chance to submit Ibe’s name to INEC as its governorship candidate in the state or the aggrieved aspirants would explore the next available option.
“At the meeting, we elected Ike Ibe as the consensus governorship candidate of APGA in Imo State. Twelve governorship aspirants were in attendance. If the party fails to forward his name to INEC, we will explore the option B,” Amadi said.
Ziggy Azike, one of the aspirants, said following the expiration of the October 7 deadline given by INEC for all political parties to conclude their primary elections, the aspirants had told APGA national leadership to send a dummy name to INEC as the party’s governorship candidate in Imo State pending when a candidate emerged.
“Now that we have elected Ibe as a candidate through a consensus arrangement, we expect the NWC to substitute it with his name. We have always said that only internal democracy, justice and fairness will move APGA forward,” Azike said.
Before the governorship primaries, many pundits had said time and again that God had positioned APGA to take the lead and play a central role in the redemption of Imo State in 2019. Some analysts had also seen the influx of many credible governorship aspirants into the party as a positive sign, warning, however, of an impending implosion if the primary election process was not well managed.
“It is a fact that APGA in Imo State still retains enormous support from the Imo populace. It is the party that took Rochas Okorocha to Government House in 2011. APGA nearly made Martin Agbaso governor if not that powerful forces who had denied the party of victory in the past also frustrated his victory. That tells the strength of APGA in Imo,” John Osuji, a political analyst, had said in article.
“With its victory in Anambra State governorship election last year, Imo State could be its next victory point if it harnesses the level of its followership. Because of its electoral appeal, it has become a new destination point for all manner of politicians who want to ride on the popularity of the party to become Imo State governor. It made the mistake in 2011 and it will be catastrophic if it happens again,” Osuji had warned.
He had, therefore, advised the party to quickly separate the wheat from the chaff in order to save the party from implosion.
In the end, the national leadership of APGA had failed to live up to expectation as the party’s purported primary election in Imo State, as elsewhere, ended up as a charade.
The APGA governorship primaries in Imo State, originally scheduled to hold October 5, dragged on for several days without making headway. On the night of October 7, Ifeanyi Araraume, a two-time senator and a recent entrant into the party, was announced as the party’s governorship flag-bearer.
Eberechukwu Ejikeme, the returning officer who announced the result, said Araraume polled 583 votes to defeat his co-contestants Okey Ezeh (61 votes), Frank Nneji (48 votes), Daniel Kanu (90 votes), Ike C. Ibe (15 votes), Ikedi Ohakim (27 votes), Humphrey Anumudu (13 votes), Stanley Amuchie (14 votes), Uche Onyeagocha (43 votes), Stephen Nwoga (27 votes), Sam Amadi (11 votes), Nick Opara-Ndudu (14 votes), and Ziggy Azike (14 votes).
The announcement of Araraume as the winner of the party’s governorship primaries angered the other aspirants, who categorically rejected both the candidate and the entire process, accusing the APGA leadership of committing “theft and betrayal of historic proportion”. The aspirants, who began a series of protests, also passed a vote of no confidence on the Victor Oye-led National Working Committee of the party, recommended the sack of Peter Ezeobi, the state chairman of APGA, and formed a pressure group within the party, known as N-APGA.
“We have resolved and expressed lack of confidence on APGA executive. We have resolved and expressed lack of confidence on Willie Obiano who is the national leader of the party and NWC. We have resolved that the state party chairman must go and the national chairman must go,” said Amadi, who spoke on behalf of the other aspirants during one of the protests.
“As a result of this ugly development, we hereby establish a new platform, now to be known as n-APGA. And all the monies that they have collected from us must be refunded or they will be handed over to the EFCC,” Amadi said.
In a telephone conversation with BDSUNDAY on Wednesday, Ike C. Ibe, N-APGA’s consensus candidate, pointed out what was wrong with the process that purportedly threw up Araraume as the party’s governorship candidate.
“There were no congresses in Imo State APGA, there were no processes of electing delegates, there were no delegates elected in accordance with the party constitution and guidelines. And so, since these preliminary prerequisites were not taken, any outcome of the process, even though we think there was no process, any outcome of a purported process was manifestly wrong and unconstitutional,” Ibe said.
“We are in court on that aspect, and the governorship aspirants are united in that, and also representing the legislative aspirants and many of the ad hoc delegates, many of the people who bought forms to aspire for ad hoc delegates, we represent all of them as well as ourselves. That matter is standing at the Federal High Court in Owerri,” he said.
Ibe said in filing the lawsuit against the party, the group followed the party’s constitutional requirements, which include issuing a pre-action notice. And so, he said, the party is aware that the aggrieved aspirants are in court.
The APGA leadership, Ibe said, had also claimed it had not submitted the name of any candidate to INEC and the group now wants the party leadership to make a public announcement to that effect as well as recognise him as the rightful governorship candidate.
“The party also told us that even if we say we don’t support what they have done, do we even have a consensus candidate to present to the party? The party thought that we as aspirants cannot come together to get a consensus candidate from among ourselves. We have proven them wrong by coming together and my colleagues elected me as their consensus candidate. And we have now told the party, ‘Well, this is the consensus candidate you were asking for. Submit the name of the consensus candidate’. If they don’t, well, that means they are not acting in good faith which they claim they are. But if the party does not accept our consensus candidate, then there are several options open to us and we will be prepared to exercise our options,” he said.
Asked what possible options the aggrieved aspirants would take, he simply said, “When we get to the bridge, we will cross it. We don’t want to speak for now; we will wait for the party to do the needful. If they don’t do the needful, well, every human being has options.”
Before Ibe’s emergence as the consensus candidate, some of the aggrieved aspirants had left APGA and moved on. Ikedi Ohakim, a former governor of the state, has gone on to pick the governorship ticket of Accord Party. Okey Ezeh, CEO of Savvycorp Limited and one of the strong pillars of the party, is rumoured to have moved to the Social Democratic Party (SDP). Uche Onyeagocha, a former member of the House of Representatives, is reported to have pledged support for Emeka Ihedioha, a former deputy speaker of the House of Representatives and the governorship candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the state. Even at the meeting on Tuesday where Ibe was elected as the consensus candidate, some of the aspirants abstained from voting.
All of the above point to a crack in the N-APGA house, but Ibe said it would not affect APGA’s chances in next year’s governorship election provided the party leadership does the right thing. He said the majority of APGA members in Imo State are angry at what the party did are still waiting in the wings for the party to do the right thing, which it now has an opportunity to do by recognising the consensus candidate duly elected by the aspirants.
“I know for sure that if the party does the needful, the entire Imo APGA will rejoice. We have been in this party for many years, building the party, then all of a sudden, somebody who does not know anybody in the party, who nobody in the party knows, was purportedly given the ticket. So the party members are angry. If the party does the right thing, there will be peace in the state, the party members will rally around us and we will win,” Ibe said.
“APGA is the party to beat in Imo State, so long as the right thing is done. But if the right thing is not done, APGA people also have the potential of finding greener pastures elsewhere. N-APGA is a major pressure group in the party. For now we are all staying in the party looking forward to the party doing the right thing and that has extended across Imo to Abia, to Anambra, to Enugu, and even to Lagos. There are so many people who are aggrieved about what the party did and they have shown support in what we started here and it is spreading like wildfire. So, it is in the best interest of the national leadership of the party to do the right thing to appease all the aggrieved members of the party across the state, otherwise the party will collapse,” he said.
The national leadership of the APGA seems to have also realised its mistakes. The party leadership recently set up a reconciliation committee headed by Jerry Chukwueke, the party’s vice presidential candidate, with the objective of reconciling and bringing all aggrieved members of the party on one page.
Chukwueke, while addressing journalists in Owerri on Tuesday, acknowledged that the party actually made some mistakes during the party primaries in Imo State.
“It is very clear that a few mistakes were actually made during the party primaries in Imo State. Delegates’ list was compiled and sent to the state, but what is not clear is why the list did not surface when it was supposed to, and even up to the point of accreditation,” Chukwueke said.
“We are learning from this experience. We have the human infrastructure to sack Governor Rochas Okorocha and his acolytes from the Government House, Owerri. We will do all it takes, with reason, to win the general elections. We appeal to all our aggrieved patriots to engage with us in this national assignment,” he said.
But speaking on Tuesday on behalf of the aggrieved aspirants who elected Ibe as the party’s consensus candidate, Amadi said the group had resolved not to meet with the reconciliation team headed by Chukwueke. The group, he said, had also resolved not to meet with Araraume, the purported governorship candidate of APGA, arguing that “there was no primary in Imo APGA which produced him or anybody as its governorship candidate”.
Pundits, however, say APGA leadership, if it intends to make an impact in the 2019 elections in Imo State, must seize this opportunity to reconcile its aggrieved members. They say the party’s prospects remain bright if the right thing is done and that the aggrieved parties should find a way to come to a roundtable.
“In spite of the mistakes of the past few weeks, I believe APGA’s chances in Imo State are still high. The people still believe in APGA more than they believe in APC or PDP. APGA is still the desired alternative platform, but the national leadership of the party has to work hard to win back the people’s trust which it shattered during the primaries,” said an analyst on condition of anonymity.
“The party has done well to set up a reconciliation committee. It must now do everything possible to ensure a true reconciliation and bring everybody on board. If that means retracing its steps, reversing its previous decision and recognising Ike C. Ibe as its governorship candidate in the state, so be it,” he said.