Former National Chairman of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Senator Victor Umeh, in this interview, speaks on the legal battles the party has surmounted ahead of the forthcoming governorship in Anambra State, reconciliation efforts and APGA’s chances at the poll. OKEY MADUFORO reports
What is your reaction to the Court of Appeal judgement that ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to list Prof. Chukwuma Soludo as the candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) for the Anambra governorship election?
We are very happy with the news of the judgement delivered by the Court of Appeal, Kano Division, which nullified the judgement of the Jigawa State High Court that attempted to foist a stranger on us as our acting national chairman. The judgement came with a consequential order that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) should accept whoever is nominated as the governorship candidate of APGA.
When the news of that Jigawa High Court judgement came in, we were surprised. We had a battle explaining in the media to all and sundry that that judgement could not stand on any principle of law or any bearing on APGA as a political party.
Despite our conviction that the judgement should have been declared a nullity, some people used it to torment APGA, including INEC, which had no business recognising that judgement because we had other previous judgements that firmly established the leadership of APGA under Chief Victor Oye as national chairman.
We give glory to God that not only that the judiciary has redeemed its name in Nigeria, but justice has been done.
That Jigawa judgement had been given its proper description by the Court of Appeal, as having emanated from a court that lacks territorial jurisdiction and substantial jurisdiction. So, there is nothing in that judgement that ought to be allowed to be alive anymore. Having quashed that judgement, APGA has now rebounded ahead of the governorship election scheduled for November 6.
Are you saying Soludo will now contest as the candidate of APGA?
Yes and let me recall that we had said that Soludo will contest the election and that he will be the candidate of APGA for the November 6 governorship election, and it has come to pass. So, he is our candidate and he will contest the election on our behalf because he is the person we nominated.
As the chairman of the Peace and Reconciliation Committee of the party, which was set up by the governor, I wish to use this opportunity to call on our brother and friend, Hon. Chukwuma Umeoji, to come back to the party.
He has been our friend over the years and we supported him when it was necessary to support him. At this time, the party has resolved that Soludo will contest the election on our behalf.
So, I want to on behalf of the committee call him to come back. We are not seeing him as being defeated by this judgement. He has tried to ventilate his grievances and now that the Court of Appeal has nullified the judgement, I wouldn’t want him to strain himself further by going to the Supreme Court.
I will not want him to leave the party, I will like him to come back; we are here waiting to welcome him back in this party with those who supported him. If not for the way they carried on, losing a nomination shouldn’t have been an issue.
A political party will field a candidate for one elective position, but since it has gone this way, creating a nonexistent faction in APGA won’t solve our problem. So, this judgement of the Court of Appeal didn’t come to us as a surprise, we saw it coming, despite the noise in the social media and by those who said that the Nigerian judiciary is for the highest bidder.
The judgement has been delivered on the basis of sound principle of law. So, we thank the judiciary, we thank the Court of Appeal for restoring peace and sanity in APGA. We hope that by this judgement, we will settle down and organise ourselves to face our opponents in the forthcoming election.
We know that the attempt was to derail the momentum of APGA ahead of the election, but now that God has intervened and the judiciary has delivered justice, we will now have our opponents to contend with in this forthcoming election. We urge the media to stop lending credence to non-existent problems.
With this decision, Chief Victor Oye’s leadership of APGA that has been in place all along has now been established one more time. We congratulate them and we look forward to working very hard towards achieving victory for APGA in this forthcoming election. Do you think that APGA will win the election with Soludo?
We are very optimistic that Anambra people will understand the various reasons why they should vote for APGA to continue. In terms of performance, this party has done so much for Anambra State.
Despite the antics of the opposition, we have solid achievements in place in the state. The scorecard we have is a very strong scorecard and I don’t see any reason why any sensible person will want to vote out APGA in the forthcoming election. Before September, we are certain that commercial flight operations will commence at the Anambra State Cargo and Passenger Airport. Air planes will be landing at that airport from across Nigeria.
When Governor Willie Obiano initiated the idea, initially with a Chinese company, when the partnership didn’t work, people said it was an audio airport. But he took it upon himself to build the airport. Now, the airport is the best in Nigeria. It is a stateof- the-art airport delivered by the APGA government.
That achievement is one that will be there for a lifetime. So, if APGA and with what it has done over the years, is also able to give us an international airport, what are the other parties coming to do for us?
What are they going to promise us? Are they going to take us to space? What will be their agenda? So, we have done well and without being immodest, we can beat our chest to say that we have served our people with our mind and with sacrifices by the party members, APGA people.
This is the only party you can be sure that does not interfere with governance. APGA has never interfered with governance. If you allow other parties to come, they will fight over the resources of the state. Yes, we may not have made everybody happy. It is not possible that a government will make everybody happy, but on average, I will score APGA 85 per cent in governance. Starting from 2006 to the present day, we have never diminished the welfare of Anambra people.
What will the party do if it sees a parallel campaign by Umeoji against Soludo?
It is normal that somebody who has struggled to come to the end of the road will not want to go back. But l am sure in the coming days, reality will dawn on them. That was why l was quick in appealing to them not to go beyond this point because it will be an exercise futility. I will advise my friend and brother, Umeoji, not to go further in wasting his resources. The Court of Appeal judgement does not contain any mistake.
The Jigawa court has no jurisdiction to entertain the matter. Moreover, trying to establish a leadership that does not exist is not possible. Intra-party disputes which the Supreme Court had said several times in the past are party affairs.
The Court of Appeal has not done any wrong. Intra-party disputes do not come with the jurisdiction of court in Nigeria. So, I don’t know what they will go to the Supreme Court to do. It is better for them to come back. I am here for them. They have passed through me severally in the past and I cannot be against them.
What has happened is that this time, it is not their time. Hon. Umeoji will be in the House of Representatives till 2023, so he should consider my wise counsel to him and come back to the party. We are ready to make it easier for him to come back. If you try and don’t succeed, you would be reunited with the family.
Then for the parallel campaign, it doesn’t concern us. It is INEC that will ensure that only legally recognised candidates go on campaign. We don’t want a parallel campaign; let it not be that APGA has two candidates.
We have only one campaign and one party. Let them come and join us to have one campaign team. I have been here reconciling people with my committee since July 8. So, Umeoji should come back with his supporters if he wants to continue. He may get to a point he would not see his supporters anymore.
They should come back as a group to pledge their loyalty to the party, to the leader of the party and to all of us that are his friends and brothers. This party cannot be destroyed by anybody.