How Former APGA National Chairmn Victor Umeh Killed The Party-----Austin Ndigwe

Chief Austine Ndigwe was one of the founding fathers of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and former member of the party’s Board of Trustees (BoT). He was also the right hand man of former National Chairman of the party, Chief Victor Umeh, Owelle Rochas Okorocha of Imo state and former Governor Peter Obi of Anambra state.
Today, things have fallen apart and the centre can no longer hold in the once united party. Ndigwe spoke with few reporters in Anambra on the way Umeh piloted the affairs of APGA, the problem between Umeh, Obi and Obiano, Ojukwu and his plans to report some dealings to the EFCC, among others. 

You have been in APGA and played major roles, can you tell us about the affairs of the party as it used to be and presently?

Well, I can say that APGA was founded for the interest of Ndigbo, it was like a movement. When the party was initially formed, even our late national leader was not a member but we decided to co-opt him in, to give face of Ndigbo to that party. The first financier of that party was Prince Engr. Arthur Eze; he brought the major huge sum of money into the formation, followed by former Senate President then, Pius Anyim and then Sam Egwu, while Chekwas Okorie was the one coordinating and the founding father and the first National Chairman of the party. But it was when Chekwas started having problems with Umeh, not knowing that it was a coup plotted by Umeh, because the events unfolding now will show that Umeh was the one who plotted that coup, blackmailed Chekwas to get him out because of his ambition to take over and Peter Obi bought the idea then and that was why Chekwas was removed. Umeh was the Treasurer of the party, and by the constitution of the party, he should not take over but Obi did it for him, one, they are from the same Anocha Local Government and two, he believed he has trust on Umeh for him to revive the party. Umeh took over on acting capacity for three years before a convention, because the matter was in court and we could not conduct any convention till Supreme Court said that the expulsion of Chekwas was in a right direction. Based on that, a convention was held and Umeh was returned. Returning Umeh into the party was a big task believing that he would use the opportunity to revive the party, but what you can see in APGA today is that it was a one man show for eight years. He was running the party as a limited liability company; he was the sole signatory to the party’s account, he never gave account to anybody and we kept on believing that Umeh will change. In Obi’s re-election, it was a tug of war and up to date as am talking to you APGA has never been audited for 11 years. So with that Umeh has killed APGA.

What you are saying now was not the story we heard when you people were persecuting Chekwas. He was accused of collecting money to sell APGA and Obi’s mandate to PDP and Ngige?

I said earlier that it was blackmail, falsehood; that was the same thing that happened. Umeh used the same trick to blackmail Obi out of government. But then, Obi did not know that Umeh was lying. Chekwas did not do that, as the National Chairman of the party, there was no way Chekwas will betray his party that he had led to court to reclaim its mandate of the election in Anambra State which his APGA won, to betray it to support Ngige. All these were blackmail and falsehood, it is not true. What is happening now has shown Obi that what Umeh was saying then was not true, that rather Umeh was looking for a way to take over power from Chekwas at all cost.

You were conspicuously absent at the last convention of the party in Awka, what happened?

I was absent in that particular convention because it was not properly constituted. One, the zoning formula, two, the way and manner they managed the affairs of the party was not good because Anambra State is not the only state that owns APGA. We have BoT members, we have top founding fathers of the party; did you see any of them there on the day of the convention? Perhaps am not against the new national executive because our leader and the BoT chairman, the governor sanctioned it and they have his blessing but things should be done right so I felt there was no need for me to be there.

Was it that there was disagreement in house before the convention?

Yes, there was total disagreement; one, Umeh has no right to write an agenda for the convention making himself life BoT, life NWC, life NEC, for what? After being in the party for 14 years, what else are you looking for there? Because he still wants to tele-guide the new executive council. After being a national chairman for 11 years, national treasurer, vice national chairman, what are you still looking for in that party? He still wants to run it as his personal affair, as if it is a limited liability company and there is no way APGA will grow from one state to another if that particular formula continues and that is why I am calling on the governor of Anambra State to be very careful because that was what he did to Peter and that was why we remained in one state. This is also what he wanted to do to Rochas and when Rochas noticed what was going on, he stopped him. Obi and Rochas signed papers to remove Umeh and when Umeh ran to us, he did not tell us the full details of what happened. We were the people who saved him, the two governors have already signed the document which I have a copy that they wanted total restructure of APGA and new leadership of APGA. That was how Umeh and Peter Obi disagreed. On the accounts of the party, how much money, billions that had passed through APGA; we want to know the account and how much money was spent. Why is the National Treasurer not signing cheques, somebody who has the mandate in a convention has never signed one cheque and he still calls himself National Treasurer. Umeh was running everything, so this was what made Rochas to leave the party.

If these were what happened, why was it difficult for the stakeholders to checkmate Umeh all this while?

It was not difficult, you see, APGA has only one funding formula; that funding formula is the governor of Anambra State and Umeh’s strategy and tactics was that any time you want to strike, he must get to the governor’s side first and if you say anything they will sack you from the party. Onwuka Ukwa tried it, he was removed, Chuma Mbonu tried it, he was removed; Alfred Nwosu tried it, he was removed. And when you say APGA, the main pillar of APGA is the Governor of Anambra State because he funds the party, he pays them the salary; he dictates the tune. So Umeh’s strategy is to get the governor and that is one of the biggest regrets Obi is having today because he believed him, he trusted him till the last day but he betrayed him. So if APGA is in other states like Abia, Enugu, Nasarawa and some other places, probably he would not have had his way the way he had it. He will go and tell governor, this one is fighting you; he does not want you to be re-elected; governor will now say this, this and people will now go back and give him simple majority vote. That was how Mbonu Chuma the immediate past Commissioner for Transport was sacked from NWC. Alfred Nwosu was the Publicity Secretary, when he noticed what Umeh was doing was wrong, he ganged up and removed him; Onwuka Ukwa was Deputy National Chairman. When he challenged what Umeh was doing, he ganged up and removed him. This is a verifiable fact, you can ask them. So, he ran APGA as one man show and because Obi had no time to do politics, Obi is an administrator, he left the political arm and wing of the party and the government for Umeh, so Umeh, was, if you are loyal to him you follow him if you are not loyal to him, he messed you up. That was the true position because it was only Anambra that was funding the party, and whoever that dictates where the funds come from you will be loyal to the person.

All these were happening and no member of the NWC was able to challenge him, or go through the anti-graft agencies, why?

No, they did that and Obi saved him then because EFCC arrested Umeh; that was three years ago, they arrested him and he was interrogated and they asked him to bring document, in the process of doing that, that was one of his conditions for peace between him and Obi, that as governor he should talk to the President then to drop the charges against him, that EFCC should stop harassing him.

Before the convention, the amendments in your constitution were made, including the issue of life membership of BoT, between then and the last convention, why was it difficult for party members or stakeholders to reject it if they did not like it?

Let me tell you, the truth and the fact was that Umeh didn’t want to go and the governor was a little bit diplomatic to get him out of the way. Convention can be called any time and amendment can be done any time by simple majority in a convention. Umeh wanted to stage a comeback for a third term tenure agenda, he never wanted the convention to hold in the first place and that was why some people like us said we won’t be party to illegality, but we won’t stop it. We had cause and the locus to go to court and stop that convention but if we stopped the convention, it will favour Umeh because that is what he wanted; to have that crisis and will not hand over. Somebody’s tenure ended, but he didn’t want to go, he called for a mini convention to deceive the governor, we needed to do this, if you do not extend my tenure the politics will not go well, this and this will not happen, if you start changing leadership now that the new leaders will not know the party agents.

From your story, Obiano, like Obi seem to have danced Umeh’s music until this last convention, would that suggest Umeh made him governor?

You see, Obiano is a divine call as far as I am concerned because God has a way of changing the face of the state; God has a way of doing things. For example, Umeh was not supporting Obiano in the first instance. Umeh brought in Soludo, Soludo is still alive. When we were talking about North, Umeh was talking about South. It was when our clergymen called our attention that this and this are the things they want us to do that Umeh felt Obi is tilting to Willie, I am tilting to Willie, the major supporters are tilting to Willie, he now did a reverse. He had already endorsed Soludo, brought him to Anambra, gave him form and assured him that he was going to give him the ticket. The same way he played with Ifeanyi Uba, he brought him in; he told him he is the next governor. Ifeanyi started this struggle, spending money, upon all that he did, at the dying minute he betrayed Ifeanyi. The same thing he did to Ukachukwu; these people are still alive, come and be senator, I will give you ticket. Ukachukwu started pumping money, immediately he met Ernest Ndukwe, then of NCC, he believe that one is a bigger fish, so he dumped Ukachukwu again. So, how can the party grow from one state to another if we have this kind of leadership style in APGA? It cannot work and that is why APGA is losing supporters and losing their members. So, when he now saw that Obiano is a brand new name in the field and that people wanted him, former Executive Director of Fidelity, former Texaco Auditor General, he felt that for Obi’s support and others he cannot go anywhere, he dumped Soludo and joined the rest. As the National Chairman, by Electoral Act and the constitution, he is the one that signs the form, so he played a major role in the process of selecting Obiano but former Governor Peter Obi was the architect of the whole thing. Immediately Obiano emerged, he started his usual way of propaganda and stained the relationship between Obiano and Obi.

The way Obiano emerged, it was like he was loved by the party, how actually did he emerge governor?

You cannot say so, nobody can say so. I am a living witness and I was a party to the selection, former Governor Obi played a very important role in that case. You are in Nigeria and you know the relationship between Obi and Goodluck Jonathan, everybody knew that. If Obi did not play that role, even if Umeh gives Obiano ticket he won’t be governor, that is the simple fact and we must say it. One, Goodluck Jonathan was in Anambra and said APGA is my party; PDP is my party, vote your conscience. Goodluck Jonathan was in Anambra, he went to Holy Trinity, he did not even raise his party’s candidates, Tony Nwoye’s hand because of the love he has for APGA and Obi, these are verifiable facts and don’t forget that Peter Obi then was still an incumbent governor who has a role to play both in primary and funding of the party and the election itself; he was the captain of the team. Who is Umeh to say he made Willie governor? It is not possible. Obi brought the federal government factor which is security, Obi brought the financial muscle to challenge PDP, Obi brought the strategy and structure, he was the governor then, he owned the structure the 21 local governments as at that time.

If Obi did all these you said, what was the cause of the face-off between Obiano and Obi?

These are the things I am trying to tell you about Umeh; he is a very smart human being. I said that he blackmailed Chekwas out of the way for him to have his way. Immediately Obiano emerged, Peter had already been nominated for BoT and leader of the party, Umeh refused to confirm him, he told Obiano, Obi is not a good man, Obi took me to court, Obi doesn’t like you, am the one who nominated you, am the one who asked you to come and be governor, how can you ask someone to come and be governor under which platform without Obi? The same Umeh that is claiming this glory Peter was the one paying you, all the vehicles you have in your house were bought by Peter, the first time you travelled abroad was Peter that paid and got you your visa, the house you are living now in Enugu, Peter was the one that gave you the contact and money to build it. You were living in a flat at Chime Avenue in Enugu. How can you claim the glory of what you did not do, so Umeh was the architect of the face-off between Obi and Obiano.

Is this the reason Obi left the party and some members of the National Assembly also left?

Umeh caused it, for example, Uche Ekwunife was running for the House of Representatives; she was seeking for re-election in House, Chris Azubogu was seeking for re-election in the House of Representatives, Afam Ogene was seeking for re-election in House of Representatives, these people met with Obi being the leader of the party then and said this is what we want to do but Umeh said over his dead body, Uche will never return back, Chris Azubogu, Ogene they will never return. Uche was seeking for re-election not to go to senate but they refused, she is alive; you can confirm from her. He refused to pick Uche’s call; he refused to see Uche again; he said Uche and Obi were working together. The ones that had the heart to take risk, they are the ones that are in the National Assembly today; the ones that are lily-livered are the ones Umeh still betrayed. He did not give nomination to Afam Ogene, he did not give nomination to Emeka Nwogbo; they are the people he betrayed. Uche now said you people don’t want me in the party again after all the things I have done for this party, let me now run for Senate in PDP if I lose I go but I will stop you Umeh. So in the process of Umeh denying Uche nomination for the House of Representatives in APGA, Uche went and stopped him and took over the Senate and won convincingly and that was why we lost all our seats in the National Assembly because people don’t want Umeh. How can you be National Chairman and be senatorial candidate, you only. You are contesting for election you gave yourself ticket, you are holding National Chairman’s seat, you are holding senatorial ticket? So a lot of people demonstrated and is a warning sign to Governor Obiano that if he doesn’t take time because we lost out in National Assembly but in the state assembly people still said that Obiano is innocent for now, we must give him chance and give him all the support to see how he performs. That is why they voted APGA for the state Assembly; we lost the three senatorial seats including where the governor came from.

How much do you think the party made from aspirants?

For example this last exercise 34 party realised N917 million. What was left for the new national chairman is N40 million, can you imagine that and the same governor is still funding the party, bringing N20 million every month, look at APGA secretariat we are building here, people expected such money should go into the party, let him challenge me I will prove my claim. But when he was summoned by the governor, how much did you realize, he said N618 million, where is the N618 million? He did not account for it. He sidetracked the National Treasurer and was signing the cheques with Shinkafi. His first face-off with Obiano was why would Obiano ask of the money? So how can you call that a political party?

I am already on my way to EFCC, I am on my way; we are the founding members of this party, we are not running away because of him. I am on my way to EFCC and court, he must come and audit and show us how he spent this money and which approval, which meeting. EFCC will call for all the accounts of the party because all these money were being paid through draft.

What is the future of APGA?

The future of APGA and the way I am looking at it is that the governor should call another immediate convention to ratify a lot of things. If he wants people to come into the party, that party needs total overhauling, if he wants the party to move forward, if he doesn’t want the name of Ikemba to die forever.



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