The All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) is a child of a peculiar circumstance and that peculiarity clearly reflects in its sloganeering. ‘APGA bu nke anyi’; or, ‘Nkea bu nke anyi’ has a very long history, which appears lost in long use as clichés. These slogans deeply resonate with the philosophy behind the formation of the Party between 2002 and 2003.
Let us do a bit of historical tour de force. Those who were around and active in the buildup to the military hand over and enthronement of the current democratic dispensation in 1999, would agree that the PDP primaries was contrived and Dr. Alex Ifeanyichukwu Ekwueme manipulated out in the process. In a predetermined manner, the party’s presidential ticket was handed Olusegen Obasanjo. It was such a painful experience for some of us who were in ALEPCO (Alex Ekwueme Presidential Campaign Organization).
We left for Jos, the Plateau State capital, in the bitter cold of February. As a relatively small player, I rode with Prince Tony Momoh who was the head of the ALEPCO Media and Publicity, in his vehicle from Abuja to Jos and stayed in Hill Station hotel where most of the ALEPCO team was quartered, for about 4 days while the duplicity played out to the full.
Jos, possibly the coldest part of Nigeria in the winter, was particularly cold that year (February 13/14, 1999) and we all huddled in the Jos Stadium, the venue of the PDP primaries, most of us unclad in sweat cloths. I still vividly recall when Obasanjo was driven into the stadium, accompanied by Abubakar Rimi. He wore a dark green Senegalese shokoto, with its matching Yoruba cap. We had arrived earlier with Alex Ekwueme in what many thought was a triumphal entry, led by the late Solomon Lar (PDP National Chairman as he then was) who, in his trademark, was waving his white handkerchief and exuding so much confidence.
You know, politics in Nigeria has always been about concentric circles of elite conspiracy and those who could conspire the most always win. There was no doubt the reluctantly departing military wanted to hold onto power, at least by proxy. I learned quite a bit from a late Naval Admiral about how Obasanjo came into the picture and how he was adopted before the Jos PDP primaries, how he was nominated by a General, who later became his first victim in Zaki Ibiam.
My first impression that Ekwueme would lose came was when the crude Nigerian Police started dispersing the Igbo youths who had gathered around the Jos stadium and chanting victory to Ekwueme and denouncing Jim Nwobodo as a traitor.
By the time this unwarranted hostility broke, counting of ballot had started in those wee hours of that February 14.
There were 20 ballot boxes in which each State’s delegates cast their votes in all. What that meant was that since each State cast its votes in each and in all the boxes, all that was needed to determine the winner was for one of the boxes to be counted. For one abreast with statistics, by the time the 3rd to 5th boxes were counted, one knew that Obasanjo was irreversibly the winner since each box prorata, was representative of others. So, the Igbo youths being dispersed by the hostile Police was to preempt any rash reaction on their part on the impending announcement of Ekwueme as the prime loser.
The loss of Ekwueme was foretold however. Those who understood power dynamics in Nigeria knew the military establishment that controls power was not quite disposed to a Nigeria President of Igbo extraction. Coupled with the fact that Gen. Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, another major extraneous factor in the said primaries, also believed that the Yoruba/NADECO threat to leave Nigeria was real and the only way to put the June 12 mess behind was to railroad Obasanjo to power. Money was the tool used, as always.
Also recall that Ekwueme was Shagari’s deputy between 1979 and 1983. Analysts still believe that the coup against Shagari was not so much for the poor showing of the nation’s economy under his watch as it was for termination of the prospects of Ekwueme succeeding him. As unverifiable as this may be, it still does not vitiate its plausibility.
The South East political leaders, regardless of their political leanings, did not take the loss of Ekwueme lightly. They rightly interpreted it as a conspiracy and it got many of them thinking of how to make the zone politically formidable. Their grouse was that despite being the leader of G17 and later G34, which prompted and founded the PDP, Ekwueme’s political aspiration was still cut short in the party he co-founded. Even the name – PDP – was said have been given by the late sage, Chuba Okadigbo. With this thinking and consultations spreading, a peculiar political party – APGA – was necessarily in the offing by 2002.
Historically, therefore, the founders of APGA were mostly aggrieved members of the PDP who felt that Dr. Alex Ekwueme was unfairly treated with the PDP Presidential ticket that was given to Obasanjo who was not part of the struggle to return the country to democracy. They wanted something they could fall back on and call their own. I gathered that Dr. Chuba Okadigbo and Prince Arthur Eze partly funded it, while Emeka Nwajiuba donated APGA’s first office in Abuja with which it was registered with INEC. Chief Chekwas Okorie(the founding national chairman), Dr. Chris Ngige, Engr. Chris Okoye, Dr. Tim Menaya, Maxi Okwu and Okey Nwosu were some other pioneers as well as Professor Chinedu Nebo who led them in their Friday prayers in Enugu. (These names are by no means exhaustive. I hope to collaborate with the appropriate department in APGA to produce a complete history of the party.)
Many Igbo leaders who were politically conscious keyed into the need for a party…’nke ga abu nke anyi’. As hinted in my ‘An Open letter to Bianca Ojukwu’ published days ago, majority of Ndigbo approved of APGA they would call their own and that guiding philosophy has informed this slogan and sustained it over the years. Though an APP Board of Trustee member as at that time, Ikemba joined APGA and became its flag bearer, for its Igbo-centric and yet national stance.
Though Ikemba came third in his first presidential poll, many believed he could have done better if Ndigbo and minorities in Nigeria had backed him sufficiently. It could be seen from the relatively paltry number of votes garnered by Ikemba that most Igbos who loved and well-regarded him still did not vote for him.
The electoral victories of APGA, though have fairly national spread and improving steadily, are yet to reflect the inherent carrying capacity of the party. If it is indeed a national party propelled by the Igbo spirit, APGA should do a lot better than it is doing at the moment nationally.
APGA has not been able to take over the South East. Its fortunes keep fluctuating between one and two governorship seats in the zone. The reason the party has suffered such relatively low electoral victories despite its national spread and appeal could be because many of the founding gladiators stayed put in PDP and other political that were also formed in 2003 and afterward. It could also be that the party is weary of being tagged an ethnic party, which it is not.
APGA, for me, is a natural national party to articulate and defend not only Igbo interest but also minority rights in Nigeria; the reason being that Ndigbo have been acknowledged as the 2nd largest after the indigenous population anywhere in Nigeria.
The party has fairly and commendably commanded national appeal and it is today the 3rd force. At the legislative elections of 12th April, 2003, the Party won only 1.4% of popular votes and 2 of 360 seats in the House of Representatives and no seats in the Senate. But in the 2011 Legislative election, it won a seat in Senate with Chris Anyanwu and more recently, Chief Victor Umeh is also a senator on the platform of APGA. APGA however now parades many more House ofOR members and members of States Houses of Assembly. The Party has L0cal Government chairmen in the entire Anambra State, one in FCT (Gwagwarada Area Council), elective positions in Niger, Zamfara and here and there.
APGA, therefore, is a natural national Party, which is in the best position to articulate and advance Igbo and minority interests across Nigeria. The problem remains that Ndigbo have not been able to fully translate their love for the party into maximum electoral support. Otherwise there is no reason APGA wouldn’t easily win many more electoral positions in the Niger Delta, Lagos, Kano, Jos, Abuja, Kaduna and indeed in many parts of Nigeria where there exist significant Igbo and minority concentrations.
The current APGA leadership led by Victor Oye has shown it understands this original vision and its strings of electoral victories show it. Despite the obvious increases recorded under its watch, some members still remain antagonistic. Such seemingly implacable members should sheath their sword. APGA must not die. Otherwise the original vision of its founding fathers would be in vain and Ndigbo would be the worse for it.
• Dr. Law Mefor is a concerned APGA member; +234-803-787-2893; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.