The recent victory of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) in Anambra State may, indeed, enbolden it to go for more exploits, especially in the South Eastern states, more so that a new lease of life is about to come to the party in Imo State with the reported migration of some political heavyweights into the party. Names such as Chief Jerry Chukwueke, former Imo State PDP Chairman Dr. Alex Obi, Senator Bright Nwanne, among others, have been mentioned as fresh bloods in the ailing party.
APGA, as a political party in Nigeria, has a chequered history. An assumed Igbo party, it has continued to drift on the sea of Nigerian politics like a rudderless ship. Time, and time again, its leadership tussle had dangled between Chekwas Okorie and Victor Ume, until the later prevailed. Despite the whirlwinds it has faced, the party has had flashes of success in the south east primarily because of its affinity to the late Ikemba Nnewi, General Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, who is highly respected among Ndi-Igbo because of his role in the Nigeria-Biafra war.
The party is currently in control of Anambra State, home of the late Ojukwu, where Gov. Willie Obiano, one of its stalwarts, took over from Peter Obi and has won a second term.
In 2011, the party got the tremendous support of the Imo State electorate and its flag bearer then, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, became governor. It was indeed an easy ride for him to the most priced Douglas House. Thereafter, political analysts had a hectic time determining the reasons for the APGA victory. While some attributed it to the looming image of Ojukwu in the party, being the latter-day hero of Ndigbo, others said it was the philanthropic gestures of Okorocha that made him the darling of the masses. Yet, a few saw the people’s rejection of the incumbent at that time, Chief Ikedi Ohakim, who was accused of causing the flogging and humiliation of a Catholic priest, as reason for a change.
What many failed to remember, however, was that APGA, in the previous polls where Martin Agbaso was its flag bearer, was strongly thought to have won the governorship, but some powerful hands felt compelled to present the mantle to Ohakim who, after losing at the PDP primaries, picked up the ticket of little known Peoples Progressive Alliance (PPA) to contest an election in which his townsman, Prof. Maurice Iwu, was the umpire. Of course, the result turned out even more controversial than the infamous June 12. He was later to return to PDP.
These seemingly stolen victories of APGA point to the indelible influence of the party in the state. So also the strings of unbroken victory it had recorded since its inception in Imo. Had Okorocha not chosen to ditch the party for All Progressives Congress (APC) midway into his first tenure, APGA would have remained the ruling party in Imo State today. Curiously, since Gov. Okorocha walked away from APGA, his reign has been as bumpy as the roads he builds, despite a spirited effort by his team to convince the people that he meant well with his often controversial policies.
It is pertinent to point out that in a polarized Nigeria, where existing ethnic groups are busy scheming for their various interests, commonsense demands that every group girds its loins before appearing at the centre both politically, socially and economically. The northerners as well as the south westerners are masters of this game of water-tight cooperation among themselves. The north were known to have made copious use of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN), the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and today the All Progressives Congress (APC). Since the days of the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, it is known that the Yoruba had maintained its unison in the support of any political party that appeared to identify with its cause, regardless of the success or failure of the party at the federal level. In the first republic, the south west embraced Action Group. In the second republic, they were together in the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN). And in the third republic, they all pitched their tents with, and voted massively for, the Alliance for Democracy (AD) which got registered as a third political party only at the insistence of leaders of that region. The nation’s leaders were desirous of creating two parties – the defunct All Peoples Party (APP) and the PDP – to break the tradition of ethnic politics. AD metamorphosed to Action Congress (AC) which, just like its precursors, the south west used as their bargaining instrument.
This scenario appears to lend credence to theories in some quarters that the Igbo are their own problem in the Nigerian jigsaw, given that they are often disunited. Some call that regional cooperation ethnicity, but surely, to be loyal to one’s ethnic origin is not as atrocious as it has been made to seem because self preservation and identity seeking is paramount in human existence. What is rather offensive is when one carries the ethnic loyalty to a point of aggression and oppression of others.
Down here in the South East, there is an often peddled notion that it is better to align with the party at the centre so as to be “hooked to the national grid”. In other words, by belonging to the party at the centre, amenities are likely to flow freely to the region. It is expected this time around that the electorate in the south east would be wise enough to reject this lie which experience had often exposed to be what it is. Imo State can hardly forget its glorious days under the Late Chief Sam Mbakwe as governor on the platform of the defunct Nigerian Peoples Party (NPP) perceived then to be Igbo party. The people cannot say well of the subsequent days when they heeded to this notion and went “federal” through PDP and APC.
On the flipside, it can be argued that a responsible party at the centre is likely to woo states and regions not aligned to them, using the so-called dividends of democracy. States in alignment with them are likely to be seen as conquered territories that need no more efforts exerted in them, kind of taken for granted. We found this playing up when the PDP decided to pick General Olusegun Obasanjo as its presidential candidate to placate the Yoruba already wounded by the June 12 debacle when their son, the late Chief Moshood Abiola, was denied the chance to be president. It paid off for PDP which swept the polls in the south west then.
And so, as 2019 races towards the entire nation, Imo people should be asking themselves a pertinent question as to where to pitch their tents in view of the turbulent days they had faced since the exit of former Gov. Achike Udenwa. The three alternatives lined up before them are APC, APGA, and PDP. On the average, the Igbo man finds it difficult to pander to political parochialism and often wants to be seen as nationalistic. Inasmuch as we may consider that as positive, the trend appears to have short-changed Ndigbo in the politics of Nigeria and makes them look like a people without direction. Indeed, they are, at best, taken for granted by a generality of Nigerians. And so, if all people of the Igbo nation come under the umbrella of APGA, they must feel a sense of pride instead of remorse. They must understand that by strengthening APGA, they have a trump card to play when they find themselves at the game table. A better, bigger APGA can also reach out to neighbouring Niger Deltans as well as the south west in matters of common interest.
The APGA alternative for Imo is now fully enhanced by the resounding second-term victory of Gov. Willy Obiano. Again, it appears attractive, given the fact that the PDP is at present in disarray while the ruling APC had in recent past unleashed a feudalistic rulership on the people, a system that is quite anomalous to the people’s spirit and existence. And remember always the Ojukwu factor in the party that is romantically referred to, among Ndi-Igbo, as nke anyi (our own).
Odu is an Owerri-based journalist, firstname.lastname@example.org