The Igbo Struggle Will Continue – Umeh | Independent Newspapers Limited
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The Igbo Struggle Will Continue – Umeh

Posted: Jul 25, 2015 at 12:58 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Victor Umeh is the immediate past National Chairman of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA). In this interview with journalists in his country home in Aguluzigbo in Anaocha Local Government Area, Anambra State, after a church service to mark the end of his tenure, his 53rd birthday and the Silver Jubilee of his marriage, he discusses some of the highpoints of his political career. CHUKWUJEKWU ILOZUE was there. Excerpts…

Hon. Victor Umeh

Hon. Victor Umeh

May we know the essence of today’s celebration?

Why I celebrated and thank God Almighty for what he has done for me?


Today, I have three events in one: I thank God for protecting me and sustaining me while I served as APGA National Chairman all these past years. You know that I had a very turbulent tenure as Chairman of APGA. The reason being that I was laying the foundation for the party just like the missionaries when they came here they were resisted. They were able to preach the good news; the gospel in other to convert those who were resisting them. APGA came out for the major purpose of providing a platform for people who are oppressed or marginalized in Nigeria and if you come to people who are marginalized in Nigeria, Igbo people come as number one because of the Civil War. So we brought that party to give voice to people who are marginalized. Of course like the missionary the party took this place with a big bang and storm in 2003. We won election in the South East as envisaged but our victory was taken away. The party went into a struggle to reclaim the mandate. Anambra State became a pilot scheme for this project and I led that pilot scheme and we were able to reclaim that mandate back for our party through our governor, Mr. Peter Obi, after being in court. If Peter Obi had not reclaimed his mandate through the judicial process, I don’t think APGA will be existing today.

But because it is a human journey, along the line, some people lost faith. That was why in 2005, our former national Chairman acted inappropriately leaving the party to close its rank to keep our struggle on course. That was how I became acting National Chairman. That sparked off a lot of litigation like you are aware, the longest litigation ever waged in political leadership in Nigeria. From 2005 till 2012, I was in the court rooms with our former chairman but thank God we won all through to the Supreme Court.

Was that just what happened? Were there no other problems?

Those who are afraid of APGA were from outside fueling the crisis in the party. Many people have been thinking that the crisis in APGA had to do with internal misunderstanding in the party, but that is not correct. There were people who wanted to kill the party from outside and they were using willing hands within the party as weaklings to see how to kill the party and be against all that external aggression. Like all human endeavour, along the line, we had our own internal problem. We went back to the court and out of the court.

Looking back, what part are you happy about during the turbulence?

But for me, looking back I feel so happy that despite the turbulence I was able to keep the party focused and within the attention of the Nigerian political class. APGA is a party that is appreciated by everybody in Nigeria. It was through the resilience of my leadership that this party was able to achieve so much within the Nigerian polity. Through judicial struggle we were able to redefine a lot of things; through Obi’s challenges we were able to remove, for the first time a sitting Governor in Nigeria. We were able to move through tenure interpretation that the tenure of a Governor starts from the day he took oath of office for four years. I was the one who initiated that suit. I saw that opportunity in the constitution and I used APGA to draw the attention of Nigerian judiciary and we scored a huge surprise to Nigerians. Through that process we removed a Governor after 17 days in office for Obi to go in. So the history of APGA is replete with landmark judicial decisions. Through our litigations both intra and external I was able to prove to Nigeria that the courts have no jurisdiction over internal affairs of political parties.

How much did your leadership do to the party’s extension?

Again, I thank God that through my leadership we were able to make forays into other states; Governor Rochas Okorocha became Governor through my own leadership of APGA standing by him, got Obi a second term in office, got Willie Obiano elected as Governor of Anambra State after APGA’s eight years’ reign in the state. Within those eight years we stepped on the feet of many people; it was a political struggle. So, looking back today there were good days and bad days but I thank God that in the end I was able to complete my tenure of office; conducted a convention and elected a leadership of the party. Again I was able to clear all the litigations hanging on the party, the one that is hanging in the Supreme Court involving Maxi Okwu is a dead case. So, the new leadership we have put in for APGA will drive the party to a great height with minimal distraction unlike what I suffered during my own tenure, so I thank God. So many people wanted to get rid of me but because I was not wrong in any of the things, God protected me. That was the essence of this thanks-giving. Having completed my tenure as Chairman of APGA and gaining National recognition through that process, I feel so fulfilled. The Government of Nigeria gave me an award, Officer of the Federal Republic (OFR), for my contribution towards the development of democracy and the rule of law. I think it is a big achievement.

Would you consider your immediate family a part of your political success?

I have been married for 25 years and God blessed me with seven children, with my wife, a very good wife, so I have cause to thank God for that. And today, 19th July 20, 2015, is my birthday, so I am 53 years old. Many people will not thank God until all their problems are over. But I say I can never do that because when you are waiting for your last problem to be solved you may die, and so you won’t have the opportunity to thank God for all His great work in your life. Everyday should be a day of thanks-giving to God. So, as I am here today, with the show of love I saw today from my people across Igbo land, across political divide, I feel so grateful to God. Life is never complete until one dies. So, I still have energy to continue serving my party; am a member of the Board of Trustees by constitutional provision. My desire is for the leadership that took over from me to achieve great successes for the party, and I will keep supporting that leadership and the government of Anambra State produced by APGA all of these things through my punch, the way God chose it. But most importantly I must tell you people as an Igbo man, I am resting for few weeks, I will come back to tell Nigerians that Igbos will not be taken for a ride. We cannot rest on our oars until our people get their dignity or respect restored in the Nigerian nation.

We are watching the things happening now in Nigeria and I said, God keep us alive, this struggle will continue. Igbos are an important people in Nigeria not just because of their industry, their hardwork, their resourcefulness but they are also a major ethnic group in Nigeria. No matter the circumstances, no matter the situation, nobody in Nigeria can take Igbos for a ride. It will not happen. We will continue that struggle even with the last breath we have particularly me. God decided to create me an Igbo man and I can never rest until our people get their respect and dignity and right restored fully in Nigeria.

How much did the press contribute to your achievements?

I thank the press. You cover everybody but I have never seen greater show of love from any group than the press towards me. The way you relate with me, the way you walk up to me is a great sources of encouragement. I thank God for the journey so far and the struggle continues. As we go on God will continue to provide circumstances for us to continue thanking him and glorify his name. having gone through a difficult period in the life of this party I want to say it today that all those that made it their pass time to fight me and say things that are not true about me both to press and to the public, I have forgiven them for they know not what they do. Those who passed sentence on me that I will not last as APGA chairman about three years ago they will now see that there is God in the affairs of men.

Now, what is left?

So, having completed my tenure, did my best for my party, I have no reason to carry further any animosity for anybody. They have learnt their lessons. They have seen that God is the Supreme Being that controls the universe. Nobody should play God. In any opportunity you find yourself put God first. I always put God first, that is why my miracle in God, I have absolute faith in God as a Christian. Before I do anything I check it thoroughly, that is why they fell by the way side each time they confront me. I ask you to be favourably disposed to APGA and also the government we have in the state. Nobody can help us except if we do so by ourselves; we cannot destroy our land.

There are certain things you say that worry you and after a rest you will fight against them, what are those things?

It is obvious that in the scheme of things as they are today we (the Igbo) are not considered as we ought to be considered. I am not happy about that, and maybe it is a journey only God will determine when we reach that Promised Land. I can tell you that I am not happy with the way things are happening in Igbo land. We are not considered in the decision making process in Nigeria. Elections were not conducted in Igbo land the way they were conducted in other parts of Nigeria. Those who stole our mandate put lack-lustre performance. I want President Muhammadu Buhari to know that Igbos are important people in Nigeria. I want him to reintegrate Igbos in Nigeria and close the grievances of the Civil War.