Embattled National Chairman of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Chief Victor Umeh met with some journalists recently to clear his name over the lingering crisis in the party.
Based on excerpts published in the Guardian news paper, Umeh is insisting that Anambra State Governor Peter Obi and his allies were the ones fueling the crisis.
Is it true that you shunned a stakeholders meeting summoned by Anambra State Governor Peter Obi to resolve the crisis in APGA?
MY attention was drawn to newspaper publications, where it was reported that Imo State Governor Rochas Okorocha and I shunned a peace meeting convened at Awka on November 6.
It was reported that a text message was sent to me, notifying me of the meeting, but I deliberately shunned the meeting.
I wish to state unequivocally that nobody sent me any text inviting me to any meeting at Government House, Awka for the purpose of pursuing reconciliation in APGA.
On Friday, November 2, I travelled to London to attend the APGA-UK chapter convention scheduled to hold on November 3 and also to honour an invitation of Igbo Union in Oxford for the late Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu’s birthday, where I was one of the guest speakers.
Before my departure, there was no indication that there would be a meeting anywhere where reconciliation in APGA would be discussed. I had planned this trip and had concluded my travel plans to leave Nigeria on November 2 and to return on Wednesday, November 7.
I was, therefore, shocked when I returned and read that I was invited to a reconciliation meeting and I shunned it.
Nothing can be farther from the truth.
How then did the report come about?
I investigated the story and I was told that it was when I travelled that Obi, on November 3 sent text messages to some people, inviting them to a stakeholders meeting at Government House on Tuesday, November 6 by 1pm.
I was also shown a text message sent to Obi by Chief Chris Ejike Uche, our Deputy National Chairman (South), informing him that he should shift the meeting to Tuesday, November 13, because both Okorocha and I had travelled to London and would come back on November 8.
He went further to say that the Tuesday meeting was sudden and there was need for Okorocha and I to be in attendance in any meeting that would be held. This text message was also shown to me.
But from what I have read, I have seen it as one of the serial blackmails against me to create an impression that I don’t want peace in APGA.
If Obi wanted to hold a peace meeting, is it through text message that he should invite the National Chairman of his party?
It is curious that I was said to have been sent a text message instead of a letter, which any of his aides could have dropped in my house or even put a call to me, either by himself or through any of his aides, that there would be a meeting I was expected to attend. None of these happened.
It was, therefore, clear to me that I was not wanted in the meeting.
Why were you not wanted at the meeting?
Obi did not want me to attend the meeting, so that they would continue to launch their propaganda against me as being difficult for people to read.
Let me say without equivocation that if there is anybody who wants peace to return to APGA, it is me. I have never instigated any crisis in APGA.
It is, therefore, hypocritical that the people who are instigating crisis in APGA are trying to portray me as somebody who is not amenable to reconciliation.
You are always accusing one another of being responsible for the problem in APGA. Who really is behind this crisis?
The present crisis in APGA is being sponsored by Obi since 2011, but kept denying this until it came to the centre stage, where he now took over.
All kinds of things have been done to remove me as national chairman of the party, starting from October last year when they sponsored a petition against me to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The EFCC thoroughly investigated me, my bank account, everything I had, including my transactions as an Estate Surveyor and Valuer, of which I made available all the records to them. At that time, I was accused of embezzling party funds and living in opulence.
The EFCC, after going through records of my income as a private professional estate surveyor and valuer and after justifying all that they found that I had, cleared me of any wrongdoing.
The auditors appointed by the party at the convention that held in Awka last year also audited the APGA account and returned a verdict of transparent running of party accounts.
The INEC-appointed auditor that audited the account of APGA for last year returned the same verdict of the transparent handling of the financial affairs of the party. That is why they no longer talk about my embezzling party funds.
On June 19, this year, some people from our National Working Committee (NWC) were procured to launch an attack of removing me from office. They pursued that one, but it has failed, as INEC has pushed them away with a letter affirming me as the national chairman of APGA and particularly dismissing all the purported actions they took against me and the national secretary.
They returned to the High Court in Enugu State, where they got a jankara order stopping me from parading myself as national chairman of APGA and boasted that within two weeks, the whole thing would be over at the court.
In all the suits against me, and sometimes with the national secretary and sometimes with other national officers of the party, the sole issue they have been canvassing is that there was no convention that elected me as the national chairman and also the other officers of the party.
But Nigerians know that on the February 10, last year in Awka, APGA held a national convention, where all the national officers were elected for another four years.
At that convention, APGA adopted President Goodluck Jonathan as its presidential candidate. It was monitored by INEC, which also produced a report approving the convention and election of new officers of the party. That report has been tendered in the court.
That same convention was attended by Obi, Bianca Ojukwu and Tim Menakaya. All those now attacking the elected leadership of the party were there, but what they are claiming now is that there was no secret ballot in electing us from that election, as enshrined in the party’s constitution.
You do secret ballot when two people are contending for one position, but the officers of the party were elected unopposed at the convention.
Are your opponents not aware of these issues and facts?
They are aware of all these. All their efforts are aimed at destroying the party and keeping it in a manner that it can no longer function. I have taken time to elaborate on this to show that those destroying the party are the ones now crying wolf that they want to make peace in APGA.
What gives you this confidence?
I have not seen anything they can do to achieve their wild goose chase in dismantling the leadership of the party, because they were part of creating the leadership of the party.
I have never, as national chairman, worked against the party or any member in any manner. Instead, I have devoted my energy in building this party.
Last year, because of our desire to get this party going, I reduced myself to a local government party agent in the governorship election in Imo State to ensure that APGA succeeded.
Okorocha has also been portrayed as not wanting peace in APGA?
Any attempt to drag the name of Okorocha into the matter as somebody who does not want peace in the party has defeated the text message I was shown, where he described Okorocha as his brother.
If there is anybody promoting the interest of APGA in Nigeria, it is Okorocha, who doesn’t hide his APGA identity and flies APGA flags in all his cars and Government House.
He is a proud member of APGA, unlike Obi, who wouldn’t like APGA to move.