Posted by News Express | 26 October 2014 | 4,815 times
In a recent interview, the National Chairman of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Chief Victor Umeh allegedly called the former governor of Anambra State, Mr Peter Obi, as an empty bag. Some journalists tracked down Obi’s aide, Mr Valentine Obienyem, for an interview with his boss, Obi. Obienyem insisted that his boss only responds to issues that would contribute to national development and does not have the time to exchange words with men he described as ‘political irritants’. After much prodding, Obienyem ended up speaking to the press himself, with the warning that the views he expressed are strictly his. Excerpt is courtesy of Sunday Sun.
Welcome back to Anambra State
Thanks. I always visited with my boss, only that it’s been more of sneaking in and out.
Why do you have to sneak in and out?
When I say sneaking in and out, I only mean coming in quietly and leaving quietly.
How has life been outside government?
Well, I think it has been busier. I was lucky to serve a man who is adjudged to have performed excellently as governor of Anambra State. We are all proud of him, because he served so well to the point that institutions that worked with him are all trying to celebrate him. We are now busier, traveling from one part of the state to another and from one part of the world to another.
In the last three months for example, we have been to the USA and the UK three times. We attended the 69th United Nations General Assembly session during which he spoke at one of the side events on the post-MDGs agenda, because he was the best governor on mainstreaming the MDGs in Nigeria. We also attended the World Bank Spring meeting. Obi also spoke in one of the sessions because they recognise his expertise in financial management. One can go on and on.
Locally, institutions beg him to come and speak to them basically by way of sharing experiences on what made him succeed as the governor of Anambra State. What is interesting is that most of these institutions offer to pay for his trips, accommodation and honorarium. He often agreed that his transportation and accommodation should be taken care of, but not honorarium, on the basis that sharing experiences is a way of contributing to the progress of the country without demanding anything in return.
Of course, he has other activities that occupy his time. He often solicits assistance from institutions with which he assists churches to set up faith-based revolving micro credit schemes and for the rehabilitation of schools, especially those in the remote parts of the state.
What can you say about his recent defection to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)?
As far as I am concerned, that is a non-issue. When has exercising one’s right to association become a subject of inquisition?
Some think it’s normal, others see it as betrayal. What can you say about this?
We shall soon know who betrayed whom. I have watched with amusement the wry humour some people have made out of it. Some are showing videos, others visit Ojukwu’s grave to dance, others speak in tongues and I ask is it because one man decided to exercise his right of association? In fact, I celebrated the reactions, because to me, no defection elicited such reactions in Nigeria perhaps since the evolution of parties with the exception of Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu’s membership of NPN. It shows how important Obi is in Nigeria. To have elicited such reactions means that the man is an institution, a colossus.
I sympathise with APGA people for crying and rolling on the ground on the loss of a man regarded as the face of APGA in Nigeria. The implication is that since this man has left, APGA is as good as dead, but it is not like that. Being his own person, he left alone and that means APGA can still reinvent itself. Moreover, they should understand that he left APGA because he was not wanted, and because the party had since lost track of its advancement because of the greed of one man.
The chairman of APGA, Sir Victor Umeh, was quoted as saying that Obi should not be called the face of APGA, because APGA made him and not the other way round. Do you agree?
If Chief Victor Umeh wants, let him declare that the sun rises from the west and people will merely laugh at him because he cannot change existential truth by mere mortal pronouncement. Why worry yourself about what Victor says when the other 99% believes that Obi was the face of APGA in the world?
As for Obi making APGA or APGA making him, Obi has not thought along that line. It’s Nigerians, based on what Obi did for APGA as a political party, that submitted that he made APGA, so Victor’s point is laughable as it is baseless.
Umeh even claims that he also contributed in making Obi. He shares the faults of garrulous people everywhere. When you encounter people that talk a lot, you will see that they do so without circumspection.
Before Obi went into politics, he was chairman of many quoted companies, including two banks. Obi succeeded in APGA not because of wolves like Umeh who are perpetually after their selfish gains, but because of his inherent character which his pedigree before he became governor would substantiate. Obi is good, Obi has character; he is humble and trustworthy. He did not learn these virtues because he was an APGA member and will certainly not depart from them because he joined the PDP.
Each time Victor talks, his purpose is not to pass information, not to instruct, not to correct inexactitudes, but to diminish Obi. How can he say that APGA made Obi? Between him and Obi, who would we say that APGA made? The other day, I was in London with Obi, and he was trying to pack into one of his buildings in London from another one. He acquired both before he became the governor. As we were going through documents, he showed me one document that contained the amount he used to secure Victor’s first international passport for him, and the one covering his first overseas trip. I know that his first car, a Mercedes Benz V-boot, was bought for him by Obi’s younger brother. I knew the two-room apartment where he lived before he built mansions all over the place and now living like a king. Gentlemen, you can judge who benefited from whom.
He said it himself that without Obi’s faithfulness, APGA could not have reached where it is now. I remember the day he presented the Most Trustworthy Party Man Award to Obi, and said if not for his consistency in going to court and fighting his impeachment, APGA could not have succeeded. Juxtapose it with what he says today and your only conclusion will be that the man is only guided by the dictates of the time and not by truth.
In his last interview, I even read where he chronicled what he did for Obi to return to power after his impeachment. I was at the centre of it all, and I can tell you that the only man that believed in Obi was Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu. If not because of Obi’s tenacity or if he depended on people like Umeh, he would not have come back. I remember during his impeachment, some people went to meet Umeh and he told them that their brother was gone for good. It was when the first judgment restoring him was delivered that Umeh started to lean towards him again. I remember the day the Court of Appeal delivered judgment; I came back from Singapore that morning with Obi and had to board a 7am Sosoliso flight from Lagos to Enugu to be in court. The moment the judgment was delivered, Umeh asked us to wait at Enugu; that he would come there with Dim Ojukwu who was paying a condolence visit to the Akpamgbos in Enugu-Ukwu. On a second thought, Obi decided to call Ojukwu himself, who asked to know the wordings of the judgment. Obi told him the judge said he should take over immediately, and Ojukwu said if it was so, he should move to the Government House. That was how he left, contrary to Umeh’s own position, from Enugwu-Ukwu to the Government House, and that was how Obi eventually was reinstated. So, in all his travails, the only man that followed him and not motivated by lucre, was Ojukwu.
In fact, that was why Obi was touched over the lamentations of Ojukwu’s wife, Ambassador Bianca, and decided to explain to her what happened, and assured her that a change of platform is not change of principles. That is also why Obi said he would not reply to any other person on his reasons for leaving APGA, because others are not sincere at all.
What would you say is APGA’s problem?
I think APGA’s problem is 90% caused by Chief Victor Umeh. He is not a good party man. APGA started dying the day he was made the chairman. We wished that Chief Chekwas Okorie continued. As Mrs. Ojukwu said, the dismissal of Chekwas Okorie and the appointment of Umeh is like chasing away a cat to bring in the tiger. Dim Chukwumemka Odumegwu Ojukwu saw this coming, because he actually advised against the empowerment of Umeh and warned that the party should monitor the “little tiger being fed with milk closely to know when it grows teeth.” Look at the party and its history and you will discover that his idea of leadership of a political party is to expel anybody that dared question him in any way. Look at the national chairman of the PDP, he has been able to win those that left the party back and even more people for the party because he understands what party leadership is. The man is like a chief priest, appeasing different gods with what they need. On the contrary, Umeh sees himself as a god residing on the Olympian that should be appeased by many chief priests. This is why he always celebrates people leaving APGA.
When Obi was forced to leave the party, what Umeh said was that 7,000 others entered the same day. What is amazing and wicked about Nigerians is that while all attention is directed at Obi, nobody remembers those 7,000 that he boasted he received into APGA.
Umeh is the problem of the party because he has not allowed internal democracy to work. He is the chairman, the publicity secretary and everything of APGA. When the party went to the National Conference, he was the delegate. As chairman, he is also the senatorial candidate. I mean, how can a party that tolerates such a circus show survive? I am sure that deep inside him, he does not believe in APGA and whatever it represents. He is a nihilist who only sees APGA as a means of livelihood and amassing wealth. Since he is not contented, APGA would continue to lay on the ground under him.
Are you aware that the same Victor Umeh aspires to be a senator?
That one is not my business. If the people of Anambra Central, having known his character, feel that he is fit to represent them, so be it.
Could you comment on your boss’ successor, Chief Willie Obiano?
No word on him. He does not need to be distracted.
•Photo shows APGA National Chairman Victor Umeh.
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