Posted by News Express | 17 November 2014 | 3,895 times
In this interview, Valentine Obienyem, Media Assistant to immediate past Governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi, corrects what he describes as falsehoods which Chief Victor Umeh, National Chairman of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), has been feeding Nigerians since Peter Obi left APGA to join the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Question: What really informed the exit of former Governor Peter Obi from APGA?
Obienyem: I think in the first place, the exit of Mr. Peter Obi from APGA to the PDP was informed by the consciousness that he was exercising his constitutionally guaranteed right to associate freely with any law-abiding group of his choice and the PDP, as far as we know, is a law-abiding group.
Perhaps you are interested in knowing why he became tired of APGA. It is not only Obi; everybody is tired of APGA because its leaders are more of men that think about today rather than the future. When you deal with a man who thinks about today, he may get all the goodies of the world – houses, cars, fly first class, name it – but he will not register any progress in the strict sense of the world. It is like building a castle in the air; once a violent wind comes, it will bring it down because it is not rooted in enduring foundations.
There is something organic about nurturing a party, but for the current chairman of APGA, party is about using it to leverage for personal gain. If he cared for APGA’s growth, how would he remain the chairman of the party and be vying for senatorial seat? If this is not the highest exemplification of greed and selfishness, what is? To be honest to ourselves, how can a party that is so mightily derided by its leadership ever hope to survive? The irony of it is that he does this with the party people remaining supine, because once one raises one’s voice, one is either suspended or expelled. This means that from the beginning, APGA has never been a political party and those like Obi who struggled to turn that monster into a human being were in the long run driven out of the party.
Asking me what informed the exit of my boss from APGA, you are invariably asking me what informed the exit of people like Chief Martin Agbaso, Ugochukwu Agbala and other big names from the party. You are asking me what some people like Sen. Uche Chukwumerije, Sen. Joy Emordi, Sen. Ben Obi, Hon. Uche Ekwkunife, Hon. Chris Azubogu, Hon. Lynda Ikpeazu and many big names saw and rescinded from the decision to join APGA or leave the party as soon as they joined. The fact of it is that the way APGA is run, it is not a political party. My boss tried to make it one, but it was difficult for him for as the saying goes; “One cannot be a sane man in the midst of mad men.” Those mad men will believe they are normal while yourself is the mad one. And for one whose greed appears to be hereditary, one wonders if any solution is at sight. Did you not witness what happened in Imo State? Ask followers of Agbaso and they will tell you how a few wads were considered above a man who carried for years the storm and stress of Imo APGA.
Look at what is happening. In APGA today, one man, Chief Victor Umeh, is the beginning and end of APGA. The decision of my boss to leave the party was a great one. We note with happiness that he fulfilled his promise to Ojukwu and handed over to an APGA Government. Besides the fact that Victor actually demanded that he should leave, the PDP has also widened his horizon and placed him on a vintage platform where he would serve the people of Anambra State, Ndigbo and Nigerians from the centre as he has been doing and dreaming on expanding.
His leaving APGA has shaken the party to its foundations and some people are crying over that and dancing on graves and are rightly agitated because an APGA shaken to its foundations, and which may likely crash, will affect the potency of the party as an instrument for making personal money.
How do you feel with the criticisms of Ojukwu’s wife, Bianca, and APGA National Chairman, Chief Victor Umeh, over the action?
If you have been following developments, you would have noticed that amidst cacophony of voices, even those from the lunatic fringes, Mr. Obi only responded to Bianca, because she was the only one who spoke with sincerity and was genuinely touched by the development. Obi explained to her that he had to leave because the party had derailed from its original ideals.
If you read Bianca’s interview carefully, you would see she rested the entire crisis in the party on Victor Umeh. She said that APGA rejoiced in pursuing the cat (Chekwas) away, not knowing that they brought in a tiger (Umeh). That rhymed with what Ezeigbo (Ojukwu) always said about him. If you recall, there was a time Ezeigbo banned him from coming to his house and he did not come for two years. It was just when the party was looking for somebody to be used to fight Chief Chekwas Okorie that people like Ambassador Odi Nwosu begged Ezeigbo to forgive him. When he was accepted back and was given undue push, Ezeigbo, who always spoke in the mellow metaphysics of old age, advised Obi and others to watch that little tiger (Umeh), they were feeding with milk to know when it had grown teeth.
As to the reaction of Chief Victor Umeh, all I can tell you is that he has not said anything meaningful since then nor raised any objective point except to display and, indeed, prove the fact that he is paranoid about anything to do with Obi. At first he said that the day Obi left, that he received 7,000 people into APGA in Delta state. Very soon, he said Obi left alone and so on. However, his reaction makes no meaning, what Nigerians should be looking at are the reactions of Nigerians, which are coming in torrents, showing how important Obi is in Nigeria and her politics. Most of those reactions were positive, because they were more of congratulatory notes for him on living APGA to a platform that will allow him serve the totality of Nigerians.
May I honestly tell you that even as a person working for Mr. Obi, I feel humbled that almost all Nigerians are reacting to one man’s action. This shows the importance of Obi to Nigerians in all walks of life.
Is it true that Umeh didn’t benefit from Obi administration despite being the National Chairman of APGA? Or what benefits did he derive from the government?
The irony is that Sir Victor Umeh even opens his mount wide to say that Obi was the one that benefitted from him. A little investigation will reveal the truth to you. Let me even use myself as an example. Before I joined Obi in 2006, yes, I had written books – in fact, during the launching of one of my books entitled Ojukwu: The Last Patriot, Chief Victor Umeh launched it with N100,000 and I will remain ever grateful to him. I cannot deny that because of present differences. Obi at that time, when he was not yet the Governor, launched it with N500,000. Do you know the thing striking about him? He announced N250,000 and ended up giving me N500,000, but a shrewd businessman that he is, he asked me to open an account with Fidelity Bank and as soon as I did so, he paid the money into the account. At that time, in addition to my work, I did a bit of consultancy and had many consultants hiring me to write papers for them for presentation at conferences. I did all this and was able to live in relative comfort, but a turning point in my life was when I joined the Government of Peter Obi. Not in terms of easy money, but it offered me limitless opportunities. You can juxtapose this with Victor Umeh, who was a Personal Assistant to Chief Joseph Okonkwo (Ofiadulu), but after Obi brushed him up, he decided to remain ungrateful. He had the luck of dealing with a man whose patience is legendary. Based on his behaviour, a friend told me that like Croesus he had lost hope in human beings. You know Croesus was very rich with so many friends. When they helped to squander his health they all left him. When eventually he recovered, they came back, but Croesus chased them away with lashing scorn, saying he had lost hope in human beings.
Obi was an international business man before I met him. I was part of his government from the beginning to the end. Though I had travelled to West African countries, my first real trip out of the country, to the USA, was because of him and thenceforth to over 50 countries. The same thing applies to Umeh. The other day I saw the receipt with which Obi paid for Victor Umeh’s first trip out of the country, I shuddered.
Talking how meeting Obi became a turning point let me give you one example. Most of Obi’s business associates are ready to give me goods on credit to support a small business of mine and pay thereafter. In fact, when I met one of them, he said since I have worked for Obi for years and he did not find me wanting, that he would give me any amount of credit I want. Virtually all of them say so, because they know Obi over the years; a case of transferred trust. I did not enjoy such before I met him and God will punish me if tomorrow I open my mouth and say I have not gained anything from the man, because of political differences or entrenched hatred as the case of Umeh. He is a perfect illustration of the proverbial Achebian nwa nza that challenged his chi after being over-fed.
Before Victor met Obi, the job he did was being the servant to Mr. Joseph Okonkwo (Ofiadilu). Through Obi he now knows people in Nigeria though he would always turn back like a person under the influence of hate to say he was the one who actually introduced Obi to those men. You can see that I share the same history of moving from obscurity to limelight with Umeh, but where I get annoyed with him is that he has suddenly turned back trying to chew off the finger that fed him, to the point of saying that he was the one that made Obi. Obi met him as a Bank Chairman and a Chairman and Director in at least seven quoted companies. Umeh met Obi as a servant to Ofiadulu. This is a notorious fact. So who made whom? You can answer that question yourself.
I mean, before he became Governor he was a successful trader, banker and investor. He bought two of his houses in London before he became Governor.
Check Victor’s life since he graduated: all his houses and cars and were bought because he met Mr. Peter Obi and we rejoice with him. If he did not meet Obi, God might have worked miracles in his life through another person, but since he preferred to work it through Obi, Umeh must continue to treat him with reverence, thus proclaiming the goodness of God. If he refuses to do this, God will not be happy with him.
Beyond politics, Umeh’s strange behaviour is dangerous to the state. If the society does not condemn him, good-spirited Nigerians may be tempted to stop further acts of charity, because the beneficiaries will tomorrow turn into monsters.
Is it true that Obi and Umeh parted ways because of Umeh’s insistence that the former governor must hold local government election in Anambra?
We have passed that stage. Sir Victor Umeh is a very clever man. He has a thousand and one things under his sleeves; depending on which one will appeal to the audience, he brings it out. The fact is that anybody who tolerated Umeh for even a year must be a saint. How many months did he get on with Gov. Rochas Okorocha before he declared him persona non grata in Imo State Government House? During Obi’s time, he nominated many commissioners, but Rochas would have none of that. Remember he made him APGA leader when he was seeking the key to his heart, but the man seeing him for what he is left him so soon. He used APGA at various stages to make money from people such as from Chief Ifeanyi Ubah, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, among others. When he is with you and you are servicing him, he can call you God if that is what pleases you. You cannot take flattery away from him, since he realised it is a vice which only the greatest saints have immunity against. At each time, the position he takes is dictated by what he will gain, citing local government election as the reason he fell out with Obi is not true. I would rather prefer if you ask him if it was Obi that made him to sell party nomination forms to candidates for local government election on many occasions and refuse to balance them the money when elections did not hold.
Somebody like him who feeds on blackmail will not survive serious politics because once he is not in control, nothing makes meaning to him. When some big names wanted to enter APGA, he frustrated that because one of the conditions was that the party would look for a new Chairman.
Umeh’s aide, Stanley Okeke, accused the former governor of collecting 10 per cent from contractors on all the contracts awarded by the Obi administration. What is your take on this?
It is not up to a year I started seeing Mr. Okeke with Umeh; it is therefore safe to assume that Stan does not know him very well. Meanwhile, Stan did not witness what he said firsthand and would have most probably repeated the lies Umeh told him. We knew Umeh when he was living in a rented house, but Stan met him in duplexes. All Victor made were from 2003 or thereabouts when he met Obi. Obi changed his life.
Anybody that knows Obi knows that this is a blatant lie. Under him, Anambra State built the most impressive network of roads. Under him Anambra State got first of everything: Secretariat, Teaching Hospital, Lab for testing construction materials, among others. When he handed over, he left billions of naira in the treasury. The debate in Ekiti, as in other states in Nigeria, is on how much unpaid debt from money borrowed from banks or through bonds was left by former governors, but in Anambra, it is about how much money was left. Is this an evidence of a man that collected 10%? Everybody in APGA knows that most contracts meant for APGA party faithful were hijacked by greedy party officials.
Was it true that Obi pushed for the ouster of Umeh from office as APGA National Chairman? That he was behind several court cases against Umeh.
Even after Obi left office, in his usual manner of quaking when Obi’s name is mentioned, he accused Obi of sponsoring Chief Maxi Okwu, when it was not true. He went as far as openly requesting that Obi should leave APGA. To stop all this madness and cure him of his paranoid condition, Obi left APGA; still he is not satisfied, but instead of rebuilding APGA he is busy dancing on graves of good people. I pity those that allow him to do that as if Aguluzigbo does not have its own graves.
In one of your interviews, you said Obi was a banker, a claim that Umeh’s aide has faulted, saying the former governor is a trader.
I am sure Stan does not know Obi well enough. I am sure if I had called him an investor, Stan will also contest that. You do not blame him because he does not know Obi. Please help me with the definition of a banker. They want to re-define who a banker is because of Mr. Peter Obi. How can somebody say that a man who is the highest shareholder in a bank, a man who had been chairman of two banks and owns substantial shares in all the banks in Nigeria is not a banker? Perhaps he thinks those to be called bankers are cashiers and front desk officers.
So, how is the former governor doing in PDP and what is plan for the future, politically?
Obi does well wherever he is. He will do well in the PDP because he is intrinsically good and his goodness will radiate wherever he is. It was not APGA that made him good, and people like Victor Umeh are examples to prove this, otherwise APGA would have made them good as well.
Let me tell you a story: There is this particular shop where Obi buys boxes whenever he is in London. When Dr. Mac Rae was the European Ambassador to Nigeria and Obi paid him the first visit, he told him that Mr. Fonzy, the owner of that shop and his friend told him, before he reported to Nigeria, to look out for his friend (Obi), who was one of the governors in the Nigeria who had bought boxes and did business with him for over 20 years and relate with him for Obi was one good Nigerian he had seen and did business with. When eventually Obi visited Mac Rae in the European Union office in Abuja, he related that to him and pronto, they became friends and Anambra State, I am sure, got many things from the EU. When we travelled to London, Mr. Fonzy confirmed the meeting and what he told Mac Rae.
Today, he is being invited to all the parts of the world to deliver lectures. Today, Nigerians look up to him when they want to make comments on exemplary leadership. Today, the church is proud of him for restoring the glory of schools and health institutions in the state. Today governments everywhere try to study Obimetrics which was what made Obi to succeed in a state like Anambra. All these people cannot be wrong against one man that is right – Victor Umeh.
•Photo shows Obienyem.
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