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Friday, 5 January 2018

November 13: Victor Umeh’s Date With History

November 13: Victor Umeh’s Date With History

Victor Umeh

Since 1999 when we journeyed into the Fourth Republic, I have decided to stay away from partisan politics.

It is not because of the notion that politics is a dirty game. I just wanted to be a spectator, though I have not foreclosed my occupying public office in my lifetime.

Nigeria’s type of politics, for me, is skewed; but there are some politicians I still admire their game style. They are those who bend for the windstorm to pass while they maintain their stance.

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They are not known turncoats. One of them is Victor Umeh, the former All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) national chairman, whose chieftaincy title is ‘Ohamadike’ (meaning ‘a great man is known by the people’).

The first time I encountered Umeh in person was about five years ago at the Murtala Mohammed Airport, Lagos. That was when he was having issues with then Governor Peter Obi’s style of politics, which I once described as “ofe akwu politics”.

I condemned Obi’s style of politics because it was he that Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu took to Ndi Anambra and pleaded for votes. According to (now the late) Ikemba Nnewi, a vote for Obi meant honouring him. And Ndi Anambra obeyed.

I predicted in one of my write-ups in 2013 that Obi was about jumping ship, abandoning the legacy Ojukwu left for him. He did not disappoint; immediately he finished his term as governor, Obi left APGA for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), despite that APGA was still supporting PDP during presidential elections.

Umeh’s first stint in politics was 1998 when he became a founding member of the PDP. He was elected state treasurer in Anambra in 1999.

He resigned from the PDP in 2001 and joined hands with other progressive minds to register APGA, eventually in 2002. He was the first national vice chairman (South East) of APGA, and later its national treasurer, and then the national chairman.

As the national chairman of APGA, Umeh led the party to new glorious heights. He stood by Obi all through his legal battle with PDP’s Chris Ngige until the mandate was reclaimed on March 15, 2006.

He achieved re-election of Obi in February 2010 in a feat then seen by many as Herculean. In 2011, he led the party to win the governorship election in Imo State through Rochas Okorocha, who later joined the All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2013.

He also led APGA to resounding victory in the 2013 governorship election in Anambra, which ushered in the government of Willie Obiano. And as one whose name aligns with his destiny, he led Obiano’s re-election campaign team to victory on November 18, 2017.

However, Obi, while trying to discredit, Umeh, had absolved himself of circumstances that led to the emergence of Obiano as his successor. He accused Umeh of imposing Obiano on APGA in 2013. Now, Obiano’s performance, which earned him a second term, is a testimony that Umeh did not bark up the wrong tree.

I know some ‘Pharisees’ would be watching him now, hands akimbo, saying “he saved others; if he is really a victor, let him save himself”. And I believe he will.

There have been many obstacles along his way to the National Assembly from where many of his constituents believe he will deliver huge democracy dividends to them.

The Department of State Services (DSS) was once unleashed against Umeh. He was arrested at his Aguluezigbo home in Anambra and later whisked to Abuja for questioning on his alleged sponsorship of the pro-Biafra group, Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). But for APGA, the arrest was politically-motivated.

It is my candid view that the Anambra Central senatorial zone re-run on November 13, 2018 is Umeh’s to lose. While his opponents were looking for ways to stop the election, Umeh has maintained that the date is sacrosanct.

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The Court of Appeal had, in its judgment on November 17, 2017, ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct a re-run election for Anambra Central. Good enough, INEC is on the same page with Umeh.

Personalities in Anambra, including Igwe Kanu Okpalaeke, the traditional ruler of Ndiokpalaeke, have expressed their support for him and called on the electorate in Anambra Central to come out en masse and vote for Umeh, saying nothing can stop the election.

Again, APGA Media Warriors Forum says January 13 is payback time for Umeh. Chinedu Obigwe, the national coordinator, has called on the Anambra electorate to drum support for the APGA candidate in the forthcoming re-run, noting that Umeh contributed immensely to the success of APGA and development of Anambra in general.

 He stated that it was time for Anambrarians to compensate him for his good work and contributions to the state’s growth. “Ibobo Aguleri, as he is fondly called, has paid his dues and has contributed immeasurably to the success of the APGA administration in Anambra.

Thus, it’s time to pay him back for his commendable efforts in ensuring that Anambra did not fall into the hands of treasury looters,” he said.

November 13 is a date, for me, Umeh will forever relish. It is his date with destiny and history.

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