Court will determine if Obiano picked wrong forms, says Agbaso
Ochudo Martin Agbaso, National Chairman of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), in this interview with Leo Sobechi, says problems in the party have reached final resolution point.
Is it true that you abdicated abandoned your stakes in APGA in 2007?
You don’t have your records right. After 2007, I was in court for four years fighting the injustice that was meted to me. And when the case finally came to an end at the Supreme Court, I helped APGA win election in 2011, when we won two seats to the National Assembly, both at the senate and congressional levels and won the governorship by defeating an incumbent. So, it is not true that I left in 2007. And abdication is not right word, because it is not a throne.
Your detractors recall that Rochas Okorocha approached you to cede every right to the structure for him to contest the governorship in 2007…
He did not approach me to cede whatever rights. In fact, what people don’t know, but which I have started discussing these few days is that my battle with Rochas (Governor Okorocha) for the heart and soul of APGA in Imo State, our governorship tussle at the primary; were the fiercest political battle I had ever to overcome in my career; because, it was violent, it was just crazy.
It was towards the end of that tussle that we now relied on the National Working Committee to decide on which list of delegates should be upheld. Basically, he came into APGA and had some people compromised against me, I am synonymous with APGA. He came in from Action Alliance or whatever party; they gave him a line up. So the issue was whose list of delegates was NWC going to approve? The only time I accepted to work with him was when Victor Umeh told me that Rochas has compromised all the members of the NWC from Imo north, and we have twelve local government councils in Orlu zone out of the 27. Umeh said all the 12 chairmen from Orlu, in addition to a few other key people that (Umaru) Shinkafi brought, had all been compromised. He said the best bet was for me to make peace with him (Okorocha). I told him I wanted us to fight all the way, but he (Umeh) said it was not necessary. Of course, at that time a lot of water had gone under the bridge. Umeh now brokered “the peace” that put Rochas on the slot for four years. He (Okorocha) was to be governor for four years and hand over to me after the first four years. I was to provide the deputy and at my turn, he would provide the deputy. Again, I was to use my structure and also provide funding. This is in an agreement and I can avail you of a copy; that after four years, he also would provide the structure and funding to help me become governor.
That was the agreement. And we had just two hours to decide on that, because at that point we were speaking at about 1.00pm and the NWC meeting that was going to determine our fate was holding by 4pm. So, by the time we had finished the preliminary discussions, I had two hours. I consulted with two or three stakeholders within my (campaign) organization and people that I knew very well, as well as, my family. Everybody’s attitude was, leave this whole thing and just walk away, it is not worth it, you can see that people you relied on have betrayed you. That Umeh in particular has betrayed you, because what he is telling you that others were compromised, he was the key person that was compromised. As national chairman, he would have over-ruled those other persons. But, in any case, I have deep-rooted affection for APGA. I said if I walk away, APGA will lose the election, rather let us go and fight. That was what happened. And of course, there was no pecuniary considerations, no money exchanged hands. If anything, I was the one that spent money; I brought the money that was invested in the campaign and the structure.
With benefit of hindsight will it be right to conclude that part of what motivated Rochas to defect from APGA was to vitiate the agreement?
I cannot speak for Rochas, but all I know is that from the day one that we reached that agreement, his motives were less than honorable. I don’t think he wanted to keep that agreement.
Could that be reason he decided to vilify your younger brother, his former deputy?
Absolutely! My younger brother worked very well with him, never did anything wrong; they were best of friends. But, because of the agreements that we had, he needed to find a reason to walk away from the agreement.
You used your contacts to track the money in question, but why has it remained silent about the character and person of Governor Okorocha?
Well, by my training I don’t chase shadows. What was important for me then was to prove to the world that as an Agbaso, my brother will not take bribe, an Agbaso stands firm. I needed to prove that to the world that my brother had nothing to do with the (alleged bribe) money. Of course, I hired forensic auditors who investigated the matter and the money was traced to Rochas’ brother-in-law and in Lebanon and Dubai. The records are still there and I can avail you of a copy. It is in the public domain, all over the place and on the internet. The issue should have been how come the authorities never did anything about Imo State money they discovered in Dubai and Lebanon in HSBC bank accounts.
It is alleged that after you conducted the governorship primary of APGA in 2013, you threatened to teach Obiano a political lesson; now, are you a product of gang up against the governor’s second term?
If you know my antecedents, I have no time for that kind of thing. I am a beneficiary of God’s mercies, why should I go plotting for another person’s downfall? All I am looking forward to is a way to ensure that APGA becomes a truly national party that will observe internal democracy and run the party the way it should be run, so that it becomes an all-inclusive party and all those who were aggrieved could return. We have lost about 90 percent of our membership and I want to bring them back. People like Peter Obi, Senator Uche Ekwunife; we lost four members of House of Representatives in one day, because of poor leadership. We need to bring all those people back. And we cannot keep running around Anambra. We have to win positions in Southeast, South/south and we need to get into north and western Nigeria and win positions. In each of the 774 local government councils, if you remove the indigenes, the next in population are Igbo. So there is no way we cannot take advantage of that mass of people, for the benefit of the party. That is what we are trying to do. I have no interest in vilifying anybody.
Governor Obiano got the nomination form from Oye, how do you feel about that?
I have no qualms with one’s prerogatives. He exercised his rights to pick a form from wherever he wants. The court will determine whether he picked the right or wrong forms.
What critical steps or administrative pillars do you want in APGA to make it strong?
First of all, all these arguments, skirmishes, law cases and all; I believe, will come to an end very soon, because there is nothing that has beginning that doesn’t end. APGA has history. These are all strangers: This Oye, only got his party membership card the day he was nominated for chairmanship. That day, Victor Umeh, wrote it. His party card was not signed by his ward chairman or secretary. It was signed by Victor Umeh, who issued him with the card at the convention ground? There are many people who witnessed that, not just two or three persons. They are living witnesses. So, technically, he (Oye) has only been in APGA for fourteen months, before he was suspended. The day he became national chairman was the day they issued him membership card. So when a character like that, talks about Martin Agbaso being a stranger in APGA, it is laughable: a man that has contributed immense financial and human resource into APGA, a man who is synonymous with APGA and won the first congressional seat for APGA in 2003. In 2007 I got myself elected in the freest and fairest governorship election in this country, but it was canceled and I suffered because of APGA for four years. In 2011, I won for APGA through a proxy, when Okorocha came in, one senatorial seat, through Chris Anyanwu and others. Then, here is a man who has never brought in one vote for APGA so far, talking about Martin Agbaso being a stranger. These are people without pedigree: Look at Labaran Maku, a character from nowhere, whose tenure in APGA is less than two years. Instead of being grateful and shutting up, he is busy running his mouth about strangers in APGA, who are the strangers, when he just joined two years ago? So, technically, apart from these strangers who don’t have the DNA of APGA, who don’t even know how APGA was founded, who don’t know the vision of APGA, we would have closed ranks already, in the old APGA fashion. But, going forward, my assignment when we are through with Anambra election is to carry our message of hope to Nigerians. Look for Nigerians that are completely disenchanted; and there are quite a lot of people you find in that category, who are looking for good governance, who want due process, access to infrastructure, good education, good health; who want windows of opportunities to be opened for their children. Those are the people, who are naturally APGA. That is the vision of APGA and that is the message we would be taking throughout the country in the coming months.
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