The
debate as to whether someone’s given name has anything to do with how
that someone eventually turns out in life is an open-ended question. But
whether we are for or against, the truth is that in life, we often find
individuals who go ahead to fulfil the meaning of their names in every
sense of it like a prophecy, negatively or positively. One man that has
positively fulfilled – and continues to fulfil – his name in recent
history is Victor Umeh, the indefatigable national chairman of the All
Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and the party’s candidate for the
Anambra Central Senatorial seat in the 2015 elections.
An
accomplished estate manager and surveyor, Victor Umeh came into
Nigeria’s political firmament like a shining star. He was a founding
member of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in 1998 and a pioneer
member of APGA in 2002. Ever since then, his light has never grown dim
and his name has remained synonymous with victory.
Like
a dogged fighter and an astute politician that he is, Umeh has, in the
course of taking APGA to greater heights and building it up as the
third-largest political party in Africa’s most populous nation, fought
many battles, scaled many hurdles planted in his way by his detractors,
and won many legal victories to remain on top as APGA helmsman. When
those desperate to remove him from office dragged him to the Economic
and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Umeh floored them when he took
the party’s financial books to the commission, then headed by Farida
Waziri. It was a highly impressed Waziri that reportedly showered
praises on Umeh for keeping the party’s books clean.
Just
as recent as June 18, 2014, the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal
once again affirmed him as the authentic national chairman of APGA,
setting aside the ruling of the Federal High Court, Abuja, which had
earlier sacked him and installed Maxi Okwu as the chairman on January
15, 2014. In allowing the appeal, the appellate court insisted that Okwu
had no legal right whatsoever to bring a suit against Umeh, having been
earlier expelled from the party.
Prior
to his battle with Maxi Okwu over APGA leadership, Victor Umeh had
successfully fought Chekwas Okorie up to the Supreme Court, after which
Okorie was forced to leave APGA and form his own political party. In all
of this, Umeh has ensured the unity of the party and all its structures
at all levels. Recall that it was under Umeh’s leadership that APGA won
governorship elections in Abia State in 2007 (Theodore Orji) and Imo
State in 2011 (Rochas Okorocha), although both men later left the party
in a most undignifying manner.
As
a testimony to his numerous efforts in deepening democracy in Africa’s
largest economy by GDP and his contributions to the development of the
country, Umeh was on September 29, 2014 honoured with the national award
of Officer of the Order of the Federal Republic (OFR) by President
Goodluck Jonathan. At an event to celebrate the honour, Umeh narrated
the hurdles the party under his leadership had crossed, saying
emphatically that no other political party would go through the kind of
turbulence that APGA has seen and come out alive.
“We
produced a governor that served Anambra State for eight years and his
eight years was a turbulent period for the party in Anambra State
because external opponents of the party were after us, which led to a
long judicial battle. In 2003, the secretary of the party, Shinkafi, was
almost killed in defence of this party. When we won at the Court of
Appeal that made way for Peter Obi to be sworn in as the governor of
Anambra State, Shinkafi was attacked at his Gusau residence by enemies
of APGA,” Umeh said, adding that his leadership was the most attacked
because of selfish interest, but in living up to the prophecy of his
name, he has always emerged victorious to the shame of his enemies.
The
event, which had in attendance key political figures including Willie
Obiano, Anambra State governor, Emmanuel Iheanacho, former minister of
interior, Victor Ogene, a member representing Ogbaru Federal
Constituency of Anambra State at the House of Representatives, among
others, also turned out to be some sort of endorsement meeting for
Umeh’s senatorial bid. But the most striking was Ogene’s comment. “For
me, I think it is a recognition of his sterling politics not just in
leading APGA as a political party but in deepening democracy and the
rule of law in Nigeria. If you would remember, at a certain time in
Nigeria the political space was so choked that if you don’t get
nomination in one of the big political parties, it was like a battle.
So, when a party like APGA came on the scene, it helped to ventilate the
people’s grievances and aspirations. People from especially the
South-east found in APGA a veritable platform. There have been several
such platforms, but due to the tenacity of Victor Umeh, APGA was able to
grow from strength to strength. But, of course, with the guardian of
our then national leader, late Dim Chukwuemeka Ojukwu.”
Before
formally throwing his hat into the ring for the Anambra Central
Senatorial contest, Umeh had several groups – including the Anambra
Central Political Forum, a coalition of APGA members led by Emeka
Onuorah; Youths for Greater Anambra State (YGAS), the youth wing of
Ohanaeze Ndigbo; and APGA Women for Good Governance, among others –
beckoning on him to pick up the gauntlet.
In
accepting the call to serve, Umeh, at a party organised by APGA
Solidarity Movement (APGA-SM) to mark his 52nd birthday anniversary on
July 19, said, “Stakeholders in Awka South and Awka North Federal
Constituency were the first. They brought me to Fino­tel Hotel and
threatened to kill me if I don’t run. Anambra Central Senatorial Zone,
the seven local government chairmen and their councillors, met and said
if I don’t accept, they will kill me, and today, the leader of council
in Anaocha local government moved a motion here, supported by youth
leaders, all youth leaders in the state and all stakeholders and said I
must represent you.
“Because
of the need to provide effective representation for our people, I want
to stand here with all humility before the deputy governor representing
the governor and before all of you to say that because of the support I
have seen given to me and the show of love extended to me, I, Chief Sir
Victor C. Umeh, Ohamadike Ndigbo, relying on the support from all of
you; and having carefully examined the motion and the support and
solidarity extended to me, and in recognition of the needs of our zone,
declare that I will vie for Senate and that APGA must win Anambra
Central Senatorial zone in 2015.”
Indeed,
political analysts believe that having contributed immensely to the
sustenance of democracy in Nigeria, and having played a key role in the
growth and development of APGA since its inception, Umeh would make a
good representative of his people at the Red Chamber. With his display
of great sense of courage, steadfastness and tenacity of purpose, his
admirers are of the view that he would be able to truly represent the
people of Anambra Central and equally help to further champion the cause
of the Igbo nation in the National Assembly.
A
political observer in Anambra told this writer that in spite of the
boasts of the incumbent senator representing Anambra Central zone, Chris
Ngige (through his media aide, Charles Amilo), that he would never lose
sleep over the decision of the APGA chairman to run for the office, and
despite Amaechi Onowu, Anambra State PDP vice chairman, saying that the
dream of the APGA stalwart of becoming a federal legislator was a huge
joke that would turn out to be a nightmare, there was every indication
that Umeh would once again come out victorious.
Indeed,
Umeh is the one who seems not be losing sleep at all. While answering
questions from APGA’s three-man screening panel in Awka – composed of
Tayo Sowunmi, national vice chairman (South West), Ifeanyi Mbaeri, and
Abubakar Adamu –Umeh said that apart from going to the Senate to give
his people a better representation, he also wanted to give APGA victory
for once in the senatorial election, lamenting that for the eight years
the party has been in power it has never won the senatorial seat. “So, I
consider it a challenge. APGA has been doing well in the past nine
years. The party has a very bright future,” he said.
Asked
how ready he was to tackle Ngige, Umeh said, “Ngige has been my
customer. It was through my strenuous effort that I was able to remove
him from office when he stole our mandate. I was PW1 and stood in the
witness box for three months. And after he went to the Court of Appeal,
we defeated him. He knows he cannot win against me. Ngige is not a
candidate that will boast if I am the one contesting with him.”
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