APGA crisis: Umeh’s cup is full
By Vincent Ujumadu
Chief Vincent Ezenwajiaku is a pharmacist and a lawyer, as well as a politician. He was a foundation member of the All Progressives Grand Alliance and had contested for the House of Representatives and Senate on the platform of the party. He is presently the Hon. Commissioner for Special Duties in the Governor Peter Obi Government. Since the crisis in APGA started, he has remained vocal. He fielded questions from select journalists in Awka.
As a Commissioner in Gov. Obi’s Govt, how would you rate his performance?
I am part of that Government and I think the judgement is better left for “outsiders” to do. Whatever I say would be followed by people saying, as a government official, what do you expect him to say? I therefore leave it to you to do the assessment as you all are in the State and are witnesses to what is going on. Even as umpires, you can go out and seek the views of those who are in a position to tell you the brutal truth.
We can get your views and then balance it with the views of others, especially…
(Cuts in) Giving you my views is very easy; all I am saying is that those views cannot stand even for balancing. People comment about the Government of Peter Obi daily that my own is not, in my view, important. Let me even help you out. As the Governor of Anambra State, one thing we cannot take away from the Governor is abundance of energy that I do not know how many people can meet up with his pace. These days, if you read papers, you would have discovered that due to his policy about education that saw him returning schools back to their owners, he is much in contact with Church leaders, I mean credible Church leaders that do not have any reason to dissimulate facts.
I read in the papers how Archbishop Valerian Okeke of the Catholic Archdiocese of Onitsha reviewed what he is doing across all sectors and rated him as the best GovernorAnambraState has had. He talked about how Obi is building a future for the State through overhaul of the education sector, building of roads across the State, attracting foreign investors, rebuilding the health sector, prompt payment of salaries and pensions after clearing the arrears owed for years, among others. He ended up by saying in Igbo, Odi ka Obi akona anyi, may we not lack a person like Obi.
I can go on and on. The other day, I followed His Excellency to a function attended by the Catholic Bishop of Awka, Most Rev. Paulinus Ezeokafor. The bishop echoed his brother by saying that Obi was God’s gift to AnambraState . Having come down from Ihiala to Awka that day from Dr. Obinna Uzor’s function, the bishop said it took him about 30 minutes to make the trip whereas in the past the journey would have lasted three hours because of bad road. What does that show you? The bishop asked God in prayers to give the State a person as good as Obi if he could not give us a person better than him.
Of course you need to listen to Archbishop Efobi of the Anglican Communion. Talking about Obi, he quoted the Bible: “When the righteous are on the throne, the people rejoice.”
I can tell you that in Anambra today, everybody knows that Obi has done excellently. Some people who do not have character may want to prevaricate for one reason or the other. What I am saying is that politicians can see A and call it B because they have not been given money. I was at an occasion where somebody told the Governor that he was criticizing him because, even though he, the Governor, had tarred roads, that he had not tarred tongues and that it is with the same mouth with which the headmaster pronounces passes that he also pronounces failure.
Take the case of Chief Victor Umeh. He was among the number one supporters of Gov. Obi, he always glorified what the Governor was doing in the State, but when the Gov., for one reason or the other stopped tarring his tongue, he made a 360 degrees turn and started feeding falsehoods to the people.
Whatever way we look at it, Obi remains the best Governor Anambra has had. We are in the State and will be glad to see somebody break his records.
Where do we start? He has tarred over 700 Kilometers of roads and we are still counting. Almost everyday, he flags-off road projects and work is going on all of them. He constructed roads in the most difficult parts of the State where nobody thought about until he came on board. In health, he has built a teaching hospital from the scratch, rehabilitated general hospitals, built new hospitals and health centres, bought hospital equipment, and got accreditation for the health institutions. As we speak, he is building, in partnership with the MDG, about 25 structures in missionary hospitals.
It was Obi who built the first secretariat in the state; the first and second massive business parks, bought vehicles for ranking government officials in the executive, judiciary and legislature.
He is equally superlative in the intangible part of governance. He cleared the arrears of salaries and pension of close to 10 Billion Naira.
He has attracted multi national companies to AnambraState . At the last count, we have about four of them; some have built facilities others are coming on board. Under him Anambra became an oil producing State after he invested billions in Orient Petroleum . In the area of education still, even after the return of primary schools to the Church, he has given them support to the tune of about 6 Billion naira in cash to rehabilitate the schools.
One can go on and on, but the most amazing part of it is that he has not borrowed money from any financial institution nor raised bond as many states are doing in Nigeria .
The president was so excited with his relationship with the Church, that he said the center he wants to help his Otuoke community build through friends would be handed over to the Church to manage. Obi has equally attracted the attention of the World Bank that had sent people to Anambra to study his revolution in education with the aim of using it as a model for other African countries and developing world to emulate. Paul Collier, a notable Oxford professor was so excited about this that he has been propagating it to other African leaders.
You mentioned Chief Victor Umeh, but the Chief said he fell out with the Governor due to his failure to conduct Local Government elections.
Though I have stopped reading his falsehoods, but I can tell you that 99% percent of what that man says is falsehood. Until he started fighting the Governor, he single handedly brought the names of those who were appointed into transition committees. What then is the logic of saying that he opposed it? I have noticed that in Nigeria , what professional politicians do is to employ the instrument of blackmail against the person they are not supporting and Chief Victor Umeh has it in abundance. He was doing this until Mike Udah exposed him on Channels television.
The exposure has just begun. He was the one who, through his one man show business in the form of chairmanship of APGA prevented the party from growing. If not because of this crisis would you have imagined that APGA was receiving 20 million naira every month and one man was pocketing it. I think the recent judgment of an Enugu High Court was providential. It will now give opportunity to those who have the interest of the party at heart to restructure the party.
Are you saying that Victor Umeh has not contributed towards the building of APGA?
If you are in partnership business with somebody, how do you measure your gain? It is simply by balancing gains vis-à-vis efforts. In the case of Umeh, the ration of efforts to gain is about 5% to 90%. He put in 5%efforts and has reaped 90% gains. Would you say that such a person has suffered for the party? APGA was largely financed by Peter Obi. It was even his house at Abuja that initially served as APGA office. Umeh is always for what will be of personal gain to him. Even when the President asked APGA to get some names for appointment in the spirit of building a national government, Victor brought names of riffraffs that he would control, one estate manager that does not know his right hand from his left and one jobless man whose work now is to send text messages daily on behalf of Victor. Of course, the names were not considered for lack of qualification.
How do you mean?
I am a foundation member of APGA. In the beginning, Umeh who now brags about what he is not was the Personal Assistant to an Anambra politician, Chief Okonkwo (ofiadiulu) . The man is still in active politics. Somehow he became the treasurer of APGA. When APGA removed Chief Chekwas Okorie, we were having the meeting of Anambra party members, and Obi said that from the experience of betrayals he had had, that he would prefer Victor Umeh to be appointed the Ag Chairman. Apparently, Umeh had gone to beg him. That was how he became the Ag Chairman. But today, surprisingly and incredibly, I hear him say that he made the Governor. The man is an interesting study in human nature.
He may think he is a smooth talker who can confuse and confound, but by the time he will realize the harm he is doing to himself, it will be too late. Today he is regarded as a risk factor. He is the type of man that gathers documents and dossier on persons he deals with and releases them to the public as a professional blackmailer. If Obi was dubious, he would have had tonnes of documents about him. I am sure nobody will like to deal with him in Nigeria . I read that even Owelle Rochas Okorocha warned his Commissioners and aides to be careful about him and not allow him get close to any Government document.
But he contributed four million naira to Obi’s tribunal case .
Who said so?
He said it in an interview he granted Vanguard
This is the reason why I told you that I do not read what the man says any longer. How can anybody believe this? We know where we are coming from. Before Obi became the Governor, he was on the Board of about 7 quoted companies, including about 4 financial institutions by the virtue of his investment.
The man who said he donated 4million to Obi’s tribunal case at that time was living in a two room apartment at Anam St , a ghetto in Enugu . At that time, Obi was the one who procured an international passport for him alongside other party members as well as sponsored his first trip overseas. It was also Obi who bought Umeh his first V-boot Mercedes car as he did not have even a bicycle and yet he has the boldness to say he contributed 4 million naira to tribunal efforts. Can’t you read between the lines?
I agree with a writer who said that sudden wealth has entered Umeh’s head and he now sees himself as a little god. In Umeh’s estimation, Mike Udah is not sufficiently big to talk with him. Can’t you see arrogance verging on delusion of grandeur here?
Today from two room apartment at Anam Street, he is now living in a palatial home, one of the best in Enugu. He has many of them in Enugu . The one in his home town is under construction with almost 90 air conditioners amidst other facilities to meet his Epicurean taste, but the speed has reduced now he is having problems in APGA. He now has fleet of vehicles. When such a man tells you that he suffered for APGA, such statement among those who knew what he used to be and what he has amassed now elicit laughter.
I recall that before Obi became Governor, the first real money Victor made was from buying of a house for a Lagos business man Obi introduced him to. After the sale, he made more than 50 Million naira and even asked the Governor to keep 70% of the proceeds and the Governor refused by insisting that he was not in the business of Estate management. If he really donated money to Obi’s campaign, it must be from the proceeds. You can ask Okey Ezeibe about this, he knows the details among others. In fact Okey was the one the Governor asked to introduce Victor to their friends in Lagos. These people supported him because he was from Mr. Peter Obi, but in his characteristic manner, today he will tell you that he was the one who introduced Peter Obi to those people.
But for Prof. Nwosu to ask the Gov to meet Umeh if he hoped to become Governor, do you not think that the man has some clout?
From what I have said about him, you believe him to your own detriment. Let us see it this way, Obi and Nwosu met and Nwosu asked him to go and meet Umeh. For Umeh who was not at the meeting to tell what transpired between Obi and Nwosu means that he must be a spirit. Can’t you read into lies?
Since Umeh started talking, don’t you think it is ripe for the Governor to speak at this point and set the records straight?
I thought you people love the Governor?
That is why we need him to speak
It will be infra dignitatum for the Governor to start bandying words with Umeh. Who is he? Is it because he stole the Chairmanship of APGA? If you are in Anambra, you would have noticed that Obi is the busiest Governor. As I speak, he is away to Rome as part of the Federal Government delegation for the installation of the new Pope. No week passes without his having meeting at Abuja . He belongs to more than 10 Federal Committees, besides being the Financial Adviser to the President. He is also the Chairman of South-East Governors Forum as well as the Vice Chairman of Nigerian Governors’ Forum. For a person saddled with all these responsibilities to have time for idle people like Umeh will be lunacy.
At the end of his tenure, he will not be judged by exchanges with Umeh, but by what he achieved in AnambraState . So we thank the Governor for not replying to Umeh’s lies and hope he will not because it will diminish him. It is even with difficulty that I am commenting on him because he is not worth my time for I am equally busy. The people that are placed in the position to reply him, if there is need are the Chief Press Secretary, Mike Udah and the Senior Special Assistant on Media, Val Obienyem. I am happy Udah has done that very well.
But he says that Udah is too small for him?
That tells you how deluded he is. Apart from making so much money and wangling his way to become Chairman of APGA, who is he? Udah has more pedigree than he has. Udah is better educated; Udah has edited a national newspaper, among others. That shows you how he will enjoy my talking about him. Oh, why have you journalists led me to this?
You talked about Victor making a lot of money. Could you explain more?
Just consider by which magic a Personal Assistant to Ofiadiulu rose to head-turning fame in seven years? Did he build a factory? This is where I blame Peter Obi. He created the Frankenstein monster that has now turned round to harass everybody. If the money remitted to the party monthly went through the normal party structures we will not have come this far. I am aware of many contracts awarded to those he brought. I am aware, the former Chairman of ASUBEB, Barr. Chuma Mbonu can confirm that, that he almost singlehandedly shared ASUBEB jobs to his cronies under the guise of party people. I am aware that even after award of contracts, contractors complained that he still insisted on bringing those to do the sub contract works as low as fetching water. He had his hands in many pies.
He grew so rich that he lost control. Do you know that when his mother died, he budgeted about 100 Million for her burial? The Governor gave him 5 Million naira and plenty of drinks and he rejected it on the ground that it was small. You can find out from Architect Callistus Ilozumba for he was the one who went to his house with some people to persuade him that funeral support is not rejected in Igboland before he accepted. They told him that the Governor did not spend as much in burying his own father and that the money was the Governor’s personal support as he would not use Government money to support burials. This tells you more about the man.
Let me tell you another story. When Ojukwu was alive, I sometimes went to meet him with the Governor and he would always tell him to beware of the little Tiger (Victor Umeh) he, Obi, was feeding with milk and know when it grows teeth and stop the milk. He has now grown those teeth. Ojukwu spoke in tongues to Obi, but the Governor took him into confidence. That is why I said he created the monster.
This account is contrary to what Umeh says of Ojukwu’s opinion about him
You believe him at your own risk. Ojukwu was thoroughly not comfortable with him. Ojukwu’s wife can attest to this. Once we had a meeting in Ojukwu’s house and Victor said that Gov. Obi should buy houses in Abuja for Ojukwu and himself as main APGA people. Ojukwu said it was ok because when he grew annoyed that was one of his reactions, to say yes to everything you said. In extreme cases he would stop talking. When the meeting ended and we were leaving, he called Obi on phone to come back that he had forgotten something. By then Victor and his group had left. Ojukwu told Obi that all he wanted was service to Igbo people and that he should not listen to those that wanted houses and planes. This was how it was resolved.
Look let me take this opportunity to proclaim that Victor does not even read situations. In the past he was used to issuing threats and because the Governor is essentially pacifist in nature, he will be pacified. The last conflagration that consumed him was started by him, somehow the Governor said enough from this little groaning Tiger. He decided to ignore him. At a point he started sending emissaries seeking peace but the problem he created had gone beyond the Governor. If you notice, he was sending Alhaji Sani Shinkafi to insult the wife of our leader, HE, Bianca Ojukwu. He himself was insulting everybody including the revered Dr Tim Menakaya. He said Obi bought him by offering appointment to his son. But it was Umeh who brought about five Commissioners in Obi’s first Cabinet, including his nephews and nieces.
If he is wise he should have realized that his blackmails are not having any effect on Obi’s reputation, which has gone far beyond him and his short sightedness.
How true is it, as Victor Umeh said, that other parties that endorsed President Jonathan were given money except APGA?
How was the monthly money given to APGA and the millions realized from the sale of forms spent for him to refer us to money given to other parties for endorsement? This shows you that as far as he was concerned everything is about money. When the Governors of the South –East decided to support Jonathan, they made it clear it was not for individual benefits but based on his commitment to do projects in the East. If he gave money to other political parties, it means he owes no obligation to them, but if APGA did not collect money, he owes obligation to Igbo people. This may explain why he is working on erosion, has made Enugu Airport an international Airport, is set to start work on a second Niger Bridge , among others.
Politics as played by people like Victor Umeh is injurious to the Igbos. It is dangerous to reduce everything to cash value. I am aware that when Jonathan was discussing with APGA, Gov. Obi raised the appropriateness of his meeting APGA leadership. Obi asked Umeh to come with principal officers of the party, but he came alone and rather than discuss what support of APGA for Jonathan would fetch the SouthEast, started discussing his personal interest. Of course that was the first time he met with the president.
He would always tell you that the Governor did not support other APGA candidates but it is not true. When Obi was campaigning for his second tenure, no South –East Governor campaigned against him. Even a Governor that came for his party’s campaign explained to him that it was to fulfill all righteousness, but did not go to the campaign field with him simply because they relate as brothers. When election came, Umeh now wanted Obi to go to their states and probably call them thieves. Of course he did not go, but he gave them financial support. Because the money he gave in the past through third parties did not get to them, he did it directly. Some people complaining had actually planned how to appropriate the money if channeled through them. They have every right to complain. It is human, it is normal.
The love of money, the saying goes, is the root of all evils. I can assure you that part of what Umeh is doing today stemmed from his relationship with a money bag, whom he is irrevocably committed to dash APGA gubernatorial ticket in the State.
May we know the person now that politics is heating up?
You will at the appropriate time.
With Umeh against APGA merger like your own faction, don’t you think the possibility of reconciliation with him…?
He is no longer the Chairman of APGA, but he is not expelled from the party. If he wants to join us in the restructuring of the party he is free. But let me tell you one thing. The moment the merger was announced; all genuine APGA members condemned it. How come it took the usual garrulous Umeh weeks to come up with denial? The original plan was that he would be made the Chairman of the new party or he would become its Senatorial candidate, but when the interim chairmanship was discussed without mention of his name and he realized that he may be fooled in the end, he backed out.
How would you compare the Interim Chairman of APGA, Maxi Okwu with Victor Umeh?
It is like asking me to compare light and darkness. There is no basis for comparison. Maxi Ukwu is a through-bred party man who believes in consensus. Just few days as the Chairman, the fortunes of the party have started to change. He calls meetings and allows everybody to contribute unlike Umeh who saw the party as personal property. Today, I always read releases from our Publicity Secretary, Bernard Akomas and he is quite efficient, but under Umeh, he was in charge of everything. Under him, you would not know APGA had a Publicity Secretary, because he wanted to do the PR and make money. Under Umeh, Gov. Obi was never invited to a meeting because he would find out that the money for the party did not get to them. Now it is different. Igbo people say that from the smell of fart we know how sweet the defecate will be. From what Maxi has done so far, we all in APGA have confidence that APGA has entered its glorious moment.
Away from politics , what is your Government’s position on the Ezu River corpse dumping?
Well, we are satisfied with what the Governor has done. Remember he cut his trip short and returned to the State the moment the sad incident was discovered. Since then he has visited the place four times, personally supervised the removal of the bodies from the river and commissioned an autopsy on the bodies. He also got the entire town fumigated, sent supplies to them and provided the only borehole that is working. I say this because some people pretended they were digging boreholes but nothing has happened. If you go there today, the only boreholes working in the town are the two provided by the Governor.
Has the autopsy revealed how the bodies were killed?
We are all waiting for the report.
Why has Anambra’s Internally Generated Revenue remained low?
Anambra was the most notorious state in Nigeria until Obi restored sanity to the State. Before him nothing worked as gangsters took over the place. Today things are changing. We have completely got some things right, but because the Internally Generated Revenue was a mess, the rate of getting it right appears long, but the Governor is working assiduously to get it right for good.
With politics approaching, will you be interested in elective posts?
By the grace of God and confidence in me by the Governor, I am a Commissioner. My present preoccupation is assisting the Governor to turn AnambraState around. When we get to the bridge, we shall cross it.
Any message for the people of the State?
They should all continue to pray and support the Governor to remain focused in his work as he has continued to do.
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