Across board on the political turf, there seems to be a conscious reconciliation of deep-seated animosity amongst key political players on the turf. Coming from a series of peace meetings by President Goodluck Jonathan at the weekend to mend the cracks, both in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the polity in general, the make-up, Monday, between Governor Peter Obi of Anambra State and the National Chairman of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Chief Victor Umeh, whose chairmanship of the party was upheld recently by a court of competence may signify a promising turn of what to come next.
Umeh has been in the thick of a huge political storm in APGA, especially his long drawn battle- both legal and political- with Obi, a situation that almost eroded the hard earned status created for the party before the demise of the late Igbo leader, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu.
Obviously, Ojukwu had handed over APGA as a strong political platform through which his kinsmen of Igbo extraction could unite and jointly push their hopes, aspirations and grievances to the national level. But less than a year after his death, the party had been engulfed in protracted personality crisis.
The undercurrents were so potent that they polarised the party along the lines of Umeh and Obi factions. What followed soon was the battle for the soul of the party as both strived to control the chairmanship seat.
The power play eventually led to Umeh’s sack from the party after a midnight convention held by the Obi faction. And so, Chief Maxi Okwu was named the new chairman. But this was not left unchallenged by Umeh who maintained that he was the authentic chairman of the party, a declaration he supported with a sustained legal battle.
While many Igbos who considered the party as theirs were disenchanted by the crisis, Obi and his aides were fingered as the brain it. Some considered the action of the governor as political betrayal of his race and also against Umeh whom they contended brought him to political limelight.
Whilst the battle lasted, contrary to popular beliefs, Obi had categorically stated that Umeh had no hand in his emergence as governor, both during his first and second terms. The governor's Chief Press Secretary, Mike Udah, said at different times that “Umeh contributed nothing to the election of Obi the first and the second term.”
However, political analysts traced the war of attrition to period after the April 2011 general election when APGA did not win any of the three senatorial seats in Anambra State. Though it shared the seats in both the House of Representatives seats and the state House of Assembly with such parties as the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and other parties, stakeholders had begun to toy with the idea of restructuring APGA. They planned to make it a national party. That idea, they reckoned, would see to the removal of Umeh.
The crisis that followed was explosive. It no doubt gave birth to damning consequences for APGA and the politics of Anambra State. In the heat of the controversy, Umeh described one of his traducers, Nwobu-Alor as “an old man that should be removed from office," adding, “Why is it that after I have secured the party for a second term, they now say I am incompetent.”
He maintained that his quest was to save APGA from its antagonists, adding that the genesis of the rift is traceable to the fact that he had been fighting for local government elections to be conducted in Anambra, which he said some people did not want. This, of course, divided the party on the ongoing merger of political parties on the platform of the All Progressive Congress (APC), which was eventually registered on Wednesday.
While Umeh had been initially schemed out of reckoning following a court declaration, a Court of Appeal sitting in Enugu later nullified the High Court judgment. To observers, therefore, it was the judgment that finally put to rest, perhaps, the protracted ego contest between the duo of him and Obi.
The interesting thing is that while many had waited to watch Obi execute his succession plan at the expiration of his tenure in 2014, the news of the reconciliation was deemed timely, not only to party supporters but also the Igbos who see APGA as their political signature in national polity.
Also for Obi and Umeh, they see the court pronouncement as an opportunity make up and end their self-ignited leadership crisis that has threatened the status of the party.
As Obi and Umeh emerged from the Anambra State council Executive meeting chamber on Monday, after a long meeting at the governor’s office for several hours, they declared that they have decided to sheathe their swords for the unity and stability of their party. And jointly, they regretted the consequences of the crisis on the party and vowed that vsuch would not occur again.
"The crisis will never come up again. Anambra State is an APGA state and it will remain so. We will defend it with everything. We will go out with everything during the coming election and win," Obi said as he assured party loyalists that end of the crisis will bring victory for them.
On his part, Umeh said: “I have come to crystalise the various meetings we have had in recent time and to declare to the whole world that the APGA crisis has come to an end."
To him, the resolution of the crisis is a new dawn for APGA, which he said was an indivisible party that will remain very strong and united, promising to continue to work harmoniously with the governor to reposition the party.
“Like brothers, we will continue to resolve all outstanding differences. I am sure that the late Chief Chukwuemeka Ojukwu will be very happy today. He is in heaven and I know that what he had left in our hands will remain safe and strong. We have conquered the devil."
SHOLA OYEYIPO writes for THISDAY