Chief Chekwas Okorie returns to APGA to inject fresh blood into the party
The founding National Chairman of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Chief Chekwas Okorie, recently returned to APGA – about 17 years after he was forced to leave the party due to internal leadership crises. In this interview with select journalists, Chief Okorie pledges to work assiduously towards rebuilding the party to the extent that it will constitute a veritable vehicle to produce a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction in 2023. He appealed to the Igbo within and outside the country to give maximum support to APGA to enable the party fulfill the noble ideals of its founding fathers. Mike Ubani, was there for SUMMITNEWS
First of all, we would like to congratulate you on your new book on APGA, which was launched some weeks ago. May you tell us what informed the writing of that book?
Well, first of all the founding of APGA itself was a historic event, in the sense that in 1922 when political parties reared it’s head, the first political party in Nigeria known as the Nigeria National Democratic Party, (NNDP) was founded by Dr. Herbert Macauly. No Igbo man ever thought of founding a political party. From that time till 2022, you are looking at several decades. It became a worrisome thing to me that we did not have any political party that could specifically drive our agenda.
We relied mostly on cultural groups or the political party in which ZIK joined and dominated like NCNC and NPP, so APGA was founded through my initiative and support of Igbo Ezue Cultural Association, and so many compatriots. So APGA then became the first political party in Nigeria ever founded on the basis of Igbo Initiative, and two and half years after , APGA ran into leadership crisis basically ochestrated by the Presidency under President Olusegun Obasanjo, for several reasons that were based on morbid fear of how Igbo was going to resurge through that platform, and presenting Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, the former Head of State of the Republic of Biafra as our presidential candidate worsened the situation and fear.
That leadership crisis in APGA lasted for several years. We thought we could rely on the rule of law to save the party from that crises. We saw the powers that be didn’t care about the rule of law. It was only in APGA that a national treasurer who was not anywhere in the line of succession was given all the support of government both at the federal and state level and INEC, to parade himself as national chairman of party.
So that distorted the trajectory the party had set for itself and halted a revolution that had begun to manifest itself. Between that time and now, we are talking about 20 years – there has been claims and counter-clams as to who played what role in the formation of APGA. Many began to clam credit for what they did not do including those who joined the party several years after.
It became necessary that the story of APGA would be told. And telling the story of APGA is also telling the story of Igbo question in Nigeria. Of course, they have been pressure on me to write the story. I have intended to write this story God willing to coincide with my 70th birthday which will be next year, but Professor Chukwuma Soludo, added his own pressure after he had been elected governor of Anambra state, and not yet sworn in by that time. He called me by November last year, saying that he entered a party that appeared to have a distorted history, and that he couldn’t understand the true ideology of the party, and those he asked did not seem to know the meaning of ideology.
So, he requested that a book should be written and I am one person who envisioned it so that he could make a sense of all of this. I said Ok. The materials were ready, but I had wanted to do it a year after. And so that was how the book was eventually written. That book was written under three months, but all the facts were assembled over 20years . One has to tell the story in a manner that no one can dispute it, and that is why since its presentation no body has raised a voice on the veracity of the claims there. This is unlike the launching of the memoir of Chief Bisi Akande, which even President Buhari attended, and which elicited controversy. But this one, President Buhari attended through Femi Adeshina, his Spokeman, and not a single word has been said by anybody querying or interrogating the claims in the book. That means it stands, and I say to them if they have anything to say let them write their own book we shall read it and the public will see which one that tells the truth. Truth always stand apart.
Coming to today’s event, one may like to know whether anybody put pressure on you to return to APGA, or you decided on your own to do so?
Quiet frankly for many years now there has been pressure on me to return to APGA especially when I quietly reconciled with Mr. Peter Obi, more than five years ago. Many people felt that if I could reconcile with Peter Obi, then I could forgive everybody else. They said that the party was missing me badly, and the Igbo people are beginning to feel that they did not have a party again. Some Igbo people who did not even appreciate the existence of APGA, began to appreciate it when they lost it. Like the Igbo man will say you never know the value of what you have until you lose it.
So, the pressure has been there. So, I said to myself: how can I lead my associates – many of them you are seeing here – into the party we all laboured to give life to through the back door? That will be humiliating and unhelpful. So, when the opportunity came with very strong appeal, very emotional appeal, we didn’t hesitate to forgive as was requested. But we took a little time to consult and the consultation was successful because not a single desenting voice arose as to why we must return to APGA. So we chose today to formalise it. But on the 26th of May 2022, I had formally resigned from the All Progressives Congress (APC) in my ward at Alayi, Bende Local Government Area of Abia state, and also the same day relisted my name on the register of APGA all at my ward. And other people who registered with me in my ward did the same thing. From what has happened today the message has now gone out – all our members who still have confidence in my leadership and wish to come back will do the same.
Are you missing APC?
No. It is APC that will be missing me, and not the other way round.
What was your experience like in APC?
You see, even the decision to go to APC was a difficult one, and not many Igbo people understood it. Many of them were very angry with me; even my closest associates had double mind. But because of the immense confidence they have in my sincerity of purpose, they said ok if that is what you want, let’s see what you find there. Why we chose APC was that the UPP, the second party I found was de-registered in February 2022 alongside 73 other political parties, and we found ourselves in a little dilemma. We couldn’t go to PDP, of course going to APGA was not an option. Then, the PDP was also not an option.
All our political lives have been in opposition – we said okay, let’s give a shot at the ruling party, the APC, and have an experience of it. We have been in that party since 2020 to date two years plus and still we never lost our passion for APGA. Our concern was that our people had lost an opportunity that God gave them through us . We were never happy each time the Ohanaeze Ndigbo and other Igbo groups go cap in hand begging APC and PDP- shouting on the pages of the news papers that the presidency should be zoned to the South-East, when we are supposed to have a political party that will of necessity give it to our people.
We were at great pains when the platform we gave to Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, to fly the APGA presidential flag in Nigeria was used to adopt Goodluck Jonathan in 2011, adopt Jonathan again in 2015, and thereafter, moved to Tiv land and brought one General in 2019 – leaving the people who put in their sweat and money to get APGA formed.
This is a lesson, an additional lesson in my life. You see I just discovered that I can not change, even in a ruling party, I couldn’t help criticizing the lopsided appointments that President Buhari continued to make – I couldn’t help insisting that the only way to solve insecurity problem especially in Igbo land is to release all those prisoners of conscience based on political negotiations and considerations – those were not the positions of the party I went to. I couldn’t help insisting that the only way you could solve the issue of insecurity is to bring about state police and community policing in order to make every community member a stakeholder in security matters.
What do you think the Igbo have lost in the past 20years?
The Igbo have lost a lot – They have lost everything. They were almost at the verge of recovering their self-esteem, but they seem to have lost it. I mean political consciousness has been lost. The Igbo dilemma is not imaginable. Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, last contested for the Presidency of Nigeria in 1983; the next time an Igbo man contested for the presidecyt of this country and made a reasonable impact – and Igbo people felt a sense of participation was 2003, and that is exactly 20 years ago. And now 2023 is another 20years when hopefully an Igbo man will fly a presidential flag on the platform of APGA. So look at it – we are having 20 years circle to participate in the political process of our own country – the country we led to independence, and what do you think happened in between the 20 years.
You aroused political consciousness in 1983, and you had a 20 year relapse, and you start another effort to rebuild the consciousness and fall into another 20-year relapse. It is always a difficult thing. Any person born in 2003 for instance is about 20years now. So, I want to break that jinx and make sure that we will be actively involved at least every 4 years as written down in our constitution, and in that way we become politically conscious again.
Are you sure that APGA will make serious impact in 2023.
I am not God, I am only relying on the excitement expressed by our people – not just in Nigeria, but all over the world, that I am coming back to help rebuild APGA.
What’s your message to the Igbo Nation?
My advise to the Igbo Nation is that this is an opportunity they have, and they must grab it with both hands. This platform (APGA) actually belongs to them. You know that every political party is owned. PDP is not owned by the G34, rather it is owned by the military men who had retired; removed their uniforms and put on Agbada. And it is their agenda that they have always implemented, otherwise tell me why General Aliyu Guzo, took Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, who had already won the presidential ticket of the PDP to go and meet Gen. Ibrahim Babangida (rtd) in his house in Minna to make a presentation to him and tell him this the one we have chosen; bless him. Why do you think that in APC, it took one word from President Buhari to give them a national chairman after so many other people have paid for their nomination forms, and had already started campaigning for the position of the national chairman of the party. The current national chairman of APC even said that 30 days to his becoming national chairman, he didn’t know he was going to become one. The issue is that the owner of the party (APC) spoke, and he automatically became what he is today in the party. So, every political party is owned by somebody or a group of people. APGA is our own, and we must use it to produce Nigeria’s next president.