Anambra 2014: Real Reasons APGA Disqualified Soludo…The PDP, Fidelity Bank Connection
Few days ago, the screening committee of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) for the 2014 governorship election screened out former Central Bank Governor, Chukwuma Soludo and five other on the ground that they do not possess voters card, have issues with their tax remittance and also do not have evidence of sufficient fund to prosecute campaigns for the election. The disqualified six proceeded to the appeal committee of the party which re-affirmed the decision of the screening committee.
While the reasons of the disqualification by the screening committee may have yet to be fully understood by the spectators in the polity, it has been gathered through a consortium of highly competent sources that the disqualification of the six  would-be aspirants has more to do with the sedation of APGA as a potent political party – than mere disqualification of a few candidates.
The details point directly to the noxious mix of intrigues emanating firstly, from the desire of the national ruling party to ‘recapture’ Anambra State – and secondly, from the desire of the veiled godfather of Anambra State Governor, Fidelity Bank, to maintain their financial grip on the State.
As a caveat, the background to the surprising disqualification reaches far to the period when Governor Peter Obi and APGA National Chairman Chief Victor Umeh were at loggerheads overthe control of APGA – and over what the fate of APGA would be post Peter Obi administration. It was popularly believed Governor Peter Obi wanted to anoint a political godson to take on the controls of Anambra – while Chief Victor Umeh wanted for a more sellable individual to be presented as the APGA candidate. The divergent desires by the two men caused a fracture within the party.
Governor Peter Obi and his men immediately halted all monies [N20million monthly] normally paid by the Anambra State government to Chief Victor Umeh for the upkeep of the party. Chief Victor Umeh reacted to seek refuge with a shady oil mogul by name Chief Ifeanyi Uba – the Chief Executive Officer of Capital Oil. Chief Ifeanyi Uba was reported to have aspirations of become the governor of Anambra State under the APGA banner. He was said to have taken over catering of the party’s [APGA] day-to-day expenditure. Some quarters indicated he may have remitted N250million to Chief Victor Umeh.
The fracture within the APGA led to the creation of two factions of the party – one led by Governor Peter Obi and his associates – the other led by Chief Victor Umeh and his executive members. The fractionalization then turned into a war of gutter-words between the two factions. The quarrel turned into litigation – and the Peter Obi faction, in their bid to diminish Chief Victor Umeh’s credibility, hurriedly held a midnight convention to remove him as the National Chairman of APGA. One Maxi Okwu was ‘elected’ as the national chairman of the Peter Obi led APGA.
It then became a litigant’s affair. Both Peter Obi and Victor Umeh joined issues at the federal and state high courts. In summation, it was Chief Victor Umeh who scored the final legal knockout of the Peter Obi led group – by his victory at the Federal Court of Appeal in Enugu, Enugu State. Chief Victor Umeh’s group was then legally recognized as the group to field candidates for the upcoming gubernatorial and local government council elections in Anambra.
But prior to the legal knockout meted to the Governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi, a group of top stakeholders in Igboland who were concerned over the uncomplimentary fate of the APGA following the death of Chief Odimegwu Ojukwu – and the bickering between Umeh and Peter Obi – decided to take it upon themselves to convene ‘closed door’ meetings over how to resuscitate APGA. The personalities consisted of top ranking monarchs from across the five south east states [including Asaba] and other top personalities – to mention a few are – former Senate President Ken Nnamani, former Central Bank Governor [CBN], Professor Charles Soludo, former Police Service Commission [PSC] Boss Chief Simon Okeke, MASSOB Leader Ralph Uwazurike, Chief Emeka Offor amongst others.
The meetings which were held at the home of Ken Nnamani sought avenues to create a viable and lasting South Eastern party to stand to reap the dividends of democracy to the south easterner in the manner the north and the south west have successfully done. They wanted to join forces and to close ranks to hoist APGA as the logical party for the south easterner. During one of the meetings, Chief Victor Umeh was reported to have attended to table his desires for the party. He was said to have been received well and to have impressed the attendees with the issues he tabled. With his presentation, he [Victor Umeh] became part of the group.
It was through the groups’ assistance that Chief Victor Umeh secured the favorable Federal Court of Appeals judgment against the Peter Obi led APGA.
Following the court victory, Chief Victor Umeh immediately sought refuge under the wings of Professor Charles Chukwuma Soludo – ‘pleading’ with him to join the party – and to vie for the gubernatorial ticket. It took Chief Victor Umeh’s sustained pressure in cohorts with other prominent Igbo personalities – who impressed on Soludo that his candidacy under the APGA will jumpstart the rebirth of the new APGA. Reluctantly, the Professor agreed. But before he agreed he gave one condition. He insisted that Governor Peter Obi be brought into fold – that peace must be reached between Chief Victor Umeh and Governor Peter Obi.
With this, the group agreed and the deal was sealed.
The peace agreement, in summary, went smoothly without much rancor. Chief Victor Umeh tabled his demands and grievances to the group in the presence of Peter Obi – and Peter Obi did the same. At the end, Chief Victor Umeh demanded that the allowances which Peter Obi stopped paying should be paid in addition to other expenses he incurred as the party chairman. He pegged the amount at N1billion. But Governor Peter Obi was willing to pay N600million. After some negotiations, Governor Peter Obi and Victor Umeh agreed on N600million. Governor Peter Obi paid N300million to Victor Umeh in the presence of the group while promising to pay the remainder before the completion of the election exercise.
Governor Peter Obi’s re-introduction into the scheme – along with the peace agreement changed the program – almost immediately.
The inclusion of Professor Charles Chukwuma Soludo as a potential aspirant did not augur well with Governor Peter Obi – who reportedly was still bent on achieving his original plans – which had caused problems with Chief Victor Umeh.
Gov. Peter Obi’s original plan was to hand over power to someone that would retain Fidelity Bank as the main banker for the State – and to simultaneously deliver Anambra State to the win column for President Goodluck Ebelemi Jonathan in the 2015 presidential elections. This would mean delivering the Anambra to the PDP candidate or to a Fidelity Bank friendly candidate such as Willie Obiano – a top boss at Fidelity Bank.
It was with this foreground that Governor Peter Obi left the closed door agreement [reached with the select Igbo leaders] to meet with the President to brief him on the resolutions. He impressed on the President that Professor Charles Chukwuma Soludo had been asked to join the party to contest the primaries under APGA for the gubernatorial ticket.
Following Peter Obi’s briefing of President Jonathan, the President was reported to have told Peter Obi that Soludo should not be given the ticket under APGA. The President then told Peter Obi to relay the message to Victor Umeh. Peter Obi then asked the President whether he [Peter Obi] should quote him to Victor Umeh, the President answered yes. Peter Obi then returned to Victor Umeh with the message from Mr. President.
With President Jonathan’s interjection, the previously reached agreement became nullified.
On Sunday August 11, 2013, few days remaining to the screening exercise, Chief Victor Umeh placed a call to Professor Soludo asking him to withdraw from the contest. Minutes after Chief Victor Umeh’s call, Ambassador Bianca Ojukwu called Professor Soludo asking him to step out of the contest – that the President does not want him to contest for the elections. But Professor Soludo was unyielding. Soludo told both Bianca Ojukwu and Victor Umeh that he would not withdraw – that he rather be defeated at the primaries.
Certain that if allowed to participate at the primaries that Soludo might win, the APGA leadership opted for disqualification at the screening stage.
During the screening exercise, the actions of the 3-man panel depicted what their real intentions were. At first, they called on Soludo to inform him that he will be disqualified based on an ‘incorrect’ answer he gave on one of the questions on the application form. The question was whether he had been arrested before. Soludo had answered no. The screening committee believed that he lied – that he had been arrested by the agents of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission [EFCC]. To which, Soludo responded by providing the letter of invitation dated December 2012 which the EFCC had written to him requesting of him to visit the EFCC office to clarify some issues – the letter given him 21-days to show up. With the presentation of the letter, the committee switched and responded that since he is being investigated by the EFCC, he cannot contest for the gubernatorial elections under the APGA.
Interestingly, when one of the members of the 3-man panel raised an objection on the grounds being illegal and unconstitutional – he was shunned by the other two members – stating that “this is not law, this is politics”. With this, Soludo’s fate in APGA was sealed. Governor Peter Obi got his wish and President Jonathan got his wish.
It is interesting to note the uncanny connection which Fidelity Bank has in the unfolding imbroglio within the APGA and within the pending tussle for who to become the next governor of Anambra State. Following the consolidation exercise, available records show that Fidelity Bank was not able to post a profitable year until Governor Peter Obi’s accession to the seat of Governor in Anambra State. Nearly one year after Governor Peter Obi became governor, Fidelity Bank posted an increase of 219 per cent profit after tax for the third quarter ended March 31, 2007. Fidelity Bank’s growth remained astronomical in the following years. In 2013, Fidelity Bank announced a profit before tax of N11.2 billion for the half year ended 30th June, 2013, representing 13.3 percent growth over N9.88 billion recorded in the corresponding period of 2012. In 2012, Fidelity Bank announced a growth of 608 percent in its profit after tax for the financial year ended December 31, 2012.
Prior to becoming the Governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi held the controlling shares at Fidelity Bank and was the Chief Executive Officer of the Bank. He still retains ownership of the bank..
What may or may not be coincidence is the emergence of Willie Obiano [from Anambra North] who was – Until recently, Chief Obiano was the number two man at Fidelity Bank Plc, as the Executive Director in charge of Business Banking. Chief Obiano also holds the revered title of Otunba Atayase of Ilemeso-Ekiti in Ekiti State. He hails from Aguleri.
Willie Obiano joined APGA the same day Soludo joined. He was a reluctant to join the race. But he was egged on by Fidelity Bank to join the race.
Prior to Obiano’s final decision to join the race, Governor Peter Obi had presented alternatives to the Bank – in the persons of Oseloka Obaze and Chinedu Idigo. Both are from Anambra north. But the Bank was said to be unsure of guaranteed loyalty from the two would-be candidates. In the meantime, both Governor Peter Obi and Fidelity Bank exerted pressure on Willie Obiano to join the race. But Obiano was concerned that he may not have the financial muscle or popularity to win a general election in Anambra State. He was also unsure on whether Peter Obi could deliver him.
But Soludo’s entrance changed the desperation decibel for Peter Obi, Fidelity Bank and Obiano.
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